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In fencing, a black card is the harshest possible penalty for breaking a serious rule. It calls for the fencer to automatically withdraw from not only the current match, but the entire competition.

For certain offenses, a red card is given on the first instance and a black card is reserved for the second. The most serious offenses, though, carry with them the penalty of a black card on the very first offense.

The most common things a fencer could do to earn a black card include unsportsmanlike conduct, deliberate brutality, and outright cheating.

See the Fencing Penalty Chart for more info.
The black card is what status seekers commonly call American Express' black-colored "Centurion Card". So, throw out your green card. Throw out your gold card. Maybe tuck aside your platinum card. The ultimate status credit card, introduced in 1999, is the AmEx Black Card.

The black card has a $1,000 annual membership fee. Even if you have $1,000 lying around, don't run down to the local Denny's looking for an application form atop the cigarette machine. The card is by invitation only. Don't call them. They will call you. Who gets, shall we say, "tapped" for black card status? No one is really sure.

In general, AmEx taps long time card holders who charge over $150,000 a year and have a known high net worth (i.e., you also use an AmEx financial planner). Most original card holders (i.e., "founders") from the '60s were offered black cards initially. The criteria seems to vary between North America and the UK. AmEx UK seems to have more liberal membership criteria. It's also conjectured you're given extra consideration if you shop in the right spots (i.e., Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue). Traveling a lot helps too.

AmEx (for now) seems to have an upper limit on the number of card holders. Everyone and his dog catcher holds a pre-approved platinum card these days. Where's the snob appeal? With the black card, you're assured (for now) that you breathe rarified air. So even if you are a high spender, you might be on a secret waiting list (for now)

And what do you get for your $1,000 a year membership? Oral. Just kidding. You get a lot of travel and hotel upgrades. For example, book a flight from New York to London and you get a complimentary upgrade on the Concorde. Book a room with your black card at the Ritz-Carlton and you get an automatic room upgrade. Shop at Saks Fifth Avenue and you get a personal shopper at your disposal. Using your card to pay for certain gym memberships gets you a complimentary membership upgrade.

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