Published in: Credit Cards | Jan. 14, 2019

What to Know About American Express Platinum Card® Lounge Access

By:  Lyle Daly

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Have a better time at the airport by taking advantage of the lounge access you get from The Platinum Card® from American Express.

man relaxing in airport lounge

Image source: Getty Images

Airport lounge access has become a standard perk among premium credit cards, but the type of access you get varies from card to card. If you have The Platinum Card® from American Express, then you’re in for a treat when you travel. American Express credit cards are typically filled with perks but American Express has packed its most luxurious card full of amazing travel benefits, including the best airport lounge access of any credit card.

Not quite sure what lounge access entails or what makes your Amex’s lounge access special? Let’s check out all the important details, from what lounges you can access as a cardholder to what the lounge experience is like.

Lounge access offered

The card issuer calls its lounge network The American Express Global Lounge Collection. This network includes:

  • The Centurion Lounges and all other American Express lounges
  • Priority Pass Select lounges (you need to activate this membership first)
  • Delta Sky Clubs (when you’re flying with Delta)
  • Airspace lounges
  • Escape lounges

The first three are the heavy hitters, so to speak. American Express has put its highly rated Centurion Lounges in several major U.S. airports and a couple international airports. The Priority Pass program has over 1,000 lounges all over the world. Delta Sky Clubs are available internationally, although coverage is best in the United States.

The Airspace and Escape lounges are newer additions. Neither has that much coverage, but they still give American Express’s network a little more reach.

How airport lounge access works

If you haven’t visited an airport lounge before, it’s a simple process.

First, you go to a lounge in your card’s network during its hours of operation. With The Platinum Card® from American Express, you can go to any of the lounges listed above. American Express also has a tool on its site to help you find lounges. You do need to activate your Priority Pass Select membership to go to those lounges, and you can do this online through your credit card account.

Next, you present your credentials. This varies by lounge, but they will generally ask to see:

  • Proof of membership -- The Platinum Card® from American Express for Centurion Lounges and Delta Sky Clubs, your Priority Pass card for lounges in that program
  • ID
  • Your boarding pass

Most lounges will require that you have a boarding pass showing same-day travel, and that boarding pass will also need to be with Delta if you’re going to a Sky Club.

Finding lounges for your next trip

You probably don’t want to search several different types of lounges every time you go on a trip. Thanks to the lounge search offered by American Express, you won’t have to.

You can search for all lounges in the American Express Global Lounge Collection within either a specific airport or city. Each search result lists the type of lounge it is, the hours of operation (make sure to check these if you’re on a redeye), and the location within the airport.

For more information, click on a result to bring up a short description of the lounge, a list of amenities, and photos.

What to expect at an airport lounge

So, what’s the big deal about airport lounges? They’re not exactly the promised land, but they sure beat spending an hour in the boarding area.

Standard amenities

Although exact amenities differ from lounge to lounge, most offer some or all of the following for free:

  • Snacks and other small food items
  • Beverages, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic (premium alcoholic beverages usually have a surcharge)
  • Tables
  • Various seating options, including chairs and bar stools
  • Free Wi-Fi
  • TVs
  • Workstations, sometimes with computers

Many lounges also have private meeting rooms people can use and showers to freshen up before or after a flight.

The Centurion Lounges are a cut above most other airport lounges thanks to impressive designs and meals that local chefs help put together. If you’re traveling through an airport with one, it’s worth the visit.

Having spent time in both airport lounges and boarding areas, I’d say the biggest difference is comfort. In lounges, there’s better seating and a quieter atmosphere. You can find a space off to yourself, grab a snack, or watch TV. Perhaps best of all, there are power outlets where you can charge devices before your flight.

Tempering your expectations

Now that I’ve gone over the perks, I’ll mention the downsides of airport lounges so that you have a realistic idea of what you’ll find. There isn’t anything egregious, but there are two flaws I’ve seen at multiple lounges:

  • Mediocre food
  • Overcrowding

More often than not, the food at airport lounges falls firmly in the “meh” category. It’s decent enough and you’ll have different food options, but the quality is similar to a breakfast buffet at a hotel. The Centurion Lounges are an exception, as food quality tends to be much higher.

The bigger issue is overcrowding. With all the travel credit cards now offering some form of lounge access, you may walk in and see a lounge filled to the brim with people. It all depends on when you get there.

A unique lounge benefit -- restaurant credits through the Priority Pass program

Your Priority Pass Select membership comes with an extra perk that you should know about.

Starting in 2017, Priority Pass began partnering with select airport restaurants. If you eat at these restaurants, your membership entitles you to a credit towards your bill. At most restaurants, the credit is for $28. What’s even better is that you get credits for yourself and up to two guests, so if it’s you and two travel companions eating, you could get up to $84 in credits.

