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

The American Express Black Card doesn't actually exist. But the benefits of the card that does exist will blow your mind.

Aug 24, 2014 at 10:30AM


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.

Commonwealth Of Pennsylvania

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."

American Express Black Card

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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Patrick Morris owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway. The Motley Fool recommends American Express, Berkshire Hathaway, and Visa. The Motley Fool owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway, JPMorgan Chase, and Visa. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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