It’s not for the points. It’s certainly not for the status. But I am seriously considering an American Express Centurion Card, more popularly known as the AMEX “Black” card.
For many years, I’ve chuckled at clients who put tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars per month on the card. It’s one of the worst cards in terms of points earning. You’ll earn one Membership Rewards point per dollar spent. In many categories, you’ll earn far more points using a Gold or Platinum card for the same purchase.
It’s also not cheap. Even if you can score an invitation, you’re looking at a $10,000 initiation fee and $5,000 annual fee. That’s huge. And many of the perks like Hilton Diamond and Delta Platinum status are nice, but nothing that would approach that monetary value threshold for me, especially when that status is achievable much cheaper through other credit card spending.
So why? Why would I want this card?
It’s About The Personalized Service + Protection
My import/export business is heavily invested in American Express. By that, I mean large purchase orders are placed every month on my American Express cards and I also tap into American Express Working Capital to fund deals that cannot be paid by credit card. Most of these purchases are in categories that would not qualify for a category bonus. Many are for amounts too high to put on more conventional personal credit cards.
Much of the spending is placed on my Platinum Card (even though my Blue Business Plus card would offer double points) simply for the protection it provides. I have a wallet full of American Express cards, but the customer service on the Platinum card is so much better than for the other cards.
Recently, though, I’ve run into an annoying problem. I had a six-digit purchase order for handbags with a company in Italy. The bags arrived damaged, even though they were carefully packed. The terms and conditions of my purchase order clearly gave me the right to return this product. I mailed back the product via UPS. But the vendor never refunded the money. A chargeback was initiated…but the whole process has languished for months…approaching one year. This may make an interesting separate post, but the American Express Platinum team has failed me over and over in mediating this dispute. It seems they do not even examine the documentation I have repeatedly uploaded.
In short, I love American Express but would love one dedicated concierge who will take the time to get to know me and my business and provide commensurate customer service. That alone would be worth the annual fee.
I’m fortunate to work in a high-revenue business. Meeting the spending thresholds will not be a problem. But I need a credit card company who truly has my back when something goes wrong. In my business, things go wrong…ask any importer/exporter and they will tell you the same thing.
50% Off Travel Redemptions
While the Delta Platinum and Hilton Diamond status make me shrug, there are also two other perks I really like that would come with holding an American Express Business Centurion Card.
One is a 50% rebate on Membership Rewards points when you use your points to book airfare. With domestic premium cabin prices generally reasonable, this often marks a better deal than redeeming points.
For example, say you want to fly from Los Angeles to New York and can take advantage of an advance purchase $700 fare. When you redeem points, you pay 70,000 points upfront, but get the 35,000 miles back. 35,000 AMEX points for a transcontinental business class fare that earns miles and elite status is a great deal.
More and more, I am finding value in these sorts of redemptions.
Oh Yes, And Lufthansa First Class Lounge Access…
And there’s another reason too.
American Express Centurion Lounge members have access to Lufthansa First Class lounges in Frankfurt and Munich. That’s a tremendous benefit to me since I spend so much time in Germany. I’d love to be flying from Frankfurt to Amsterdam and have lunch in the First Class Lounge prior to my flight!
The first time I ever saw a Centurion Card was in 2009. I’ll never forget that day. I was flying TAP Business Class from London to Lisbon and my seatmate took it out of his wallet, set it down on his tray table, and just looked at it. Clearly, he was showing off. I am to be supremely pitied if I ever have to seek validation through antics like that. But for the first time, I am seeing that a Centurion card, whether the business or personal variant, may make smart business sense for me.
What do you think? If you are a Centurion cardholder, have you been satisfied with the customer service?
Noted and filed.
Does the card come with extra C lounge benefits in the USA?
Lufthansa First lounge is a winner. 10 long stop overs, a nice bottle of whiskey each time. Not a bad value prop.
Yes, special seating in Centurion Lounges and access before or after flights (Plat is only three hours before flight).
And centurion-only champagne at the bar
My husband and I have had this card for 10 years now and love it! It’s expensive but totally worth it.
