Amex sweetens the deal for invite-only Centurion cardholders
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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.
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 $550 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.
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.
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.
Featured image by Liz Hund/The Points Guy.
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