Is The American Express Business Centurion (Black) Card Worth it?
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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here: The Platinum Card® from American Express, The Business Platinum Card® from American Express
Disclaimer: This is not a post explaining why you should get the Centurion Card (if offered). It’s simply the reasoning behind why I decided to take the plunge in my unique circumstances.
When I received a fancy package in the mail a little over a year ago and opened it up to find an invitation for the American Express Business Centurion Card, I was a little bit shocked, a little bit surprised and a little bit flattered. And as I wrote about last year, I decided to make the jump and apply for what’s known as the Amex Black Card.
It was a $5,000 initiation fee plus $2,500 annual fee ($7,500 total); now it’s just a $2,500 annual fee. So making that first jump is the biggest decision you’ll have to make; whether you want to renew or not is a much easier decision. This year I made the decision to renew, and I’ll tell you why. That being said, my situation is unique: I own a business that can maximize the benefits, which makes it easier to justify the annual fee.
Business Centurion Perks
Simply put, the Business Centurion is the Enhanced Business Platinum Card from American Express OPEN on steroids. Although, this is not the case with the The Platinum Card from American Express vs. the personal Centurion. For example, the Personal Centurion doesn’t even get 5x points on airfare. Yes that’s right, you pay a fortune and you don’t even get the same perks that a Platinum cardholder gets. That’s generally not true with Business Centurion: You get all of the Business Platinum perks and more.
The Business Centurion has a variety of perks that I’ve listed below in order from most valuable to least valuable to me:
1. 50% Points Back on ALL Airfare — Amex offers a 50% points rebate when booking through Amex Travel. With the Business Centurion, you don’t have to choose just one airline when booking in economy with points, like you do with the Business Platinum. We book a lot of economy flights at TPG, so this 50% points back on all airfare is huge for my business. It’s pretty much the only way we book business travel and my employees love it because instead of using award tickets where they don’t earn miles, they can earn miles and I’m getting 2 cents per point in value back when I redeem. Frankly, having Amex Centurion concierge is like having our own travel agency, and they don’t charge extra for tickets and we get great service. As we’ve written about before, we save on Amex special discounted fares, where we buy special airfares and then use points to wipe them off, so it really helps my business’ bottom line.
2. Delta Platinum Status — The value of Delta platinum status really varies by how much you fly Delta, but what I love the most about it is that as a Delta Platinum you get to change award tickets for free, as many times as you like, up to 72 hours prior to departure. So I’m able to book Delta awards and then change them when lower awards or partner awards become available, which is valuable to me. There have been a couple of times where I’ve paid for business-class flights on Virgin Atlantic, and being Platinum I got 9 miles per dollar on all airfare spend, so I earned a whole bunch more miles as well. You can also add two authorized users for $2,500 each, and they’ll receive Delta status (and other select benefits) as well.
3. Lounge Access — As with the Platinum cards, you get Delta Lounge access, Centurion Lounge access (with reserved seating for Centurion cardholders) and Priority Pass Select. But the added benefit is you get a complimentary glass of Veuve Clicquot (or Balvenie Caribbean Cask whiskey, at least in Dallas). It’s actually kind of funny: you can only get one glass — no refills.
4. Event Perks — I was able to get Hamilton tickets before even Platinum card holders could get them, and made some of my employees happy by getting them tickets. I got invited to see Stevie Wonder through Amex, which ended up being a fantastic concert. We also got front-row tickets to see Celine Dion in Las Vegas through Ray, my Centurion Concierge, and his personal connections. The seats were originally unavailable but Ray quite literally got us the best seats in the house at a reasonable rate.
5. Concierge Services — The Centurion concierge is an assigned personal liaison who gets to know a client’s travel habits. Mine has become an advocate when there are fraud and billing issues on my card. The concierge also has extra flexibility when trying to book. I have a lot of other Amex products so it’s nice that we have a Centurion contact to get things done.
6. Amex’s Purchase Protection is Amazing — I recently got a Cartier watch and the bezel broke off. I swear it wasn’t me! Cartier refused to cover it under warranty, but Amex covered the $1,400 charge, no questions asked. It probably would have covered that under the Business Platinum, but I think Centurion definitely helped move that along. That’s a heck of a lot of value right there. What’s more, the approval and reimbursement cleared before my watch was even fixed.
7. Hilton Diamond Status — Having Diamond status is a great benefit, but I don’t use it a whole of a lot. We value Hilton’s top tier of status at $2,030 since it comes with things like free room upgrades, a fifth night free on award stays, lounge access and bonus points.
8. Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts — With the Business Centurion, I get free instant upgrades at time of booking when staying at any of Amex’s Fine Hotels & Resorts. I actually used this benefit when I stayed at the incredible Amanyara Resort last weekend in Turks and Caicos, saving me $1,000 over two nights. I also enjoyed benefits like complimentary continental breakfast, late checkout, free Wi-Fi, $200 food and beverage credit or spa credit (with a two-night-or-longer stay) and a benefit unique to each property (in this case, two 50-minute massages).
9. Extra Perks that Aren’t that Valuable to Me but Might be to Others — Although I don’t use it, IHG Platinum status comes with some great perks like free room upgrades, bonus points on paid stays and priority check-in. IHG’s mid-tier Platinum status came in at $880 in our 2017 valuations. I also get SPG Gold status, but I already have Platinum status so the benefit is irrelevant to me. Still, we value this benefit at $685. You’ll also receive this perk if you’re a Business Platinum cardholder.
10. Premium Rental Car Membership — I get two car rental benefits: President’s Club is Avis’ second tier of status, which gives me complimentary car upgrades and guaranteed availability. I also get Hertz Platinum (I have trouble giving it a $1,500 value but that is what it costs according to Hertz’s website). This grants me guaranteed car upgrades, terminal pick-ups (even from private airports) and private transfer back to the airport after drop-off.
11. Gifts — Every year I receive a Christmas gift worth about $75 or so (like a gourmet coffee set). However, last year TPG readers were receiving free Amazon Echos for being a Platinum cardholder, which is worth more than the gift I received.
12. Restaurant Reservations — Through my Centurion concierge I can get restaurant reservations, but they generally aren’t that great because most of the time availability is based on what’s on OpenTable. Sometimes it’s better asking a hotel concierge for a reservation.
13. Bonus Points — You get a 50% points bonus on all purchases of at least $5,000, up to a million extra points a year.
Business Centurion Downside
As amazing as my concierge Ray has been, the service varies dramatically on weekends; I’ve even had to wait for up to an hour.
The Business Centurion gives me huge spend capability, an inside track at Amex and access to amazing events around the world.
The customer service is top notch. The concierge acts like a mini travel agency and a semi-assistant, saving me a lot of time and headaches when trying to figure out travel plans. So for $2,500 a year, I am sold on just those benefits.
If you want to get invited to become a Business Centurion member, your best bet is to become a Business Platinum cardholder and spend a whole lot on the card. There is no set limit, but I’d say you have to spend at least several hundred thousand a year.
You can also call Amex and let them know you are interested, I did that and a couple of weeks later they sent me the invitation. So it never hurts to ask — the golden rule of all things credit cards and frequent flyer miles.
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