Airport Lounge Access with Credit Cards

Many people think lounges at the airport will never be accessible. But, it’s actually never been easier. There are many different ways to get airport lounge access with credit cards.

While using credit cards for your everyday spend is the best way to earn points and miles toward free travel, credit cards have other perks. Credit cards can not only get you into airport lounges, but they can get you annual airline companion passes and even allow you to beat basic economy fares.

Whether it be airline specific lounges like the Delta SkyClub and the United Club, membership programs like Priority Pass, or credit card specific lounges such as the American Express Centurion Lounge, there are many different options that exist.

Types of Lounge Access

No lounge is the same – some are more premium than others. For the most part, they will include free food and drinks (alcoholic, as well), free WiFi access, newspapers, magazines, televisions and comfortable seating with a plethora of power outlets! Some will have bars while others will have a self-serve beverage station.

More premium lounges, typically located in international hubs, will have things like sit-down restaurants, showers, private meetings rooms and specific areas for first and business class customers.

Airline Lounges

Delta recently opened a new Sky Club in Austin, Texas. Photo by Delta Airlines.

The most popular and commonly known lounges belong to specific airlines. Some common lounges are the Alaska Boardroom, American Admirals Lounge, Delta SkyClub, and the United Club.

Domestic airline lounges can be bought for a membership fee and include access for the entire year. The terms differ, but most airlines require the travelers to be flying the specific airline in order to access the lounge even if they have an annual membership.

Priority Pass

The Club at ATL is a Priority Pass option for those traveling through Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, Georgia. Photo by Priority Pass.

Priority Pass might be the most common way to get airport lounge access with credit cards. It a company that contracts out with more than 1,200 lounges and restaurants at airports around the globe. Unique to Priority Pass is restaurant access. Instead of gaining access into a private lounge, your Priority Pass membership will come with a food and beverage credit to be used at an airport restaurant.

The downside to Priority Pass is that it’s usually last in the pecking order when it comes to actual access. It’s not uncommon to see signs out in front of lounges stating that it isn’t accepting Priority Pass members due to lounge overcrowding.

While Priority Pass can be obtained through credit cards, the company also sells different paid memberships.

American Express Centurion Lounge

Get Airport Lounge Access with Credit Cards and have access to the new Centurion Lounge at IAH in Houston, Texas.  Photo by Amex.
American Express recently opened a Centurion Lounge at IAH in Houston, Texas. Photo by American Express.

Finally, American Express has its own lounge network, Amex Centurion Lounges. Located at major domestic airports around the United States, these lounges are more premium than not including an impressive food spread and premium drinks. Again, similar to Priority Pass, these lounges can get overcrowded at some locations.

Travelers can access this lounge by holding an American Express Platinum card or being a Centurion Member.

Which Credit Cards allow for Airport Lounge Access?

Now for the fun part, how can you get airport lounge access with credit cards? Each card is linked to show the current sign-up bonus, however, check out our article about the best transferable cards and the best starter credit cards if you’re looking to earn points and miles for free travel.

American Express Platinum Card

  • Annual Fee: $550
  • Grants access to the American Express Global Lounge Collection (Amex Centurion Lounges, Priority Pass Select Membership (includes two guests; does not include Priority Pass restaurants beginning on 8/1/19), Escape Lounges, Delta SkyClub (when traveling on Delta) and Plaza Premium Lounges.
  • Also includes $200 annual Uber credit, $200 airline fee credit, TSA PreCheck/Global Entry statement credit
  • Spending Bonuses: 5x airline

Chase Sapphire Reserve

  • Annual Fee $450
  • Grants Priority Pass Select Membership including Priority Pass restaurants (Up to 2 guests for free)
  • Also includes $300 annual travel credit and TSA PreCheck/Global Entry statement credit
  • Spending Bonuses: 3x restaurant, 3x travel

Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard

  • Annual Fee $450
  • Grants Admirals Club access (Up to 2 guests for free)
  • Also includes free checked bags, priority boarding, and an EQM and mileage spending bonus, TSA PreCheck/Global Entry statement credit
  • The cost of a new membership is $650 per year, so it’s a much better deal to hold the Citi/ AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard.
  • Spending Bonuses: 2x American Airlines

Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express

  • Annual Fee: $450
  • Grants Delta SkyClub Access when flying Delta Airlines (Up to 2 guests are $29/each per visit)
  • This is a better deal than buying a Delta SkyClub Membership which will cost $550. There are more than 50 SkyClub locations around the globe.
  • Comes with annual companion pass, free checked bags, MQMs, priority boarding, and in-flight savings
  • Spending Bonuses: 2x Delta Airlines

United MileagePlus Club Card

  • Annual Fee: $450
  • Grants United Club Access to the cardholder and traveling companions per United Club’s guest policy. (Starting November 1, 2019, United Club access will only be granted when flying United Airlines)
  • This is a better deal than buying a United Club Membership which will cost $550.
  • Comes two free checked bags, Premier Access, close-in fee waiver, and upgrades on award tickets.
  • Spending Bonuses: 2x United Airlines, 1.5x on everything else

Citi Prestige

  • Annual Fee $450
  • Grants Priority Pass Select Membership including Priority Pass restaurants (Up to 2 guests for free)
  • 4th-night free benefit, $350 airline credit, transfer partners
  • Spending Bonuses: 5x Air Travel, 5x Restaurants, 3x Hotels & Cruise Lines

Final Thoughts

Lounge access is something that definitely isn’t needed when traveling, but it sure is nice. It’s even better when you typically have to connect when traveling. If you’re living in a hub and you normally are traveling non-stop origin to destination, it’s more of a nice perk.

With that said, many of these credit cards like the American Express Gold Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve card are already good to earn points and miles through everyday spending.

I wouldn’t recommend getting a credit cad solely for lounge access unless you travel a lot. But, if you’re looking for a new credit card to capitalize on your everyday spending, you might as well get lounge access to go along with it.

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