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The Best Credit Cards With Lounge Access

The Best Credit Cards With Lounge Access

JosephThe Best Credit Cards With Lounge AccessMillion Mile Secrets Team

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Do you want the secret for how to get into airport lounges?

Airport lounges can save you money and make your airport experience more enjoyable.  Because many lounges have comfy seats, free Wi-Fi, drinks (including alcohol), and sometimes even proper meals!

Best Credit Cards for Airport Lounge Access

To access most airport lounges, you’ll either need to:

  • Have elite status with an airline
  • Have a Business or First Class ticket
  • Purchase a day pass
  • Have a super amazing credit card that gives you free airport lounge access
The Best Credit Cards With Lounge Access
Some Airlines, Like the SWISS Senator Lounge in Zurich, Require That You Have a Business Class Ticket to Enter

Several cards, like The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN and Chase Sapphire Reserve, come with memberships that give you access to 1,200+ lounges around the world!  So you’ll have a good chance of having access to a lounge, no matter which airport you’re in.

Other cards, like the Citi AAdvantage Executive and Chase United Club Card, are good for folks who are loyal to certain airlines.

I’ll give you a review of each of the top cards for airport lounge access!

Best Cards for Airport Lounge Access Accessible Lounges & Guest PolicyAnnual FeeReview
The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN- Centurion Lounge - 2 guests
- Priority Pass - 2 guests
- Airspace Lounge - 2 guests
- Delta Sky Club Lounge - Only accessible with same-day Delta boarding pass - Up to 2 guests for $29 each
- Escape Lounge - 2 guests
$450My Review of The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN (100,000 point offer, through August 8, 2018)
Chase Sapphire Reserve
- Priority Pass - Unlimited guests (possibly changing to 2 guests later this year)$450Chase Sapphire Reserve Review
Chase United Club Card- United Airlines Club Lounge - 2 guests OR 1 adult and dependent children under age 21
- Star Alliance Lounge - Only accessible when flying Star Alliance airline - 1 guest
$450Chase United MileagePlus Club Review
Citi AAdvantage Executive- American Airlines Admirals Club - Immediate family (spouse or domestic partner + children under 18) OR 2 guests$450Citi AAdvantage Executive Review
Chase United Explorer
- United Airlines Club Lounge - 2 single-person day passes upon account opening, and each cardmember anniversary (NO membership)$95 (waived the first year)Chase United Explorer Review

Best Cards for Airport Lounges

1.   The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN

Link:   Apply for The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN

Link:   My Review of The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN (100,000 point offer, through August 8, 2018)

The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN, along with the other AMEX Platinum cards, has the most comprehensive lounge access of all.  Folks who have the AMEX Business Platinum will get membership to the AMEX Global Lounge Collection, which includes:

You’ll find most of these programs have the bulk of their lounges outside of the US.  So if you’re an international traveler, you’ll REALLY get good use from this card.

But depending on which airports you regularly visit, this could be an excellent option for domestic flights, too.  That’s because the Centurion Lounge network has locations in many US airports, including:

The Best Credit Cards With Lounge Access
AMEX Centurion Lounges Have Great Food and Drinks, and They’re Well Decorated, Too

Lots of folks consider Centurion Lounges to be the best lounges in the US.  That’s because they offer tasty buffet-style meals, premium alcoholic beverages, showers, conference spaces, and speedy Wi-Fi.  If you find yourself in these airports, your AMEX Business Platinum card is worth more than gold.  You’ll also get to bring 2 guests into the lounge with you for free.

Plus, whenever you have a same-day Delta flight, you’ll have access to Delta lounges, too!  And there are 50 Delta lounges in North America alone.

If you’re not sure whether you’ll benefit from this card, head to the AMEX Global Lounge Collection, and type the airports you travel to!

The Best Credit Cards With Lounge Access
Use Your Priority Pass Membership to Eat Free Sushi in the KAL Lounge in Los Angeles
Is This Card Worth Opening?

The other benefits of the AMEX Business Platinum are excellent, as well.  Through August 8, 2018, you can earn up to 100,000 AMEX Membership Rewards points after meeting tiered spending requirements:

  • 50,000 AMEX Membership Rewards points after spending $10,000 on purchases within the first 3 months
  • An extra 50,000 AMEX Membership Rewards points after spending an additional $15,000 on qualifying purchases within the first 3 months

AMEX Membership Rewards points are a great way to get Big Travel with Small Money.  For example, you can fly round-trip from the West Coast to Hawaii in coach by transferring 24,000 AMEX Membership Rewards points to Singapore Airlines!  So this 100,000-point welcome offer is enough for 4 round-trip tickets to Hawaii (100,000 points / 24,000 points per round-trip)

