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The best credit cards with airport lounge access

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The best credit cards with airport lounge access

Jason StaufferThe best credit cards with airport lounge accessMillion Mile Secrets Team

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The comfort, convenience and cachet of an airport lounge is within your reach if you have the right travel credit cards. You don’t need to shell out for an expensive international first-class or business-class ticket because some of the best rewards credit cards have lounge access as a built-in perk.

Airport lounges can save you money and make your airport experience more enjoyable with comfy seats, free Wi-Fi, drinks (sometimes including alcohol) and snacks or buffets, so you can get a proper meal before you get on the plane. These benefits can be game changers for long connections. Let’s take a look at the top credit cards for airport lounge access.

Best credit cards for airport lounge access

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Comparison of the best credit cards for airport lounge access

Best cards for airport lounge accessLounge privilegesAnnual fee
The Platinum Card® from American Express- Centurion Lounge - The cardholder and two guests for free
- American Express International Lounges - The cardholder, guest policies vary by lounge
- Priority Pass - The cardholder and two guests for free
- Airspace Lounge - The cardholder and two guests for free
- Delta Sky Club Lounge - Only accessible with same-day Delta boarding pass - Up to 2 guests for an additional fee, they also need a same-day Delta boarding pass
- Escape Lounge - The cardholder and two guests for free
- Terms apply
$550 (see rates and fees)
The Business Platinum® Card from American Express- Centurion Lounge - The cardholder and two guests for free
- American Express International Lounges - The cardholder, guest policies vary by lounge
- Priority Pass - The cardholder and two guests for free
- Airspace Lounge - The cardholder and two guests for free
- Delta Sky Club Lounge - Only accessible with same-day Delta boarding pass - Up to 2 guests for an additional fee, they also need a same-day Delta boarding pass
- Escape Lounge - The cardholder and two guests for free
- Terms apply
$595 (see rates & fees)
Chase Sapphire Reserve- Priority Pass - The cardholder and up to two guests $550
United℠ Explorer Card- United Airlines Club Lounge - Two single-person day passes upon account opening and each cardmember anniversary (No membership). Same-day boarding pass for United or eligible partner airline required for entry.$95 (waived the first year)
Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard- American Airlines Admirals Club - The cardholder and immediate family (spouse or domestic partner + children under 18) or two guests$450
Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express- Delta Sky Club lounges - The cardholder and up to two guests for an additional fee. Same-day Delta boarding pass required for entry. Terms apply.$450, $550 if application is received on or after Jan. 30th 2020. (see rates and fees)
Chase United Club Card- United Airlines Club Lounge - The cardholder and two guests or one adult and dependent children under age 21$450
The Amex Platinum card will get you access to most lounges. (Photo by Zach Honig.)

Best credit cards for airport lounge access

The Platinum Card® from American Express

Best overall lounge access

Bonus

Earn 60,000 Amex Membership Rewards points after spending $5,000 on purchases within the first three months of opening your account.

Lounge benefits

The Amex Platinum card gives you access to the Amex Global Lounge collection, a network of airport lounges, which includes Escape, American Express Centurion, Delta Sky Club, Priority Pass, Airspace and International American Express lounges. At most lounges, the cardholder and up to two guests have unlimited free access. The exceptions are the International Amex lounges, which have varying guest policies, and the Delta Sky Club lounges. Delta allows you to bring up to two guests for an additional fee and everyone (cardmember and guests) must be traveling on a same-day Delta-operated or Delta-marketed flight.

Access to Priority Pass lounges requires enrollment. Read our step-by-step instructions on setting up your Priority Pass membership here. As an American Express cardholder your Priority Pass membership associated with this card does not allow benefits at Priority Pass partner airport restaurants.

Annual fee

$550 (See rates and fees)

Our take

The Amex Platinum card has a large annual fee, but it comes with a handful of perks and puts money back in your pocket. Every year you’ll get up to $200 in statement credits for airline incidental fees on your selected airline, up to $200 in Uber credits and up to $100 in Saks Fifth Avenue credits. You’ll also get an application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck (worth up to $100). A Global Entry or TSA PreCheck membership is valid for five years and you are eligible for the credit every four years for Global Entry or every four and a half years for TSA PreCheck.

Because this is an Amex card, you will not be eligible for the introductory bonus offer if you currently have this card or if you have had this card in the past.

The Business Platinum® Card from American Express

(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy.)

Best business card with lounge access

Bonus

Earn up to 75,000 bonus Amex Membership Rewards points. You receive 50,000 Amex Membership Rewards points after you spend $10,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening and an additional 25,000 Amex Membership Rewards points after you spend an additional $10,000 on qualifying purchases within the same time frame.

Lounge benefits

The Amex Business Platinum card offers the same lounge access you get with the personal Platinum card. To search the Amex Global Lounge Collection, take a look at our guide on how to find Amex lounges. The Global Lounge Collection includes Escape, American Express Centurion, Delta Sky Club, Priority Pass, Airspace and International American Express lounges.

You will need to enroll for Priority Pass membership (you can’t just show your Business Platinum card to enter Priority Pass lounges) and this membership won’t get you credit at Priority Pass airport restaurants. Delta lounges require you to have a same-day Delta boarding pass for entry.

