Everything to know about Priority Pass

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Airport lounge access is perhaps the best way to ease the anxiety of a visit to the airport. Not only are airport lounges a quiet hideaway from the noisy terminal, but they can save you a fair amount of money you’d probably spend anyway. Many locations have free hot meals, free drinks (including alcohol), free Wi-Fi, and sometimes even beds and showers.

I use my Priority Pass lounge membership (which I receive for free with a credit card) all the time when I’m traveling. Seriously, it makes me look forward to being at the airport. Plenty of top travel credit cards give you either unlimited airport lounge access or a whole ream of day passes each year, such as:

Below is every single thing you need to know about Priority Pass lounge membership — and the best ways to get it for free.

Yes, alcohol in the lounges are free and unlimited. (Photo by Joseph Hostetler/Million Mile Secrets)

What is Priority Pass?

You know those fancy sliding glass doors that you see oil sheikhs and celebrities strutting into from the airport terminal? Those are airport lounges.

The good news for you is that there’s a high chance those lounges are accessible with a Priority Pass lounge membership. Priority Pass partners with and operates more than 1,300+ airport lounges around the world, and it’s constantly expanding. In fact, it’s the most comprehensive lounge membership by far. No other lounge program even approaches its global footprint. If you travel internationally with even casual frequency, you’ll be loving a Priority Pass lounge membership. No matter the airline you’re flying, you can enter a Priority Pass lounge.

You can use your Priority Pass card at lounges like Turkish Lounge at Washingon Dulles airport — even if you aren’t flying Turkish Airlines! (Photo by Katie Genter)

Priority Pass benefits

Access to airport lounges isn’t the only perk you can get with your membership. Here are additional perks you’ll receive just for being a member.

Restaurant credits

Priority Pass membership gives you credit at select airport restaurants. Even if an airport doesn’t have any participating lounges, it’s worth checking to see if you can get a big discount at an airport restaurant.

There are 30+ airport restaurants in the US where you can use your Priority Pass to get a credit toward your meal (not including tip). This credit is usually between $28 and $30 per person for up to two people (so, up to $60 off your meal), but the terms vary by location. Always double check before ordering.

During a trip to New York – JFK last year, I walked to the international terminal and went through security just to use my Priority Pass at Bobby Van’s Steakhouse. My $29 salmon entree was effectively free thanks to Priority Pass.

$28 off my meal thanks to Priority Pass. (Photo by Joseph Hostetler/Million Mile Secrets)

To take advantage of this benefit, you’ll typically need a valid same-day boarding pass and proof of your Priority Pass membership. If you happen to be in an airport that has more than one Priority Pass restaurant, and you have a membership with unlimited free visits, you can visit them all for free and have multiple square meals every time you’re at the airport.

Minute Suites

Aside from restaurants and lounges, there are a few places where your Priority Pass membership grants you access to different boutique airport amenities. For example, you can rent small private rooms called Minute Suites at these airports:

  • Charlotte
  • Dallas-Fort Worth
  • Philadelphia
My Minute Suite in Charlotte. (Photo by Joseph Hostetler/Million Mile Secrets)

A one-hour stay counts as a single Priority Pass visit, and you can’t apply more than one visit per 24 hours. After the first hour, you’re charged a set hourly price (currently $42) which is charged in 15-minute increments. You can also pay for extras like a shower and they even have discounted rates for 8-hour overnight stays.

That said, the Minute Suites can fill up fast, so I always suggest making a reservation.

Sleeping pods

You can also access Sleep ‘n Fly sleep pods at the Dubai airport. For a single lounge visit, you’ll get an hour or two (depending on the sleep pod), as well as access to a shower.

Gameway

If you’re Passing through the Dallas-Fort Worth airport, you can use your Priority Pass to visit one of two Gameway video game lounges and get two hours of complimentary game time, two snacks, and a drink. A two-hour gaming session normally costs $35.

(Photo courtesy of Priority Pass)

Priority Pass Offers

Once you have a Priority Pass membership, you can log into your account on the website or through the app to view your Priority Pass Offers.

These offers are discounts for purchases from various airport stores, spas, and other merchants. The discounts typically aren’t large enough to offset the high prices you’ll pay at the airport, but if you want/need something in a pinch, they’re nice to have.

Avis rental car perks

Priority Pass members get a couple of solid benefits with Avis, which you’ll find here.

You’ll receive Avis Preferred Plus elite status, which comes with perks like:

  • Complimentary upgrades (whenever available).
  • 25-50% more Avis points for every qualifying dollar you spend
  • Special Avis Preferred Plus number for reservations and customer service support

You also have access to up to 20% discount on standard international rates worldwide when booked here.

Reports online suggest these Avis rental car perks are only valid for paid Priority Pass memberships, not the type of membership you get with a credit card.  But the Priority Pass website isn’t clear — comment if you’ve got firsthand experience.

