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If you’re an avid traveler, you’ve undoubtedly heard of, or even spent time in, an airport lounge. With complimentary food, beverages and other amenities, access to these lounges can enhance almost any airline trip. You can gain entry into an airport lounge by purchasing a one-time pass or a Priority Pass membership. If you’re interested in getting access to an airport lounge with a Priority Pass, here’s what you need to know.
What is Priority Pass?
The Priority Pass membership grants access to a global network of over 1,300 VIP airport experiences that include airport lounges, restaurants and other exclusive amenities. Select airport locations in the Priority Pass network also include suites for napping, spa services, gaming stations and picturesque views. You’ll even find some next-level luxuries available, like a pool in one of the Punta Cana International Airport lounges and a putting green at the PGA-themed Minneapolis-St. Paul International airport.
Averaging anywhere from $30 to $60 a visit, access to airport lounges can be pretty expensive on a one-off basis. It may not be worth paying for individual passes, especially if you bring a guest or travel with your family. For most travelers, especially those who fly more than a few times a year, it’s more economical to invest in a Priority Pass membership for airport lounge access.
There are two ways to become a Priority Pass member. You can either purchase a membership directly through the company’s website or get a Priority Pass Select membership through a credit card issuer that offers this benefit to its cardholders.
What are the Priority Pass benefits?
If you are a moderate or frequent traveler, a Priority Pass membership could provide a great deal of value in terms of amenities and food. Many airport lounges often have one or more of the following features:
- Charging stations
- Food and drinks
- Conference rooms
- Business centers, including computers and printers
- Sleeping suites or showers
Depending on the Priority Pass membership, you may be able to bring guests into lounges. In some cases, kids under a certain age are free. Guests that aren’t covered need to pay the prevailing rate to enter the lounge.
Another benefit of the Priority Pass includes restaurant vouchers. You can skip the lounge and go to one of 30+ participating restaurants with a voucher for around $28 to $30. Your guest can also have a voucher if they are included in your membership.
Note: Some card issuers, like American Express, no longer provide restaurant access with their Priority Pass Select membership. Others only offer a limited number of lounge visits. Read the fine print for your card that describes exclusions and limitations regarding Priority Pass Select benefits.
The Priority Pass app
The Priority Pass app is an excellent resource for any frequent traveler. It has a directory of all airport lounges and maps for all locations, as well as their offerings and operating schedules. The mobile experience also gives users the most up-to-date information regarding airport dining, retail and spa discounts. Plus, you can redeem offers with the Priority Pass app or with your digital account.
Where to find Priority Pass lounges
Most of the 1,300 airport experiences available to Priority Pass members are outside of the United States. As a result, you’ll get the most benefit from the Priority Pass as an international traveler. If you would like to enjoy lounge access stateside, there are currently more than 45 airport lounges in the U.S.:
- Baltimore-Washington International (BWI), Maryland
- Boston Logan International (BOS), Massachusetts
- Buffalo Niagara International Airport (BUF), New York
- Charleston International Airport (CHS), South Carolina
- Charlotte Douglas International (CLT), North Carolina
- Chicago O’Hare International (ORD), Illinois
- Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International (CVG), Ohio
- Cleveland Hopkins International (CLE), Ohio
- Colorado Springs Airport (COS), Colorado
- Dallas-Fort Worth International (DFW), Texas
- Denver International (DEN), Colorado
- Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County (DTW), Michigan
- Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International (FLL), Florida
- George Bush Houston Intercontinental (IAH), Texas
- Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International (ATL), Georgia
- Honolulu International (HNL), Hawaii
- Indianapolis International (IND), Indiana
- Jacksonville International (JAX), Florida
- John F. Kennedy International (JFK), New York
- Kahului (OGG), Hawaii
- LaGuardia (LGA), New York
- Las Vegas McCarran International Airport (LAS), Nevada
- Lexington Blue Grass Airport (LEX), Kentucky
- Los Angeles International (LAX), California
- Miami International (MIA), Florida
- Minneapolis-Saint Paul International (MSP), Minnesota
- Nashville International (BNA), Tennessee
- Newark Liberty International (EWR), New Jersey
- New Orleans International Airport (MSY), Louisiana
- Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International (SJC), California
- Orlando International (MCO), Florida
- Orlando-Sanford International (SFB), Florida
- Philadelphia International (PHL), Pennsylvania
- Pittsburgh International (PIT), Pennsylvania
- Portland International (PDX), Oregon
- Raleigh-Durham International (RDU), North Carolina
- Rhode Island T. F. Green International (PVD), Rhode Island
- Ronald Reagan Washington National (DCA), Washington, D.C.
