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What Is a Black Credit Card? Guide & Examples 2024

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Updated December 25, 2023

A black credit card is an ultra-exclusive card offered by some card issuers and typically reserved for their wealthiest customers. A black card is considered a status symbol in pop culture, in part by requiring card spending in the tens or hundreds of thousands to be considered for one, among other criteria. American Express released the original black card, the CenturionTM Card, in 1999. Five years later Amex updated the premium luxury card from plastic to Titanium, further adding to the allure and exclusivity of the card.

Since then other issuers have released their versions of a black card, although some lack the invitation-only exclusivity found with the Centurion Card.

Who can get a black card?

The requirements to qualify for the Centurion Card are somewhat murky, with no published qualifications from American Express. Some reports show that you must spend $250,000 to $450,000 or more on another American Express card to be considered. The card likely requires an excellent credit score of 800 or higher.

American Express previously allowed existing Amex cardholders to inquire about Centurion membership through a short interest form online. The form is currently unavailable, and there is no indication as to whether it will reappear in the future. Should it resurface, keep in mind that the form is not an official card application. American Express hasn’t indicated what's required for card consideration or whether you’d receive correspondence after submitting the form.

Black card benefits

Like other Amex rewards cards, the Centurion Card rewards card spending. Card members earn one Membership Rewards point per dollar spent on eligible card purchases. This might seem like a low rewards rate compared with other luxury credit cards. But considering the type of spending typically seen with the black card, card members probably earn more than enough rewards regardless of the rate.

As you might expect, the Centurion Card has several exclusive luxury benefits. Among its premium benefits are:

  • Access to more than 1,200 Global Lounge Collection VIP airport lounges.
  • Fine Hotels and Resorts program benefits.
  • Complimentary elite status with Delta SkyMiles, Hilton Honors, Marriott Bonvoy, IHG. Rewards Club, MeliáRewards, Hertz Gold Plus Rewards, and Sixt Advantage Circle.
  • Global Dining Collection access.
  • Crafted travel experiences through Centurion Travel Services.
  • Dedicated 24/7 customer service.

The Centurion Card also comes with several purchase and travel insurance protections.

As you might expect, the Centurion Card isn't bound by traditional credit limits and other restrictions. Billionaire Liu Yiqian can attest to that after he famously used his Amex Centurion Card in 2015 to purchase the Amedeo Modigliani painting "Nu Couché" at a Christie's auction for $170.4 million. American Express approaches large purchases on the Centurion Card on a case-by-case basis based on its ongoing relationship with the card member.

How much does an Amex black card cost?

According to its most recent cardmember agreement from American Express, the Centurion Card requires a $10,000 initiation fee and a $5,000 annual fee. Amex charges $5,000 annually each for up to two authorized users on Centurion Card accounts.

Other card issuers have released premium luxury cards in line with the Centurion Card, with varying benefits, requirements, and fees. While not all these cards are black cards based on card design, they offer similar exclusivity and are available by invitation only.

  • J.P. Morgan Reserve® Card.
  • Citi Chairman® American Express® Card.
  • Coutts Silk Charge Card.
  • Merrill Lynch Octave Black Card by American Express.
  • Stratus Rewards Visa Card.

Luxury Card offers three premium credit cards you can apply for that offer exclusive benefits and perks:

  • Mastercard® Gold Card™.
  • Mastercard® Black Card™.
  • Mastercard® Titanium Card™.

If you are a billionaire or Middle Eastern royalty, you may qualify for the even-more-exclusive Dubai First Royale Credit Card from the Bank of Dubai. The card comes trimmed in real gold with a .235-carat diamond embedded in its center.

Alternatives to black credit cards

You don't need an exclusive black card to access luxury benefits. Several other rewards credit cards are available to qualified applicants that earn rewards and come with premium travel benefits and other perks.

Consider these alternatives if you don't receive an invitation for a black credit card.

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Should you accept a black credit card invitation?

If you receive an invitation from American Express or another card issuer for a black card, consider the benefits included with it compared with other cards before accepting the offer. If you've been invited, paying the initiation and annual fees likely won't be an issue. A black card unlocks rare perks and almost unending spending privileges. Still, the Centurion Card's other features aren't that different from Amex’s Platinum Card, which costs a lot less.

Is a black credit card right for you?

Because of the Centurion Card's unusual structure and privileges, it's hard to judge its value or compare it with other cards. If you receive an invitation for any black credit card, consider how having it would enhance your life to determine whether it is right for you.

TIME Stamp: If you are invited to get a black card, you can afford it—but may not need it

Black credit cards are best for their virtually unlimited spending limits. If you want to buy a yacht with a credit card, a black card should make it possible. Even without the yacht, your life may involve situations where it helps to have seriously stratospheric credit.

The fact that you can’t apply for one but must be invited, makes getting an invitation flattering—and theoretically makes these cards coveted. Their status-conscious benefits are designed to make cardholders feel pampered and superior. However, even if you are wealthy enough to qualify for a black card, first ask yourself if the rarified perks are worth the high cost, which can easily run into five figures and, over time, possibly even six.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Which is the most expensive black credit card?

The American Express Centurion Card is the original black credit card and still the most expensive, with a one-time initiation fee of $10,000 and a $5,000 annual fee. Other black credit cards feature annual fees ranging from $495 to $1,500.

Are there drawbacks to having a black credit card?

The drawbacks of a black credit card are all monetary. They have high initiation and annual fees, a high income requirement to be invited to get one, and generally come with a hefty minimum spending requirement.

What is the limit on a black credit card?

This will vary and is often left unstated. The Citi Chairman® American Express® Card has a limit of $300,000, while the Amex Centurion Card doesn't have a traditional credit limit at all. Instead, Centurion cardholders work directly with American Express on a case-by-case basis for larger purchases.

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