Most premium credit cards make an easy case for themselves during the first year, offering strong welcome bonuses and immediate access to luxury travel benefits. Whether these expensive cards earn a permanent spot in your wallet, however, boils down to a simple equation: Do you feel that the value of the perks you receive each year outweighs the annual fee you’re paying?
Credit cards like The Platinum Card® from American Express and The Business Platinum® Card from American Express have too many perks to list all at once. Some of them are pretty easy to value — if you’re a frequent traveler, the up to $200 annual airline incidental credits should be worth pretty close to face value, especially if you’re successful getting reimbursed for the purchase of airline gift cards (allowing you to indirectly use the credit toward the cost of airfare).
Then you have perks like the up to $100 annual Saks Fifth Avenue statement credit (only available on the personal Platinum card). This credit, which breaks down as up to $50 back during the first 6 months of the year and up to another $50 during the last 6 months, falls under the category of nice, but by no means necessary. If you didn’t shop at Saks before, you might enjoy a free item, but this isn’t going to move the needle on whether or not you decide to get and keep the Platinum card.
For many people, the deciding factor in keeping the Platinum card open long-term is the luxury travel benefits it offers, including Gold elite status with both Marriott and Hilton, a Priority Pass Select membership and access to Amex’s exclusive collection of Centurion Lounges.
Plenty of cards offer Priority Pass Select memberships these days, but Centurion Lounges, which can only be accessed by Platinum and Centurion card holders, have always given Amex a unique and competitive edge. There is one caveat: Unlike Priority Pass lounges and restaurants which can be found in almost every major airport these days, there aren’t very many Centurion Lounges.
The Growing Footprint of Centurion Lounges
When TPG contributor Lan Paje set out to review every Centurion lounge in August 2017, he only had 7 stops to make. I grew up in Washington, D.C. and lived in Chicago during college. I got to call two major cities “home,” but I never had access to a Centurion Lounge. Even if I went to visit my brother in San Francisco (SFO) once a year, you couldn’t convince me to pay $550 (See Rates & Fees) for an Amex Platinum if I was only going to use a Centurion Lounge once a year.
Now, granted, D.C. and Chicago still don’t have Centurion Lounges, and we haven’t heard of plans to open them there in the future, but a lot has changed since Lan’s mega-trip. Amex opened a new Centurion lounge in Philadelphia (PHL), as well as the first international location in Hong Kong (HKG). The Miami (MIA) lounge was just expanded, too.
Amex Centurion lounge Hong Kong. Photo by TPG reader Peter Madden.Over the course of 2019 and 2020, Amex will also be opening lounges in the following locations, doubling the count to 14 total lounges:
- Denver (DEN)
- New York (JFK)
- Los Angeles (LAX)
- London (LHR)
- Charlotte (CLT)
Even if you don’t call one of these airports “home,” there’s now a greater chance than ever before that you’ll find yourself traveling through an airport with a Centurion Lounge multiple times a year. The seven airports where Amex has chosen to open its newest Centurion Lounge locations collectively serve over 400 million passengers a year. And given the rapid rate at which Amex has been adding new locations in major global and domestic transit hubs, we have every reason to believe that this is just the tip of the iceberg and in the coming years we’ll hear about even more new Centurion Lounge locations.
Commitment to a premium credit card, the bank that issues it and the points currency that underpins it should be a two-way street. It’s incredibly refreshing to see Amex investing so heavily in the customer experience, and this has not been a cheap investment. The lounge in Charlotte is expected to cost Amex a little over $10 million for a 10-year lease, and you can only imagine how pricey the real estate in major airports like JFK and Heathrow is.
It’s not just the number of Centurion Lounges that’s so exciting, it’s their quality as well. These lounges often draw on local ingredients and design elements to offer a food, beverage and relaxation experience you simply won’t find in your run-of-the-mill Priority Pass lounge. If you’re trying to figure out which premium credit cards belong in your wallet moving forward, take a hard look at the Amex Platinum. It truly offers something no other card on the market can compete with.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum Card, please click here.