The Centurion Lounge: How to Get Access to the High Life
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The Centurion Lounge collection from American Express will soon have 15 locations at airports, mostly in the United States. Though the lounges have dealt with overcrowding in recent years, they’re still quite deluxe, offering gourmet food and craft cocktails — some even have spa services. To access them, you’ll need a top-tier Amex card; we recommend the Platinum.
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When you picture the good life, you might picture an American Express Centurion lounge.
Whereas some other airport lounges can be lackluster, with uninspired (read: bland) food and decor, Centurion lounges feature chef-designed, locally-inspired menus and signature cocktails. Most of the bathrooms have L’Occitane toiletries, and some locations even offer complimentary spa services!
Here’s what you need to know about The Centurion Lounge collection, including the credit cards that will get you free access to all 12 (soon to be 15!) locations.
Centurion Lounge locations were closed due to the spread of COVID-19, but, as of January 2021, they’ve all reopened with the exception of LGA. You can check back here or the Centurion Lounge website for updates.
Where Can You Find Amex’s Centurion Lounges?
At the moment, you’ll find Centurion lounges at nine airports, with six more slated to open in 2020. They all have high-speed WiFi, free food and drinks, magazines and newspapers, and dedicated work areas and service desks.
Here’s a list of the current lounges and their special features:
- Charlotte (CLT) — shower suite, family room
- Dallas (DFW) — spa services, family room, shower suite
- Hong Kong (HKG) — shower suite
- Houston (IAH) — tranquility area, shower suite
- Las Vegas (LAS) — semi-private workspaces, family room, shower suite, conference space
- Los Angeles (LAX) — family room, shower suite, spa
- Miami (MIA) — spa services, shower suite, family room, semi-private workspaces
- New York Laguardia (LGA) — semi-private workspaces
- Philadelphia (PHL) — shower suite
- Phoenix (PHX) — shower suite
- San Francisco (SFO) — wine tasting room, shower suite, family room, semi-private workspaces
- Seattle (SEA) — “light bites” only, shower suite
Here are the lounge locations scheduled to open in 2020 (and what they’re rumored to have):
- Denver (DEN)
- London Heathrow (LHR) — shower suites, private workspaces
- New York (JFK)
On the map above, you’ll see several other lounges located internationally; though these are American Express lounges, they’re not under the Centurion brand. You and two guests will usually be able to access these lounges with one of these cards:
- The Platinum Card® from American Express (Review)
- The Business Platinum Card® from American Express (Review)
- Centurion® Card from American Express (Review)
Don’t see your airport on the list? Centurion is merely one of several lounge collections to which The Platinum Card® from American Express has access. The card also comes with membership to Delta Sky Clubs, Priority Pass Select, Escape Lounges, Plaza Premium, and Air Space. Here’s a detailed list.
Enrollment required for select benefits; terms and limitations apply.
What Makes Centurion Lounges So Special?
As noted above, American Express is pretty thoughtful when it comes to Centurion lounges.
The menus are designed by local celebrity chefs; the cocktails by Jim Meehan, a famous mixologist (and owner of PDT in NYC!). Many of the lounges have spaces to suit a range of needs, including shower suites, family rooms with kids toys, and semi-private workspaces.
At a select few, you’ll get complimentary spa services — like manicures or chair massages — and the JFK location will even feature a speakeasy!
Dana Zucker of The Traveling Mom called Centurion lounges a “great airport hideaway,” and said she loves the seasonal menus, “perfectly selected” wines, variety of work and leisure spaces, and “talented and helpful” concierge services.
“People often ask why I choose to hold an American Express Platinum Card,” she wrote. “Well, for my family it is so worth the expense… in drinks and food at the Centurion Lounges alone, my American Express Platinum Card has paid for itself… and it even makes my husband happy to travel.”
Non-Airport Centurion Lounges
In addition to airport lounges, Amex also runs a “Centurion Suite” at the STAPLES Center in Los Angeles (which is open only for sporting events, and not concerts).
“This VIP space offers a full service bar with a complete selection of finely crafted cocktails, beer & wine, and an array of non-alcoholic beverages for purchase,” states the STAPLES Center site. “Guests can also purchase and order premium food items… Then enjoy an exclusive view of the game or watch it on one of the Suite’s flat screen TVs.” All you need to do is show up with your card (and, of course, a ticket to the game).
Amex used to have a Centurion Suite at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, too, but according to a Yelp review, it closed in August 2019. While that’s a bummer, Amex card members do still get their own entrance to the arena!
You may also be able to find pop-up lounges at major events like the U.S. Open or Coachella. In 2019, for example, Amex held a weekend pop-up in NYC (with free snacks! and booze!) to help promote Small Business Saturday.
Which Credit Cards Get You Into the Centurion Lounge?
