How My Family Dealt With The Amex Centurion Lounge Guest Limits

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One of the best perks of The Platinum Card® from American Express and The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN is access to Centurion Lounges. These lounges are generally far nicer than what’s offered by US airlines, as they offer complimentary drinks and real food. Some of them even have spas, which is really awesome.

When American Express first opened these lounges, they allowed cardholders to bring two guests or their immediate family into the lounge for free. Additional guests were charged $50 per person. The policy stayed the same for several years.

Then around a year ago, Amex abruptly changed the policy to allow only two guests, period.

Have just one kid? Fine — you, your spouse, and junior can come right on in.

More than one kid? Sorry, no chorizo for you.

This was supposedly done to help alleviate overcrowding in the lounge — which admittedly can be an issue at some clubs — but still, I didn’t think this would help much, given that there never seem to be that many families in the lounge anyway. Then again, as a father of three kids, I’m obviously biased.


The very crowded family room at the Centurion Lounge San Francisco

But whatever, my opinion doesn’t matter. Amex gets to make the rules and then it’s up to us to decide what we should do next.

Analyzing our situation

I’d had the American Express Business Platinum Card for a couple of years at that point and was mostly happy with the benefits. But it costs $300 for each authorized user, so I would end up paying a total of $750 for my wife and I to both have cards. Even valuing the $200 airline fee credit at full value, that would still be akin to paying $550 for my family to have access to the Amex lounge (and to have Executive status with National Car rental, which is really the only other benefit of the card that I value).

There was no way I could justify that.

I first considered switching to the Platinum Card. It has a $550 annual fee, but authorized users are much cheaper — you can add up to three for a flat $175. So with that card, I’d end up paying $725, or $525 after the $200 airline credit.

That wasn’t much better.

Worse, it felt inefficient to pay $175 for a single authorized user, when I could get three for that price. Trouble was, I didn’t need three.

That’s when I remembered that one of my best friends in this world — and the one who introduced me to frequent flyer miles over 15 years ago — had been a Platinum card member for years. And sure enough, he had never added any authorized users, meaning he had three slots available.


The Amex Centurion Lounge in Houston

Making my friend an offer

I offered to pay the $175 authorized user fee on my friend’s card if he would add me and my wife.

The value to us would be obvious, as we’d both receive Platinum benefits at a far lower cost than we’d have otherwise paid. Most importantly, we’d each be able to bring two guests into the Amex lounge, meaning my wife could guest in one kid, while I’d guest the other two. We’d also both have Executive status with National (though we really only need one of those in the family, since we almost always travel together).

My friend would benefit too.

Since my wife and I would only be occupying two of this three authorized user slots, he would have one left to do with as he wished at no added cost. Because remember, you pay the same $175 fee regardless of whether you add one, two, or three authorized users.

So now he could add his wife (or his mom, also an avid traveler) for free. Since he already had the card, and was planning to keep the card, the annual fee was basically a sunk cost, though I’m sure a few are going to argue otherwise.

That seemed like a good enough deal to him, so we did it.

Amex Platinum benefits as an authorized user

I was a bit concerned that it would be a pain to re-link my National account to the new Platinum card. But that turned out to be no big deal. I also linked my Hilton account to maintain my Gold status, though I recently got the Hilton Aspire card to get Diamond status, so that became sort of moot.

I also wondered a bit if the Amex lounge staff would ask any questions regarding our authorized user status. But in fact, I’m not sure they know. We’re greeted the same as we always were.

The one other minor benefit that I didn’t think about originally was that these cards would receive their own set of Amex Offers. If there’s a particularly lucrative one such as for Google Express, I check to see if my buddy wants it, and if not, I use it and then pay him back the balance. In that case, he gets a few extra Membership Rewards points out of the deal too.


The family room at the Amex Centurion Lounge in Houston

Bottom line

I certainly wasn’t very happy when Amex changed the guest policy at their Centurion Lounges. But at least for me, it worked out in the end — I’m getting essentially the same benefits as before, but at a much lower cost. You could even argue that I’m actually getting more benefits since now my wife has her own card. My friend benefits too, since his wife now has her own card, at no new cost to him.

I realize that I’m probably in the minority with how we worked this out, but I doubt that I’m alone.

How is your family accessing the Amex lounge in light of the new guest limits?

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Comments

  1. This seems like a situation where the Morgan Stanley Amex Platinum might be useful…Same $550 fee but you get one free Platinum AU with it. You do need to open an account with MS, but that’s a small hurdle to overcome…especially when compared to your buddy seeing your spending and negotiating over Amex Offer rebates between the two of you.

  2. I don’t understand why anyone pays the annual fee on this card. You can get the Amerprise version for free for one year without being one of their customers. Also, authorized users are free. So my wife and I both have the cards and then after the year is up, we cancel and repeat.

