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American Express Black Card Requirements

Posted by Michael Dolen

American Express Black CardQ: What are the American Express Black card requirements?

A: The American Centurion black card qualifications (officially called the Centurion card) have changed slightly since it first came out in 1999, but they’ve always been strict nonetheless. Let’s take a look at what’s currently required for 2013 if you want to get this credit card:

The Annual Fee

When the card first came out, the annual fee was “only” $1,000. Less than ten years later, AmEx jacked up the annual fee all the way up to $2,500. In addition, they’ve now tacked on a $5,000 so-called “initiation fee” just to get the card! So as far as the fees go, previously it was a $1,000, but now you will need to cough up $7,500 up front.

The early Centurion cardmembers are lucky – some are rumored to still be paying a $1,000 annual fee. Why? Well, it’s a common practice in the credit card industry that sometimes, your annual fee is locked in when you get a card (future annual fee increases won’t apply to you). Now, I bet those early cardmembers are happy they got the card for “only” a thousand bucks, right?

The Exclusivity

The Amex black card has gone back and forth from being invite only to open application. Currently, it is back to being invite only, but I’m sure if you qualified and were willing to pay the fee, you could get them to give you one.

When the card first hit the scene, it was only issued it to a few thousand people (celebrities, business moguls, etc). Although the American Express black card requirements have grown tighter recently, that hasn’t stopped the cardmember base from ballooning.

According to to this creative detective work a couple years back about how many people have the Amex Black card, it’s now estimated that possibly up to 100,000 people worldwide have the card. It’s estimated that anywhere from 20 to 40% of those cardmembers are based in the United States.

Spending Requirements

The American Express black card qualifications including spending $250,000 in a given year on another AmEx card. That means you must have an existing AmEx card for one year or more, and spend (and pay off) at least $250,000 over the course of a year. Once you do that, you meet the spending requirement. There has been talk of increasing that requirement to 500,000 or even a $1M, plus requiring that amount to be spent every year. Personally, I think that’s a good idea if they want to keep it exclusive.

The Benefits

So you would think with such a drastic fee increase, that the benefits must have improved, right? Well, think again. Many feel the concierge has greatly deteriorated the past few years. In fact, I have read a number of forum posts by cardmembers who have canceled or downgraded to platinum because they said it simply was no longer worth anywhere close to the annual fee.

Personally, I feel there was only one benefit which really made it worth the price; they used to offer free first class upgrades on domestic flights. So you could buy a coach ticket and automatically get bumped to first class for free if there was availability. However they got rid of that benefit way back, sometime around 9/11 when air travel changed for the worse.

With the reported dwindling benefits, it makes one wonder why people bother with the black card at all. Other than the prestige and status that comes with it, there’s no point in paying more for less benefits.

The Platinum Card

If you agree the American Express black card requirements are absurd, you may want to look into the Platinum version.
AmEx Platinum Card welcome kit
It’s comes with a wide array of benefits, many of which are comparable to the AmEx Black. In fact, a friend of mine who was a Centurion charter cardmember (and had it since ’99 when it launched) recently downgraded his account to Platinum because he found it had most of the same benefits, yet it’s thousands less per year. Check out my Platinum Card review and compare. But be aware that its annual fee is $450 and that is NOT waived the first year.

The Next Best Thing To Black…

…is blue, as in the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. This is made out of real metal!

photos of Sapphire Preferred made out of metal

Obviously it’s not as exclusive as the Centurion, but that doesn’t change the fact that it still leaves quite the impression when you use it. When someone hears it cling the counter and feels how heavy it is, don’t be surprised if you get asked questions about it. With an annual fee of $95 (and that’s waived the first year) you can have a card that makes a statement, without spending a fortune.

When it first launched a few years ago, it was aimed at the top-earning 15% of American households. However many average Joes and Janes report being accepted, so if you have good credit and at least an average income, it’s worth a shot. I have heard from people with incomes as low as the $30k’s getting approved for it (but they also had great credit).

And vanity aside, this is actually the best credit card offer on the market because you can earn 40,000 bonus points after you spend $3k in the first 3 months from account opening – redeemable for $500 in travel rewards! Go here for the application to get this offer.

This post was written or last updated October 7, 2013


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