American Express Black vs. Platinum: What's the Difference?

American Express Black vs. Platinum: An Overview

Founded in 1850, American Express (AXP) is a financial services company 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 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.
  • The Platinum Card is one tier lower. Prospective 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 has a $695 annual fee with many travel-related perks, and cardholders can earn points for every dollar spent.
  • Besides the Black and Platinum Cards, American Express offers a line of 17 other cards.
American Express Black vs. Platinum

Investopedia / Alex Dos Diaz

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.

The Invitation

Getting an invitation generally depends on a number of factors. The card's webpage doesn't have any details on how people qualify for an invitation, while news reports have said to be invited you must use your card to the tune of a few hundred thousand dollars to around $1 million a year. Minimum annual income estimates also vary widely.

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.

Benefits

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

Applying

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 as 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.

Fees and Benefits

The Amex Platinum Card has an annual membership fee of $695—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 airport lounges. The benefits also extend to fine hotels, 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 2022, the welcome bonus for new cardholders is 100,000 membership rewards points after spending $6,000 during the first six months.

Amex Black vs. Platinum Fees
   Amex Black  Amex Platinum
Sign-up Fee  $10,000  
 Annual Fee  $5,000  $695

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.

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.

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 (Black) Card.

What Is the American Express Centurion Card?

The American Express Centurion Card is the official name of the Amex Black Card. The Black Card is a high-end, exclusive charge card issued by American Express. Platinum Card holders must meet certain criteria to be extended an invitation. The American Express Black Card comes in personal and business variants. The physical card is made of anodized titanium and weighs 14 grams, around that of a compact disc.

Who Qualifies for the American Express Black Card?

American Express does not publicly disclose the requirements to be extended an invitation to get the Black Card, except that the cardholder must be a Platinum Card holder.

There aren't any specific income requirements and even individuals with an excellent credit score and a long, positive track record with American Express may not be invited to apply. High spending isn't an official requirement either, but a good rule of thumb is that prospective cardholders need to make between $250,000-$500,000 in annual purchases across all their open Amex cards. The rest relies on the financial institution's undisclosed criteria.

What's So Special About the American Express Black Card?

The invitation-only Black Card is aimed at high-net-worth individuals who travel frequently. Starting your membership will cost you a $10,000 initiation fee, and there's a $5,000 annual fee.

The privileges of a black card include upgrades on flights, hotels, and rental cars, as well as access to exclusive airport lounges. Black cards also offer private concierge service, as well as early access to concert tickets, and there are even rumors it can provide charter jet service.


What Is the Spending Limit on the American Express Black Card?

There is no spending limit with the Amex Black Card. However, balances must be paid off in full every month.

What's the Difference Between the Black and Platinum Cards?

A solid credit score and income are necessary to qualify for the American Express Platinum card. Annual membership is $695 and cardholders get a variety of travel perks including access to Centurion, Delta, and Airspace lounges as well as benefits from hotels, car rental privileges, and concierge services.

The Bottom Line

As American Express likes to say, "membership has its privileges," and holders have said that simply using the Black Card secured them upgrades to which they were not necessarily otherwise entitled. The Platinum Card is one tier lower in costs and benefits, and it has a variety of travel perks. For the rest of us, American Express offers a line of 17 other cards.

Article Sources
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