Jaci Stephen: 'Expensive, with no benefit whatsoever – I had to have a Centurion'

Way Out West

Share
Related Topics

Here's the dilemma. I can't afford it, I don't need it, and waving a bit of titanium around in Beverly Hills 90210 just because I can, won't impress any of my friends.

So: do I shell out £1,800 pa for the new, all-singing, all-dancing American Express titanium black card that I currently pay £650 pa (black plastic) for?

It's a brilliant marketing ploy. Ever since I was promoted to be a holder of the exclusive black Centurion card over 10 years ago, I have spent month after month whingeing that I don't get my money's worth from it.

Retailers in the UK don't like Amex, anyway. Invariably, they charge customers 5 per cent on top of what they purchase, as opposed to Mastercard's 2 per cent, because Amex charges them more in the first place.

When the Centurion book comes through every quarter, my friends and I spend hours on the phone, laughing about the dozens of things on which we have no intention of spending the hundred million points we have managed to accumulate.

The new deal arrived in a box the size of a multi-storey car-park, though a hundred times more beautiful. There were ribbons and recesses that kept me occupied for hours while I read through all the wonderful things that, as a Centurion card holder, Amex had decided to offer me.

Just off the top of my head: Gold membership to enable me to use the spectacular Virgin Atlantic Upper Class lounge at Heathrow (which I get anyway with my ticket); Eurostar lounge access (which, again, I get with my Carte Blanche Eurostar card); Priority Pass membership to other lounges (which I get with my Coutts World card); travel insurance (ditto); Starwood Preferred Guest membership (free).

So many things I already had, or didn't need, or want. And here's the rub: as a result of all these great new redundant services, Amex was putting up the price to £1,800 pa. Disgraceful.

So, naturally, seeing no benefit whatsoever, but recognising that the card I didn't want was suddenly even more exclusive than it had hitherto been (ie, even fewer people wanted it than they did before), I had to have it.

I got in touch with some friends who had the old black card (plastic – so passé!) and discussed our options. We all spend a lot of time in the US, where you have to spend about a million dollars a year just to get a black Amex, so wouldn't we be improving our social status on the other side of the Atlantic if we had the new one?

If we travelled Virgin Premium Economy, we could save about a grand a flight and still be able to use the lounge with the Centurion card.

Then there was the automatic travel insurance: up to £5m. So, if you got too drunk in the lounge and wrecked it, injured a couple of passengers and hospitalised yourself in the process, the card would cover everything.

In southern California, the cards you carry mean far more than they do to people in the UK. I have it on good authority that Sir Richard Branson, for example, has only a green, no-fee Amex, but then he doesn't have to lie awake at night worrying about whether he is going to make it past security into the Virgin lounge. But when you produce any kind of card in LA, it is examined along with the rest of your attire. Anything blue guarantees you mediocre service; gold means aspirational but unable to afford platinum (ie, good service, but you are made aware of your relatively lowly status); platinum gets you terrific service, but is laughed at (everyone knows the benefits are no better than gold – except the platinum card holders, who live under the delusion they are going to the Oscars next year with 2,000 points); and black gets you anything you want. In theory.

Centurion staff have been very good in counselling me, but really: Who needs the stress? Who needs the card? Call me a TIT (Titanium Insane Traveller), but I do. The pain of knowing I wouldn't have it is far worse than the pain of calculating how much I need to spend to make it pay its way. That's why Mr Branson is rich – and green – and I'm not.

See you in the lounge, Richard. I'm the tit waving the £1,800 bit of metal.



To read Jaci Stephen's blog in full, go to LAnotsoconfidential.blogspot.com

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Junior DBA (SQL Server, T-SQL, SSIS, SSAS) London - Finance

£30000 - £33000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Junior DBA (SQ...

Business Anaylst

£60000 - £75000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: Business Anal...

Senior Project Manager

£60000 - £90000 per annum + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Global leading Energy Tra...

Associate CXL Consultant

£40000 - £60000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: CXL, Triple Po...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the nation on the country's Independence Day in New Delhi, India  

With Modi talking tough and Sharif weak, the India-Pakistan love-in could never last

Andrew Buncombe
At the time of the investigation Patrick Foster published a statement on Twitter, denouncing the “unnecessarily heavy-handed police investigation”  

Long-term bail allows lazy police and prosecutors to leave cases to gather dust

Oliver Wright
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment