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.