The Best Credit Cards With Lounge Access
Using Singapore Airlines Miles Is the Cheapest Ways to Reach Hawaii From the West Coast

The card also has solid ongoing benefits, like:

  • 5X AMEX Membership Rewards points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com
  • Up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year on a selected airline for incidentals such as baggage fees, lounge day passes, & more
  • 1.5X AMEX Membership Rewards points per $1, on each qualifying purchase of $5,000 or more
  • Statement credit every 4 years after you apply for Global Entry ($100) or TSA PreCheck ($85) with the Card

The AMEX Business Platinum has a $450 annual fee.  But you can easily offset that with the other benefits of the card.  The lounge benefit alone is worth MUCH more than that, if you use it often.  For example, a Priority Pass Select membership alone is worth $400+ per year.  And the money you’ll save on food and drinks can add up quickly, too!

Bottom Line

The AMEX Business Platinum has the largest airport lounge portfolio of any card.  Including what lots of folks consider the best airport lounges, the Centurion Lounge network.

If you fly Delta often, or if you travel to airports that have a Centurion Lounge, this is the card for you.

2.   Chase Sapphire Reserve

Link:   Apply for the Chase Sapphire Reserve

Link:   Chase Sapphire Reserve Review

The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with a Priority Pass Select membership.  This perk is only available through credit cards that provide it.  You can NOT buy it.

The best Priority Pass membership you can purchase costs $399 per year, and gives you unlimited access to all 1,200+ Priority Pass lounges around the world.  But you’ll have to pay $27 per guest.

The Best Credit Cards With Lounge Access
You’ll Find Priority Pass Lounges All Over the World! Though They’re a Little Sparse in the US

The membership that comes with the Chase Sapphire Reserve gives you and an unlimited amount of guests (subject to lounge capacity) access to Priority Pass lounges worldwide.  So if you travel with a large family, you won’t have to shell out $27 per person!

There are rumored changes coming to this guest policy in August 2018.  Chase may restrict you to bringing a maximum of 2 guests.

Priority Pass lounges are not plentiful in the US.  You won’t find them in smaller airports.  But if you travel to hub airports, you’ll get a good use from Priority Pass membership.

My home airport is Dayton, which does NOT have a Priority Pass lounge.  The nearby Cincinnati airport does have a lounge, but it’s extremely small, with very limited food options.

The Best Credit Cards With Lounge Access
The Lounge in Cincinnati Is a Bare Minimum Lounge, not Much Better Than the Terminal

If I didn’t often travel internationally and to hub airports, the lounge access would NOT be meaningful to me.  But just last year I used Priority pass 5+ times in 1 trip!  I enjoyed lounges in Miami, Trinidad, Panama, and Lima.  And each time I brought 2 guests!

Is This Card Worth Opening?

The Chase Sapphire Reserve is one of the best travel credit cards out there.  It comes with a sign-up bonus of 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points, which is worth $750 in travel.  But you can get a lot more value from the points by transferring them to valuable travel partners.

For example, you can transfer 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt for 2 nights at a 5-star hotel, like the Park Hyatt Vienna.  Rooms here can easily sell for $500+ per night!  That would give you ~$1,000 in value from this sign-up bonus.

The Best Credit Cards With Lounge Access
Use Your 50,000 Bonus Points for a $1,000+ Stay at the Park Hyatt Vienna

The card also comes with:

The card comes with a $450 annual fee.  But because of the $300 annual credit , you’re effectively paying a $150 annual fee ($450 annual fee – $300 travel credit).  So you’re paying $150 per year for this card’s other valuable benefits, like primary rental car insurance, 3X Chase Ultimate Rewards points on dining and travel, and an amazing airport lounge membership!

The Best Credit Cards With Lounge Access
I Used My Priority Pass Lounge Access to Escape the Hectic Terminal in Panama City and Relax in the Copa Club Lounge
Bottom Line

Folks who fly internationally will get the best use from the Chase Sapphire Reserve‘s lounge access benefit.  Because of the 1,200+ lounges you have access to, few of them are in the US.  However, if you travel to hub airports, like Chicago, Baltimore, Los Angeles, Dallas, etc., you’ll certainly benefit from this card’s lounge access perk.

Check here to see which airports have Priority Pass lounges, and decide whether your travel habits will benefit from it!

3.   Chase United MileagePlus Club Card

Link:   Apply for the Chase United MileagePlus Club Card

Link:   Chase United MileagePlus Club Review

If you fly United Airlines often, the Chase United Club card might be the best option for you.  You’ll get access to United Airlines lounges whenever you have a same-day boarding pass.  However, you will NOT have access to United Airlines Polaris lounges.

If you live near a United Airlines hub, like San Francisco, Chicago, Houston, or Washington, DC, you’ll have plenty of lounges to choose from.  You’ll also have access to any Star Alliance Business Class lounge, which means you’ll have a lot of options when traveling abroad.

