These Credit Cards Will Get You Into the Airport Lounge

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.img_DEN_seating

… 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
CardLounges you get access toCost for cardholderGuest policyCard's annual fee
Airline and hotel cards
Citi Executive / AAdvantage World EliteAdmirals Club and US Airways ClubComplimentaryComplimentary for immediate family (spouse, domestic partner and children under 18) OR up to two guests$450
Delta Platinum SkyMilesDelta Sky Club$29 per visit (discounted from $50 day pass)Cardholder plus 2 travel companions get the $29 discounted day rate.$195
Delta ReserveDelta Sky ClubComplimentaryUp to two guests at discounted day rate of $29$450
Gold Delta SkymilesDelta 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 loungesComplimentaryVaries by lounge$395
United MileagePlus Club CardUnited ClubComplimentaryComplimentary for immediate family (spouse, children 21 and under) OR up to 2 guests$395
United MileagePlus Explorer CardUnited Club2 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 allPriority 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 MasterCardAdmirals Club lounges (ENDING JUNE 2017) if traveling on an American Airlines flight; plus Priority Pass loungesComplimentaryAdmirals 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 ReservePriority Pass loungesComplimentaryComplimentary for travel companions, but individual lounges may limit the number of guests you can bring$450
PenFed Travel Rewards from American ExpressLounge Club lounges2 complimentary day passes per year after you spend $15,000 on the card in a calendar yearVaries by lounge$0
Visa BlackPriority Pass loungesComplimentary Priority Pass membership for cardholder (unlimited visits)$27 for each guest (some lounges may limit number of guests)$495
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