When it comes to travel, few things more stressful than the airport. Getting there (they’re never close to your house, it seems), parking, going through security, getting manhandled by TSA and then paying obscene prices for airport food and drinks all make for a less than pleasant experience. Throw in a flight delay and those blaring loudspeaker announcements every 90 seconds… the combination is enough to really put even a holiday traveler on edge!
That’s why airport lounges are great. They provide a much needed refuge to escape the airport chaos, at least temporarily. But paying for a Priority Pass membership isn’t exactly cheap…
- $99 annual fee
- $27 per visit
- $27 per guest visit
Standard Plus Membership
- $249 annual fee
- $0 for first 10 visits, then $27/visit after that
- $27 per guest visit
- $399 annual fee
- $0 for all visits
- $27 per guest visit
But why pay those prices? You can get free airport lounge access with a credit card. In fact, when you compare the numbers, I have no clue why anyone would buy a Priority Pass membership by itself, when the annual fee of a credit card is comparable.
Here are some excellent credit cards that give a free Priority Pass membership – or – they offer it at a reduced rate.
American Express Platinum
The Platinum Card is by far the best deal for airport lounge access. Why? Because not only do you get Priority Pass for free, but you also get access to several first-class airline lounges, too.
With this card, AmEx gives you a membership called Priority Pass Select. As you will recall above, there is no plan called “Select” that you can buy directly from Priority Pass. This is a version created especially for credit cards. It gives you all of the same benefits, with the exception of there being no access to United Club lounges. My guess is that it’s structured this way because of United’s partnership with Chase.
So aside from that, the American Express Platinum’s Priority Pass Select is essentially the same as the Prestige Membership ($399). You get unlimited free access for yourself and $27 per visit for guests.
When you consider that the Platinum Card’s annual fee is $450, it’s a good deal. Especially considering that you get an annual benefit of $200 in credits to cover airline fees plus a bazillion other perks. Check out my American Express Platinum review to learn about all the benefits you will get + the current signup bonus.
PenFed Travel Rewards American Express
I don’t have this card, but I have been a member of PenFed for a few years now. Before you continue reading I must warn you…
PenFed makes you jump through a lot of hoops during the credit card application/approval process. This includes submitting your pay stubs, tax returns for prior 2 years, and other income verification. Plus, you need an absolutely stellar credit score to get approved for any of their cards or loans.
So for those reasons, I don’t recommend their credit cards that often. But with that caveat out of the way, let’s talk about what this card offers…
You earn a fat 5x points on airfare purchases, plus 1x points elsewhere. While that first number is mighty nice, I have heard from some folks who have complained that when redeeming their points for travel, the prices aren’t always good (so the conversion of points to travel rewards may not always be the most favorable).
Now when it comes to their free Priority Pass membership, you won’t get it automatically. After you spend $15,000/year they give it you (and you must maintain the level of spending to keep it). However unlike the AmEx Platinum, with this plan you only get your first two visits for free. After that you will have to pay $27/visit (and your guests will pay that too). Like the Platinum Card, the United Clubs are excluded.
Overall this is a great card considering there’s no annual fee, but it won’t offer the instant gratification of getting free airport lounge access from day one.
If you’re not a member of Penfed credit union, you will have to be one to get this card. But no worries, you can do so during the application process and anyone can qualify by making a one-time donation of $15.
The below offers do NOT offer any Priority Pass access whatsoever. I’m just listing them here to show you the top overall credit card deals currently available.