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Traveling can be stressful and there can be times when you’re sitting around waiting for long periods. Sitting in an airport terminal can be loud, crowded, and if you need to eat, the food is usually pretty expensive.
Thankfully, there are credit cards that offer lounge access. Wondering what credit card gives you access to airport lounges? Well, you’re in the right place!
This guide highlights the best credit cards for airport lounge access so you can improve your overall airport and travel experience.
10 Best Credit Cards for Airport Lounge Access
If you’ve never been inside an airport lounge or wonder what the benefits are, you’re in for a treat.
While lounges vary by location and get more upscale with premium-class tickets, lounge amenities help to save money, ease travel anxiety, and improve the travel experience.
Lounges provide a quiet space away from security checkpoints and busy terminal gates. Complimentary food and beverages are typically offered, which for family travelers amounts to significant savings.
In addition, lounge visits include free wifi, places to charge devices, and even amenities like recliners, private sleeping or nap rooms, and showers.
Of the cards listed below, Priority Pass is the most common lounge membership.
Priority Pass makes it easy to check lounge options right from their app. You can also store your Priority Membership information in the app making it easy to scan for lounge entry. Simply search the airport and terminal you’ll be in for the best lounge options and participating restaurant (if any).
Lastly, many of the cards listed below require you to sign up or activate lounge access. Be sure this is one of the first things you do upon receiving your card.
Let’s take a look at the best credit cards for lounge access.
This is one of the more popular premium travel rewards credit cards on the market. It does come with a $550 annual fee, which might scare some people, but it does have plenty of benefits, including Priority Pass lounge access. It’s also one of the first 5 recommended cards for beginners to points and miles.
You and 2 guests will have unlimited access to 1300+ airport lounges around the globe at no additional cost. Each guest after the 2nd guest will be charged $27 per visit.
But, if you were looking to use your $300 Sapphire Reserve travel credit, this charge would qualify and help offset the card’s annual fee.
Authorized users also get their own Priority Pass benefits, including the ability to bring 2 guests of their own at no additional cost. For frequent traveling families, the $75 authorized user fee makes more sense than paying for additional lounge entries separately.
In addition to receiving access to lounges, Priority Pass also offers airport terminal restaurants where you’ll receive a $28 credit for food and beverages. Again, up to 2 guests will each receive a $28 credit, as well.
One important note, though, the tip is usually not covered by this charge, so keep that in mind when visiting a Priority Pass restaurant.
From the participating restaurants to the low authorized user fee for additional Priority Pass access, it’s no wonder the Chase Sapphire Reserve is consistently listed as a best credit card for lounge access.
In terms of a variety of airport lounges, the American Express Platinum is the best card for lounge access. If your most important travel rewards perk is lounge access, take a look at the American Express Platinum card.
There are a few versions of the Platinum Card, including:
- The Platinum Card
- The Business Platinum Card
- American Express Platinum from Charles Schwab
- Morgan Stanley Charles Schwab
With these Platinum cards, you’ll get access to Priority Pass Lounges. In one way, the lounge access is very similar to the Chase Sapphire Reserve. You’ll gain access for you and up to 2 guests, as many times as you’d like. Bringing additional guests beyond that will cost $27 per person.
The difference in Priority Pass access between the Amex Platinum and Chase Sapphire Reserve is, the Platinum card excludes Priority Pass restaurants. This is potentially more of a loss for domestic travelers, as the network of restaurants was meant to bridge the gap in airport terminals without a Priority Pass lounge.
In addition, the Platinum card gives you access to the Delta Sky Club Lounge. To access the Sky Club Lounges, you must be traveling on a same-day Delta or Delta partner flight. You can bring up to 2 guests with you, but it’ll cost $39 per person (children under the age of 2 are free).
You’ll also have access to the American Express Centurion Lounges. This includes bringing up to 2 guests for free.
Centurion Lounges get high marks for their luxurious setup, but there are only a handful of these lounges around the world. Luckily, American Express is slowly adding more.
You’ll need to show your same-day travel boarding pass on any carrier to enter the Centurion Lounges.
The Platinum card also gives you access to the Escape Lounges. This is a smaller network of lounges, accounting for just 12 in the US, but if you’re in one of these airports like Phoenix-Sky Harbor or Minneapolis-St. Paul, your card will give you access.
The number of guests allowed to enter an Escape Lounge with you will vary by location, and you’ll also need to show your same-day boarding pass.
For an annual fee of $550, The Platinum Card offers the most extensive lounge access of any premium travel rewards credit card.
One thing I can appreciate with the Amex Green card is that it’s different than the rest of the cards, offering a fresh take on the lounge access benefit.
While other cards primarily focus on Priority Pass, the Green card doesn’t. With your American Express Green card, you’ll receive a $100 LoungeBuddy credit each calendar year. Not too bad for a card that carries a $150 annual fee.
This credit allows you to purchase a one-time pass for participating lounges around the world. You can purchase your pass the day you travel or in advance.
Lounge access using LoungeBuddy starts at $25. This ideally will be useful for the infrequent traveler, or someone looking to use LoungeBuddy to complement their Priority Pass Lounge access offered through another card.
4. Ritz Carlton Card
The Ritz Carlton card is no longer open to new applicants, but currently, you can get this card if you have a Chase Marriott card that has been open for a minimum of a year. You’ll need to request an upgrade to receive the Ritz Carlton card.
