Starting August 1 U.S. American Express-Issued Priority Pass Cards Will No Longer Give Airport Restaurant Credit

This morning I wrote about Hong Kong-based American Express products providing Priority Pass access no longer allowing use of a dining credit at participating airport restaurants and I wondered whether this would spread to the U.S.

American Express has confirmed to me that U.S.-based cards offering Priority Pass will have these same restrictions. Effective August 1 “the Priority Pass Membership benefit offered on American Express Platinum and Centurion Cards and Hilton Ascend, Hilton Aspire, and Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ Cards will no longer include complimentary access to non-lounge airport experiences.”

This means that if your Priority Pass card comes from American Express you will not longer receive a $28 per person dining credit at airport restaurants that participate in the Priority Pass program (and presumably excludes other ‘activities’ like whiskey tastings and Gameway games). Lounges and “select sleeper suites” (such as Minute Suites) can continue to be used.

I will definitely swap out the Priority Pass card from my Amex Platinum in my wallet for a Priority Pass issued by another bank.

Restaurants are getting $23 – $24 from Priority Pass for each $28 credit. And Priority Pass can easily become one third of an airport restaurant’s business. Where Priority Pass is provided by a credit card, these charges are being billed to the bank and Priority Pass makes its fees as well.

Priority Pass is an expensive benefit for banks to offer, even more so:

  • As the Priority Pass network grows. Restaurants mean there are more airports where customers can use their card, driving up costs.

  • Because restaurant credits may even have a higher take up rate than lounges. I will usually skip mediocre lounges but hit up the restaurants myself. One man hit up Priority Pass restaurants for $200 in free food on a single trip.

American Express tells me “our lounge access benefits are intended to provide Card Members with a premium lounge spaces to relax and unwind in while traveling the globe” implying that access to restaurant credits it outside the intention of the program. Hopefully other banks will not follow the American Express lead to cut costs.

In the meantime American Express cardmembers “can continue to review which locations they have access to by logging into their Priority Pass membership account on the Priority Pass website and mobile app.”

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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  1. […] 但是根据 VFTW 的消息,从今年8月起,美国运通卡附赠的 PPS 会员将不再享受以上福利。其实最开始大家是发现香港运通卡附赠的PPS会员将失去这些福利,但是VFTW找Amex求证了一下,被告知美国Amex卡附赠的PPS会员也将失去这些 “non-lounge airport experiences”。目前 Amex Platinum, Hilton Aspire, Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant 提供无限次可带2人的 PPS 会员福利,Hilton Ascend 每年给 10 张 PPS 券。 […]

Comments

  1. Just as AMEX was winning my business. This comes across as cheap. I expect alot of confused customers when they get a bill for PP usage.

  2. Gary – Other credit card/banks that “include” Priority Pass card membership besides AMEX?

  3. This will either spread to other banks or be reversed. Perhaps Chase will take Amex’s invitation on the cost relief front. If not, I’d expect Amex to reverse course. It’s hard for me to see why they’d want to put themselves at a disadvantage long term.

    Interesting to see these things; wondering how Amex currently sees their lounge benefits and business, with the constantly tightening access policies to their own lounges, to this watering down of the partner “lounges” (especially since these restaurant experiences opened up because so many actual partner lounges were overcrowded or excluded).

    Also I think in general people hate these little carved out exceptions to things. “You have access to the whole alphabet except letters D, H, Q, and the letters Y and Z from 8p to 2a.”

  4. “our lounge access benefits are intended to provide Card Members with a premium lounge spaces to relax and unwind in while traveling the globe”
    Did you ask Amex which lounge access they are providing in the millions of airports without a “lounge” for priority pass or Amex to use?

  5. Basically PP has no skin in the cost game. Their incentive is to max the number of swipes.

  6. I will break my teeth eating my metal Platinum Card if the other cards don’t match this. It’s just not long-term financially viable for them to fund mileage churners’ cocktail habits.

  7. @Gary, it’s the pumping and dumping by bloggers that has caused this… no surprise that you even highlight some schmuck who got $200 in free food. He’s not a hero, he’s a wanker.

  8. Very interesting. I would be curious why the numbers did not work out. I thought it was one of those benefits that was not as good as they sound, because you have to have a fairly long layover to have used it, since the service at most airport restaurants is so slow, and there would be a long line at many of their participating restaurants (full of PP customers, perhaps)? As a result, I have only used it twice, and walked away from long lines a number of other times.

  9. Using my Priority Pass at DFW, Gameway offers passengers two candy bars and a non-alcoholic beverage like a diet Coke as part of a well balanced airport meal. You can then sit in a chair for two-hours while playing video games. This used to make my platinum AMEX $550 annual fee value a superb value. Without this benefit, why would anyone want to renew their AMEX card?

