Best credit cards for airport lounge access of January 2020
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Let's face it: Airports are not generally the most pleasant of environments what with their fluorescent lights, blaring intercoms, screaming children and harried travelers. Enter the airport lounge - an oasis in the midst of an otherwise chaotic landscape and experience - as well as our picks for the best airport lounge credit cards from our partners.
Access to these lounges can be pricey. An annual pass could set you back more than $550 and a day pass is likely to cost you at least $50 (do that a few times, and it adds up quickly). The fee may be worth it given the complimentary drinks and food many lounges offer as well as the calm away from the storm while you await your flight, but there's a better way: How about paying a lesser annual fee for a credit card that both grants you lounge access and provides you with a host of other benefits that stretch well beyond your time in an airport?
There are a number of luxury credit cards out there that offer complimentary airport lounge access as one of the many perks offered to their members. These cards also offer travel fee reimbursements, concierge services and so much more, making those hefty annual fees all worth it.
Here are our picks for the best cards for airport lounge access.
Why We Like It: Yes, the annual fee is hefty but given the extra perks that come with this card, there are ample opportunities to offset the annual fee and then you'll just have a card that opens doors to luxury when you travel. (American Express is a CardRatings advertiser)
Lounge Access Details: Relax at the airport in peace and quiet with complimentary access to the Global Lounge Collection worldwide. The collection includes a number of network lounges such as The Centurion® Lounge and Delta SkyClub® lounges as well as the full range of Priority Pass™ Select lounges (you must enroll separately for access to Priority Pass™ Select lounges, but membership is complimentary). Each lounge group has different rules for the number of guests you can bring, but most allow at least two guests at no charge.
The Bonus: Earn 60,000 bonus Membership Rewards® points after you spend $5,000 on your card in the first three months.
Annual Fee: $550
Rewards: Earn five times the points per $1 spent on flights booked directly with the airlines or through American Express Travel as well as on eligible hotels booked through amextravel.com. Earn one Membership Rewards® point per $1 spent on all your other purchases. Read our full review of The Platinum Card® from American Express.
Other Perks: Receive $200 annually in statement credit for your Uber trips and $200 in airline fee credit annually on a pre-selected airline.
Why We Like It: Super flexible and valuable Chase Ultimate Rewards® points along with fee credits, a solid rewards-earning structure and that airport lounge access – what's not to like? (Actually, we're not the only ones who like it: MONEY® Magazine named this card the "Best Premium Travel Credit Card" for 2018.)
Lounge Access Details: Cardholders enjoy complimentary access to more than 1,000 airport lounges around the world after a one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select.
The Bonus: Earn 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards® points (worth up to $750 in travel) after spending $4,000 in the first three months.
Annual Fee: $550
The Rewards: Earn three points per $1 spent on dining at restaurants worldwide and on travel that isn't eligible for the annual travel reimbursement (more on that below) and one point per $1 spent on all your other purchases. Redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® and they're worth 50 percent more. You can also transfer your points 1:1 to a number of airline and hotel loyalty programs. Read our full review of Chase Sapphire Reserve®.
Other Perks: Take advantage of up to a $300 reimbursement each account anniversary year to cover travel purchases charged on your card. Furthermore, cardholders are eligible for a reimbursement to cover their Global Entry or TSA Pre✓® application fee.
Why We Like It: The complimentary airport lounge access will come in handy since this card offers among the highest point redemption values for airfare.
Lounge Access Details: Cardholders receive complimentary Priority Pass™ Select benefits, which provides access to more than 1,000 airport lounges around the world for the cardholder and their guests.
Annual Fee: $495
The Rewards: You earn one point per $1 spent on every purchases, which isn't a huge earning rate; however, the points with this card are valued more highly than the typical $.01 per point. Redeem your points for airfare, and they're worth 2 percent. That means that 50,000 points are worth $1,000 in airfare. Or, if you prefer, redeem your points for statement credit cash back and those points are worth 1.5 percent. Read our full Mastercard® Black Card™ review.
Other Perks: Enjoy benefits and perks that just might offset that annual fee such as a $100 annual airline credit to offset qualifying fees/charges, a $100 statement credit to cover your Global Entry application fee and, of course, access to 24/7 concierge services among other travel luxuries.
