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Black Card History

The Black Card started out as an urban legend in the early 1980s circa 1984. It was alleged by that American Express handed out a high end ID with unusual privileges. This rumor is corroborated by a Wall Street Journal article written in 1988, despite the fact that American Express continually declined the rumor as true.

From WSJ: Suppose, for example, on a 3-o’clock-in-the-morning whim, you decided to book a round-the-world trip; American Express would accommodate you with a travel service staffed 24 hours a day. In the market for a red 1965 Ferrari? If you were a black-card holder, American Express would kick tires in the world’s fanciest used-car lots. If you remembered in Singapore that you had left your favorite suit in a Hong Kong penthouse, the company would arrange to fetch it. (full 1988 WSJ Black Card Article Here)

On October 14, 1999, publicly launched the American Express Centurion Card aka The Black Card, see original press release here. Doug Smith, director of American Express Europe said:”There had been rumors going around that we had this ultra-exclusive black card for elite customers… It wasn’t true, but we decided to capitalize on the idea anyway. So far we’ve had a customer buy a Bentley and another charter a jet.”

In 2004 in Europe and 2006 in the US the Centurion Card was switched over to Titanium from Plastic.

In 2006 American Express also raised the eligibility requirement from 150,000 annual spend to 250,000 annual spend.

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AMEX Credit Card Was Originally Purple Paper Not Black Titanium

American Express 1958 Original Card Purple PaperPaper, Plastic, Titanium, and Carbon Graphite?

Credit cards had existed prior to American Express, namely Diners Club (which was actually a paper or cardboard card that was in circulation).

The first AMEX credit card was actually introduced October 1, 1958 – American Express introduced travel-and-entertainment charge card (The original card was actually paper printed with purple ink to resemble Travelers Cheques)

The first plastic American Express appeared in the early 1960s, while their adoption had become increased as vendors found traditional AMEX booklets too difficult to manage. It was because of this that well received the new plastic cards, which used charge plate machines, thereby making transaction and record keeping easier and less error prone.

American Express AMEX First Plastic Card from 1960s

Plastic cards became dominant and remained the main player, however, it was not until 1966 that the common credit card came to, when Bank of America established BankAmerica Service Corporation to franchise the BankAmericard which then became known as “Visa“, still not black). Mastercard, originally Mastercharge, came to be in 1966 in addition, where both Visa and Mastercard credit cards were open-loop (inter-bank), and American Express was closed-loop (intrabank).

American Express took the lead again in 2004 in some parts of Europe, and in 2006 in the United States by changing their elusive BLACK CARD (formally known as the Centurion Card), to a hand crafted titanium card to replace it’s plastic ancestor. Times as changed, this isn’t your grandfather’s “purple cardboard,” although American Express Charter Members (Members since 1958) do get some special privileges.

American Express Centurion Card2008 of course brought the “Visa Black Card“, made from Carbon Fiber. The Wikipedia editors, however, did neglect to include credit cards in applications of carbon fiber (we’re kidding): “The properties of carbon fiber such as high tensile strength, low weight, and low thermal expansion make it very popular in aerospace, civil engineering, military, and motorsports, along with other competition sports.”

We’ll stick with black hand hammered titanium for now, someone update Wikipedia.

Posted in Alternate Cards, Entertainment, General, History2 Comments

Black Card Visa – Original Press Release – ThinkTank Holdings LLC Announces New Patent Pending Credit Card Venture

ThinkTank Holdings LLC Announces New Patent Pending Credit Card Venture
Oct 2, 2007

JACKSON, Wyo. — ThinkTank Holdings LLC today announced that they will be entering the high-end credit card business with their new patent pending credit card that includes carbon and/or carbon based material. The code name for the company is “Next Card” and should be available to the public soon. The name of the company will not be announced until its release date.

ThinkTank filed its provisional patent application during 2007 based on previously performed research. The original design was invented by ThinkTank’s founder, Scott Blum. This high-tech credit card will be available to individuals and corporations for an estimated annual fee of $495. It is expected to come with a 24-hour concierge service, a points and rewards incentive package as well as many other benefits.

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About ThinkTank Holdings:

Founded in October 1999 by Scott Blum, ThinkTank provides technology infrastructure, financing and management expertise to its companies. At ThinkTank, ideas are created around solutions that change or improve the way business is conducted.

ThinkTank is focused on technology, commerce, and media related industries and currently has the following companies in its portfolio: Buy.com, Yub.com, Sell.com, TechSpace, Thinkbig Media, and YogaToday. Revelocity was sold to NeoForma (NASDAQ: NEOF) in December 2002, ChannelWave was sold to ClickCommerce (NASDAQ: CKCM) in January 2005, and Commerce5 was acquired by Digital River (NASDAQ: DRIV) in December 2005.

