Best credit cards for airport lounge access of August 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. It's an oasis in the midst of an otherwise chaotic landscape and experience, but getting in isn't cheap, so take a look at our picks for the best airport lounge credit cards from our partners and get even more than a great lounge experience.
Access to these lounges, as you may know, 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: 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".)
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.
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.
- You just need to use your card to make $4,000 in purchases in the first three months to earn a bonus worth up to $750 in travel. This is one of the most valuable bonuses available.
- Besides airport lounge access, this card also includes a statement credit worth up to $300 per year, which can help a great deal in covering the annual fee.
- You can earn triple points not just on travel but also on dining, so you have another way to rack up your points.
- This card has one of the highest annual fees of any card and could become expensive to carry if you don’t use the benefits or perks.
- You only earn bonus points on travel and dining purchases. If you spend a great deal in other categories such as groceries, you’ll earn more with a different card.
Read our full Chase Sapphire Reserve® review.
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.
- You can earn a bonus of 50,000 miles after you spend $5,000 in purchases in your first three months, which could cover a couple award flights later.
- This card include access to the American Airlines Admirals Club as wells as several partner lounges.
- Also get first checked bag free for yourself and up to eight companions on domestic itineraries.
- Although this card is good for airport lounge access, it charges a high annual fee. You’ll need to consider whether you can take advantage of other benefits and rewards, especially if you don’t use the lounge access perks.
- This card only awards American Airlines purchases. All other purchases earn only one mile per dollar spent.
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.
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.
- This card includes Priority Pass Select benefits such as access to more than 1,000 airport lounges.
- Besides airport lounge access, this card includes travel benefits such as an annual airline credit and a statement credit for your Global Entry application fee.
- The points you earn with this card have a higher than normal redemption value. One point can be worth as much as 2%.
- Like most of the cards with lounge access, this card has a high annual fee.
- There aren’t any bonus purchase categories for rewards. All purchases earn one point per dollar spent.
Read our full Mastercard® Black Card™ review..
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.
Other Perks: Receive $200 annually in statement credit for your Uber trips and $200 in airline fee credit annually on a pre-selected airline.
- This card is well-known for its many valuable perks and benefits.
- Cardholders can earn 60,000 points after spending $5,000 with the card in the first three months.
- Airport lounge access includes Global Lounge Collection as well as the Centurion Lounge and Delta SkyClub and Priority Pass Select Lounges.
- This card charges one of the highest annual fees of any credit card on the market.
- Most purchases will only earn one point per dollar spent unless you book travel through American Express Travel.
Read our full review of The Platinum Card® from American Express.
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.
Other Perks: Enjoy a weekend night stay reward after you spend $15,000 on your card in a calendar year.
- Cardholders get 10 complimentary lounge passes when you enroll in Priority Pass Select.
- The annual fee with this card is much lower than the fee with other cards offering lounge access.
- New cardholders can earn 125,000 points after spending $2,000 in the firs three months plus a weekend night stay if you spend $15,000 with your card in a calendar year.
- You only get 10 lounge passes and then it’ll cost you at least $27 per pass. If you use airport lounges frequently, it might be worth looking into a card that offers access free.
- This card doesn’t offer as many travel benefits as the other cards with airport lounge access.
Read our full Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card review.
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.
Other Perks: Enjoy a $100 CLEAR®, an expedited airport security program, credit.
- The annual fee with this card is lower than the annual fee with many other travel cards.
- New cardholders can earn a bonus of 30,000 points after spending $2,000 in the first three months.
- This card offer up to $100 in statement credits per year on LoungeBuddy purchases.
- This card doesn’t exactly offer complimentary access to lounge airports. You are able to get a credit up to $100 per year when you use LoungeBuddy.
- This card doesn’t offer as many benefits and perks as other travel rewards credit cards.
Read our full American Express® Green Card review.
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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 75,000 bonus Membership Rewards® points after spending $15,000 on qualifying purchases 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.
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.
- This card includes access to the American Express Global Lounge Collection and the Priority Pass Select Lounge network.
- Besides lounge access you get a bunch of other travel benefits such as a $200 annual airline fee credit and elevated status with Marriott and Hilton programs.
- New cardholders can earn 75,000 bonus points after spending $15,000 in the first three months.
- This card has one of the highest annual fees of any business or consumer card.
- This is a charge card which means you aren’t able to carry a balance from month to month.
- The spend requirement for the bonus is pretty high at $15,000.
Read our full review of The Business Platinum Card® from American Express.
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 SkyClub® lounges and to The Centurion Lounge when flying on a same-day Delta-marketed or Delta-operated flight and booking your eligible flight on a U.S. issued American Express credit card. Children under the age of two can accompany you at no cost, and you'll receive a reduced rate 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: Earn 45,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. With Status Boost™, earn 15,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $30,000 in purchases on your new card in a calendar year, up to four times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion Status and are different from the miles you earn toward flights.
Annual Fee: $550
The Rewards: Earn three miles on every $1 spent on eligible purchases made directly with Delta. After you spend $150,000 on your card in a calendar year, you earn 1.5 miles per $1 (that's an extra half mile per dollar) on eligible purchases the rest of the year. Eligible purchases after spending $150,000 do not include Delta purchases.
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% savings on in-flight purchases.
- This card includes access to Delta SkyClub lounges and Centurion Lounges as well as a reduced rate for up to two guests.
- The bonus for new cardholders could be enough for at least one flight. You can earn 45,000 miles and 10,000 MQMs after spending $4,000 in purchases win the first 3 months.
- This card includes other valuable benefits like a round-trip companion certificate each year you renew and first checked bag free.
- This card has a high annual fee which could be expensive if you aren’t a frequent Delta flyer.
- Most of the benefits and perks are related to Delta so you might find it difficult to get much value out of the card unless you are a Delta fan.
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.
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.
- This card has one of the lower annual fees.
- New cardholders can earn a bonus of 125,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months. These points can be used for award stays at Hilton hotels.
- You get 10 free passes to use each year at Priority Pass Select airport lounges.
- You only get 10 passes for lounge access. Unlike the other cards, this one does not include unlimited access.
- The rewards and benefits are specific to Hilton hotels so you’ll want to make sure you frequent these properties enough to get all of the benefits.
Read our full review of The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card.
HOW TO CHOOSE A CREDIT CARD FOR AIRPORT LOUNGE ACCESS
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 SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card (See Rates and Fees); American Express® Green Card (See Rates and Fees)
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