Airport lounges are great places to relax, get work done, charge your electronic devices, grab a bite, and enjoy a beverage. And they’re even sweeter when you can access them for free as a credit card perk! Does any of your charge or credit cards offer airport lounge access? If not — or you’re looking for a change — read on!
Why Airport Lounge Access?
Call me crazy, but I say lounges are better than gate areas for getting work done and enjoying a comfortable space.
Some even offer complimentary spa treatments.
And if you visit an airline’s club lounge (i.e. Delta Sky Club), their customer service reps can help you with flight changes, seat assignments, and other situations.
When travel delays hit, airport lounges can be your best friend.
“But Aren’t the Annual Fees High?”
Yep. Most of them, anyway. Some start as low as $95 for ten annual visits. One of the cards on our list carries a huge $995 annual fee. Many, though, fall somewhere in between for unlimited visits.
But you know what else is expensive? Airport food and beverages. Many airport lounges have nice buffets (like the American Express Centurion Lounges, or Delta Sky Clubs such as the Seattle, Austin, JFK, and Atlanta F Concourse lounges — to name but a few). A few have mediocre snacks like popcorn and veggie sticks.
Airport lounges are practically synonymous with “free alcohol.” I know some people who won’t dare spend $95 a year on a credit card to get lounge access — yet annually drop twice that much at airport bars. So if you enjoy a cocktail (or several) while traveling, a card with airport lounge access may save you money.
See how lounge access can offset many cards’ annual fees?
Many cards below offer complimentary Priority Pass Select membership. Cardholders (and usually a pair of guests) may visit a worldwide network of over 1200 airport lounges and restaurants — regardless of which airline you fly. For example, I used the Air China Busines Class Lounge at Beijing Capital International Airport — even though I flew Delta.
The benefit must be manually activated by the cardholder.
Now, on with the cards!
The American Express Platinum Cards
These Amex cards are sort of the gold — rather, the platinum standard when it comes to airport club lounge access.
- Delta Sky Clubs when flying Delta Air Lines
- Centurion Lounge airport club access for you and up to two guests
- Priority Pass Select lounges for you and up to two guests
- Escape Lounges for you and up to two guests (read Rene’s review of the MSP location)
- Global Lounge Collection (the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world)
These cards much more than just airport lounge access. Both come with $200 in airline incidentals each year (for an eligible airline you select) and complimentary Gold status with both Hilton and Marriott. The personal Platinum card offers an annual $200 Uber credit (distributed monthly) and $100 credit at Saks Fifth Ave every year ($50 every six months). The business card gives cardholders a $200 Dell credit, dispersed semi-annually. Plus, the business version also gives cardholders a 35% rebate on airfare paid with Membership Rewards points when booked through American Express Travel.
If you’re based at Delta hub or travel through them several times a year, I highly recommend getting either The Platinum Card from American Express (learn how to apply) or The Business Platinum Card from American Express OPEN (learn how to apply).
Chase Sapphire Reserve
The Chase Sapphire Reserve gives cardholders complimentary Priority Pass Select membership. Cardholders and up to two guests may enjoy this perk at participating lounges and airport restaurants. Yes — unlike the Amex cards, the Chase Sapphire Reserve‘s Priority Pass benefit is still eligible at certain restaurants.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders receive an annual $300 travel credit good toward purchases made with airlines, hotels, rideshare, parking vendors, toll vendors, etc. It also rewards 3X on travel and restaurant purchases worldwide.
Its Ultimate Rewards points are worth 1.5 cents each when redeemed through Chase’s travel portal. The Chase Sapphire Preferred‘s URs, meanwhile, are worth 1.25 through the Chase Portal. And other Chase-branded cards just once cent each. But if you have a bunch of Chase cards — even some of the no annual fee ones — and hold the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you can get max value out of Chase travel portal redemptions.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve‘s annual fee is $450 now $550.
Delta Reserve Cards
The Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express (learn how to apply) and Delta Reserve for Business Credit Card (learn how to apply) each offer complimentary access to Delta Sky Clubs when cardholders travel on Delta Air Lines flights.
Beginning the second year of card memberships, holders receive a buy-one-get-one-free certificate for select Delta fare classes — including certain first class fares! (Read more about the Delta Companion Certificate here.)
Reserve cards act as a tie-breaker in Delta’s upgrade hierarchy and allow cardholders to accrue MQM after meeting certain spend thresholds.
The cards each carry a $450 annual fee.
Hilton Honors American Express Cards
Ten free Priority Pass lounge visits are included annually with three flavors of Hilton’s Amex Cards:
- Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Credit Card (learn how to apply) — $95 annual fee
- Hilton Aspire Card — $450 annual fee
- Hilton Honors American Express Business Card (learn how to apply) — $95 annual fee
Mastercard Black and Gold Cards
Two luxury cards from Mastercard give cardholders Priority Pass Select membership.
The Mastercard Gold Card is made with 24K gold (ooh, ahh!). It also offers a $200 annual airline credit and Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit. Its points are worth 2 cents each when redeemed for air travel. It carries an annual fee of $995. (Yes.)
The Mastercard Black Card offers cardholders an airport concierge/meet-and-greet service. Like its much more expensive Gold relative, it also offers a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit. Its points are worth 2 cents each when redeemed for air travel. The Mastercard Black Card‘s annual fee is $495.
United Explorer Card
The United Explorer Card earns a somewhat honorable mention.
Cardholders receive two single-visit passes to United Club each year on their card membership anniversary. (Read my review of the LAX United Club.)
Other card benefits include 25% back on United inflight purchases, first free checked back on United flights when using your United Explorer Card to purchase your ticket, a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit every four years, and priority boarding.
The $95 annual fee is waived the first year.
Other Credit Cards with Complimentary Airport Lounge Access
The City National Bank Crystal Infinite Visa Card — a favorite card of Rene’s and only available at CNB bank locations — includes complimentary Priority Pass Select membership, as do the Citi Prestige Card, Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card, and U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite Card.
American Airlines travelers can enjoy Admirals Club access with the Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard.
Which Cards Do You Have and Enjoy?
Do you find a certain credit card gives you the most bang for your buck when it comes to airport lounges and other benefits? Please share your thoughts in the Comments section below!
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