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All about the mysterious Black Card

Metal credit card is only for big spenders.

By Karen Datko Sep 26, 2009 3:08AM

What's in our wallet? We can assure you it's not the American Express Black Card.

We hadn't even heard of this ultra-exclusive card -- known officially as the Centurion -- until we stumbled upon a personal Web site dedicated to unveiling its secrets.

Some guy not in the employ of Amex spends his time singing the praises of a piece of metal (it's not plastic)? We just had to read on, if only to see how the other half lives.

According to the blogger at, identified only as "Admin," the Black Card was rumored to exist years before Amex issued it in 1999 on an invitation-only basis. Now, apparently, people can actually apply, and an estimated 20,000 people in the U.S. have one.

"You are more likely to die from brain cancer than you are to be in a household that has a Black Card," writes Admin. (We can assure you that we'll likely die from brain cancer or any other cause before we could -- or would -- apply. )

For starters, you have to be plenty rich or a celebrity to get one. To qualify for an application, you have to charge $250,000 in one year's time on another Amex card and pay it off. If you're deemed creditworthy, add in the $5,000 initiation fee and a $2,500 annual fee. (Never fear. If you're turned down, there are several very exclusive competitors.)

In other words, says "Andrew M" at Mahalo, you have to "spend like there's no tomorrow."

Cardholders, according to Admin, include Denzel Washington, Jerry Seinfeld (who reportedly received the first Black Card), Jessica Simpson, Kanye West and Sen. John McCain. (Apparently, a prankster at Zug called Amex pretending to apply for a Black Card on behalf of Sen. Barack Obama.)

What do you get with this card? A very high spending limit based on your income, 24-hour personal concierge service, private shopping at the world's most exclusive stores, special invitations to events like golf with Tiger Woods or the black-tie London premiere of the new James Bond movie, roadside assistance extraordinaire, free food, free airline tickets, and more.

They may be rich, but even Black Card holders aren't immune from tighter restrictions credit card companies have recently placed on their customers' spending. Admin says he's heard of Amex denying purchases when the Black Card is shown.

Published Oct. 22, 2008



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