The Centurion Card, popularly known as the Black Card, is a charge card issued by American Express. The Centurion Card provides access to a range of exclusive privileges. To become a card holder, an invitation into the program is needed from American Express. In order to achieve this one must meet American Express' strict criteria. Cardholders are required to pay an annual fee. As of 2007, the annual fee in the United States was $2,500, with a one-time $5,000 initiation fee for the first year.
While the rumors were false, American Express decided to capitalize on them in October 1999 by launching the Centurion Card, available to selected holders of its Platinum Card. The card is not made of plastic, but a form of metal. The Amex Centurion Card originally had an annual fee of $1,000, however it has since been increased to $2,500. (American Express' first credit card product, the Optima Card, was originally issued by a subsidiary called the "American Express Centurion Bank. Both the Centurion Card and the AmEx Centurion Bank were named after AmEx's logo, which features the likeness of a Roman centurion.)
The Centurion card is offered "by invitation only" in countries where the Platinum card existed for many years as High End charge card, and where a market has been identified for a more exclusive product. Where the Centurion card is not available, the Platinum card remains "by invitation only".
As of Aug 1, 2007, in the United States, stated requirements to become a card holder included minimum spending of $250,000 in a 12 month period, and exceptional credit history. However, the requirements could be waived for celebrities and public figures. Requirements for acceptance in other countries can differ slightly. There is a US $5,000 one-time initiation fee for new primary card holders, plus the annual fee of US $2,500, for a total of $7,500 due within the first billing cycle after obtaining the card. Additional cards for an annual fee of $1,500 per each additional Centurion card (one-time US $5,000 initiation fee waived for additional Centurion cards), $175 per each additional Platinum card or $45 per each additional Gold card linked to the primary Centurion account holder are also available.
In the UK, there was no minimum annual spend although it is reported that spending £3,000 a month was standard.
The International Euro (IEC) or Dollar (IDC) Centurion cards issued by Amex UK for customers in Europe, Middle-East and Africa (see www.americanexpress.com/iec ) offer a portfolio of up to 22 cards included in the annual fee :
The criteria that must be met in order to be invited to apply for a Centurion card, as well as the benefits and the annual fees vary from country to country. As Centurion was introduced 1999 (as a plastic black card) , the annual fee was about US$1,000 or DM 2,000 (in Germany). The annual fee increased since then to $2,500 in the US (or more in some other countries) and the main card is now made of non magnetic metal (titanium).
Annual fees that remain (2008) at the initial level (like in Germany) should be increased in the near future.
|Country||Annual Fee||Equivalent to|
|United States|| US$ 2,500 + One-time joining|
fee of US$ 5,000
| US$ 2,500|
|United Kingdom||£650||US$ 1,275|
| France, Italy, Spain,|
The Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden
|€ 2,000||US$ 3,000|
|Germany||€ 1,000||US$ 1,518|
|Switzerland||CHF 2,000||US$ 1,921|
|Australia||AU$ 4,300||US$ 3,660|
|Japan||¥ 367,500||US$ 3,400|
|Hong Kong|| HK$ 19,800 + One-time joining|
fee of HK$ 23,800
| US$ 2,547|
|Singapore||SG$ 5,000||US$ 3,260|
|Mexico||About 27,000 pesos||US$ 2,500|
| International Dollar Currency Card |
| International Euro Currency Card |
|€ 2,800||US$ 4,200|
|Israel||US$ 2,000||US$ 2,000|
|Russia||85000 Rubles||US$ 3,000|
A new Centurion card crafted from anodized titanium was issued as a replacement for all plastic U.S. Centurion cards in the first half of 2006, with the titanium version being rolled out to certain other countries as well. This new card is slightly thicker than a standard credit card, and therefore is sometimes difficult to insert and remove from some card readers, such as the ones found on gas station pumps, as well as automatic readers, such as the ones found at Target. There have also been rumors that some airport metal detectors are set off by the titanium black card (compelling wallets to be scanned through the x-ray machine).
