American Express created a frenzy among the wealthy when it decided to take advantage of rumors of an exclusive black-colored charge card, used by movie stars and music celebrities for purchasing jets and other items beyond the financial reach of us mere mortals. In 1999, American Express introduced the Centurion Card, a black charge card with no spending limits and a veritable cornucopia of exclusive benefits, all for a significant fee.
Last year, Visa saw the opportunity to market to the same demographic when this company launched its answer to the Centurion Card, the Visa Black Card which I’ve previously described in detail. Although the assumption is that the Visa Black Card would compete with the American Express Centurion Card, it actually has more in common with The Platinum Card® from American Express.
- Apply for the Visa Black Card
- Apply for the The Platinum Card® from American Express
- Application to the American Express Centurion Card is by invitation only
Do you qualify?
If you want to hold a Centurion Card, you must be a Platinum cardholder for at least one year and you must have spent $250,000 on the card in twelve months. Both the Platinum and Centurion Cards are charge cards, not credit cards, so you are expected to pay off your entire charged balance each month.
To qualify for The Platinum Card from American Express, the prevailing thought is that you will need an annual income of at least $100,000 and a high credit score in order to be approved. To check your credit score, visit GoFreeCredit.com for a 7-day free trial.
The Visa Black Card is a credit card, not a charge card, offered to only 1% of the United States population. You and three million other people might qualify for this card. Some current Visa customers have received invitations or have had their existing Visa cards automatically upgraded. There have been reports of people with poor credit and little or no income being approved for this card, and an invitation package was sent to a man who had been deceased for seven years.
The Centurion Card is in a class of its own. When you qualify for the Centurion Card, you will be charged a $5,000 initiation fee and an annual membership fee of $2,500. That’s a total of $7,500 will will owe after the first billing period without having spent any money.
The Visa Black Card carries an annual fee of $495 while the The Platinum Card from American Express requires a yearly membership payment of $450. This fee comparison makes it clear that the features of the Visa Black Card are more likely to be in line with the Platinum rather than the Centurion.
All three cards offer 24-hour concierge services. The purpose of a concierge is to have a personal assistant with the resources to take care of arrangements you do not have time for yourself. A good concierge should be able to order and deliver gifts to the people you specify, give dining recommendations and make reservations, even in the most popular restaurants. A concierge would be your proxy for shopping.
The Centurion Card goes further by assigning you a personal concierge, so you theoretically always deal with the same employee from the service, who gets to know you and your preferences. Additionally, the Centurion Card reportedly permits you to schedule private shopping at high end stores, such as Gucci, Neiman Marcus, and Sony.
The Visa Black Card offers 24/7 legal, medical, and financial emergency travel services, as does the Platinum Card and the Centurion Card. All three cards offer travel accident insurance. The Visa Black Card offers up to $250,000 insurance while the The Platinum Card® from American Express offers $500,000 insurance. The Centurion Card offers $1,500,000 in travel accident insurance.
If your baggage is delayed while traveling, the Visa Black Card will credit you $100 a day for three days, while the Platinum Card will insure your baggage up to $2,000. The Centurion Card will insure up to $1,250 for carry-on items and $500 for each checked bag.
Purchase protection and warranties
If there is a problem with any purchase you make with the Visa Black Card, the card can reimburse the owner up to $500 before 90 days have passed since the date of purchase. The Centurion Cards protects holders up to $10,000 per occurrence and $50,000 total per cardholder per year within the same 90 days of the purchase.
In most cases, the Visa Black Card, despite its appearance, is more competitive with The Platinum Card® from American Express. Based on these benefits, the American Express Centurion Card is in its own class despite some features in common with the The Platinum Card® from American Express. Many of the Visa Black Card’s services are more aligned with Visa Signature benefits, a level that usually does not carry any annual membership fees. I’ll stick with a free Visa Signature Card, which also comes with concierge services, purchase security, and all features at levels identical to the Visa Black Card.
With fees starting at $450, are luxury credit cards worthwhile? Have you received any offers for the Visa Black Card?
Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by American Express. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of American Express, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by American Express. This site may be compensated through American Express Affiliate Program.
Important Note! The information in this article is believed to be accurate as of the date it was written. Please keep in mind that offers change frequently. Therefore, we can not guarantee the accuracy of the information in this article. Please verify all terms and conditions of any credit or charge card prior to applying.
Updated December 20, 2013 and originally published June 3, 2009. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.