Credit Cards For Airport Lounge Access

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As a frequent flyer, having airport lounge access pre-flight and during layovers makes a huge difference to your travel experience. Somewhere quiet, away from the hustle and bustle of a busy terminal where you can work, shower, recharge electronics, eat good food and relax in comfort with a glass of something tasty.

It used to be the case that lounge access required you book a business or first-class fare, or attain elite status with an airline. Not so anymore. There are a ton of travel-focused credit cards offering lounge access as a core benefit.

The Dnata Lounge located in Singapore's Changi International airport
The Dnata Lounge located in Singapore's Changi International Airport is part of the global Priority Pass network of airport lounges

Some offerings, like the co-branded Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express, are aimed fair and square at Delta loyalists and those happy to stick within the ecosystem of one airline alliance. Increasingly, the lounge access benefit offered with premium travel cards is a Priority Pass membership, a third-party provider that grants access to hundreds of airport lounges all over the world.

These memberships often cost upwards of $300 or more, so complimentary access is a benefit worth looking at more closely. The table below lists the different rewards credit cards offering lounge access, the membership offered, the airport lounges you can access, the guest policy, and the cards annual fee.

Credit Cards That Provide Airport Lounge Access

Credit CardLounge AccessGuest PolicyCard Annual Fee
Chase Sapphire Reserve®Priority Pass™ Select - access to over 900 VIP airport lounges in over 400 cities worldwidePriority Pass™ Select - AU accounts also receive access and additional guests are complimentary$450
The Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit CardPriority Pass™ Select - access to over 900 VIP airport lounges in over 400 cities worldwidePriority Pass™ Select - AU accounts also receive access and additional guests are complimentary$450
United MileagePlus® Club CardUnited Club℠ - access to more than 45 United Club locations worldwide + participating Star Alliance® affiliated airport clubsUnited Club℠ - 2 adults or 1 adult and dependent children under 21 years of age$450
Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American ExpressDelta Sky Club® - Access to 247 Delta Sky Clubs & Partner Lounges worldwide

You must be traveling same-day on a Delta-coded or Delta-operated flight
Delta Sky Club® - $29 per person$450
The Platinum Card® from American ExpressDelta Sky Club - Access to 34 Sky Club lounges when traveling same-day on a Delta-coded or Delta-operated flight; does not include access to partner lounges

Plaza Premium Lounges in over 70 locations.

Airspace Lounges - JFK, Cleveland, San Diego

The Centurion® Lounge - Houston-IAH, New York LaGuardia, Dallas/Fort Worth, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Miami, and Seattle airports

Lufthansa Business, Senator, and First Class Lounges in Terminal 2 of Munich Airport

Priority Pass™ Select - access to over 900 VIP airport lounges in over 400 cities worldwide
Delta Sky Club - Must have same-day corresponding airline ticket, Guest access varies by location, charges may apply

Boarding pass for the same day or the following day travel.

Airspace Lounge - Up to two companions free

The Centurion® Lounge - Up to two companions free

Lufthansa - Must have ticket for same-day travel flying Lufthansa, Swiss, or Austrian - access Business Lounges flying any class of service and Senator Lounges flying business class. No free guests.

Priority Pass™ Select - Up to two companions free
$550 - Rates & Fees
Citi Prestige® CardPriority Pass™ Select - access to over 900 VIP airport lounges in over 400 cities worldwidePriority Pass™ Select - up to two guests or immediate family members (spouse, domestic partner and/or children under 18 years of age), additional guests $27 each$450
Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®Admirals Club® - over 50 Admirals Club® locations worldwideAdmirals Club® - Immediate family (Spouse/Partner and kids) or up to two guests. AU accounts also receive Admirals Club access privileges but not full membership, see the T&C’s$450
Delta Reserve for Business Credit CardDelta Sky Club® - Access to 247 Delta Sky Clubs & Partner Lounges worldwideDelta Sky Club® - $29 per person$450 - Rates & Fees
The Business Platinum® Card from American ExpressDelta Sky Club - Access to 34 Sky Club lounges when traveling same-day on a Delta-coded or Delta-operated flight; does not include access to partner lounges

Plaza Premium Lounges in over 70 locations.

Airspace Lounges - JFK, Cleveland, San Diego

The Centurion® Lounge - Houston-IAH, New York LaGuardia, Dallas/Fort Worth, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Miami, and Seattle airports

Lufthansa Business, Senator, and First Class Lounges in Terminal 2 of Munich Airport

Priority Pass™ Select - access to over 900 VIP airport lounges in over 400 cities worldwide
Delta Sky Club - Must have same-day corresponding airline ticket, Guest access varies by location, charges may apply

Boarding pass for the same day or the following day travel.

