Relax or work away from the crowds while you wait for your flight. These cards offer complimentary access to airport lounges around the world.
Travel, for both business and pleasure, has become a stressful, cramped and exhausting experience. But it doesn’t have to be – at least, until you board the plane.
Several rewards credit cards and travel credit cards offer complimentary access to airport lounges, where you can relax, work and freshen up before your flight. You might also be able to take advantage of free food, drinks and Wi-Fi. Want to find a calm, quiet place to relax before your flight? Find the best credit card for lounge access for you among our favorite picks.
Airport lounge networks
There are a few lounge networks you can access with credit cards. Here are the most common offerings:
Priority Pass Select
The Priority Pass Select membership is granted to cardholders through their membership with a U.S. financial institution – essentially through your membership of a credit card. Cards that provide this perk include The Platinum Card from American Express, the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card*, the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card and the Marriott Bonvoy™ Brilliant American Express® Card and more.
Priority Pass Select gives you access to more than 1,300 lounges around the world. All have free Wi-Fi and comfy seats. They also provide complimentary drinks and snacks. Some lounges even have extra amenities for relaxation and refreshment like massage rooms and sleeping areas.
Airline executive lounges
Airlines offer their own lounges to travelers who have a membership and are flying the airline. Some examples are the Delta Sky Club, the United Club and American Airlines Admirals Club, which offer memberships to cardholders with certain co-branded cards. These include the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®, Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card and the United MileagePlus Club Card*.
In addition to the customary free Wi-Fi and refreshments, airline lounges usually offer a designated agent for reservations, seat assignments and e-ticketing along with productivity tools (Xerox machines and printers) and free entertainment. Some may include shower suites (many remain closed due to COVID-19), made-to-order food specials and a business center for a quick before-flight meeting.
These lounges aren’t tied to airlines and don’t have as many lounges in their network as Priority Pass, but they’re accessible via credit card and sometimes are the issuer’s own lounge network.
American Express Centurion lounges, AirSpace, Escape and Plaza Premium come to mind. These lounges feature children’s rooms, private rooms, TVs, spas, bars, restaurants, comfy chairs, high-speed internet, retail options, shower facilities and premium food and drinks.
Capital One is also working on opening its own Capital One lounges – one at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport is open now and another two, in Denver and Washington, D.C., are set to open in 2022.
Chase is also venturing into the lounge space with its new Chase Sapphire Lounges with five planned locations in Boston, Hong Kong, New York, Phoenix and San Diego.
The Platinum Card from American Express: Best credit card for lounge access
Why we picked it: No matter what airport you’re stuck in, The Platinum Card® from American Express is your key to between-flights relaxation since it gives you access to the entire American Express Global Lounge collection, which numbers to over 1,200 locations worldwide. It also gives access to the luxurious Centurion Lounges as well as Priority Pass, Delta Sky Club and Airspace lounges.
Not only can you, the primary cardholder, access these lounges, but also two guests accompanying you, for free. Terms apply, of course. Authorized users of your Amex Platinum may also access the lounges, plus their own guests.
- Known for providing numerous annual credits for Clear membership, Global Entry, airline fee credit, hotel credit and more
- 100,000 points if you spend $6,000 in six months
- Ability to transfer Membership Rewards points to more than 20 transfer partners at a 1:1 rate (for the most part)
- $695 annual fee
- Must redeem travel rewards through American Express Travel
- Some annual credits, like for Saks Fifth Avenue and Equinox, not suited to every cardholder’s lifestyle
Who should apply: If you travel extremely frequently, for either work or pleasure, and find yourself spending a lot of time at the airport, you should definitely consider this card.
Who should skip: Cardholders who are infrequent travelers (once a year or less) will find it difficult to justify the annual fee, so they should steer clear.
Chase Sapphire Reserve: Best rewards card with lounge access
Why we picked it: You want a card with fairly broad airport lounge access and a generous rewards structure? Look no further than the Chase Sapphire Reserve®. In terms of airport lounges, this card also you a complimentary Priority Pass Select membership, which translates to more than 1,300 airport lounges around the world. You have unlimited access to the lounges, and you may bring along two guests.
Other than lounge access, the Chase Sapphire Reserve also gives a $300 annual travel credit for you to spend on all travel purchases. After that, you’ll earn 10X points on hotels and rental cars purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 5X points on Chase Ultimate Rewards air travel and 3X points on general travel. You’ll also get 3X points on restaurants and 1X point on all other purchases.
- Access granted to authorized users and their guests
- $300 annual travel credit
- Travel insurances like trip cancellation/interruption insurance, baggage delay insurance, etc.
