How Does Airport Lounge Access Work?
If you’ve never used an airport lounge, you may feel a little confused about how they work, particularly as there are different forms of access. These include:
- Priority Pass: This is a network of airport lounges that offers its members access to 1,300 plus locations around the world. To access this lounge network, you’ll need to either purchase a membership plan or apply for a credit card offering Priority Pass membership. If you are accessing Priority Pass via your credit card, typically you’ll need to enroll your credit card account before you travel.
- Airline Specific: There are some airlines that operate their own airport lounges. For example, United Club, Delta SkyClub and the Admirals’ Club from American Airlines. Business or first class ticket holders may enjoy free access in certain circumstances, otherwise, you need to purchase a membership. The cost of membership generally varies according to your airline's frequent flyer status. However, if you have a co branded credit card, you may have free access to the lounges as one of your card perks.
- Exclusive: Some lounges have even greater exclusivity. For example, Platinum Card from American Express cardholders can have access to the American Express Global Lounge Collection.
The Best Credit Cards With Lounge Access
Now we’ve discussed the basics of airport lounges, we’ll delve into our picks for the best credit cards with lounge access.
The Platinum Card® from American Express
The Platinum Card from American Express offers access to an impressive lounge network. Amex is continually expanding the Centurion Network, so you are likely to find it easier to access one whether you’re traveling within the U.S or abroad. Its main competitor is the Chase Sapphire card.
As we touched on above, the Centurion Network has been created to offer a premium lounge experience, so you can expect a high standard of food, drink, and amenities when you visit a location.
In addition to offering Centurion lounge access, the Platinum Card also provides airline fee credit, Uber credit, no foreign transaction fees, and rewards weighted towards airfare and travel. It's considered a top-tier card among Amex cards.
- Up to $200 hotel credit per year when you book select prepaid hotels using your Platinum card via American Express Travel. Enrollment Required.
- Up to $240 or $20 per month in Digital Entertainment Credit when you pay for one or more The New York Times, Peacock, SiriusXM or Audible products with your card. Enrollment Required.
- Up to $155 in Walmart+ credit. When you use your card to pay for your monthly Walmart+ membership, you’ll get the full cost back every month. Enrollment Required.
- Up to $200 in Airline fee credit per year when you charge incidental travel fees from selected airlines on your card. Enrollment Required.
- Up to $300 back every year for eligible Equinox memberships when you enroll and pay using your card.
- Up to $189 back per year when you use your card to pay for a CLEAR® membership. Enrollment Required.
Capital One Venture X Rewards
Capital One Venture X Rewards
In addition to a tiered reward structure favoring travel purchases, the Capital One Venture X Rewards card offers a decent lounge access package and is considered the highest card level between Capital One cards.
Capital One has only recently opened its first airport lounge in Dallas, but Venture X Rewards cardholders can also register for a Priority Pass, which provides access to 1,300 plus lounges around the world. Capital One is intending to roll out more of its own lounges in the coming years, but for now the Priority Pass should have you covered.
You can also enjoy up to $300 statement credit towards your Capital One Travel and an anniversary bonus, which can all help to offset the card’s annual fee.
- For reservations made with Capital One Travel, get up to $300 in travel credit.
- Hertz Gold Plus Rewards' top-tier elite status
- Holders will be eligible for all applicable Visa Infinite benefits, including primary rental car insurance. With some exclusions, such as pricey, exotic, and antique cars, you can receive coverage of up to $75,000 for rentals lasting up to 15 days domestically or up to 31 days internationally.
- You and your family receive coverage of up to $2,000 per person for arrangements, such as pre-paid tours, journeys, and vacations, made with your CapOne Venture X card.
- If your travel is delayed for more than six hours or necessitates an overnight stay, you may be eligible for up to $500 for each ticket you booked on a common carrier.
- Access to Capital One Entertainment, which offers a variety of unique musical, sporting, eating, and other events.
- 4 authorized users also get access to Plaza Premium Lounges and Capital One Lounges, Priority Pass, free Status in the Hertz President's Circle and more.
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
With a Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card, you’ll have access to the Priority Pass lounge network with locations worldwide. One of the unique features of this card is that the primary cardholder and any authorized users may access the lounges with up to two guests per visit. Unlike the Reserve card, the only way you can get airport lounge access with Chase Sapphire Preferred is by paying the $99 membership fee.
Just bear in mind that Priority Pass is a network of lounges, so there may be lounge closures or restrictions according to specific policies of the lounges subscribed to the program. However this is an attractive option for those who regularly fly and are not brand loyal to a particular airline.
In addition to lounge access the Chase Sapphire Reserve offers annual travel credit, and there is a tiered reward structure weighted towards hotels, car rental and air travel purchase via the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.
- annual travel credit of $300. For reimbursement of travel-related charges made to your card, you will receive a statement credit of up to $300.
- If your carrier's journey is delayed for more than six hours, you may get up to $500 per ticket in travel reimbursement for lost luggage, up to a total of $3,000 per passenger.
- Access to Chase Unlimited Rewards, where certain categories increase the value of your points. For instance, 50,000 points are worth $750 if you use them for vacation.
- VIP airport lounge access to more than 1,000 lounges spread over more than 500 cities worldwide.
- Once every four years, the Chase Sapphire Reserve card will pay for your TSA Precheck or Global Entry application fee. Typically, this expense ranges from $85 to $100.
- 50% more when you make a reservation through Ultimate Chase Rewards. All travel-related expenses, such as lodging, transportation, and cruises, are covered.
- Exclusive offers like free room upgrades, early check-in, and late check-out at a selection of hand-picked top hotels and resorts around the world.
- No restrictions on when to use the points. Anytime during the year is a good time to redeem them. Neither an expiration date nor usage restrictions exist.
- Insurance for travel interruption or cancellation:
If you use your card to make your reservation, you will be compensated up to $20,000 per trip and $10,000 per person in the event that your trip must be shortened or canceled due to an eligible event.
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card
The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card has obviously been designed for those loyal to the Marriott Bonvoy hotel chain, but this doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy some airport perks. In fact, the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express card offers a Priority Pass membership with unlimited access with up to two guests permitted per visit.
In terms of rewards rate, the Amex Bonvoy Brilliant card offers 6 Marriott Bonvoy points for each dollar of eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy™ program, 3 points at Worldwide restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines and 2 points on all other eligible purchases.
The card is ideal for frequent Marriott Bonvoy visitors, particularly those who like dining out, as there is statement credit per year for eligible restaurant purchases from around the world. It can also help you to get a boost with the Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program.
- Every year following the month of your card renewal, you will receive 1 free night.
- At participating hotels, a Marriott Bonvoy Platinum Elite member will earn 50% additional points on qualified transactions.
- Get up to $300 in statement credits per calendar year (up to $25 per month) for qualified restaurant purchases each time your card is renewed.
- Regardless of the airline or flight class you are travelling, sign up for Priority Pass Select, which allows unrestricted access to more than 1,200 lounges in over 130 destinations.
- You can earn 25 Elite Night Credits toward the subsequent level of Marriott Bonvoy Elite membership each year. Per Marriott Bonvoy member account, restrictions apply.
- Protection for cell phones: You may be compensated for the costs of replacing or repairing a damaged or stolen cell phone.
- You can be covered for Damage to or Theft of a Rental Vehicle in a Covered Territory when you use your Eligible Card to book and pay for the Entire Rental and decline the collision damage waiver (CDW) at the Rental Company counter.
- When you pay the entire fare for a ticket for a common carrier vehicle (such as a plane, train, ship, or bus), you are covered for lost, damaged, or stolen baggage.
- Terms apply
Citi AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®
Citi AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®
The Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite is one of the premium Citi credit cards that provides you and two guests or your immediate family access to Admirals’ Club lounges. There are almost 50 locations around the world and approximately 60 partner locations in international and domestic destinations.
The card also offers some other excellent travel-related perks including first-checked bags for you and up to eight travel companions for free on domestic American Airlines itineraries, priority check in, savings on in flight food and beverages and statement credit for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application fees.
- First bag checked free for the primary cardholder and up to eight additional passengers flying on the same reservation on domestic flights
- TSA or Global Entry Application fee credit for PreCheck (once every five years) up to $100
- Aaccess to security and priority check-in (where available) consisting of up to eight friends
- Priority boarding (Group 4)
- There are no foreign transaction fees with the Citi AAdvantage Executive Card, making it a smart choice for international shopping.
- When traveling on American Airlines, you can visit the Admirals Club® lounge with up to 10 approved customers.
