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. 

Amex Centurion Lounge Seattle

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)

Courtesy of American Express

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

Looking at these benefits, the Personal Platinum Card still has its benefits, but the Business Credit card is looking even more dangerous, and leaning towards cancellation territory for many members.

American Express Centurion Lounge Seattle

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.

Courtesy of American Express

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?

 

Author: Jon Nickel-D'Andrea

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25 Comments

  1. I’m SO SO SO SO SO happy for this. Praise be!

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    • The first part where you say “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”
      This is very misleading as you do t say this is for a guest and not the cardholder. I can understand why they did this. The lounges are over packed and you see many people bring in guests. A change had to happen. Don’t see what else they could have done.

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    • I’m thrilled! I spend in excess of $75k annually on the card in just airfares and hotels (5x MR points). I also benefit from other features/credits.

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  2. So, the guy who freeloads with his wife and two kids bitches about having to pay to get them in?
    Go to the Priority Pass lounge and do us all a favor

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    • I assume that wasn’t directed at me 🙂

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  3. Just ban children outright; don’t even charge them $30. Then I might sign up for a card for Centurion Lounge access.

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  4. I welcome this change and wish they would make the barrier to entry even higher. The Centurion lounges are basically useless nowadays because of overcrowding. The last time I was in LGA. Wait. LAS, a long, long wait. The lounges look dirty and picked over, there are no seats, and too many people. I am looking forward to the lounges being emptier. If you can’t charge the $75K then pay for a day pass. If you can’t pay that, eat in the food court.

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  5. It’s why I’ll be dropping Amex Platinum when mine expires in 2023. I’ll keep my $0 fee Everyday card to hold the points.

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  6. The lounges have gotten so crowded Amex had to do something. I know there was a big debate on the blogs when this was first announced. And honestly, i think cardholder getting in free and all guests costing $30-$50 is fair. Obviously a family of 5 with three kids won’t get the value out of $140. But that family is taking up the valuable real estate in the lounge. As a cardholder I’d rather all guests cost something if that means I can get in with virtually no wait.

    And lets face it, I think Amex is trying to appeal to a higher end clientele with it’s Platinum card. I think they are fine if this causes the miles/points crowd to cancel/downgrade their card.

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  7. Great development. This will dramatically cutdown on overcrowding and, hopefully, deter parents from bringing loud, undisciplined, kids into the clubs! Thank you AMEX!

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  8. I usually travel alone or with a friend who has her own card. It’s a plus for me, but I don’t agree with it completely. I would prefer a system where you got a few free guest visits per year and then after that you would pay.

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    • The problem with the guest passes is it doesn’t cut down on the 3x a year traveler. They will still bring in their 4 family members. And the issue is they only travel 3z a year, but there are 1000 of them per lounge. So the net decrease in admittance would be minimal.

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  9. I think they should make it no one gets in free without the $75k spend, even the primary cardholder. However if you do that type of spend then cardholder, 1 guest and all children under 17 can enter free.

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  10. the policy should be every entry is $50 per person charge and then AMEX give each plat customer a $500 lounge bank credit for automated offsets. so, 10 free entries. use it for yourself or for family. condition members to think $50 a pop. offer AMEX Offers incentives to juice your lounge bank credit for profitable customers. the $50 price should be adjusted up/down to achieve mostly 80% occupancy so passengers can easily use the lounge (when ready to spend $50!).

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    • Uh no. This is a travel card. Increase the annual fee to 1k and continue to allow two guests.

      Post a Reply
    • Uh no. This is a travel card. Increase the annual fee to 1k and continue to allow two guests.

      Post a Reply
  11. They clearly need to limit access to these lounges since they are overcrowded. Much like AA lounges on the Citi Exec card ruined that for many this is just about like that. This might be a deal-breaker for many platinum cardholders but everyone looks at the benefits differently. For example, I never use Uber but get free Walmart+ but everyone thinks Equinox is a waste of time.

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  12. Luckily in Seattle we’ll get a big new lounge next year to go along with this, might be a ghost town in there 🙂

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  13. I gave up hope of ever using the Amex lounge in SEA. Even when I got it, I always had a terrible time there. Why does the bar close 30 mins before the lounge and why can’t they be bothered to tell you that?

    After complaining about the Amex SEA lounge for years, I finally joined the AS lounge. Best decision. I also dropped my Amex Platinum card. Good riddance. Their lounges aren’t even that good.

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  14. This is music to my ears. The only downside is that we have to wait another year for this to take place.
    Lounges are overcrowded to the max. This will help immensely.

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  15. I travel a LOT and honestly I don’t see many kids taking up room in these AMEX lounges. It’s tons and tons of adults. So not sure how much this will really help.

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  16. The Centurion lounges are super crowded as it is, many of them have waitlists to get in. this is a welcome news for people who actually pay the $550+/year fee. Also where have you been, all of boarding area reported on this MONTHS ago lol, this isn’t some new breaking news story.

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    • Didn’t say it was breaking news. And thanks for reading!

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  17. The whole issue of access when lounges are over crowded is one of having your cake and eating it too. The generous guest policy is why lounges are crowded so bring on this new policy. Members only unless guests pay. This will reduce crowding and actually make the Platinum card worth more!

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  18. I am in favour of this. I have stopped going because of the over crowding. Many competitors are opening Lounges akin to the Capitol 1 Lounge in DFW. Other premium card companies are going to open Lounges too.

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