American Express Black vs. Platinum: An Overview

Founded in 1850, American Express (AXP) is a financial services company that is best known for its line of traveler's checks, credit cards, and charge cards. Two of its most popular cards are the Black and Platinum Cards. Both options are charge cards which means the cardholder doesn't get charged interest but must pay the full balance when they receive the statement. But the two have some key differences. The American Express Black card is a high-end, exclusive charge card that is only available to individuals on an invitation-only basis. Consumers may qualify for the American Express Platinum card based on their credit score and income. Keep reading to find out what each card offers and how they differ.

Key Takeaways

  • The Black Card is an exclusive charge card offered to high-net-worth individuals by invitation only.
  • Prospective Platinum Card cardholders may apply online and must meet minimum eligibility requirements.
  • The Black Card has a hefty $10,000 initiation fee, a $5,000 annual fee, and offers many travel perks.
  • The Platinum card only has a $550 annual fee with many travel-related perks, and cardholders can earn points for every dollar spent.

American Express Black Card

The American Express Black Card isn't available to just anyone. It's a charge card that's offered to high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs) through an invitation. Think of it as an exclusive club. This means you can't just apply to join. Also referred to as the Centurion Card, it's easy to recognize thanks to its distinctive black color and American Express Centurion. The card itself is made of anodized titanium and weighs almost 14 grams.

Getting an invitation generally depends on a number of factors. Although the card's webpage doesn't have any details on how people qualify for an invitation, we can wager a good guess based on reports and the cardholder agreement. In order to receive an invitation to be considered you likely must spend at least $250,000 on other American Express cards each year. Some reports mention you also need at least $1.3 million in annual income, although other reports speak of Black cardholders who merely earn mid-six-figure salaries.

Having enough disposable income allows the cardholder to maintain the hefty fees associated with the card. According to the cardholder agreement, the Black Card comes with a whopping $10,000 initiation fee and a $5,000 annual fee. Most of the high-end benefits are travel-related. You get Platinum Medallion status on Delta Air Lines, 24/7 concierge service, President’s Club status at Avis which entitles you to upgrades, airline fee rebates, and access to various airport lounges—including Amex's own Centurion Lounges—to name a few.

American Express Platinum Card

You don't have to be as elite or nearly as much of a big spender to apply for the American Express Platinum Card. Unlike the Black Card, you can easily apply for the Platinum option on the American Express website. If you're a Gold cardholder who regularly charges a reasonable amount of money on the card and pays on time, you'll likely receive an application.

American Express is not secretive about this card as it is with the Black Card. The Platinum Card is the next step up from the Gold Card and comes with many luxury benefits. Qualifying for this card requires a very high credit score—and a lengthy credit history. Prospective cardholders also require relatively high income in order to be approved for the card, though certainly not as lofty as the Black Card.

Recently, American Express extended new payment flexibility features to its Platinum, Gold and Green consumer and business charge cards that allow cardholders to pay for purchases over $100 over time at a set interest rate as well as split up any large purchases into set installment payments over time. So, while the Platinum Card is still technically a charge card it now offers a revolving credit feature with a separate line of credit that makes it similar to a credit card if needed.

The Amex Platinum Card has an annual membership fee of $550—not nearly as exorbitant as the Black Card. The card's webpage lists more than 40 perks you receive in exchange for the high annual fee including access to Centurion, Delta, and Airspace lounges. The benefits also extend to fine hotels, free Boingo Wi-Fi, car rental privileges, and concierge services. Cardholders can earn points on every dollar spent on the card—as many as five times on travel-related transactions and one point for every dollar on regular purchases. As of February 2021, the welcome bonus for new cardholders is 60,000 points after spending $4,000 during the first six months.

Special Considerations

Both of these cards are travel cards, which means there's very little reason to hold them if you don't travel often. The high annual fee on the Platinum and the obscenely high fee on the Black Card will not pay for themselves unless you are a frequent traveler.

If you spend a lot of time at 36,000 feet and a lot of your nights in hotels, the Platinum card offers most of the perks of the Centurion.

You can get the same perks with the Platinum Card that you can with the Black Card. But the benefits that set the Black Card apart, at least according to cardholders, are diminishing. Services and reservations arranged by the concierges are reportedly sub-par and overpriced, and the customer service may often be slow.

Of course, the status symbol of holding either card has its advantages. Some people say that simply using the Black Card secured them upgrades to which they were not necessarily otherwise entitled. If you received an invitation for the Black Card, you have the opportunity to speak to an Amex representative before signing up. Ask him or her about the benefits and then ask yourself whether you'll actually use the added benefits and whether they're worth the high cost.