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American Express Limits Priority Pass Usage by Cardholders

Amex strips major Priority Pass benefit from its cardmembers.

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Amex strips major Priority Pass benefit from its cardmembers.
Amex strips major Priority Pass benefit from its cardmembers.
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In a move we didn’t see coming, American Express is putting the brakes on one of its top airport lounge benefits. Starting August 1, 2019, cardholders with Priority Pass™ membership through American Express will no longer be able to use their Priority Pass card within the network’s growing selection of “lounge alternatives.” Recall these alternatives are select restaurants and bars found within airports worldwide at which members receive approximately $28 per person off the bill. This amount is valid toward the purchase of any meal and/or drinks, including alcoholic beverages. A valid card must be presented before placing an order, and the cardholder must pay any excess. At press time, there are 28 restaurants in US airports and 16 others outside the United States that are considered lounge alternatives.

This comes as a major blow to those with The Platinum Card®from American Express, a card we’ve previously named the best credit card for airport lounge access. Not that this credit card still doesn’t provide access to the standard Priority Pass airport lounges (there are 1,250 after all), Amex’s snazzy Centurion Lounges, and Delta Sky Clubs. Thankfully, it still does! However, Priority Pass’ lounge alternatives are strategically found in airports that suffer from lounge overcrowding or lacking a great lounge worth arriving early for. So if you’ve grown used to grabbing a great pre-flight dinner (up to $56 off the bill) for you and a guest at, say, the sublime Floret by Café Flora in Seattle airport, think again.

Note that it’s not just The Platinum Card from American Express that will see this benefit stripped. It’s all Amex cards with a version of complimentary Priority Pass membership. Those personal cards include: American Express Centurion Card, Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express, Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card, and Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express®Card. On the business side: American Express Business Centurion Card, The Business Platinum®Card from American Express, and The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card.

The silver lining here—if there is one—is that, in light of this news, other card issuers with elite credit cards offering Priority Pass membership have reconfirmed that they will not be eliminating the lounge alternative benefit. Meaning, cardholders of Chase Sapphire Reserve®,Citi Prestige®,Luxury Card Mastercard®Black Card™ Luxury Card Mastercard®Gold Card™, and U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite®Card need not worry…for now.

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Award-winning travel writer and economist Paul Rubio is a credit card enthusiast, whose sophisticated use of points and rewards has helped him travel to 125 countries for free. Paul is a Harvard graduate with a master’s degree in public administration and a master’s degree in economics. He also holds a bachelor’s degree from Boston University with a double major in economics and environmental policy and a minor in conservation biology. He attended both undergraduate and graduate schools on full scholarships. Paul worked in the field of wildlife conservation before embracing his writing talents full-time in 2008. Since then, he has won more than two dozen national awards for his exemplary work in travel journalism. The prolific writer contributes to a number of top-tier international, national, and regional publications including Condé Nast Traveler, Fodors.com, Palm Beach Illustrated, Private Clubs, and Robb Report.