Black is the New Black: The Singularity Credit Card

by Mark Simpson (Arena Hommes Plus, Spring 2008)


Do you wish your wealth was so massive, your pur­chas­ing power so dense that no light could escape from your credit card? Do you wish that, instead of just impress­ively wealthy, you were that sin­gu­lar com­mod­ity, a celebrity? That your wealth bought you the riches of cre­ation and other’s admir­a­tion without hav­ing to be, actu­ally, tire­somely spent? That air­lines, hotels and spas simply recog­nised your impli­cit worth and the pri­or­ity of your desires and promptly upgraded you, while bunging you glit­ter­ing free designer gifts?

That you never ever heard the word ‘no’?

Yes, I thought so. Well, all your impossible prin­cess wishes can come true with the American Express Centurion Card, the fam­ously ‘black’ credit card of celebs that is also a celeb among credit cards. Forget Platinum and Gold Cards, debased by the cheap credit years: the Black Card is the card of moneyed money — and its sturdy titanium design means it will sur­vive the pres­sures of the Credit Crunch. Even if you don’t.

For an annual fee of £650 ($2,500 US + one time join­ing fee of $5,000) you will receive numer­ous ‘priv­ileges’ which you and I know should be yours by rights. Including: a ‘ded­ic­ated con­ci­erge’ and travel agent, per­sonal shop­pers at stores like Gucci and Escada (you’ll need them to carry all those bags), first class flight upgrades, and free lux­ury travel insur­ance which, oh joy, includes a 28 wastrel days of winter sports — always annoy­ingly excluded from pro­ley credit card travel insurance.

And that’s in addi­tion to a wel­come aboard gift of a Canon PowerShot SD850 digital cam­era, or a $2000 Juidth Ripka gift card, com­plete with a grov­el­ling note from the CEO of Amex telling you how lucky he is to serve you and would you like your shoes tongue-cleaned or just buffed with my silk tie, Sir?

Best of all, you’ll be the pos­sessor of a card that most people have only seen fet­ish­ised on TV in shows such as ‘Entourage’ or ‘Newlyweds, Nick and Jessica’ or heard praised in RnB songs, such as Nelly Furtado’s ‘Promiscuous Girl’: ‘I smoke purple, my car white/credit card black, girl I’m alright’. Black cards are the new black, and they’re any­thing but square. Nouveau is the new cool. Again. Likewise, Obama is clearly the black card of American Democratic polit­ics — able to out­spend Gold Hillary sev­eral times over.

There is but one small, teensy-weeny grey cloud on the hori­zon of your black­spir­a­tion. In the UK the Centurion Card is by invit­a­tion only. If your fame or wealth (prob­ably at least half a mil­lion in liquid assets) hasn’t put you on Amex’s radar, you can’t have one. If it has, you prob­ably already do.

If not, be patient, Madam, please. That list, like the ones they used to use for Platinum and Gold, is length­en­ing, along with the com­pet­i­tion. Since Amex Black Card’s intro­duc­tion in 1999 sev­eral other prestige credit cards with sim­ilar bene­fits, sim­ilar priv­ileges, sim­ilar appear­ances — and sim­ilar names — have mater­i­al­ised, includ­ing Nat West’s ‘Black Card’ launched in 2002, and ‘Carbon’ from Halifax. Even Barclaycard’s ‘Infinite’ seems to sug­gest ‘black’ space/singularity. Generally, they tend to have less world-shattering fin­an­cial require­ments than Amex’s Deathstar Card.

The most ser­i­ous rival to Amex is prob­ably MasterCard’s Signia, which includes an engrav­ing of the owner’s sig­na­ture on the front — like the sig­na­ture of Manager of the Bank of England on our bank­notes, though more impress­ive. Perhaps this is why in the UK Coutts & Co., the bankers for that Elizabeth woman whose image appears on our notes, are the Signia agents with their ‘World Card’ (note the Global dominion).

Which brings us to the blue heart of the black mat­ter: being treated as inter­na­tional roy­alty — in an age in which money has done away with rank. All the black cards make much of their 24hr ‘con­ci­erge’, ‘sec­ret­ary’ and ‘per­sonal assist­ant’ ser­vices. Amex claims it has arranged for ‘a brass band to play out­side a London flat on Valentine’s Day’, for European Cup foot­ball tick­ets to be picked up out­side the sta­dium in Spain by their for­get­ful English owner, and, ‘arranged access to the Oscar’s after-party’. In other words, get one of these cards and you will be indulged by a ret­inue of flunkeys.

The black card and its dark alchemy gives your wants and whims the power to cre­ate and des­troy worlds. As one cul­tural com­ment­ator recently put it:

If I long for a par­tic­u­lar dish or want to take a taxi because I am not strong enough to go by foot, Black Card fetches me the dish and the taxi: that is, it con­verts my wishes from some­thing in the realm of ima­gin­a­tion, trans­lates them from their med­it­ated, ima­gined or desired exist­ence into their sen­su­ous, actual exist­ence — from ima­gin­a­tion to life, from ima­gined being into real being. In effect­ing this medi­ation, the Black Card is the truly cre­at­ive power.’

Actually, that was Karl Marx writ­ing 144 years ago about money. Black cards embody all the creative/managerial power of money, squared. And with none of the phys­ical vul­gar­ity of cash. Even bet­ter, you’re saved the per­spir­ing vul­gar­ity of desire itself. Possessing a black card means that your whims will be atten­ded to before you’ve even had time to whim. Your spend­ing power and trend-forming cool­ness means that cor­por­ate cul­ture will work out what it is you want and deliver it to you before you even knew you wanted it.

The black card is the Party Card of Celeb Consumerism. It proves your mem­ber­ship of the Global Élite who now rule the world.

Or at least act like they do.

Copyright Mark Simpson 2008