Whether you're after a prestigious card for the perks or the status, these cards are renowned for their exclusivity. These unique benefits usually come at the cost of a large annual fee, though. This guide compares some of the most prestigious credit cards in the world and breaks down the features of the American Express Centurion, one of the most exclusive cards in Australia.
American Express Credit Card Offer
Receive 50,000 bonus Velocity Points
Eligibility criteria, terms and conditions, fees and charges apply
American Express Credit Card Offer
Receive 50,000 bonus Velocity Points and up to 2.25 points per $1 spent. Plus, 2 lounge passes per year.
- 50,000 bonus Velocity points when you spend $3,000 within the first 3 months
- Up to 2.25 points per $1 spent on eligible purchases, uncapped
- 100 Velocity Frequent Flyer Status Credits
- 2 complimentary Virgin Australia lounge passes per year
The top 5 most prestigious credit cards in the world
From gold plating to solid gold, rare metals to solitaire diamonds, there is a select group of credit cards that offer both luxury and extravagance. Based on exclusivity, perks and status, these prestige credit cards are top of our list:
- American Express Centurion. Made of titanium, this Amex card is widely-acknowledged as the first and most prestigious, invitation-only black card in the world. You can learn more about this card below.
- JPMorgan Chase Palladium. Made of metal, palladium and 24K gold, this card is also issued by invitation alone to JPMorgan's private banking wealth management and investment banking clients with investments of at least US$30million.
- Dubai First Royale Mastercard. Trimmed with gold and embedded with a .235-carat solitaire diamond, this card is only offered to royalty and ultra-millionaires in the UAE.
- Coutts World Silk Card. This tastefully unembellished card is exclusively available to UK private bank Coutts clients.
- Sberbank Visa Infinite Gold Card. This card is made of gold and is adorned with .17 carats worth of diamonds – and that's before you get to any of the privileges and perks that come with it. With a reported upfront cost of US$100,000, Kazakhstan's Sberbank has only issued it to 100 of its top clients.
The American Express Centurion card
Also known as the Black Card, the exclusive American Express Centurion card has served the highest tier of American Express cardholders since 1999. Named after the iconic American Express centurion logo, this card is traditionally made of titanium and issued by invitation to the wealthiest American Express Platinum cardholders.
The American Express Centurion is so exclusive that none of this information is actually published on the company’s website. But rumour has it you have to spend US$250,000 a year on your Platinum Amex card before you’ll be eligible to receive an elusive Black Card invitation. Several years ago it was also reported that Centurion cardholders had average annual household incomes of approximately US$1.3 million and net worths of about US$16 million – figures which have likely increased since.
Features of the Amex Centurion credit card
If you’re aiming for one of these prestigious credit cards, here’s what you need to know about it:
- Invitation-only. Despite the mystery shrouding the Black Card, one thing is for sure – you can only get one of these by invitation from American Express. You must be a high income, high net-worth individual and hold an American Express Platinum card with a proven high annual expenditure.
- Fees. Fees may vary depending on the country of issue. But according to the Cardmember Agreement on the American Express website in the US, the one-time initiation fee is US$10,000 and the annual fee is US$5,000 (pdf as of 31 December 2019). It is rumoured to be the same in Australia.
- Titanium cards. Crafted out of anodised titanium metal, the Black Card is laser-etched with your account information. Amex issues the Centurion with two cards so business and personal expenses can be easily separated. A plastic version of the card is also issued in some countries, for the sake of convenience.
- No limit charge card. The Black Card is technically a charge card, not a credit card. This means that you are not charged interest on purchases and are required to repay your full balance by the due date on each statement. If you don’t, you could be charged a late fee or have the card suspended. There is no stated credit limit on the Black Card, although American Express will allocate a "spend ceiling" based on past spending and repayment patterns.
- Dedicated relationship manager. Possibly the most celebrated perk of the card, you'll also have 24/7 personal concierge services for almost anything you want, including getting you a table at the most chic booked-out restaurants, arranging your last-minute travel itinerary, or buying your kid the perfect pet – whatever you need done.
- Travel benefits. The Amex Centurion gives you access to premium airport lounges and clubs worldwide, complimentary companion airline tickets on select airlines, flight upgrades and travel insurance covers. It also offers chauffeur limousine services for overseas flights and queue-skip privileges throughout the airport.
- Automatic program upgrades. With the Amex Centurion, you are automatically upgraded and enrolled into the highest-tiers of hotel rewards programs (Shangri-La Diamond, Hilton Honors Diamond), car rentals (Hertz President's Circle, AVIS President's Club) and airline rewards (Emirates Gold, Qantas Club access, Priority Pass membership).
- Hotel benefits. This card also offers hotel upgrades and free additional nights at participating hotel chains globally. Most enviously, it also offers 12pm check-in and 4pm check-out.
- Shopping benefits. The Amex Centurion entitles you to your own personal shopper, exclusive luxury brand sales, advance tickets to exclusive events, and VIP access to practically anything money can buy.
Compare prestigious credit cards in Australia
JP Morgan Chase Palladium
Made of metal and literally minted with palladium and 24K gold, this is one card you can't take with you through the metal detectors. Although previously available by application, this charge card is now only offered by invitation to clients of JPMorgan's private banking wealth management or investment banking arms. This means you'd have to have at least US$250,000 privately managed by them.
For US$595 a year, this card offers travel perks including a full United Club membership, unlimited lounge access and Priority Pass, a strong suit of travel insurance covers, and access to private jets if you should prefer to fly that way. You'll also earn 2 points per $1 spent on travel, 1 point on all other eligible purchases, and 35,000 bonus points if you spend more than $100,000 a year.