- San Diego International (SAN), California
- San Francisco International (SFO), California
- San Juan International (SJU), Puerto Rico
- Seattle-Tacoma International (SEA), Washington
- St. Louis Lambert International (STL), Missouri
- Syracuse Hancock International (SYR), New York
- Tampa International (TPA), Florida
- Tucson International (TUS), Arizona
- Washington Dulles International (IAD), Washington, D.C.
Are Priority Pass lounges usually crowded?
Sometimes, but there are a lot of variables at play. Demand for lounge access varies by country, airport, type of lounge, time of day, and whether or not you are traveling during a peak season.
Busy airports at peak travel season could have longer wait times to get into lounges. Popular airport lounges that offer unique experiences, like spa services in sleeping rooms, could have even higher demand and wait times.
There are a few things you can do to get access to an airport lounge, even during periods of higher demand. Some airports have more than one Priority Pass option. For example, if a lounge is overcrowded, then you can opt for an eligible restaurant or even another lounge in another terminal. If you have a long layover or wait before your flight, it could be worth it to venture into another terminal to make the most of your Priority Pass access.
The other option you have is to wait until there’s enough space for you and your guests. Again, this may not be a problem for very long visits to the airport. There are limitations on the time you can spend in these lounges anyway, so waiting before your lounge visit (or having to leave when you still have a wait before your flight) may be inevitable.
What does a Priority Pass membership cost?
There are three levels of Priority Pass membership:
This membership is for the occasional traveler and costs $99 per year. With the standard membership, entry to airport lounges will cost $32 for yourself and $32 for additional guests.
This membership is for someone who travels a bit more often, like once or twice per month. The $299 annual membership fee covers ten free visits to Priority Pass lounges. Once you’ve used those, you’ll pay $32 per visit. The same rate applies to any additional guests.
This level accommodates the frequent traveler and costs $429 per year, and provides unlimited visits at no additional charge. Additional guests will cost $32.
Which credit cards include Priority Pass Select?
Suppose you don’t want to pay for a Priority Pass membership. In that case, there are several credit cards that offer a special Priority Pass membership, called Priority Pass Select, as a card benefit. Here are the credit cards that offer this airport lounge pass as part of their benefits:
Chase Sapphire Reserve: Best for flexible rewards
- Rewards rate: 3X points on eligible travel and restaurant purchases; 10X points on Lyft purchases (through March 31, 2022); 10X points on Chase Dining purchases through Ultimate Rewards; 10X points on hotel stays and car rentals through Ultimate Rewards; 5X points on air travel through Ultimate Rewards (after earning your $300 travel credit); 1X points on all other purchases
- Welcome offer: Earn 60,000 points when you spend $4,000 within three months of opening your account
- Annual fee: $550
- APR: 19.24 percent to 26.24 percent (variable)
The Chase Sapphire Reserve® is one of the most popular travel credit cards around. With bonus points for opening the card, a fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, and an annual $300 travel credit, this card still offers more in terms of rewards points. The real appeal for travelers is the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, where cardholders can redeem points at a higher value for travel-related spending with travel partners.
Citi Prestige Credit Card: Best for a premium travel card with a lower annual fee
- Rewards rate: 5X points on air travel and restaurant purchases; 3X points on hotels and cruise line purchases; 1X point on all other purchases
- Welcome offer: 50,000 bonus ThankYou points after spending $4,000 within three months of account opening
- Annual fee: $495
- APR: 16.99 percent to 23.99 percent (variable)
The Citi Prestige® Credit Card* easily rivals similar high-end cards from card issuers like Chase and American Express. Like many of its competitors, there is an annual travel bonus and a Global Entry or TSA Precheck credit option, along with other travel perks and redemption options.
The 5X points for travel and restaurants will appeal to frequent travelers who would like a premium travel card with a slightly lower annual fee. Also, it’s a good pick for those who’ll spend frequently on travel, dining and entertainment.
Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card: Best for flat-rate travel rewards
- Rewards rate: 10X miles on hotel and rental car bookings through Capital One Travel; 5X miles on flights through Capital One Travel; 2X miles on all other purchases
- Welcome offer: Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
- Annual fee: $395
- APR: 18.49 percent to 25.49 percent (variable)
A relative newcomer to the travel credit card space, the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card offers many benefits you’d see with higher-end travel cards. The most notable feature of this card is the high rewards rate cardholders get for using their Venture X card to book travel.