For example, if you’re traveling to London, you’ll have access to the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge, Lufthansa Business Lounge, and Singapore Airlines SilverKris Lounge, in addition to the United Club Lounge.

To see which Star Alliance lounges you can visit, you can search here, and filter your results by “Paid Membership Card“.

The Best Credit Cards With Lounge Access
United Airlines Lounges Usually Have Free Beer and Wine, and Sometimes a Wide Selection of Hard Alcohol

You can bring 2 guests for free (or 1 adult and dependent children under 21 years of age) to a United Club.  Or 1 guest to a Star Alliance lounge when flying Star Alliance.

Is This Card Worth Opening?

The Chase United Club comes with 50,000 United Airlines miles after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.  You’ll also get:

  • 2X United Airlines miles per $1 on tickets purchased from United
  • 1.5X United Airlines miles per $1 on all other eligible purchases
  • 1st and 2nd bags checked free when you pay for your ticket with the card (save up to $240 per round-trip flight)
  • NO close-in booking fees on United Airlines award tickets
  • Hyatt Discoverist elite status when you register (bonus points, late check-out)
  • Hertz President’s Circle elite status when you register (upgrades, bonus points)

You can do a lot with 50,000 United Airlines miles!  For example, you could book 2 round-trip coach flights between the East Coast and Portland.  So you and a travel partner can visit the stunning Pacific Northwest for practically free!

The Best Credit Cards With Lounge Access
I Think Oregon and Washington Are the Prettiest Places on Earth

This card has a $450 annual fee.  But a United Club membership costs $550 per year (or $450 if you have Premier 1K elite status).  So the lounge access benefit alone makes up for this card’s annual fee.

However, I don’t think the card offers enough for the annual fee (unless you value Hertz elite status and low-level Hyatt elite status).  I personally wouldn’t visit United Airlines lounges enough to justify paying this card’s $450 annual fee.  I get more use from a card that comes with Priority Pass.

Bottom Line

If you frequent United Airlines hubs, the Chase United Club card’s lounge access will come in handy for you.  But keep in mind that you can usually find Priority Pass lounges at major airports where you’ll find United Airlines lounges (though there are several airports where this is NOT the case, like Austin, Fort Lauderdale, and San Diego).

You’ll also have access to lots of Star Alliance lounges, which is helpful when you’re traveling internationally.

4.   Citi AAdvantage Executive Card

Link:   Apply for the Citi AAdvantage Executive Card

The Citi AAdvantage Executive gives folks unlimited access to American Airlines Admirals Club lounges.  If you live near (or pass through) American Airlines hubs, it’s a good card to have.  Example cities with American Airlines hubs are in Dallas, Charlotte, New York, and Philadelphia.

Admirals Clubs are some of the nicest lounges I’ve visited.  There’s usually a good selection of alcohol, and the food is substantial.  Some of the best guacamole I’ve had in my life was in an Admirals Club lounge.

The Best Credit Cards With Lounge Access
The Admirals Club New York Is Huge, and the Bar Can Cure Any Airport Headache

The Citi AAdvantage Executive card gives you and 2 guests access to Admirals Club lounges.  Or, you can take your spouse / domestic partner and children under the age of 18 with you.  Even if that means more than 2 guests!

Another neat benefit of the Citi AAdvantage Executive is that all authorized users (free to add up to 10!) can access Admirals Club lounges without being accompanied by the primary cardholder.  And they have the same guest privileges as the primary cardholder!

However, authorized users don’t get full Admirals Club membership privileges.  They can only access American Airlines Admirals Club lounges, and not other airline lounges and clubs with which American Airlines may have reciprocal lounge or club access privileges.  And they won’t get special pricing on things like conference rooms.

Is This Card Worth Opening?

The Citi AAdvantage Executive comes with 50,000 American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.  That’s a great offer, and enough for a round-trip off-peak award flight to Europe!

The Best Credit Cards With Lounge Access
Fly to Paris in Coach for 50,000 American Airlines Miles Round-Trip From January 10 to March 14, and November 1 to December 14

The card also comes with:

  • 2X American Airlines miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases
  • 1X American Airlines miles for every $1 spent on other purchases
  • 1 free checked bag for you and up to 8 companions traveling on the same domestic itinerary
  • Priority check-in and boarding
  • 10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles after you spend $40,000 in purchases within the year
  • Statement credit when you apply for Global Entry ($100) or TSA PreCheck ($85) with the Card

Similar to United Airlines Club lounges, I don’t value American Airlines Admirals Club lounges enough to pay this annual fee.  And the ongoing benefits aren’t strong enough for me to keep the card.

