Recently I have been researching travel credit cards. With my plan to scale back we will be doing a lot more traveling. I started asking acquaintances which credit card they use. One answer caught my attention: “American Express Black card”
“What’s that?” I asked.
My acquaintance went on to describe this “god-like” card to me. At first, I thought he was joking, but soon realized he was serious. I consider myself somewhat knowledgeable about credit cards in Canada, as I read the latest offerings on other blogs. I try to maximize our points by putting every allowable fixed or variable household expense on our credit card in order to collect points. Obviously, I pay off the balance each month. Despite being well-versed in credit cards, I had never heard of this AMEX card until now.
What is this Black Card all about?
In the 1980s, there were rumours and urban legends that American Express produced an ultra-exclusive black card for the rich who could purchase anything with it. It wasn’t true. However, AMEX capitalized on this idea and eventually created an exclusive card, named “American Express Black (Centurion) Card” in 1999 to cater to the ultra-wealthy. It arrived in Canada in 2007.
How do you qualify for the card?
There is no application for this card. Instead, American Express will extend an exclusive invitation to customers who meet certain secret criteria. Based on other people’s research, it is generally believed the requirements are:
- Be an active American Express card holder for at least 1 year
- Minimum charges of $250,000 per year
- Some reports say you also need at least $1.3 million in annual income, although other reports describe black cardholders who make mid-six-figure salaries
- The Card is made of anodized titanium with information and numbers laser etched into the metal
- It supposedly arrives in a black box at your door (sounds like a scene from “Mission Impossible”)
- Initiation Fee: $5000 – $7,500
- Annual Fee: $2,500
No, the above is not a typo.
This card reminds me of having your own genie in a bottle. “Your wish is my command, Master!” (Blink)
- 24/7 Dedicated Personal Concierge Program: Personalized concierge to arrange everything from start to finish. Need front row tickets to the Super Bowl? Need to charter a private jet to the Cayman Islands? No request is unreasonable for your personal concierge as long as the request doesn’t break any laws (my acquaintance stated that this is the best benefit of the card). Supposedly, AMEX farms out all of their cards’ concierge programs to 3rd parties, except for the Black card concierge program, in which they keep this program in-house
- Automatic Premium Status at the World’s Leading Hotels: Automatically upgraded to the highest status at several hotel brands, including Ritz Carlton, Mandarin Oriental, Four Seasons etc…
- Automatic Premium Status at Leading Auto Rental Outlets: Automatically upgraded to premium tier upgrades at car rental outlets
- Automatic Premium Status at Leading Airline Carriers: Companion ticket, global fee credits, and instant frequent flyer program upgrades. Access to all premium airport lounges and AMEX’s Centurion lounges
- Standing Reservations for Cardholders at Select Restaurants: Entitled to standing reservation at high-end dining establishments worldwide such as Nobu, Smith & Wollensky, and Per Se etc…
- No Pre-set Credit Limits: NO CREDIT LIMIT. Charges must be paid off in full each month
- Status: This card draws wanted (?unwanted) attention to the user
Who are the users?
- available to only 0.1 percent of the population (according to The Motley Fool)
- celebrities and the ultra-rich (CEOs, athletes, musicians etc…)
- business owners
- high-income professionals
Whew! This AMEX Black card definitely dwarfs my PC Financial Mastercard benefits! I can’t stop shaking my head when I think of the ($2500/yr) fees and the ($250k) minimum yearly expenses. Thinking aloud, I asked myself which physician would qualify for this card and still save enough to be financially independent?
A dual-physician family.
Any dynamic duo of the following:
- a family physician ($250k+) and a high-paying specialist ($750k) would be in the $1m+ range
- 2 specialists (each at $500k+) would be in the $1m+ range
- 1 specialist ($500k+) and 1 high-paying specialist ($750+) would be in the $1.25+ range
- or better yet 2 high-paying specialists will be in the $1.5m+ range)
With a $1-2 million dollar household income, $250k/yr in expenses would only eat up 25% or less of their gross income, with “x” hundreds of thousands post-tax dollars to still save and invest, and become financially independent at an early age. They can spend like Dr. South, but still save like Dr. North. These physicians will likely end up in the moFire (morbidly obese FIRE) group.
I don’t think I will be receiving an invitation anytime soon to be a Black card member unless we start ramping up our expenses by $100k+ (I don’t even have a regular AMEX card). That is fine by me, as I don’t think my “frugalness” will tolerate the ongoing annual card fee…..that pill would be too difficult to swallow each year!
Is this card for you? If you have this card, is it worth it?