Missing a Priority Pass benefit change stung me — reader mistake story

Apr 24, 2020

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Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Jason, who ended up getting charged $32 for a “free” meal:

I applied for the City National Bank Crystal Infinite card last year. Earlier this year, I was traveling with a friend leaving from San Francisco. There is a Priority Pass restaurant located at SFO and I decided to bring my friend with me as a guest. That would result in $56 in food between the two of us.

Unfortunately, when I returned from my trip, I noticed a $32 Priority Pass guest charge to my CNB credit card. I then realized that CNB devalued their credit card as of Jan. 1, 2020 and that guests are no longer included with the Priority Pass membership and each guest would result in a $32 charge. My “free” meal for two ending up costing $32.

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This is a tough mistake to make, once you become accustomed to the lounge access and free airport food that comes with a Priority Pass membership, it’s easy to take it for granted. For example, American Express cut airport restaurants from Priority Pass memberships that come with its cards in 2019, leaving many card holders disappointed (although Chase, Luxury Card and Citi still provide this benefit through cards that come with Priority Pass membership, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve, Mastercard® Black Card™ and Citi Prestige® Card).

The information for the Citi Prestige has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

I made a similar mistake a few years back, forgetting to renew my Priority Pass membership before a seven-hour layover in Amman (AMM), where even the Starbucks in the terminal didn’t have any Wi-Fi.

While Jason wasn’t turned away and his card wasn’t declined, there’s no way he would’ve been able to realize this mistake until the credit card bill came. This is a great reminder that all credit cards and loyalty programs change their terms frequently, and just because something worked in the past doesn’t mean it will continue to do so in the future. Reading TPG is a good way to stay in front of the news, since you might miss it buried in the fine print of a credit card disclosure.

Jason’s story also highlights the fact that not all Priority Pass memberships are created equal, and you should understand the limitations of your own membership before you start to travel. Priority Pass memberships issued through a Chase or Citi credit card are generally considered the strongest, as they include two complimentary guests and access to Priority Pass restaurants. Whether you value guesting privileges or restaurant access more is a personal decision, but now moving forward Jason will know that his travel companions aren’t covered by his membership.

Related: The best credit cards for Priority Pass airport lounge access

I appreciate this story, and I hope it can help other readers avoid making the same mistake. In appreciation for sharing this experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending Jason a gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you. Please email your own travel mistake stories to info@thepointsguy.com, and put “Reader Mistake Story” in the subject line. Tell us how things went wrong, and (where applicable) how you made them right. Offer any wisdom you gained from the experience, and explain what the rest of us can do to avoid the same pitfalls.

Feel free to also submit your best travel success stories. If your story is published in either case, I’ll send you a gift to jumpstart your next adventure. Due to the volume of submissions, we can’t respond to each story individually, but we’ll be in touch if yours is selected. I look forward to hearing from you, and until then, I wish you a safe and mistake-free journey!

Featured photo by The Points Guy.

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