US airports with Priority Pass locations

Annoyingly, Priority Pass doesn’t exactly flex its muscles within the US. Out of the country’s hundreds of airports, only 37 have lounges that participate in Priority Pass. If you stick to larger airports, you probably won’t notice the program’s domestic inadequacies. Again, Priority Pass is adding new lounges all the time, so this problem hopefully won’t last forever.

The following list is current as of June 25, 2020 Atlanta (ATL) Baltimore (BWI) Boston (BOS) Buffalo (BUF) Charleston (CHS) Charlotte (CLT) Chicago O’Hare (ORD) Cincinnati (CVG) Cleveland (CLE) Colorado Springs (COS) Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) Fort Lauderdale (FLL) Honolulu (HNL) Houston George Bush (IAH) Indianapolis (IND) Jacksonville (JAX) Las Vegas (LAS) Lexington (SDF) Los Angeles (LAX) Miami (MIA) Minneapolis/St. Paul (MSP) New Orleans (MSY) New York – Newark (EWR) New York John F Kennedy (JFK) Orlando International (MCO) Orlando Sanford (SFB) Philadelphia (PHL) Pittsburgh (PIT) Portland (PDX) San Francisco (SFO) Seattle (SEA) St. Louis (STL) Syracuse (SYR) Tampa (TPA) Tucson (TUS) Washington Reagan (DCA) Washington Dulles (IAD)

Different types of priority pass memberships

Priority Pass advertises three membership tiers: Standard, Standard Plus, and Prestige.

Credit cards that give you Priority Pass access

As you can see, membership can cost up to $429 per year. NOT CHEAP. But what isn’t advertised in big colorful boxes and bold font is that you can get Priority Pass membership for “free” — and significantly better membership than even the $429 Prestige option. By opening a certain credit card, you can receive unlimited free visits to Priority Pass lounges AND unlimited guest privileges, meaning you can bring your friends or family into the lounge.

The exact terms of Priority Pass memberships vary slightly between credit cards. Some offer unlimited guests (in other words, you can bring in your entire tour bus), others offer immediate family access, others offer a maximum of two guests. But if you often travel with at least one other person, you’ll save $32 per lounge visit. That could potentially save you $100+ in guest fees during a single trip.

I had used my Priority Pass eight times in the four months prior to the coronavirus pandemic — and most of those times I brought along a guest. That means I’ve saved ~$250 over the top-tier “Prestige” membership just by acquiring my membership thorough a credit card instead.

Below are the cards that come with some form of Priority Pass lounge access. Most of these cards have noticeably high annual fees. You may argue that Priority Pass with these cards is not in fact “free,” because of the exorbitant annual fee. You could have a point, though most of these cards come with hundreds (and hundreds) of dollars in benefits on top of Priority Pass membership. In fact, many of them have made it onto our list of the best travel credit cards because they are loaded with other great travel perks like bonus points earning, TSA PreCheck/Global Entry credits and hotel elite status.

Examine all card benefits before you decide that these card’s annual fees are too high. It’s not difficult to save much, much more than you’ll pay.

CardGuest privilegesAnnual feeMembership for authorized users
Chase Sapphire Reserve®- Up to two complimentary guests
- $27 for additional guests
$550Yes, $75 per authorized user
The Platinum Card® from American Express- Up to two complimentary guests
- $32 for additional guests
$550 (see rates and fees)Yes, $175 per authorized user (see rates and fees)
The Business Platinum Card® from American Express- Up to two complimentary guests
- $32 for additional guests
$595 (see rates and fees)Yes, $175 per authorized user(see rates and fees)
Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card- 10 complimentary visits annually
- Each guests counts as one visit
$95 (see rates and fees)No
The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card- 10 complimentary visits annually
- Each guests counts as one visit
$95 (see rates and fees)No
Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express- Up to two complimentary guests
- $32 for additional guests
$450 (see rates and fees)No
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card- Up to two complimentary guests
- $32 for additional guests
$450 (see rates and fees)No
U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite® Card- First four visits complimentary, including guests
- $27 per visit for all lounge visitors beginning with your fifth visit
$400No
The Ritz-Carlton™ Credit Card (card no longer available for new applicants)- Unlimited free guests$450Yes, no fee
Citi Prestige® Card- Up to two guests (or immediate family, defined as spouse, domestic partner and/or children under 18)
- $27 for additional guests
$550Yes, $175 per authorized user
The information for the US Bank Altitude Reserve, Chase Ritz-Carlton Credit Card, and Citi Prestige has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

ONE VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: Priority Pass earned from American Express cards will not work at establishments that are not lounges. This includes restaurants, bars, Gameway, etc.

As you may have gathered, to avoid excessive guest fees some cards will provide the authorized users their own Priority Pass membership. For example, if you travel with a family of six, you could make your spouse an authorized user on the Chase Sapphire Reserve. Then you’d both get to bring two free guests into the lounge.

