Amex Centurion Black Card Annual Fee Increases To $5,000

Filed Under: Credit Cards

The Amex Centurion Card (often called the “Black Card”) is one of the most exclusive cards out there. Not because it actually offers that many great benefits, but rather because it has become popular with celebrities, has been featured in all kinds of rap songs, and is also “invitation only.”

Well, some major changes have been announced to the card, including the annual fee doubling.

Centurion Card Annual Fee Increasing To $5,000

Currently the Centurion Card has a $2,500 annual fee, though that will be increasing to $5,000. That’s in addition to the $7,500 initiation fee.

For existing cardmembers, this won’t be changed until the renewal date, on or after April 1, 2020.

Centurion Card Adds Saks, CLEAR, And Equinox Benefits

Amex is adding several new benefits to the Centurion Card. For some people the new benefits will outweigh the annual fee increase, while for others they won’t. The new benefits include the following:

  • Complimentary CLEAR membership; this would ordinarily cost $109 at most
  • A $1,000 Saks credit per calendar year
  • An Equinox Destination Access membership; this would ordinarily cost $300 per month
  • A membership to The Private Suite LAX; you still have to pay for each visit, though, and it’s prohibitively expensive

If you’re someone who would otherwise pay for an Equinox membership, that’s a value of about $3,600 per year, so that’s quite a value-add. Then there’s also the Saks credit, which could be worth close to face value for many.

The CLEAR membership is relatively small compared to the other benefits, and I wouldn’t put a value on a membership to The Private Suite, since you still have to pay for each visit.

Centurion Card Cuts Airline Fee Credit

There’s one negative change, in addition to the annual fee doubling. Amex has cut the $200 annual airline fee credit from the Centurion Card, which is an odd cut to make at the same time that they increase the annual fee so significantly.

How Does This Change The Value Proposition Of The Centurion Card?

The Centurion Card continues to offer perks like Delta Platinum status, Hilton Diamond status, IHG Platinum status, Centurion Lounge access (with special seating and champagne), special privileges at Fine Hotels & Resorts properties, and a bit more.

Ultimately it’s stupid to spend money on this card. The card offers one point per dollar spent, so with every purchase you make with it you’re forgoing higher rewards rates on other cards. The only reason to spend money on this card is to “show off,” and that’s a pretty dumb reason to use a credit card.

So even if you do find value in the card, it shouldn’t be a card you use for spending. Ultimately whether or not the annual fee increase justifies the changes comes down to whether or not you’d otherwise pay for an Equinox membership.

If you don’t, the annual fee increase is awful. If you do, then the value proposition isn’t too bad here, taking out the initiation fee — you’re paying a $5,000 annual fee, but you’re getting a gym membership you’d otherwise pay $3,600 per year for, you’re getting a $1,000 Saks credit, you’re getting a CLEAR membership, you’re getting Delta Platinum status, and more.

What do you make to the changes to the Centurion Black Card?

Comments
  1. The target market of this card is apparently people who care a lot more about “perks” than reward points, which is reinforced by this change. However why the gym membership? Is Amex’s data show that most cardholders spend a lot on gym?

  2. Insane. I’ll keep my card until it’s scheduled to renew in April then will drop it. It’s simply not worth it anymore. Heck, if I’m so desperately egotistical, I guess I can still flash my expired Centurion card and subtly pay with my Platinum card.

  3. Not defending the price increase, but I think you miss the point here.

    Guaranteed upgrade at time of booking at many hotels vs on check in with Platinum. That pays for the annual fee for most people who have this card as, guess what, they’re not booking a base room.

    Also, if you’re an equinox member, this just went from costing $2500 a year to $400 a year if you include the Saks benefit.. It’s not all doom and gloom.

  4. Genuinely curious – do cardholders actually spend on this card, or do they continue to spend on their old Amex cards after receiving this card?

  5. I think the best perk of this card is not written here- when redeeming points on amex travel, you get 50% back on all airlines and all classes with no cap. That alone is the reason we will keep the card.

