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Start Your Trip Right With Lounge Access


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Updated, August 4, 2020

What You’ll Learn In This Lesson

How to get free food and drinks before your flight

One of my favorite perks when traveling with the family is getting access to lounges before our flight. Free food. Free drinks. WiFi. And a place to sit down and catch up on things. In some locations, you even get a shower!

What’s not to like?

Airport lounges used to be something reserved for passengers on premium international cabins, who are top elite members, or, who pay for the privilege.

The great news for those of us in this travel game is that many of the premium travel credit cards come with complimentary lounge access.

Here’s a summary of the different ways to get into airport lounges for free.

Airline Lounges

Even if you are flying in domestic coach, you can get into a lounge operated by the same airline you are flying on. The catch is that you must have the right premium travel credit card, and, a same-day boarding pass for that airline.

For instance, The Platinum Card® from American Express (This card is not currently available on CardRatings) will get you into a Delta SkyClub lounges as well as other lounges in several other networks. (American Express is a CardRatings advertiser)

On American Airlines, you and up to two guests can access the carrier’s Admirals Club® if you have the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®  (Citi is a CardRatings advertiser)

For United, the United MileagePlus Club or the United MileagePlus Club Business cards will get you in together with a same-day boarding pass for United and Star Alliance flights. 

American Express Lounge Network

Aside from Delta Sky Lounges, the Amex Platinum cards (business and consumer) will also unlock for you and two guests the Centurion lounges across nine major airports, with another five to be opened in 2019.

There are some restrictions, the main ones being you need a boarding pass that shows you have a flight on the same day (including connections), and you can only get into the club three hours before departure.

Other lounges available to Platinum cardholders include International American Express Lounges, as well as smaller lounge networks such as Escape Lounge, Airspace, Plaza Premium Airport Lounges, and Lufthansa Lounges.

Lots of terms and conditions apply, so check the fine print.

Priority Passes

If you have The Platinum Card® from American Express or Chase Sapphire Reserve®, you’ll get Priority Pass Select membership for the year. These passes are great because they get you and two guests into lounges all over the country and the world.

Some lounges are nicer than others, but all come at the great price of $0 and can be easily located with the Priority Pass app. There are usually a few types of lounges in the Priority Pass network:

Participating Airline Lounges

These are networks that serve premium cabin passengers of multiple airlines departing from a given airport.

Independent Lounge Networks

These are networks that serve premium cabin passengers of multiple airlines departing from a given airport.

Minute Suites

These aren’t lounges, but a small room with a daybed, pillow, and white noise generator where you can take a nap. The first hour is free, and $28 every hour after that. If you have two or more Priority Pass cards, you might be able to get the attending agent to check you in for two-three free hours back-to-back.


In airports where there aren’t any in-network lounges, there may be restaurants where you can get generous rebates on food and beverages, including alcohol in some places. 

NOTE: The Priority Passes that come with The Platinum Card® from American Express used to offer this restaurant perk, but no longer.

If you found this course on travel rewards helpful, you may also enjoy this free illustrated guide, packed with many other ways to get more for your buck and win back your financial independence.

Course content originally produced by ChooseFI was edited/updated by CardRatings for this lesson.