I had one terrible experience with AMEX Optima card, and I wrote a nasty review on it. However, I recently changed my view on AMEX. The major reasons are that my father recently upgraded to AMEX Centurion Card and appraised this card a lot, and that he gave me a Centurion Card as a family member card and I am very much satisfied with their service.
Note that I recognize the major potential problem with this card is the annual fee. But since my father kindly paid for my Centurion Card ($500) as well as his own card ($1000), I am not very sensitive to the cost part.
First of all, you cannot find this card on AMEX's web site, because this card is by invitation only. For those who are interested in this card before receiving the invitation, I would like to show their press release page at the URL:
AMEX Centurion Card comes with a lot of nice benefits and rewards including all those which come with their platinum card. Let me go to the details:
Since AMEX is originally for travelers, the major benefits and rewards are traveler-friendly. Let's go to the details.
* Upgrade to Concorde
You can fly on the Concorde with no additional cost when you buy full-fare, first-class transatlantic ticket from British Airways. (However, I am not sure if this is still effective. The Concorde is not flying any more after the notorious accident. Right??)
* Complementary upgrades with Continental Airlines, Delta Air Lines, TWA, and US Airways:
With AMEX Centurion Card, you can enjoy sheet upgrades, priority check-in and boarding without any additional cost. When you are a frequent traveler, and fed up with the long waiting lines, this benefit is simply great. Also, you can earn the mileage at faster speed such as gold or preferred members.
* Access to clubs at airports (Continental, Northwest, and TWA):
This is just for those who want to spend the time efficiently at airports. But if you are such type, you can save a lot of money, because the fees for accessing the clubs are usually somewhere around $300 per year.
* Complementary upgrades at Starwood (Sheraton, Westin, etc), Hilton, and Hyatt:
This benefit doesn't end only with room upgrades. You can also earn the points at these groups at Gold or Preferred member status. If you are a frequent traveler who love staying at nice hotels, this program is very beneficial. These hotel groups' program is very easy to accumulate the points enough for free stays. You can eventually get paid a lot more than Centurion Card's annual fee.
* Complementary upgrades at Ritz-Carlton, Four Seasons, and a lot of other accommodations.
If you are a Centurion Card holder, they assign a personal concierge assistant for you. Your personal assistant will do almost anything you can imagine for you. If you are a very busy person without the own personal secretary, this concierge service will be for you. I have not used this service much yet, but I got a nice impression.
* Special privileges at Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue
You can enjoy some exclusive offers from these department stores. Also, if you love to shop around at these department stores, you can accumulate the reward points at AMEX at 50% faster.
This benefit includes free consultations and reduced investment fees. This service is nice but not very much. If you are wealthy enough to become a original Centurion Card holder, I am sure that you are receiving a lot of invitations from financial institutes.
When I surfed around the internet to check out the reputation on Centurion Card, I often saw the comments that the personal assistance service was getting worse and worse. Because I am not a long card holder, I couldn't see the difference. Moreover, as the matter of fact, I am very happy with their service. I am sorry for those who had bad experience. And if you are seriously thinking about to upgrade your card to Centurion Card, you should do more extensive research to see if the additional benefits are enough rewards for the higher cost.
Let me be more specific. If you are already a platinum card holder, and very satisfied with their service (especially the point reward program and the emergency rescue service), your additional benefits by upgrading your card are travel support program and the personal concierge service. If these are not your primary issues, you might as well stay with your platinum benefits with less cost.
I was very lucky that my father gave me Centurion Card without charging anything on me. I personally would recommend my friends who travel a lot to go with Centurion Card, because I believe if you use this card a lot, the monetary values of the benefits accumulate a lot, and eventually you will get much more than what you pay to AMEX.
Nevertheless as I repeated above, this card's fee is very high (US$1000 per year). Before upgrading your AMEX card to Centurion Card, you should seriously check out if this card fits your life style.
FYI: My review on AMEX Optima card is at the URL:
Note that I wrote this negative review BEFORE I obtained my Centurion Card. My impression on AMEX is positive now.
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