  6. I think this is fundamentally misunderstanding the point of this card, which is perks galore, many of which could have significant value depending on how much travel you do. Saying this is “terrible” for everyday spending ignores the fact that to qualify for this card you already have to have a significant relationship with Amex, which means you likely have a number of Amex cards already and have significant spend on those cards. In essence Amex is offering you a means of buying into elite tiers for Delta, Hilton, and Marriott alongside a wide variety of other luxury membership programs and credits to sweeten the pot. I could see in the right situation where you could get inordinate potential value out of this card.

  7. “I think the best perk of this card is not written here- when redeeming points on amex travel, you get 50% back on all airlines and all classes with no cap. That alone is the reason we will keep the card.“

    Where is this listed. The only experience I have is the 20% reload for miles.

  8. I have this card and the perks are worth the money. Especially the 50% points back. Even if they charged $10k per year its a bargain for me. But I do have an unusual circumstance.

    So in general for the right users this is the card.

  9. @Sean – I agree with you. People get the black card for the perks and exclusivity instead of points. I’m sure there are many card holders you use it as their primary card.

    Frankly, the people I know that have a black card really don’t care or worry about chasing points. They are all wealthy enough to just buy whatever they want and probably consider worrying about points as either too much of a hassle or “what the other people do”. One benefit I haven’t see listed is you can gift someone else a Platinum card at no additional cost. I know a movie producer with a black card (runs all his film company costs through it) and the woman he is dating has the Platinum card he gave her as a benefit of his black card.

    In any event the black card is in a class by itself and really isn’t appropriate to compare to other cards with respect to points. Also, for anyone that says it isn’t worth it, they also likely don’t value private jet travel, routine use of the private terminal at LAX, etc.

  10. @Lucky don’t shoot yourself this way. It’s a pity.

    “Ultimately it’s stupid to spend money on this card.”

    Poor people thinking.

    Once you hit a billion, you don’t care about these stuff anymore.

    It cost just a spare change to separate between me and the rest of you, they would gladly pay for it especially if people think like this about them.

    To give a easier example of how absurd @Lucky is, try this.

    Everyone who is shorter than 5′-3″, skinny build, don’t drink alcohol, a vegan, easy sleeper.
    For them, Ultimately it’s stupid to spend money on business class.

    Everyone should drive a Prius, every Lamborghini owner, Ultimately it’s stupid to spend money on exotic cars.

    Ultimately it’s stupid to spend money on 3 star restaurants.

    Ultimately it’s stupid to spend money on a Gulfstream

    Ultimately it’s stupid to spend money on going to space.

    Ultimately it’s stupid to spend money on a yatch.

    Ultimately it’s stupid to be rich.

    Ultimately every billionaire is stupid.

  11. @Eskimo I think you missed what Lucky was saying. He was saying it doesn’t make sense to put spend on the card not that it doesn’t make sense to have the card. If someone has the card they can earn way more points putting their spend on other cards and keeping this card for the perks.

  12. This card has an intangible value that’s not easily measured. If you can’t afford the fee they don’t want you anyhow. This is similar to why Four Seasons hotels do very well.

  13. Lucky you’re missing the entire point of having this card…not everything is about “points”. The perks that come with are pretty great, specially the Private Suite membership.

  14. I’m enjoying everyone coming to a blog focused on using points to make comments about how not everything is about points. Sure, but people who have more money than god and so don’t care about optimizing points earnings aren’t exactly the target audience here.

  15. Lots of comments seem to completely misenterpret @Lucky point – he admits that for some this card may be good value, just saying that the point earning rate makes putting spend on it a poor proposition.

  16. If I were in this class, I definitely wouldn’t want to visit crowded Centurion lounges, or travel commercial air period. The hotel benefits *might* be worthwhile.

  17. @Explore: there is a big difference between being able to afford to and get benefit out of having a Black card and being able to afford to travel private. There is a whole class of people who there who make between $300K and $1M per year who are very well off and can drop $5K for a credit card or $8K for air france F but who realistically can’t afford to fly private.

