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Amex Centurion card: what is it and what are the UK benefits?

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What is the American Express Centurion card? What does it cost and what are the benefits in the UK?

We realised that we had never done a Head for Points article on the UK American Express Centurion card, or ‘The Black Card’ as many people call it. This isn’t unreasonable, since it is ‘by invitation only’, but we thought you might be interested in a look behind the veil of secrecy.

The Centurion Card is being relaunched in 2021 with “a renewed focus on the art of living”. We have absolutely no idea what this means, unless it is short-hand for ‘we are dropping a lot of the travel benefits’. We will know soon enough as the new package is about to launch in the Nordic region before expanding to the rest of Europe. Here is 3-minute promo video for the new card which manages to say absolutely nothing …..

American Express Centurion Card UK review

We have put this article together with the help of some UK Amex Centurion-holding HfP readers. If you have the card and notice any errors, email me at rhys at headforpoints.com and I will update it during the day.

What does Amex Centurion cost?

There is a £3,000 joining fee and a £2,200 annual fee. Unsurprisingly, the annual fee is NOT waived in the first year.

The costs have jumped up sharply since the card was launched. Anecdotally, Amex Centurion also seems to have tightened up on the type, rather than quantum, of spending they are looking for. We know some cardholders offered the card at launch who were only spending relatively modest sums with Amex, almost all of which was B2B purchasing.

What are the invitation criteria for the Amex Centurion card?

The American Express Centurion Card is by invitation only.

Whilst American Express does not publish its criteria (and there may not even be any fixed criteria) there are a range of behaviours that are likely to improve your chances of invitation.

Having a strong Amex history is key. Anecdotal evidence suggests that high spend is particularly effective on cards such as The Platinum Card (review here).

You are likely to be spending at least £25,000 per month, if not considerably higher, before you are on Amex’s radar. Spending on travel, luxury goods and other personal expenses is likely to be viewed more favourably than pushing high figures through to Google Adwords or Facebook advertising.

You may undergo a credit check during the application process. It is not clear if there is an income requirement.

Fundamentally, there is very little you can do to ‘attract’ an invitation. Amex knows the calibre of individuals it wants to invite and offers are likely made on a case-by-case basis. There is very little opportunity to game the system if you don’t lead the sort of lifestyle American Express is looking for.

Do I still earn Membership Rewards with The Centurion Card?

Yes, although only at the same rate as the majority of Amex cards.

You earn 1 Membership Rewards point per £1 spent on your Centurion card, or 2 per £1 spent on Amex Travel services.

Rather like The Platinum Card, it is likely that Centurion cardholders will put the majority of their spending onto other, more lucrative, cards.

Supplementary Centurion cards

The main card holder gets one stainless-steel card.

You also get one free supplementary titanium Centurion card as well four additional supplementary cards as standard. You can choose from Platinum, Gold or Green American Express cards.

You can also pay for additional supplementary titanium Centurion cards for £1,100 each per year, as well as other Amex consumer cards (at £275 each).

Until recently, when the fee for supplementary cards was raised sharply to £1,100, one of the best ways of enjoying the benefits of Centurion for a modest fee was to pay a Centurion-holding friend to issue you with a supplementary card.

What benefits does the American Express Centurion Card come with?

The Centurion Card comes with substantial benefits, as you would expect from Amex’s most premium card.

Top tier status with airlines and hotels

The Centurion Card bestows top tier status in a variety of loyalty programs.

The UK Centurion Card gives you Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Gold and Emirates Skywards Gold status. It is the only UK credit or charge card to offer free airline status.

You also get status with six major hotel groups:

  • Hilton Honors Diamond
  • IHG Rewards Platinum Elite
  • Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite
  • MeliaRewards Platinum
  • Radisson Rewards Gold
  • Jumeirah One Gold

This is a slightly eclectic list. Hilton Honors Diamond and MeliaRewards Platinum are top tier and so worth having.

However, Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite and IHG Rewards Platinum Elite have virtually no benefits and are not top-tier. Marriott Bonvoy Gold isn’t even ‘second to top tier’ – it is trumped by Ambassador, Titanium and Platinum.

