The following quote from the Urban Dictionary illustrates just how prestigious the most prestigious rewards card really is:
“I’m sorry, sir, tickets are sold out.”
Man pulls out a black card.
“I’m sorry, sir, how does front row and backstage access sound?”
Yes, the American Express Centurion, also known as “the black card”, is the most prestigious rewards card.
How the Most Prestigious Rewards Card Came into Being
According to Snopes, in the late 80s, a widely circulated rumor suggested that American Express was issuing an extremely exclusive card that was available only for the super-rich by invitation. The article cites Doug Smith, an American Express director, who states that this was just lore, and there was no such card at that time. The rumor was so persistent, that in 1999 American Express announced that they will do just that – more precisely, issue an extremely exclusive card that was to be available only for the super-rich by invitation, in other words, the most prestigious rewards card ever.
A Tale of Two Black Cards that Went to Court
The AmEX Centurion is made of black, sleek-looking titanium, which would quickly lead to it being called simply “the black card”. Immediately after the official release, it became clear that this prestigious rewards card would not fall short of the rumors that spawned it.
However, in 2008 the black credit card niche became uncomfortably competitive when Barclays issued a Visa card called the Black Card. In addition to that, Black Card LLC had the term “black card” registered as a trademark.
Using the black card term was one thing, but having it trademarked was another. The AmEx Centurion was widely known at that time as the black card, so American Express retaliated against Black Card LLC and sued. The court ruled that the term cannot be trademarked due to it being merely descriptive, so American Express won. This incident showed that American Express was more than willing to sue over what seemed to be an attempt to benefit off the reputation of the already established AmEx Centurion.
What It Takes to Be the Most Prestigious Rewards Card
Evidently, a part of the prestige comes from the owners themselves, mostly celebrities and the rich. To be fair, in the past years, this exclusiveness has been somewhat attenuated as the number of AmEx Centurion card holders increased.
A veritable status symbol, the most prestigious rewards card comes along with extremely diverse perks meant to add comfort to a luxurious lifestyle. The owner of the card will be given access to exclusive venues and entertainment events, 24/7 concierge services, and a generous membership rewards program. The frequent traveler will find the card most advantageous, as the list of benefits includes many hotel perks and elite status for several airlines. All this and much more is offered in exchange for an initial fee of $5,000 and another fee of $2,500 that is paid annually.
Ostensibly, the card does not have a spending limit, or if it has, it must be very high for some customers, as this Chinese collector used his AmEx Centurion to pay $36 million for a ceramic cup that was put up for auction. For this transaction alone, he received 422 million reward points. An impressive amount, even for the most prestigious rewards card in the world.