The Centurion card is about a legend in the credit industry. When credit cards began to be widely used for daily purchases in the 1980s, there was an urban legend about a black credit card with high spending limits. The story was only a myth but was widely accepted as truth by the public.
Credit cards were becoming fashionable and the color of your card was a source of pride for some consumers. Gold card users were thought to have better credit ratings than those with white or standard cards. Platinum cards were used to impress.
Amex capitalized on the legend of the black card when it introduced the Centurion credit card in 1999. Centurion was a high status credit card with features that seem to have been based on the legend of the black card.
The qualifications to open a Centurion account are not made public. Reports are that in the U.S. you must have a minimum activity on your credit card of $250,000 in a twelve month period.
What is known is that only those with exceptional credit and a substantial net worth are eligible for the Centurion account. There is no application process as the Centurion credit card is only awarded by invitation from American Express. This card is the ultimate status symbol.
If you receive an invitation to receive a Centurion card there is no need to fill out an application as you have been pre-selected. You will pay a fee of $5000 in the United States for the privilege of joining.
In addition, there is an annual fee of $2500 for the account. Details on other fees and interest rates are only available to those who have one of these pricey credit accounts.
The initial annual fee was $1000 for the primary user and $500 for secondary users of the account. Until recently, those who received a Centurion account were grandfathered into the initial fee even though the annual fees had risen to $2500 for the primary and $1500 for a secondary user. This is in addition to the $5000 fee cardholders pay when they become a Centurion user.
Clearly, this is not a credit card for the masses but is designed for high earners. By emphasizing the status of the Centurion card, Amex has been able to create value in the mind of high income, status conscious cardholders. It remains to be seen how many early account holders will continue using Centurion under the new higher costs being imposed.
It’s not surprising that benefits to cardholders are extensive. The benefits reflect the lifestyle and spending habits most often associated with high income consumers. Airline perks allow Centurion cardholders to immediately go to Gold status without meeting any flight mile requirements.
Access to high end lounges and clubs offered by airlines to favored flyers are a benefit and miles awarded are doubled for major airline travel.
Fast check-in at first class counters and free upgrades are a benefit appreciated by those who fly frequently. Major car rental agencies award complimentary memberships and special deals to Centurion cardholders.
As a cardholder you have access to a reservation travel service and quite a few special perks when you check into your hotel. Late checkout times, room upgrades at check in and access to resort amenities are commonly offered.
One extremely value benefit is connected to the Ritz Carlton and Mandarin Oriental hotels where you will not only have an upgrade to your room but will receive a spending credit.
In addition, Centurion provides you with a buy one-get one free coupon for most of the properties. If these are your favored hotels chains, this is an exceptional deal.
Domestic Companion Program
The Centurion card holders can receive free airfare to a companion when they use their card to buy a ticket on a major airline. There are some restrictions and you need to make the booking through a particular agency.
For each full fare first class or business class ticket you purchase with your credit card you receive a free companion ticket. This can be a great deal if you must fly out on short notice and can meet the few restrictions.
The AMEX Centurion credit card review explains the costs and benefits of the high status credit accounts. Relatively few consumers spend $250,000 a year on credit card charges but those who do may find the benefits of this account cover the high costs.