[Amex Confirms] Change To Guest Policy For Centurion Lounges In 2023

Update: Amex has removed this change from its website.

Update 2: American Express now confirms these changes and underscores there’s no change to accessing anything other than Centurion lounges,

The Centurion Lounge is one of the most popular benefits of the Platinum Card. We want to make sure we continue to back our Card Members when they travel by delivering a comfortable space for our Card Members to recharge and relax, which is why we are making some changes to our Centurion Lounge guest access policy.



Currently American Express Platinum and Centurion cardholders can bring two guests into a Centurion lounge.

Starting in February 2023, only Centurion cardmembers as well as Platinum cardmembers who spend $75,000 per year or more on their card in the prior or current calendar year will continue to receive free guest access. Platinum cardmembers who do not spend that much on their card will have to pay $50 per guest.

Those who are additional cardholders on a Platinum account will still be able to enter the lounge. You can add up to 3 additional cardholders on a Platinum account for $175 per year. So if you frequently bring the same guests into the lounge it may make sense to make them additional cardholders on your account (of course you are giving them charging privileges as well – but you don’t have to give them the physical card).

On the one hand,

  • Centurion lounges are way too crowded and this should, in theory, reduce crowding

  • I have a Platinum card, my wife is an additional cardholder on my account, if we’re traveling together with my daughter who will be four when this policy goes into effect we’ll have to spend $50 to bring her in. She is very well behaved, doesn’t drink, and doesn’t eat much or even take up very much space.

When my daughter is 13 I’d consider adding her as an additional user on my account and hanging onto the card myself just for lounge visits.

I’m unlikely to put $75,000 in ongoing spend on my Platinum card unless they add significant rewards for doing so. I will give them my airfare spend, but not my hotel spend through their travel portal since I give up hotel points, earning elite status, and status recognition for the stay by doing so. And unbonused spend just to avoid a Centurion lounge guest access fee is off the table.

Without authorized users, a cardmember traveling as a family of four will need to spend $150 to access the lounge with their Platinum card. An adult with the Platinum card whose spouse is an authorized cardmember, traveling with two children under 13 will need to spend $100. And when I traveled with my daughter as a five month old she was considered one of my guests. That’s one premium kids play room!

Hat tip to One Mile at a Time who wonders whether this won’t actually reduce crowding, but re-positions the Platinum card for the introduction of a new premium card between Platinum and Centurion that will come with free guest access.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. Maybe it’s just me, but I hold a gold card and a platinum card. I would pay $750-$850 for a combo card that had the earnings structure of both, the benefits of a platinum, and guest access. That card would be top of wallet for me everywhere. I don’t even need all the benefits of the gold card (just the points earnings).

  2. Seems like a good move to me, and an opportunity to use the reset of business travel as a chance for AMEX to refocus on its core business customer. As someone who traveled for business 200+ days a year pre-pandemic, I ditched my AMEX Plat because the lounges simply were too crowded to be useful – there was no guarantee that I’d even be admitted, let alone able to do any work. It wasn’t worth the risk of wasting the time to schlep out to the Centurion lounge, get denied, and make my way back to the Admiral’s Club. Most of my colleagues felt the same way – the juice just wasn’t worth the squeeze.

    By reasserting that their focus is on the actual spending cardholder, they’ll lose a few folks (those who were bringing in tons of guests), but I bet their numbers also show that while there will be grumbling, a certain number of them will still keep the Plat for work anyhow. And they’ll probably gain new cardholders who might actually see the lounges as usable now, plus will see reduced operating costs from fewer guests consuming F&B.

  3. This is a GREAT move unless course you’re a hacker. This card was intended for people that travel extensively with a large business spend as well. I have been using my PLT since 2002 usage can meet that requirement rapidly. I can not count the number of times walking into a lounge in the middle of a business trip looking for a little peace, a snack and glass of wine only to be greeted by noisy, families with kids fingering the food line, crying etc parents that allow this. These lounges are there to reward Amex’s real card users.The stricter these card users get the better it will be for us. Having said that most of the travel related companies that have branded cards/FF programs have monetized their programs for loans.

  4. Gary, as an additional user will I be able to access the lounge independently from the primary cardholder? As long as I present the card with my name on it how would they know I am not the primary cardholder….Sounds to me like I should have access. Right?

  5. 2023 cannot come soon enough-lounges have devolved into play areas with inattentive parents swilling booze while those in the minority are actually trying to do work. I view this as a positive change, not a negative one.

  6. Plus and minus to me. I have Amex Platinum, mrs. brp does not. If this comes into play I’ll get her a Companion card for this. So, for $175, lounges may get less crowded. So, maybe a plus.

    Cheers.

  7. That would be insane for AMEX to do this, I think it will reduce the reason people obtain Platinum cards. Plus to even consider doing this to Centurian members after raising the rate to $5,000 per year is plain stupid. I spent more than 75K at this time, it would not impact me this year or next. However, the only centurian lounge I ever stayed in for more than 30 minutes was Dallas. Philadelphia is my home area, I would rather sit at Chickie & Pete’s than the lounge. Although it has been more than a year since I have been in any airports.

  8. Won’t be getting my $550 if they do this. Those of you who spend $75k annually on their plats can thank me for not using the lounges.

  9. I think that they were smart and determined that many would perceive this as being a loss, while announcing that they are raising the fee of the platinum card. Taking away a benefit at the same time as raising the fee really does not feel reasonable.

  10. The platinum card used to mean something. Now, anyone can get it.
    Raise the price to $995. Hackers disappear.
    Amex exists as a profit-making business, not a company designed to give out more value than you pay in annual fees unless you SPEND.

