In one corner, we have the Black Card. In the other, we have, uh, the Black Card. Confused? Most likely, and that’s exactly why American Express recently engaged in a legal battle for the right to use the name that has come to signify wealth and status not only in the credit card industry, but throughout society and pop culture as well. Rappers routinely crow about their Black Cards in songs, athletes and movie stars are spotted using them by the paparazzi, and they’re even employed in shows like “The OC” and “Entourage” to signal things like prosperity, greed, or overspending to viewers. While Amex was successful in nullifying the Black Card LLC’s trademark on the term “Blackcard,” several trademark infringement and false advertising claims remain unsettled, as does the ultimate question: Which is the better Black Card?
American Express Centurion Card
Though the American Express Centurion Card has long been shrouded in secrecy – an Amex representative responded to a request for comment by saying, “We actually can’t confirm much about the Centurion Card as we don’t talk about its services or benefits” – a few things are substantiated, including its fee structure and the fact that it is available by invitation only. The rest we can only glean from various sources and first-hand accounts, almost as if the Centurion Card is a Bigfoot-esque mythical creature.
Credit Standing Required: Excellent+
Annual Income Required: Above $250,000
Fees: $5,000 initiation fee; $2,500 annual fee
Rewards: Rumored perks include a 24/7 personal concierge and travel agent, deals on ultra-high-end rental cars, free nights and upgrades at luxury hotels around the world, personal shoppers and private shopping opportunities at upscale retailers, reservations at restaurants that do not accept reservations, free companion tickets on international flights, airport club access, etc.
Interest Rates: N/A since it is a charge card that requires you to pay your balance in full every month
X-Factor: Exclusivity is this card’s biggest draw. Exactly what it takes to get this titanium card is yet unknown, but only the rich and famous have it, so everyone wants it.
Barclays Visa Black Card
Unlike the Amex Centurion Card, there’s quite a bit of official information available about the Barclays Visa Black Card.
Credit Standing Required: Excellent
Annual Income Required: Above $100,000
Fees: $495 annual fee
Rewards: “Luxury gifts,” access to over 600 airport lounges worldwide, 24-hour concierge service, and 1% cash back or points redeemable for airfare on any airline
Interest Rates: 0% on balance transfers for 15 months (3% balance transfer fee); 14.99% regular rate
X-Factor: This card’s official branding actually contains the words “Black Card.”
And the winner is…
The superior Black Card is undoubtedly that which is issued by American Express: the Centurion Card. While, yes, it is more expensive than the Visa Black Card, users by all accounts get a lot more for their money. For example, with the Visa Black Card, you will pay $436 more each year than you would with the Capital One Venture Card, and the only additional perk you get is airport longue access. Everything else is either at par with the Venture Card’s offerings or worse. Millionaires who wouldn’t mind spending a lot on their credit card’s annual fee want something truly remarkable for the money, not a card with basically the same rewards but much higher costs than a number of other rewards credit cards on the market.
Cardholder accounts published on the popular myth-busting website Snopes.com provide the perfect anecdotal evidence for how the Centurion Card fits this bill. For instance, according to Snopes, a Centurion cardholder in Europe requested that the horse from Kevin Costner’s Dances with Wolves be tracked down, purchased and delivered to him, and it was done. Other examples of fulfilled cardholder wishes include: the retrieval of a handful of sand from the Dead Sea for a child’s school project, a fully planned wedding, and an audition for a Soap Opera. Now, how can you beat that?
You can’t. That’s why people like rapper Kanye West will continue to spew lines like: “‘Oh my God, is that a black card?’ / I turned around and replied ‘Why yes, but I prefer the term African American Express.’” Sorry Barclays and Visa, but unless you guys up your game considerable, there seems to only be room for one Black Card in this town.