ThinkTank is a holding company that has significant investment or control in each of its companies. The partners provide expertise in the form of capital raising, mergers and acquisitions, strategic business partnerships, legal support, business development, marketing expertise and financial management and analytics.

ThinkTank Holdings LLC is located in Jackson, Wyoming.

Visa Black

Posted in Original Press Release4 Comments

Centurion Card Holder Demographics (Pan European)

Median Age = 49
Average Household Income = $427,200 (based on 1.47 exchange rate 12/12/07)
Company Owner 63%
Plans in the next 12 months to:
Average spend on watches = $13,994
Average spend on fine jewelry = $14,597
Average spend on men’s fashion and accessories = $14,039
Average spend on women’s fashion and accessories = $16,052

Number of Cardholders based on Centurion Magazine Circulation (cardholders are automatically subscribed)
United Kingdom = 18,500
Germany = 10,500
France = 1,500
Italy, Sweden, Spain, The Netherlands = 4500
Switzerland = 2,800
Israel = 800
Turkey, Russia, Monaco, Greece, Cyprus, Middle East = 5,200
Middle East = 500
Saudi Arabia = 1,000

From: http://www.departures.com/mediakit/international08_01.cfm

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Centurion Card Holder Demographics (Pan Asia)

Based on the demographics for the Centurion Magazine subscribers, we can see a bit more on card holders in Pan Asia.

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Card Members = 14,800

Male/Female = 37%/63%

Average Age = 42

Average Gross Household Income = $537,000

Company Owner = 49%

Managing Director, Board Member = 32%

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Swiss Centurion Member Login Page

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https://www.centurioncard.ch/

Posted in Login Pages0 Comments

US Centurion Member Login Page

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http://www.americanexpress.com/centurion

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German Centurion Member Login Page

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https://www.icenturion.americanexpress.com/prospect/cent/germany/FrontServlet?request_type=Login

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The Seth Tobias affair: Hedge Funds, Cocaine, Gay Bars, Death and a Lucrative Will

Seth Tobias (April 8, 1963 – September 4, 2007) was an American hedge fund manager and financial commentator who made frequent appearances on the CNBC television programs Squawk Box and Kudlow & Company. He graduated from Boston University with a B.A. in Finance.

He was the president of Circle T Partners, a company he founded in 1996 after working for five years as portfolio manager and equity trader at JRO Associate.

Tobias’ body was discovered in the swimming pool of his Florida home; the cause of death has not yet been officially disclosed. The details of his death were widely reported in The New York Times in a major article on December 4, 2007. They included accusations of drug use, bisexual dalliances with a go-go boy and gay porn star named Lexx Parker (pictured below), and murder. Tobias’ wife was a suspect for his murder and his two brothers were left as beneficiaries to his disputed will.

Jim Cramer was actually Tobias’ boss at Goldman Sachs and was quoted as saying, with true cheesy and offkey Kramer style, “I don’t know why this hasn’t ended up on CSI Miami yet.”

To go with all the scandal in Tobias’ life, the man made, and spent, millions of dollars a year. Outstanding expenses at the time of his death included $52,532 on his Black Card, and his mortgage payment for one of his homes was $35,000 a month.

Posted in Cardholder Profiles, Entertainment0 Comments

Livin’ Large With Your Mortgage

Congratulations to America’s 44th President, Barack Obama. Oh, and congratulations to us for predicting that he would become president, on 50% odds of being right. But anyway, now that that’s out of the way and our country will be run better, on to another topic.

Did you know that you can make mortgage payments with your Black Card? That’s right. I said it, you can earn rewards using your Centurion card with a nominal fee of $395.00 for setting up the program with your card. Now, you might be questioning why you’d pay your mortgage with a credit card, but remember even with the low interest rates of your mortgage, if you pay your Black AMEX bill diligently you will actually be earning loads of rewards points and actually profiting from the practice. Although, the rewards for the program amount to about 1%, so after charging $39,500.00 of mortgage payments you start to get money back.

Beware, though, you wouldn’t want to have a false sense of cash-flow from using your Centurion card for such purposes if you don’t have the means to pay it off promptly. This really only benefits Black AMEX cardholders with high mortgage payments and the ability to pay-off their Black Card balance promptly!

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Black AMEX Basics from the Media

For anyone who doesn’t know, here’s a clip that describes some of the basics behind Black AMEX, followed by a clip of a cardholder opening a new Black Card fresh from the mail.