  11. I also as a casual flier welcome the change except it should be 2/22 not 23. Nothing is more irritating with a long layover than being denied access. Raise the fee to $995 as said above, and make me use it with some other multiplier other than airfare/ hotels booked thru amex and I will gladly keep it.

  12. You say “Those who are additional cardholders on a Platinum account will still be able to bring guests into the lounge.”

    So additional cardholders get treated better than the primary cardholder? How does that make any sense?

  13. I don’t care one way or the other. Every Centurion lounge I ever visited was a disappointment, and not because of overcrowding. I don’t get the buzz about these lounges.

  14. I believe most of us can agree that Centurion Lounges were too crowded (pre-pandemic and likely will be after). Something had to give. I support this attempt by AMEX to fix it. An additional measure which might help would be to issue vouchers for Centurion Lounge access to cardholders. I have often avoided Centurion Lounges when I have had the choice, because of the overcrowding. To paraphrase Yogi Berra, it is so crowded, nobody goes there anymore.

  15. Hi everyone, one point I think everyone is missing is that American Express basically boxed themselves into this corner. On another blog several years ago, I commented to a entry that said due to crowding Centurion lounge benefits were useless to those using the lounges during peak hours. My point is lets step back for a moment to the old old days before airline consolidation. The American Plat, if I recall correctly gave you access to Continental lounges before they merged with United and USAir lounges before they merged with American in addition to Delta lounges. There was no Uber credit, no Saks credit, but you had very generous airline lounge benefits. With mergers, American Express was squeezed out and now only cobranded super premium credit cards with each airline grant you lounge access, with the lone exception of Delta which coincidentally uses American Express to issue its own cobranded credit cards. So that left American Express with no alternative but to build out its own lounge network.

    The problem is the way lounges work in the USA are different from the rest of the world. Everywhere else, you only get lounge access from elite FF status or from flying business/first class. Sure some airline run lounges sell Priority Pass access, but that’s the exception not the rule. Oh and there usually no access through paid memberships or cobranded credit cards.

    So in the past, Amex Plat cardholders had access to a lot of lounges serving crappy food and booze that was a step up from kerosene. Only lounges outside the USA served real food and booze that isn’t the cheapest you can buy. So of course the Centurion lounges are mobbed, as if you can get a seat its a better food and beverage experience than airline run in the same terminals. American Express tried limiting overcrowding already. They ended selling guest passes to non Platinum/Centurion card holders. That did not work so they then tried limiting access to two hours before your flights scheduled departure time unless connecting, and guess what that didn’t work either. For all the folks, saying limit guests to one, guess what American Express employs folks who can model that, and I bet you they came to the conclusion that wouldn’t work.

    So American Express was left with two bad choices, one degrade the quality of the food and beverages to say what’s on offer at the United Club or take draconian action to limit capacity OR take draconian action to limit admissions. They’ve made their decision, and I think it’s because it’s easier to walk back some of their restrictions (e.g. give every cardholder up to 5 guest passes a year) but they are likely to work at solving their problem of severe overcrowding. However, if they took a baby step of reducing guests from to 2 to 1, and overcrowding is still an issue, then they have to take action again with all the negative buzz on both conventional and social media.

    To conclude, I’m not saying I agree with their approach. However, I understand it and do believe if it works too well they can walk it back. Also, when traveling alone I do use the Delta Skyclubs using my Platinum card AND even after Delta essentially took the same draconian step American Express will take in 2023, those Skyclubs are still pretty damn busy during peak times! So maybe we are playing armchair QB and don’t really understand just how much people value good food and booze?

  16. Here’s another thing that people are missing when they say that AMEX is going to lose Platinum accounts because of this:

    They know. They’ve modeled it. It’s probably what they want to an extent.

    I’m sure there were a ton of people who got the card, paid the $550 AF (or $450 AF a couple years ago, used the Centurion Lounges copiously, used the Uber credits, used the Saks credit, used the $200 airline fee credit, etc., and either never spent or didn’t spend enough to make them a profitable customer.

    Those are not the customers AMEX wants. All of these benefits are to incentivize spending on the card. If you’re not spending, AMEX is going to tailor the benefits to people who will.

  17. Do we know yet if authorized users will also be allowed to bring two free guests if the primary cardholder exceeds the $75k threshold?

  18. Is this change also for the Business Platinum Card? Another Blogger said Corporate cards are exempt. I don’t know if a corporate card is the same as the Platinum Business card

  19. This whole Centurion Lounge problem seems unsolvable These latest changes are obviously horrible for parents of children under 13. There’s basically no way to get your kids into the lounge without getting terribly ripped-off. FWIW, I have no young children and I’ve probably made 100 Centurion Lounge visits and never been bothered by unruly children. So I don’t think there’s real upside for childless travellers.
    It seems to me the unsolvable problem with the lounges is that: 1) they’re better than the alternatives; and thus overcrowded; and 2) elites overvalue them. There are basically too many people willing to overpay for access to these lounges so it’s impossible for AMEX to have “reasonable” entry rules. Paying $50 for a guest — even an adult guest who’s going to have a drink or two — is excessive. Many people will find the card “less fun” and “more overpriced” if they can’t bring in free guests. No doubt some will cancel. But I have the suspicion that they’ll just be replaced by new members, so long as the elites are flush with cash.

  20. The best cure for unruly/noisy/screaming babies and children, never forget your over the ear noise-cancelling headphones. I believe a few years ago AMEX was randomly sending those to plat cardholders and I think AA has them as a gift selection when reaching certain mileage milestones.

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