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Amex sweetens the deal for invite-only Centurion cardholders

Feb. 10, 2021
6 min read
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American Express added a slew of limited-time benefits aimed at making its travel-focused cards more appealing in the current environment. Many Membership Rewards-earning cards, such as The Platinum Card® from American Express and The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, as well as most cobranded credit cards, received various statement credits, valuable Amex Offers and additional category bonuses over the past abnormal year.

But one card was notably excluded from most of the special treatment: Amex's most premium credit card, the Centurion card — commonly known as the Amex Black Card. Up until now, the card has made no changes to its offerings. (In fact, it just raised its annual fee and initiation fee in April 2020.)

However, that's no longer the case. Amex has added a new incentive for personal and business Centurion members that renew their cards.

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Amex Centurion Card overview

The American Express Centurion Card is positioned to be the creme de la creme of credit cards. It's invitation-only and comes with a commensurate $5,000 annual fee (recently increased from $2,500), plus an additional $5,000 fee for each additional user card. For new cardholders, there's also an initiation fee of $10,000. Eligibility requirements reportedly include at least $350,000 in annual spending across your Amex accounts for the personal card and around $500,000 for the business card.

However, with the big price tag come big benefits.

The card's perks include automatic Hilton Diamond and Delta Platinum Medallion status, Saks Fifth Avenue credits, a Equinox Destination Access Membership, CLEAR membership, Private Suite membership and much more. Cardholders also get some less tangible perks like a personal Centurion concierge, high-end annual gifts and the ability for business cardholders to effectively redeem points for 2 cents apiece toward Pay with Points flight reservations.

That said, other than a 1.5x bonus on purchases of more than $5,000 (up to 1 million extra points per year), there are no bonus categories on this card, so this card doesn't offer the best earning potential.

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Related: The inside scoop on the Amex Centurion (black) card

Centurion cardholders get a complimentary Equinox membership. (Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)

Amex Centurion COVID-19 updates

While the Centurion card offers plenty of everyday benefits, it's still quite travel-heavy when it comes to perks. Most cardholders likely aren't getting much value from the associated elite status levels, CLEAR membership and Private Suite membership while staying close to home. Not to mention, Equinox gyms were closed for much of last year, and not all have reopened yet.

Amex recognizes this, so to keep its customers loyal, it's offering credits for those that renew their cards.

Personal Centurion members are being offered up to $2,000 in credits toward Amex Travel purchases; meanwhile, Business Centurion members are being offered a flat $1,500 statement credit. Assuming you're able to get the full value of these credits, they effectively lower the annual fee to $3,000 for personal cardholders and $3,500 for businesses — both still significantly higher than the old annual fee.

While the $1,500 to $2,000 in credits sounds great on the surface, you could still argue that's not as generous as what has been offered on some of the other Amex cards. For instance, The Platinum Card, which has a $695 annual fee (see rates and fees), added up to $180 in PayPal credit (distributed in up-to-$30 monthly credits), up to $200 in Amex Travel credits, up to $100 in Saks credits, etc. Between all these credits, Platinum cardholders have been able to get outsized value for many months now, despite the pandemic.

Related: Don’t forget about these offers! We built a spreadsheet to help you track Amex credits

The Centurion card has an array of perks — including gifts like this Tom Ford wallet. (Photo by Liz Hund/The Points Guy)

Nevertheless, TPG's founder and CEO Brian Kelly, who's a Business Centurion cardholder, says that he'll still renew his card. For starters, Kelly greatly values his personal Centurion concierge, Ray. "He is amazing and has fixed so many situations, like helping get refunds for flights canceled due to coronavirus when airlines were slammed," he explained.

Kelly has also been able to score a number of hard-to-get restaurant reservations thanks to Ray. Additionally, despite booking fewer flights in the past year, Kelly was still able to save a lot of points because of the 50% rebate on Pay with Points reservations. "This is especially advantageous during these times with low fares and lots of fast-track elite status offers."

Kelly said that the recently added Equinox membership hasn't been very useful, though he hopes to use it more in summer and use the outdoor pool at the Equinox Hudson Yards when it reopens. That said, he's been able to get some value from the virtual SoulCycle classes included with his membership. He's also been taking advantage of the Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts program for booking staycations.

In addition to the usual benefits offered to Platinum cardholders, Centurion cardholders get an extra $100 to $200 in food and beverage or spa credit (on paid stays of two nights or more). And as is common based on past experience, Kelly expects his annual gift to be worth between $500 and $1,000. "It all adds up for me," he explained.

Get a fourth night free among many other perks by booking the Faena Hotel Miami Beach through Amex FHR. (Photo courtesy of Faena Hotel Miami Beach)

Bottom line

Given its exclusivity, most people won't ever need to decide whether or not the Centurion Card is “worth it" for them.

It would have been nice if the card added some more temporary benefits, as it did with The Platinum Card, or at least delayed the annual fee increase for existing cardholders as was done for those with a Chase Sapphire Reserve. Still, for most Centurion cardholders, it likely makes sense to hold on to the card for all of its intangible benefits. If you cancel your card there's no guarantee that you'll be invited back to the program later. Additionally, you'd likely need to pay the steep initiation fee all over again.

For more on recent credit card benefit changes, see this guide.

For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum, click here.

Featured image by Photo by Liz Hund / The Points Guy
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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TPG featured card

Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

1 - 10X points
10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Intro offer

80,000 bonus points
Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

Annual Fee

$550

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more
Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

    80,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $550
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more