It seems Priority Pass is partnering with restaurants when it can’t secure a lounge partnership at an airport. I got to try this benefit at The Timberline Grille in Denver International Airport, and the credit was more than enough to pay for food and two drinks. It’s a solid alternative to a traditional lounge, and now if you see a restaurant pop up on your lounge search, you’ll know why.

By the way, while this credit can cover your whole bill, you can’t put it towards a tip.

Airport lounge policies

There are rules in place regarding who can access airport lounges. You’ll need to know what the guest policies are before you walk up with friends or family in tow, and if you plan to visit a lounge well before your flight, there are also potential restrictions that could affect your visit.

Can you bring guests?

Most of the lounges you can access with the The Platinum Card® from American Express will also let you bring in up to two guests free of charge. That’s the case at:

  • The Centurion Lounges
  • Priority Pass Lounges
  • Airspace Lounges
  • Escape Lounges

If you have more than two guests with you, the others will need to purchase day passes.

Delta Sky Clubs only offer complimentary access to the cardholder of The Platinum Card® from American Express. You can also get day passes for two guests at a discounted rate. Beyond that, it will be the standard rate.

How much do day passes cost?

Here’s what day passes will cost per guest at each type of lounge:

  • The Centurion Lounges -- $50
  • Priority Pass lounges -- $27
  • Delta Sky Clubs -- $29 each for first two guests, $59 for each additional guest
  • Airspace lounges -- Varies by lounge, starts at $20
  • Escape lounges -- Varies by lounge, U.S. lounges cost $45 at the door or $40 if you pre-book online
Potential restrictions on your lounge access

It’s important to realize that every lounge has its own restrictions, and lounges may impose new rules during periods with more activity than usual. The most common restrictions cover when travelers can enter a lounge.

Most lounges will require that you have a boarding pass for travel on the same date that you’re visiting the lounge. That’s easy enough and probably won’t affect many people.

Sometimes lounges take it a step further and only let you in if you’re on a flight that takes off within a certain amount of time. For example, Centurion Lounges occasionally prohibit entry until you have two hours or less until your scheduled departure time.

If you’re planning to grab one for the road when you touch down, or you’ll be waiting for someone to pick you up, you should know that lounge access may not be allowed at arrival airports. It depends on the policy of that specific lounge.

Comparing lounge access among the premium credit cards

The Platinum Card® from American Express clearly ranks at the top in terms of airport lounge access. Not only does it provide access to more lounges than any other card, but it also has some of the highest quality lounges.

Lounge access is a standard premium credit card perk. The cards that aren’t tied to a specific airline, including the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, Citi Prestige®, and the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card, typically have Priority Pass Select. But that’s the full extent of their lounge access.

Premium airline credit cards offer access to all of that airline’s lounges. Here are the premium airline credit cards and the lounges you can access with them:

When you look at what each card offers, it’s obvious that The Platinum Card® from American Express is the only one to set itself apart.

Tips to make the most of your lounge access

Lounge access isn’t the toughest credit card benefit to use. Still, there are a few tips I’d suggest to get the most out of it.

1. Research lounges before you go to the airport.

It doesn’t take long to look up the lounges you’ll be able to access, and it will make life easier for you when you get there. If there are multiple lounges available, you can also check out reviews to see how they compare.

I like to do this for every stage of my trip. You never know when you could have a longer layover than expected.

2. Check each lounge’s location.

Considering the size of many airports, you don’t want to end up walking in circles looking for a lounge. Some lounges are also tucked away and hard to notice if you aren’t looking for them, so knowing where they are ahead of time is a big help.

3. If you’re traveling with companions, know what the guest policies and fees are.

You’ll need to keep guest policies in mind any time you’re traveling with more than two companions, or any companions if you’re planning to visit a Delta Sky Club. It’s easy to forget that Delta charges for each guest, which could end up being a surprise when you check your bill.

4. Remember that lounges can fill up fast.

If you see any seating, food, or power outlets that you want, I recommend snatching them up right away. You never know when the next wave of people will come in.

5. Don’t forget your Priority Pass card.

The Platinum Card® from American Express alone won’t get you into a Priority Pass lounge. For that, you’ll need your membership card. Since Priority Pass has the most coverage, you wouldn’t want to leave your card at home. Stash it in your wallet or whatever you take with you every time you travel.

A superior airport experience

The life of a frequent flyer gets a whole lot more comfortable with The Platinum Card® from American Express. There may not be a lounge you can access at every airport (you’re typically out of luck at the smaller ones), but there will usually be at least one at most of the major airports. And the quality of the lounges ranges from good to downright spectacular. Not every lounge will blow you away, but I’ve also never been in a lounge that I hated.

There are even people who arrange their trips so they can check out certain lounges. I wouldn’t go that far, but when you have the card with the best lounge access on the market, you should make use of that benefit whenever you get the chance.

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