One born every 100 minutes

I received a very odd “invitation” yesterday, in a stiff nearly-square black envelope with “Black Card” as its theme. (We’ve managed to stanch the flood of credit-card offers in general, which is good since they need shredding, but it’s not perfect.) As usual, opened it, if only to see which pieces included personal info and needed to be shredded.

Wowie zowie, what a card

OK, I’ve vaguely heard of the American Express “black card,” actually the Centurion card. I’ll never have one, I suspect, or much want one. I mean, $250,000 a year in spending to qualify, a $5,000 one-time initiation and $2,500 annual fees? The only times we’ve ever spent anything close to $250,000 in a year is when we’ve purchased houses, and those don’t go on credit cards.

But for the uberrich who travel a lot and like to pay full air fare, the card may be worthwile–once you’ve paid full fare, you get a freebie companion ticket. (The fact that full fare may be more than twice economy fare…never mind. These folks are flying first class anyway, and there the freebie is worth something.)

So wow, suddenly I’m eligible for a black card?

Not exactly

The Centurion is made of platinum (egregious excess is its own reward). This “black card”–offered in this case by some North American Barclays subsidiary–is a Visa made of carbon graphite.

There are some not-very-well-defined benefits, including rewards (but I already get 0.8%-1% rewards on my MasterCard and Visa) and “concierge service” (?). There’s clear snob appeal: It’s limited to 1% of the population (I’m nearly certain we don’t qualify in any case…)

Oh, and the annual fee is a mere $495–well, make that $690 for a couple who each have a card.

Hmm. If this offered 2% rewards, I’d only need to spend $69,000 a year before it started paying for itself.

Using one credit card.


Of course, it doesn’t say it will pay 2% rewards. Indeed, checking a little further, I find that it offers 1% rewards–plus unspecified “luxury gifts.” So it would take, let’s see, $690 divided by (1%-1%) equals…oops.

It’s all about status or stupidity

Well, maybe not. Apparently the 24/7 concierge service is a big thing. According to one positive review, this will help you find “12 Arabian horses for your daughter’s wedding”–the Concierge will have them flown in from Dubai.

Oh, and if you fly a lot, maybe access to Priority Pass airport clubs is worth it.

For us? Well, we’re confident enough of our net worth as people; we’re not about to spend $690 a year to show our status. And we’re lacking in sufficient stupidity to believe that this “exclusive” Black Card has anything at all to do with the Centurion card.

Your mileage may vary, if your lack of self esteem and income levels are both high enough, or if that concierge business really is worth it to you. I’m guessing the number of you who read Walt at Random is roughly equal to the denominator of the fraction above.

One Response to “One born every 100 minutes”

  1. Angel says:

    I had a bit of a laugh with this post. Talk about needing to show status for people who would want a card like that. My favorite was the line of the 12 arabian horses, because I know I just have to have those for my daughter’s wedding. No idea why, haha. Then again, I am guessing those who use the card are not the ones worried about something like a small fee.

    Best, and keep on blogging.