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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? – July 2021 update

If you are looking to apply for a new credit or charge card, here are our July 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)

  • James says:

    *chip, though a chop is surely as equally likely

  • Ian says:

    I put over half a million pounds of spend through my Platinum card last year, no Centurion invite yet..

    • Jonathan says:

      As mentioned above, Amex seem to like spending at luxury hotels and airlines in particular, maybe because they can charge the FX fee (?!?) on top of the eye watering annual fee

    • Joe says:

      I imagine if you asked discreetly you’d get made up at that figure.

      • Ian says:

        I doubt it. They seem to hate me, haven’t even received Amex offers for over 6 months. I was receiving 3 points per pound for a few months and made the most of it. Following that all my offers stopped.

    • sjptterman says:

      Yup same, I put through £100,000 per month on my Platinum (1/3 on business and 2/3 personal). I would want it but no invitation to Centurion for me

      • James says:

        Donate the fee you’d pay to a charity instead then, until you do get your invite?

  • Jonathan says:

    If you really want a black card, first direct love black and hate colour !

  • Nigel W says:

    Should say the Suite at the O2 is probably one of the best value tickets you can get at the venue (membership fee aside). At most, you pay £80 for a ticket and this covers a buffet, 3-6 drink tokens (champagne etc included) and it in a pretty good location (I think it is Suite 308, so right in the middle of the side).

    For some events, we’ve been to, we have been either the only group or there being one other group so feels super exclusive. The suite comes with its own attendant (who pre-covid seemed to be the same gentleman and provided great service).

    • Rob says:

      You can get the same concerts on Marriott points, of course, which are also fully catered.

      One of the ‘events’ apps also has a private box at the O2 – forgot which one – and sells the seats in its box at cost price. It is more than £80 but still a lot less than the Centurion fee!

    • Decker says:

      The ticket fee is variable based upon the artiste. I think the most we’ve paid has been around £160. They changed the F&B offering a year or so back to be unlimited drinks and paid for food. Occupancy can vary from being the only people there (unusual) to there being 24 people with the bar stools occupied. And yes, Alfie is awesome.

  • raoul says:

    You missed the Mr Porter benefit!

  • James says:

    UK centurion sucks. The UK management team completely destroyed it. They created completely different systems from the rest of the world; the benefits aren’t any better than gold and the single item limit on insurance is a joke.

    If you want a centurion get a US one – much better. Their website works and they have email and live chat support. They even send great gifts !

    • Richard T. Mannion says:

      Are you sure about that – I hold both UK and US Centurion products (UK for 20 years and US for 5 years). UK Centurion service makes a mockery of the US model, especially since the change late 2019 when the US refresh rolled out and was moved to a Membership Team vs a dedicated person. I’m on my 4th ‘team’ as they just can’t get basic tasks right like replacing a card, or concierge requests. Shame as I did have a great dedicated RM on my US account for a couple of years that was good, but she got promoted to a different role.

      Meanwhile over on my UK acct, I’ve had the same RM for over a decade and he is great, proactive and gets things done efficiently and with transparency.

      The benefits have always been different across the different markets that Centurion operates in, there are some overlaps and then it’s always easy to go cherry pick and say X is better than Y. US charges for additional Centurion/ Platinum and Gold supps whereas UK includes a number of them (and for reference, if I want to add my wife on my US acct as a Centurion supp – that’s another $5k please), or I can add her to my UK card for free.

      Yes the benefits have changed in the 21+ years the product has been in US/UK Market, and in some case have definitely got worse when you map against the annual fee increases (US was $1k at launch, now $5k – Uk was 550GBP, now 2200GBP).

      As for gifts, all depends on how you measure – I’ve seen some awesome gifts/events from both UK and US, some of them money can’t really buy experiences in addition to the WOW vouchers.

      US Website is definitely no better than the UK one 😉

  • Kai says:

    Those who think you should be eligible, fill out the form here to register your interest: https://iforms.americanexpress.com/iFormsSecure/un/iforms.do?cuid=centurionEx_en_US&evtsrc=link&evttype=0&intlink=loginpageEOI

  • James T says:

    An acquaintance told me he was putting 8 figures annually through his Amex gold business card a few weeks ago, so I recommended he reach out to his Amex account manager to and ask for a centurion (and to see if they’d comp it!). They came back and said he wasn’t eligible because his personal spend (BA Amex) wasn’t sufficient, despite the “vast” amount he was putting through the business card for the business he owns. Does this sound about right? There’s no corporate centurion, unlike in the US?

    • Rob says:

      Fundamentally, he isn’t cool enough and his spending makes that very clear. If he goes out and drops £10k in Louis Vuitton, Balenciaga and Gucci (per shop, not in total) it should massively improve things.

      Amex presumably decided a while ago that the sort of person who spends a fortune on Google Ads isn’t the sort of ‘George Clooney in Nespresso mode’ person they want at their events. I include myself in the former category so don’t take it personally 🙂

      • James T says:

        Thanks rob, I’ll take great delight in informing him of his status in the pecking order!!

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