  3. Borderline click-bait. Outlier solutions masquerading as workarounds are annoying, at best.

    Lucky, sometimes less content is more.

  4. Yes this change really sucked for our family of 4. Luckily my wife and I have been able to bounce around between the Bus and Reg platinum so we have both had a card for a while to get all 4 of us in. (sometimes renewing with a good retention offer.)
    Love the look on a front desk persons face when I bring our family of 4 and they are about to deny us until i break out a second card.

  5. You should buy a few coffees and tacos on the card once in a while to keep your friend on his toes. This could be even more lucrative than you expect.

  6. utter nonsense article.

    unless one travels with family every month, Amerprise version will cover a family perpetually until amex will close this loophole – each parent/partner applies every ~2.5 years for a new card and cancels before af.

    I like this blog and read it regularly, but this post is not OMAATworthy

  7. So you essentially asked a friend to co-sign a loan for you.

    That’s never a good idea, even if they were family.

  8. @Colin +1

    I don’t think I have any friends who would be willing to add me as an authorized user on their credit card account. That seems like something that is usually intended for family members or maybe business partners. I don’t think I’d be comfortable asking any friends to do this for me and I certainly would not feel comfortable doing this for any of my friends.

  9. Matt B. I guess the upside of reaching middle age is that you now have friends you’ve known for 25 years or more. When you know his family, his parents, been the best man in his wedding (Malaysis no less), yeah, it matters.

    You’ll get there.

  10. I’m sorry but asking a friend or anyone outside your own household to add you as an authorized user is just downright risky. Not worth the hassle for lounge access.

  11. Amerprise version for free? What is the Amerprise version? Amerprise card gets you and family into the Amex Centurion Lounge? @JayBird0711 @tonykline

  12. I did this with the GF. Canceled my personal plat and had her add me to her authorized user list. She also added my dad and her mom. We are splitting the authorized user + annual fee (after credits) 4 ways. $550 – $200 delta GC – $200 Uber = $150 net annual fee + $175 = $325 / 4 = $81 per person. Great deal for the benefits you get in my opinion.

    In case you are worried about someone taking advantage of your card, she called AMEX to make our credit card limits $500 per card.

  13. @Jeff – Morgan Stanley also reimburses the $550 fee if you use some of their baking services. You have to meet some criteria, but I’m guessing most the people reading OMAAT would not have trouble with that. Well worth it in my opinion.

  14. I get the annual fee on my Morgan Stanley Platnum Amex reimbursed by Morgan Stanley (Morgan Stanley transfers $550 into my checking account, the month after the Amex annual fee posts) by being a Morgan Stanley Premire Cash Managament Member. I’m amazed that there’s vertually no coverage of this program on the blogosphere.

    I got my girlfiend added as the second annual cardholder. She travels internationally a few times a year for conferences that she gets reimbursed for, and puts the charges on her authorized user card before paying it off after getting reimbursed. We get more of the 5x airfare points this way! It also means when we fly Delta we can both use the sky clubs by both whipping out our cards.

  15. To all the commenters who say this article is dumb and them recommend getting a card that you are technically ineligible for (but can still get) is idiotic.

    The ameriprise loophole is well documented but at the very least unethical.

    Travis provides helpful information for travelling families which may be niche but is not well covered on OMAAT.

    That being said I too use the Ameriprise platinum for exactly this purpose.

  16. You numbuts must be all trump supporters cuz you are really dumb.

    Most blogs cover only cards on which they get commission. There are many lucrative cards that are not covered by blogs.

    Do your own homework.

  17. @SubwayNut
    you may be forgetting to mention the requirement to have more than $1 million invested with Morgan Stanley in order to have the fee waived

    am I missing something?

  18. @tony Kline – like I said, I think most OMAAT readers can meet the criteria. I moved my banking there because let’s be honest, the big banks have very similar perks and products. The Amex fee reimbursement I highly value and is unique (which I think is SubwayNut’s point), and they waive all my other fees as well. Moving my baking there made sense.

  19. Wow, I would never be an authorized user on someone else’s credit card.

    I made that mistake once and my credit has carried the hit for ~6 years now after they were two months late on a payment resulting in a closed account. It was reported on *my* credit report, even though I was only an authorized user.

    Based on my experience, that may be the worst advice I’ve ever seen in a travel blog.

  20. Have been debating changing from the Plat Biz card to the Pesonal version…then add my wife and parents as auth users. If I’m only going to add my wife then might as well stay like I am and add just my wife, $25 difference doing it that way. But then my parents fly DL all the time and could really benefit from the skyclub access…

    As for the Uber credits, I rarely use Uber so that doesn’t play into my thinking here…

  21. It is frankly bizarre to ask a friend to add you and your wife as an authorized user to his card, to save a few hundred dollars. So you can go to a lounge! What if you, or your wife, lose the card and someone charges a lot too it, and you can’t pay your friend? What about the inappropriateness of it all? If you can’t muster a few hundred dollars for your own card, you shouldn’t do it. Period. This is not trip hacking, it is just plain whacky.