- 25% off all in-flight food and drink orders
United Club℠ Infinite Card
United Club℠ Infinite Card
4x miles on United Airlines purchases, 2x miles on all other travel purchases, dining and eligible delivery services and 1x miles on all other purchases
The United Club Infinite is a Chase credit card that is ideal for both domestic and international travelers who tend to fly United. As a cardholder, you’ll have access to all the United Club lounges and the lounges from its affiliate Star Alliance locations. Your travel companions will also be welcome when you travel.
In addition to lounge access, the United Club Infinite has a tiered reward structure weighted towards travel and dining purchases, and a welcome bonus of 80,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. You can redeem United miles for a variety of options including transferring to another airline company. This makes it a great everyday credit card that also provides excellent travel perks.
- Access to United Club (and participating Star Alliance™ affiliate) airport lounges worldwide for cardholders and up to two guests
- Up to $100 statement credit every four years when you enroll in NEXUS, TSA PreCheck or Global Entry.
- Primary cardholder and up to one companion on the same reservation can get their first and second checked bags free on United flights
- Trip cancellation/interruption insurance — Up to $10,000 per person and $20,000 per trip reimbursement for prepaid, non-refundable travel expenses.
- Baggage delay insurance — Up to $100 reimbursement per day for 3 days for baggage delays over 6 hours.
- Lost luggage reimbursement — For luggage lost or damaged by the carrier, you are covered for up to $3,000 per passenger.
Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express
60,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months
This is another American Express card, but it is a must for those who frequently fly Delta. This co-branded card offers rewards on all purchases, particularly Delta, but where it really shines is the list of benefits. For example, there is complimentary SkyClub access when you fly Delta Airlines (effective 2/1/25, members will receive 10 visits per year), or you can use the Centurion or Escape Lounges. Also, the accumulated miles can be redeemed for Delta flights, hotels, upgrades, and more.
The card also provides a status boost if you hit the annual spending requirement, there is a first checked bag free for you and up to eight travel companions, priority boarding, and a companion certificate on your account anniversary.
Some non-Delta benefits include travel insurance, cell phone insurance, and reimbursement for Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fees.
- Credit for either TSA Precheck every 4.5 years or Global Entry security programs every 4 year
- Complimentary access to both Delta Sky Club lounges and Amex Centurion lounges, two guest passes to SkyClub lounges.
- Free checked bag per flight for the cardholder and up to eight companions
- When you use your co-branded Delta card to pay for in-flight refreshments, entertainment, or snacks, you'll get 20% back as a statement credit.
- Spend at least $25,000 on the Delta Reserve Card in a calendar year to waive the MQD requirements for Silver, Gold, or Platinum Medallion elite status.
- The cardholder may board with the Main Cabin 1 group along with up to eight additional passengers on the same reservation.
- Primary car rental collision insurance and Accidental Death and Dismemberment Coverage
- Concierge service
Credit Cards With Lounge Access
What Do You Get With Airport Lounges?
You’ll find lounge areas inside the airport and they offer a place to relax and enjoy some great benefits. These can include:
If you’re traveling for business, an airport lounge can provide a quiet place to work, relax or rest before you fly.
This can be invaluable if you want to make the most of your time, so you can maximize your productivity, particularly if you tend to travel regularly.
Most of us are aware that the typical plastic seats in airports can be incredibly uncomfortable, especially when you’re sitting around for hours.
However, in the lounges, you can enjoy comfortable chairs with ample space to stretch out. Inside the lounge, you’ll find the atmosphere quiet and calm, there are likely to have large screen TVs, so you can chill out before you need to board your flight.
Many parents find flying with children stressful simply because of their airport experience. Children rarely like to sit still for extended periods, but there are numerous airport lounges that have a kids’ room.
This provides a safe space where your children can play and release some of their pent up energy, while you can sit back and relax.
Lounges are typically stocked with complimentary amenities that include premium foods, fully stocked bars, fast-speed WiFi, power outlets, and even modern shower facilities. You can even access customer support which can help you with any issues.
If you’re in an airline-affiliated lounge, the staff have full access to the reservation systems. They can help you with seat assignments, baggage issues, or other things that may require standing in a long line at a busy counter.
Best Credit Cards Airport Lounge Networks
As we touched on above, there are different airport lounge networks and each offers different benefits or perks.
