American Express Black Card: About the AMEX Centurion Card

Co-author: TJ Ryan 

A “black card” is an exclusive and elusive type of credit card only available to the wealthiest people who meet certain eligibility requirements. So, what does it take to join the financial elite?

What is the AMEX Black Card?

Black amex 1

The American Express Centurion Card, known informally as the Black Card, is one of the most prestigious cash cards in the world. The card is available by invitation only – customers can only qualify for this card after they have met certain criteria.

The Black Card offers exclusive privileges including a 24/7 concierge service, has no set spending limit, and is available by invitation only. It is not a credit card at all, but is rather a charge card or cash card, meaning cardholders have to pay off their balance in full every month.

The card is made of anodised titanium, a hard, silver-grey metal that is strong, light, and used in corrosion-resistant alloys.

For years, the American Express Black Card was an overblown rumour, until American Express confirmed that the elusive card was indeed real in 1999. However, just because it exists doesn’t mean it’s within arm’s reach (or indeed several thousand arms’ reach) of the average consumer.

“There had been rumours going around that we had this ultra-exclusive black card for elite customers. It wasn’t true, but we decided to capitalise on the idea anyway.”

– Doug Smith, Director, American Express Europe (in an interview to

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How to become an American Express Black Card member

You cannot apply for the American Express Centurion Card online and is not listed among their other charge cards on their website. While the exact eligibility requirements for the Centurion Card have never been explicitly stated by American Express, the word on the street is that prospective candidates must:

  • Be an active American Express cardholder for at least 1 year
  • Hold an American Express Platinum Card
  • Pay an initiation fee of up to $7,500, as well as the annual fee of $2,500 in the USA (additional fees apply for supplementary cardholders: $2,500/year for a supplementary Centurion Card, plus additional annual fee of $175/year for supplementary Platinum Cards or $45/year for Gold Cards)
  • Spend at least $250,000 per year using American Express cards
  • Be able to pay off the card in full each month (because it is a charge card, not a credit card)
  • Be especially wealthy, with a substantial net worth
  • Have an excellent credit rating.

What does American Express define as “substantial net worth” or being wealthy enough to afford the Centurion Card? Well, a report in 2011 revealed that the average household income for Centurion Card members was $1.3 million and the average cardholder held assets of $16.3 million.

Along with these conditions, the card is still invitation only, with each new member chosen by American Express.

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What benefits does the American Express Black Card offer?

American Express Centurion Card members are believed to have access to some significant perks including:

  • Free companion tickets for international flights (upon purchase of a full-fare ticket)
  • Hotel and flight upgrades to premium tier status
  • Complimentary comprehensive travel insurance (Coverage varies by country)
  • Concierge service available worldwide 24/7
  • Instant access to key seating for events and concerts
  • Rental car hire upgrades to premium status with luxury vehicles
  • Standing reservations at select restaurants
  • No preset spending limit (“credit limit”)
  • Access to Centurion airport lounges

Of course, the Black Card carries the added perk of being a huge status symbol among the elite.

Without a spending limit or “credit limit” on this charge card, the cardholder’s imagination is the limit. The largest Centurion Card purchase recorded as of 2016 was USD $170 million paid for the famous painting “Nu couché” by Modigliani, purchased by Liu Yiqian who used the card to circumvent Chinese money transfer laws. Another cardholder charged $52 million on the card to purchase their own private jet.

Is the American Express Black Card worth it?

American Express Platinum CardAs many commentators have pointed out, many of the benefits of the Black Card – even having no spending limit – are available from the American Express Platinum Card for a fraction of the cost ($1,200/year annual fee).

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