TPG takes the US Open: We put Chase and Amex perks head-to-head at this year's marquee event
The U.S. Open Tennis Championships are undoubtedly one of the most celebrated sporting events in the world.
Last year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event was held without spectators for the first time in its 53-year history.
Now, a year after the U.S. Open was played behind closed doors, the tournament is welcoming fans back at full capacity. And that means, partners of the U.S. Open, such as American Express and Chase, return with new on-site amenities and off-site experiences to welcome cardholders back.
From pop-up tennis courts along the Hudson River to swanky onsite lounges at the U.S. Open, we decided to check out each issuer’s activation during an early-round Day Session of the U.S. Open.
Let's see how Amex and Chase return to serve (pun intended) their cardholders.
Amex and Chase go head-to-head
Amex and Chase are in a unique position at the U.S. Open.
Instead of one issuer having exclusive rights, both companies are marquee sponsors of the largest attended sporting event in the world. That's right, the U.S. Open Tennis Championships -- with over 700,000 attendees each year -- has the most in-person fans during its two-week run.
With Amex and Chase going toe-to-toe in the credit cards space, it's no surprise they also do the same at such a huge annual event in New York City.
That means unique activations as they engage their respective customer bases.
What it's like as an Amex cardholder
At around noon on the second day of matches, we headed over to Billie Jean King National Tennis Center for an afternoon of tennis.
Bag check coming in clutch
There are perks to being an Amex cardholder, and that's even before entering the tennis complex. All Amex cardholders get free bag check, and we took full advantage.
Non-Amex cardholders are charged $5 per item.
Keep in mind the U.S. Tennis Association (USTA) restricts certain items onto the grounds, and that includes laptops.
We checked our backpacks into a locker, and the self-service nature of bag check meant you didn't have to wait in line for someone to retrieve your bag at the end of the day. That's a big plus in my book.
A premium experience at the Centurion Suite
Once we had our tickets checked, we made a beeline for the swanky Amex Centurion Suite at Louis Armstrong Stadium for our 12:00 pm reservation.
The Centurion Suite is back for another iteration, with a new COVID-19 twist. To promote distancing, reservations in advance are required through Resy.
The Suite is open to premium cardholders, such as The Platinum Card® from American Express, The Business Platinum Card® from American Express or the Centurion Card, where you can enjoy delicious bites and drinks, including the signature Honey Deuce cocktail. And that's exactly what we did.
With a table reserved for each party, the space felt spacious, unlike in years past.
However, it should be noted that most of the Centurion Suite's one-hour reservation slots are full for the rest of the tournament. Organizers suggest checking back for cancellations. Unfortunately, walk-up reservations are not accepted.
Food was delicious -- with the standout being buffalo chicken empanadas and curated bites from Wayan, a popular Indonesian fusion restaurant in New York's Soho neighborhood.
TPG's Zach Griff has an in-depth look at the Suite which you can find here.
Plenty of other activations on-site
Amex has brought back its general cardmember lounge, directly across from the Centurion Suite on the second floor of Louis Armstrong Stadium.
Unlike the Centurion Suite, any Amex card will get you through the door here. Just note that the lounge is first come, first served so you may be turned away at the door and asked to return later if it's at capacity.
During our visit, the space was very crowded but the air-conditioned space was still somewhat of a refuge from the hot day, along with charging stations and food and beverages available for purchase.
All Amex cardholders can also visit the newly-added, Amex Patio. Located near Court 17, the Patio is an open-air space for cardmembers to relax and recharge, enjoy misting fans and take in the shade in between tennis matches.
I loved the Supergoop sunscreen and lip balm, perfect for protecting against the harsh summer sun.
One of the coolest innovations at this year's U.S. Open is Amex's checkout-free store which actually debuted at the Barclays' Center earlier this year. The store, exclusive to Amex cardholders, offers concessions to help fans avoid long lines -- and unnecessary interactions.
Simply tap your Amex card at the entrance, pick up the items you want to purchase and walk out of the store.
Just as it did last year, Amex will give out earpieces to anyone with an Amex card so you can hear ESPN broadcasts and live U.S. Open updates. There are kiosks throughout the grounds.
Finally, I was sure to activate my Amex Platinum card at an Amex booth onsite to get a one-time $20 statement credit when spending $100. This is for any enrolled, eligible Amex card at participating on-site merchants.
Food, drinks and souvenirs don't come cheap at the U.S. Open so this isn't particularly hard to hit, especially if you're coming to the event with others.
What it's like as a Chase cardholder
A respite at the Chase Lounge
Chase has been a mainstay partner of the U.S. Open for nearly 40 years. Located right inside the East Gate entrance, the Chase Lounge is a pleasant respite from the beaming sun -- and it's open to any Chase cardholder, regardless of your card's annual fee.
That's Chase's play here; they see the U.S. Open as a unique branding opportunity for every one of their cardholders and banking customers. Instead of exclusive activations, Chase is going for a broader audience.
Unlike Amex's Centurion Suite, the Chase Lounge doesn't offer much in the way of free concessions. While light snacks, water, tea, and soft drinks are complimentary, other beverages are available for purchase. Expect a glass of wine to run around $13.
However, the space is gorgeously designed, and there are plenty of televisions if you decide to view the matches from the comfort of air-conditioned digs.
Advanced reservations are highly recommended but there is an entry waitlist that is available at the front entrance to the Lounge.
Mobile charging kiosks throughout the venue
While on-site at the Open, it was nice to have Chase offer free mobile charger rentals — with multiple distribution points throughout the complex.
Unique activations throughout NYC
For the first time, both Amex and Chase debuted events outside of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows.
Playing tennis on the Hudson with Amex
The American Express Courts at Pier 76 allowed cardmembers and tennis fans to play at one of six new pop-up tennis courts alongside spectacular views of the Hudson River.
We had a blast playing during our one-hour time slot, soaking in sunset views while breaking a sweat on the court. Both tennis racquets and balls are provided, free of charge, should you need them.
For those looking for a little table tennis action, Amex had that available too, along with food and drinks for purchase. (That included a Van Leeuwen's truck, a New York City ice cream institution.)
Chase's surprise and delights throughout the city
Chase also has a U.S. Open-branded mobile truck touring the five boroughs of New York City throughout the two weeks of the Open.
The mobile truck will be cruising around and providing fans and customers with daily goodies such as bottles of water, Chase hats, sunscreen and U.S. Open swag.
Engaging cardholders at the most widely attended sporting event in the world is no small feat. Every year, both Amex and Chase come out swinging with unique perks and events -- and this year was no exception.
At the end of the day, cardholders from both companies stand to benefit. It's not just about travel perks, after all. Lifestyle, entertainment and sporting events are hot ticket items that credit card issuers are more eager than ever to be involved in.
And here's a taste of what you can expect at this year's 2021 U.S. Open.
Additional reporting by Juan Ruiz.