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The Centurion Card, popularly known as the Black Card, is the most exclusive charge card issued by American Express. Formerly available by invitation only, the Centurion Card provides access to a range of exclusive privileges. In the United States, invitations are no longer sent for the card. To be approved for the Black Card, one must make a request and meet the strict criteria below. As of 2007, the annual fee in the United States was $2,500.
Additional recommended knowledge
Urban legends of a special, black-colored card offering dignitaries and celebrities unlimited spending power and after-hours access to high-end stores circulated in the 1980s. While the rumors were false, in October 1999 American Express decided to capitalize on them by launching the Centurion Card and made the card available to selected holders of its Platinum Card. The Amex Centurion Card originally had an annual fee of $1,000. The rumor of an unlimited spending card originated because certain high-spending card members were given a black information card that, while not a charge or credit card, contained important telephone numbers, such as numbers for American Express Travel and Concierge services.
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.
Availability and cost
As of Aug 1, 2007, in the United States, requirements include minimum annual spending of $250,000, exceptional credit history and significant financial assets. Certain requirements may 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.
Centurion card members have the option of 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.
Features and benefits
The card, available for both personal and business use, offers numerous exclusive privileges including a dedicated concierge and travel agent, complimentary companion airline tickets on international flights on selected airlines with the purchase of a full fare ticket, personal shoppers at retailers such as Escada, Gucci, and Neiman Marcus, access to airport clubs, first class flight upgrades, membership in Sony's Cierge personal shopping program, and dozens of other elite club memberships. Hotel benefits include one free night when at least one paid night is booked during the same stay in every Mandarin Oriental hotel worldwide once a year (except for the New York City property), one free night at one LXR Luxury Resorts hotel (no paid night required), once per year, and privileges at hotel chains like Ritz-Carlton, Leading Hotels of the World, and Amanresorts. All of the benefits mentioned above are for United States-issued cards. American Express Centurion cards issued in other countries may include different benefits. The card has recently added new amenities, including access into the Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Gold, as well as US Airways Platinum Preferred status as of June 1, 2007. As of August 14, 2007, American Airlines Admirals Club access was added to the long list of amenities.
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. Some cardholders have complained that this new card is thicker than a standard credit card and therefore can't be used in some card readers, such as the pumps at many gas stations.
Travel benefits include enrollment in:
American Express has removed certain benefits from 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 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.
Since the inception of the card, members have received a copy of Departures magazine, which is also sent to all Platinum cardholders. However, in 2004, American Express Centurion members began to receive an exclusive "no name" magazine which was not available by any other means. Starting with the Spring 2007 edition, this magazine has been officially titled "Black Ink." The reason given by Ed Ventimiglia, the publisher, was that "now the magazine will be easier to identify when discussing it with like-minded readers."
Centurion holders have made purchases well in excess of $1 million USD without a credit check. A popular myth is that the card has no limit; the largest purchase supposedly ever made on it exceeded $30 million for a private jet. However the Centurion Card does have limits, but these limits are not pre-set at a certain level. Like any other American Express charge card, the limits are based on the spending history of card holder, as well as their personal credit profile and financial resources. A card holder spending $250,000 in the previous year could not just purchase a jet with a swipe of his or her card unless he or she had the resources to make good on the transaction. Each year spending habits are reviewed by the credit department in order to determine the spending limit for the next year. The limit can be increased after providing new financial data.
American Express reports account activity for this card under the credit bureau trade line classification of Open (charge card) vs. Revolving (credit card). Since there is no pre-set credit limit associated with this card product, the High Credit amount reported represents the largest monthly balance that was closed in the past 18 months of card activity. Some card members who charge a significant amount each month have complained that there is always an unpaid balance reflected on their credit reports which can have a negative impact on their FICO score even though they pay off their balance each month per the card member agreement.
In popular culture
Film and television
The Centurion card was the first "Black Card", but others are attempting to enter this lucrative high-end market. However, the Centurion Card can be easily distinguished by its weight due to its titanium make-up. It is the only metal charge card in circulation.
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 offer the i24card and there is also the Carbon card from Halifax, all designed to provide similar benefits to its wealthy clientèle.
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."
The Mastercard Moments website mentions the following card types: Diamond, Black, World and Titanium.
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Centurion_Card". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.|