American Express Drastically Limits Centurion Lounge Access for Cardholders
In what would appear to be a race to the bottom with credit cards benefits, American Express has decided to substantially limit lounge access to their coveted Centurion Lounges for many cardholders and their families.
Starting in 2023, if you don’t spend multiple tens of thousands of dollars a year on your card, you can expect to pay a fee for every guest, including spouses and children, that you wish to bring into the lounge with you. Keep reading for all the sordid details.
What is the Centurion Lounge?
American Express runs a network of over 40 Centurion lounges across the world where, as a cardholder, you can enjoy some peace and tranquility with your friends and family before the flight.
Typically, these lounges offer elevated food options, free wifi, access to a free bar, and more importantly, an escape from the hectic airport.
Chances are there is a Centurion lounge either in your home airport, OR in an airport that you’ll transit en route to your final destination.
Current Access Policy
If you want to get into one of these lounges exclusive lounges, all you need is an American Express Platinum card or an American Express Business Platinum card. This will allow you access for you and up to two guests, free of charge, into the lounge.
You can also access the lounge if you have a Delta Reserve American Express card, but only if you’re flying on a Delta ticket.
If you have a Centurion Card (the black card) from American Express, this truly doesn’t apply to you, since you’re going to get in to any of their lounges, always, free of charge.
New Policy Effective February 1, 2023
Starting next year, all Platinum Card holders (personal and business cards) will only be allowed entry for themselves as the main cardholder. If you want to bring a guest with you, including your spouse, you will be charged $50 for the visit. If you have children from ages 2-17, they’ll be charged $30 each to come with you into the lounge.
The official terms are as follows:
U.S. Platinum Card® and U.S. Business Platinum Card® Members will be charged a $50 USD fee for each guest (or $30 for children aged 2 through 17, with proof of age). U.S. Platinum Card® and U.S. Business Platinum Card® Members will qualify for Complimentary Guest Access for up to two guests per visit after spending $75,000 in eligible purchases on their Card between January 1, 2022 and December 31, 2022 and in each calendar year thereafter.
Now, let me be the first to say it. I think that this money grab is absolutely obscene. The idea that you would have to spend $75,000 a year to get access to a lounge to get free coffee and a beer before a flight is not only absurd, it’s just plain ludicrous.
A family of four will now pay $220 extra every round trip to enter the lounge. The main cardholder is free, but $50 for the spouse (each way) and $60 for the kids (each way)
One More Negative Change Among Many
Let’s take a look at the benefits of the Business Platinum Card, and why it truly is becoming an exercise in patience to decide whether to keep or drop the card.
- $360 back at Indeed – MEH
- $150 back at Adobe – MEH
- $120 at Wireless Phone Bills – GOOD
- $200 Airline Fee Credit – GOOD
- $400 each year at Dell – MAYBE
And what about the Personal American Express Platinum Card? Do those benefits add up to keeping the card?
- $15 a month in Uber Credits – GOOD
- $155 in Walmart+ Credit – MEH
- $240 in Digital Entertainment – MEH (too limited)
- $179 for Clear Access – GOOD
- $300 for Equinox – WHY?!
- $100 for Saks 5th Avenue – GOOD
- $200 Airline Fee Credit – GOOD
How to Avoid the Fee
The obvious way is to just spend $75,000 on the card to avoid having to pay for a guest. Let me be very clear and with absolutely no gray area…
PLEASE DO NOT SPEND $75,000 ON THIS CARD IN A YEAR. THERE ARE MUCH BETTER OPTIONS OUT THERE TO PUT YOUR SPEND ON, ESPECIALLY JUST TO AVOID AN ENTRY FEE.
If you are a business owner and you have employees that travel quite a bit, you can add an authorized user to your account for $300 a year.
If you want to add authorized users to your account on the personal card, you can add up to three users for a total of $175. each user after the first three will be $175 each.
It goes without saying that this is arguably the best way to get your family into the lounge for a minimal cost.
Could this be a Good Thing?
Here in Seattle, we’ve seen waits to get into the Centurion Lounge upwards of 20-30 minutes, and many of these people were not flying alone. If this fee is enough for many of those travelers to not bring their friends into the lounge, then we could see an immediate reduction in the crowding inside the club.
Also, I have to imagine that many parents would not pay $30 PER CHILD to bring them into the lounge, especially if they only had 20-30 minutes before their flight.
As someone who doesn’t have children and often travels alone or just plus one, this could be a possible positive change next year as I see seats for me bring freed up at the expense of other business travelers or families.
What are your thoughts?
As a cardholder, which side of the fence are you on? Are you happy that there will be fewer people crowding the lounges, or are you angry that now you can’t bring in your family and kids without paying hundreds of dollars extra every trip?