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

Starting in the 80’s, there was a rumor that American Express had a privileged card for the wealthy elite that could be used for luxurious lifestyle perks. However, the rumor didn’t become reality until 1999 when the Black AMEX was born.

The Black Card has worked its way into pop-culture: it’s all over the Internet, mentioned in lyrics by hip-hop artists, written about by major media. If you live in America you live in a country that is obsessed with status and money.

Officially named the Centurion card, Black AMEX has a joining fee of 5,000.00 USD and an annual upkeep fee of $2,500.00 USD. However, the card is by “invitation only.” Of course, the invitation assuredly comes with spending at least $250,000.00 USD in one year and then paying off that money by the end of that year. Further, you already need to have an AMEX Platinum or Gold card, and naturally an exceptional credit score. Once you have met all of the requirements American Express sends you a box containing the card even when you don’t specifically request it.

Initially, the card was standard black credit card plastic. However, since 2006, American Express has been manufacturing the little beauty using anodized titanium. This gives the card a substantial, heavy feel, which reminds you of the fact that you’re not using just any ordinary credit card when making purchases with it.

As for some of the benefits of being a Black AMEX cardholder, you get a dedicated concierge and travel agent. The concierge services allow cardholders to submit requests for tickets, dinner reservations, and shopping research worldwide. Just as there is no limit to the card itself, there is no limit to the requests you can make of the concierge, so long as you have the means to support your ideas.

Another perk of the card is complimentary companion airline tickets on international flights, personal shopping assistants at selected retailers, access to VIP airport clubs, automatic first class flight upgrades, membership in Sony’s Cierge personal shopping program, and memberships in various elite shopping clubs. Moreover, there are special hotel benefits including free extra nights or upgrades, and the occasional arbitrary gifts given throughout the year. Some members have received surprise gifts such as Canon PowerShot SD850 digital cameras, $2000.00 USD Judith Ripka gift cards, $1000.00 USD Van Cleef & Arpels gift cards, tote bags, Gucci gift cards, $1000.00 USD Mikimoto gift cards, and the list goes on.

Why would American Express spoil its elite members so? Because their wealthiest cardholders are their lowest-risk members while simultaneously generating the highest profits on an individual basis. However, given the rare breed of Black AMEX holders, there are only an estimated 20,000 cards in existence.


Posted in Welcome Kits0 Comments

Dubai First Royale World MasterCard – Original Press Release

Dubai: 12 October, 2008Dubai First, the consumer finance company of Dubai Group, a member of Dubai Holding, today announced the Royale MasterCard®, its signature payment card offering, has been awarded the ‘Best Premium Programme – Credit Award’ by MasterCard Worldwide, a leader in advancing global commerce.

The Royale card program, the first diamond embedded MasterCard credit card in the region, was recognized at the MasterCard Worldwide APMEA (Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa) Product Forum 2008, which was held in Singapore between 7 and 8 October 2008. Dubai First was among a handful of UAE-based financial institutions that have been acknowledged by MasterCard for their excellence in delivering innovative products and services.

Accepting the award at a ceremony in Singapore, Ibrahim Al Ansari, CEO of Dubai First, said:

Dubai First and MasterCard Worldwide share an enriched business relationship that spans across several payment products. Among them, the Royale MasterCard remains our signature product, and one that represents the exclusivity of our offering. We are honored to receive this special commendation from MasterCard.

Launched in November 2007, the Royale is the only credit card in the South Asia, Middle East and Africa region embedded with a certified diamond set within a distinctive metal crest. Elegantly designed, the Royale is a sophisticated black card that is available by invitation only.

Created by Dubai First to address the unique needs of ultra high net worth individuals, the card has set new standards in the world of luxury credit cards through its unique services and benefits such as a Personal Relationship Manager and a Lifestyle Manager who provide essential support to every lifestyle aspect, from booking jets to arranging invitations to exclusive openings around the world.

For a person on the go, it meets last-minute requests, while offering insider information on select events through its global network. Dubai First has also put in place a substantial package of services like preferential packages for yacht charters, reservation services at the top restaurants around the world, VIP accesses to the top equestrian events, and much more.

Ravi Bhardwaj, Country Manager UAE, Dubai First said:

“The launch of the Royale World MasterCard signaled a new era in credit cards in the region. Highly differentiated from other premium cards, Royale represents an aspiration rather than just a lifestyle. Dubai First is proud to receive acknowledgment from its peers for Royale, and we look forward to introducing more innovations in the region’s consumer finance segment.”

