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Is the Centurion Card from American Express Worth Having?

Is the Centurion Card from American Express Worth Having?

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This article was last updated Feb 20, 2019. Terms and conditions may have changed. For the most accurate information, please consult the issuer website.

The Centurion® Card from American Express remains one of the most exclusive and hard-to-get credit cards around. There are all kinds of urban legends surrounding it, like having it delivered to you by a security guard, being able to flash it at the world’s hottest restaurants and clubs for entry and being able to buy anything anytime with it.

Also known as the Black Card, it comes with an Initiation Fee: $7500 and Annual Membership Fee: $2500.

You can’t apply for one outright. American Express® needs to invite you, or you can ask to be invited based on your spending habits. You may also qualify if you have very high deposits with a private wealth bank that partners with American Express. Your private banker can request a Centurion invitation.

“The Black Card is not necessarily targeted exclusively to high-worth individuals,” said Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst at San Francisco-based Atmosphere Research Group, a boutique research and advisory firm focused on the global travel industry, who has studied luxury credit card benefits for travelers. “It’s also targeted at people who spend a lot of money on credit cards.”

“The card’s objective is to shift as much of a cardholder’s spending to American Express as possible,” Harteveldt said. The card is also an ego play, he added. “As a result, there have been other copycat black cards that have come onto the market, but the Centurion Card provides a lot of benefits around the core American Express lifestyle value propositions of restaurants, retail and travel.”

We’ll look at everything that comes with the Centurion® Card from American Express, and weigh in on whether the benefits that come with the card are worth its high fees.

Centurion® Card from American Express perks

Whether a Centurion® Card from American Express is worth having often boils down to specific benefits that drive value.

Below is a selection of benefits American Express offers to U.S.-based holders of the Centurion® Card from American Express:

  • Centurion Card Concierge
  • Dedicated American Express traveler counselor
  • Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Medallion status
  • Hilton Honors® Diamond status
  • Marriott Bonvoy™ Gold status
  • IHG® Priority Club Rewards Platinum Elite status
  • Access to the Centurion Hotel Program with benefits at the Aman, Belmond, Mandarin Oriental, Peninsula and St. Regis hotels when you book via American Express
  • No preset spending limit. As a Centurion® Card from American Express cardholder, you may be approved for higher charges than is typical with other American Express cards.
  • Centurion Lounge access at airports worldwide
  • Priority Pass Select lounge access
  • Centurion international arrival services
  • $200 annual airline fee credit
  • $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA Precheck
  • Foreign transaction fee: None
  • Free Gogo in-flight Wi-Fi
  • Access to the Boingo American Express Preferred Plan
  • 30% Membership Rewards bonus when you redeem points for an airline statement credit

On top of this, according to Harteveldt, there are other benefits, including waivers on airline fares or hotel fees, even when they’re nonrefundable. “The Centurion® Card from American Express concierge offers personal help to customers for restaurant reservation and tickets to the theater, entertainment events and more,” he said. “One time I had dinner with a cardholder. He had mentioned being an aviation geek when speaking with the concierge. When we arrived, there were airplane models on our table.”

Centurion Lounge employees will reserve tables just for Centurion® Card from American Express cardholders, Harteveldt said. “Sometimes that can cause tension when attendants don’t let Platinum members sit at those tables even when there are no Centurion cardholders around,” he said.

Centurion® Card from American Express members are lucrative, so American Express will do what it takes to keep them, Harteveldt said. “In turn, customers like the added service and care that comes with the card.”

Delta Platinum Medallion perks

Having Delta SkyMiles Platinum Medallion status is one of the more tangible benefits of having the Centurion® Card from American Express.

As a Platinum Medallion member, Delta’s Choice Benefits program allows you to pick one benefit that matters most to you. They include: four regional upgrade certificates; 20,000 bonus miles; choosing between a $200 Delta travel voucher good for up to 12 months from the date of issuance or a $200 Tiffany & Co. gift card; and give Silver Medallion status, including unlimited complimentary upgrades, priority check-in, priority boarding and more, to a friend or family member.