Airspace Lounge - Up to two companions free

The Centurion® Lounge - Up to two companions free

Lufthansa - Must have ticket for same-day travel flying Lufthansa, Swiss, or Austrian - access Business Lounges flying any class of service and Senator Lounges flying business class. No free guests.

Priority Pass™ Select - Up to two companions free
$450 - Rates & Fees
Hilton Honors American Express Aspire CardPriority Pass™ Select - access to over 900 VIP airport lounges in over 400 cities worldwideUp to two companions free then $27 each$450
The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card10 Free Priority Pass VisitsEach guest counts as 1 free pass$95 - Rates & Fees
Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card10 Free Priority Pass VisitsEach guest counts as 1 free pass$95 - Rates & Fees

Final Thoughts

As you can see in the table, while Priority Pass Select memberships are offered across a variety of cards, the rules regarding guest access differ from card to card. The Platinum Card® from American Express and the Citi Prestige® Card allow you to take up to two guests or immediate family members in for free. The Chase Sapphire Reserve® takes it a step further with no limits on the number of guests that can come in with you.

So, looking at the options, which card makes the most sense for you?

Credit Cards For Airport Lounge Access
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Comments

  • At the end of every credit card listed, you specify $450. Is that the cost of the card? Seems like a lot for just getting a credit card?

    • Bill, indeed each of these is $450. A hefty price to pay for lounge access, but I’d hope that isn’t the only reason you’d look to any of these cards. The benefits can be particularly lucrative, often with a net effective cost of well under $100 depending on how you use the card. Is there any one that you were particularly interested in?

  • I generally avoid Delta as they tend to want far above the minimum reward miles for an award. Typically, it is double or triple of what others want for the same route

  • Fred Philibert says:

    By all means, check which lounges are included, and what their rules are! When I looked at Priority Pass, indeed there were many lounges, but most of them are outside of the US. Many of the ones inside the US were on the inside the secure zone (Airside), often in terminals I had never heard of, even if they were in airports I frequent. Some state that you must have a ticket for Airline X in that terminal, and I’m not certain if my boarding pass for Terminal A will get me in to Terminal X, where the lounge is. One of note was, I think, an Air France club lounge that was closed from 9PM to 1AM local time. My analysis basically indicated that there were NO lounges that I could access during my normal travel on Priority Pass.

    Bottom line, I appreciate the chart, but I more investigation is needed.

    • Fred, absolutely, and certain folks will definitely win out more than others. I think one of the best deals is if you’re in Seattle, with access to Alaska’s Board Room lounges just by being a Priority Pass member. Unfortunate that it doesn’t work out for your travel habits though.

    • Eric Gilbert says:

      I have two credit cards: The Citi Prestige card ($450 annual fee; $100.00 off because I am submitted it through CitiGold) plus the American Express Platinum card $450.00 annual fee. The Citi prestige card provides access to the Priority lounges which I agree with the above reader, they are limited in the USA. When I flew from Miami to Montreal last month, I utilized the American Express Centurion lounge in Miami and had a layover in LaGuardia New York. I had to leave the American terminal and walk over to a separate area to use the Centurion lounge. I then had to re-enter through airport security. Just for the heck of it, I used my Citi prestige card to walk into the American lounge since it was next to my outgoing flight and it was nice but needs updating from the 1960’s.
      On my return flight, I attempted using the PRIORITY LOUNGE in Montreal but I was denied access since it was only available to flights leaving outside of the US. I am most likely going to cancel my Citi Prestige and get the American Airlines Executive card as the prestige will no longer provide you access to the American Airlines lounges starting in July of 2017. They do provide me a $250.00 annual fee towards airfare so my annual fee is only $100.00 so I may end up keeping it.
      Here is how you get the value of all of these premium cards:
      Platinum card: 450 annual fee. They provide you $200 in credits towards airfare yearly making the fee $250 per year for the Centurion lounge access.
      Citi Prestige card: I pay $350.00 per year plus $250.00 in credits towards airfare making the fee $100.00 per year. Every time I book with their travel service, I get the 4th night free at any hotel at the lowest rate. I also like there rewards program out of all my cards.
      American Airlines Executive Card. $450 per year but access to the lounge. I look at it this way. $50.00 each time I travel with American I am not paying for my bags to be checked in.

  • I have the Hilton Honors Surpass card from American Express and it cost a whole lot less and gives you Priority Pass access for $29.00. That’s a good dal I think if you use Hiltons like I do.

    • Randy, this is a little-known feature of the Hilton HHonors Surpass from American Express indeed. While it does give you a Priority Pass membership, as you’ve noted, it provides no complimentary access — each visit is paid. That said, it does at least provide access to Priority Pass lounges. That said, the Surpass card is stellar if you’re a Hilton loyalist. My wife and I both have the card and love the earning on it — and the ability to earn Diamond with a bunch of spend as well! Thanks for sharing.

