Is the Amex Centurion (black) card still worth it?
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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 and exclusivity 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 the original Points Guy himself, Brian Kelly, who carries the business version), we can share a comprehensive rundown of the benefits. As travel continues to be on hold for many, a lot of the perks that come with the Centurion card aren’t currently as valuable (though Amex has recently sweetened the deal in other ways).
So with all that is going on, is the prestigious and exclusive Amex Centurion card still worth it?
The information for the Centurion 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.
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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 rumored to be set at 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 annual fees for other top-tier cards such as The Platinum Card® from American Express (see rates and fees) and the Citi Prestige® Card ($695 and $495, respectively, per year) look like child’s play. There’s an initiation fee of $10,000, along with an annual fee of $5,000. This means that you’re looking at a tab of $15,000 — between the initiation fee and the first-year annual fee — before you can even start using your card. You’ll pay $5,000 for an additional cardholder, and you’re only allowed to add two. There are no foreign transaction fees.
The information for the Citi Prestige 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.
As with the Amex Platinum and The Business Platinum Card® from American Express ($595 annual fee; $695 if application is received on or after 01/13/2022) (see rates and fees), 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. In late 2019, Amex announced a number of new benefits to go along with the steeply increased annual fee.
Other options for spending: 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 airfare and hotels booked via American Express Travel. (up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year). The Chase Sapphire Reserve (with a $550 annual fee) is another option, offering 3x points on travel and dining purchases, plus the 50% redemption bonus on travel booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.
One of the most valuable “soft perks” of having the Amex Centurion is the personal concierge who is available to help with a number of tasks.
Here’s what Brian Kelly has to say about Ray, his personal Centurion concierge:
“I’d guess that Ray saves me 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.”
During the pandemic, Centurion cardholders (including Brian Kelly) have been able to utilize the concierge to help with complicated cancelations, trip rebookings and getting refunds while airlines were slammed with other requests.
Marriott Bonvoy Gold elite status
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 (enrollment required). 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, meaning you only need 10 nights on the road to reach Gold status. However, as of earlier this year, you can now get 30 elite-night credits by holding both a personal and business version — which is enough for gold status and just 20 nights away from Platinum status.
The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card also comes with automatic Gold status, as well as an anniversary free night worth up to 50,000 points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program (certain hotels have resort fees) to justify its $450 annual fee (see rates and fees).
Hilton Honors Diamond elite status
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 ($450 annual fee; see rates and fees), which happens to be one of the most compelling premium credit cards on the market. It offers 14x points per dollar on eligible 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 on eligible purchases per calendar year on the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card.
The information for the Hilton Aspire Amex 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.
IHG Platinum Elite status
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. TPG values IHG Platinum status at $880.
Other ways to get it: The IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card ($89 annual fee) provides automatic Platinum status, and it’s currently offering a bonus of 125,000 bonus points, plus a reward night after you spend $3,000 on purchases in 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 status
Receive 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
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
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 also provides access to FHR, with a much more manageable $695 annual fee (see rates and fees). The card is currently offering a welcome bonus of 100,000 points after spending $6,000 on purchases in the first six months of account opening — though you may be targeted for a 125,000-point welcome offer through the CardMatch Tool (offer subject to change at any time).
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 spend your way to Medallion status using select Delta cobranded credit cards. For example, you can currently earn 50,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in your first three months of card membership plus, up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants with your card within the first three months of membership with the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card ($550 annual fee; see rates and fees). The card also offers another 15,000 MQMs for every $30,000 you spend in a calendar year (up to a total of 60,000 MQMs for spending $120,000).
There’s also the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card ($250 annual fee; see rates and fees), which currently offers 60,000 bonus miles, 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs), and $100 statement credit after spending $3,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Also, earn 10,000 MQMs when you spend $25,000 in a calendar year, and another 10,000 MQMs when you spend 50,000 in a calendar year. This will get you a good head start for reaching Delta status.
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.
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 (up to 500,000 points per calendar year).
Access to the Centurion Lounges, with locations at Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW), Las Vegas (LAS), Miami (MIA), New York-LaGuardia (LGA), San Francisco (SFO), Seattle (SEA), Houston (IAH), Philadelphia (PHL), Los Angeles (LAX), Charlotte (CLT), Phoenix (PHX) and Hong Kong (HKG). 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 (DEN), New York-JFK and London-Heathrow (LHR).
