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Platinum Birthday

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The first card to go platinum is no longer a teenager. The “American Express Platinum” card is celebrating its 20th anniversary this week. When the by-invitation-only card was launched in 1984 it set a new standard in cards issued to affluent Americans. While the card has always carried a big annual fee ($300-$395 per year today), it has consistently delivered a high-end package of benefits such as free companion airline tickets, complimentary airport VIP club access, preferred membership in car rental and hotel programs, plus a comprehensive suite of entertainment benefits and insurance benefits. The platinum card came under assault in 1996 when MBNA and First USA began issuing a platinum VISA and MasterCard. The launch of the new bank-issued platinum cards was met with a trademark infringement lawsuit filed by American Express in September 1996. AmEx eventually lost the lawsuit as the court ruled the term “platinum” was generic. Since 1996 the word “platinum” has been greatly tarnished as some banks now issue platinum cards with very low credit lines and with the minimum benefits provided by VISA and MasterCard. The vast majority of VISA and MasterCards also carry no annual fee. AmEx continues to issue platinum cards and has expanded the card into its business card lineup. AmEx has been able to maintain its high fee because those that know, well . . . know the difference. But the widespread dilution to the perceived value of the “Platinum Card” gave way in 1999 the introduction of the AmEx “Black Card” or “Centurion Card.” The by invitation-only card, which now carries a whopping $2,500 annual fee, offers the ultimate in card enhancements. Among the high-end features of “Centurion” are special shopping privileges at Sony, Escada, Harry Winston, Ferragamo, Neiman Marcus, and Saks Fifth Avenue, including personal shopper services, invitations to exclusive events, free consultations, and private shopping hours. The “Centurion Card” or “Black Card” is offered by invitation only to very high volume “Platinum Card” members. For more information visit: “http://www.americanexpress.com”:http://www.americanexpress.com

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