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Amex is notoriously tight-lipped about Centurion, its “secret” credit card for top spenders. I haven’t received an invitation to join, but if I did get an offer, I’d still opt for an Amex Platinum + Premier Rewards Gold combo instead, which provides far more bang for your buck. However, as TPG Points and Miles Editor Sarah Silbert explains today, that $2,500 annual fee does come along with some pretty fantastic perks.
Update: This post was updated on March 29, 2016, to reflect current offers.
The Centurion Card from Amex is perhaps the most desirable piece of
plastic anodized titanium out there, due in no small part to the shroud of secrecy that surrounds it. Unless you’re invited to apply and accepted (more on how that happens later), Amex keeps a tight lid on the numerous benefits and exclusive perks available to cardholders.
Luckily, though, thanks to some kind TPG sources who are lucky enough to be part of the Centurion “club,” you can see a comprehensive rundown of the benefits below. And since not everyone can meet the big-spender requirements to score this top-tier card, I’ll highlight other cards that offer some of the same benefits along with better rewards for travel spending.
Getting the Card
First thing’s first: There are two versions of the Centurion Card — a business one and a personal one. It’s potentially much more feasible to get the card as a business owner, but either way it requires racking up significant charges.
There’s no official requirement for Centurion eligibility, but we’re talking big bucks. Amex reportedly extends invitations to apply for the business card only if you’ve spent (and paid off) at least $450,000 (or $500,000 — we’ve heard both) across all your Amex accounts in a calendar year. For the personal card, the bar is set around $350,000. Note that these amounts aren’t officially confirmed, and just because you spend enough and have good standing across accounts doesn’t mean you’ll automatically be invited to apply. Part of the exclusivity of the Centurion Card is that there’s a secret formula behind who gets invited, after all.
Fees and Payments
The initiation and annual fees for the Centurion Card make the charges for other top-tier cards like the Platinum Card from American Express and the Citi Prestige (both $450 per year) look like child’s play. There’s an initiation fee of $5,000 along with an annual fee of $2,500. You’ll pay $2,500 for an additional cardholder, and you’re only allowed to add two. There are no foreign transaction fees.
Like with the Platinum Card and Business Platinum Card, the Centurion Card really delivers when it comes to non-spending benefits. You’ll earn one Membership Rewards point per dollar spent (worth 1.9 cents, according to TPG’s latest valuations), and there are no bonus categories.
Many of the perks you’ll find below fall under the lifestyle and luxury experience categories, though there’s also a selection of travel-related benefits, from hotel status to airport lounge access and baggage insurance. Frequent travelers looking to be rewarded for their airline and other transportation spending should check out cards such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred (with a $95 annual fee waived the first year), which offers 2x points on travel and dining purchases.
HOTEL ELITE STATUS
Starwood Preferred Guest Gold — Enjoy room upgrades at check-in (when available), 4pm late checkout and the ability to earn 3 Starpoints per dollar on your stays. TPG values SPG Gold status at $545.
Other Ways to Get it: The Platinum Card from American Express automatically grants account holders SPG Gold status. If you don’t travel enough to meet the requirement of 10 eligible stays or 25 eligible nights, the Platinum card is your best bet. For those who hit the road frequently, the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express and the Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express (both with a $95 annual fee; waived the first year) are good options — each card gives you credit for 5 nights and 2 stays each year.
Hilton HHonors Diamond — Get space-available room upgrades, 48-hour room guarantees, free premium internet (on reservations booked directly with Hilton), a 50% bonus on all Hilton HHonors base points you earn and the fifth reward night free. TPG values Hilton HHonors Diamond status at a whopping $2,320.
Other Ways to Get it: With the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card ($95 annual fee) and the Hilton HHonors Surpass Card ($75 annual fee), you’ll automatically earn Gold status and can earn Diamond status if you spend $40,000 or more on the card in a calendar year. You can also earn automatic Hilton Gold status with Amex Platinum. Frequent Hilton guests can also earn this highest-tier status by logging 30 stays, 60 nights or 120,000 base points in a calendar year. Considering that Hilton HHonors Gold status affords you many of the same benefits as HHonors Diamond, it could still be worth it to get these cards without meeting the higher spending requirements.
IHG Priority Club Rewards Platinum Elite — Receive priority check-in, complimentary room upgrades, late checkout, guaranteed room availability, complimentary weekday newspaper and a 50% bonus on base points earned during your stay. Earn 10 Priority Club points or 2.5 airline miles per dollar spent on your stay.
Other Ways to Get it: The IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card ($49 annual fee; waived the first year), currently offering a sign-up bonus of 70,000 points after $2,000 in spending in the first three months, includes Platinum Elite status among its cardholder benefits. Alternatively, you can earn this status after staying 40 nights or earning 40,000 qualifying points in a calendar year.