Other ways to get it: Cardholders of the Amex Platinum and Amex Business Platinum also receive complimentary Centurion Lounge access.
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 complimentary 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 their immediate family, up to two guests. Enrollment required for select benefits.
Credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application
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.
Cardholders now receive an annual statement credit for a CLEAR membership for them and up to three family members. CLEAR uses biometric authentication to speed you through security and deposit you right at the front of the line, and it’s currently available at over 65 airports, stadiums and other venues.
Other ways to get it: Delta SkyMiles Platinum Medallion elites can purchase a discounted Clear membership for just $109 (vs. the normal price of $179 for an individual membership), and American Express® Green Cardholders get an up to $100 statement credit for a Clear membership every year.
The information for the Amex Green 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.
The Private Suite at LAX
Centurion cardholders now get an annual membership to The Private Suite at LAX, letting you feel like a true celebrity when departing or arriving from LAX. The normal cost of a membership is $4,500, but since you still need to pay an additional $2,700-$3,000 each time you use the service, this benefit is likely not going to be the biggest value for most cardholders.
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.
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.
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
- Cunard Line
- Holland America Line
- Norwegian Cruise Lines
- Princess Cruises
- Royal Caribbean Cruise Line
Car rentals and insurance
Car rental program benefits
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 rental 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 Infinite Card. For more information, see TPG’s post on cards that offer primary rental car coverage.
You’ll also get 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 and events
Wining and dining
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.
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.
Exclusive event sales — With the Centurion card, you get access to exclusive sales and events, such as the Kentucky Derby, Coachella VIP tickets, the Grand Prix de Monaco and the Wimbledon Club Experience.
Saks Fifth Avenue Credits — While the annual Saks credits have been part of the Platinum card’s benefit rotation for a while now, Centurion members get treated to a next-level shopping spree with up to $250 in statement credits each quarter (or $1,000 on the year). In addition, Centurion cardmembers get access to Saks stores outside of normal business hours, in case you need an early morning makeover before a big meeting or some late night shopping. Enrollment required for select benefits.
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.
Though keep in mind that 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 enrolled.
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.
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. Though, remember that 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 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.
Equinox Destination Access membership
Frequent travel can wear you down, but Centurion cardholders will have an easier time staying fit and healthy with an Equinox destination access membership. Normally worth $3,600 a year, this perk includes access to all of Equinox’s 105 fitness clubs around the U.S., Canada and the UK, with locations in most major cities and multiple clubs in popular spots like New York and southern California.
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 $15,000 just for the privilege of opening your account, so you need to 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.
If you’re someone who travels regularly and puts value in the perks that this card offers, then it’s easier to justify the high price tag on having the card. For example, if you — like Kelly — use the concierge services to save upwards of $20,000 a year, then a $5,000 price tag is worth it.
But especially now that some of the benefits of the card are less valuable during the pandemic, it’s important to decide just how valuable this card is in your wallet — both short and long-term.
To that end, Amex has announced a number of updates for the 2020 and 2021 years to help offset the cost of the annual fee while perks like the Clear, Private Suite membership and Equinox gym privileges aren’t being used as much.
Personal Centurion members are being offered up to $2,000 in credits toward Amex Travel purchases and Business Centurion members are being offered a flat $1,500 statement credit.
For cardholders who are able to get some use out of the card (such as using the concierge service or booking closer-to-home staycations), the statement credits can help make up the difference. But at the end of the day, even at full value, these credits only lower the cost of the card to $3,000 for the personal card and $3,500 for the business card.
Most of us will never get to decide whether or not the Centurion Card is “worth it,” since the barrier to entry is high and the requirements are very mysterious and exclusive. 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 100,000 points, and includes many of the same travel perks as the Centurion for an annual fee of $695 (see rates and fees) versus $5,000.
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 Madison Blancaflor.
For rates and fees of the Business Platinum Amex, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Aspire card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Platinum 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.
Featured photo by The Points Guy.
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CARD HIGHLIGHTS: Delta Sky Club and Centurion lounge access, up to $200 annual airline fee credit and up to $200 in Uber Cash annually (only for use in the U.S.) (Enrollment required for select benefits)
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- Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on the Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.
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- Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year and earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
- $200 Hotel Credit: Get $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings with American Express Travel when you pay with your Platinum Card®.
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