Why We Like It: Keep reading this list and you'll notice a trend toward higher-than-average annual fees for credit cards that offer airport lounge access – this card is an exception.
Lounge Access Details: Cardholders enjoy 10 complimentary lounge visits each calendar year after a one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select. Visits after your 10th in a year will incur a $27 fee each time, which will be billed directly to your card.
The Bonus: Earn 125,000 bonus points after you spend $2,000 in the first three months. Additionally, receive a weekend night stay reward when you spend at least $15,000 on the card in a calendar year, an excellent ongoing perk.
Annual Fee: $95
The Rewards: Earn 12 points per $1 spent directly with participating properties within the Hilton portfolio. In addition, you'll earn six points per $1 spent at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations as well as three points per $1 on all your other eligible purchases. Read our full Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card review.
Other Perks: Enjoy a weekend night stay reward after you spend $15,000 on your card in a calendar year.
Why We Like It: This card is all about loyalty. If you're a regular American Airlines traveler, you could very well offset the annual fee on this card plus enjoy the nice extra perks. (Citi is a CardRatings advertiser)
Lounge Access Details: As a cardholder, you'll have membership in the American Airlines Admirals Club®, which provides you access to Admirals Club® lounges at airports around the globe as well as access to a number of partner lounges. You can bring your guests traveling with you as well. Additionally, authorized users on your card can also access the lounges even if they are traveling without the primary cardholder.
The Bonus: Earn 50,000 bonus American Airlines AAdvantage® miles after spending $5,000 in purchases within the first three months of opening your account.
Annual Fee: $450
The Rewards: Earn two miles per $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases and one mile per $1 spent on all your other purchases. Read our full Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® review.
Other Perks: Check your first bag, and those of up to eight traveling companions, for free on domestic itineraries. You can earn 10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) after spending $40,000 on your card in a calendar year. There's also a Global Entry or TSA Pre✓® application fee reimbursement available every five years.
Why We Like It: No foreign transaction fees, a reasonable annual fee, and various travel-related credits makes the American Express® Green Card an appealing option in our book.
Lounge Access Details: Use your American Express® Green Card to purchase lounge access through LoungeBuddy to any of the lounges in the LoungBuddy network— no memberships, elite statuses, or first class tickets required. You'll receive up to $100 in statement credits per year on your LoungeBuddy purchases.
The Bonus: Earn 30,000 Membership Rewards® points when you spend at least $2,000 in the first three months of opening an account.
Annual Fee: $150
The Rewards: Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on travel and transit and on restaurant purchases worldwide, and 1X Membership Rewards® point on all other purchases. See our full American Express® Green Card review.
Other Perks: Enjoy a $100 CLEAR®, an expedited airport security program, credit.
Why We Like It: This is the business version of this card discussed elsewhere in this article and, as such, offers similar perks to what is discussed there, and then some. It's an ideal card for business owners whose work finds them frequently on the road or in the air and who are generally big spenders when it comes to their business needs.
Lounge Access Details: This card allows you access to the American Express Global Lounge CollectionSM of airport lounges, which includes a number of branded lounges as well as the full Priority Pass™ Select lounge network.
The Welcome Offer: Earn up to 75,000 bonus Membership Rewards® points. Receive 50,000 points after spending $10,000 and then another 25,000 points after spending an additional $10,000 all within the first three months.
Annual Fee: $595.
Rewards: Earn five times the points per $1 spent on flights and prepaid hotels booked at amextravel.com. Earn an extra half-point (so, 1.5 points) per $1 on each purchase of $5,000 or more (otherwise, earn one point per $1 spent). You'll receive 35% of your Membership Rewards® points back (up to 500,000 points per year) each time you Pay with Points for all or part of your flight on a pre-selected airline booked through American Express Travel. Earn 35% of your points back on business and first-class flights booked with any airline through American Express Travel. Read our full review of The Business Platinum® Card from American Express.
Other Perks: Enjoy a $200 annual airline fee credit with one qualifying airline as well as a Global Entry or TSA Pre✓® application fee credit every four years for the primary cardholder as well as for each additional cardholder. Additionally, you'll enjoy Marriott Bonvoy™ Gold Elite Status and Hilton Honors Gold status with this card.
