With its anodized titanium finish, the American Express Centurion Card is usually recognized as the most exclusive credit card in the world. It has no credit limit. Membership is supposed to be by invitation only and some channels have reported a seemingly endless number of perks with the card. A member had reportedly used the card to buy a painting for over US$100 million from an auction house.
I recently got a notification for a year-end sign-up offer for the Centurion Card. It went as such: 180,000 rewards points (equivalent to 180,000 miles) for new card sign-ups. The offer entailed having to spend US$30,000 within the first 6 months of receiving the card and paying the annual fee which amounts to US$4,000. This is on top of the one-time joining fee which costs US$4,000 as well.
In case anyone thinks that I earn so much that I actually qualify for this card (and how I wish I did) — I will have to clarify that while I was sent this offer, I was not the intended recipient for the card.
While the sign-up fee seems to be a lot, the cost per mile received for this offer is actually quite decent if you intend to redeem for First Class flights. The cost is around 4.4 US cents per mile. Just to give an illustration – a roundtrip business class redemption on Singapore Airlines from Singapore to New York amounts to 170,000 miles.
This offer piqued my interest on the Centurion Card. I remember researching about it several times before but I could not really find any reliable information about it. At the very least, the information I got pointed only to the one issued in the USA.
I am a loyalty programme enthusiast and have the habit of maximizing whatever spend I have to earn the most points from the dozen or so credit cards I keep. While I don’t normally write about credit cards on this site, I thought to post about the Centurion Card here in the interest of information sharing. This is also considering that reliable information with respect to this card is hard to come by.
How to Get the Centurion Card
American Express barely publishes any details about this card and most information actually come from third party sources. That being said, most of the information written about the Centurion Card pertains to the US version of the card. What I will be covering here are the benefits of the international version of the card. This is the version that is most prevalent around the Asia-Pacific region outside of Greater China and Japan.
The usual way to get this card is to get an invitation from American Express after spending some serious big bucks in other American Express credit cards (in the region of US$250,000 a year). There are, however, other means to get this card without an invitation as long as you meet a certain set of criteria. However, in order not to compromise the mystique of this card, I shall leave it at that.
Whichever way you get the card, be prepared to pay a one-time joining fee which in the international version, is US$4,000. This is on top of the annual fee which is also US4,000.
As a traveler, the most appealing benefits for me are the travel-related benefits. These include the following:
Airline Frequent Flyer Programmes
Emirates Skywards Gold – benefits include lounge access throughout the Emirates network, priority check-in, priority baggage delivery, excess baggage allowance and free seat selection
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Gold – memebers get to earn 100% bonus points on miles earned for flights, 2 lounge passes for every 60 points earned; priority boarding, baggage handling and security with Delta Airlines
Hotel Loyalty Programmes
Shangri-La Golden Circle Diamond – benefits include room upgrades, access to the Horizon club lounge, free breakfast and suit pressings
Hilton HHonors Diamond – room upgrades, access to the club lounge, additional 1,000 HHonors points per stay, 50% bonus points and late check-out
Starwood Preferred Guest Gold – welcome gift, room upgrades, 4pm late check-out, 50% bonus points on stay, free internet
IHG Rewards Club Platinum – room upgrades, late check-out, welcome drink and 50% bonus points to be earned
Fine Hotels and Resorts – benefits include noon check-in, room upgrade, complimentary breakfast and guaranteed 4pm late check-out in a number of partner hotels around the world including some well-known chain hotels
The Hotel Collection – a number of partner hotels concentrated in city center locations. Bookings come with $75 hotel credit and room upgrades, among other perks
Jumeirah Sirius Gold
Rental Car Loyalty Programmes
Avis Presidents Club – double upgrade on car rentals on weekends, priority for car availability and discounts on rentals
Hertz Gold Plus Rewards Presidents Circle – guaranteed availability of car, upgrades, 25% bonus points
Priority Pass Unlimited access for the cardholder and one guest – Priority Pass has one of the most comprehensive offerings of lounges around the world. The Centurion goes a step further by offering the same unlimited access to a guest rather than just to the cardholder
Delta Sky Club access – useful if you travel to the USA often. They have lounges even in mid-tier cities.
American Express lounge access – has plenty of overlap with the Priority Pass except in the USA where it’s more useful
Complimentary Eurostar lounge access – useful when traveling between the UK and France by train
Other Travel Benefits
- Complimentary meet and greet in 53 destinations whenever flying in Business or First Class
- Fast-track in certain airports (fee applies)
- Limousine Service
A Remote Personal Assistant at Your Beck and Call
While many credit cards these days include a personal concierge as a benefit, the one that comes with the Centurion Card seems to be the real deal. AMEX calls them “personal managers” and aside from being contactable via phone, they are also reachable via social media apps such as Whatsapp. There are no well-defined parameters on what you can ask the personal manager to do but they have been known to make impossible things happen. This may include obtaining a seat in a restaurant that is otherwise fully-booked and getting to meet the celebrity chef at the same time or going to a concert and meeting the band backstage. They can also be asked to arrange special events like parties, romantic dates and even family-related matters to a relatively detailed extent.
American Express Invites
The card also gives priority access to Michelin-starred restaurants around the world with invitations to exclusive events. One that American Express specifically cites is an exclusive dinner held with Heston Blumenthal with 50 Centurion members at a secret Hong Kong location. Aside from this, they also arrange a number of exclusive non-dining events from time-to-time.
AMEX Rewards Programme
This is probably where the card becomes less competitive even when stacked up against credit cards available to those of us who belong to the masses. The earning rate is 1 point (equivalent to 1 mile) per US$1 spend. The consolation is that the points don’t expire and because there is no credit limit, cardholders can actually spend hundreds of millions of dollars on the card. There is no cap as well on earning points.
Cardholders get to have access to more than 60 resorts globally with perks such as complimentary rounds of gold and room upgrades, subject to availability
The Centurion Card may not earn the most points per dollar spend but as a payment product targeted towards high net worth individuals, it is very much lifestyle-oriented. At the core of that are the travel perks and if you do jet off to several places around the world, then this card could be worth it. The US$4,000 annual fee for the international version of this card and its by-invitation-only nature opens it only to a select few.