The Visa Black Card vs American Express Centurion Card (in depth comparison/review)

History of the Black Cards, and the Visa Black Card

Visa Black Card

On October 2, 2007, ThinkTank Holdings LLC (founded by Scott Blum, located in Jackson, Wyoming.) announced a new Patent Pending (filed 2007) Credit Card Venture titled “Next Card“. The concept for “Next Card” was simply for a high-end/luxury credit card made from a special carbon/carbon based material. Concept from inception was that this card would be available to corporations and individuals for an annual fee of $495, it was also anticipated that the card would launch with typical luxury card services such as 24-hour concierge, points and rewards program, as well as other benefits.

After Black Cards and the Black Card Brand (that is, American Express)

Chasing the American Express Black Card brand was no doubt a goal of Scott Blum with this concept. The American Express Centurion Card started out as an urban myth (see history) that American Express ultimately decided to capitalize on October 14, 1999. “There had been rumors going around that we had this ultra-exclusive black card for elite customers,” says Doug Smith, director of American Express Europe. “It wasn’t true, but we decided to capitalize on the idea anyway. So far we’ve had a customer buy a Bentley and another charter a jet.”

Visa after having launched it’s “signature” series of cards in 1999, launched a higher tier of “signature preferred” cards in May of 2007 targeted at customers who spend $50,000 a year or more on their cards (Visa Signature average spend is approximately $27,600 a year). Merchants actually pay 14% more per transaction vs a regular Visa or Signature card.

The whole purpose of this card is to take share from American Express,” said James McCarthy, Visa senior vice president for consumer-credit products. They may be a ways away, according to a 2007 survey in Europe, Centurion cardholders spend 11.5 times more (see demographics) than the typical American Express card member, and on average have income in excess of 1M a year.

Combine urban myth and Black Card allure with Visa salivating over American Express and Centurion Card premiums and what do you get? The Visa Black Card.

Visa Black Benefits vs American Express Centurion Card Benefits

In our initial comparison of the Visa Black Card and American Express Centurion Card we observed that luxury plastic is no longer, well, plastic (although it sure seems that way); The question still remains how truly exclusive the Visa Black Card is? Time (and our readers) will tell, but as stands, 1% of the population is somewhat “undefined” other than by credit record, and other private information (Barclay’s has yet to clarify what this actually means), while American Express has some hard limits, e.g. you have to spend $250,000 on a Platinum Card to qualify, no getting around that. Outside of exclusivity, luxury credit cards aim to offer “new levels of service” for their “elite clientele”  while providing “unique experiences” and unusual “discounts and amenities“. Below, we’ve put together a detailed comparison chart of the Visa Black Card compared to American Express Centurion Benefits. What stands out most is the automatic membership and hotel/airline elite access gained with the Centurion Card, which is nonexistent on the Visa Black Card; Of course, the Visa Black Card only runs $495 a year, compared to the $2500 a yearfor the Centurion Card. At current it appears the Barclay’s Black Card is sorely lacking in many areas where American Express is not, and the card itself is more comparable to the American Express Platinum Card ($450/year membership).