Centurion lounges sound pretty baller, right? Well, you’re not the only one who thinks so.
In recent years, they have become more and more crowded, prompting Amex to restrict the number of people who can enter. As of 2017, for example, you can no longer buy day passes to any of the Centurion lounges.
Now, in order to get in, you must hold one of the credit cards below.
For most people, this is the best credit card for Centurion lounge access. An excellent travel rewards card, it earns Membership Rewards points on flights and hotels booked directly, or via Amex Travel, and its annual fee is offset by a variety of credits, such as $200 for Uber and a $100 Saks credit.
It is undoubtedly the best card for diverse airport lounge access, as it includes entry to Centurion lounges, Delta Sky Clubs when flying Delta, and more than 1,200 Priority Pass lounges, among others. (That said, for overall travel rewards, I prefer the Chase Sapphire Reserve® (Review). Here’s a head-to-head comparison of the Platinum vs. Reserve.)
American Express waives annual fees on all of its cards for active duty service members — even the annual fee on the Platinum card. If you’re an active member of the U.S. military, this card’s a no brainer.
With this biz version of the Platinum card, you’ll earn 5X points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com, 1.5X on eligible purchases of $5,000 or more and certain business categories, and 1X on everything else. You’ll also get 35% of your points refunded when you pay for airfare with Membership Rewards. As for statement credits, this card offers up to $400 for U.S. Dell purchases annually, up to $200 on airline fees annually, up to $360 in annual statement credits for Indeed, and more.
Note that if you have both the personal and business versions of the Platinum, you can still only bring two guests into a Centurion lounge (the guest limit applies per card member).
The Delta SkyMiles Reserve offers complimentary Centurion lounge access for the cardholder. To enter a Centurion lounge, you must be ticketed on a Delta flight that day, and you must have purchased your ticket with the Delta Reserve. Guests will cost $50 each. You’ll also get in free at Delta Sky Clubs, where you can bring up to two guests at $39 each after using the two included one-time Sky Club guest passes.
You’ll earn 3X SkyMiles per eligible dollar spent for purchases made directly with Delta Air Lines and 1X on everything else. You’ll get priority boarding, one free checked bag per person, and an annual companion fare upon renewal, among other benefits. Unless you’re a dedicated Delta flyer, however, and are using this card to earn qualifying miles toward elite status, we’d say the Platinum is a better all-around choice.
Enrollment required for select benefits; terms and limitations apply.
The information related to Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card has been collected by Credit Card Insider and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product.
Like the personal version, this card’s Centurion lounge benefit will require you to be flying on a Delta flight that was purchased on the card. You also get the same Delta Sky Club access as the personal card.
It earns 2X SkyMiles per eligible dollar spent for purchases made directly with Delta Air Lines, 1.5X SkyMiles per dollar after you spend $150,000 in a calendar year, and 1X SkyMile per dollar on everything else. It also comes with priority boarding, your first checked bag free, and an annual companion certificate.
You’ll note we didn’t include an application link to this card. That’s because, um, you can’t apply for it. You’ve probably heard about it in rap songs or movies; it’s that exclusive card you can only get via invitation. Since it’s Amex’s most prestigious card, it obviously comes with access to its most prestigious lounges.
Amex now allows you to request an invite to apply for the Centurion card, if you’re already an Amex cardholder.Read more The American Express “Black” Card: Everything You Need to Know
Centurion Lounge Access FAQ
- How many guests can an Amex Platinum cardholder bring into a Centurion lounge? The first two guests are free; additional guests cost $50 each. The guest limit is per cardholder, so even if you have two eligible cards, you’ll only be able to bring two free guests. (Centurion cardholders can bring in two guests OR their partner and children.)
- Does being an authorized user of the Amex Platinum get me into the Centurion lounge? Yes! Authorized users can access the lounges, and can each bring in two guests at no additional charge. (The Amex Platinum charges $175 for the first three authorized users.)
- Does my baby count as a guest at the Centurion lounge? Nope. Children under the age of 2 — and who have a “lap infant” boarding pass or other proof of age — are free of charge.
- Can I grab breakfast or a shower at the Centurion lounge when I land at my destination? Sorry but no. Centurion lounges are for departures and layovers only.
- How long before my flight can I get into the Centurion lounge? Unless you’re on a layover, you can access the lounge a maximum of three hours before your departure.
- What do I need to show to get into the Centurion lounge? An eligible credit card and boarding pass — both with your name. You may also need to show government ID. (Heads up: This means you can’t access the lounge if you’re on a standby ticket.)
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, please click here.
Susan is a freelance writer who specializes in turning complex financial topics into engaging and accessible articles. She's been writing about personal finance for six years, and was previously the senior writer at The Penny Hoarder and a staff writer at Student Loan Hero. Her personal finance writing has also appeared in publications like MarketWatch and Lifehacker.
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