Then, there are credits galore: 10,000-mile anniversary credit, up to $300 in annual statement credits for Capital One Travel purchases, added to the $25 fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck every four years, means that you can more than justify the annual cost of owning this card.
Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card: Best for frequent Hilton stays
- Rewards rate: 14X points on eligible Hilton hotel and resort purchases; 7X on flights booked directly with airlines or AmexTravel.com; 7X on select directly-booked car rentals; 7X at U.S. restaurants; 3X on all other purchases
- Welcome offer: 150,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months
- Annual fee: $450
- APR: 16.49 percent to 25.49 percent (variable)
If you are partial to the Hilton brand, the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card* should be your go-to for travel and dining. The Hilton Honors Amex Aspire allows you to convert points to cover nights at Hilton properties, airline miles and car rentals. Cardholders receive a one-weekend night reward immediately, plus one every year after card renewal. You’ll also get a number of statement credits for travel-related spending.
Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card: Best for moderate travelers
- Rewards rate: 12X points per dollar on eligible Hilton hotel and resort purchases; 6X points per dollar at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations; 3X points per dollar on other eligible purchases
- Welcome offer: 130,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend $2,000 in the first three months of card membership.
- Annual fee: $0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95 annual fee.
- APR: 17.24 percent to 26.24 percent (variable)
The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card* is ideal for moderate travelers who prefer Hilton properties. It has a reasonable annual fee and still offers good value for points redeemed through the Hilton Honors portal. The Hilton Surpass card also comes with its own yearly award night benefit. By spending at least $15,000 on eligible purchases in one calendar year, you’ll earn a Free Weekend Night Reward.
The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card: Best for start-ups and small businesses that prefer Hilton properties
- Rewards rate: 12X points on Hilton hotel and resort purchases; 6X points on select business purchases (U.S. gas stations, U.S. cellphone service providers and U.S. shipping) and travel purchases (U.S. restaurants, airfare booked through Amex Travel and select car rentals); 3X points on all other purchases
- Welcome offer: Earn 130,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend $3,000 in the first three months of card membership.
- Annual fee: $95
- APR: 18.74 percent to 27.74 percent (variable)
The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card has an annual fee of $95, making this a good entry-level card for business travelers who prefer Hilton properties and business-oriented benefits. With the Hilton Honors Amex Business, you’ll get complimentary Hilton Honors Gold Status, bonus reward night offers and other loyalty benefits like free breakfast and room upgrades. You should also know that your Priority Pass Select membership with this card covers just ten complimentary visits each year to participating lounges.
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card: Best for brand-loyal Marriott travelers
- Rewards rate: Earn 6 Marriott Bonvoy points for each dollar of eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy™ program. 3 points at Worldwide Restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines. 2 points on all other eligible purchases.
- Welcome offer: Earn 150,000 Marriott Bonvoy® bonus points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases on the Card within the first 3 months.
- Annual fee: $650
- APR: 18.74 percent to 27.74 percent (variable)
The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card features many benefits, including annual credits, travel perks and status upgrades, like complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Platinum Elite status. You can also maximize earning points by linking your Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card to the Eat Around Town by Marriott Bonvoy.
Mastercard Black Card: Best for travel perks and upgrades
- Rewards rate: 1X points for every dollar spent (1.5 percent bonus for cash back redemptions, 2 percent bonus for airfare redemptions)
- Welcome offer: N/A
- Annual fee: $495 ($195 for each authorized user)
- APR: 17.24 percent (variable)
The Mastercard® Black Card™ doesn’t have much in the way of rewards or a compelling welcome bonus, but there are still some card perks and benefits a traveler would enjoy. For example, cardholders can get up to $500 in upgrades offered at 3,000 featured properties. This card also offers a travel credit (up to $100) for Global Entry, along with an airline credit (up to $100) and luxury gifts throughout the year.
Mastercard Gold Card: Best for VIP experiences and benefits
- Rewards rate: 1X points on all purchases
- Welcome offer: N/A
- Annual fee: $995 ($295 for each authorized user)
- APR: 17.24 percent (variable)
The Mastercard® Gold Card™ is a luxury credit card that specializes in VIP experiences. Redeeming points is not as flexible as similar travel cards, but there are many perks and benefits that make up for this. From access to 24/7 Luxury Card Concierge agents to “once-in-a-lifetime” Mastercard Priceless experiences and TCS World Travel luxury jet expeditions, certain cardholders might find this card to be worth the hefty annual fee.