You may be particularly eyeing The Ritz-Carlton™ Credit Card from the above table. While it’s not available to new applicants, you can upgrade to it from other Chase Marriott personal credit cards.

Tips to ensuring you can access a lounge

The good news is that it’s very easy for you to earn lounge access. The bad news is that it’s very easy for all of us to earn lounge access. Because of this, lounges are often crowded, and may at certain times place a sign outside the door to inform travelers that they aren’t admitting Priority Pass members (Alaska Airlines tends to do this on a regular basis).

There are a handful of reasons you could be turned away at the door, actually.

Overcrowding

Yes, because Priority Pass membership is easy to pick up if you have the right card, you’ll have to keep in mind the necessity of capacity control.

If you’re heading to hub airports during super busy hours, it’s possible you might not get into an airport lounge. I was once turned away at a Priority Pass lounge in Seoul because there were too many visitors. And peering into the bustling lounge, I think I’d rather have stayed in the terminal anyway.

That’s happened just once that I can remember. And I’ve visited airport lounges probably 100+ times.

Google can be of help when you’re anticipating a visit to an airport lounge. For example, I searched the Korean Air Business Class Lounge in New York on Google, and in the right column was a breakdown of the lounge’s busiest hours.

Unique lounge restrictions

Each lounge has rules for when Priority Pass members can and cannot enter. For example, the Korean Air Business Class Lounge in New York is primarily for business class passengers flying Korean Air — but Priority Pass members are allowed to access the lounge between 2:00 pm and 8:30 pm.

You can find the unique rules for each lounge by searching for the location on the Priority Pass website. It notes the hours you can enter the lounge.

In addition to the hours of operation, you can scroll down to “Conditions” to make sure you meet all the requirements to enter. At this location, only two guests are allowed to enter with you — and of course, if it’s during a busy time of day, they can refuse you.

Leaving your Priority Pass card at home

If you have a card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you’ll receive a complimentary Priority Pass Select membership. While it is free, it’s not automatic. You must activate your Priority Pass membership by logging into your online account prior to accessing a lounge. After enrolling, your membership card should arrive within ~10 business days.

Inside the Priority Pass app is a virtual card that many Priority Pass lounges accept. However, not all lounges accept it — and flashing your fancy credit card or opening the app in an attempt to prove you are a Priority Pass member isn’t always good enough. I’ve tried.

Pro tip: If you’ll be traveling within 10 days and you need your number, you can call Priority Pass and they can confirm your identity over the phone and activate your online account. Once you’ve logged in, you can see your loyalty number in the app with your Digital Membership Card.

Don’t grab the wrong membership card

If you’re like us, you’ve got two or three cards that come with complimentary Priority Pass. Multiple memberships isn’t beneficial, by the way. You can’t gift them to friends and relatives just because they’re offered by different cards.

Priority Pass Select membership cards all look identical. But as noted above, many have different guest privileges. If you’re not careful, you may choose to bring the wrong one along your travels, and be surprised with guest fees! One MMS reader notes that he grabbed the wrong Priority Pass card during a trip to Europe, and found out he had brought the wrong one when the Priority Pass lounge agent handed him the bill.

I’ve got three Priority Pass membership cards, one of which has expired. Don’t just leave those expired things in your sock drawer where you’re liable to pick them up! Cut them up, bend them, shred them, do something.

Bottom line

Priority Pass lounges are a great place to relax before flights and enjoy complimentary drinks and snacks. I recommend carrying your physical Priority Pass membership card with you to access any of the 1,300+ lounges. Just showing your eligible credit card won’t get you access

Priority Pass offers many perks in addition to that sweet, sweet lounge access, including:

  • Huge discounts on select airport restaurants and bars
  • Free gaming in Dallas-Fort Worth
  • Rental car discounts

Remember, you get a complimentary Priority Pass Select membership with some of the best credit cards with lounge access, including:

Do you have a favorite Priority Pass lounge? Let us know in the comments! And subscribe to our newsletter for more tips to take luxurious trips.

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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Ryan James
2 months ago

We tried getting into Newark Priority Pass lounge last year, but they refused because it was full. We pulled out our Diners Club cards which have the same privileges and they let us in.

It will be interesting to see how they operate now with the pandemic.

mimi
7 months ago

If we have the chase sapphire reserve and we have a family of 5, will all of us be able to get into the lounges with one card? Or does my husband have to have his own card/primary card holder as well as me?

Merle
1 year ago

Seeking info on Hilton Honors Ascend card. I only fly on Delta or American. Do both of these airlines accept the priority pass . Thanks

Drunk Pass out
1 year ago

Anyone got so drunk at alounge that they passed out and missed their flight?

Enrico Caruso
1 year ago

Question…I’m considering the Chase Sapphire Reserve card. If I get a card for myself plus one authorized user, do we both get the PP membership, or does the primary card holder have to be present to use the lounge?