Amex is dropping Shangri-La Golden Circle status on the Centurion card at the same time it is disappearing on the Platinum card. You can still enrol until the 31st March 2021.

These benefits are also available to your Supplementary Centurion cardholders.

Top tier status with car rental companies

Centurion cardholders are also bestowed with top-tier status at Avis and Hertz.

As a Hertz Gold Plus Rewards President’s Circle member you get:

  • Free additional driver
  • Guaranteed vehicle availability
  • Guaranteed one-car-class upgrades with every rental
  • 50% bonus points on all Hertz rentals

Whilst Avis Preferred President’s Club members get:

  • Free additional driver
  • Guaranteed one-class upgrade
  • A free weekend voucher after the third rental
  • Double upgrade upon availability at weekends

Airport lounge access

The Centurion card has virtually identical lounge benefits to The Platinum Card.

This includes a free Priority Pass membership that gets you and a guest free entry into any of the 1,300 airport lounges in the Priority Pass network.

You also get access to Amex’s own Centurion airport lounges, including the Heathrow Centurion lounge in Terminal 3 which is expected to open when T3 is back in use. Whilst Platinum cardholders can take up to two guests, if you have Centurion you can take your entire immediate family.

Centurion cardholders also get a complimentary glass of champagne or top-shelf whisky at Centurion lounges. There is also generally a table reserved for Centurion cardholders which can be useful given how busy the lounges can get.

Amex Centurion also gets you into Plaza Premium lounges, as well as the Eurostar Business Premier lounges and Delta Sky Club lounges.

Additional benefits at top-end hotels

Centurion cardmembers get additional benefits at the smaller luxury hotel chains Aman, Belmond, Mandarin Oriental, The Oetker Collection, Peninsula Hotels, St Regis, Rosewood Hotels & Resorts and Waldorf Astoria when booking through the Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts programme.

You receive:

  • a room upgrade at time of reservation (if available)
  • an additional $100 or $200 food, beverage or spa credit with a minimum two night stay.

These bookings must be made by telephone, unlike standard Fine Hotels & Resorts benefits for Platinum cardholders.

International limousine and meet & greet service

When you book your business class or first class trip through the Centurion Travel service you also get a free limousine service from the airport to any destination within 20km of the city centre.

The service is available in the following cities: Bangkok, Chicago, Dubai, Frankfurt, Geneva, Hong Kong, Istanbul, Johannesburg, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Madrid, Miami, New York JFK and LGA, Orlando, Paris, Rome, San Francisco, Shanghai, Singapore,Sydney, Tokyo, Toronto.

Some destinations also offer an International Meet & Greet service, where you and your guests can be met at the aircraft door on arrival and escorted through immigration and luggage collection.

These include: Bangkok, Dubai, Frankfurt, Geneva, Istanbul, Johannesburg, Madrid, Paris, Rome, Shanghai, Singapore, Sydney.

Heathrow Fast Track

You can use Heathrow’s Fast Track security lanes simply by flashing your Amex Centurion card and a valid boarding pass. Both you and your supplementary card holder can take one guest each, so the benefit covers a family of four.

£20 Addison Lee / Tristar credit

UK Centurion cardholders receive up to £20 in statement credit every month for UK trips booked with Addison Lee and Tristar.

Events, restaurants and concert venues

Having a Centurion card also gets you access to a variety of American Express events and private suites.

For example, Amex is a sponsor of the National Theatre. In addition to the ticket access, Amex Centurion cardholders are invited to exclusive pre-show champagne receptions with cast and crew.

Other regular events include the London Film Festival, Harvey Nichols launches and more.

American Express also holds a suite at the O2 that is available for booking. This is similar to the suites held by other companies such as the Marriott Bonvoy suite.

Centurion cardholders also get improved access to top restaurants. This is supposed to include last-minute reservations but in practice is more likely to be improved tables etc.

Travel insurance

Like The Platinum Card, the UK Centurion Card comes with comprehensive insurance cover.

The policy is fundamentally the same as the Platinum travel insurance here (pdf), but it does have slightly higher payouts.

For example, you receive £5,000,000 for necessary medical costs during your trip rather than £2,000,000 on the Platinum card. You can claim up to £12,500 for cancellation and postponement (up from £7,500) and up to £5,000 per trip from lost or stolen belongings (£2,000 on the Platinum card.)