The Ritz Carlton card offers the same lounge access as the Chase Sapphire Reserve, which includes Priority Pass access for you and up to 2 guests for an unlimited number of lounge visits.
You’ll also have access to Priority Pass restaurants.
The big difference between the Ritz Carlton card and the Chase Sapphire is the Ritz Carlton card annual fee is $450, albeit with a less flexible $300 travel credit to help offset the annual fee.
5. Hilton Aspire
The Hilton Aspire just might be the most valuable hotel credit card with lounge access. It has so many benefits, including unlimited Priority Pass access for you and up to 2 guests.
Just like the American Express Platinum card, this excludes the Priority Pass restaurants. While that may sound disappointing, keep in mind there are about 50 of these Priority Pass restaurants worldwide. So, overall, this is an extremely small number compared to the number of airports in the world.
Gaining lounge access is really where you’ll see the money saved on things like food, drinks, and other amenities.
The Hilton Aspire has a $450 annual fee and is also loaded with other benefits, like Hilton Diamond Status and airline and Hilton resort credits.
The Hilton Surpass comes with Priority Pass lounge access, however, it’s not unlimited. So, if you’re a frequent traveler, this may not be the card for you. But, it could be the right lounge access card for someone who travels a few times a year.
The Hilton Surpass gives you 10 Priority Pass lounge passes each calendar year. You would need to use 1 pass each time you were to access a lounge, so if you had a flight with 2 layovers and you wanted to access 2 different Priority Pass lounges, you would use 2 of your 10 passes.
Similarly, if you were traveling with others, each person would need their own lounge pass. A family of 4 would use 4 of the 10 passes for a single lounge visit.
The access is only for Priority Pass lounges only and does not include Priority Pass restaurants.
7. Citi Prestige
The Citi Prestige is a premium credit card that lost its luster when they removed all travel protections from this card. Luckily, though, cardholders still receive unlimited Priority Pass lounge access for themselves and up to 2 guests.
Since the Prestige is a World Elite Mastercard, you’ll also receive access to Priority Pass restaurants, which will save you $28 per person on food and drink for up to 3 people total.
While this card is lacking travel protections, the 5x the earnings at restaurants is still worthwhile and the annual fee is lower than that of the Chase Sapphire Reserve or the American Express Platinum, costing $495 per year.
8. Citi AAdvantage Executive
If you’re someone who is loyal to American Airlines and wants access to the AA Admiral Lounges, the Citi AAdvantage Executive card could be right for you.
Not only do you receive access for you and your immediate family members (spouse and children under 18 years old), or up to 2 guests, but authorized users will also receive access to the Admiral Club when flying an eligible flight with a same-day boarding pass.
Cardholders can also use these lounges on departure and on arrival, which is a smart way to save yourself money on food when you land at your destination. Authorized users can also use Admiral Clubs when departing, but not on arrival.
The Citi AAdvantage Executive card has an annual fee of $450, and there’s no fee to add authorized users.
9. United Club Card
For the loyal United flyer who’d like United Club lounge access, the United Club Card can help. With the United Club card, you’ll get United Club membership which is needed to access the United Club lounges. You’ll also need to have a same-day boarding pass to enter the lounge.
Cardholders can also bring one adult and dependent children under the age of 21, or 2 guests into the lounge. Unfortunately, authorized users don’t receive their own access to United Club lounges.
On the upside, you’re allowed to enter the United Club lounges when departing and upon arrival, so if you happen to pass by a United lounge at your destination, you could make a lounge visit if you wanted.
The United Club card comes with a $450 annual fee.
10. Delta SkyMiles Reserve
Similar to the above, loyal Delta flyers who’d like Delta SkyMiles Club access may want to look at the Delta SkyMiles Reserve (or the business version of the card, the Delta SkyMiles Reserve for Business).
Delta Reserve cardholders get free access to Delta Club lounges with same-day boarding passes for a Delta flight. Unfortunately, this card’s lounge access doesn’t extend to travel companions. But, guests can enter the lounge with the cardholder for $39 each.
Cardholders who fly on flights operated by Sky Team or non-alliance partners can still enter Delta Clubs but will need to pay $39 per entry.
The Delta Reserve also allows cardholders access to American Express Centurion lounges. Again, though, additional fees for guests apply.
For the $550 annual fee, using this card for Delta SkyMiles Club access is best for true-hearted Delta loyalists who can offset the annual fee with frequent lounge visits.
When it comes to lounge access, most of these credit cards give you access to Priority Pass lounges.
But there are differences between issuers like Chase and American Express and Visa or Mastercard. So it’s important to know which access you have and which is best for your home airport and travel goals. It would be quite unfortunate if you thought you had Priority Pass restaurant coverage, only to find out you didn’t.
Unique options like the American Express Green Card or the Hilton Honors Surpass can be great options for travelers who plan 1-2 trips a year or for families needing additional guest access above and beyond what’s offered with a card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve.
Airline-specific premium cards with lounge access to these airlines’ clubs and lounges are perfect for loyalists.
The bottom line is airport lounges make the travel experience more comfortable. Luckily, there are plenty of ways a single travel rewards card gets you access to airport lounges around the globe.
So, do you use any of these credit cards for lounge access?
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