Bottom Line

If you’re loyal to American Airlines, or live near an American Airlines hub, the Citi AAdvantage Executive card might be for you.  But like the Chase United Club card, you can often find Priority Pass lounges in airports with American Airlines lounges.  So you may do better with a card that offers Priority Pass airport lounge access.

Check here to see all the airports with American Airlines Admirals Club lounges.

5.   Chase United Explorer

Link:   Apply for the Chase United Explorer

Link:   Chase United Explorer Review

The Chase United Explorer does NOT come with an airport lounge membership.  But it does come with United Airlines lounge passes each year you have the card.

Each lounge pass is valid for 1 admission.  So if you and your travel partner want to try out an airport lounge, this is a cheap way to do it!

All other cards on this list have a $450 annual fee.  Lots of folks might not want to pay that kind of money without experiencing what lounges are like.  The Chase United Explorer has a $95 annual fee, waived the first year.  So you’ll essentially get 2 free passes (and a bunch of other cool benefits)!

The Best Credit Cards With Lounge Access
You Can Buy Airport Lounge Access for ~$25 to ~$60 to Try Out a Lounge, or You Can Open the Chase United Explorer, and Get 2 Free Lounge Passes!
Is This Card Worth Opening?

When you sign-up for the Chase United Exploreryou’ll earn 40,000 United Airlines miles after spending $2,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.  That’s enough for a round-trip coach flight from the US to Colombia!

The card also comes with:

If you fly United Airlines, this card is definitely worth the annual fee.  One unique benefit is its access to an increased number of award seats.  This perk has helped me tremendously in the past, when booking flights to South Africa and Europe.

The Best Credit Cards With Lounge Access
I Wouldn’t Have Been Able to Book My Last-Minute Flight to Switzerland Without Increased Award Seats From My Chase United Explorer
Bottom Line

If you’re timid to dive head-first into an airport lounge membership, try them for free by opening the Chase United Explorer card.  It’s a great card to have anyway, because of benefits like free checked bags on United Airlines (when you pay with your card), increased available award seats, and a healthy sign-up bonus.

Bottom Line

The best credit cards offering airport lounge access are:

If you want the most comprehensive lounge access, the AMEX Business Platinum is the no-brainer choice.  Especially if you visit airports that have top-notch Centurion Lounges.  Or if you fly Delta regularly.

If you’re not sure whether airport lounges are worth the hype, you can give them a try for free by opening the Chase United Explorer card.  You’ll get 2 free United Airlines lounge passes, and the card’s $95 annual fee is waived the first year.  So you’ll get truly free airport lounge access!  If you like it, you can invest in a card with a larger annual fee that gives you a membership.

Let me know your favorite card for getting airport lounge access!

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The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN

The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN

  • Limited Time Offer: Earn up to 100,000 Membership Rewards® Points.
  • Earn 50,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $10,000 & an extra 50,000 points after you spend an additional $15,000 all on qualifying purchases within your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer ends 8/8/18.†
  • Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com.
  • Get 50% more Membership Rewards® points. That's 1.5 points per dollar, on each eligible purchase of $5,000 or more. You can get up to 1 million additional points per year.
  • 35% Airline Bonus: Use Membership Rewards® Pay with Points for all or part of a flight with your selected qualifying airline, and you can get 35% of the points back, up to 500,000 bonus points per calendar year.
  • You can also receive 35% points back on all First and Business class flights, with all airlines available through American Express Travel.
  • You can enjoy access to The American Express Global Lounge Collection℠ offering access to the most lounges across the globe, when compared with other U.S. credit card offerings. As of 11/2017
  • Terms Apply
  • See Rates & Fees
Terms Apply | Rates & Fees

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Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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I disagree with the author's ranking for #2 going to the CSR, if we stick to the context of the title of this article. I think the Ritz Carlton should be #2 instead, for the following reasons when compared to CSR. (1) AU are free (2) AU gets their own PP card, AND it is and will still have unlimited guests. #1 saves you $75 per AU alone.

Hi, whats with AU do they have any Lounge access?

Certain premium cards give authorized users access to lounges. For example, a Chase Sapphire Reserve authorized user gets his or her own Priority Pass Select membership. But authorized users on a co-branded airline card usually do not get airport lounge access if they're not traveling with the primary cardholder.

You forgot to include the Citibank Prestige card with unlimited Priority Lounge access for the cardmember and unlimited number or guests. Worthy if traveling often internationally.

Hi Liz - Thanks for commenting. With the Citi Prestige, it's free to bring immediate family or up to 2 guests.

The Amex Hilton Ascend card give you 10 entries to Priority Pass lounges (for the card holder or accompanying guests), without springing for a premium $450 annual fee credit card.

That's right! Thanks for suggesting this card!