How to get a family of 4 or more into an Amex Centurion Lounge
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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with the most up-to-date information available. It was originally published on Jan. 18, 2019.
In an attempt to deal with lounge overcrowding, American Express introduced stricter limits in 2017 on how many complimentary guests Platinum Card® from American Express or The Business Platinum Card® from American Express cardholders could bring into the growing network of American Express Centurion Lounges (enrollment required). Until those changes took effect, Platinum cardholders could bring in either two complimentary guests or all of their immediate family members -- a spouse/partner and any children under 18.
Under the stricter rules, Amex Platinum cardholders were capped at a limit of two free guests per Centurion Lounge visit, regardless of relationship. This meant that even babies cost an additional $50 per person for a day pass once your first two guests were counted. Needless to say, many families larger than three did not welcome this change.
In March 2019, Amex introduced another round of Centurion Lounge restrictions to continue battling the problem of crowded lounges. Under the new rules, you can no longer use the Amex Centurion Lounge at your final destination airport. There is one change, however, that actually helps young families: Lap infants under the age of 2 no longer count against the guest limit, so a family of four, with one child of any age and one child under 2, could visit a lounge via one Amex Platinum Card.
(Those with Amex Centurion Cards are still permitted to bring their entire immediate families into the Centurion Lounges for no additional charge, but most families don't have that invitation-only $2,500-per-year black card.)
How to get a family of 4 or more into an Amex Centurion Lounge
Even if your second kid isn't still under 2, all is not lost in the quest for an upgraded space where you can all wait, play, eat and drink between flights. My family of four still can use Centurion Lounges for free even though we only have one Amex Platinum account and no children under the age of 2. The "secret" to our success is Platinum authorized-user cards.
This isn't a real secret but it also isn't something that every family realizes. American Express allows you to add up to three Platinum authorized-user cards to your primary personal Amex Platinum Card account for a fee of $175 per year (see rates and fees). That fee doesn't cover just one authorized-user card, it covers up to three, so whether you have one or three additional users, it is the same additional annual fee.
An Amex Platinum authorized-user card looks and functions just like an Amex Platinum card for the purposes of getting access to Centurion Lounges. Those with an authorized-user card can get into Amex Centurion Lounges on their travel day at no additional charge and also bring in two guests at no extra charge.
This means that Parent A can have an Amex Platinum Card that gets two guests into the lounge and Parent B can have a Platinum authorized-user card that also includes two guests. With a primary user card and an authorized-user card, a family of up to six can access an Amex Centurion Lounge while staying at the included guest limit.
Should your family be larger than six people (like that of our TPG large-family contributor, Dan Miller), there is still a way to get past the guest limit: children 13 and up can be authorized users with American Express. If you make a teen (or even two teens) an authorized user, then Parent A gets two guests, Parent B gets two guests and any teenage authorized user could also get two guests. Since you have up to three Platinum authorized-user cards per year for the same $175, this route doesn't cost more than having just one authorized user card (assuming your teenager doesn't go on a spending spree, of course).
Amex Centurion Lounges with family rooms
Some business travelers may not be thrilled at the idea of a large family coming into an Amex Centurion Lounge, but they should know that many of the Centurion Lounges have family rooms designed to keep families both entertained and contained.
Family rooms can be found at these Amex Centurion Lounge locations:
- Dallas–Fort Worth International Airport
- Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport
- Miami International Airport
- Houston’s George Bush International Airport
- Philadelphia International Airport
- San Francisco International Airport
- Los Angeles International Airport (coming in 2020)
- Denver International Airport (coming in 2020)
We have found that the family rooms at Centurion Lounges are useful for families with younger children, but once your children get a bit older, they are usually happier chilling in the regular part of the lounge enjoying their iPads or books like any traveler.
Maximizing Amex Platinum authorized-user cards
In my family, we just have two children, so our lounge access is covered between my husband's Amex Platinum and my Platinum authorized-user card. However, since we have two more slots available for the same annual $175 fee, my mom and his dad are also authorized users on his Amex Platinum. This allows them to have a card for charging something to us when watching our kids (or in case of emergency), but they also can get themselves and up to two guests into the Centurion Lounges when traveling. Having Priority Pass access available to them courtesy of an Amex Platinum card doesn't hurt either, especially as Priority Pass expands into offering more and more restaurant credits at airports across the country.
Families of four or more definitely can access the Amex Centurion Lounge network, but it takes some strategy to avoid the $50 day-pass fees for the fourth person and beyond. The best solution for us is to pay $175 per year for three authorized-user cards. This way, the entire family can enjoy a drink, a meal and maybe even a massage when killing time at the airport.
Centurion Lounge access is just the start of the perks offered by the Amex Platinum Card. Read on to learn about up to $200 in annual airline-fee credits, up to $200 in Uber credits, up to $100 in annual Saks Fifth Avenue credits and more. Authorized users do not get their own annual airline, Uber or Saks fee credits, but they do get their own up to $100 Global Entry credit once every four years to go along with their own Centurion Lounge and Priority Pass access. Enrollment required for select benefits. The card comes with a $695 annual fee (see rates and fees).
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum card, please click here.
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