If you are reading a review of the Centurion® Card from American Express, it’s probably not for you. First of all, you can’t apply for the card: you need to secure an invitation. The unique characteristics of the Centurion Card, both in costs and rewards, do not invite comparison. However, if you’re in the select group that can get this card, the cost/benefit analysis might just work in your favor.
- The most exclusive card in the world
- Elite, personalized concierge and shopping services
- Unrivaled perks and benefits
- Centurion International Arrival Services
- By invitation only
- $10,000 initiation fee
- $5,000 annual fee per cardholder
- No bonus rewards categories
- Complimentary elevation to elite status levels at several of the world’s most important hospitality brands, including IHG Platinum Elite, Hilton Honors Diamond, Marriott Bonvoy Gold, and Relais & Châteaux 5C.
- Earn 1.5X Membership Rewards points per dollar on purchases over $5,000 (Up to 1 million additional points per calendar year)
- Earn 1X Membership Rewards points on all eligible purchases
- Exclusive retail benefits, including the Centurion Shopping Program, Saks Fifth Avenue credits, InCircle rewards, and the MR PORTER and NET-A-PORTER Shopping Service
- Complimentary Delta SkyMiles Platinum Medallion status, which includes priority waitlisting, enhanced mileage earnings, priority check-in and boarding, courtesy upgrades, and more
- Enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world, including the exclusive Centurion Lounges
- Invitation to the exclusive Hertz Platinum status and Avis President’s Club
The Washington Post used to have a slogan that’s apropos for the Centurion Card: If you don’t get it, you don’t get it. The Centurion Card has a lot of downsides: a large initiation fee, annual fees that rival a luxury car lease and a distinct lack of category spending bonuses.
That said, for the biggest of big spenders, the Centurion Card can be worth every one of the million pennies that cover just the initiation fee. The upsides, which include bend-over-backwards customer service, elite travel statuses, memberships and credits to luxury outlets and lucrative points redemption options can easily offset the costs. However, the credits and perks only have value if they are of use to you.
Exclusivity is the main draw of the Centurion Card, and it’s expressed in many ways. Access to a 24/7 concierge service is a big draw if you are interested in delegating your travel planning, reservation getting and gift giving tasks. Events including celebrities of the entertainment, culinary and sports arenas are offered solely to cardholders.
The criteria used to determine if you’re worthy to even apply are nebulous, but it’s safe to say if you’re not on a first name basis with your American Express rep, the Centurion is not in your wheelhouse. Minimum spending estimates vary from $250,000 per year up into the millions. That said, you can request consideration online if you want to give it a shot.
Something to keep in mind: the Centurion offers a personal card and a business card. If you are given a choice, the business card offers more valuable benefits, most notably the airfare rebate.
At a Glance
- Invitation only, but you can request consideration
- $10,000 initiation fee
- $5,000 annual fee, which also must be paid for each Authorized User
- Earn 1 Membership Rewards point per dollar spent on all purchases under $5,000 each
- Earn 1.5 Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on purchases over $5,000, up to 1 million extra points per year
- 50% bonus on Membership Rewards redemptions for paid airfare (Business version only)
The American Express Centurion Card offers 1 Membership Rewards point per dollar spent on all purchases. In addition, the Business version of the Centurion Card offers 1.5 Membership Rewards points per dollar on purchases over $5,000, up to an additional 1 million points per year.
The most interesting perk of the business version of the Centurion Card is a generous 50% rebate on airfares purchased with Membership Rewards points. This gives an effective two-cent per dollar return rate, which is more than any other American Express card offers on unlimited spending in every category. Points earned on transactions over $5,000 are worth an effective three cents when redeemed in this manner. This bonus does not exist on the personal version of the card.
American Express Membership Rewards points are valuable because they are flexible. They can be transferred to anyone of 17 travel partners, most at a 1:1 ratio. In addition, American Express offers frequent transfer bonuses, allowing you to get even more value from your points. Among the most commonly used airline transfer partners are Delta (for SkyTeam airlines), British Airways and Iberia Avios (Oneworld), and Air Canada Aeroplan (Star Alliance).
You can also redeem your points for a wide variety of gift cards in travel, retail, and restaurant categories. Rates vary depending on the vendor and fluctuate between 0.5 cents and one cent per Membership Reward point. You may also pay with points at a number of vendors (most notably Amazon) at 0.8 cents per Membership Reward point. As you can see, you’ll be better off using Membership Rewards for travel than redeeming for gift cards.
Because the American Express Centurion Card’s profile is not geared toward point earning and because spending varies so widely, it makes more sense to discuss the value of the additional benefits.
- Equinox All Access Gym Membership: $3,120 per year, provided you live or travel near one of Equinox’s 300 locations and value a gym membership.
- Saks Fifth Avenue Credit: $1,000 per year. The credits are awarded as $250 per quarter.
- CLEAR membership for the cardholder and family: $179 + $50 per family member.
The card also comes with travel benefits that become more valuable the more they are used:
- Delta Executive Platinum Status: benefits include upgrades cleared up to five days before departure, waived redeposit and change fees for awards, baggage allowance, and enhanced earnings on miles flown.
- Hertz Platinum: Invite-only status includes VIP drop-off and pickup service and upgrades to the best standard (and occasionally luxury) cars available at the time.
- Hilton Diamond Status: the highest level of status, it earns suite upgrades, late checkout, breakfast benefits, and enhanced earnings on paid stays. The card also offers mid-tier status with Marriott and IHG.
Other Card Benefits
- Personalized Concierge services
- VIP Airport Arrival Services at 32 major airports
- Various Hotel Statuses including Marriott Bonvoy Gold and IHG Platinum
- Airport Lounge access, including dedicated seating at Centurion Clubs
- Specialized card designs commissioned by major artists, including a wearable card created by Prada.
See Cardholder Invitation for rates and fees.
How The Card Stacks Up
It’s not feasible to do an apples-to-apples comparison of the Centurion Card to other cards, as it caters to such a small segment of the market and offers unique benefits. That said, the Business Platinum Card® from American Express offers a slice of what the Centurion does for a fraction of the annual fee.
Centurion® Card from American Express* vs. The Business Platinum Card® from American Express
The The Business Platinum Card® from American Express (Terms apply. See Rates & Fees.) has a $695, which seems like a bargain only when compared to the Centurion’s $5,000. Some benefits, such as airport lounge access (albeit without a dedicated section in the Centurion Clubs) and hotel and car rental statuses, are the same with both cards. However, the Centurion offers Hilton Diamond, Delta Executive Platinum, and Hertz Platinum, which the Platinum does not.
While the Centurion may offer much in the way of statuses, the American Express Business Platinum grants significantly higher rewards: 5 Membership Rewards® points per dollar on flights and prepaid hotels through American Express Travel, Earn 1.5X points on eligible purchases at US construction material & hardware suppliers, electronic goods retailers and software & cloud system providers, and shipping providers, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else, on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year. Earn 1 point per dollar on all other eligible purchases.
Compare American Express Centurion Black Card With American Express Business Platinum Card
The Business Platinum Card® from American Express
Up to 5X Reward Rate
Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on American Express Travel; Earn 1.5X points on eligible purchasesRead More
Earn 120,000 points
14.24% - 22.24% Variable
Good, Excellent (700 - 749)
Is The Card For You?
If you have to ask, the answer is likely no. The Centurion Card is for an extremely narrow slice of the market and will provide value to a narrower slice still. But if you’re an extremely high spender who values exclusive access and top-tier customer service, the Centurion Card just might belong in your wallet.