Some Priority Pass Memberships Just Became A Lot Less Valuable


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I’m an unabashed fan of Priority Pass membership as it gives me access to airport lounges when my airline status doesn’t and when I’m traveling with more people than my airline status will allow me to guest into a lounge.

It’s a membership that I’ve grown to appreciate quite a bit as the years have rolled by but, for some members, membership is about to become noticeably less valuable.

Most readers with Priority Pass membership will probably have that membership courtesy of a premium credit card which offers membership as one of its benefits and, for the past 12 – 18 months, there has been little to distinguish the Priority Pass memberships the various credit cards offer.

That’s about to change.

Early yesterday, reports started coming in that Priority Pass memberships issued as a benefit of a number of Hong Kong American Express cards would no longer offer members credit at airport restaurants aligned to the Priority Pass network.

Later in the day View from the Wing received confirmation from American Express in the US that US-issued American Express cards would be following suit from 1 August 2019.

“[T]he Priority Pass Membership benefit offered on American Express Platinum and Centurion Cards and Hilton Ascend, Hilton Aspire, and Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ Cards will no longer include complimentary access to non-lounge airport experiences”

Image courtesy of Priority Pass

I have to confess that I’ve yet to use any of my 3 Priority Pass Select memberships to get a dining credit at a participating airport eatery, but I know that a lot of people have used this benefit to good effect and will be sorely disappointed to see Amex go down this path.

Offering every Priority Pass Select member a $28 credit at participating airport restaurants isn’t a cheap benefit to offer and, based what I’ve read in the comments on other blogs and on Flyertalk, I suspect that Amex has been seeing this benefit abused (there are reports of airport employees using this benefit to help themselves to a free lunch every day) so I’m not too surprised to see Amex take action.

The obvious questions that follow on from this are…

  1. Will the other credit card issuers follow suit? And…
  2. What does this mean for the value of Amex cards that offer Priority Pass Select membership as a benefit.

Well, with respect to question #1, at the time of writing neither Citi nor Chase have announced that their premium credit cards be following Amex’s lead but that doesn’t mean that this won’t happen in due course.

If the Priority Pass restaurant benefit is a significant cost to Amex then it’s probably a significant cost to all other card issuers too, and if Amex is seeing this benefit abused there’s no reason to think the same isn’t true of other card issuers too.

Amex appears to have blinked first but, as none of the premium credit card issuers who offer Priority Pass membership as a benefit have seen the need to differentiate their offering from the competition in the recent past, I don’t see why Citi and Chase won’t eventually go down the same path.

Image courtesy of Priority pass

With regards to question #2, the answer will vary from person to person and will depend on what other credit cards a person holds.

I hold the Citi Prestige card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve card and both give me Priority Pass memberships that, so far, still give me credit when I dine at participating airport restaurants. This means that I don’t really care if my Platinum Card from American Express doesn’t offer the same – I kept my Platinum card for this year for reasons other then the fact it offers Priority Pass membership.

If, however, you hold just one credit card that offers Priority Pass membership and that happens to be an Amex card the value of that card will have just dropped. How significant that drop is will depend on just how often you get to make the most of the Priority Pass restaurant credit.

For those who use the credit with any great frequency, it may be time to consider getting another credit card which still offers the restaurant credit (bearing in mind that this too may change with time) while those who use the benefit infrequently may be better off sticking with the Amex card they have as long as it still offers value for money.

There’s no one piece of advice that will cover everyone as one person’s needs and priorities may be very different from the next person’s.

Bottom Line

It’s disappointing to see Amex remove the restaurant credit benefit from the Priority Pass membership it offers with a number of its premium credit cards but, if the benefit was being abused (and I suspect it was), this isn’t really a surprise.

If you’re an Amex cardholder who’s impacted by this change the best way forward is probably to take stock of what your Amex card now offers you and to consider if you’re still getting value.

If the value is still there then the card still has its uses (and is therefore worth the annual fee) but, if there’s any doubt, it’s probably time to cancel the card which is costing you more than it delivers.

2 COMMENTS

  1. If the aim of having Priority Pass being used at restaurants, I would assume this would be targeted towards passengers yes? Why not do what airiline lounges do? Have current departure or transiting boarding passes, and maybe allow one guest or 2 guests traveling with card holder with the same traveling criteria? Who knows.. ?

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