    If folks like that could afford to fly private you’d never see a movie star, a CEO or an F1 driver on a commercial jet. Flying private is exceptionally expensive if you want to do it on your own schedule. Even shared travel and empty leg travel is more than most of us mere mortals can afford. And owning your own jet? That requires an eight figure income. The best estimate out there is you need a $50M/year income to afford to own a jet.

    There is truly a robust market for perks that make commercial travel comfortable for the merely wealthy. Deciding whether to pay $5K for a centurion card is a problem I’d like to have.

  18. I don’t think the Different statuses you get justify this cards AF. I know a lot of hedge fund guys that cancelled this card because they don’t see the value proposition in it.

  19. I’d bet that 90% of you commenters here don’t have a centurion card.

    I do, and if you travel a lot, the card is a lifesaver. I spend like $3-5m a year on the card and with most transactions being over $5k, which automatically earns you 1.5x points. Then when I use Amex travel to book my airfare I get 50% points back and it counts as a revenue ticket. I travel a lot and for my pattern of spending I literally haven’t spent a cent of my own money flying around the world in first class. Now that’s priceless.

  20. Well, I’m afraid I might frustrate you standard black card holders because I’ve got mine diamond studded on black onix card and I can afford to travel Greyhound and eat at the luxurious Subway chain. Also, I’m one of the very few privileged people to buy my clothes at the iconic highly exclusive Wallmart.
    I fly the hyper creme de la creme Spirit. Finally, I retire to the most comfortable suites on the planet at Holliday Inn. I’m so sorry if I have humiliated you. But that’s life …squeaks!

  21. In my mind the card should still earn multiple points in certain categories. Even if the card holder is ‘rich enough’ to not care about MR.
    Was I in Amex’ position, I’d then heavily advertise donating MR to charity (incl. tax deductions). Amex can then use the projects that were ‘solely financed with MR by generous centurion holders’ for some heavy weight PR. Make this the credit card of the rich with a conscience.

  22. Centurion Traveler‘s bragging doesn’t add up.
    Let’s say he put 5M in Centurion, and all of them being $5000+ per transaction.
    Then he racks in 7.5M points, and when got 50% percent back, it’s like having $150,000 in revenue tickets. (let’s don’t get into math)
    How many first class flights can that buy? Unless he exclusively flies British Airways or China Southern……

  23. Ethan,

    $110,000 to $150,000 in revenue tickets may buy 8-10 round-the-world first class tickets. That could probably cover 72-80 first class flights. But most people in first class cabins don’t travel using RTW tickets and RTW tickets are not all that well known about in the US.

  24. LOL, there are more people here claiming to have this card than there probably are black cards out there.

    There is no value proposition here so such people are either lying ot are consumed with an illusory “status” rather than being shrewd. I thought this was a site for folks who are shred and savvy, not shallow and self-absorbed?

  25. Ethan

    Even at the $150k back with perfect math all the time for him, he’s still missing nearly $75k on the table by not using the CSR at 4.5% back on most of his spend not even counting transferring for miles and getting higher value than 4.5% back ($5 million * 3 points * 0.015 cents each = $225,000, plus only $150 cost per year vs now $5k). I’m not sure if the Centurion comes with free trip insurance, but if not that’s another huge advantage for the CSR with that much travel.

    That said, if you make an 8 digit salary or have $50m+ in NW, who cares about the annual fee in this?

  26. Many of the commenters have shown more insight into the card’s value proposition than the blog post itself.

  27. @ethan

    You do the math. R/T first class international tickets are typically $8-12k, and I’ve never flown on BA or China Southern. LH or AF to Europe and SQ JL and CX to Asia. Why is it bragging? Just facts. Feel free to fact check yourself using the Amex booking tool.

