How to Get the Amex 'Invite Only' Black Card

The American Express Centurion Card, more commonly known as the "Black Card," has become the status symbol du jour for high-end cardholders. But how do you get your mitts on one? It’s not easy, but here are some ideas.

The high-end credit card has actually been around for about a decade, and shares more myths and legends than the entire story arch of The X-Files. Going back to the 1980s, hip urbanites spoke of a magical credit card where the owners could order up the Concorde for a trip to Paris, or where someone knew someone who used a “black” card to buy the horse Kevin Costner used in the Oscar winning Dances With Wolves. To date, no stories like the ones listed above have ever been confirmed, but that hasn’t stopped some affluent Americans from wondering if they’re missing out by not having the card.

Turn the page to 1999, where myth meets reality and American Express (Stock Quote: AXP) actually does release a black credit card — the Centurion, named after Amex’s corporate logo. According to AdSavvy.org, the Black Card is made of anodized titanium, a heavier substance that gives the card more heft, literally and figuratively. Benefits include automatic first-class upgrades on all airline flights; a personal shopper in major cities worldwide, top-of-the-line concierge and travel agent service, the first crack at elite shows and sporting events, and after-hours privileges at elite stores and boutiques worldwide.

But the marketing gurus at Amex made a conscious choice to build on the Centurion’s "urban legend" status — especially the part about how getting one is as difficult as getting George Clooney’s private cell phone number. That’s why the Black Card is issued to preferred clients by invitation only, according to American Express.

So how do you go about getting a Black Card? Yes, Amex says that card access is granted via “invite only.” But it’s worth noting that many cardholders seem to “graduate” to the Centurion Card from the American Express Platinum Card – so one path to the Black Card should go through the Platinum Card first.

Another potential path to the Centurion card is through your employer. Some companies selectively issue Black Cards to elite executives. It’s not that easy to accomplish, but if you get your boss to play ball, you don’t have to hunt down the card — it will find you.

Amex won’t say what the criteria is for becoming a Black card member. That said, if you do get on Amex’s radar screen, you’ll need to accomplish the following to actually qualify for the card, according to the blog QuickSprout.com:

  • Have a nearly blemish-free credit history.
  • Spend at least $250,000 annually on a current Amex Platinum or Gold card.
  • Accept a one-time card membership fee of $5,000, along with an annual fee of $2,500.
  • Have a “major” net worth (undisclosed by Amex).

One hurdle, for example, that would be tough to crack is the $250,000 annual spending minimum. That’s about $21,000 per month and most individuals would balk at spending that kind of dough. QuickSprout advises offering to pay the money upfront, to convince Amex you’re a good credit risk.

Amex has disputed these qualifications in general, but refuses to share any specific details about what factors it does take into consideration.

It’s a high mountain to climb but those who are there say it’s worth it. Amex built the Black Card around its signature phrase, "membership has its privileges." In the case of the Centurion card, boy does it ever.

—For the best rates on loans, bank accounts and credit cards, enter your ZIP code at BankingMyWay.com.

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