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American Express Black Card: The Wild Benefits of the Credit Card that Costs $2,500 a Year

We all may have heard of the American Express Black Card. But you won't believe the incredible benefits it offers, nor should you.

The technical name for it
To start, it must be worth noting that technically speaking American Express doesn't offer something officially called a Black Card.

Source: Flickr / keithreifsnyder.

But it must be noted, technically there aren't 50 states either. You see, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Virginia are all considered as Commonwealths.

Yet the thing is, there really is no difference between a state and a commonwealth.

After all, Pennsylvania's Constitution designates itself a Commonwealth, but a simple visit to its official website reveals it calls itself "The Keystone State."

"Tomāto, tomăto" as they say.

In the same way, what American Express actually offers isn't officially called the Black Card, instead it's the Centurion Card. But regardless of its technical name, the benefits sure are wild to consider.

The fees
To start, the American Express website offers little information on the Centurion Card. But what is there is remarkable.

The card member agreement shows that the initiation fee stands at a staggering $7,500, and the yearly fee is $2,500. And you can't simply apply for one and hope to be approved: As The Wall Street Journal reported, the card is "available by invitation only to people who charge more than $250,000 a year."

There are pretty mind-blowing numbers, but the benefits are even more impressive.

The benefits
Perhaps the biggest benefit is that there is no spending limit on the Centurion Card. It has been widely reported that one cardholder used the Centurion to buy a $300,000 Bentley.

Even more remarkably, Bloomberg recently revealed that a Chinese collector used the card to buy an ancient ceramic cup for $36 million -- that's right, a cup -- which netted him 422 million in points from American Express. The article noted that the points from that single purchase could be used for "more than 28 million frequent flyer miles or about $180,000 worth of vouchers at Hong Kong retailer ParknShop."

Source: American Express.

The benefits don't stop at the spending. The Journal noted in a separate article that the card offers free access into American Express airport lounges that provide amenities such as "a free celebrity-chef food buffet, showers stocked with L'Occitane products and manicures, facials and massages."

There's also a free concierge service that can provide cardholders with access to exclusive tickets, reminders about certain events, and countless other personal benefits. Credit Card Insider also suggested that Black Card holders receive automatic premium status at hotels, airlines, and car rental companies.

And while it may not be a benefit of the card, in 2011 it was reported that the average income of a Centurion Card household stands at $1.3 million, with assets of $16.3 million. Among cardholders, the top five car brands driven were BMW, Mercedes, Porsche, Lexus, and Ferrari.

The Foolish takeaway
Others have attempted to copy the Centurion Card -- Visa actually offers something called the Black Card, and JPMorgan Chase has the Palladium Card for individuals who have $25 million in wealth management at the bank -- but nothing has quite the lure of the original offered by American Express.

Warren Buffett -- whose Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK-A  ) (NYSE: BRK-B  ) holds a $14.3 billion stake in AmEx -- once said, "'Buy commodities, sell brands' has long been a formula for business success." In this vein, whether you call it the Centurion Card or the Black Card, we can see just one more example of the powerful position American Express has in the minds of consumers everywhere.

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Read/Post Comments (3) | Recommend This Article (78)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On August 24, 2014, at 7:37 PM, segarolow4 wrote:

    it's real ok.....

    But only about 500 people in the world have one...

    You need to have billions... Not million's...

  • Report this Comment On August 27, 2014, at 1:42 AM, RxPro wrote:

    I understand if you're making a few million dollars per year that you would want a card with no limits, but at the same time I feel like requesting a limit increase on a free card might be a lot easier. Also, who needs access to airport lounges when you have a G650?

  • Report this Comment On January 05, 2015, at 4:42 PM, dbiggers wrote:

    A lot more than 500 people have Centurion cards (many thousands). I got mine way back in 1999, and at that time it was indeed a tiny number.

    And no, you don't have to have billions -- you just need to spend a lot on your other Amex (not sure if the WSJ number of $250,000 is accurate, but I got mine when I started spending about a million a year on the card). I can attest to the "no limits" thing -- I once spent $230,000 on one charge, traveling in Paris no less, and they didn't even ask for ID or a callback to verify it. That shocked me. It shocked the salesperson too (the no-security part).

    BTW, even those with private planes wind up in airport lounges, so that's handy. The concierge is useful but not nearly as "exclusive" as they like to make you think. Any hotel concierge can do the same, and usually with better local knowledge. Travel arrangements and perks are nice though.

    My favorite joke about the black card though when people ask about it (usually at a checkout counter when they hold it and feel the weight) is to tell them that "It's metal because that way you can sharpen one edge like a knife, and then when the bill comes in, slit your wrists with it".

    All in all, it's fun and handy at times, but hardly life-changing and not nearly as mythical as people believe. It's just a credit card. It doesn't make you taller, smarter, prettier, or richer. In fact, it makes you poorer. ;-)

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Patrick Morris

After a few stints in banking and corporate finance, Patrick joined the Motley Fool as a writer covering the financial sector. He's scaled back his everyday writing a bit, but he's always happy to opine on the latest headline news surrounding Berkshire Hathaway, Warren Buffett and all things personal finance.

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