Centurion Lounge Guest Policy: Is It Worth It?

The Centurion Lounge guest policy is not as generous as it once was. Here's how to calculate if it's still worth it.
Sally French
By Sally French 
Updated
Edited by Meg Lee

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Centurion Lounge access is one of the best benefits of The Platinum Card® from American Express. These lounges can provide a respite from the chaos of airports. The buffet of food curated by local chefs can be a far stronger motivation to get to the airport early than Transportation Security Administration recommendations. The open bar might be enough to wish your flight was delayed, as that might be one less drink you’d otherwise pay for.

But for better or worse, the Centurion Lounge perk significantly changed this year. Formerly, Centurion Lounges were accessible to Platinum Card members and up to two guests at no additional charge. But as of Feb. 1, 2023, that changed, threatening to take a big chunk out of the value against The Platinum Card® from American Express’s annual fee, $695. Terms apply.

(The Centurion Lounge guest policy changes also apply to The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, which has similar benefits and a $695 annual fee). Terms apply.

The complimentary Centurion Lounge guest policy has ended

As of Feb. 1, 2023, the ability to bring in two guests at no additional cost went away for most cardholders. Now, unless you spend $75,000 or more each calendar year on your card, you’ll need to pay $50 to bring an adult guest ($30 for children ages 2 through 17) into the Centurion Lounge. Terms apply.

The Centurion Lounge in Europe at London Heathrow Airport. (Photo courtesy of American Express)

In some ways, the Centurion Lounge guest policy change is good news for travelers who’ve been frustrated by lounges crowded enough to necessitate a queue. But for cardholders who regularly used the lounges with up to two buddies, that’s a big drawback.

For some, it’ll now be harder to justify The Platinum Card® from American Express’s $695 annual fee, particularly if your home airport had a lounge. Terms apply.

Lounge addicts who don’t typically travel solo are left with a conundrum: Should you give up on lounges, make your travel companion an authorized user or have your travel companions apply for their own card? Assuming you're not hitting that minimum spending requirement to bring guests, you still have a few options for how to lounge with friends, including paying the day pass fee, adding authorized users to your credit card or convincing them to apply for their own card.

Here are your options around how to navigate the Centurion Lounge guest policy, and how to decide which is most worthwhile:

Pay the Centurion Lounge guest fee

The guest fee is $50 per person (or $30 for children aged 2 through 17), assuming you didn't meet the minimum spend requirement of $75,000 per calendar year needed to bring in two complimentary guests per visit.

$50 for a perk that used to be complimentary can feel brutal, but it might be easier to justify considering the perks that go into the lounge.

At San Francisco's Centurion Lounge, you'll dine on dishes designed by Ravi Kapur, the Executive Chef at Liholiho Yacht Club. That restaurant is among the highest-rated in San Francisco, and — besides commanding a high price tag — it can be tough to even get a reservation. This lounge serves similar dishes, buffet-style.

Turmeric chicken skewers (right) and roasted tofu and pineapple (left) served at the San Francisco International Airport lounge. (Photo by Sally French)

Drinks are usually complimentary too. Over at the Centurion Lounge at New York-LaGuardia Airport, you can sip on signature cocktails designed by mixologist Jim Meehan. Options include alcohol-free mixed drinks and original cocktails like the Lower East Cider and Grand Central Express.

The bar at the Centurion Lounge at New York-LaGuardia Airport. (Photo by Elina Geller)

Most lounges also have showers, and the JFK Centurion Lounge even has a mini spa.

If your buddies can use all or most of what's offered inside, that alone can justify the $50 guest charge, particularly if you've got a long wait until your flight.

Add your friend as an authorized user

You might also opt to add your travel companion as an authorized user on your credit card. While many other credit cards allow you to add authorized users at no additional fee, that's hardly the case here. American Express will charge you an annual fee of $195 for each additional card you add to your account. Additional card holders must also be at least 13 years old. Terms apply.

The catch? Authorized users get a few of the card's benefits, but not all. You won’t get two sets of Uber credits, nor will you get two sets of Saks credits, among others. Terms apply.

But authorized users of The Platinum Card® from American Express do get a healthy chunk of the benefits, including:

  • Lounge access.

  • Ability to earn points per dollar spent on flights and prepaid hotels booked through the AmEx Travel Portal.

  • Either a $100 statement credit every four years for Global Entry or an $85 credit every four and a half years for TSA PreCheck.

  • Up to $300 in a calendar year as Equinox statement credits. Enrollment required.

  • $300 SoulCycle at-home bike credit, on up to 15 bike purchases annually (worth up to $4,500 per person, per year assuming you actually bought 15 bikes).

Terms apply. Enrollment required.

If you'd otherwise pay the one-time guest fee four times a year, it might make sense to consider adding your travel partner as an authorized user. That alone justifies the extra fee (considering the lounge guest fee is $50), and your buddy gets the other aforementioned benefits.

🤓Nerdy Tip

You should only add authorized users to your account who you know and trust.

But there are a few reasons why this option doesn't make sense.

For starters, adding authorized users to your credit card is not a decision to be taken lightly. When you add an authorized user, you allow that person to make purchases on the account. Ultimately though, you are financially responsible for authorized users' charges. If you don’t pay their charges, you’ll likely be hit with a late fee, and that missed payment can be reported to credit bureaus, which can have a negative impact on your credit score. The potential reward of being Friend of the Year for hooking them up with lounge access might not be worth the potential damage to your relationship — and your credit scores.

Then there's the consideration that the other benefits just might not be that valuable. Other credit cards offer TSA PreCheck and Global Entry credits with a low (and sometimes no) annual fee. Authorized users won't get their own set of benefits like statement credits either (those will be shared between you).

