The inside scoop on the Amex Centurion (black) card

Sep 21, 2019

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The Centurion Card from American Express is perhaps the most desirable piece of plastic anodized titanium out there, in no small part because of 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.

Thanks, however, to some kind TPG sources who are lucky enough to be part of the Centurion “club” (including me — I have the business version), we can share a comprehensive rundown of the benefits. And since not everyone can meet the big-spender requirements to score this top-tier card, we’ll highlight other cards that offer some of the same benefits along with better rewards for travel spending.

Further Reading: Is Jerry Seinfeld the reason that the Amex black card exists?

Getting the card

First things first: There are two versions of the Centurion Card — a business version and a personal one. It’s potentially much easier 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.

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 (see rates and fees) and the Citi Prestige ($550 and $495, respectively, per year) look like child’s play. There’s an initiation fee of $7,500 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.

Is the Amex Centurion Card worth the annual fee?

With most premium credit cards it’s easy to justify paying a hefty annual fee, if only to earn a generous welcome bonus during your first year with the card. With the Amex Centurion Card, you’ll be spending $10,000 just for the privilege of opening your account. So make sure this card is right for you.

With average annual spending in the mid-six-figures, Centurion cardholders are likely to be individuals who frequently travel and dine out and will have an easier time maximizing the many different benefits of the Centurion card. At the same time, when you’re spending this much money, you might not be concerned with recouping every single dollar in the form of waived airline change fees, but rather all the “soft” perks of the Centurion card that make your life easier.

Enter Ray, my personal Centurion concierge and a man who says the card saves him more than $20,000 a year. From knowing my preferred seat on a plane based on the layout of the cabin to advising hotels of my arrival and departure time, Ray is a jack of all trades. He arranged a tour in Beijing for my parents and me to visit the Forbidden Palace, Tiananmen Square and the Great Wall. He’s gotten me theater tickets, great seats at concerts (front row for Celine Dion) and hard-to-get restaurant reservations. Ray even takes on particularly cumbersome tasks, like locating my headphones when I lost them 10,000 miles from home.

Perhaps the best example of the value that a great concierge like Ray can provide came when I was stranded in Bali during the eruption of Mount Agung. Ray worked with Vernon, a Singapore-based Amex employee who was able to get me off the island via van, ferry and plane — a near-impossible feat as thousands were trying to get off the island and the airport was closed. Before that frantic rush off the island, though, Ray was able to arrange a pick-up for me at Denpasar airport (DPS) through the Centurion International Arrival Services perk that comes with the card. Personal contacts at Amex can do this for you as well at participating airports.

Card benefits

As with the Amex Platinum and The Business Platinum® Card from American Express, the Centurion Card really delivers when it comes to non-spending benefits. Many of the perks fall under the lifestyle and luxury-experience categories, although there’s also a selection of travel-related benefits, from hotel status to airport lounge access and baggage insurance.

On spending, you’ll earn 1 Membership Rewards point per dollar spent (worth 2 cents, according to TPG’s latest valuations), and there are no bonus categories, although you do get 1.5x points on all purchases of more than $5,000, up to one million extra points per year.

Frequent travelers looking to be rewarded for their airline and other transportation spending should check out cards such as the Amex Platinum, which offers 5x points on airfare purchased directly with the airline, and the Chase Sapphire Reserve (with a $450 annual fee), that offers 3x points on travel and dining purchases. Don’t forget the 50% extra you get on your points when you redeem them for travel in the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.

Hotel elite status

Enjoy the benefits of Marriott Gold elite status at properties like the St. Regis Saadiyat Island Abu Dhabi
Enjoy the benefits of Marriott Gold elite status at properties like the St. Regis Saadiyat Island Abu Dhabi.

Marriott Bonvoy Gold: Enjoy room upgrades at check-in and late checkout when available, a welcome amenity at participating properties, plus a 25% points bonus on your stays. TPG values Marriott Gold status at $845 per year.

Other Ways to Get it: The Platinum Card from American Express automatically grants account holders Marriott Gold status. If you don’t travel enough to meet the requirement of 25 nights, the Platinum card is your best bet to get Gold. For those who hit the road frequently, it’s also easy to earn Marriott elite status through any of the Bonvoy credit cards. Entry-level cards such as the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card and the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card give you 15 elite night credits each year (note that you’re limited to one set of credits per Bonvoy account), meaning you only need 10 nights on the road to reach Gold status. The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card comes with automatic Gold status, as well a as an anniversary free night worth up to 50,000 points to justify its $450 annual fee (see rates and fees).

