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How to get into the new American Express airport lounges

Centurion lounges are spreading – but you need a pricey credit card to access them

Summary

Four new Centurion lounges will open this year, so now might be the best time to look at the high-end credit cards that offer complimentary access.

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Dear Cashing In,

I travel a lot for business. It looks like American Express is opening a lot of airport lounges, and I have heard they are supposedly nicer than other lounges. But to get in, you need an expensive credit card. Are the lounges really worth the expense? – Jon

Dear Jon,

You’re right – on just about all accounts.

American Express operates a growing network of what it calls Centurion lounges. Amex opened its 11th lounge in Charlotte, North Carolina, in late February 2020, and its website says more are coming soon to Denver, New York-JFK, London and Los Angeles.

And the only way to gain entry into these clubs is with a high-end card that usually comes with an annual fee of $550 or $595.

Check out all the answers from our credit card experts.

Ask Tony a question.

See related: Guide to Centurion lounges

Cards that allow access

The lounges are, indeed, very nice – much nicer than typical airline-operated lounges. They are tastefully decorated and offer full, hot buffets and complimentary drinks – some even have showers.

If it seems unusual for a credit card company to be building airport lounges, you’re correct. It is a different move, but American Express has tried to position itself as a luxury brand for a long time.

Preferred to be known as a credit card for seasoned business travelers who enjoy the finer things in life, Amex is looking for an edge on its competitors. Especially since Chase, Citi and other card issuers now offer upscale credit cards.

Building lounges at some of the country’s largest airports is a way for American Express to distinguish itself from competitors and try to justify the high cost of the card. Let’s examine the cards that can get you in:

Rewards rateIntroductory bonusAnnual fee
Amex Platinum
The Platinum Card® from American Express
  • 5 points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel
  • 5 points per dollar on eligible hotels booked with amextravel.com
  • 1 point per dollar on other purchases
60,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $5,000 in first three months$550
Amex Business Platinum
The Business Platinum Card® from American Express
  • 5 points per dollar on flights and prepaid hotels through amextravel.com
  • 1.5 points per dollar on qualifying purchases of $5,000 or more
  • 2 points per dollar on travel purchases made on amextravel.com
  • 1 point per dollar on other purchases
75,000 points if you spend $15,000 in first 3 months$595
Delta Reserve
Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card
  • 3 miles per dollar on direct Delta purchases
  • 1 mile per dollar on other purchases
  • 40,000 miles and 10,000 MQMs if you spend $3,000 in first 3 months
$550
Delta Reserve Business
Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card
  • 3 miles per dollar on eligible Delta purchases
  • 1 mile per dollar on other purchases
  • 1.5 miles per dollar on eligible purchases for the rest of the year after you spend $150,000 on non-Delta purchases
  • 45,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) if you spend $4,000 in first 3 months
$550

See related: Which Delta SkyMiles card is best for you?

Is one right for you?

As you can see, these are expensive cards, at $550-$595 a year. But they also come with perks that help defray that cost – such as a Global Entry credit worth $100 and sizeable welcome bonuses.

The Platinum card also comes with an annual $200 airline credit. In effect, those perks knock down the cost of the cards and make them more palatable.

Are they for you? If you’re a frequent Delta traveler, you might find some value in the Delta card. Both Delta cards offer complimentary Delta Sky Club access.

However, in order to enter a Centurion lounge with a Delta card, you must be ticketed on a Delta flight that day – you would also have needed to purchase your ticket with the Delta Reserve.

While the Platinum and Delta cards (both personal and business) are aimed at business travelers, casual cardholders can still take advantage of the welcome bonuses.

Of course, the high costs are nothing to sneeze at. But if you often travel through airports that have Delta or American Express lounges, using the cards to access those clubs can make travel more enjoyable.

See related: TSA Precheck, Global Entry credits now offered on lower-annual-fee cards

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The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

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