  28. I have had the Centurion since 2006 and I have witnessed first hand the crumbling of many of the benefits and perks that were relevant to me personally. I have seen the annual membership increase from $1,500 ($500 for additional holders) to $2,500 ($2,500 for additional) and now $5k ($5k for Additional). Now, just to be clear, if you have a “personal” centurion card you get a mere 20% rebate on points while the “business” version gets a whopping 50%. Now, you’re probably scratching your head saying wait a minute you mean to tell me that the Platnium Biz Amex holders get a 35% rebate while the personal “Black Card” holders only gets 20%- your absolutely correct. I have voiced my feelings to the centurion team on several occasions regarding this and have been told this is a common complaint. Why has this not been adjusted is beyond me. Now, as far as Ben’s interpretation above I feel he’s mostly spot on. Yes, there is definitely an ego factor when flashing the card but does this revamp justify keeping the card?? I’m not sure… Moreover, I know it’s human nature for most of us to look at people who have more money then we do and assume that they don’t care about throwing money away. In reality, thats not the case and I’m sure most Centurion members would agree with me that the price increase really sucks and personally makes us pause for a moment and consider is this really worth it.

  29. I don’t have this card, but years ago worked for someone who did.

    The cardholder wanted us to book some personal local trips for him, when I told our local travel agent that we would be using a credit card, and not our usual corporate account, they weren’t too happy about it.

    When they found out that it was an Amex Black Credit Card, no further questions were asked. First and only time I’ve seen one of these cards.

  30. @rob

    I do have a CSR, and it doesn’t compare. 3x points on travel and dining only. Also, only a cheap imitation of the FHR program of Amex. Most importantly, I can generate the spend I do because Amex gives me a hard $1m credit limit- which I max out and pay frewuently. Good luck trying to get Chase to get anywhere near that.

  31. @Centurion Traveler

    Like I said, for, for 8 digit salary (which you’d have to be well into that to spend anything close to $1m/month) and people with $50m+ NW, the cost of the card isn’t really a consideration.

    But I still bet you’d be better off with CSR + FU combined IF you could someone get chase to give you a $1m credit limit. My CSR (4.5%) + FU (2.25% back) is about $70k limit combined, which is more than enough for me, although I’m only at the bottom of top 1% income. I wouldn’t consider it an imitation of FHR program with Amex, it’s just a different program with a bit different catering, and a cheaper card than the Amex Plat (and with more flexibility since you don’t have to book through Amex portal).

  32. Ethan and Rob, agree.

    Centurion Traveller, I get the sense that you are a little too much in love with what you perceive as the alleged “status” of a card that costs that much. But everyone else is right – the numbers don’t add up.

    And CSR is effectively a 4.5% cashback on travel and restaurant spend.

    Amex are clever as they realize that some folks will pay through the nose to feel “special”. But this site is the aviation equivalent of coupon clipping, not wanton extravagance.

  33. My husband will not be using the equinox Gym membership but I wonder as a wife if I can use this benefit? Would anyone know?

  34. @tom

    4.5% is great, but as you say, that is ONLY on travel and dining. Buying something for $50k, you get 75k points on the amex. How can you even spend 50k a month on travel and dining? If you want to get really specific here, I booked a RT ticket last month to Milan via Lufthansa. Ticket cost ~$10,000 which I paid for with 1m points. I got a rebate back for 500k points, so the effective cost was 500k points, and I earned 26k points for my united MP account as a revenue ticket. I can take that other 500k points and transfer to my BA avios account and get a 40% bonus and redeem on cathany or JAL for first class asia tickets for 135k miles each way.

    I’m not gonna tell u how useful the concierge is or how awesome any of the other benefits are, because I don’t use them but the travel benefits are definitely worth it for me.

    I get it, make fun of the rich guy, but I use the card for business and run all the charges I can on the card. It is a vital tool for me, and allows me to travel however I want whenever I want. If that’s not a benefit that you use or see value in, then I don’t know why you guys are commenting on this post?

  35. @Eric NYC

    It is you who don’t get it.

    It is all about using the card. They don’t care if they are getting x times on what category or getting y% cashback. It’s all spare change.

    @Adamn
    The way you are thinking, you probably make a decent income and living comfortably. But sorry to break this to you, but you haven’t made it yet.

