Changes to American Express Platinum lounge benefits

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The American Express Platinum card comes with a hefty annual fee of $450. Historically, this cost has been partially offset by some of the best credit card perks in the industry, including an annual $200 fee reimbursement for airline-imposed fees and Amex’s Platinum Travel Desk, which includes two-for-one business class tickets on many international airlines.

One of the most valuable benefits has been the access the card offered to airline lounges around the world, including those run by American Airlines, Delta and US Airways.  For those of you weighing the cost-benefit analysis of this card, the calculus has recently changed along with cardmember access to these lounges.

Changes coming to your American Express Platinum lounge access benefits

The worst news first: The merger of American Airlines and US Airways has the “new” American doubling down on its partnership with Citibank.  This means that after March 22, you won’t be able to use your Amex Platinum to access either AA or US Airways lounges.

Second, Delta has also announced a change to its partnership with Amex: No more guest access.  That means that cardmembers will be the only ones allowed in the lounge, and will no longer be allowed to bring a traveling companion.

Airport lounges are an important element of a smooth travel experience, so losing these benefits hits frequent travelers where it hurts.  The Platinum card will still give you a Priority Pass membership, which is good for a random smattering of about 600 lounges around the world (of which the quality varies greatly.)  But for domestic travelers in the U.S., these changes are taking away a key benefit of having the Amex Platinum card.

AC

With changes like these, it’s important to keep in mind the best practices for accessing airline lounges at minimal cost:

  • Use your miles to fly business and first class.  When you do this for a transoceanic (or deep South America) flight, you will have lounge access based on your ticketed cabin, making credit card perks and lounge memberships unnecessary.
  • Remember that foreign carriers don’t run their lounges on a pay-for-membership model like U.S. airlines do, so consider joining the frequent flyer program of an international carrier that is part of one of the big three alliances. Once you earn mid-tier status in that program, you’ll be able to access the lounge of its U.S.-based partner airlines for free.  For example, a Lufthansa Senator (Star Alliance Gold status) can access United Clubs at no cost when flying United.
  • If you’re a loyalist to a particular airline (and you should be) check out their top-end credit card offering. These sometimes come with a hefty annual fee, but one that includes annual lounge membership.

Access to lounges can make travel a much more comfortable experience, and should be part of your overall frequent flyer strategy.  My recommendation: Continually evaluate the benefits the Amex Platinum card gives you relative to its annual fee.  If you find you’re not getting the value, switch over to the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express, which has a much lower annual fee and earns valuable and versatile Starpoints.

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Ryan has been a travel expert for more than ten years. His journeys have taken him to all six inhabited continents, including living in the Middle East and backpacking across Australia, Asia and Europe.

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