Amex Centurion Lounges
Centurion Lounges are owned and operated by American Express. They are designed to offer a premium lounge experience. They provide some superb features, including seasonally inspired food designed by local chefs, premium spirits design, curated wine lists, and signature or location-specific cocktails. Some lounge locations even have family rooms, spa services, or events such as wine tasting.
Typically, Centurion Lounges offer various drinks, high-quality dining, and high-speed WiFi. There are also multiple types of seating, so you can be comfortable whether you want to work or relax. However, each lounge has unique amenities, so additional services can vary from area to area.
Which Amex Credit Cards Get You Centurion Lounge Access?
The following Amex credit cards are eligible for the centurion lounges:
- Amex Platinum Card
- Business Platinum From American Express Card
- Amex Delta SkyMiles Reserve Card
- Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card
- The Centurion Card from American Express
Priority Pass lounges offer a variety of amenities including food and drink, WiFi, and a place to work or relax. Some locations also feature children’s zones where your kids can play and run around without bothering other travelers, allowing you to relax.
There are three Priority Pass levels that indicate if there are any limitations to your Priority Pass lounge access.
- Prestige: This is the top-level Priority Pass offering full, unlimited benefits.
- Standard Plus: You can enjoy 10 free lounge visits per year and after the initial 10, there is an entry fee, currently $32.
- Standard: There is an entry fee per visit, but you can enjoy discounts on each airport lounge you visit.
Which Credit Cards Offer Priority Pass Lounge Access?
The following cards get you priority pass lounge access:
- The Platinum Card® from American Express.Capital
- One Venture X Rewards Credit Card.
- Chase Sapphire Reserve.
- Citi Prestige® Card.
- The Business Platinum Card® from American Express.
- Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card.
- U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite Card.Hilton
- Honors American Express Aspire Card.
- Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card.
American Airlines Admirals Club
The Admirals’ Club is American Airlines’ lounge network. It offers the typical amenities including food, drink and WiFi. While the food spread may be modest, it does offer a decent variety including salad bar, fruit, cookies and location specific items, such as a clam chowder in New England locations. If you’re at a lounge in one of American Airlines’ hubs, you will find the spread is more extensive.
There is also a decent selection of drinks including soda machines with virtually unlimited soda selections, espresso machines, ice tea and infused waters. There is also a bar where you can enjoy house drinks and other adult beverages. However, premium drinks do incur a cost.
Admirals’ Club locations also include a business amenities suite with computers, desks, power outlets and spacious seating. There are children’s facilities with video games, toys and colorful seating, shower suites and other amenities including fast speed WiFi and a selection of magazines and newspapers.
Which Credit Cards Offer Access To The Admiral Club?
The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® offers access to the Admiral Club. You can also buy a day pass with one of the following cards:
- American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card.
- AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®.
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®
United is in the process of upgrading all of its lounges, but even if you are not visiting a new lounge, you can still expect a good standard of amenities. Many of the seats are available with a side table and power outlet to make working more comfortable. However, you can also use the counter style seating or the more secluded egg style chairs if you prefer.
Most lounges have a business center with work cubicles, bathrooms and a selection of food and drinks. House wines, well drinks and soft drinks are complimentary, but you can purchase premium drinks.
The food selection is standard across all of the United Club locations with a continental breakfast in the mornings, and salads, soups and snacks throughout the day. This is a decent selection, but if you’re looking for a full meal, you may find it a little lacking.
Which United Credit Cards Offer Access to United Club lounge?
With the United Infinite Card, you can access over 45 United Club airport lounges as well as partner lounges and Star Alliance lounges.
Delta Sky Club
Delta is also upgrading its Sky Club lounges, so the overall atmosphere can vary depending on whether you are visiting one of the new or upgraded locations or a more basic facility. Regardless of the upgrade status, Delta Sky Club locations offer office workstations, comfortable chairs and dining seating.
The selection of food and drinks on offer with the Sky Club is also impressive. There is a choice of items from healthy snacks through to full meals. At breakfast time, you can expect a variety of cold and hot items including bakery items, fresh fruit, yogurts, scrambled eggs and bacon. There is also a fully staffed bar with a variety of complimentary drinks. The name brand house spirits are available and you can pay for these premium beverages with dollars or SkyMiles.
Which Delta Credit Cards Offer Access To The Sky Club Lounges?
