Best credit cards for airport lounge access

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The airport is not necessarily a comfortable place to spend several hours, yet that’s frequently what happens when you fly within the United States or abroad. You might wind up waiting by your gate for what seems like forever, and most of us have to endure a layover from time to time. In the worst-case scenario when a flight is delayed, you can easily spend an entire day killing time at a crowded (and loud) airport gate.

But, airport lounge access can change all of that—if you are able to snag a membership. This guide explains how airport lounge access works and which credit cards offer this amazing perk.

How does airport lounge access work?

There are many different airport lounge membership programs, and you can pay cash to become a member of any of them. Meanwhile, some airport lounge memberships can be obtained for free if you carry the right travel credit card.

If you get lounge access with an airline credit card, you should also know that some limitations will apply. For example, co-branded airline credit cards like the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card let you access Delta Sky Clubs only when you fly with Delta. Meanwhile, to enter a United Club lounge, cardholders of the United Club℠ Infinite Card must also be flying with United, a Star Alliance partner or a contracted partner-operated flight.

Priority Pass is another popular lounge membership, yet you don’t have to be flying with a specific airline to enter. This lounge membership is also considerably broader, with more than 1,300 lounge locations in airports around the world.

You should know that no matter which airport lounge membership you pursue, the quality of lounges can vary widely. Where some lounges have exceptional spreads of food and drink (including premium drinks like top-shelf liquor and champagne), others might only have coffee and snacks.

In other words, lounges can be “hit or miss” in terms of what they offer, yet each one lets you escape to a quieter, more comfortable place while you wait for your flight to depart.

Personal credit cards offering airport lounge access

Many personal credit cards offer airport lounge access of some kind, including the following:

Card name Lounge access details
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
  • Priority Pass Select membership
  • Chase Sapphire Lounge by The Club (not yet open, but coming to LGA, BOS, and HKG )
Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® Admirals Club membership
Citi Prestige® Card Priority Pass Select membership
Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card Delta Sky Club membership
Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card* 10 Priority Pass lounge visits per year
Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Credit Card Priority Pass Select membership
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card Priority Pass Select membership
Mastercard® Black Card™ Priority Pass Select membership
Mastercard® Gold Card™ Priority Pass Select membership
Miles & More® World Elite Mastercard Receive 2 complimentary Lufthansa Business Lounge vouchers annually
The Platinum Card® from American Express
  • The Centurion lounges
  • Delta Sky Club lounges
  • Priority Pass Select lounges
  • Airspace lounges
  • Escape lounges (The Centurion Studio partner)
  • Plaza Premium lounges
  • Lufthansa lounges
United℠ Explorer Card Two one-time United Club passes
United Club℠ Infinite Card United Club membership
U.S. Bank Altitude® Reserve Visa Infinite® Credit Card Four free visits and four free guest visits to Priority Pass lounges

Bankrate’s top credit cards for airport lounge access

The best credit card for airport lounge access varies from person to person. We suggest taking a closer look at Bankrate’s top picks:

Chase Sapphire Reserve: Best for flexible rewards

The Chase Sapphire Reserve is one of the top rewards credit cards on the market today, mostly due to the flexibility of the points you earn. With the Chase Ultimate Rewards program, you can redeem points for gift cards, merchandise, statement credits or cash back. You can also get 50 percent more value for your points when you redeem them for travel through Chase, or you can transfer them 1:1 to Chase airline and hotel partners.

A $550 annual fee applies when you sign up for this card, but you get perks like a fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credit, a $300 travel credit good for any travel purchase, DoorDash and Peloton credits and airport lounge access. You can also earn 50,000 points when you spend $4,000 within three months of account opening, and you’ll earn 3X points on eligible travel and restaurant purchases (after earning your $300 travel credit) and 1X points on everything else. In addition, you’ll earn 10X points on Lyft rides through March 2022.

Airport lounge membership details

This card includes a Priority Pass Select membership with unlimited access to more than 1,300 lounges worldwide. You’ll also have access to Chase’s forthcoming airport lounge, Chase Sapphire Lounge by The Club. Details about when the lounges will open are still vague, but the first three locations will be New York’s LaGuardia Airport (LGA), Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) and Hong Kong International Airport (HKG).

The Platinum Card from American Express: Best for broadest airport lounge selection

The Platinum Card from American Express also lets you rack up flexible points within the American Express Membership Rewards program. As a new cardholder, you can earn 100,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend $6,000 within six months of card membership. You’ll also earn 5X points (up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year) on directly booked airfare or flights and prepaid hotels booked through the American Express Travel portal and 1X points on all other purchases. Plus, earn 10X points on eligible purchases at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the U.S., on up to $25,000 in combined purchases, during your first six months of card M=membership.