American Express Platinum Card

VISA Black Card vs AMEX Centurion Benefits

No Pre-Set Spending Limit (Limit Based on Individual) N Y
CONCIERGE (24/7/365) Y Y
Personal Assigned Concierge Y N
Full service, 24/365 travel agency and concierge Y Y
Centurion Destinations Vacations Bonus points and credits for booking Y NA
Frequent Flier Programs Y N
Continental Airlines Gold Y N
Delta Airlines Gold Y N
Virgin Atlantic Airways Gold Y N
US Airways Platinum Y N
International Airline Program (complimentary companion tickets) Y N
Private Jet Services Program Y N
Airport Lounge Programs Y N
American Airlines Admirals Club lounges Y N
Continental Airlines Presidents Club Y N
Delta Crown Room Club Y N
Northwest Airlines WorldClubs Y N
Priority Pass (access to over 450 airport lounges) Y Y
Virgin Atlantic Clubhouses Y N
Automatic Baggage Insurance Coverage
Up to 3,000 loss or damaged carry-on Y N
Up to 2,000 beyond Common Carrier coverage for checked bags Y N
Travel Accident Insurance (Death and Dismemberment) Y N
Car Rental Elite Status Membership Y N
Avis Presidents Club Y N
Hertz Gold Y N
Car Rental Loss and Damage Insurance Plan Y N
Limousine Program Y N
Centurion Cruise Credits
$500 shipboard credits for cruises booked through Centurion Travel Service Y N
Receive additional upgrades and amenities (cruise partner specific) Y N
Annual Reward $100 credit to book a cruise or land vacation via CTS. Y NA
Private Yacht Program Access and Special Amenities ($750 or more) Y N
Fraser Yachts Y N
International Yacht Collection Y N
Fine Hotels & Resorts Y NA
Centurion Hotel Privileges Y N
Peninsula Y N
Aman Y N
Orient Express Y N
Mandarin Oriental Y N
Ritz-Carlton Club Y N
Centurion Villas Y NA
Exclusive Resorts (25 destinations worldwide) Y NA
Abercrombie & Kent Villas Y N
Beautiful Places Y NA
Four Seasons Residence Clubs Y N
The Mansion at MGM Grand Y N
Villas of Distinction Y NA
Centurion Destination Vacations Y NA
Hotel Elite Status Y N
Hilton Family of Hotels (HHonors Gold) Y N
InterContinental® Hotels and Resorts (Priority Club – Platinum) Y N
Starwood® Hotels & Resorts Worldwide (SPG) Y N
Club 5C Relais & Châteaux Y N
24/7 Medical, Legal, Financial, and other Emergency Assistance. Y Y
Arrange Transfer to Medical Facility by Air or Ambulance Y N
Prescription Replacements Y N
Emergency Hotel Check-in Y N
Immediate Cash Access Y N
Lost Luggage Recovery and Tracking Y Y
Stolen passport assistance Y N
Emergency cancellation and Replacement Y N
Emergency Translation Services ? Y
Foreign Protocol information ? Y
Message Service ? Y
Computer rental, audio/visual rental equipment ? Y
Check Cashing Privileges up to 10k/month Y N
Order foreign currency and fee-free Travelers Cheques by phone Y NA
Access to special seats Y Y
Special invitations to exclusive events Y Y
Reservations at remarkable restaurants Y Y
Services of Professional Concierge Y Y
By Invitation Only (sports, performing arts, business symposiums, etc) Y N
Centurion Dining Reservations (tables held at restaurants for cardholders) Y Equivalent
Premium Seats (reserved seats)
Sports Events Y Y
Entertainment Events Y Y
Live Concerts at venues in LA/NY Y Y
Platinum Lounge Access at Staples center in LA Y NA
Access to American Express Gold Card Events Y NA
Space Adventures’ Spaceflight Club Membership Y N
Magazine Subscriptions
Black Ink Y N
Departures Y N
Equinox Fitness Clubs
Centurion member rate Y N
Complimentary Personal Training Sessions Y N
Spa Treatments Y N
Guest passes Y N
Kids’ club Y N
General Escalated Shopping Privileges Y Y
Assistance with finding speciality items, rare, research Y Y
Bergdorf Goodman (close store for private shopping) Y N
Gucci Y N
Neiman Marcus Y N
Sony Cierge Y N
Extended Warranty Y N
Fraud Protection Guarantee Y Y
Purchase Protection Plan Y N
Points Programs Y Y
Membership Rewards First Program Y Equivalent
Tour GCX13 Membership with benefits ($150 credit) Y NA
Special Free Luxury Gifts Y Y

*We are not fully aware of all Visa Black Card services offered quite yet, and will update as we learn more as our readers get the card and submit info.