    @Centurion Traveller

    No point in convincing or educating. You are in a different world, that those people wouldn’t understand.

    You can probably carry only 1 card and few $100 bills. You don’t need your ID or anything else as everyone knows you. Those who don’t will know you immediately once you slip one of those bill to them.

    And here is the trick, just ask Tom Ethan and Rob, would they rather trade their wealth with yours and Ultimately be stupid to spend money on this card. Or enjoy carrying many cards to max out return and live thier current life.

  36. @Eskimo That’s a generalization that just isn’t true. There are lots of people with the card that don’t spend on it regularly. With the amount they spend they generate huge amounts of bonus points each year. And getting 3x points on their spend amounts with a different card isn’t spare change.

  37. As a poor dying man (incurable cancer) I can only fantasise about global travel. But if you are going to fantasise fantasise big I say!

    If, by some miracle, my financial and health fortunes changed overnight and I globe trotted (by private jet I may add) I can tell you which card would be in my wallet….Coutts Silk. Beyond doubt. Why? It just feels right, and is way less known and discrete than the big names.

    But Amex has certain attractions. But I would be conflicted (in U.K.) between cashback and platinum (for when I needed a 4pm guaranteed checkout). Black, for me, just doesn’t appeal, and Coutts do all the big perks that matter to me.

    That said, we all walk in different shoes, on different paths in life, and to some Centurions, as some posters above have patiently tried to explain, Holds immense practical value. Others less so now fees are rising again.

    My point: does it really matter? Get the card that works best for you, in your specific set of life circumstances. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Enjoy life, for what is for sure is that one day it will end.

    Being poor has one great advantage over being rich, these sort of first world problems are irrelevant. Keeping a home going, food on the table, helping your children find full time employment, etc are what matters. Which really for all of us, is what really matters. We just do with different levels of resources and birth circumstances.

    Chill, Lucky made an informative post, others with the card have firmed that up with their personal experience. So what, if for some it is ego driven, we all have egos. For others it is hard nosed practical, again great. And for others like me it will likely forever be a pipe dream. So what. I have bank cards that do the job I need them to do.

    Learn from luckys forum, I know I do. I have my own real life set of life experiences, and these sorts of posts help me penetrate into a different way of life, giving me an albeit virtual different set of life knowledge. Share and enjoy the knowledge, don’t get bogged down by jealousy, egos, etc. Quality Life really is too short.

    To the Centurions here, enjoy your wealth, and thank for you trying to help us understand different perspectives on life. I for one appreciate it.

  38. I have this card. Adam cleared up the questions i had and i agree with him. This card is most likely not worth keeping. I earn my points elsewhere. I only get 20% points back For flight redemptions which i rarely use. I use the platinum 35% benefit Which unlike the centurian is limited to one carrier for economy but all for business or first. Most of my points earning is at chase and now capital one as the Amex benefits have decreased. This change will simply push me further from using Amex unless there are incredible new perks which so far none of the new announcements have any value and when i called to complain about the change I was told of other benefits they will add which i also have no interest in. Possibly Amex wants to thin the number of users with this card. Even though i still spend allot through all my Amex cards i probably do not fit the demographic they are interested in although even some wealthy people i know will take pause at a $2500 increase. What i am surprised about, no one mentions the best benefit i have gotten which i will miss at 5k it is not worth keeping. That is the Hertz Platinum status, this benefit is awesome. Amex is also easiest to use for tracking expenses which i do not use the centurian card for. One other benefit! with the centurian i recently took advantage if that saved $600 a year. I cancelled additional platinum cards on my business platinum account at $300 each and received three personal cards for $175, Bottom line Amex needs to rethink this. Like Adam i received the card with no admission fee and a $1,500 yearly cost. It was still border line worth it at $2,500 not at $5000.

    Tapped this all out early morning without my glasses on. Please forgive any typos. Just frustrated over this significant increase.