While a recently increased $695 annual fee applies, cardholder perks comprise a long list, including $240 digital entertainment credit (up to $20 in statement credits each month at eligible providers, enrollment required), $179 Clear annual statement credit for membership, $100 Global Entry or $85 TSA PreCheck credit every four years, up to $200 airline fee credit (up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year for fees like baggage fees at one qualifying airline), up to $200 Uber Cash credit annually on U.S. rides and eats, up to $200 hotel credit on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts or The Hotel Collection bookings and much more.

Airport lounge membership details

This card is the best card for airport lounge access worldwide, period. You’ll get a Priority Pass Select membership for starters, but you can also enter Amex Centurion Lounges. Amex has recently expanded The Centurion Network to include more than 40 Centurion Lounge and Studio locations worldwide. Additionally, this card gets you access to Delta Sky Clubs, Airspace, Plaza Premium and Lufthansa lounges. All in all, with the Amex Platinum you’ll have access to more than 1,300 airport lounges across 140 countries.

Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Credit Card: Best hotel card with lounge access

If you’re a hotel enthusiast and you love Hilton properties, the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is a solid bet. This card starts you off with 150,000 Hilton Honors points when you spend $4,000 on your card within three months of account opening. In the meantime, you can earn 14X Hilton Honors points at hotels and resorts in the Hilton portfolio and 7X points on flights booked with airlines or through AmexTravel.com and purchases made with U.S. restaurants. A standard rate of 3X points will apply to all other purchases you make with your card.

This hotel card does require a $450 annual fee, but the ongoing perks can more than make up for it. Not only do you get automatic Hilton Diamond status just for being a cardholder, but you can qualify for an up to $250 resort credit each year for eligible purchases made directly with participating Hilton Resorts, up to $250 in airline fee credits, a free weekend night each year you have the card and more.

Airport lounge membership details

The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card comes with a complimentary Priority Pass Select membership.

The Business Platinum Card® from American Express: Best for business travel

If you are a business owner who wants airport lounge access and flexible rewards, The Business Platinum Card® from American Express is the best business card option out there. This card starts you off with a welcome bonus of 120,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with your Card within the first 3 months of Card Membership.

As a regular rewards rate, you earn 5X points on flights and prepaid hotels booked through AmexTravel.com, 2X points on prepaid rental cars booked through AmexTravel.com, 1.5X Membership Rewards® points on eligible purchases in key business categories, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else(Up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year) and 1X points on all other purchases.

A $595 annual fee applies ($695 if application is received on or after 01/13/2022), but perks include a fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck membership, a $179 Clear annual statement credit for membership, up to $200 in airline fee credits (up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year for fees like baggage fees at one qualifying airline), automatic Gold status with Hilton Honors and Marriott Bonvoy, up to $400 in credits for Dell (Get up to $200 in statement credits between January and June and up to $200 in statement credits between July and December for U.S. purchases with Dell Technologies on your Business Platinum Card when enrolled).

Airport lounge membership details

This card also comes with complimentary access to over 1,300 airport lounges, including the Centurion lounges, Delta Sky Club, Airspace lounges and more.

How to choose the right credit card for airport lounge access

If you’re struggling to decide among credit cards with lounge access, you’ll need to compare each card option based on several different factors. These tips can help:

  • Decide whether you want unlimited access. If you want a credit card with unlimited lounge access, picking an option with a Priority Pass Select membership is a smart move. But since the fees are higher for cards with unlimited plans, you can also consider cards with a set number of lounge visits per year. For example, the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card only gives you 10 visits per membership year but the annual fee is just $95 ($0 introductory annual fee for the first year).
  • Figure out the type of rewards you want to earn. Look at the best credit cards for lounge access in terms of the points or miles they offer. Some cards will give you flexible rewards you can spend in more than one way, while others let you rack up airline miles or hotel points instead.
  • Compare other perks you receive. All credit cards with lounge access charge an annual fee, but the benefits you receive can more than make up for it. Look at the welcome bonuses and ongoing rewards each of the top cards offers, and compare other perks like travel credits or credits for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck membership.

The bottom line

The best travel credit cards for airport lounge access offer plenty of benefits in exchange for an annual fee. However, keep in mind that some airport lounge memberships offer access to more lounges than others and that some charge annual fees of $450 or more.

Also, consider the type of rewards you want to earn, as well as any welcome bonuses you might receive. At the end of the day, any of the cards for lounge access can be a good fit, but you should choose one that makes sense for your travel style and your budget.

The information about the United Club℠ Infinite Card, Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®, Citi Prestige® Card, Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Credit Card, Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card, Miles & More® World Elite Mastercard, United℠ Explorer Card and U.S. Bank Altitude® Reserve Visa Infinite® Credit Card has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.

Written by
Holly D. Johnson
Author, Award-Winning Writer
Holly Johnson writes expert content on personal finance, credit cards, loyalty and insurance topics. In addition to writing for Bankrate and CreditCards.com, Johnson does ongoing work for clients that include CNN, Forbes Advisor, LendingTree, Time Magazine and more.
Edited by
Credit Cards Reporter and Young Credit Analyst
Reviewed by
Senior Editor, Credit Card Product News