Other benefits include:

  • The Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) — based on the distance you fly and the fare class of your ticket — you earn above your Medallion tier will roll over to the next qualification year to give you a jump start on earning status.
  • Earn 9 miles per dollar spent.
  • Unlimited free Delta One upgrades for paid tickets on the day of departure.
  • Unlimited free first class upgrades for paid tickets five days prior to departure.
  • Unlimited free Delta Comfort+ upgrades shortly after ticketing.
  • Unlimited free U.S. 50 Delta One, first class and Delta Comfort+ upgrades for a companion shortly after ticketing.
  • Unlimited free Clase Premier upgrades on select Aeromexico flights five days prior to departure.
  • Free preferred seats five days prior to departure.
  • Priority waitlist status five days prior to departure.
  • Waived fees for baggage, same-day confirmed flights, same-day standby and award redeposit/reissue.
  • Priority check-in, SkyPriority boarding, priority security line access, expedited baggage and a discount $79-a-year Clear trusted traveler membership.
  • A higher-priority dedicated customer service line.
  • Elite Plus SkyPriority status on the SkyTeam alliance, including priority baggage handling and SkyTeam lounge access.

Outside of having the Centurion® Card from American Express, you won’t get Medallion Platinum status on Delta unless you meet certain standards. You need to earn 75,000 MQMs or 100 Medallion Qualification Segments (MQSs) — earned through flight activity on Delta, Delta Connection, Delta Shuttle and select airline partners — and spend $9,000 in Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQDs) — total spending on Delta-marketed flights including the base fare and carrier-imposed surcharges — every year to get it.

It’s hard to say how much you save when using Platinum upgrade certificates since Delta doesn’t have a chart showing the cost of cash-based upgrades. However, if you fly Delta regularly, this is a nice Centurion benefit to have.

But know that the certificates are the only guaranteed way to get seat upgrades into premium cabins. You can buy a full-fare ticket and gamble that you’ll get an instant upgrade — if space is available. Full-fare coach tickets are often more expensive than a discounted first class ticket, plus you get free access to Comfort+ seats at the time of booking.

The bottom line

Some cardholders like the prestige factor that comes with the Centurion® Card from American Express, since there will always be a market for products that display a level of success, wealth and exclusivity. The card’s titanium construction is unmatched and makes a real statement.

It’s a great card to have if you make a lot of large purchases since no one likes being declined — especially if you can afford it. While no card is 100% immune from this, you’re probably far less likely to face the embarrassment of having your Centurion® Card from American Express declined due to the size of a purchase.

Centurion® Card from American Express members do get better attention and, theoretically, more tailored help. If that perk is useful to you as a member, it may be worth keeping the card, especially if your spouse or loved ones also rely on it. But it’s hard to say the service itself is worth it, especially since you can get a similar level of service with The Platinum Card® from American Express.

Many are loyal to American Express since their charge cards are a good way to get started building credit. It also helps the company build a relationship from the ground up. So when cardholders become successful, they feel very loyal to American Express and remember how they were treated from the beginning.

But you must balance the perks and benefits that come with the Centurion® Card from American Express to see if it justifies the Initiation Fee: $7500 and Annual Membership Fee: $2500. Other American Express cards — like The Platinum Card® from American Express or the Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express — offer many of its benefits, including the purchasing power and customer service offered to its best customers, at a lower fee.

The challenge for American Express is to manage the size of its Centurion® Card from American Express portfolio, Harteveldt said. “One reason why the card was created in the first place was that Platinum cardholders no longer felt exclusive enough,” he said. “So how does American Express retain its existing Centurion customers and selectively grow it without diluting the value and prestige the card conveys?”

The information related to the Centurion® Card from American Express and Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express has been independently collected by CompareCards and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication. Terms apply to American Express credit card offers. See americanexpress.com for more information. These offers and/or promotions may have since changed, expired, or are no longer available.

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