CENTURION HOTEL PROGRAM
In addition to offering members status with partner programs, the Centurion card has its own hotel benefits, packaged as the Centurion Hotel Program. When staying at properties across five luxury brands — Aman, Belmond, Mandarin Oriental, Peninsula Hotels and St. Regis — Centurion cardholders can enjoy the following:
- Noon check-in (when available)
- Room upgrade at time of booking (when available)
- Daily breakfast for two people
- In-room Wi-Fi (at most properties)
- Guaranteed 4pm checkout
- Special amenity unique to each property, such as a $100 credit to use on site or a complimentary hotel transfer
- Additional Centurion benefit of $100 or $200 in food and beverage or spa credit (on paid stays of two nights or more)
AMEX FINE HOTELS & RESORTS
In addition to the Centurion Hotel Program, cardholders can leverage Amex FHR to enjoy a number of on-property benefits when paying with an eligible card. These include:
- Noon check-in (when available)
- Room upgrade upon arrival (when available)
- Daily breakfast for two people
- 4pm checkout
- Special amenity unique to each property, such as a $100 credit to use on site or a complimentary hotel transfer
Other Ways to Get it: Unlike the Centurion Hotel Program, Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts isn’t unique to the Centurion Card. The Platinum Card from American Express, with a $450 annual fee and a current sign-up bonus of 40,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first three months, also offers access to FHR.
Delta SkyMiles Platinum Medallion — Get complimentary upgrades, priority waitlisting, a bonus of 4 miles per dollar spent, waived award reissue fees, priority check-in and boarding, your pick of Choice Benefits and more. TPG values Platinum Medallion status at $3,650.
Other Ways to Get it: This benefit is exclusive to the Centurion card, though you can currently earn 10,000 MQMs (Medallion Qualification Miles) after your first purchase with the Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express ($450 annual fee), along with another 15,000 after spending $30,000 and an additional 15,000 after spending $60,000 in a calendar year. If you maxed out those spending bonuses, you’d be more than halfway toward Platinum Medallion status. There’s also the Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card ($195 annual fee), which currently offers 5,000 MQMs (along with 35,000 bonus miles) when you spend $1,000 in the first three months. You’ll earn 10,000 MQMs and 10,000 bonus miles after you spend $25,000 in a calendar year, plus another 10,000 MQMs and 10,000 bonus miles after you spend $50,000 in a calendar year.
AIRPORT AND AIR TRAVEL PERKS
Centurion International Arrival Services — When you travel in business or first on international flights, get greeted by a personal guide who will expedite you through customs and immigration. When possible, Centurion can coordinate ground transportation as well, and baggage porters are available for a fee. These services are available for you and up to eight travel companions on eligible flights, and at 32 international airports.
Gogo In-Flight Wi-Fi — Receive complimentary in-flight Wi-Fi access on Gogo-equipped planes. Gogo single-flight passes cost $16 each, while an unlimited monthly pass costs about $60 — meaning this benefit is worth about $720 in a given year.
Boingo — Enjoy free Wi-Fi on up to four devices at more than a million hotspots at airports, hotels and more worldwide. A monthly Global pass costs $39, so you’re getting about $468 in value from this perk.
Other Ways to Get it: Complimentary Boingo access is a feature on several premium credit cards, including the Amex Platinum, the Amex Business Platinum, the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express and the Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express. For more information, see TPG’s post on which cards offer Boingo and Gogo access.
30% Airline Bonus — Receive 30% of your Membership Rewards back as a statement credit when you redeem points for all or a portion of any flight. To receive this benefit, you must book through American Express Travel or Centurion Travel Service.
Centurion Airport Lounge Access — Access to the Centurion Lounges, with locations at Dallas/Fort Worth, Las Vegas, Miami, New York LaGuardia, San Francisco and Seattle, with a Houston lounge set to open in 2016. Centurion Lounges include high-quality food, craft cocktails and wine, and an overall posh atmosphere that rivals some of the best international airline lounges.
Priority Pass Select — Complimentary access for you and guests to hundreds of airport lounges worldwide, regardless of which airline or class you’re flying. An annual Priority Pass Prestige membership, which entitles you to unlimited lounge visits, costs $399 a year.
Other Ways to Get it: With the American Express Platinum and Business Platinum, you’ll receive free access, though you’ll still need to pay a $27 fee for guests. The Mercedes-Benz Platinum card, with a $475 fee, also offers complimentary access, with the same guest policy as the Amex Platinum cards. Finally, the Citi Prestige card offers holders free Priority Pass access for themselves and immediate family/up to two guests.
Credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck Application — Receive a credit for Global Entry ($100) or TSA Precheck priority screening ($85) every five years. The obvious choice here would be Global Entry, since the program comes with PreCheck access.
Other Ways to Get it: Amex offers a few other cards that include this same benefit. Paying for your Global Entry or PreCheck application with the Platinum Card, The Business Platinum Card or the Mercedes-Benz Platinum will get you a statement credit wiping the charge. Citi Prestige cardholders can also waive the Global Entry application fee, and those with the Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard ($450 annual fee) get a credit for Global Entry or PreCheck. For more ways to get this benefit, see Richard Kerr’s comprehensive post.
$200 Airline Fee Credit — Select an eligible airline and receive up to $200 per year in statement credits to cover fees such as checked bags, in-flight purchases and change fees.
Other Ways to Get it: This is one case where other credit cards have a leg up on the Centurion. The Citi Prestige offers a $250 air travel credit per year, while the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card ($395 annual fee) comes with a $300 credit. Meanwhile, the Platinum Card from American Express and the Business Platinum Card from American Express each offer a $200 statement credit, and the American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card ($195 annual fee; waived the first year) comes with a $100 airline credit.
International Airline Program — Save on a ticket for a companion when you purchase a qualifying business or first ticket for international travel, or enjoy an upgrade from business class to first class.
Baggage Insurance — Most travel fares purchased on an eligible card entitle you to up to $2,000 in coverage for checked baggage and up to a combined maximum of $3,000 for checked and carry-on baggage.
Other Ways to Get it: A number of cards from American Express as well as Visa Signature cards include baggage coverage. For more information, see TPG’s post on determining whether your card offers adequate insurance coverage.
On bookings of five nights or more, received $100 to $500 in credit per stateroom, additional amenities exclusive to each cruise line and one extra Membership Rewards point per dollar spent through Amex Travel.
Cruise partners include:
– Ama Waterways
– Cunard Line
– Holland America Line
– Norwegian Cruise Lines
– Princess Cruises
– Royal Caribbean Cruise Line
CAR RENTALS AND INSURANCE
Centurion Auto Program — Access to premium car purchasing, luxury rentals and a variety of “driving experiences” (such as on track and off-road, with preferred pricing and/or exclusive perks).
Hertz Platinum — Car upgrades at time of rental, courtesy pickup and delivery of car to select private plane terminals, first priority availability for cars at participating locations and complimentary child seats and ski racks.
Other Ways to Get it: Hertz’s highest status level is available to elites with an annual fee. President’s Circle members can pay $1,200 to upgrade to Platinum, while general members will need to pay $1,500 a year for the upgrade.
Avis President’s Club — Guaranteed car at corporate locations even without a reservation, complimentary double upgrades, lowest applicable rates on domestic reservations and up to 30% off standard rates at participating locations worldwide.
Primary Car Insurance — Get coverage if your rental car is lost or stolen when you pay with an eligible card and decline the collision damage waiver. (Exclusions apply.)
Other Ways to Get it: The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card offers primary car insurance, as do the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card, the United MileagePlus Explorer Card and the United MileagePlus Club Card. For more information, see TPG’s post on cards that offer primary rental car coverage.
Premium Roadside Assistance — 24/7 emergency services like towing up to 10 miles, jumpstarting a battery and changing a flat. Up to four services a year are complimentary.
Note that while these features are available on the Business Centurion Card, they might not come as perks with the personal version.
Amex Open Forum — Access to the Amex OPEN forum online community for business owners, including networking opportunities.
Other Ways to Get it: All Amex OPEN cards, including the Business Green Reward Card from American Express OPEN and the Gold Delta SkyMiles Business Card, offer this benefit.
FX International Payments — Eligibility to enroll in FX International Payments and enjoy waived transaction fees on eligible foreign currency payments.
Travel — Get 30% Membership Rewards points back when you use Pay with Points for all or part of your flight through American Express Travel or by calling Centurion Travel Service. This excludes flights that are part of a travel package.
Lifestyle — Access to exclusive sales and events, such as the Kentucky Derby, Coachella VIP tickets, the Grand Prix de Monaco and the Wimbledon Club Experience.
DINING AND WINE
Centurion Dining Program — A table is held for Centurion members every day at 1,000 of the world’s top restaurants. Reservations are on a first-come, first-served basis.
Other Ways to Get it: Amex Platinum and Amex Business Platinum cardholders also receive access to concierge services, which can secure a table at most top restaurants. Centurion reservations take top priority, however.
