airport lounges

How to Use Your Credit Card to Access Airport Lounges For Free

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Last updated on September 28, 2022

No doubt you already know that flying can be one of the most stressful parts of travel. More people seem to be flying around the world than ever before and airports are especially crowded, especially during peak seasons like holidays.

If you’ve ever been stuck at an airport or know firsthand what it’s like trying to get a seat or wait in long lines at the terminal, know that you can have a much more pleasant experience. Instead of fighting for a seat in the waiting area, relax at an airport lounge for free–grab a drink, a meal, shower and even a quick nap–all with the right credit card.

What was once for elite flyers now can be available to anyone with certain credit cards. Want to know how? Read on to find out how to use a credit card to access airport lounges all over the world.

Why Airport Lounges?

As if free drinks aren’t enough, airport lounges can give you the opportunity to unwind as you’re waiting for your flight or layover. Seriously, some of the larger ones offer amenities like buffets, fast wifi, printing services, massage chairs, private showers, comfy couches and more.

The employees may also have full access to an airline’s flight details and reservation system (this is typical with airline affiliated lounges). That means you can get help with things like seat assignments, upgrades, reservations or tracking your luggage. And you don’t have to wait in a long line to do so either.

Got kids? Many lounges are kid-friendly and some have a specific play area for your children. In any case, they can relax watching their favorite cartoons while you relax with a cup of coffee (or something stronger).

Now that you’re excited about the possibility of getting into airport lounges for free, let’s talk about which credit cards are the best to take advantage of this perk.

Find a Credit Card With Priority Pass

The Priority Pass gives its members access to over 1,200 in their network of airport lounges, restaurants and suites all over the world. You can become a member after getting a card that includes this perk, then you can access their lounges as long as you’re at an airport with a Priority Pass lounge. We’re talking access in over 500 cities. If there isn’t one, you may be able to get a voucher for free items at participating restaurants and shops, or at the very least a nice discount.

Most credit card issuers offer the membership tier called Priority Pass Select which gives the cardholder free access, and in some cases, access to their guests or access at a discounted rate. Because of its high value, most credit cards that offer this perk tend to be higher-end credit cards.

Some of the best ones include:

Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card – If you’re budget conscious then the $95 annual fee might seem like a better choice than the other two below. You’ll be a member of Priority Pass Select for free, earn a weekend night reward from Hilton Honors once you spend $15,000 on qualifying purchases in a calendar year and get 130,000 bonus points once you spend $4,000 on qualifying purchases within four months of account opening.

The Platinum Card® from American Express – Yes, you’ll have to pay a whopping $550 for an annual fee, but you do get a bunch of perks including the American Express Global Lounge Collection which includes Priority Select Lounges. There’s also a $200 airline fee credit each year, no foreign transaction fees and up to $15 in Uber rides each month. You’ll also earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 on qualifying purchases within the first three months of account opening. Read more about this credit card in our AMEX Platinum card review.

Chase Sapphire Reserve® – There’s a $550 annual fee and cardholders will get 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on qualifying purchases within the first three months of account opening.

Get an Airline Credit Card

Getting a co-branded airline credit card is another great way to get into airport lounges for free. Most large airlines offer access to their airport lounges to certain cardholders. If you fly with a specific airline frequently or you fly in and out of places where the airline operates, you may be better off with one of these cards.

Here are a few cards that offer free access to their airport lounges:

United Club Card from Chase – Cardholders have to pay a $450 annual fee but you get unlimited access to more than 45 of United Club’s lounges from United Airlines. You can also bring up to two members with you for free. Other benefits include no foreign transaction fee and 50,000 bonus miles when you spend $3,000 on qualifying purchases within the first three months of account opening.

Chase details above not accurate to date; please see Chase for the most up-to-date information.

Citi®/AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® – With an annual fee of $450, cardholders get access to over 50 Admiral Club lounges from American Airlines as well as more than 60 partner lounges for free. Other perks include a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credit up to $100, priority boarding your first checked back for free on American Airlines flights.

Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express – There’s an annual fee of $450 and it comes with access to Delta’s Sky Club which has more than 250 lounges worldwide. Cardholders will also get a first class, Delta Comfort+ or main cabin round trip companion certificate for domestic flights each time you renew your card.

Relax and Unwind

With so many rewards credit cards to choose from that give you free access to airport lounges for free, there’s no need to stress at the gate. Instead, sit back, relax and recharge before you board your flight. While it doesn’t seem budget friendly at first glance, luxury credit cards give you enough perks to the point where you can offset the fee pretty easily.

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