15 Responses to “The Visa Black Card vs American Express Centurion Card (in depth comparison/review)”

  1. Mark Carney says:

    There is no comparison between the Centurian Card & The Visa Black card, BUT it’s nice to have the Visa Black as a back-up when a merchant does not accept American Express. It’s also nice to have a bank card anyway. I also like the fact that the American Express Black card is not a credit card but a charge card while the Visa black is a credit card.

  2. D. Canada says:

    I recently had 4 American Express accounts, 2 credit accounts and 2 Platinum charge accounts (1 personal and 1 business). My personal credit as reported by Experian was “Excellent” and all accounts were in great standing which included paying off over $21,000.00 monthly on my Platimum accounts over the past few years. That equates to over $250,00 per year. I had heard about the Centurion card and wondered if I would “get the invitation”, since I met certain qualifications I had read about. Recently my bank erroneously stopped one of my online payments. AmEX immediately cancelled all of my accounts. Up until that point, I always had a pleasant experience when dealing with any AmEx customer representatives. Under the current credit crisis, I knew there was a reasonable explanation and AmEx was just being cautious. But when I called regarding the bank error, I was told by the representative that the cancellation was also due to multiple late payments and poor credit. I was completely dumbfounded. After speaking to numerous people at AMEX in efforts to help resolve the problem, I had my bank submit a letter taking full responsibilty for their error and I also submitted a current copy of my “excellent” credit report. I even had an AmEx representative verify there were no “late” payments on any of my AMEX accounts. To this day, American Express has not reinstated my accounts. Ironically, a week after AmEx cancelled my accounts I received an invitation for the VISA Black Card which I gladly accepted and now possess. Barclay’s now has my quarter million dollar business.
    American Express- LEAVE HOME WITHOUT IT!!!!

    • Hando says:

      If you’re in Canada, as you state – your story has factual errors including certain things you mentioned, which would not be the case (or not exist) in Canada…

      • D. Canada says:

        Where did I state I was in Canada? I am in the U.S.

        • Hando says:

          Your “name” is “Canada”…

          And by the way, there is no “invitation” for the centurion card. You simply spend the 250k and then call to apply for the upgrade. Nobody will call you or invite you.

          • Jay says:

            thats not true. I never called about the centurian amex card. An invitation was sent by courier to my office. I dont even spend that type of money on my amex. Funny thing is, I do spend it like that on my visa, and no one has offered me the black visa so far.

    • Chris C. says:

      You are not alone. I too had an excellent payment history with American Express. American Express apparently thought differently and proceeded to reduce my credit line without notice. Needless to say I was very upset when I went to make a purchase and the purchase was denied because my of my reduced credit line. American Express is no longer my preferred card.

  3. Jim says:

    Do you folks really have time to post about a credit card?

  4. Paul says:

    Your wasting your time with the VISA Black Card – all show and no go. You can get a B of A Accolade card for about half the price and twice the benefits, or an AMEX Platinum for the same fee and more rewards/prestige. ITS A GIMMICK – DON’T BE SUCKED IN!!!!

  5. JB says:

    I’ve had the Visa Black Card for close to a year. I don’t think I will renew, in fact, I feel like a bit of a sucker for accepting their offer.

    First the facts: 1) low credit limits. I occasionally spend more than $100,000 a month with my AMEX Platinum and Blue Cards and I was only offered a $50,000 line with VISA. 2) Aiport Club Access. You only receive 2 free visits with the Visa Black and will be charged for subsequent visits. This was quite misleading. You recieve unlimited visits using the Amex Platinum. 3)Visa Black offers 1% cash back. Gee, Amex Blue offers 5% on gas and groceries and Amex Blue is free!

    The confusing and wow factor. Here were some of the comments I’ve received in using the card: “We don’t accept American Express.” (They thought it was the AMEX Black card.) “Black Card! I gots to get me one of dem.” (Caribbean store clerk.) I still chuckle at that one. But, I still don’t think I will renew.


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