Annual fee

$595  (See rates and fees)

Our take

Qualifying for a business credit card isn’t as difficult as you may think. If you’re sole proprietor of a business, you can use your Social Security Number (SSN) as your tax ID and your name as your business name. Many freelancers and independent contractors qualify as sole proprietors, including rideshare drivers (Uber, Lyft, etc.), writers or artists, dog walkers or eBay sellers. Check out our step-by-step guide to an Amex business card application for more information.

The Amex Business Platinum annual fee isn’t something to ignore, but the card is loaded with benefits. Each year you receive up to $200 in airline fee credits for your selected airline and up to $200 in Dell credits on U.S. purchases. This card has the same Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit as the personal Platinum. It also comes with a 35% points rebate when you use the Amex Pay With Points feature, making the points from the card’s bonus and from the minimum spending worth nearly $1,400 in airfare when it’s booked through the Amex site.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

(Photo by Wyatt Smith.)

Best travel credit card with lounge access

Bonus

Earn 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.

Lounge benefits

The Chase Sapphire Reserve card comes with a Priority Pass Select membership (registration is required). This membership gives you access to 1,200+ airport lounges and other benefits like credits at partner airport restaurants. Once you receive your membership card, you and up to two guests will get unlimited lounge access.

Annual fee

$550

Our take

The best Chase Sapphire Reserve benefit is its annual travel credit of up to $300. This credit applies to any qualifying travel purchases including airfare, hotels, Airbnb, rental cars and more. It’s not hard to save $300 with this perk, which effectively brings down the cost of the annual fee to $250.

You’ll also get up to $100 in credit toward your Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee. Plus, the card can make all the Chase Ultimate Rewards points you earn from other Chase credit cards more valuable. When you book travel through the Chase travel site and pay with Chase points with the Sapphire Reserve, your points are worth 1.5 cents each, which is more than with any other Chase card.

United℠ Explorer Card

Best for the occasional United flyer

Bonus

For a limited time, earn 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases in the first three months.

Lounge benefits

The United℠ Explorer Card card doesn’t come with a full lounge membership. You will receive two, one-time United Club lounge passes every year. For entry to the United Club locations, you must have a same-day boarding pass for United Airlines or one of its eligible partner airlines.

Annual fee

$95, waived the first year.

Our take

The Chase United Explorer card has benefits beyond a few lounge passes. When you have a United Airlines credit card (or United Airlines elite status), you’ll have access to more award seats. This can be invaluable if your travel plans aren’t flexible. It is one of the few cards that waives its annual fee and offers a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credit. This card gives you expedited airport security benefits for free the first year.

Citi AAdvantage Executive Card

Best for American Airlines travelers

Bonus

Earn 50,000 American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.

Lounge benefits

The Citi AAdvantage Executive card comes with an American Airlines Admirals Club membership. You and up to two guests will get access to Admirals Club lounges (and 60+ partner lounges) when you have a same-day American Airlines or partner airline boarding pass.

You can also add up to 10 authorized users to your account at no additional charge. Each authorized user (and up to two guests) will get Admirals Club access (but not access to partner lounges).

Annual fee

$450

Our take

An American Airlines Admirals Club membership costs up to $650, so you get access to the Admirals Club for $200 less. Like most of the premium airline credit cards, the Citi AAdvantage Executive benefits include a TSA PreCheck or Global Entry fee credit (up to $100) and a free first checked bag for you and up to eight companions traveling on the same reservation.

Chase United Club Card

Best for United Airlines travelers

Bonus

Earn 50,000 United miles after you spend $3,000 in the first three months from opening the account.

Lounge benefits

The United Club card comes with a United Club lounge membership, which gives you and up to two guests access to United Club lounges and participating Star Alliance partner lounges. You will need a same-day United Airlines or eligible partner airline boarding pass for entry to the United Club.

Annual fee

$450

Our take

If you pay outright for a United Club membership, it can set you back $650. So opening this card is a cheaper way to purchase that membership. Other benefits include, access to Premier elite upgrades on award flights, more available United Airlines award seats and Premier Access travel perks (priority security when available, priority check-in, priority boarding and priority baggage handling).

How we chose the best credit cards with airport lounge access

As airport lounges have become more crowded, we’ve noticed that access has become increasingly restricted. Now airline-specific lounges (Admirals Club, Delta Sky Club, United Club, etc.) require a same-day boarding pass for that specific airline or its partners. This changes the game somewhat and might force you to be more loyal to one airline over another, depending on which lounges are available at your home airport. This is why we broke down the credit cards with lounge access to include cards with access to specific airline lounges. But there are other factors. Annual fees are also a big consideration, so if you have infrequent access to lounges, the United Explorer is a good choice because it has the smallest annual fee, which is waived the first year. Many of these cards come with statement credits and other perks in addition to lounge access that can be worth more than what you pay in annual fees.

Summary of the best credit cards for airport lounge access

 

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For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum card, please click here.

For rates and fees of the Amex Business Platinum card, please click here.

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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About the one time pass come with Chase UA explorer card ($95 annual fee). Does this one time pass allow access to Star Alliance Lounge (I.e LAX) like the UA Club Card ($450 annual fee) does?

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.

I also was going to mention the Ritz credit card

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!