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Black Credit Card: What It Is & What You Need to Know

Black Credit Card: What It Is & What You Need to Know
Jason Steele

Jason Steele

Updated August 1, 2022
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Editor’s note: Lantern by SoFi seeks to provide content that is objective, independent and accurate. Writers are separate from our business operation and do not receive direct compensation from advertisers or partners. Read more about our Editorial Guidelines and How We Make Money.
Perhaps you’ve heard about the so-called “black credit card,” which is purportedly used by the ultra-wealthy to purchase all kinds of extravagant goods and services. While there is actually no one “black card,” the term has become a catch-all label for an elite credit card that has a high bar for entry, exclusive perks and benefits, alongside hefty annual fees. Is a black card worth it? And, how exactly do you get one? Read on for everything you need to know about black credit cards, from how to qualify to how they work.

What Is a Black Credit Card?

There’s no official definition of a black credit card. However, the term “black card” has come to represent a top-tier credit card that’s meant solely for high-net-worth individuals. Typically these cards are black in color and come with generous, sometimes even unlimited, spending limits. They also come with exclusive benefits, including elite status with airlines and hotels, access to airport business lounges, and 24/7 concierge services. 

How Do Black Credit Cards Work?

The card most commonly referred to as a “black card” is the American Express Centurion card, which is so exclusive you have to be invited to apply (though you can request to be considered for the invitation on their website). If you do get invited, be prepared to cough up an initiation fee of $10,000, plus an annual fee of $5,000. Benefits that come with this black card include airline status with Delta, airport lounge access, airline fee credit, a 24/7 concierge program, and automatic elite status with numerous hotel and rental car programs.Like other American Express cards (and other rewards cards), you earn reward points for spending that you can redeem for merchandise, gift cards, and travel reservations, or transferred to airline miles or hotel points. Other cards that may be considered black cards include the Mastercard Black Card offered by Luxury Card and the J.P. Morgan Reserve Card from Chase. However, the American Express Centurion is still considered the most expensive and exclusive.

Who Qualifies for a Black Credit Card?

American Express doesn’t publish the criteria for qualifying for its Centurion Card, but anecdotal reports indicate that only those who routinely spend at least $250,000 per year, and surpass other wealth and credit score criteria, will be invited to apply. With the J.P. Morgan Reserve Card from Chase, cardholders must have a minimum of $10 million in assets managed by J.P. Morgan's private bank to get an invitation. Whatever type of credit card you apply for (or get invited to apply for), it’s important to note that the Equal Credit Opportunity Act prevents card issuers from discriminating against applicants based on their race, color, religion, age, or being in receipt of public assistance.

Guide to Getting a Black Credit Card

While some existing American Express cardholders who are high spenders are invited to apply for the Centurion Card, you can also request consideration online. Anyone can apply for the Mastercard Black Card from Luxury Card, but you must be invited to apply for the J.P. Morgan Reserve Card from Chase.Other credit card issuers offer “black” credit cards that strive to mimic the allure of these exclusive cards but are not invitation-only. If you meet the income and spending requirements and other eligibility criteria of these black cards, you don’t have to wait to receive an invitation. You can apply for these credit cards just as you would for any other credit card.Recommended: A Beginner's Guide to Credit Card Requirements 

What Kinds of Perks Do Black Credit Cards Offer?

The benefits that come with black credit cards vary widely from one card to another. However, they commonly include:
  • Concierge services Most elite credit cards offer some sort of personal assistance. Often, you get access to an assistant 24/7 for help with anything from personal finances to making travel arrangements.
  • Curated rewards High-end credit cards offer rewards just like other credit cards. However, with these cards, the rewards are usually specifically tailored to the user's interests and spending habits.
  • High credit limits Elite cards come with sky-high spending limits. In some cases, the credit limit is unlimited.
  • Repayment flexibility Black cards will often offer longer periods in which you can pay your card balance without being charged interest.
  • Exclusive invites Elite cards often grant user access to invitation-only or sold-out events, including concerts and major sporting events.
  • Top tier travel benefits A black card will generally give you access to exclusive airport lounges around the world, along with comprehensive travel insurance.

Pros of Black Credit Cards

Here’s a look at some of the main advantages to having a black card.

Rewards

Like many other credit cards, black credit cards offer rewards, such as points and miles for spending that can be redeemed for cash back, airline tickets, and hotel stays.

Unique Perks

Unique benefits are where black cards really shine, as there are black card perks that aren’t available on any other card. For example, the Mastercard Black Card regularly sends cardholders gifts of luxury items.

Exclusivity

Black card holders tend to value the fact that there are few others with their card. Black cards are among the top metal credit cards that can impress merchants and onlookers when presented for payment. 

Cons of Black Credit Cards

Black cards also have some downsides. Here are some to consider.

High Costs

Black cards are the most expensive credit cards available, and it’s debatable if the costs are worth the benefits. For example, it’s great to have elite status with an airline that’s offered by the American Express Centurion card. However, the $10,000 initiation fee and $5,000 annual fee can buy a few first-class tickets and/or hotel suites, which offer the same benefits to travelers who have elite status.

Benefits Aren’t Always Exclusive

In some cases, the benefits offered by high-end (high-cost) cards are the same as regular cards that are available to everyone. For example, the rewards system offered by the American Express Centurion Card is almost identical to the rewards system offered by the less costly and less exclusive Platinum Card.

Opacity

With most credit cards, you can read all about the card’s rewards, features, and benefits online, and compare credit card rates to find the one that works best for you. But with black cards, you may find little, if any, information online.

Is a Black Credit Card Worth It?

When choosing a credit card, you may wonder whether or not a black credit card is worth it. The answer depends on the card and the cardholder. For example, one way to consider if the American Express Centurion card is worth it is to ask yourself if you consider the $10,000 initiation fee to be a lot of money. If it isn’t to you, then it may very well be worth spending it, and the $5,000 annual fee, to enjoy the card’s perks and benefits. But if $10,000 is a large amount of money to you, then you probably won’t find the card to be worth it and will likely be better off with a premium travel credit card that is less exclusive and less costly.And, just as with any credit card, getting an elite card is only worth it if you plan to use the card responsibly. Otherwise, these cards (like any type of credit card) can lead to high-cost debt that can spiral and be hard to get out from under.

The Takeaway

When people refer to the “black card,” they are typically talking about the American Express Centurion card. However, there are other similarly elite cards, including the Mastercard Black Card offered by Luxury Card and the J.P. Morgan Reserve Card from Chase. Black cards are designed for high-earning, high-spending individuals and offer carefully curated and exclusive benefits, along with high initiation and annual fees. Whatever your income and annual spending, keep in mind that the best credit card for you is typically one that offers rewards and benefits that line up with your lifestyle and spending habits, along with rates and other terms that work with your budget. With Lantern by Sofi, you can compare multiple credit card offers all in one place, and without making any type of commitment.
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Frequently Asked Questions

What are the eligibility criteria for black credit cards?
Are black credit cards free?
How much are the fees for a black credit card?
Are black credit cards actually black?
What credit score is needed for a black credit card?

About the Author

Jason Steele

Jason Steele

Jason Steele has been writing about credit cards and award travel since 2008. One of the nation's leading experts in this field, he has contributed to dozens of personal finance and travel outlets and has been widely quoted in the mainstream media.
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