Hilton Honors Diamond — Get space-available room upgrades, 48-hour room guarantees, free premium internet (on reservations booked directly with Hilton), a 100% bonus on all Hilton Honors base points you earn and the fifth reward-night free. TPG values Hilton Honors Diamond status at a whopping $3,025.

Other Ways to Get it: The fastest way to get Hilton Diamond status is to open the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express, which happens to be one of the most compelling premium credit cards on the market with its 14x points per dollar on Hilton purchases, up to $250 annual airline incidental fee credit, up to $250 annual Hilton resort credit and up to $100 property credit on eligible stays of two nights or more at Waldorf Astoria and Conrad hotels. Alternatively, you can earn Diamond status by spending $40,000 a year on the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card.

IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card — 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.

The information for the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Other Ways to Get it: The IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card ($89 annual fee), currently offers a bonus of 80,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. Alternatively, you can earn this status after staying 40 nights or earning 40,000 qualifying points in a calendar year.

Relais & Châteaux 5C — Automatic elite status to enjoy at properties in this collection of luxury hotels and resorts. Benefits include room upgrades subject to availability, a VIP welcome, a unique perk at each property and concierge service.

Centurion hotel program

The grounds of the Amansara Resort.
Cardholders receive even more benefits at Centurion Hotel Program properties, like the Amansara in Siem Reap.

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 eight luxury brands — Aman, Belmond, Mandarin Oriental, Peninsula Hotels, Rosewood, Waldorf Astoria, Oetker Collection 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 4 p.m. 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

The Grand Hyatt Tokyo, an Amex FHR property.
The Grand Hyatt Tokyo, an Amex FHR property.

In addition to the Centurion Hotel Program, cardholders can leverage Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts 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
  • 4 p.m. 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)

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 $550 annual fee (see rates and fees) and a current welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first three months, also offers access to FHR.

Airline status

Delta_Air_Lines_New_Livery_Boeing_757-232_with_Winglets_N703TW_(1850694316)
Enjoy Delta Platinum Medallion status as a Centurion cardholder. Photo courtesy of Bryan Correira/Wikipedia.

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 $3,865.

Other Ways to Get it: This benefit is exclusive to the Centurion card, though you can currently earn 75,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $5,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months (Offer Expires 10/30/2019) with the Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express ($450 annual fee; $550 if application received on or after 1/30/2020), see rates and fees), 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® Business Credit Card from American Express ($195 annual fee, $250 if application is received on or after 1/30/2020; see rates and fees), which currently offers 35,000 Bonus Miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $1,000 in purchases in your first 3 months. Plus, earn a $100 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months.

Airport and air travel perks

Centurion International Arrival Services — When you travel in business or first class on international flights, you’ll be 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 inflight Wi-Fi — Receive complimentary inflight Wi-Fi access on Gogo-equipped planes. Gogo single-flight passes cost $19 each, while an unlimited monthly pass costs $49.95 — meaning this benefit is worth nearly $600 in a given year.

Other Ways to Get it: Those who hold the Amex Business Platinum Card get 10 Gogo inflight internet passes per year.

50% airline bonus — Receive 50% 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. This is better than the 35% rebate you get with the Business Platinum Card.

The Amex Centurion Lounge in Philadelphia (PHL). (Photo by Zach Honig / The Points Guy)
The Amex Centurion Lounge in Philadelphia (PHL). (Photo by Zach Honig / The Points Guy)

Centurion Airport Lounge access — Access to the Centurion Lounges, with locations at Dallas/Fort Worth, Las Vegas, Miami, New York LaGuardiaSan FranciscoSeattle, Houston, Philadelphia and Hong Kong. Centurion Lounges include high-quality food, craft cocktails and wine, and an overall posh atmosphere that rivals some of the best international airline lounges. Additional lounges are in the works for Denver, Los Angeles, New York’s JFK, London Heathrow, Charlotte and Phoenix.