- Points redeemable through Chase Ultimate Rewards portal for 50% more value per point
- $550 annual fee
- Lower rewards value for merchandise
Who should apply: Anyone who wants airport lounge access but would also like to earn travel points should apply for this card. Existing Chase cardholders, who already have the Chase Freedom Unlimited® and the Chase Freedom Flex℠ should also think about applying, to maximize their cards when they use them in tandem with the Chase Sapphire Reserve.
Who should skip: If you don’t travel multiple times a year, you should look elsewhere. You will find it difficult to maximize rewards and justify the card’s annual fee.
United Club Infinite Card: Best for frequent flyers
Why we picked it: Due to its complimentary United Club membership (worth $650) the United Club℠ Infinite Card provides entrance to more than 45 United Club locations, five United Polaris lounges, partner lounges and participating Star Alliance lounges, which number more than 1,000.
It also has one of the highest return rates on purchases for any airline lounge credit card – you get 4 MileagePlus points per dollar on United purchases like tickets, Wi-Fi and in-flight food. You’ll also earn 2X miles on all other travel, 2X miles on dining (including eligible delivery services) and 1X mile on all other purchases.
- 4X miles on United purchases plus 25% back in statement credits on those purchases
- First and second checked bags free for you and one traveling companion
- Up to $100 as a statement credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck every four years
- Good rewards rate on non-United travel
- $525 annual fee
- Lacks any annual travel credits
Who should apply: Current United Airlines enthusiasts should definitely apply for this card to earn a solid amount of MileagePlus miles. Frequent flyers for work, who don’t need a well-rounded travel card, will enjoy the United Club Infinite Card as well.
Who should skip: Cardholders who travel but don’t fly often, like road-trip lovers, shouldn’t apply. If you’d prefer to earn points over miles, you should also look at other cards.
Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card: Best for occasional loungers
Why we picked it: Though not as lavish as the Priority Pass Select membership, the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card gives cardholders 10 free Priority Pass lounge passes per year. Nevertheless, you still have access to the over 1,300 Priority Pass locations around the globe.
The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass card also gives bountiful rewards, like 12X points on select Hilton properties, 6X points on U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations and 3X points on general purchases.
- $95 annual fee
- 130,000 points plus a Free Night Reward after spending $2,000 in three months
- Annual bonus of a free weekend night if you spend $15,000 in a year
- Card grants automatic Hilton Honors gold status
- Hilton points estimated at 0.5 cents per point
- Expensive and confusing seasonal chart
- Points best redeemed only on hotel stays
Who should apply: If you love to travel but do it sporadically, this card is perfect for you.
Who should skip: Business travelers and globetrotters should skip this one – you will find the 10 Priority Pass passes per year restrictive.
Comparing the best credit cards for lounge access
Which cards offer Priority Pass Select memberships and which ones give access to independent lounges? Don’t worry – we compile all our best picks in this table to see how they compete directly.
|Card||Accessible airport lounges||Annual fee|
|The Platinum Card® from American Express||$695|
|Chase Sapphire Reserve®||Priority Pass (1,300+ locations)||$550|
|United Club℠ Infinite Card||$525|
|Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card||Priority Pass (1,300+)||$95|
How to choose the best credit card for lounge access for you
Of course, these are not the only cards on the market that offer airport lounge access. Nevertheless, how does one go about choosing the best credit card to suit one’s own spending and travel habits? Contemplate the following factors while you shop around for the best credit card for lounge access for you.
- Points or miles? Most travel cards provide rewards in either points or miles. Points, can be quite versatile, especially if you’re part of a major loyalty program like Chase Ultimate Rewards or American Express Membership Rewards. Airline credit cards usually earn miles, which may be redeemed as flights or by transferring to the airline’s (not necessarily other airline) partners. Either way, try to establish which rewards system you’d prefer when choosing a card.
- Which lounge network is close to you? For cards with lounge access, we should really talk about the lounge networks. If you’re a frequent flyer, think about which airports you regularly fly to and make sure the card you apply for has a lounge location there. If not, what’s the point of getting a card with lounge access?
- Is the annual fee worth it? Of course, an annual fee with three digits can seem outrageous. However, if you maximize the card’s rewards, bonuses and benefits properly, you’ll find they more than make up for the initial cost. Just make sure the card you apply for fits your lifestyle to make the maximizing an easier task.
Any one of the cards above would be perfectly serviceable for lounge access at any level, whether it’s the industry-leading Amex Platinum, which has the most lounges in its network of any card on the market; the United Club Infinite card, with access to the most lounges of any U.S. airline; or the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass card with its 10 lounge passes a year to give cardholders a taste of the high life every so often.
Each one is a key to a less stressful travel experience wherever you find yourself. You really can’t go wrong applying for any of them.
*All information about the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card and the United MileagePlus Club Card has been collected independently by CreditCards.com and has not been reviewed or approved by the issuer.