Priority Pass continues to single-handedly offset my credit card annual fee with this overlooked benefit

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I cannot recall the last time I paid for a meal at the airport. If I’m flying, I and my travel buddies are almost certainly eating for (practically) free.

Free food is doubly important at the airport, where restaurant menu prices are insulting. With an appetizer and a mixed drink, you could be staring at an $80 check after tip. Priority Pass airport lounge membership solves the overpriced food crisis in two ways:

  1. Priority Pass gives you access to 1,300+ airport lounges, most of which offer unlimited free alcohol and snacks. Though many offerings are hardly a proper meal, they’re substantial enough to keep you from visiting an airport restaurant
  2. Priority Pass gives you free food at 50+ airport restaurants

This second bullet is the one I want to remind you about. It’s quite an unsung hero among travel credit card benefits. I’ll share some tricks you may not have thought of to save potentially $100+ at every participating restaurant!

There are loads of fun locations at which you can use your Priority Pass discount, like Westward Whiskey in the Portland Airport. (Photo courtesy of LoungeBuddy)

Easily save hundreds per year with the Priority Pass restaurant benefit

Would you keep a credit card that offered a benefit of free food at airport restaurants? I probably would.

Of course, I’m just rephrasing the fact that Priority Pass gives you up to $56 in food at over 50 airport restaurants worldwide (28 of them within the U.S.). Here’s how it works: The Priority Pass cardholder gets $28 off their meal. They can also bring along a guest and receive $28 more deducted from the bill. You can read the list of participating restaurants here (though note that some are still temporarily closed in wake of coronavirus).

Here are the airports that have qualifying restaurants. As you can see, numerous hubs for American, Delta, and United. No matter who you fly, you’re extremely likely to route through one of these cities. (Photo courtesy of Great Circle Mapper)

A $56 discount restricted to participating restaurants; that’s far from carte blanche access to any and all airport cuisine your heart desires — you’ll need to be at an airport with a participating restaurant, and you’ll need to be prepared to walk, as the restaurant may be on the other side of the airport.

If you’re exhausted and just want a quick meal, you may not get as much value from this perk. But if you’re like us and you get a thrill out of free stuff, you’re probably willing to hop aboard the airport Skylink to a different terminal for a complimentary dinner. I’ve gone from Terminal 4 at New York-JFK to Terminal 8 just for a free salmon filet at Bobby Van’s Steakhouse. And it was worth it.

I’ll cross the airport to get to a participating restaurant even if I’m not hungry. I just like getting free stuff.

My wife and I were recently in San Francisco and stopped to eat at the San Francisco Giants Clubhouse in Concourse F. For $58.95, we ordered exactly what we wanted. Our check came to $2.95.

4 pro tips to maximize the Priority Pass restaurant discount

There are four things to know if you want to get the biggest bang from this benefit.

1. Amex cards don’t qualify

Priority Pass accounts acquired via an American Express card, such as The Platinum Card® from American Express or Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card, do not offer this restaurant benefit. You’ll need to get your Priority Pass membership through a card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve® or the U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite® Card. (Enrollment required to receive complimentary Priority Pass membership on cards.)

The information for the U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

2. Tip on the original bill, not the final tally

This is the least “free” part of the Priority Pass restaurant credit. You can’t use it to tip. So for the $56 you get in free food, you may pay ~$10 anyway.

If you’re shamelessly unencumbered by social norms like tipping etiquette, I suppose this one doesn’t apply to you.

3. You can visit multiple restaurants in the same airport

Many larger airports house multiple restaurants that participate in the Priority Pass program (again, look at our list here). You can hop from one to the other, gathering multiple free meals in a single trip. When this is the case, you can effectively split your meal in half and get all the expensive stuff. For example:

  • Restaurant 1: Mixed drink, appetizer, entree
  • Restaurant 2: Mixed drink, dessert

You and a guest could easily save $112 in food this way.

4. Travelers in two-player mode can get double the value

If you and your travel buddy both have a Priority Pass account, you could get double the value at each restaurant, if you’ve got the audacity. I’ve never done this personally, but the Priority Pass system would have no way of catching you out.

Each of you have guest privileges. You could use your membership and guest privilege to get $56 off the meal. Then your travel buddy could start another bill, and save another $56 when claiming you as their guest. This shouldn’t entail more than a quick explanation to the server (hopefully they could split tender on the bill), but you may have to pay for the first check before starting the next.

And get this — authorized users on select cards get full Priority Pass membership for free! Here’s what it costs to add authorized users on popular cards:

That means you could potentially double your restaurant savings for zero dollars by adding your travel partner as an authorized user. I really don’t see how this could fail, but comment if you’ve got data points. At the very least, this will work if you both are a primary cardholder of one of the above cards.

The information for the 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.

Bonus: I’m not saying you should, just saying you technically can. If one of the participating airports is your home airport, you can treat yourself to a free airport restaurant meal via Southwest.

Bottom line

If you’ve got a Priority Pass membership from a non-Amex card (such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve), you can get up to $28 in food at over 50 airport restaurants. And you can quadruple that figure if your travel buddy has Priority Pass, too (which you can give them for cheap/free)!

Plus, if you’re at an airport with multiple restaurants, you can hop from one to another, saving potentially hundreds of dollars during a single connection — if you’ve got the time.

Let me know if you’ve got any tricks to using Priority Pass! And subscribe to our newsletter for more travel tips and money-saving tricks like this in the future.

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Joseph Hostetler is a full-time writer for Million Mile Secrets, covering miles and points tips and tricks, as well as helpful travel-related news and deals. He has also authored and edited for The Points Guy.

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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