Why We Like It: It's another card that rewards your loyalty, in this case to Delta Airlines. As with most branded airline cards, that loyalty gets you things like priority boarding and in-flight discounts, which are nice to have if you frequently find yourself taking to the skies with the same airline.
Lounge Access Details: You'll enjoy access to the network of Delta Sky Club® lounges (not including partner lounges). Children under the age of two can accompany you at no cost, and you'll receive a reduced rate of $29 per person for up to two guests. Honestly, the access options aren't fantastic, but there are other perks with this card that make it worthwhile and the lounge access is a nice added bonus.
The Bonus: You'll earn 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) and 40,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months.
Annual Fee: $450 ($550 if application is received on or after 1/30/2020)
The Rewards: Earn two miles per $1 spent on eligible Delta Airlines purchases and one mile per $1 on all your other purchases. Read our full Delta Reserve for Business Credit Card review.
Other Perks: You'll receive a round-trip companion certificate each year when you renew your card, which could go a long way to offsetting the annual fee. Furthermore, you'll check your first bag for free and enjoy a 20 percent savings on in-flight purchases.
Why We Like It: Perhaps the only thing better than a small business credit card with some airport lounge access is one that charges a typical annual fee to carry. Well, here is that card.
Lounge Access Details: For an annual fee of just $95, cardholders receive all the perks of a Hilton-branded credit card as well as 10 complimentary visits to Priority Pass Select™ airport lounges around the globe each year. True, it isn't unlimited, but 10 visits is nothing to sneeze at when you figure a single day pass will set you back $27 and that's after you pay the annual membership fee, which starts at $99. As a cardholder, you don't have to worry about a membership fee and you can pay the $27 to access the lounges after your exhaust your 10 visits each year.
The Bonus: Earn 125,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after your spend $3,000 on your card within the first three months.
Annual Fee: $95.
The Rewards: Earn 12 points per $1 spent at hotels and resorts within the Hilton portfolio. Earn six points per $1 at U.S. restaurants and U.S. gas stations as well as on airfare booked directly with airlines or through amextravel.com. You also earn six points per $1 on purchases with select car rental companies; on U.S. purchases for shipping; and on monthly wireless telephone services purchased directly with U.S. providers. Earn three points per $1 on everything else. Read our full review of The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card.
Other Perks: Spend $15,000 on your card in a calendar year and enjoy a free weekend night reward from Hilton Honors. You can earn a second free weekend night reward by spending an additional $45,000 on your card in a calendar year.
It's important to note that not all airport lounges are created equal and access to the various lounge networks varies widely. Chances are you are considering one of the cards above for reason far beyond its airport lounge access perks, but you should still think about the specific lounges a card grants access to and whether that's going to be the best option for you. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind as you consider a credit card that grants you lounge access:
Consider your loyalty. When it comes to airline-specific lounges, such as the American Airlines Admirals Club or the United Club with United Airlines, you can purchase reduced cost memberships depending upon your loyalty tier. Now, those memberships are still going to cost you in the range of the annual fees for some of the cards above (without all the rewards and more that the cards offer, of course), but if you really are just interested in airport lounge access and you have a particular airline loyalty, you can consider day or annual passes instead. That said, if you find yourself in one of these airline-branded lounges often, the additional perks of carrying one of the airline-specific cards above could very well make sense for you.
Hours/access might be restricted. This is particularly true for Priority Pass Select™ membership. Be aware that lounges do fill to capacity and sometimes limit the open hours or overall hours you're allowed to stay for Priority Pass Select™ members.
What about your traveling companions? Some of the cards above include lounge access for the primary cardholder (or even an authorized user traveling without the primary cardholder) as well as a certain number of traveling companions, but not all of them do. Make sure you read the fine print so you know whether you'll need to pay for day passes in order to bring companions into the lounge with you.
To see the rates and fees for the American Express cards featured in this post, please visit the following links: The Business Platinum® Card from American Express (See Rates and Fees); The Platinum Card® from American Express (See Rates and Fees); Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card (See Rates and Fees); The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card (See Rates and Fees); Delta Reserve for Business Credit Card (See Rates and Fees); American Express® Green Card (See Rates and Fees)
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