To be fair the Lufthansa Business Lounge in Munich is very good when using my Platinum card. I will never make use of the Centurion as I don’t spend anywhere near the requirement but the perks I get hotel wise are just as good
A couple of questions;
How exactly are you “seriously considering” “getting invited” ?
If you are so disappointed with Amex Plat’s handling of your aforementioned charge-back dispute (“failed you over and over again”), what makes you think the Centurion card will be much different?
Maybe an invitation has already been extended.
Those clients/friends who have the Black card mention that customer service is far better.
That’s a lot of money to spend on speculative better service. If platinum is giving you the runaround, perhaps speaking with the centurion people beforehand might be prudent.
I have the card (personal although I can get a business if I need it) and having a personal concierge helps in my line of work. I don’t care for the rebate points. I am a chase fan and annually do 100k easy on my JP Morgan Card. The amex perks are on travel, dining, and purchase protection. I am all about developing new relationships and the networking strategies in my work. The service is higher than platinum although I cannot attest to the dispute he is having.
We also have a import/export company for private clientele and this card has come in handy in the purchase protection side for that as well.
TJ, thank you for your helpful data point.
I’ve always been under the impression that one had to be invited to receive the Centurion card: But since you have been long using your platinum AMEX and I guess not doing too insignificant spend on it I’m sure the offer will (or already has) presented itself. AS far as I’ve heard the requirements aren’t too crazy 😉
I too have thought about getting this card, however, currently it just doesn’t make economic sense to me and this is despite the offer of point earning credit cards being very very slim in Switzerland. Maybe in a few years this will change and I too will be able to call myself owner of such a card.
if you call the Amex chairman’s office, you will not get him. but you will get a dedicated person that will stay with you until the issue is solved. it’s annoying to have to pull rank on the organization, but complicated problems are in todays times, not going to be solved in a regular call center. The Amex of yesterday yes, but the Amex today can’t do it.
50% airline bonus is only offered with the business centurion, the personal is 35%
Yes, you are correct. Client has both.
Wouldn’t you want the business version any way since it sounds like that’s what you are looking to use it for?
Interesting. I have the personal Centurion and just did a rebate. Centurion travel said personal only gets 20% back in redemption but the business Centurion gets 50%. I would recommend you double check!
I did and you are correct.
Hi, does the personal Centurion also offer 1.5 X points on all purchases above 5000 US $
I don’t believe so. Pathetic, isn’t it?
then why would anyone get the Personal Centurion as it charges the same fee, no 50% rebate on points, no 1.5X MR points on spends above 5k US$
I really liked your article. Are you aware of any other perks that the Personal Centurion has over the biz version since your clients have both
Honestly, there are no discernible benefits on the personal card AFAIK.
I dont see the value. The few perks cost you $2500/yr plus the $5K upfront. Sure, a better/quicker resolution of your charge-back might happen, but seems highly dubious assumption. But hell, you’re a high-roller with a blog, so why not? It’s a tax write-off whatever you do.
That is the big question and the primary reason for the post. Some of my clients rave about the service, but I am putting the question out to a wider audience. Does AMEX Centurion really help you with a dispute?
@ Matthew — I think you have lost your mind.
You mean FCQ won’t pay my annual fee?
I think the arguments you presented to get the card are sound and so you should go ahead and get it.
I don’t have the card, therefore, I can’t comment on the service, but it makes sense that the cardholder would get better service than a Platinum cardholder.
I appreciate this article and all the others you have done, but besides helping people redeem points and the blog, what is it that you do again?
I have an import/export company focusing on beauty products, luxury apparel, and handbags.
I always wondered what had you traveling around the world so often. Although not likely of interest to most here I’d be curious to know how you started your business or got in that field?
Interesting! I also had no idea what you did. Have you ever told us? I always assumed it was something airline related since you used to work for *A.
Do you have an online marketplace we can check out? I’ve always been curious as well.
I have the AMEX business platinum card since 1980 and I have use the card for my business spending month after month six figures only because Amex customers service provided me a positive response when I need to dispute a charge, not to mention the points I getting. I can’t see what you can do with the Black Amex that u can’t do with the business platinum this is why I rejected Amex inventions to convert my platinum to the Black.