  22. So you are paying $350 (175 x 2) just for lounge access and not Amex 5x benefits.
    Sounds like a bad bargain.

  23. The $550 only gets reimbursed if you have $1,000,000+ in assets and liabilities with Morgan Stanley AND spend $10,000 in commissions/fees on your account annually. That might fit the profile for some of us here, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say not most of us.

  24. Kind of odd to see how many people are downright offended that Travis has close friends that he trusts, and who trusts him. Obviously everyone will have an opinion as to whether this kind of arrangement is suitable for their own situation but unless you know Travis and his friend pretty well (maybe even if you do), seems kind of overstepping some boundary to have an opinion about whether it’s right for him.

    That said, @Greg raises an important point — it may not be intra-friend fraud but rather some kind of oversight or life circumstances that might ding your credit in an arrangement like this.

    @Mike: He’s paying the $175 fee for three authorized users, not one.

  25. As far as I can see with my Morgan Stanley Platinum card, only additional Gold Card users are free, not Platinum. I don’t see the option to add an additional Platinum Card user for free, just three users for $175. Do any of you actually have this card and have an additional Platinum user for free?

  26. @LarryInNYC: I see your point. What arrangements Travis makes with his friends is his business and if it works for them, then who are we to judge? The problem I still have though, is that OMAAT is essential la travel/points advice blog. So implicitly, Travis isn’t just relaying a story about his experience, but giving people advice to do the same. He is effectively encouraging other people to go to their friends and put them on their credit card accounts as authorized users without offering any warnings or caveats about the potential risks. I think fewer people would have been “offended” if Travis had just added a couple lines into his post noting that you should probably only do this with someone you implicitly trust, have known for years, and if you understand the potential risks involved. Highlighting what some of those risks are would have helped readers feel that Travis wasn’t just being irresponsible.

  27. You don’t need to ask a friend.
    If you have someone in family who has the card and you trust each other, you can ask for this person.
    Travis just told how he handle his problem, but if you can’t do the same, keep searching.

  28. @AlliW-Yes, just google “Ameriprise Amex platinum” and you should see the page to apply. This card has all the regular benefits (including Centurion Club access) of Amex platinum fee card except for the sign up bonus. You do not receive a sign up bonus with Ameriprise.

  29. @Jeff — THANKS! Just called and they upgraded my wife’s card from Gold to Platinum for no fee. Now we don’t have to leave one of our kids sitting outside of the Centurion Lounge next time we fly….

  30. You can use uber credits for uber eats. I haven’t tried it yet. But I agree no way would I add someone to my account.

  31. As a lawyer, my advice is to never enter into a financial relationship, and in particular with a close friend or family member beyond a spouse, without entering into a properly drawn contract. In my experience, co-signed credit cards and loans between friends and family members usually end in tears.

  32. You add an authorized user and then tear up the card. You don’t need the card to get in, only the number. And no, you dont need the expiration date or CVV code. That prevents charging.

    Didn’t u block the fool Debit??

  33. I’ve got both Personal & Biz of Platinum. Does anyone know am I able to bring 4 guest (or even 5) by showing both cards to the lounge representative.

  34. I would just hope that AMEX does something about the overcrowding of lounges in general, was at MIA and PHL in the last few weeks and both times left within minutes because it was like a zoo. The Flagship Lounge at MIA was peaceful in comparison (and based on the food even better)! Come on, there are way too many guests in a Centurion lounge at any time. The rules they implemented didn’t have a huge impact IMHO. And yes, Delta is right in some way when saying “If everybody is an elite, nobody is an elite”. So if there are way too many people in a lounge, then change something. Because it will hunt you at some time. Yes, the new lounges they are building are way bigger (e.g. the upcoming JFK one) or the current ones are being expanded, however, this will take year(s). So as a road warrior I just get tired of the current conditions. Sorry for the rant 😉

  35. I don’t usually comment, but seeing all the negativity here, I wanted to chime in and say THANKS for the solid article! I don’t understand why so many people are hating on this. As a father of two children, I can easily relate. I think there are very good scenarios in which it makes sense to add AU’s. I feel bad for all the people who don’t have anyone in their life they trust enough to share a credit card with. Bottom line: thanks for posting something other than the crazy unrealistic world-hopping articles usually seen here. This is an article for the commoners, like me, who may not be the primary demographic of this blog, but we appreciate real-world insight from time to time. Thanks!

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