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, whether for business or pleasure, has become a stressful, cramped and exhausting experience, but it doesn’t have to be – at least, not before boarding the plane.
Several rewards credit cards and travel credit cards offer complimentary access to airport lounges, where you can relax, work and make up for the lack of food in-flight with full meals, snacks and drinks.
These travel, airlines and hotel cards can get you access to the best airport and hotel lounges around the world.
See related: Airport lounge 101: Tips for newbies
Premium card pick: The Platinum Card from American Express
The Platinum Card® from American Express cardholders will always get a chance to take a break from the crowds since they get access to pretty much every airport lounge that exists. This includes Centurion, which are the most high-end of lounges in the American Express lounge network, and over 1,100 lounges in the Priority Pass Select network.
In both instances, the card allows you to bring up to two companions with you at no charge.
American Express Platinum also offers access to these lounge networks:
- Delta Sky Clubs when flying on Delta Air Lines – you can bring up to two companions at a discounted rate.
- International American Express lounges.
- Escape and Airspace lounges – where you can bring up to two guests for free.
Other benefits offered by American Express Platinum include:
- Cruise Privileges Program (special amenities and savings on river, ocean and luxury cruises).
- 5 Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on flights booked on airlines or through American Express (starting January 1, 2021, earn 5X points on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year).
- 75,000 Membership Reward points if you spend $5,000 in the first 6 months.
- Up to $200 in annual Uber credits.
- $550 value benefits when you book fine hotels and resorts.
- $200 airline fee credit.
- $85 TSA Precheck or $100 Global Entry credit.
- $550 annual fee.
Premium alternative: Chase Sapphire Reserve
In addition to the lounge perks, rewards and sign-up bonus below, you’ll also get a $300 statement credit on travel purchases. This perk alone makes this card a near bargain, as it offsets the high annual fee, effectively reducing it to $250 after the credit.
- Complimentary access to over 1,000 airport lounges around the world after one-time enrollment to Priority Pass Select.
- 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points (worth up to $750 in travel) after spending $4,000 in the first three months.
- 3 points per dollar spent on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide.
- 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Points worth 50% more when redeemed through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal.
- Transfer Ultimate Rewards 1:1 to myriad frequent flyer and hotel reward programs.
- $550 annual fee, but cardholders with a renewal date between Aug. 1 and Dec. 31, 2020, will only be charged $450, as part of the issuer’s coronavirus relief measures. Additionally, cardholders with a renewal date between April 1 and July 1, 2020 will receive a $100 credit to help cover the difference.
Premium airline card pick: United Club℠ Infinite Card
United Airlines frequent flyers who love a large lounge network should consider the United Club℠ Infinite Card.
Sure, the Amex Platinum includes access to the more premium Centurion Lounges and Priority Pass Lounges, but this is the card for those who prefer United Clubs or Star Alliance Lounges, or who fly to airports that don’t have a lot of these other premium options.
Having Star Alliance in the repertoire brings the Club Infinite’s lounge total to over 1,000, which is competitive with the Amex Platinum.
Also, United Club Infinite gives a better return than most lounge access cards on everyday purchases with 4 miles for every dollar spent on United purchases, 2 miles for every dollar spent on travel and dining and 1 mile per dollar on all other purchases.
Other benefits include:
- United Club Membership includes free snacks and beverages and access to all United Clubs and Star Alliance lounges around the world.
- First and second checked bags are free for you and one traveling companion.
- Up to $100 as a statement credit for Global Entry or TSA Precheck every 4 years.
- $0 intro annual fee for the first year, $525 after that.
Airline card alternative: Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard
While the network here isn’t quite as extensive as United’s, this might be the option if you’re a regular American Airlines flyer.
In addition, Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®’s sign-up bonus of 50,000 AAdvantage miles is worth the price of admission alone. That is enough miles to get you a round-trip ticket to Hawaii at MileSAAver level, which costs 40,000 miles.
The card gives you access to nearly 50 Admirals Club Lounges for you and authorized users even if they aren’t with you. Primary cardholders also have access to nearly 60 partner lounges around the world.
Plus, eight people on the same reservation can get one free checked bag, priority check-in, screening and boarding privileges. This benefit covers a pretty high number of travelers compared to other cards.
Other benefits include:
- 50,000 AAdvantage miles when you spend $5,000 in the first three months.
- 2 AAdvantage miles on every dollar spent on eligible American Airlines purchases.
- 1 AAdvantage mile for every dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Up to $100 Global Entry/TSA Precheck credit.
- $450 annual fee.
Everyday hotel card pick: Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card
The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card card combines premium airport lounge access and benefits when you stay at Hilton hotels, so you’re getting something on two major elements of your trip – giving you a taste of the high-life at a reasonable annual cost.
Other benefits include:
- 10 complimentary lounge visits a year after a one-time enrollment in Priority Pass Select.
- Earn a weekend night reward from Hilton Honors after you spend $15,000 on purchases on your card in a calendar year.
- 150,000 bonus points after you spend $2,000 on eligible purchases in the first three months. Plus, earn a $150 statement credit after your first purchase on the card within your first 3 months.
- 12 points for every dollar spent at Hilton properties.
- 6 points for every dollar spent at U.S. restaurants, U.S. gas stations and U.S. supermarkets.
- 3 points per dollar spent on all other eligible purchases.
- Complimentary gold status; upgrade to Diamond if you spend $40,000 in a year.
- $95 annual fee.
See related: Airport lounge tips from CEO who turned airline clubs into a business