My only question is to what extent is Amex agreeable to handling your business disputes? I suppose by transacting with their cards, Amex is tacitly involving themselves, however they are not by nature an intermediary in the business of enforcing the terms of purchase orders.
That’s an interesting question. That is certainly their position, but credit cards are also supposed to provide a layer of protection against demonstrated fraud beyond simply the fraudulent use of a credit card.
Uh….you have another job? I nought this was your job. Who knew!
This is what I do for fun!
Did your miles “hobby+” cause you to choose your line of work, or vice versa? Seems like they kind of evolved together, but there must be a chicken/egg answer.
To play Devil’s Advocate, if Amex is failing you so badly, why reward them with even more business and fees? This seems like a situation that calls for finding another card company that can provide you better service.
Chase is even worse.
They have done a good job for me. I tried to set up Google pay for platinum and it wasn’t working. I gave them a call and after 15 mknutes, they fixed it and credited me $100 just because
The card would make sense if you do plan on redeeming $20,000 worth of flights using points, the 50% rebate would have you break even with the $10,000 upfront cost in the first year. For the traveling salesman, spending that amount of flights in a year seems normal. In the terrible place called Spore, people there pay USD1250 for their rubbish version of an Amex Plat card!!
I had the Centurion for 7 years and the personal concierge is a great feature! The lady knew me very well after a year of booking hotels etc All the other benefits are ok and not that different then the Platinum however I’m not gonna lie, when you pull out the Black card you do get a different level of service! My wife (ex now lol) and me used to try to figure out how to pay the bill before the food arrived…lol
Also when we got the card there was a 12 month window where if you met the 25k/mo threshold you could call in and get approved on the phone.
I have a business centurion. For starters, you have to be spending at least $10 million/year to get one. Once you hit $5 million/year, you can request your dedicated relationship manager with AMEX (which you’ll be assigned once you cross $2 mil/year spend to try to kick you up. If on personal, I don’t know what the requirements are, but personal is kind of a waste of money since you don’t get 50% of your points back.
Other than that, it’s not as life changing as you think and I highly doubt AMEX will ever see this thread in the event you are trying to copy TPG. It’s just a different colored card. Most people globally don’t notice, and no one really cares. If you travel as much as you do, you already get Plat Medallion and upgraded rental cars statuses. So basically, the platinum business is a pretty good option. Most black card holders also have a Plat since that’s where you can really ramp up points.
BTW, there’s a freeze until January 2020 on AMEX Cent for biz. Your clients that have one could’ve told you that. =)
Does Business Centurion give 1.5 points/$ spent for spending in amounts above $5000 like the biz Platinum? Thanks
Also, it’s the same team that handles disputes, not your dedicated person. You only get a dedicated person at Centurion when you’re spending what our company spends. If you’ve been spending that much, you’d have the invitation.
Thanks for your comments. First, I lost you on “trying to copy TPG”. Is that how he got his Centurion card? That was certainly not my objective in this post.
Second, we have diversified spending across Chase, American Express, and CITI, but can do big volumes if necessary with AMEX.
Are you “Art Vandalay”?
Well, as a very rough baseline according to TPG, Delta Platinum status and Hilton Diamond status are worth about $3,000 each, but since you don’t seem to value them that much, let’s say that both of them combined are worth $3,000. I personally don’t think that the 50% is worth that much if you already have the Business Platinum card, and for a $700 purchase in points, you would only save $100 more in points than if you got the 35% rebate with the Amex Business Platinum. That means that the additional value of the 50% rebate actually wouldn’t be that much – it would be worth $100 if you theoretically were to buy $7000 worth of flights with miles, you would get about a $1,000 value on it. Then, the additional lounge benefits probably aren’t worth more than $500 total, given that you aren’t getting that much more than the Platinum card, and there also are a couple of other features that come with the card such as airline fee credit and in-flight WiFi passes, all of which would be also worth about $500. All of these three factors place the value of the card very very roughly at about $5,000. What seems to be the perk that you are most excited about is the extra coverage and service, although you would end up spending $10,000 for the initiation fee and the first year, and I doubt that you value the extra coverage at $5,000 (although I could be mistaken). Based on that, I would probably advise you to not get the card, although it seems that you have been offered the card by Amex, and it certainly would be something to be able to have the Amex Black card.
