Q&A: What Is a Black Card?

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Question: What is a black card?

Answer: Put simply, a black card is an elite-level card. This means that you get some pretty awesome – no, make that amazingrewards and perks. But it also means you pay a very high annual fee for this privilege.

Elite cards are often identified with a moniker such as diamond, black, gold, or platinum. The names conjure up a powerful and ritzy image, don't you think? And the glamour associated with the black card doesn't stop with the name or even the rewards. The black card is often made of different materials, so it feels like it's important and in a class by itself.

For instance, the most famous black card is the Centurion Card from American Express. It's not made of plastic, it's made of titanium. It's black and weighty and makes a statement when you present it to a cashier. This is the card that most often comes to mind when you hear someone refer to the "Black Card."

So what perks do you get with the Centurion Card? This is actually a difficult question to answer because American Express chooses not to reveal the exact rewards and benefits. This approach further enhances the "exclusive" brand and implies that you need to be in the inner circle to know about the details. Several sources do seem to agree on one point: You need to spend to the tune of $250,000 a year to be invited to apply. Yes, that's right. You have to be invited to apply for the Centurion Card.

Once invited, you can decide if the the fees are worth it. The current annual fee is $2,500. But here's the really big expense: There's an initiation fee of $7,500. I also noted in the Terms and Conditions for the Centurion Card that there are no foreign transaction fees, but that's just the tip of the perks iceberg. There's no APR because this is a charge card, not a credit card.

I can't confirm all the rewards and benefits because American Express doesn't share them, but some common details that have emerged are exceptional concierge services, complimentary companion airline tickets, first-class upgrades, free hotel stays, personal shoppers at upscale stores, and a lot more.

If the Centurion Card is a little rich for your blood, there's another black card that's more attainable. It's the Visa Black Card from Barclay's Bank. This is a credit card and the APR is currently 14.99 percent. (Note that the Barclays is temporarily not accepting applications for this card.) The rewards are nowhere close to the Centurion Card's rewards, but the annual fee for the Visa Black Card is only $495, whereas the Centurion Card requires a $2,500 fee plus an exorbitant initiation fee.

Isn't it funny how $495 suddenly sounds like a bargain? But in reality, of course, it's a huge chunk of change. The bottom line with the elite black cards is that they're expensive and you need to be at a financial level where you spend a lot of money every month. And don't forget to pay the bill every month. I don't care how much money you have, the compound interest on $250,000 every month would be quite depressing!

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This content was accurate at the time of this post, but card terms and conditions may change at any time. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.

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