  • Are there other restrictions on lounge access with these cards? I had for a year or two a “Lounge Club” access card from one of my cc (not on your list). Sadly, I found out the hard way that when I used the card to gain access to several lounges in Canada and Europe, my related cc was charged a high access fee! It seems that while I thought I had “access”, what I really had was the opportunity to pay for access – something I probably had anyway!

    I have heard that some cards on this list require you to have a same day ticket on a certain airline in order to enter.

    I am just generally wondering if there might be any other ‘hidden conditions’? Many thanks – nice article.

    • Will, there are hidden conditions with some cards, but we’ve listed the conditions here. For example, with access to the Delta lounges through the Delta Reserve cards, you must be traveling on a same-day flight with Delta or on a codeshare with a Delta flight number. With the Platinum Amex cards you’ve got to be flying Delta to access a Delta lounge. Priority Pass memberships differ from credit card to card so it is important to look at each one as we’ve broken them down.

      If you don’t mind me asking, which credit cards do you have that provide some form of lounge access? Happy to help you figure out which makes the most sense to keep around. Thanks for checking out the article!

  • I found out the hard way that several of these lounges have restricted hours and confusing locations for Priority pass members. On a recent trip to Dublin, I found out after going through customs that the lounge honoring Priority Pass was BEFORE you go through customs, not the one by the gate. Not very convenient to try to time your passage through customs and make your flight.
    The other problem was my layover in IAD was 5 hours and I wanted to enjoy a club while there. Found out the British airways club restricts access to 5am to 2pm. Not helpful when I’m there from 3pm to 8pm. The Air France lounge kicks Priority Pass members out from 4-6pm when their flights are leaving.
    Nowhere did I find in the Chase Sapphire Reserve literature anything talks about restricted times.

    • Scott; it is unfortunate — the locations and time restrictions, but these are not limits imposed by Chase or their products. Rather it is a limitation with the Priority Pass program and when you can access as a member of that program. I’d highly recommend installing the Priority Pass app on your mobile device so you always have easy access to info about the lounges. Nothing is perfect, but if you’ve got easy access to the info at least it can help you out.

    • David Miller says:

      I recently had the same problem both in Newark, where the lounge was closed till after my flight left, and in Boston, where my flight was down one hallway through security – while the lounge was past security in the OTHER direction. Hm, so far my $450 has yielded the 100K miles, but the jury’s still out regarding Priority Pass.

      • David, which card did you get with the 100k bonus?

        • David Miller says:

          Hi Howie – it’s the Chase Reserve card. I’m hoping the lounges will be more accessible on future trips. That plus Chase eating the first $300 in travel charges per year (and some of the other bennies) should make up that sky-high $450 annual fee.

          • David, definitely hope you can make good use of the Priority Pass through the Sapphire Reserve — remember, you can bring all of your travel companions with you into lounges. Definitely make use of that $300 automatic credit, which as you mentioned is based on a calendar year, so you’ll get to use it in totality 2x before paying that next annual fee.

  • What about AMEX platinum Centurion lounge access? It’s omitted from the chart.

  • I’m a Chase Visa Reserve member and read the T&C’s and haven’t seen anything where additional guests are complimentary. What I have read is that other people you authorize to have the Chase Visa Reserve are able to have access to Priority Pass Select lounges. Could you direct me to where you saw guests are complementary? Thanks

    • Todd, this information has been confirmed by Chase. When you receive your Priority Pass card in the mail you’ll see in the letter wording that “you and your accompanying guests” are able to access the lounge with your membership. Authorized users on your account will receive their own Priority Pass membership as well and they can travel on their own and bring in their guests as well.

  • Hi! I added an authorised user when applying for the Ritz Carlton CC. Unfortunately, only my priority pass arrived. Is one of you able to confirm that the authorised users get the priority pass as well?

  • I have just received my Chase sapphire reserve card and did not realize I was to activate membership to get priority access. Is there any way to get lounge access without my membership card and just my cc?

  • Actually you can do it. Call first Chase SR card just in case it change recently. Then just go to lounge and pay the fee using your Chase SR card- important.. You can do it up to two times and the feewill be refunded by the Chase SR card.

  • There is a big hole in all the above programs and it is called O’Hare. I flew in for the Chicago Seminars and had several hours before meeting up with my ride to visit family. I was on United and did not have any one day passes. The Priority Pass Lounges are in international and they will not let you through Security to those lounges if your boarding pass has been used that day.

    I am carrying Amex Bus. Plat, Ritz Carlton, CSR and none got me access anywhere in O’Hare. Just seems so odd there is not a domestic side Priority Pass or a Centurion lounge in O’Hare.

    Yep, it sucked.

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