And so with that, it might just make more sense for your friend to apply for their own card outright.

Have your friend hold their own The Platinum Card® from American Express

The Platinum Card® from American Express
NerdWallet rating 

Because the Centurion Lounge guest policy is so strict, it might just make sense for your travel companion to hold their own card.

The question here though is: is it worth both you and your pal having your own cards, particularly if your travel companion lives with you? Do your diligence to understand whether The Platinum Card® from American Express is worth the $695 annual fee for just one member of your household, let alone two.

American Express says that The Platinum Card® from American Express offers more than $1,500 in statement credits alongside dozens of other perks. But that’s only if you maximize all of The Platinum Card® from American Express benefits, which might be difficult. Over recent years, The Platinum Card® from American Express has turned into a coupon book of sorts, with dozens of wide-ranging perks that might greatly serve some, while never serving others. Terms apply.

Many perks emphasize luxury, like a $200 hotel credit on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection, the $100 Saks Fifth Avenue credit, the $300 statement credit toward a SoulCycle at–home bike, and a $300 Equinox credit per calendar year. Enrollment required. Terms apply.

Other perks have a potentially wider reach, like the Walmart+ credit, $20 monthly digital entertainment credit and cell phone protection, but they only provide value if you actually use them. If you already have an Amazon Prime account, you might not find much use for Walmart+, and the digital entertainment credit only covers a handful of services, including Disney+ and Hulu. It doesn’t include your Netflix subscription. Terms apply.

It’s unlikely that anyone would use every single benefit. Even if you did, the value varies on how frequently you exercise them. Someone visiting a Centurion Lounge twice a year — but uses the showers, eats a full meal and enjoys a couple of complimentary cocktails — might derive more value than someone who enters twice a month long enough to grab a banana before their flight.

With that in mind, use our calculator to understand the value that you get from The Platinum Card® from American Express card:

Is the $195 annual fee to add an authorized user worth it?

Now that you have a better understanding of the value you would each derive from The Platinum Card® from American Express, it’s time to consider whether your lounge buddy would be better off as an authorized user or whether they should go solo and apply for their own card.

The Platinum Card® from American Express allows you to add authorized users to your account. But unlike many cards that let you add authorized users at no cost, AmEx charges you $195 per person for the privilege. Terms apply.

Here's a deeper dive into what that $195 gets you:

Equinox and SoulCycle: If you’re looking to get an Equinox membership, then becoming an authorized user alone can pay for itself. If you need a SoulCycle bike, then the math works out in your favor too. Terms apply.

Global Entry and PreCheck: If you don’t want an Equinox membership or SoulCycle bike, another way to justify adding authorized users is via the TSA PreCheck or Global Entry credit. Though, there are plenty of other ways to get complimentary TSA PreCheck or Global Entry, so that benefit might be moot. Terms apply.

The Live Action Cooking Station in the Centurion Lounge at Denver International Airport. (Photo courtesy of American Express)

Lounge access: If lounge access is all you care about, let’s break down the cost per visit when you add authorized users:

Let’s say you value a lounge visit at $30, which is roughly what a typical airport meal might otherwise cost you. Your guest would have to visit about seven times a year to break even on the authorized user cost ($195/30=6.5). Of course, AmEx values a lounge visit at $50, in which case you'd have to visit four times per year to justify it.

Use this calculator to help understand whether it’s worth adding an authorized user based on their usage of all the authorized user benefits (and their valuation of lounge access):

Is holding two separate cards worth the combined $1,390 in fees?

The Game Room in the Centurion Lounge at Denver International Airport. (Photo courtesy of American Express)

So you calculated the value that your card delivers to you personally. You calculated the value your travel BFF might get from becoming an authorized user. But there’s a third option, and that’s each of you holding your own cards. If you go this route, you'll end up paying two annual fees of $695 (or $1,390 combined).

Have your prospective authorized user(s) go through those initial calculations — taking the first quiz in this guide for themselves — to understand the value they might receive from holding their own card.

Paying the $195 authorized user fee might seem like the logical solution, since it’s a lot easier than shelling out an additional​ $695 on top of your $695. But if you can maximize the card, then it might actually be worth paying two annual fees. Holding your own card entails far more benefits than simply being an authorized user.

The best way to bring guests into Centurion Lounges

If you’re someone who views Centurion Lounge access for not just you — but a travel buddy or two — as the top perk on The Platinum Card® from American Express, you have a tough decision to make in terms of how to get your travel companion into the lounge with you.

For some, holding two cards just might be unreasonable. Especially if you live under the same roof, then two sets of digital entertainment credits or Walmart+ memberships might feel redundant (in which case the authorized user route can make more sense).

But if you can each use a good chunk of the benefits (say you both want Clear, or you take multiple Uber rides per month and could use two sets of monthly credits) then paying $1,390 in combined annual fees might not be a bad idea.

And then there's one more option if one of you holds the card and the other doesn't: you visit the lounge and leave them behind at the gate. Hey, you can probably swipe a cookie on your way out to give to them as a consolation prize.

To view rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, see this page.

How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2024, including those best for:

Airport Lounge Cards from our Partners
Citibank Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® Credit Card

on Citibank's application

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NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

1x

Earn 1 Loyalty Point for every 1 eligible AAdvantage® mile earned from purchases.

Miles

Intro offer

70,000

Earn 70,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $7,000 within the first 3 months of account opening.

Miles
Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card

on Chase's website

Chase Sapphire Reserve®
5.0
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

1x-10x

Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases

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60,000

Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $900 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

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See more Airport Lounge cards
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