The Platinum Card from American Express: Best for maximizing rewards points with travel partners
- Rewards rate: 5X points on up to $500,000 spent on directly-booked airfare, flights and hotels booked through American Express Travel (per calendar year); 2X points on prepaid car rentals through American Express Travel; 1X points on all other purchases
- Welcome offer: Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $6,000 in your first six months of card membership
- Annual fee: $695
- APR: See Pay Over Time APR
With The Platinum Card® from American Express, you’ll get the most value redeeming points for flights, hotels, cruises and other travel options through the American Express travel portal or its travel partners. Currently, the 100,000 point bonus (after you spend $6,000 on purchases in the first six months), worth $1,000, could be stretched to $2,000 if strategically redeemed with Amex travel partners. You can also earn up to 55,000 points per year with Amex’s referral bonus program.
The Business Platinum Card from American Express: Best for frequent business travelers
- Rewards rate: 5X Membership Rewards points on flights and prepaid hotels booked with AmexTravel.com; 2X points on prepaid rental cars booked through AmexTravel.com; 1.5X points per dollar spent (on up to $2 million per calendar year) on both purchases of $5,000 or more and on select category purchases (electronics goods, retailers, software and cloud service providers; construction materials and hardware supplies; shipping providers); 1X points on all other purchases
- Welcome offer: Earn 120,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases within the first three months of card membership
- Annual fee: $695
- APR: 17.24 percent to 25.24 percent (variable)
There are plenty of benefits for business travelers with The Business Platinum Card® from American Express. Some of the notable credits that come with card membership include: up to $550 in credits or complimentary perks for Fine Hotels and Resorts bookings; up to $250 in credits for eligible stays at participating Hotel Collection locations; up to $200 in credits for select airline fees; and an up to $100 fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck. Cardholders also get a 35 percent points bonus when using Amex points to book qualifying airfare through AmexTravel.com. And the 1.5X points per dollar spent on purchases of $5,000 or more and select category purchases (terms apply) could rack up points quickly for anyone with regular, large business expenses.
U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite Card: Best for a prestige card with a lower annual fee
- Rewards rate: 5X points on prepaid hotels and car rentals booked in the Altitude Rewards Center; 3X points on eligible mobile wallet spending and travel purchases
- Welcome offer: 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,500 on eligible purchases within the first 90 days
- Annual fee: $400
- APR: 16.24 percent (variable)
The U.S. Bank Altitude® Reserve Visa Infinite® Card* has a lower annual fee and still offers some value travelers would expect from a premium travel card. There’s a 12-month Priority Pass Select membership covering four free visits per year and four accompanying guest visits to eligible lounges. Other travel benefits include an up to $100 statement credit for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry, no foreign transaction fees and up to $325 in annual credits for eligible travel purchases.
How to make the most of a Priority Pass membership
To get the most value out of your Priority Pass membership, you’ll want to use it as much as you can. That might mean showing up for your flight a little earlier or making a stop at a lounge after you land instead of heading straight to your destination.
Another strategy to use your pass more often would be to plan your flights according to lounge access. If you are shopping for flights and can use different airports, choose the one with access to a lounge, especially if there’s a lounge you prefer. It can also be useful to pick an airport with several lounges if you are open to visiting more than one or if you want to make sure you won’t have to wait to get in.
Finally, if you have a Priority Pass Select membership through your credit card issuer, you should activate your Priority Pass as soon as possible. Even though it’s included with your credit card benefits, membership enrollment is not automatic.
There are additional steps you’ll have to take to enroll in the program and receive your membership card in the mail. Most card issuers give you the option to activate your enrollment online. You can even download the Priority Pass app and use your digital membership card.
The bottom line
Airport lounge access is an excellent way to make your travels more pleasant, especially when you might be facing extended layovers or an international trip with multiple legs.
No matter how you come into your Priority Pass membership, the value you’ll get from the amenities and convenience could be worth the price tag—especially for frequent travelers who’ll spend money on food and other services at the airport anyway.
*The information about the Citi Prestige® Credit Card, Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card and U.S. Bank Altitude® Reserve Visa Infinite® Card has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.