Where can I read more about your import/export business? I’m very intrigued
As others have stated, it’s kind of a leap to assume that your resolution would be any different with a Centurion card. But really, what is that insurance worth to you going forward? Surely you could buy some kind of insurance for all of your transactions for much less than $2500. Also, it seems like you are usually flying F/J when flying Lufthansa, so you already get lounge access, so for you that benefit is of limited value. That leaves the 50% rebate on points. You can get 35% rebate with Biz Plat (plus many other benefits), so you’re talking 15% extra for $1900. That doesn’t seem like a great deal.
It seems you are trying to talk yourself into it because you just think having the card would be cool. It’s an ego thing. Recognize it for what it is.
With a $7500 initiation fee, it would be nearly impossible psychologically to dump the card after one year even if you weren’t getting the expected value, simply because then you would have essentially paid a $10k annual fee. So you are locked into paying $2500 for a few years at least. It would simply be a really bad decision to get this card, I think you know that.
You’re seriously considering? Perhaps the more apt question is, is Amex seriously considering you?
Yes, they are.
This is hilariously funny. It’s credit card porno.
Do you see any links?
Oooh, look at me I sell handbags. I go to Germany.
I can haz Amex Cent card.
I ain’t gonna do my homework. I’m just gonna ask the interwebs.
Friendly advice —
If you have to “consider” getting an Amex Cent, you aren’t rich enough.
Dear, I’m not claiming to be rich…
You missed the point.
No one “considers” getting an Anex Cent. They just get it.
And they get it for the nice bottle of scotch they get once in a while, or for the Cent-only champagne.
Not for the 35/50% points back or the hotel and rental car statuses.
They already have that and more.
As someone said, this post is an ego trip. So be it, if that helps you feel better about yourself.
To each her own.
To each her own indeed….even the delusional.
Now, now, don’t be so harsh on yourself. At worst, you’re borderline Obsessive. I wouldn’t call you delusional.
To be fair, I do enjoy your other posts. You should stick to that kind of writing
I had one about the second year it came out. At that time you had SPG Platinum status and two free nights at any Mandarin Oriental hotel Frannie room. As in the 2-bedroom suite above Columbus circle looking down on the Macy’s Thanksgiving day parade, for 6 or 7 years I would let my sister and her kids or my brother and his kids stay in that sweet to watch the Macy’s day parade.
. That got downgraded, no free two room nights, no Platinum status.
You had Delta Platinum status which was the highest status that Delta had. That got downgraded because Delta inserted a status above Platinum, but centaurian didn’t bump you up to the new highest status (Continental Platinum status got merged out of existence)
You had Hyatt diamond status, oh, that’s just gone now.
I have better connections then Centurion concierge for theater tickets, restaurants, etc. (at least here in New York, or San Francisco.
Forget about centaurion concierge helping you book a restaurant when you’re in Europe.
What the Centurion concierge to arrange for a weekend getaway in the Berkshires. the concierge comes up with a bunch of names of hotels ,but no prices. ” that’s Amex travel you’ll have to call them” … Excuse me you’re the concierge for the famous black card, isn’t calling up Amex travel on behalf of the Centurion card holder kind of your job?
The service was less than stellar
When they bumped the annual fee from $1,000 to $2,000, I gave it up and downgraded to a platinum amex, havent noticed much of a difference.
That’s a bad testimony. Thanks for weighing in!
I think you are mistaken to think they will help with issues like disputes in a more meaningful manner.
To me the real deciding factor on the value is the total amount you’ll redeem for airline tickets at the 50% return vs 35% return. If I’m doing the math correctly, without factoring the initiation fee, the break-even to cover your annual fee in redemptions at the extra 15% return is $16,666 in airfare. Once you hit that, all the rest of the benefits are gravy (and help justify the initiation fee).