Travel benefits include, but are not limited to, enrollment in:
American Express has changed certain benefits of the card in the years since it was introduced. For example, Hyatt Diamond Elite status was included up until January 2005, and Starwood Preferred Guest Platinum status was included up until January 2006. Status level at Starwood Hotels & Resorts is now Gold. UK members had access to Virgin Upper Class lounges, but this privilege has been removed.
American Express sent an email to about 250,000 customers on September 20, 2006, describing certain benefits of the Centurion card. The email was supposed to be sent to the 10,000 black card holders. Phone calls to their customer service line revealed: 1) the email was sent to the 'wrong list' in error, and 2) qualifications for the Centurion card were one year of card membership with a $250,000 annual cash flow through the card account.
Additionally, as a token of American Express's appreciation (and in light of the recent membership fee increase), some primary cardholders received a Canon PowerShot SD850 digital camera, beginning in late November/early December 2007. A note from Kenneth Chenault, CEO and Chairman of American Express, was included inside the characteristic black box with a liner captioned "what do you want to capture." Other gifts to cardmembers have included a $2000 Judith Ripka gift card, a $1000 Van Cleef & Arpels gift card (and Reflections of Eternity book), tote bags, Gucci gift card, etc. In August 2008, Limited Centurion members received a $1000 Mikimoto gift card.
European, Asian and Australian Centurion members receive quarterly the "Centurion magazine", published by Journal International GmbH (Munich, Germany).
Music artists like Jay-Z (in the song 30 Something), Kanye West (in the song Last Call), Bow Wow (in the songs Marco Polo , Oh I Think They Like Me , and Get Money ), Lil Wayne (in the song Get It Shawty Remix), MC Chris (in the song Blastic), and Swizz Beatz (in the song That Oprah) reference the black card in their songs. Noel Gallagher showed off his black AMEX card in an interview to disprove a long time quote by a Brit Awards organizer who told him not attending the 1994 awards show would "ruin his career". http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DrVqmFY0Lk8
The J. Peterman Company's catalog product " Linen Safari Jacket" recounts John Peterman's encounter with an un-named director and the black card: "The rumors were true, then. There really was a black Amex card so exclusive (less than 10,000 issued worldwide) that most people had never even heard of its existence."
In the HBO series Entourage Vince and his friends are always using Vince's 'Black Card' to buy any and everything they need, even when money is tight, despite Vince's financial adviser pleading him to "not live off your Black Card."
In the anime Lupin III: Seven Days Rhapsody, Michelle books an $8000/night suite at the Waldorf Astoria using a Black Card.
The Coutts Signia Card and Coutts World Card issued by Coutts & Co. is another prestigious card.
In the UK NatWest bank launched a "Black Card" in 2002, and MasterCard's Signia, which is issued in the United Kingdom by Coutts & Co bank. Morgan Stanley offers the i24card and there is also the Carbon card from Halifax, all designed to provide similar benefits to its wealthy clientèle. Wachovia Bank N.A. also has capitalized upon the trend by offering its Wealth Management clients black-colored Visa Signature cards with concierge service and no pre-set spending limits, along with 1.5% back on all transactions.
In September 2004, American Express launched the IN:NYC card which is black in color and reads "IN:NYC" across the front. It is not the same as the "Black Card," as it does not have any of the special privileges mentioned in this article, but does provide special rewards at NYC hotspots and with air travel to and from the city. Additionally, in September 2005, American Express released similar cards for Chicago as "IN:CHICAGO" and for Los Angeles as "IN:LA." As of July 2008, the IN: cards are currently being phased out by American Express, with no further applications being taken since mid-July of 2008.
The Mastercard Moments website mentions the following card types: Diamond, Black, World and Titanium.
In 2007 Santander Group in Brazil launched the Unlimited Mastercard Black which is issued only to Private Bank members and features a limit which is linked to the amount held with the bank. This card is the one of the most exclusive in Latin America with only 2000 users.
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