Centurion Wine — Insider access to private tours and tastings in Napa. Through Centurion’s partnership with Crush Wine & Spirits, Cellar Advisors and Porthos, members also get preferred buying and collecting opportunities.
Wine Buying — Monthly wine-buying offers on Centurion.com; dedicated wine-buying specialist; complimentary annual tasting experience at Crush Wine & Spirits for two people; complimentary shipping upgrades; complimentary storage for up to one year for all wine purchased through Crush Wine & Spirits; quarterly Centurion Crush Journal featuring wine-buying news and opportunities.
Wine Collecting — Complimentary annual one-hour consultation with wine collecting specialist; complimentary annual appraisal of up to 100 unique wines; complimentary one-year subscription to CellarTracker.com ($150 value); preferred rates for storage and logistics at Domaine Wine Storage facilities; 10% off rates for consultations, storage and logistics.
Napa Tours — Three exclusive Napa Experience packages that can be customized, including private tours and tastings with hosts such as Tim Mondavi.
Tuscany Tours — Three exclusive Tuscany packages in the Chianti Classico region and the historic village of Montalcino.
By Invitation Only — Access to sports, music, fashion, fine dining and other events that provide VIP experiences. (Events require reservation and payment.)
Other Ways to Get it: By Invitation Only access is also available with — you’ve guessed it — the Platinum Card from American Express and the Business Platinum Card from American Express. For more information, see TPG’s post on attending the US Open via the By Invitation Only program.
Centurion Shopping Program — Exclusive offers for luxury brands, including gift certificates, customized shopping experiences and access to events including the opportunity to meet designers.
InCircle — Receive InCircle rewards in addition to Membership Rewards points when you register your Centurion card and make eligible purchases at Bergdorf Goodman, Cusp, Horchow, Last Call and Neiman Marcus. Receive a $100 InCircle Point Card for every 10,000 InCircle points you earn.
Other Ways to Get it: Shoppers with a Bergdorf Goodman or Neiman Marcus credit card earn two InCircle points per dollar. Holders of the Amex Platinum card can earn one InCircle point per dollar (the same earning rate as with the Centurion Card) once enrolling.
Purchase Protection — Protection for up to 90 days when you purchase an eligible item with your Centurion Card and it’s stolen, lost or damaged. Coverage limit of up to $10,000 per occurrence and up to $50,000 per card member per calendar year.
Return Protection — Amex may refund an item (up t0 $300) if you try to return it within 90 days from the date of purchase and the merchant won’t take it back, with a maximum of $1,000 per year per card account.
Other Ways to Get it: Amex offers return protection on a variety of cards, including the Starwood Preferred Guest Card and the Business Gold Rewards Card. Many other issuers offer similar benefits — with Chase Sapphire Preferred, for example, you can return an item up to $500, with the same $1,000 annual limit per card.
Extended Warranty — Up to three extra years of warranty when you purchase an eligible item (with five years of warranty or less) with your Centurion Card.
NET-A-PORTER Shopping Services — Access to personal shoppers at luxury clothing site NET-A-PORTER.COM, along with free Express and Premium shipping; same-day delivery in Hong Kong, London and NYC; and access to private end-of-season sales.
MR PORTER Shopping Services — Access to a personal shopper at luxury men’s clothing retailer MR PORTER, along with free Express and Premium shipping; same-day delivery in NYC and London; and private early access to sales.
The List is the Centurion card’s exclusively curated list of where to visit in some of the world’s top cities. It’s updated regularly, and members can access The List and search by destination city. In each of the cities, you’ll find a list of the top restaurants, hotels, cultural destinations, shopping and more.
Most of us will never get to decide whether or not the Centurion Card is “worth it,” since the barrier to entry is both high and the requirements are very mysterious. Still, for businesses and individuals who are lucky enough to get invited to apply, the exclusivity and the cushy lifestyle exclusives make this card quite enticing.
At the same time, even if you don’t qualify for the Centurion Card, there are plenty of other cards that will get you some of the same perks, from elite hotel status to annual airline fee credits, along with much greater earning potential and sign-up bonuses to boot.
In fact, for frequent travelers, the Platinum Card from American Express is a much more practical choice. For one, it comes with a sign-up bonus of 40,000 points (or even 100,000 points or more if you’re targeted), and includes many of the same travel perks as the Centurion for an annual fee of $450 versus $2,500. It’s even more powerful when paired with the American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card, which earns you 3x points on airfare and 2x points at gas stations and supermarkets.
Hopefully, this post has given you a taste of the good life — while showing you that it’s available via other more attainable cards as well!
Which of these Centurion Card benefits appeal to you the most? If you hold the business or personal Centurion Card, be sure to share your thoughts in the comments below!
The Platinum Card® from American Express
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