Delta SkyMiles Reserve Card Members have complimentary access to Delta Sky Club when traveling on a same-day Delta-marketed or Delta-operated flight.
Delta SkyMiles Platinum Card Members have access to the Delta Sky Club exclusive per-visit rate of $50 per person when traveling on a same-day Delta or Delta partner airline flight.
How to Choose Credit Card With Airport Lounge Access
While we’ve covered our picks for the best credit cards with lounge access, these may not be the best choice for you. So, you need to know how to choose the right credit card. The factors to consider include:
- Your Credit: The first thing you will need to look at is your credit. While many of the credit cards offering lounge access are reserved for those with excellent credit, there are some options that only require good or average credit. So, be sure to check your latest credit score and choose the card options accordingly.
- Your Preferred Airline: The next thing that you need to consider is if you tend to have airline loyalty. If you always watch out for Delta flights or tend to fly United, then you’ll want to be able to access the corresponding lounge for the best perks. However, if you don’t have any particular loyalty to airlines, a non branded lounge network may provide a better option. So, you should look for cards that offer Priority Pass or Centurion Lounge access.
- Additional Travel Perks: While you may be primarily interested in lounge access, the additional travel perks offered can make a difference when deciding whether one card is a better choice for you compared to another. However, be sure to consider the real value for you. There is no real point in paying for a card with a long list of perks if you won’t actually use them.
- The Fees: It is also important to check what fees and charges will apply to your new credit card account. Don’t just look at the annual fee, but also consider other fees such as foreign transaction fees, late fees and other charges.
Other Ways to Get Airport Lounge Access
If the idea of getting a new credit card or you are not currently in a position to qualify for a new credit card with lounge access, there are other ways to get airport lounge access. These include:
- Achieve Elite Status: Many airlines operate an elite status program, with each level providing additional perks including lounge access. Typically, you'll need to meet or exceed the mid-tier of the status levels to qualify for lounge access, but if you’re already working on your elite status, it could be a good option for you.
- Get a Day Pass: This is perhaps the easiest way to gain lounge access, particularly if you only fly occasionally or semi regularly. Many lounges allow you to just pay at the door and you may not even be required to fly their airline. Day passes can vary in cost, depending on the lounge network and facilities. However, it is worth checking if you can receive free day passes with your credit card. Even if you don’t have full lounge access, you may get one time passes.
- Visit as a Guest: If you travel with someone who has lounge access, you could visit the lounge as their guest. Most lounge memberships allow guests entry free of charge, so it is worth checking if you can use the lounge with your friend, family member or colleague.
- Active Military Service: If you’re an active member of the military, you may be able to access lounges for free. Many airport lounges provide free access to active military service personnel and some even offer it for their families. So, if you are in the service, it is well worth checking if you can qualify for free lounge access at your departure airport.
- Purchase: The last resort to get access to airport lounges is to purchase a membership. This is the simplest, but most expensive route and the annual membership can vary depending on the lounge network. Your annual membership fee will allow access to lounges in the network and any partner lounges.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve and American Express Platinum Card both allow lounge access for authorized users.
Depending on the lounge and your card, you may be able to swipe your credit card for entry into the airport lounge. Usually, if your card annual fee is higher than $400, you can probably get it.
You’ll need to present your credit card along with your boarding pass at the desk to enter the lounge.
There are numerous credit cards that provide free entry to airport lounges, specifically the cards we’ve discussed above.
Some lounges require that you have a lounge card, but in most cases, your credit card will suffice.
This depends on your preferences and requirements. If you would like to work while you wait for your flight, you’re likely to be far more productive if you have a quiet place to set up and charge your devices.
It is very difficult to put a price on how much having a place to relax is worth, but it does allow you to start your vacation early, as you’ll have somewhere comfortable to chill out with free drinks, WiFi and snacks.
In many lounges, you are permitted to stay for two or three hours before departure and after you land. Some offer extended stays for up to five hours or more.
However, there will be occasions where the time limits are not enforced. You may only need to adhere to the time limits if the lounge is particularly busy or if there are capacity restrictions, such as during the Covid 19 pandemic.
Yes, in most cases you can purchase an annual membership or a day pass. Some lounges allow you to pay on the door for a day pass, but this may be unavailable at peak times when the lounge may be already at capacity.