Other Ways to Get it: Cardholders of the Amex Platinum and Amex Business Platinum also receive complimentary Centurion Lounge access.

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 beyond the first two. The Chase Sapphire Reserve also comes with a Priority Pass membership, but guest privileges are limited to two free guests per visit. 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 four 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 or The Business Platinum Card will get you a statement credit wiping out the charge. A number of other credit cards also offer this perk — for a list of the top options, check out our story on The Top 7 Cards for Global Entry and TSA PreCheck.

$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, inflight 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 and the Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with $300 in annual credits. 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® Gold Card ($250 annual fee, see rates and fees) comes with an up to $100 airline credit.

International Airline Program — Save when you purchase a qualifying business- or first-class (or premium economy) ticket for international travel, or enjoy an upgrade from business class to first class.

Other Ways to Get it: Again, cardmembers who have either the Amex Platinum or the Business Platinum have access to this program as well, but those cardmembers have to pay a $39 booking fee each time they use it. That fee is waived for Centurion cardmembers.

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, read our story Comparing the Baggage Insurance of Premium Travel Cards.

Cruises

hollandamerica
Enjoy perks on Holland America Line cruises. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

On bookings of five nights or more, receive $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
– Azamara
– Crystal
– Cunard Line
– Holland America Line
– Norwegian Cruise Lines
– Oceania
– Princess Cruises
– Regent
– Royal Caribbean Cruise Line
– Seabourn
– Silversea
– Uniworld
– Windstar

Car rentals and insurance

Make sure when renting overseas your country is not excluded from your credit card policy.
Centurion cardholders get complimentary elite status with Avis and Hertz, among other perks.

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 for car availability at participating locations and complimentary child seats and ski racks.

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 and Chase Sapphire Reserve offer primary car insurance, as do the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card, the United Explorer Card and the United 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, jump-starting a battery and changing a flat. Up to four services a year are complimentary.

Exclusive offers

Go
Go to the Kentucky Derby with exclusive offers with the Centurion card.

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.

Wining and dining

napa-valley-wine-tour
Enjoy exclusive wine experiences in Napa.

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 a 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.

Events

TPG and a friend enjoying the Starwood Suite at the US Open, booked through the By Invitation Only program.

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.

Shopping

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 to $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 recently improved purchase-protection coverage across all its cards, including the Starwood Preferred Guest Card and the Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express.

Shopping shutterstock 227913877
Luxury shoppers will find plenty of perks to love with the Centurion Card. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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.

Other Ways to Get it: Quite a few cards offer extended warranty, including Chase Sapphire Preferred, the United Explorer Card and several Amex cards.

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

Use The List
Use The List to find the best spots in some of the world’s top cities.

The List is the Centurion card’s exclusively curated list of where to visit and what to do 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.

Bottom line

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.

Even if you don’t qualify for the Centurion Card, however, 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 welcome bonuses.

In fact, for frequent travelers, The Platinum Card from American Express is a much more practical choice. For one, it comes with a bonus of 60,000 points (or even 100,000 points or more if you’re targeted for an Amex Platinum 100k points bonus offer), and includes many of the same travel perks as the Centurion for an annual fee of $550 versus $2,500.

Hopefully, all of the above has given you a taste of the good life — while showing you that it’s available via other more attainable cards as well!

Additional reporting by Ethan Steinberg

For rates and fees of the Amex Gold, please click here.  
For rates and fees of the Business Platinum Amex, please click here.  
For rates and fees of the Platinum Delta SkyMiles Business Amex, please click here.  
For rates and fees of the Delta Reserve, please click here.  
For rates and fees of the Marriott Brilliant Amex, please click here.  
For rates and fees of the Platinum Amex, please click here.  

 

The Platinum Card® from American Express

WELCOME OFFER: 60,000 Points Terms Apply.

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,200

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: Delta Sky Club and Centurion lounge access, $200 annual airline fee credit and up to $200 in Uber credits annually

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
  • Enjoy Uber VIP status and free rides in the U.S. up to $15 each month, plus a bonus $20 in December. That can be up to $200 in annual Uber savings.
  • 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
  • 5X Membership Rewards points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
  • Enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
  • Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts. Learn More.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
  • Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. Enrollment required.
  • $550 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
N/A
Annual Fee
$550
Balance Transfer Fee
See Terms
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.