Will I still have to pay foreign transaction fees?

Oddly, yes. You would think Amex would waive FX fees for a card with such a high annual fee and premium proposition, but it doesn’t. You still have to pay the 2.99% fee on all foreign transactions.

Is the UK Amex Centurion card worth it?

For the vast majority of people, spending £2,200 per year on a card fee may seem ludicrous. For some, however, it clearly makes sense.

The headline benefits of the black Amex Centurion card are likely not its biggest appeal.

The cardholders I spoke to valued access to exclusive events and experiences more highly than the published card benefits.

Unlike The Platinum Card, where a high-end traveller can make a case fairly easily for getting £575 of value from the card benefits, it is very difficult to justify £2,200 of value from The Centurion Card. This is especially true if you look at the difference between the Centurion and Platinum packages, which is not huge given the 4x fee differential.

The cardholders I spoke to also suggested that the customer service was a step above, with requests and queries simply sorted out rather than resorting to a scripted response. Things just get done.

If you just want hotel and airline status there are likely easier (and cheaper) ways. Most people don’t need status with six hotel chains – a focus on achieving one via the ‘traditional’ avenue may actually be better. Equally, taking out The Platinum Card can be a cheaper way of achieving mid-tier status at a number of chains.

If the American Express Centurion Card still appeals, however, you should get yourself the Platinum version and start putting substantial sums of money through it …..


Want to earn more points from credit cards? – August 2021 update

If you are looking to apply for a new credit or charge card, here are our August 2021 recommendations based on the current sign-up bonus

You can see our full directory of all UK cards which earn airline or hotel points here. Here are the other top current deals:

British Airways American Express card

British Airways American Express

5,000 Avios for signing up, no annual fee and a companion voucher for spending £20,000 Read our full review

BA Premium Plus American Express card BAPP

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 Avios and the UK’s most valuable credit card perk – the 2-4-1 companion voucher Read our full review

Nectar American Express

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

30,000 points and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Virgin Rewards Plus credit card

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard

15,000 points bonus and the most generous non-Amex for day to day spending Read our full review

Earning miles and points from small business cards

If you are a sole trader or run a small company, you may also want to check out these offers.

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year Read our full review

Amex Platinum Business American Express

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and a long list of travel benefits Read our full review

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express card

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express

Earn both Avios and BA On Business points with your business spending Read our full review

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

The most generous Avios Visa or Mastercard for a limited company Read our full review

For a non-American Express option, we also recommend the Barclaycard Select Cashback card for sole traders and small businesses. It is FREE and you receive 1% cashback on your spending:

Barclaycard Select Cashback Credit Card

1% cashback and no annual fee Read our full review

Comments (161)

  • Waddle says:

    Does the UK version come with Equinox gym membership or is that limited to the US version?

  • Julian says:

    I have a friend who used to work for Amex as foreign exchange dealer for a few years who certainly used to have one.

    I would have thought due to COVID the number of people travelling the amount and spending the amount they used to on business is going to be way down so either they have to can the product or charge more.

    I think the idea of Black was an indication to hotels and expensive shops that you were super wealthy and so they should fawn over you once you had presented the card to pay a bill the first time.

    I think a large part of the reason people have it s Snob Value but it does seem ludicrous that the colour for the top card in the Fleet should be Black rather than something else.

    • Bagoly says:

      Why is it surprising that Black is the colour for the top level?
      BAEC has Black as well?
      Black is associated with authority, solemnity, secrecy, power and elegance.
      Anglo-Saxon Men’s formal dress (including gowns for judges and academics) has been predominantly black for about two hundred years (possibly showing off that one can afford to ensure there is no dust on it)
      And look at most formal evening events in London – typically more than half the women wear black too (which I always think is a waste of freedom).
      “Grey is the new Black” indicates that black was and is highly regarded in fashion.

      It’s true that E.g. dying leather black hides imperfections, so the leather can be lower quality, but life is full of complications.