Dubai First Royale Mastercard
Embedded with a white .235-carat solitaire diamond and trimmed with gold, this elaborate card is the Dubai Group's exclusive offering to UAE royalty and the region's top millionaires. You need more than money to have one of these – Dubai First actively seeks out its prospective cardholders among the ultra-high-net-worth folk.
The qualification and fee details of this card are almost as elusive as the card itself. Rumour has it the fee alone is AED7,000 (approximately AUD$2,500). But if you had the honour of being offered one, you could enjoy no pre-set credit limit, your own dedicated relationship manager and "Royale Lifestyle Management" services. Based on what we've read about this card, it seems you can get anything you want with it. Ask for the moon, and they'll apparently try and get it for you (or at least a shiny replica).
Coutts World Silk Card
The prestigious Silk Card offered by the Royal Bank of Scotland-owned UK private bank is exclusive to Coutts clients only – including the Queen. The charge card starts with a £20,000 (approximately AUD$33,000) credit limit, although this may differ depending on the bank's personal assessment of your finances.
The Silk Card has an annual fee of £350 (AUD$577) that's waived if you spend above £50,000 (AUD$82,500) in your card membership year. With this card, you can expect a host of insurance, travel lounge and Priority Pass perks, luxury brand offers, concierge services and exclusive memberships with hotels, airlines, jet and cruise companies.
Sberbank Visa Infinite Gold Card
If being crafted from solid gold isn't quite enough, throw in .17 carats worth of diamonds (totalling 26 stones to be precise) and some mother-of-pearl to make a card you can be proud of pulling from your wallet. Issued by Kazakhstani outfit Sberbank to only 100 of its top clients, this Visa Infinite Gold card reportedly costs a neat US$100,000 (approximately AUD$132,600) upfront. Of this money, US$65,000 is an account fee, and US$35,000 goes to the account's opening credit.
Aside from the pleasure of owning a solid gold status symbol, cardholders enjoy above US$250,000 life insurance coverage, exclusive concierge services, VIP access at some of the world's finest golf courses, luxury vacations and fast-track immigration treatment in hundreds of airports globally.
Exclusive credit cards in Australia
If your heart isn't set on a pure gold or diamond-encrusted credit card, you may be glad to know that some cards on the Australian market offer similar benefits to the cards above – including metal card options for the American Express Platinum and Qantas Premier Titanium. In fact, you may end up paying less for the same perks if you're not overly concerned with using a credit card as a status symbol. After all, in terms of value for money, some of the exclusive cards here may not really be considered worthwhile in the eyes of the prudent. Then again, you might think differently if you're worth millions of dollars.
Other prestigious cards from around the world
While the five cards above top the list for prestige, the following cards also deserve a mention for their exclusive, luxury offerings.
Eurasian Diamond Card (Visa Infinite)
This striking black card from Kazakstan features a pure gold inlaid heart with a .02-carat diamond centrepiece, and can only be obtained by recommendation of the bank's management board, or upon referral of two existing Diamond cardholders. You must also make more than US$300,000 (approximately AUD$395,000) a year to qualify.
Annual card fees range between KZT150,000 and KZT450,000 (approximately AUD$583 to AUD$1,750), depending on the size of your current bank balance. Perks include personalised concierge services, VIP airport lounge and Priority Pass access, as well as super-charged Visa exclusives such as hotel discounts, ticket pre-sales, luxury dining, spa offers and purchase protection from loss and theft.
Stratus Rewards Visa
Also known as the White Card, the Stratus Rewards Visa is often seen as the definitive card for elite jetsetters – with a rewards program that offers private jet flight-time as a redeemable reward. If you like, you could also trade your reward points in for a personal consult with a famed lifestyle expert.
To get this card, you need a referral from an existing cardmember or a Stratus Rewards partner company before you'll even be considered for an exclusive invitation. For an annual fee of US$1,500, this card will give you access to personal concierge services, discounted charter flights, complimentary car services and luxury hotel upgrades, special events and exclusive gift bags.
The Merrill Lynch Octave Black Card
Made of black metal and sporting an American Express logo on its front, the Merrill Lynch Octave Black Card is an invitation-only card that caters to the American bank's highest-net-worth clients. To qualify, you must have over US$10 million (approximately AUD$13.2 million) sitting in a Merrill Lynch account, and also be a Merrill Lynch Private Wealth Management or US Trust client.
Lucky cardholders pay US$950 in annual fees and enjoy perks including no pre-set credit limit, 2.5 rewards points per $1 spent on all eligible purchases, an annual US$350 worth of travel credit or a Delta SkyClub Executive membership, select airline and private jet flight discounts, and premium concierge services.
Santander Unlimited Black Card
This understated Black Card represents the "unlimited credit" that Brazilian Santander Group offers to its elite private banking customers. Although eligibility details are undisclosed, only about 2,000 to 3,000 cards are in circulation.
For BRL890 (approximately AUD$345) annually, card perks include high, flexible spending limits, 24/7 concierge services, VIP airport lounge access, Priority Pass, private jet discounts and the usual suite of insurance covers. You also earn 2.2 points for every $1 spent on the card.
Luxury Card Gold Card
Plated with 24K gold, Luxury Card's Gold Card is a carbon Mastercard designed with rewards in mind. Unlike the others on this list, you can apply for this card without an invitation. But does that mean it's not exclusive after all? With unpublished income requirements and a US$995 price tag, it's still considerably pricey for a card.
The perks you can expect include 2% cashback or half-priced air fare redemptions when you spend above 50,000 points on flights, US$200 in airline credit yearly, a US$100 Global Entry application fee credit, VIP airport lounge access and Priority Pass, luxury concierge services and exclusive luxury gifts.
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