Not factoring in the intitiation fee? That is 3x the AF? Is $7500 a rounding error to you? Multiply your analysis by 4 and you’re about right, for the first year at least.
If you’re paying the initiation fee, the card is going to be a long-term play, not a 1-year keeper, so the initiation fee should be amortized over many years. Your saving the $595 business platinum fee annually since you had to have that to save the initial 35% that we’re comparing it to. In ~12.5 years that would cover the initiation fee but really it would be a fraction of that as centurion sends various gifts of value (Hamilton tickets etc) so you’ll probably cover your initiation fee in a few years. The biggest question is how much in rebated mr from paid tickets you’re netting. Keep in mind to be eligible for this, your earning millions if not tens of millions of mr annually, so the odds are good that they’re also buying an insane amount of paid tickets to use the mr you earned…
If after the first year you realize you are not getting $2500 in value out of it, and probably never will, then are you saying you would still keep it just because it is a long term play? As I commented above, most people would have a hard time dumping it after year one, but the $7500 is a sunk cost, so it should be disregarded in terms of deciding to keep it or not. However, the initiation fee is a big reason why the card is such a bad deal in the first place. Run away.
This is not some abstract decision that you’re not sure if it’ll pan out, it should be relatively easy to determine if your typical habits reflect a savings or not before you sign up for the card. It’s obviously not for 99%+ of consumers but there is a very specific consumer that spends and redeems millions / tens of millions of MR annually. For that consumer this can be a good fit and even a deal. A close relative of mine spends/redeems tens of millions of MR annually with the centurion card. The annual fee and initiation fee were covered within the first year alone and still left him with a net benefit of $5k+ over the platinum option in year 1 alone. This isn’t for everyone. A very specific customer. I can’t speak to Matthews travel & spend habits but he may very well fit the profile with the amount of travel he books if he is traveling and purchasing for business constantly and in high dollar amounts.
The reason I wrote this post was to seek comments on dispute resolution. Is AMEX more likely to side with Centurion card holders than Plat card holders, all else equal. Or at least take their complaints more seriously? If they do, it is instantly worth $10K to me, even if I just kept the card for a year. Otherwise, your analysis is spot on and the card is not worth picking up.
I was offered the black card but decided to let it go. My experience with Amex Plat is OK but not great. Bookings through Amex are never the cheapest. Insurance cover looks nice until you try to make use of it. I have attempted once. The guy I called was helpful enough but once he explained the formalities to submit a claim, and the way compensation is calculated, I immediately concluded the effort was not worth the (possible) proceeds.
A few points for you.
– A dedicated concierge getting to know you and your business is mostly nonsense. I’ve had the dedicated one once or twice, and eventually always default to whoever can answer the phone immediately. Why work around the schedule of a dedicated concierge when the level of requests with which I am willing to trust Amex can be sorted by anyone. Which brings me to my next point…
– The concierge service isn’t great. Save for the most basic requests, or requests concerning their corporate partners or in the few areas where they are really positioned to deliver, they tend not to be able to pull off the most basic of tasks. I recently took a 30 min cab across Warsaw for a power adapter that was not in stock. I should have asked ‘are you absolutely certain’ a few more times. Expect generally the same ability to get things done as any other low level concierge. Honestly, the only difference I’ve found is that with Centurion they are just much more friendly. And they aren’t going to get cranky if the request is one not necessarily resulting in a purchase on your card. I simply will not trust them with anything even half important. For me, they have messed up more times than they have gotten it right for anything more complicated than a dinner reservation.
– This dedicated staff has nothing to do with how your dispute would have been handled. It goes over to a dispute department and is sorted by someone you’ve never spoken with before. To be fair, about a year ago I had a dispute to the tune of about $5k that another issuer may have taken some time with, but Amex handled it swiftly and easily in my favor. Having said that, this was my first significant dispute in 25 years and I can probably count on one hand how many I’ve had total in that time. I’m sure this factored in to how they look at things.
