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Dear Amex, please don't charge little kids $30 for lounge access

April 09, 2021
7 min read
Dear Amex, please don't charge little kids $30 for lounge access
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The first U.S. American Express Centurion Lounge opened in 2013 inside the Las Vegas McCarran airport.

It was a big deal. Instead of just offering packaged cheese and crackers and $7 glasses of not-so-tasty wine like most U.S. airline lounges at the time, this new lounge had truly delicious included drinks, above-average hot food, comfy chairs and a cool design. It made me fall in love with our Amex Platinum Card that much more.

As a traveling mom of a then three-year-old, what was immediately intriguing was that even that very first lounge -- in Las Vegas no less -- had a nice, colorful, dedicated family room.

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Family room (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

A few months later came the opening of the second Amex Centurion Lounge in my home state of Texas at the DFW airport. This even-larger lounge raised the ante again with everything the Vegas location had to offer, plus included spa services, and a family room. Things were going well.

The Centurion Lounge network only grew and became a true card enhancement, not just for when my husband or I would be on solo work trips, but when the whole family was on vacation, too.

While the rules changed a bit over time, you could still bring in up to two guests at no additional charge. Amex had cracked the code of creating lounges that literally everyone from young families on vacation to road warriors enjoyed. There was a bar, a spa, a family room, dining, showers and lots in-between.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

And ultimately, that became its biggest problem.

The Centurion lounges, as anyone who visited them frequently pre-pandemic knows, became crowded during peak times. Amex tinkered with access rules, time limits, waitlists and now has really dropped the hammer.

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As we learned yesterday, beginning on Feb. 1, 2023, those with The Platinum Card® from American Express or The Business Platinum Card® from American Express will lose the ability to bring in any complimentary guests to the Centurion lounges unless they spend $75,000 per year on their Platinum card. Those big-spenders will retain the ability to bring in two complimentary guests. Amex Centurion cardholders will also retain their guesting abilities.

But for the vast majority of Platinum cardholders with young families, early-2023 will mark the end of an era.

Paying $30 per child, per visit on top of the card's $695 annual fee (see rates and fees) -- which may go even higher if the rumors pan out -- to access a family room and the buffet isn't realistic. It is a sharp left-turn for a network of lounges that once courted families with colorfully wallpapers rooms stocked with toys and games. Times change, priorities shift and clearly, Amex had a crowding problem it needed to solve (even before social distancing was a thing).

But while we can agree on the problem, I'd argue there is a much better way to seek out a solution than to shut the door on most traveling families.

Family room (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

So here's my Hail Mary attempt to rekindle what once was a match made in credit-card-perks-Heaven.

Dear Amex,

It's been a while -- I know we haven't visited your lounges as a family since November 2019, but we think of you often. (OK, maybe I'm thinking the most of the Chinese New Year drink made with Prosecco, Mandarin Napoleon, Canton Ginger Liqueur and lemon juice we get from the fantastic bartender in the Houston location, but you get the point.)

While we are old friends dating back to your debut day in 2013, I know you have become really popular in recent years and you've become a victim of your own success. I understand some change is needed, but I think you're over-reacting a touch. Charging the same $50 for a visit from a preschooler who just wants to play with toys in the family room and an adult who will make good use of the food and beverages you have to offer seems ... a bit off.

I don't like to complain without offering suggestions, so here are a couple of ideas.

Children are old enough to be authorized users on a Platinum or other American Express card starting on their 13th birthday. Assuming there are no impending changes with authorized users being able to access the Centurion Lounges (please, don't change that), perhaps a natural age cut-off for continued complimentary access could be for children 12 and under. This would allow families to add children 13 and up as paid authorized users who would then have access, and those with kids 12 and under could continue to access the lounge as before.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Another idea would be to build in a certain number of included guest visits per year -- maybe somewhere between six and ten annual guest visits sounds about right. This would allow Platinum cardholders to treat their family once or twice a year or introduce friends to the lounge. Who knows -- they would then want a card of their own.

If you want to add an extra incentive to unlock this perk, you could perhaps open this up to those who spend $10,000 + on the card annually. That's a more attainable tier for many than the new $75,000 threshold you've set for complimentary guests. If that isn't enough to reduce crowding, you could even require advance guest reservations to be made in the app -- we already have our summer vacation travel dates at the ready.

It's always great to be able to grab a hot plate of food and a cool cocktail in the Centurion lounge on a solo work trip, and I'm sure that will be more enjoyable with fewer people in the lounges. But it's also really nice to treat the family to a nice lounge visit a few times per year on a long layover or before a big departure. But as much as I love my Chinese New Year drink, I'm not sure spending $60 total for my 5 and 11-year-olds to go into the lounge with me will ever make sense. I'm also not sure that actually solves your main problem.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

In effect, this will block most families from enjoying the lounges on their most meaningful trips of the year.

And while you built lovely family rooms (thank you!), this elimination of complimentary guests will disproportionately impact families with kids under 13 that are too young to become authorized cardholders of their own.

We already haven't been in an Amex lounge in a year-and-a-half, so we'll be fine if we need to stop visiting lounges when this change kicks in as travel ramps back up. But I can't help but think this seems like an unnecessarily harsh break-up with the family when some baby-step options were available in the middle ground.

Thanks for listening and hope to see you again before too long.

Summer

Cardmember since 2011 and mother of two

For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum card, click here.

Featured image by Family room (Photo by Zach Griff)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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Intro offer

75,000 bonus miles
Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

Annual Fee

$395

Recommended Credit

740-850
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Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

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Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
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  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023
Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023