      Having typically started out these sort of cards with the Olympic strata of Gold, Silver and Bronze, status inflation meant that companies needed something above Gold. And then more.
      The market has adopted a variety of approaches:
      Platinum, Titanium (more modern but doesn’t make sense in terms of monetary value), then what?
      OW went for Ruby, Sapphire, Emerald, leaving space for Diamond (but having used Diamond where do they go?) or
      Black (perhaps some Apple-keen ones have gone for white, but rather than showing one can afford to keep it clean that tends to just show the dirt)

      • Julian says:

        The key point is that yesterday’s top of the market fashion becomes outdated so has to be replaced to remain an Insane Object Of Desire.

        Once upon a time (my father’s day in the 1970s onwards) a humble Green Amex card was a status symbol and then came the upscaling to Gold, Platinum and then finally Black.

        But the Black card is such old hat now (a friend had one probably in the 1990s and was very proud of that fact) that you would think it would need to be replaced by some new even more trendy and fashionable colour…………….

  • Save East Coast Rewards says:

    Looking at the picture are the Centurion cards now going for the same format as the Platinum without the embossed numbers on the front?

    One of the reasons I suspect metal cards are now more widely available is the cards no longer need the embossed number on the front as the old manual imprint machines aren’t used anymore (at least in Europe, are they anywhere?) but the smooth metal cards look a lot less impressive than the first metal Centurion.

    I’m not sure why anyone wants a metal card now though. With contactless you’re not handing the card to many people now and where possible you should be using Apple or Google Pay as it’s more secure.

    • lumma says:

      A lot of restaurants I’ve worked in still have the manual imprint machines gathering dust in an office somewhere for the event that all the PDQ machines stop working. The presence of the machine was part of the financial auditing process, so I believe they can still be used (at least back in 2018 they could)

      • Julian says:

        A lot of my quite ordinary cards including a NatWest debit card one no longer have embossed numbers on them.

        I think as a last resort following a major IT outage the clank, clank manual machines are now replaced for non embossed number cards by simply writing the numbers in pen on the old clank clank machine vouchers but stores hating doing this as they are not guaranteed to get their payment in the way they are with an electronically authorised transaction.

        Not sure really as I remember Visa Electron cards for lower income customers (but also to avoid Ryanair card fees) being amongst the first to not have raised embossed numbers on them.

        • The cyclist says:

          I have found nothing better I like than a good clank on a grey Monday morning.

          • Julian says:

            Are you sure you aren’t confusing clank with a four letter word ending in k. Although not a lot of that going on under COVID other than with long term household partners……………

            Weather has turned slightly cooler again. The heating was running only just now at 11am….

          • Mike says:

            So long as your wife doesn’t catch you have a clank

        • RussellH says:

          Visa Electron cards never had embossed details, as they were only supposed to be used with a terminal. In practice, though, I could take a Visa Electron payment for a CNP transaction without a terminal in exactly the same way as any other card.
          I was required to run blank payment slips through the imprinter, so that the payment slip had the merchant no. and name printed on it (NOT written, which is what may have caused the problems you mention), while the card details and transaction amount were written on the slip.
          A separate batch slip was put through the imprinter with a merchant’s card in it, all the slips put into a plastic enveloped and then banked in the same way as cheques.
          Never had any problems at all.

          • Julian says:

            Forgotten that was why Electron cards were not embossed (i.e. all transactions verified electronically and suppose to be impossible to go in to overdraft with them) but doesn’t explain why more recently many card issuers of debit and credit cards including Virgin and NatWest have stopped embossing the numbers on them.

          • Tony says:

            Authorization code X if the phone line was down

      • RussellH says:

        I was in a restaurant a couple of years ago when just that scenario kicked off.
        Contactless did not work, nor chip-and-PIN.
        The manager came out of his cubby hole and told us that the LAN had gone down and he could not get it up again.
        Five minutes searching dusty cubboards under the bar and they found an imprinter and paper charge slips. Quick demonstration to the staff who had never seen an imprinter (I could have done that) and they were back in business.

        • Julian says:

          Manual vouchers are used comparatively rarely these days but still there as a last resort. Low tech is always still most robust………..

      • Alex W says:

        This happened to me a couple of years ago at a Marriott, machines weren’t working so they took a manual imprint of my card and put it in the safe until the machines were working again.