– It is rediculous to count pennies from the various benefits of the card. Slightly different lounge access, are you kidding? Accept the reality that the only real benefits besides generally nice treatment by customer service are the ones that are not from Amex directly. How you are treated by hotels, restaurants, etc. (usually the second time you go) can make a world of difference in important situations. And just to be frank, the corporate Centurion doesn’t have the same real-world impact as the personal.
I think Hertz Platinum status (Not available to the public) well as unlimited Delta class upgrades are the most valuable features of the card as far as I can determine. The Delta upgrades would net you costs back easily.
Business Platinum does 1.5 points for spending in amounts above $5000 … I am not sure if Business Centurion does the same? Any one knows?
The rest as most Centurion cars holders will point out is mostly fluff or superfluous cf. platinum card or even Ritz Carlton Card etc. There is a certain cachet to it but that is eroding.
The concierge services in this day and age are mediocre and slow and definitely not to be the reason for getting the card. With few exceptions it is far easier and less costly to pull out your phone and figure out solutions than wait for the concierge to do things (and at bloated rates).
Dispute resolution is not though the dedicated account helper but through a separate common team. Nevertheless they will probably look at you better as a Centurion member than than Platinum. However the end result should always be the same.
I have a Centurion, but honestly do not see real benefits. However, they might work for you – the benefits in Europe (where I am based) are much worse than those for card holders in the US, apparently. The concierge is not really helpful (much better deals to be found when you look for yourself), and when I wanted to get two tickets to the New Year´s concert of the Vienna Phil, they only offered to check the black market for some ridiculous prices. Basically there is no internet portal for Centurion members in Europe (to my knowledge), it is the same as the Platinum version. So you cannot easily book a flight or hotel, always have to call.
Btw, only two Lufthansa First Class Lounges are open for Centurion members, so Frankfurt to Amsterdam is basically not a flight where you could use it in Frankfurt – Schengen Lounges are not accepting the card! I did it once, with a walk of ca. 40 min plus additional security check and passport control. From the lounge, they will not drive you to your flight, so you have to walk the whole way back again. It would be a very, very different benefit if all Lufthansa First Class Lounges were accepting! That alone would let me keep the card.
Why not get an Insurance Policy instead?
I work in merchant processing and was thinking of your situation from the dispute angle. I was curious: maybe the Italian company you returned your shipment to had placed a stop payment (or simply NSF) on Amex’s dispute. If that was the case, if Amex still paid out on the dispute in your favor, they would be taking a six figure loss in the situation.
I have been a Centurion card holder for a long time (15+ years?). I do not remember the original start date. I value the relationship, and in my opinion AE takes a very simple business and do it better than anyone else,
Good read Matthew!
Not sure if you are interested in such but perhaps writing in to Amex offices may do the trick. As a young man I wrote the Amex consumer services President (Denise Pickett) as well as former Amex exec Ken Chenault, about reconsidering me for a credit limit increase. Unfortunately I did not receive a written letter back but did receive the cli! Their offices (Chenault has retired) are in NYC and due to the nature of your business and putting large amounts through your card they should handle your situation differently. My paygrade as a professor and training consultant does not qualify me for the platinum card although through spending strategies and writing Amex I was able to gain one as a young man.
It definitely won’t. This is an invitation only card and you’ll have to spend certain thresholds and have some luxury spend to receive an invite.
Very interesting post and comments. I have had the personal Black card since 2002 with mixed experiences. Sometimes, if my personal representative is not available, it rolls over to a person who is in the Platinum service area, so I’m not sure you receive a significantly higher level of service and I’m not sure about your dispute question.
However, I just today received notice that the annual fee is going up to $5,000 which is why I did this search and found your post. At that price point, it is a different analysis. Good luck.
I’m also curious if the card is still a consideration with the higher fee. Or if you already got it!
Loved the article, Does the personal Centurion also give 1.5 X points back on all purchases above 5000 US$
Its interesting to see your take on a card that has so much hype and mystique surrounding it. I assume your import/export business is the reason you’re running large POs through credit cards. Do any of your suppliers ever request wire transfers instead of allowing a credit card for payment terms?