  10. My gut tells me that the points guy is spinning this as an upgrade or something

  11. As long as the others have it and AMEX doesn’t, this is a huge difference maker in markets with no lounges.

    Unless you fly Delta or live where a centurion lounge is…this is a huge cut relative to a Chase or a Citi card.

  12. I guess we are going back to the era when there were different flavors of PP like PP Select, which just makes it more confusing for both the lounges/restaurants and consumers.

    Fortunately I have PP membership through 3 issuers so I won’t miss Amex but will be sure to mention this when cancelling my card prior to the next AF.

  13. Thinking about this more I can kind of see amex’s Point. Take T3 at SFO for example. Amex has invested a ton of money into making a great lounge (albeit with cutbacks and overcrowding) and then now they’re paying $25 a person for people to go elsewhere? It’s a bit silly. Chase and Citibank haven’t built out facilities at T3 at SFO so it might be hard for them to match this deval

  14. @Stvr this issue is the coverage of Centurion lounges is still pretty thin. That said between Centurion and Delta Lounge access when flying Delta I suppose the Plat card still has a strong showing. I expect Citi and Chase may hesitate to replicate this because they have neither of these.

  15. This will drive me even more from AA to DL. You see, at DCA (my home airport), the only lounges that are available require that you be flying the airline in question. And AA doesn’t accept AmEx (but DL does). UA is a non-player.

    Used to be when flying other than DL, I could pop into one of the restaurants that had PP. No more.

    One more reason to avoid AA.

  16. Any word if this is going global or just USA and HK? What about other countries?

  17. Not hard to imagine there are a subset of clients who abuse it, as we have heard anecdotally, by hitting multiple restaurants in one airport on the same day, maxing out at every stop even if it’s to stuff in their bag for a later meal, etc. As usual it’s those who have to make pigs of themselves that kill it for everyone else.

  18. Well some of these comments assume AMEX Platinum but some of us have our PP through Hilton AmEx cards instead. So its not like Centurion lounges are an option for us.

    Basically makes PP useless in the US and for Hilton AmEx card holders there is no alternative here.

  19. Wait a minute, I just paid an annual fee in January, based on the promise of certain benefits, like priority pass, including restaurant access. Will they refund that annual fee now?

  20. Well my Chase Sapphire Reserve is looking better and better, just as I thought about cancelling in favor of keeping my PLT since 2002

    If this continues there will be nothing to blog about !!!

  21. No way the other issuers don’t do the same thing. It’s obviously not financially viable to just pay $23 a person out of pocket, with no cost to PP, constantly.

    Most of my travel is for work and I’m getting reimbursed for meals anyway, so this wasn’t a benefit I valued — though obviously it was one for enough people that it was a big money loser for AmEx (and presumably for Chase too).

  22. Gary & all others who did the same,

    Not certain contacting Citi/Chase was the best idea? Kinda like , “never call the airline about a mistake fare. Just gives them heads up (if they didn’t already know). Oh well, we shall see.

    I was going to apply for the Amex Plat, but won’t now. Just wait and see.

    Poppa

  23. Wow! This devalues the value of Amex Platinum exponentially. PP was the best reward for Platinum cardholders. Timing is perfect for me to drop Platinum in July when it usually auto renews.

  24. Don’t try to use the Centurion lounges. AMEX is flooding the market with so many of these cards for the massive $550 fees knowing that they have no room left in the lounges. That’s the policy. It is what “membership” means.

  25. > This will either spread to other banks or be reversed. Perhaps Chase will take Amex’s invitation on the cost relief front. If not, I’d expect Amex to reverse course. It’s hard for me to see why they’d want to put themselves at a disadvantage long term.

    Amex seems to have no problem putting themselves at a disadvantage. For example, Amex’s travel insurance suite is by far the weakest of any of the premium cards, and their airline benefit is far harder to use than the CSR’s (limited to a single airline, only covers fees, etc.). I had hoped that competition from the CSR and other premium cards would have spurred Amex on to improve their offerings, but so far, no dice.

    I canceled my personal Plat before the higher annual fee kicked in and managed to snag the business Plat right before the fee went up. At the end of this membership year, I’ll be dumping it, too, and this watering down of the benefits I chose the card for is yet another straw on that camel’s back.

  26. Gary said: “Basically PP has no skin in the cost game. Their incentive is to max the number of swipes.”

    Priority Pass was short-sighted in aggressively expanding the restaurant option. PP thought it had a blank check from Amex, but PP no. PP exceeded its credit limit. Chase will now move to limit overuse of the restaurant option. The only questions are how and when.

    Over the past year or so, some restaurants dropped out of PP shortly after joining. I wonder why all the extra traffic wasn’t working for them.

