The American Express Platinum card has some great perks. You get access to Centurion Lounges. $200 in annual airline credits. Priority Pass membership. Global Entry reimbursement every 5 years. And $200 in annual Uber credits. But did you know that you also have access to hidden lounges, such as the Access Suite Lounge at South Coast Plaza? I braved the mall and resisted buying overpriced everything to experience this lounge for myself. Here’s the review.
Lounge access from American Express Platinum
One of the best perks of the American Express Platinum is having access to lounges that aren’t available to cardholders of other premium cards like Citi Prestige or the Sapphire family.
For example, American Express Platinum cardholders are the only people who get access to Centurion Lounges. Ok, Amex Black and Centurion cardholders also get access, but do you know anyone who has either of those?
And then there are independent lounges that also offer complimentary access, like the Escape Lounge in Reno and the Access Suite Lounge at South Coast Plaza.
Where is the Access Suite lounge located?
The South Coast Plaza is one of most posh and high-end malls in all of Southern California. Wikipedia says that they do over $1.5 billion in sales across more than 250 retailers. It is the largest mall on the West Coast and has “the highest concentration of design fashion retail in the US.” You’ll find stores like Saks Fifth Avenue, Armani, BVLGARI, Patek Philippe, and Cartier where you can spend more than your mortgage payment in the blink of an eye.
The South Coast Plaza is adjacent to the 405 Freeway on the north side. It is between the exits of Bristol and Harbor. We often hold our Orange County Travel Meetups at the nearby Pizza Press at Metro Point, which is across the street from South Coast Plaza.
I’ve lived in SoCal all of my life and have been to the South Coast Plaza countless times, and I didn’t even know that this lounge existed until Adam from The Sterling Traveler told me about it.
The Access Suite Lounge is located on the southern tip of the South Coast Plaza. You’ll find it on the 2nd floor, just outside Saks Fifth Avenue. Don’t blink, because you just might miss the non-descript entrance that looks like a shop that closed.
For the easiest access to the Access Suite Lounge, park near Saks Fifth Avenue and enter the mall through the store or the nearby entrance.
What hours is the Access Suite Lounge open?
Although the South Coast Plaza is open 10 am to 9 pm Monday through Friday, 10 am to 8 pm on Saturday, and 11 am to 6:30 pm on Sunday, the Access Suite Lounge doesn’t hold the same hours.
The Access Suite Lounge is open from 11 am to 7 pm Monday through Saturday and from 11 am to 6:30 pm on Sunday.
Who can enter the Access Suite Lounge?
The Access Suite Lounge is a relatively exclusive experience. To enter, you must either have an American Express Platinum or Black card, or you need to receive an invite from a store or local hotel.
Amex Platinum and Black cardholders are eligible to enter with up to 3 guests.
Some stores within South Coast Plaza will offer a day pass to elite shoppers. Considering how high-end these stores are, I can only imagine how much you’d have to spend for them to provide a day pass. Selected local hotels will also provide access to VIP guests, but the concierge wouldn’t share which hotels provided this benefit.
What will you find inside the Access Suite Lounge?
Unlike most lounges that are wide-open spaces, the Access Suite Lounge is designed to be more intimate and private.
When you enter the Access Suite, you’re immediately greeted by concierge staff who will verify your eligibility to enter, assign you a place to sit, and provide refreshments.
On either side of the concierge desk are two seating areas.
To the left is a seating area with an L-shaped couch.
To the right are two couches and two chairs with a flat-screen TV to enjoy. During our latest visit, we sat in the chairs and watched the basketball playoffs.
Down the left hallway, you’ll find a conference room and two bathrooms…
…and two private rooms.
One of these private rooms is designed for guests who have a baby with them, complete with a changing table.
Down the right hallway, you’ll find two private rooms…
…the concierge galley, two stylist rooms, and a meditation/prayer room. To reserve a stylist for all of your shopping needs, contact the Access Suite Lounge management at 714-435-8571 and they will help you out.
I like the idea of having private rooms to enjoy conversations with your friends and family. However, the only room with a TV was the main sitting area in the front. When we arrived, it was on some random TV show, and the concierge obliged with our request to turn on the basketball playoffs.
What amenities are available in the Access Suite?
Unlike lounges that offer full meals, complete bars, showers, and massages, the Access Suite Lounge at South Coast Plaza offers only a few things but does them extremely well.
There are an assort of complimentary drinks, including – soda, coffee, beer, wine, or champagne. I had a Heineken, while my buddy drank an Amstel. Some ladies on the couch near us were enjoying healthy pours of champagne. The beer selection that I remember is Heineken, Amstel, Corona, or domestics (either Bud, Coors, or a light version… but why drink them when you can have premium beers for free?).
Technically, there is a limit of 2 drinks per person. YMMV.
The snack choices were limited to bowls of chips or pretzels. And there was a bowl of assorted Dove chocolates at the concierge desk that we raided several times. Mmmmm, chocolate!
Please note that “last call” for beverages and snacks is 30 mins prior to closing. When Ben & Jon from No Mas Coach joined me for a visit we arrived about 3 minutes too late to enjoy any goodies. All we could do was whet their appetite for a future visit, then head over to Buffalo Wild Wings for dinner.
The Bald Thoughts
Lounge access is an awesome card benefit, whether you’re at an airport or a luxury mall. The Access Suite Lounge at South Coast Plaza is a hidden benefit of the American Express Platinum card that most people don’t know about. If you’re ever in Southern California, I highly recommend doing some window shopping inside the mall, then stop by for a complimentary drink and some delicious chocolates inside the Access Suite Lounge.
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