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In an attempt to deal with very real lounge overcrowding issues, in 2017, American Express introduced stricter limits on how many complimentary guests Platinum Card® from American Express or Business Platinum® Card from American Express card holders could bring into the growing network of American Express Centurion Lounges. Until those changes took effect, Platinum card holders could bring in either two complimentary guests, or all of their immediate family members, consisting of a spouse/partner and all of their children under 18 for no additional charge.
Under the stricter rules introduced in 2017, Amex Platinum card holders were capped at a limit of two included guests per Centurion Lounge visit, regardless of familial relationship. This meant that even minor children and babies within your family would cost an additional $50 per person for a day pass once you exceeded your two complimentary guest limit. Needless to say, many families larger than three total people did not welcome this change.
Beginning on March 22, 2019, Amex is introducing another round of Centurion Lounge restrictions to continue to battle the problem of crowded lounges. These new restrictions will mean that you can no longer use the Amex Centurion Lounge at your final destination airport, but there is one element of the coming changes that actually helps young families. Beginning on that date, lap infants under the age of 2 will no longer count against the two complimentary lounge guests for Platinum card holders. This means that a family of four, with one child of any age and one child under 2, could all visit the lounge with one Amex Platinum Card.
Note that those with an Amex Centurion Card are still permitted to bring their entire immediate family 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 included upgraded space in which to wait, play, eat and drink between flights. My own family of four has not been slowed down or charged extra by Centurion Lounge guest restrictions even though we only have one Amex Platinum account and no children are 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 knows. 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 & Fees). That fee doesn’t cover just one authorized user card, it covers up to three, so one or three additional users is the same additional annual fee.
An Amex Platinum authorized user card looks and functions the same as an Amex Platinum card for the purposes of getting access into the Centurion Lounge. Those with an authorized user card can get themselves into the Amex Centurion Lounges with same-day travel 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. Parent B can have a Platinum authorized user card that also includes two guests. With that primary user card and authorized user card, a family of up to six can then 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 into the Centurion Lounges without paying $50 per guest as children 13 and up can be authorized users with American Express. Under this large-family lounge access method, Parent A gets two guests, Parent B gets two guests and your 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 any additional beyond having just one authorized user card (assuming your teenager doesn’t go on a spending spree).
Amex Centurion Lounges With Family Rooms
While some business travelers may not be thrilled at the idea of a large family coming into the Centurion Lounge, take solace in knowing that many of the Amex 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 2019)
- Denver International Airport (coming in 2019)
We have found that the family rooms at Centurion Lounges are very useful for families with younger children, but once your children get a bit older they are usually happy to chill in the regular part of the lounge enjoying their iPads or books like the rest of traveling humanity.
Maximizing Amex Platinum Authorized User Cards
In my family, we just have two children, so our lounge access is more than 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 user on his Amex Platinum. This means they have access to 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 and larger can still access the Amex Centurion Lounge network, but it does take 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, meal and maybe even a massage when killing time at the airport in the lounge.
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 so much more. Authorized user cards do not get their own annual airline, Uber or Saks fee credits, but they do get their own $100 Global Entry credit once every four years to go along with their own Centurion Lounge and Priority Pass access.
Featured image by author.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum card, please click here.
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