Eyad Al Kourdi, Country Manager, UAE, MasterCard Worldwide said:

The Dubai First Royale World MasterCard credit card is a great example of how MasterCard works closely with our customer financial institutions to develop differentiated payment offerings that will appeal to the evolving lifestyle needs of the affluent consumer of today. We are delighted to present this award to Dubai First for the Royale World MasterCard credit card program, the second set of payment products launched by Dubai First just less than a year ago. We look forward to working closely with Dubai First as they continue to meet their vision in becoming a leading player in consumer finance across the Middle East and North Africa.

The MasterCard Worldwide APMEA Product Forum is an annual event, during which MasterCard honors its customer financial institutions from around the region for their excellence in promoting growth, technology and innovation in the payments industry.

Dubai First

Dubai First is the first consumer finance company of Dubai Group, established by Dubai Holding.  Dubai First was launched as a result of extensive research into the regional finance industry, which revealed that the market is heavily over banked but severely under served. Dubai First aims to fill this gap and distinguish itself by being a customer-focused, service-oriented consumer finance player. Dubai First’s vision is to be market leader in consumer finance in the region.The strategy of the organization is to establish a center of multi-functional excellence in the UAE and leverage this to enter new markets. Dubai First currently offers credit cards and personal loans, with. Its signature product is the Royale MasterCard from Dubai First, an invitation-only sophisticated black card, fringed with a golden metallic border and embedded with a certified diamond set within a distinctive crest. For more information, please visit www.dubaifirst.com

Posted in Original Press Release2 Comments

U.K. AMEX Survey shows Value for Money #1

One of the top trends in the high-end is experience which includes cars, boats, planes, homes, travel, dining, learning.

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A recent study by American Express U.K. found that their Centurion card holders seek vacations with “value for money” first and secondly seek “self-fulfillment and learning”. Traveling for dinner? 85% of the surveyed responded in planning international travel specifically for a meal. There, however, is little requirement for this, as more than 3/4 of cardholders plan to hire a personal chef in the future.

http://blogs.wsj.com/wealth/category/experiences/

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Jason Boyer @ Crown Wine Cellars in Hong Kong, April 24, 2008

Jason Boyer, managing director at Cantor Fitzgerald (Hong Kong) Capital Markets Ltd., pulled a matt- black American Express Co. card from his wallet and clinked it against a wine glass.

“Look at this thing, feel the weight of it: pure titanium. Indestructible,” said Boyer, 39, the biggest buyer at Hong Kong’s first wine auction in a decade. “If I die in a plane crash, this thing would survive me.”

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Posted in Cardholder Profiles, Entertainment1 Comment

Redeem Some of Your AMEX Points on Some of These Luxury Items

With the holidays fast approaching, and all those points you have been racking up on your Black Card, why not redeem for some flashy rewards this year?

If you don’t feel like watching the video above, some of your options for new AMEX rewards include a Lamborghini, items from Tiffany & Co., Neiman Marcus and Chopard.

Specific Options:

  • Davidoff Black Leather Cigar Case (20,500 points)
  • Baccarat Grand Bordeaux Wine Tasting Glass Set of Two (22,500 points)
  • Roundtrip Business Class Ticket on EOS Airlines (NYC to London) (85,000 points)
  • On-Demand Private Jet Service (384,000 points)
  • Chopard “Ice Cube Collection” 18K White Gold and Diamond Watch (93,200,000 points)
  • 12-month Lamborghini lease (10,500,000 points)

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Priority Pass

Centurion Members get automatic membership to the Priority Pass program.

Priority Pass is the world’s largest VIP lounge VIP program with access to over 500 airport lounges in 90 countries and over 275 cities. Lounges include a range of refreshments, facilities for business, conference rooms, phones, fax, e-mail, internet access.

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http://www.prioritypass.com/

Posted in Experiences, Information2 Comments

Departures Magazine

Leave your centurion card at home, both centurion card and platinum card members get Departures magazine. Departures is an exclusive lifestyle magazine published by American Express that only available to card holders. Richard David Story is the Editor-in-Chief.

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Posted in History, Information0 Comments

Black Ink (formerly a magazine with no name)

Black Ink used to be a magazine with “no name” from it’s start in 2004. It was the magazine received alongside Departures magazine which Platinum cardholders receive as well.

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However, starting in spring of 2007, the magazine was officially titled Black Ink. European, Asian, and Austrailian Centurion card holders will still receive Centurion Magazine.

Posted in History1 Comment

Centurion Magazine is issued by Journal International

Centurion Magazine was only issued for UK, ICC, Germany, Switzerland, Hong Kong Centurion members. Here are some photos.

Hong Kong Versions:

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UK Versions:

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Leading Hotels of the World (2006)

Membership to the Leading Hotels of the World program for international card holders circa 2006.

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http://www.lhw.com/

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