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The black Amex Centurion card: what are the UK benefits?

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The American Express Centurion Card is by invitation only.

Key facts: There is a £2,500 joining fee and a £2,200 annual fee. The annual fee is NOT waived in the first year.

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 invitation criteria publicly (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 looking at 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 are likely to be viewed more favourably than simply pushing high figures through to Google Ads.

You may undergo a credit check during the application process. It is not clear if there is an income requirement, but you should probably be earning £300k+.

Fundamentally, however, 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?

Yes, although at the same rate as on many other Amex cards.

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

Supplementary cards

The main card holder gets one metal titanium card and an additional plastic card, allowing you to separate personal and business expenses.

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 a year each, as well as other Amex consumer cards.

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 of the largest hotel groups:

  • Hilton Honors Diamond Status
  • IHG® Rewards Club Platinum Elite Membership
  • Marriott Bonvoy™ Gold Elite status
  • MeliaRewards Platinum
  • Radisson Rewards™ Gold Status
  • Jumeirah Sirius Gold

Unfortunately, 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 first Supplementary Centurion.

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

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

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.

The catch is that these must be booked over the phone and you won’t earn extra Membership Rewards points.

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 and 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 and Sydney.

Heathrow Fast Track

You can use Heathrow’s Fast Track security lanes simply by flashing your Centurion card and a valid boarding pass. Both you and your supplementary card holder can take one guest respectively.

£20 Addison Lee / Tristar credit

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 big sponsor of the National Theatre. In addition to the ticket sales for all, Amex members Centurion cardholders are also invited to exclusive pre-show champagne receptions with the cast and crew.

Other events include the British 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.

Insurance

Like The Platinum Card, the 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, £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 Amex UK 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.

They 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.

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