  27. I find it hard to believe they can get away with this on such short notice. At the very least, those of us who paid an annual fee before this change was announced should be “grandfathered” for a year. Any indication if AmEx will somehow compensate us for this ex post facto theft of a benefit? I feel cheated.

  28. We all know “the rule” about frequent traveller perks: if they’re too generous, they go away. The free restaurant meals at airports is an absurd perk. My home airport doesn’t have a participating restaurant, but if I lived in a city like DEN (Timberline) I would probably have arrived early enough for a meal on every trip (and maybe stayed for a meal after arriving, given how little food there is on domestic USA airline flights). That’s costly — and that’s before you even get into airport-employee abuse. Maybe they should have just limited this perk to something like 12 free visits (including guests) a year?

  29. Anyone know the Amex policy on cancelling and receiving a pro rata refunding annual fee when a benefit is taken away?

  30. Gary, thank you for breaking this ridiculous and unfortunate news. Very good to know and I appreciate it!

    Amex: is it really that difficult to not be complete and utter crooks? Especially after stealing so much money from us (yanno, those who actually pay taxes in the USA, unlike welfare mommas like you) since the great recession? And you geniuses: I was on the fence whether or not I’d cough up the next $250 (ridiculous) annual fee for the ‘gold’ (actually supposed to be ‘rose’ yet looks like crap, literally like diarrhea –coming from this nicu nurse I know of what I speak… errr write). Well, you just made that decision easy. Are you really so stupid and incompetent to think that your idiotic and crooked choices on one card don’t affect your relationships with other cards? To wit: how is that completely stupid and incompetent choice relating to Costco working out for you?

    Oh, and Chase: are you dumbfcks (and crooks, eh?) listening? Oh, and while I have you on the line, remember those hundreds of thousands of dollars of aum I used to have with you? And remember the hundreds of thousands of dollars I used to spend with you? And now it’s, what, a couple of grand in spend (and obviously zero in assets)? Yeah, how’s that 5/24 working for you (I mean, excluding the massive corporate welfare that you also milk/take/steal)?

    Thanks again, Gary. ‘Tis one of the reasons why yours (should there be an apostrophe after that s? –meh) is one of the very few travel/hack sites I frequent.

  31. “Wait a minute, I just paid an annual fee in January, based on the promise of certain benefits, like priority pass, including restaurant access. Will they refund that annual fee now?”

    I had the same happen to me previously. I had paid an annual fee in Jan with the anticipation of my family being able to join me on a mid-day layover to the Amex Lounge (I know…lounge overcrowding is a hotly debated topic…stay focused here…I will make my point). When I went on my trip in Apr with my family, I approached the lounge and was told the benefits had changed (with no announcement digitally or otherwise) and that my family could not enter. At the time Amex website still had the family benefit language listed in the Amex Platinum website. I pulled it up on my laptop to show the staffer. All to no avail.

    My point: Amex changes benefits at will and does not feel the need to notify customers properly or to remunerate them. This turned me off to Amex. I had lengthy discussions with their famed customer service staff. They did not even know of the benefit change and had no script for handling the situation other than to say, “sorry there is nothing I can do”. If this kind of thing is unacceptable to you, I would recommend you vote with your $ and leave. As of now, Chase is still a really good option.

  32. **oh, and to anyone who might think that nicu nurses (and all nurses) are not ridiculously underpaid (based on my spend), it’s due to a business that I own (yet it does remain ridiculously awesome to work with the amazing little kiddos who are our patients –truly a joy, whereby I can hardly wait to perform each next shift). Hey, this is the online space to get personal, ain’t it? 😉

  33. I just spoke to American Express and they say this is inaccurate reporting, and confirmed they will gladly refund my Platinum membership annual fee if the cuts you claim actually occur.

  34. @TW – This comes straight from American Express, though I imagine they have not briefed their customer service reps yet.

  35. Just called AMEX and the associate was unaware. Put me on hold and came back after five minutes and stated it was true – they had just posted it 30 minutes ago. I made her aware that the restaurants have been an alternative to sometimes crowded lounges and were especially relevant where no lounge existed. I fly out of DCA and FLL at times and both recently opened restaurants to priority pass holders and it was such a great benefit considering it would be no use if there was no lounge and you could not go to the restaurant. I told her I was only one voice but perhaps as people hear about this and complain and threaten to take their business elsewhere perhaps AMEX will reverse course. Suggest everyone flood their lines with complaints/concerns.

  36. They came up with this benefit to compensate for not having airport lounges in so many locations. So now that people are using it, it’s suddenly a bad idea?

  37. Time to lose the AMEX, switch spend over to the Chase and upgrade it to Reserve.

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