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- Many premium travel rewards credit cards offer complimentary, unlimited access to thousands of airport lounges worldwide.
- Priority Pass is one of the most popular airport lounge memberships, and it's the most common lounge membership you'll see featured on a credit card.
- When choosing a credit card for lounge access, make sure to consider a card's annual fee, rewards program and benefits, along with whether or not that card fits your travel style and budget.
The airport is not necessarily a comfortable place to spend several hours, yet that’s frequently what happens when you fly within the U.S. 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’re 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?
You should know that no matter which airport lounge membership you pursue, the quality of lounges can vary widely. 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.
There are many different airport lounge membership programs, and you can pay cash to become a member of any of them — though the price will vary depending on your frequent flyer status with the airline. Meanwhile, if you carry the right travel credit card, some airport lounge memberships can be obtained for free (or at a lower cost than a general membership).
If you get lounge access with an airline credit card, you should also know that some limitations will apply. For example, the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card only lets you access Delta Sky Clubs and The Centurion Lounges when you fly with Delta.
Priority Pass is another popular airport lounge membership, yet you don’t have to fly 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’ll gain access when you purchase a Priority Pass membership or if you hold a credit card that offers access to Priority Pass lounges.
Credit cards with airport lounge access
Many personal credit cards offer airport lounge access of some kind, including the following:
|Card||Airport lounge access details|
|Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card||
|Chase Sapphire Reserve®||
|Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®*||
|Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card||
|Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card*||
|Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Credit Card*||
|Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card||
|Mastercard® Black Card™||
|Mastercard® Gold Card™||
|The Platinum Card® from American Express||
|United℠ Explorer Card*||
|United Club℠ Infinite Card*||
Best credit cards for airport lounge access
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, cash back, travel and more. You can also get 50 percent more value for your points when you redeem them for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards, where each point will be worth 1.5 cents.
A $550 annual fee applies with this card, but you’ll get premium card perks like up to a $100 credit for NEXUS, Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fees (every four years), up to a $300 travel credit each account anniversary year and airport lounge access. In addition, you’ll earn 10X points on Lyft rides (through March 31, 2025); 10X points on Chase Dining purchases, hotel stays and car rentals purchased through Ultimate Rewards; 5X points on air travel through Ultimate Rewards; 3X points on restaurant and general travel purchases; and 1X points on all other purchases.
Airport lounge membership details
This card includes a Priority Pass Select membership with unlimited access to more than 1,300 lounges worldwide.
Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card: Best for luxury perks at a great value
The Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card is a great premium option for travelers who want both luxury perks and streamlined rewards for a lower annual fee than other popular travel cards. Although the annual fee is still on the higher end at $395, it’s much lower than other comparable cards (which are around $500 or more).
Cardholders will earn 2X miles on every purchase, plus 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel. Other perks include: up to $300 in annual statement credits for Capital One Travel purchases; 10,000 bonus miles every account anniversary (equal to $100 toward travel); and up to a $100 credit for either TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application fees (every four years).
Airport lounge membership details
The Capital One Venture X comes with a Priority Pass Select membership to over 1,300 lounges worldwide. Cardholders will also have unlimited access to Capital One Lounges and receive two complimentary guest passes per year.
The Platinum Card from American Express: Best for the broadest airport lounge selection
The Platinum Card® from American Express lets you rack up flexible points within the American Express Membership Rewards program. You’ll earn 5X points on flights booked directly with airlines or through American Express Travel (on up to $500,000 per calendar year), 5X points on prepaid hotels booked through American Express Travel and 1X points on all other purchases.
While a $695 annual fee applies, you’ll get a number of cardholder perks, including up to $240 in digital entertainment credits annually (up to $20 in statement credits each month at eligible providers, enrollment required), up to a $189 credit for Clear Plus membership, up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck (every four years), up to $200 in credits for qualifying airline incidentals, up to $200 credit in Uber Cash annually ($15 per month, plus an extra $20 in December, available to basic cardmembers only), up to $200 in hotel credits on eligible and prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts or The Hotel Collection bookings through American Express Travel (minimum two-night stay) 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 lounges in The Centurion Network, which includes Amex Centurion Lounges, Escape Lounges, Delta Sky Club and Lufthansa Lounges.
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. You can earn 14X Hilton Honors points at participating hotels and resorts in the Hilton portfolio and 7X points on flights booked with airlines or through AmexTravel.com. You’ll also earn 7X points on car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies, 7X points at U.S. restaurants and 3X points on all other purchases.
This hotel card comes with a $450 annual fee, but the ongoing perks can more than make up for it. Not only will you get automatic Hilton Diamond elite status just for being a cardholder, but you can get up to $250 in resort credits each year for eligible purchases made directly with participating Hilton Resorts, up to $250 in credits each year for incidental fees with one selected air carrier, one free night each year you have the card (terms apply) and more.
Airport lounge membership details
The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card comes with a complimentary Priority Pass Select membership, which includes unlimited access to over 1,200 lounges worldwide.
How to choose a credit card for airport lounge access
If you’re struggling to decide which credit card with lounge access you should get, 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 lounge access, 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.
- 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 rewards 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 that the top cards offer, 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 credit cards with airport lounge memberships offer access to more lounges than others and that many charge annual fees of $395 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 Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®, Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card, Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Credit Card, United℠ Explorer Card and United Club℠ Infinite Card has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.