affinity card

American Express continues to expand its exclusive member entertainment program with a new lounge opening in Orlando's Universal Studios Florida on May 10. In a statement to reporters, AmEx spokesperson Shane Berry expressed hope that the new benefit would let traveling Cardmembers "relax, refresh, and recharge." Cardmembers will enjoy access to complimentary chilled beverages in the air-conditioned lounge, along with an electronic charging station for wireless phones and video cameras.

Open seven days a week, the American Express Lounge will match the theme park's operating hours. Company officials told reporters that opening hours and lounge rules would be posted to Universal Orlando's website before the grand opening. Guests can access the lounge's entrance inside the park, across from Shrek's Ye Olde Souvenir Shoppe near the Music Plaza.

The American Express Lounge isn't the first partnership between the credit card issuer and the theme park operator. GE Money offers a co-branded Universal American Express Card, featuring discounts of 10 percent on theme park admission tickets and on food at participating restaurants like NASCAR Sports Grille and Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville. Company officials indicated that their partnership could include future cardmember "experiences" at Universal's other properties.

New AmEx lounge rooted in experience reward trend

American Express isn't the only affinity credit card with ties to central Florida tourism. Chase offers its own Visa card in partnership with Disney, featuring rewards redeemable for Walt Disney World passes, Disney hotel room nights, and discounts at restaurants on Disney property. The CardRatings editorial team recently named the Chase Disney Rewards Visa Card one of the best credit cards for newlyweds, since the card's benefits should appeal to parents saving up for family vacations.

Visa's Disney connections and American Express's Universal partnership extend the trend of credit card brands offering experience-based rewards. Visa leverages its sponsorship of Olympics and World Cup Soccer to offer special cardholder experiences at both global sporting events. American Express has focused its cardmember benefits on lounges and access experiences at premium arts and culture events, including New York Fashion Week and the Tribeca Film Festival.