It doesn’t matter if you’re jetting off to a glamorous destination or are on an important business trip. Your time in the airport will likely be spent eating overpriced fast food while hunched over in an uncomfortable seat (the only one you could find at your packed gate) while listening to a brain-rattling cacophony of flight announcements and loud cellphone conversations.
… unless, of course, you have access to an airport lounge, like the one on the right (the Admirals Club at the Denver International Airport).
The thousands of lounges in airports across the world differ in what they offer, but you can rest assured they’ll add tranquility to your trip. Some are run by the airlines, some by card networks and others by various other companies.
Some of the amenities you might find include:
- Free snacks and drinks
- Comfortable seats
- Desks and work stations
- Small conference rooms
- Showers (although these are rare)
- Free Wi-Fi
- Printer and scanners
- A plethora of outlets
- Open and cash bars
So how do you get in? Some lounges allow travelers to purchase day passes if they have a same-day ticket. Elite-level frequent flyer status with an airline might also get you in for free, as can a first-class ticket (but usually only if it’s for a transcontinental or international flight).
One of the most common ways into the lounge, however, is via a credit card. Lounge access perks are most common with co-branded airline cards, but some other business and personal rewards cards give you memberships to lounge alliances, such as Lounge Club and Priority Pass (which include various airline and third-party lounges).
The cards with the most generous lounge perks often have high annual fees (above $300), but there are plenty of low-annual-fee cards that will get you in a few times a year (or a discount on day passes).
Before you get a card just for the lounge access, though, keep in mind that, unless you’re a road warrior, you might not be able to use this perk often enough justify a high annual fee. Those traveling with families may also not find the lounges very accessible: Designed primarily for business travelers looking for a quiet environment to get some work done, many lounges limit the number of guests you can bring with you for free. If you’re an occasional traveler and find yourself with a long enough layover, remember that some lounges let travelers purchase day passes for between $20 and $50 – which might be a better deal than dropping several hundred dollars for a card that has lounge perks you won’t use.
The chart below shows which credit cards will get you lounge access – and some fine print regarding access rules and guest policies.
|Credit card Airport Lounge Access from our Partners|
|Card||Lounges you get access to||Cost for cardholder||Guest policy||Card's annual fee|
|Airline and hotel cards|
|Citi Executive / AAdvantage World Elite||Admirals Club and US Airways Club||Complimentary||Complimentary for immediate family (spouse, domestic partner and children under 18) OR up to two guests||$450|
|Delta Platinum SkyMiles||Delta Sky Club||$29 per visit (discounted from $50 day pass)||Cardholder plus 2 travel companions get the $29 discounted day rate.||$195|
|Delta Reserve||Delta Sky Club||Complimentary||Up to two guests at discounted day rate of $29||$450|
|Gold Delta SkyMiles||Delta Sky Club||$29 per visit (discounted from $50 day pass)||Cardholder plus 2 travel companions get the $29 discounted day rate.||$95, waived first year|
|Ritz-Carlton Rewards card||Lounge Club lounges||Complimentary||Varies by lounge||$395|
|United MileagePlus Club Card||United Club||Complimentary||Complimentary for immediate family (spouse, children 21 and under) OR up to 2 guests||$395|
|United MileagePlus Explorer Card||United Club||2 one-time use day passes each account anniversary.||N/A||$95, waived first year|
|Other rewards cards|
|American Express Platinum||Priority Pass lounges; Delta Sky Club|
Airspace lounges; Centurion lounges
|Complimentary for all||Priority pass: $27 per guest |
Delta Sky Club: Up to 2 guests at $29 each.
Airspace: Complimentary for immediate family (spouse and children under 21) OR up to 2 guests
Centurion: Complimentary for immediate family (spouse or domestic partner and children under 18) OR up to 2 guests.
|Citi Prestige World Elite MasterCard||Admirals Club lounges (ENDING JUNE 2017) if traveling on an American Airlines flight; plus Priority Pass lounges||Complimentary||Admirals Club: Complimentary for cardholder's immediate family (spouse, domestic partner and children under 18) OR 2 traveling companions.|
Priority Pass: Complimentary for up to 2 guests or immediate family; $27 per additional guest
|Chase Sapphire Reserve||Priority Pass lounges||Complimentary||Complimentary for travel companions, but individual lounges may limit the number of guests you can bring||$450|
|PenFed Travel Rewards from American Express||Lounge Club lounges||2 complimentary day passes per year after you spend $15,000 on the card in a calendar year||Varies by lounge||$0|
|Visa Black||Priority Pass lounges||Complimentary Priority Pass membership for cardholder (unlimited visits)||$27 for each guest (some lounges may limit number of guests)||$495|