    • RussellH says:

      Why should Apple or Google Pay be more secure than the card it is based on?
      There is just a further layer of tecnological intrusion – ie something else to go wrong, and I assume that someone has to pay Apple or Google too?
      Do merchants have to pay extra to accept payment by Apple or Google Pay?
      Or does the merchant acquirer take the hit?
      I am no great fan of the banks, but if I had to choose who to pay it would be my choice not to pay anything to either Apple or Google.

      • Save East Coast Rewards says:

        The reason it’s more secure is because with Apple Pay and Google Pay you are not giving your card number to the merchant and any attempt to use the number generated by the mobile device in a manual transaction will fail.

        I only remember reading about Apple Pay fees when it was launched in the US but the fees are very low for the bank, they profit due to reduced risk of fraud. The merchant doesn’t pay any extra.

        For Apple Pay to be successful they had to get the banks on board, if no banks offered it then it’d fail. Therefore the banks consider it worthwhile offering.

        But if you prefer the ‘security’ of tapping a plastic card that transmits your card number without any authentication then that’s your choice

  • JK says:

    The changes to the Scandi product are pretty cool (in terms of the hard-product). They have 3 new designs to choose from (classic black, a floral one by Kehinde Wiley X, and a technical one by Rem Koolhaas X).

    They also come with a wearable Prada leather strap. The leather strap is linked to your card, and becomes your contactless payment device. Very sleek, you’d never know it was a payment card.

    I’m not sure what changes they have to the soft product there, but I’m sure the Prada strap will be popular if we get that here.

    Re the card though – I prefer just the plain black version (although wish it were contactless!)

    /JK

    • Julian says:

      But isn’t one of the main points of an Amex Black or Platinum card for staff in a smart restaurant or hotel that you regularly attend to see you have such a card so that they will fawn over you when you visit in the hope of a big tip and/or getting commission on whatever item they manage to sell to you………………

      So an anonymous chip hidden in a strap doesn’t seem too quite achieve that………..

      • JK says:

        Certainly not disputing that many see it as wallet candy, particularly those vocal about wanting one, this seems among the top reasons.

        But as quick flick through the comments here demonstrates we all have our own reasons, not limited to it being wallet candy.

        I do feel this card, and its owners, are probably the most misunderstood (by non-holders) amongst AmEx’s portfolio. The vast majority of wealthy people I know are wealthy for a reason, and all capable of prescribing value adequately. They do care about maxmising value received from a product, or cancelling if it no longer serves a purpose.

        I think wallet candy is more an aspiration of those who don’t have it, rather than those that do. Just me 2 cents…

        /JK

        • Julian says:

          I think there was a time in the late 80s or early 90s when premium level payment cards were in themselves an aspiration. But those days are probably now well in the past as with travelling by Concorde or possibly soon travelling long haul at all………..

    • KBuffett says:

      Barclaycard used to provide a small sticker that you could affix to the back of your phone or anywhere else and use it for contactless payments. There’s now certainly no need to have the traditional credit card format.

      • Julian says:

        And of course you can pay anonymously with your phone too. But isn’t the whole point of Amex Black to have a card that most other people don’t have that you can wield out in physical form to impress unimportant people like hotel reception and restaurant staff with?

    • Tom says:

      The latest versions are contactless.

  • jil says:

    you can also get the invite from certain wealth manager, without having to have any AMEX card before

  • Jake says:

    If you put money through the BA Amex only, will you be considered for centurion or does it have to be on a pure amex only?

    • Rhys says:

      I’m sure if you spend enough you’ll be on Amex’s radar, regardless of the card.

  • David says:

    The John Lewis/Selfridges offer is £400. You also get sent about once a year a £400ish credit at a Bond St type retailer. In our household most are given to our more fashion conscious daughter to use.

  • Adil says:

    I do still find it silly that you could be paying 2200 in annual fees and they still don’t waive forex fees. Really hampers the ‘travel benefits’ if it’s only really useful at home

    • Julian says:

      Lack of foreign exchange fee free use still rather suggests to me that status is a more important reason for holding the Black card than practicality, especially as Curve have never been able to solve the Amex non acceptance problem.

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