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Centurion Card




 

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

Contents

History

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.[1] 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." [2] 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.[citation needed]

 

Centurion Card Annual Fees
Country Annual Fee Equivalent to
United States US$2,500 + One-time joining
fee of US$5,000
US$2,500
+US$5,000
United Kingdom £650 US$1,275
France, Italy, Spain,
The Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden
€2,000 US$2,634
Germany €1,000 US$1,317
Switzerland 2,000 CHF US$1,639
Australia AU$4,300 US$3,660
Japan ¥168,000 US$1,412
Hong Kong HK$19,800 + One-time joining
fee of HK$23,800
US$2,547
+US$3,061
Singapore SG$5,000 US$3,260
Mexico About 27,000 pesos US$2,500
International Dollar/Euro Card (Europe) US$2,800/EUR 2,800 (effective 1 September 2007)
Israel US$2,000 US$2,000
Russia 85000 rubles US$3,000

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[citation needed]), 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.[3]

A new Centurion card crafted from anodized titanium[2] 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:

  • Continental OnePass® Gold Elite
  • Delta Air Lines SkyMiles® Gold Medallion®
  • US Airways Dividend Miles® Platinum Preferred
  • Virgin Atlantic Airways Flying Club Gold

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[citation needed]. 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.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed]

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.

Publications

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."

Spending limits

Centurion holders have made purchases well in excess of $1 million USD without a credit check.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed] 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

  • In Casino Royale (2006), James Bond (Daniel Craig) pays for an ocean-view villa at an Ocean Club resort using a Black Card.
  • Jessica Simpson's Black Card appeared on her reality TV series "Newlyweds, Nick and Jessica". Jessica makes reference to the card when searching through her purse for it. The card then appears on the table at the restaurant after Jessica found it.
  • In episode 7, Nevada Day - Part I, of the only season of the NBC show "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip", while in Pahrump, NV, Jack Rudolph attempts to post bond for Tom Jeter, with his "American Express Black" - claiming it can be used to post a one million dollar bail.
  • In season 1 of the ABC show Traveler, Tyler Fog's father tells his son to use the black card given to him for emergencies to withdraw as much money as possible from an ATM to run from the authorities.
  • In season 2 of the Fox show The O.C., Julie Cooper-Nichol mentions she is going to pay for a pony with her real estate baron husband's Black Card.
  • In the Bravo show The Real Housewives of Orange County, Slade is given an after hours private shopping session. He tells us that his American Express Black Card gained him this privilege.
  • In the Discovery Channel Show Build It Bigger in the episode about racing boats, after a jet engine is destroyed, John Haggin is asked how they will pay for the new part. After pulling out his wallet, he reaches in and pulls out a Black Card, displaying it to the camera.
  • In the HBO show Entourage, in the episode 'The First Cut Is the Deepest', Eric, Vincent, and Vince's financial manager/adviser talk about how Vince can't keep living off of his Black card.
  • In the TV show "Fastlane", in the episode where undercover cops Van and Deaq try to infiltrate a local Triad gang and impresses their leader by using a Black Card.

Literature

  • In John Sandford's 2003 novel "Naked Prey" the Black Centurion card is referenced as possibly being used by the killer in a casino (Sanderson, 2003, p.80).
  • In Lauren Weisberger's 2005 novel Everyone Worth Knowing, a co-worker of the main character, Bette, pays for dinner with a black card: "There it was, the mythical American Express black card. Available by invitation only to those who charged a minimum of $150,000 per year. I had only just learned about it myself".[3]
    • Bette's friend, Philip, hands his black card to a bouncer when they are lining up to go into a nightclub.
  • In Robert Crais new novel The Watchman, the daughter of a rich businessman is described as having a black Amex card.

Music

  • Rap group Clipse refers to themselves as the "Black Cards" of the "Black Card Era."
  • In an exclusive Amex interview, Janet Jackson was asked how much she spent on her shirt and replied, "I don't even know, isn't that bad? When you sign it and walk away... that Black Card is dangerous! (laughs)"
  • Noel Gallagher took out his black American Express card during the filming of the 2007 BRIT Awards backstage show.
  • Ryan Leslie, founder of NextSelection, filmed the moment that his business manager delivered him a package containing his Black Card
  • Ali Vegas released a mixtape titled "Black Card Council - Unlimited Street Credit."
  • Lil' Kim's lyric, "I smack ni**az 'cross the face with a Centurion Card who don't believe I'm doin it way big"
  • Kanye West's lyric, "'Oh my God, is that a black card?' / I turned around and replied 'Why yes, but I prefer the term "African American Express."
  • Bow Wow's reference in the track "I Think They Like Me (Remix)" with the line "I ain't got to act hard / I'm under 21 with a black card"
  • Jay-Z's lyric in the song "30 Something", "Now I got black cards / Good credit and such / Baby boy / Now I'm all grown up."
  • Nelly Furtado's Promiscuous Girl remix featuring Rick Ross, "I smoke purple, my car white / credit card black, girl I'm alright."
  • Fat Joe's first line in the song "Get it Popping" Featuring Nelly, "I got that black no limit American Express card / Mami you can get whatever you like."
  • On the 2005 mixtape We Got It 4 Cheap, the Clipse and the Re-Up Gang announce their presence on the hip-hop scene as the dawning of the "Black Card Era."
  • Lil Jon's lyric, "Imma ball 'till I fall / drank 'till I cant / put It on my black card I got money in da bank" in the song "Act a Fool" featuring Three 6 Mafia.
  • Fabolous' lyric, "More stuntin' more frontin'/How he getting it homie, show something/You can ask about him, he go hard/with that A-M-E-X negro card."
  • Lil' Wayne's lyric in the song 'Get it shawty (remix)' says, "Girl I got a black card/Can I buy some of your time and charge it to my black card?"
  • Sirius Satellite Radio's Bubba the Love Sponge has often spoken of his Amex Black Card, and actually has showed it to fans that have requested to see it at several of his autograph meet & greets.
  • mc chris references the Centurion Card in the song "blastic," which is short for "black plastic."
  • Pharrell Williams's lyric in the song "Where's Yours at" - "Black credit card, just asked and owned / Didn't need it, just didn't have it at home."
  • [4]Shane mentions Black Card and Centurion Card in his lyrics for "Shane" recorded 2007 and "Think Within Reason" recorded in 2003.Tery (talk) 16:52, 17 November 2007 (UTC)
  • Chamillionaire's track "Rockstar", "How I'm a rapper with revenue like a rock star? / If I'm there you can believe the Black Card is not far."

Sports

  • Floyd Mayweather Jr. expressed contempt for the Black Card in HBO's miniseries 24/7. Insisting that he doesn't need a Black Card, he proceeds to take out a considerable amount of cash, saying the latter system works better.

Imitators

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[4] mentions the following card types: Diamond, Black, World and Titanium.

References

  1. ^ Snopes.com entry on the Centurion Card
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ Weisberger, Lauren; Everyone Worth Knowing; Downtown Press, New York, NY, ISBN 0743262330, 80.
  4. ^ Mastercard Moments Main Page
 
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.
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