  39. Centurion/Eskimo,

    Dismissing the valid criticisms of this card as some kind of envy about your (unverifiable) alleged wealth is wide of the mark. I almost definitely have more than either of you, but that doesn’t mean I spray money around indiscriminately in an attempt to show off. The key to being wealthy is to show a little class with it and not be tacky.

  40. I work with UHNWIs and spend a fair amount of time with them. From the ones I know, they are *not* keen on spending indiscriminately. In fact, I was party to a discussion about a 19-year-old’s phone bill and who was going to pay for it. On a g4. The family is firmly in the billionaire camp.

    @flyingfoxy I don’t think upgrading from a mid or high level room is materially different from upgrading from a base room. Excluding miles and points buffs, people don’t really care and it’s hard to keep track. “You’ve been upgraded from a Canopy partial view to a superior view superlative room.” Umm, ok. Thanks I guess.

    My experience is only with families, so I’m sure younger or single UHNWIs have different priorities.

  41. @tom

    Lol. Thanks for the insight keyboard warrior. No one said anything about spraying money and congratulations if you have more money than I. You’ll never know the truth!

    Reread the posts above. The centurion works for me, and the fee is inconsequential given what benefits I derive from the card. Works for me and I explained why. If it doesn’t work for you then you don’t need to be commenting here either!

  42. @Tom

    Lol. Thanks for the insight keyboard warrior. No one said anything about spraying money and congratulations if you have more money than I. You’ll never know the truth!
    (Sorry to copy @Centurion Traveller, but you are spot on)

    The key to being wealthy is to show a little class with it and not be tacky.
    The whole point of using this card is to show class. Trying to maximize points is tacky.

    And by the way, I never wanted to compare wealth. But can you beat 110ft?

    @Daniel
    Maybe check with your clients if they spend time trying to maximize credit card points. I don’t think most wealthy people spending indiscriminately either (nor does G4 counts as indiscriminately), but maximizing points over many credit cards is pinching pennies.

    However, teaching a 19-year-old is a whole different story. College is the age these kids are old enough to realize wealth but too young to understand entitlement. It can make or break a kid. Look at the Princeton grad who killed is dad over money.

  43. I think I am done with Amex. This is the worst decision since New Coke.
    I really have to question Amex’s horrendous decision. For those who either use Equinox or close to one, there are benefits. But since there are only 100 locations, strategically located in just a handful of cities, the benefits don’t work out ( no pun intended) for most cardholders. Personally, I live in Broward County near the Palm Beach border. It’s a 50 mile drive for me to Miami.
    This galvanizes cardmembers who can make the best of the new offer and really screws with members that can’t take advantage. The card was supposed to be for members with extensive travel to take advantage of Hyatt Diamond, SPG Platinum, etc. Even the $200 ancillary carrier rebate and the Uber rebate were beneficial. The new benefits only benefit American Express who has done a deal with Equinox and Saks. I am sure the Saks offer is probably at 50 cents on the dollar. When my membership comes up in the next few months, and after 40 years with Amex, I am really questioning my personal value proposition model of keeping the Centurion card. Where is Kenneth Chennault when you need him? This new CEO, he and his staff are obviously clueless. I wonder if I am talking out my rear-end, but I don’t need to flash this deteriorating card for $5K a year. $2500 was bad enough for fewer and fewer perks. The biggest one for me was the auto deductible waiver. That’s probably next on the chopping block. The purchase protection is also a joke as the hoops you have to go through to make a claim is a farce.

  44. I hope Amex is paying attention unless this was just intentional to thin the black card members. What they may not realize is the full package of what a Centurian member spends across other cards. They will lose hundreds of thousands in spend from me. Chase benefited last time they made changes which were foolish, they will benefit again.

  45. Thought this perk with equinox was finally getting us on the right track as I have had several thoughts of canceling my centurion card. Now that I see the annual fee is jumping to 5k that perk just became a significant cost. I’ve been a centurion card holder for 10+ years and really smh at this jump. At least I live near equinox – as a few have stated I fear most will not be able to utilize.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *