When it comes to traveling, airport lounges are a welcome haven, and often one of the best parts of a journey! Getting airport lounge access on your own dime can be costly – unless you’ve got a credit card that gives you lounge access as a perk.
A recent study by Airport Dimensions found that 25% of those surveyed used a lounge because they were in a premium cabin, 19% because they were allowed in as part of a loyalty program, and 18% paid extra in order to be able to use the lounge.
Well, why be part of that 18% when you could access a lounge simply by holding a credit card that lets you in for free?
11 Best Credit Cards for Access to Airport Lounges
- The Platinum Card® from American Express
- Chase Sapphire Reserve®
- Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card
- The Business Platinum Card® from American Express
- Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express
- Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card
- Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®
- HSBC Elite Credit Card
- U.S. Bank Altitude® Reserve Visa Infinite® Card
- Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card
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1. The Platinum Card® from American Express
The Platinum Card from American Express has long been a favorite in the traveler’s wallet. For a long time now, it’s been hard to beat the travel perks offered by this card.
While you can earn 5x points when you book flights or hotels with this card, it’s really all about the access to lounges within The Global Lounge Collection and The Centurion Network. You will get access to 1,200+ exclusive travel lounges in 500+ airports globally.
You can also enroll in Priority Pass Select for free, as well as access Delta SkyClub lounges and Lufthansa Lounges (only on same-day flights with said airline) – making this card absolutely the best when it comes to lounge access privileges.
While Platinum cardholders will get complimentary access to these lounges, guest policies can vary by network and location. You may also add up to 3 authorized cardholders for a $175 annual fee, and after that, there is an additional $175 fee per card.
Other perks include 80,000 Membership Rewards Points when you spend $6,000 in your first 6 months, as well as $200 back in statement credits annually when you book prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings, (requires a minimum two-night stay) through American Express Travel.
Cardholders will also enjoy $200 in statement credits annually to cover airline fees (e.g. seat selection, upgrades or checked bags), $240 annually for digital entertainment (e.g. Disney+, New York Times), $200 of Uber Cash each year, $189 annual credit for CLEAR and a $100 credit every five years to cover the cost of TSA PreCheck or Global Entry. Enrollment required.
Of course, you pay for these perks with a high annual fee of $695.
As long as you’re a big traveler, you’ll likely recoup more than the annual fee with the numerous perks. You just have to make sure that it’s worth it for you!
2. Chase Sapphire Reserve®
The Chase Sapphire Reserve card has a few perks when it comes to travel. Not only will you automatically get up to $300 statement credit annually for travel purchase reimbursements, but you can also earn pretty decent points towards travel on a variety of purchases.
However, the best part is that this card allows you to enroll for Priority Pass Select, gaining you and up to 2 guests complimentary access to over 1,300 VIP lounges globally. Additionally, Priority Pass includes a $28 credit when you visit over 70 select restaurants in the membership network.
There’s a welcome offer of 60,000 bonus points once you’ve spent $4,000 within your first 3 months (about $900 towards travel, when redeemed via Chase Ultimate Rewards), and points redeemed through them are worth 50% more.
However, all this does come with a hefty annual fee of $550, plus $75 for any authorized users (who also receive Priority Pass membership).
While the Priority Pass Select access is pretty great if you’re a frequent traveler (you could be paying up to $469 on a Priority Pass membership, otherwise), it could be hard to justify the annual fee on this card if you’re not.
3. Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card
The Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card can earn you 10x unlimited miles on hotels and rental cars, as well as 5x miles on flights (all when booked through Capital One Travel).
However, more importantly, you will get complimentary access to over 1,300 lounges around the world. It’s also available to any authorized users, which can be added free of charge (up to 4).
This includes both the Capital One Lounges, as well as the Partner Lounge Network (consisting of Priority Pass and the Plaza Premium Group). You can even bring two guests into the lounges with you for free.
The Venture X Rewards bonuses are pretty great, too. You’ll get:
- 75,000 miles when you spend $4,000 in your first 3 months;
- 10,000 miles annually on your card anniversary;
- Up to $300 back in statement credits for bookings made through Capital One Travel; and
- Up to $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck costs.
The annual fee is $395, which is definitely not the highest we’ve seen – but still not exactly cheap.
If you’re looking for lounge access across a wide variety of airports and travel destinations – as well as the ability to earn plenty of miles through travel-related spending – this could be the card for you.
4. The Business Platinum Card® from American Express
Much like The Platinum Card, The Business Platinum Card from American Express is equally highly sought after.
While we’re really interested in the lounge access here, and — the same as with The Platinum Card — you’ve got access to The Global Lounge Collection and The Centurion Network, including Delta Sky Club and Lufthansa Lounges, there’s also plenty of other perks.
You’ll get access to a $200 airline fee credit (on a single selected airline), $189 back on CLEAR for security, 35% of your used points back when you book through Amex Travel (on up to 1,000,000 points annually), and various hotel and resort benefits and privileges.
You’ll also enjoy a $100 statement credit back for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck (roughly every 4 years), and upgraded status with Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton Honors.
Cardholders can also earn 120,000 Membership Rewards Points once they’ve spent $15,000 within their first 3 months, and have the opportunity to earn plenty of points on travel, hotels, and business purchases.
There is even over $1,000 worth of statement credits for select business purchases from Dell, indeed, Adobe, and more.
Of course, this all comes with the hefty $695 annual fee.
If you’re a medium to large business that travels often and can hit the $15,000 threshold for the signup bonus, then this card could be the one for you. However, smaller businesses should be cautious, as you’re less likely to reap the benefits and make the annual fee worth your while.
5. Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express
The Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express is another Amex card that can earn you some very decent points and rewards on travel, dining, and Hilton stays, as well as complimentary Priority Pass Select membership.
You can claim a $250 airline fee credit, $100 property credit, and 150,000 Hilton Honors Bonus points when you spend $4,000 within your first 3 months. Aspire cardholders also receive a free night annually in addition to other travel rewards and benefits.
At $450, the annual fee also isn’t as hefty as The Platinum Card.
If you’re a Hilton enthusiast, then this card could work out pretty well in your favor.
6. Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card
The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card is similar to the Hilton Honors Aspire Card in that it offers big earning bonuses when spending money at their hotels. You’ll also receive complimentary Priority Pass Select membership.
However, in addition to these perks:
- Earn 50% more points on hotel stays with complimentary Platinum Elite status
- 1 free night annually
- Up to $100 credit for either The Ritz-Carlton or St. Regis
- $100 statement credit for Global Entry or TSA Precheck fees (roughly every 4 years)
- Up to $300 in statement credits for dining out annually
- 25 Elite Night Credits annually.
That’s quite a lot of perks!
Frankly, with a $650 annual fee attached (one of the 3 most expensive cards on our list), it’s the least they could do.
If you’re a Mariott Bonvoy loyalist and are likely to travel enough to make the annual fee worth it, then this card could earn its place in your wallet.
7. Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card
The Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card is ideal for Delta fans and will give you complimentary access to the Delta Sky Club when you fly with them, as well as two one-time guest passes annually. You can also enjoy complimentary access to The Centurion Lounge.
Of course, there are also plenty of other travel perks, including a 15% discount on Delta flights, and 15,000 Medallion Qualification Miles once you’ve spent $30,000 annually with Status Boost (and you can earn up to 4 times a year!).
The Medallion Qualification Dollar requirement is waived once you’ve spent at least $25,000 annually, and you’ll get fee credits for Global Entry or TSA Precheck (roughly every 4 years) as well as the ability to earn points on travel.
This card regularly comes with a signup bonus, and you can even select between metal or 70% reclaimed plastic for your card.
While the $550 annual fee is slightly less than the other Amex cards on this list, you’re still only going to benefit from this card if you’re a frequent Delta flier.
8. Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®
The Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard is one for American Airlines fans.
Crucially, this is the only card that can afford you complimentary Admirals Club membership and access to their 50+ lounges around the world (valued at around $650). As the card’s annual fee is $450, this already makes it worth your while if you’re an American Airlines traveler.
- 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage bonus miles once you’ve spent $5,000 in your first 3 months
- Up to $100 back on your Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fees (every 5 years)
- A free checked bag on domestic flights (applies to travel booked together for you plus 8 other travelers),
- Priority boarding privileges,
- 25% discount on food and beverages purchased in-flight.
You can also earn points on American Airlines purchases, and 10,000 Loyalty Points once you’ve spent $40,000 annually.
There are no foreign transaction fees with this card. Additionally, Mastercard is pretty much accepted globally without restriction, so this is a good one to take with you overseas.
However, the biggest advantage here is that complimentary Admirals Club membership – so if American Airlines is your airline of choice, it makes sense to seriously consider this card!
9. HSBC Elite Credit Card
The HSBC Elite Credit Card is a bit of a sleeper card that doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Not only can you get unlimited lounge access to over 1,000 lounges in the LoungeKey network (for you, plus a guest), but there are also some pretty decent travel perks!
For all travel booked through HSBC Travel (including flights, hotels, and car rentals), you can get up to $400 in travel credits back, plus international cash back, and your points can transfer to the loyalty programs of 11 airline and 2 hotel partners.
Plus, you can earn 50,000 Rewards Bonus Points once you’ve spent $4,000 within your first 3 months, as well as Rewards Points on travel, dining, groceries, and general shopping.
There are no foreign transaction fees, and you can add additional authorized users at $65 each. Plus, with an annual fee of $395, this puts it at the slightly lower end of the price scale.
Is it the best card on the list for travel perks and lounge access? Not necessarily, but it may be exactly what you need – so don’t rule it out prematurely!
10. U.S. Bank Altitude® Reserve Visa Infinite® Card
The U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite Card offers complimentary Priority Pass Select membership, as well as $100 in statement credits for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry (once every 4 years).
However, you’ll also earn points on hotels, car rentals, travel, and mobile wallet purchases, and up to $325 in statement credits annually on travel and dining.
There’s a welcome offer of 50,000 bonus points once you’ve spent $4,500 in your first 90 days, and your points will never expire (as long as your account is open and in good standing).
With a $400 annual fee, you really need to make those points work for you – especially as the perks are somewhat limited. The variable APR is also 21.49%–28.49%, which is very middle of the road.
11. Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card
The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card is the most affordable Amex card on our list with an annual fee of only $95!
Even with that low fee, you can still earn on Hilton hotels and resorts, dining, groceries, and gas, as well as 10 complimentary Priority Pass Select visits.
Granted, you aren’t getting unlimited access as with the other Amex cards on the list – but if you’re not traveling as frequently, this could arguably be just what you’re looking for.
On top of that, add in a Free Night Reward from Hilton Honors once you’ve spent $15,000 annually, complimentary Gold status (and the opportunity to upgrade to Diamond status if you spend $40,000 annually), no foreign transaction fees, and 150,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points once you’ve spent $3,000 in your first 6 months (offer valid until 4/5/2023).
Is it as good as it gets? Not if you’re an avid traveler and want your card to offer you unlimited lounge access perks globally.
But, if you’re a Hilton fan and travel just enough, then the low annual fee is a very reasonable price to pay.
How to Choose the Best Credit Card for Airport Lounge Access
If you’re trying to choose the best credit card for airport lounge access, the best card is going to be the one that’s most useful to you.
As there are many different types of airport lounges, all with different networks, you’ll need to spend some time figuring out which airlines you favor as well as where you’ll be traveling.
If you mostly travel with the same airline, then a co-branded card — such as the Citi/ AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard — is going to be your best bet.
However, if you want access to a number of lounges globally, then the Platinum Card from American Express will allow you to get into lounges operated by Delta and Amex, as well as a variety of other independently operated lounges.
Bear in mind that as the annual fee on all of these credit cards is quite high, it’s only going to be worth it for the complimentary lounge access if you’re a frequent flier. Otherwise, you may be better off purchasing a per-day pass (where available).
Types of Airport Lounge Networks
There are many varieties of airport lounges globally, and it’s important to note that your credit card will only get you into certain ones.
Lounges can be operated by airlines, credit card issuers, and hospitality brands, and they’ll each have their own individual rules and policies.
While most require you to purchase a membership or an expensive day pass, you can access some airport lounges on a complimentary basis if you have the right card.
1. Airline Lounges
Airline lounges are operated by individual airlines and usually allow passengers flying either Business or First Class complimentary access, as well as frequent fliers who purchase a membership.
However, if you have a credit card that partners with a particular airline, you could be granted complimentary access too.
Airlines that have lounges across the U.S. include:
- American Admirals Club: The American Admirals Club membership allows you access to over 60 partner lounges globally, including Alaska Lounges. They have locations in 30+ airports, both within the U.S. and around the world.
- Delta Sky Club: You’ll find Delta Sky Club lounges in over 35 airports. A Delta Sky Club membership will also allow you access to SkyTeam Alliance partner lounges, including Korean Air and Air France/KLM.
- United Club: In addition to the 30+ airports where you can find a United Club, international premium travelers can also access Polaris Lounges.
- Alaska Lounge: While there are only a handful of Alaska Lounges (5 on the West Coast and 1 at JFK in New York), if you purchase their Lounge+ membership you can also make use of the American Admirals Club – as well as 90+ partner lounges around the world.
2. Card Issuer Lounges
Various card issuers — including American Express, Capital One, and Chase — all have airport lounges that you can use if you hold the appropriate credit card.
American Express Centurion Lounges currently have 13 U.S. lounges and 11 globally, so it’s perfect if you’re traveling both within the U.S. and abroad.
Capital One currently only has one lounge in Dallas/Fort Worth, though plans for an additional two (Denver and Washington Dulles) are in the works.
The Chase Sapphire Lounge by The Club is currently only open in Hong Kong, though there are plans to open in five other airports (Boston, Las Vegas, New York (La Guardia), Phoenix, and San Diego). These will all be operated by Priority Pass.
3. Priority Pass Lounges
Priority Pass lounges are operated independently and have over 1,300 around the world, including the U.S. There are three levels of membership, which can all afford you different access privileges.
In addition to lounge access, you can also get discounts and dining credits at certain Priority Pass-affiliated airport restaurants.
As Priority Pass is often included as a credit card benefit, be sure to enroll with your card before visiting.
4. Aspire Lounges
Aspire Lounges — formerly known as either Escape or Airspace Lounges — are operated by Swissport. While there are only a handful in the U.S. and Canada (San Diego, Ontario, Calgary, Montreal, and Ottawa), there are 50+ lounges available globally.
In addition to allowing access to a variety of cardholders, you can also book directly with Aspire in order to gain access. They offer very reasonable per-day rates and you won’t need to purchase an annual membership.
5. Plaza Premium Lounges
You’ll find Plaza Premium Lounges in over 50 global airports, with 7 in the U.S.
Both the American Express Global Lounge Collection and Capital One Partner Lounge Network will allow you access into a Plaza Premium Lounge.
LoungeBuddy is a lounge access reseller service, offered by American Express. There are over 150 lounges in its network around the world, with about a third of those in the U.S.
While you don’t need a membership (since all of these lounge passes are purchasable by the day) you will be provided with a $100 annual credit just for LoungeBuddy privileges if you have an American Express Green Card.
Frequently Asked Questions
Should I have multiple credit cards with lounge access benefits?
If you’re a frequent traveler, then it may be a good idea for you to hold different credit cards with different airport lounge access benefits.
By having multiple cards with different access privileges, you can ensure that you can always get into a lounge no matter which airport you’re at or the airline you’re flying with.
How long can you stay in an airport lounge?
It’ll depend on every lounge, as they each set their own rules.
While some will allow you to stay all day, others may have hourly limits. However, you’ll likely still find that any limits are fairly generous — which is especially helpful if you have a long layover!
If in doubt, talk to the lounge, as they’ll probably be able to accommodate your needs.
Is there a credit card with airport lounge access and no annual fee?
Unfortunately, most credit cards that offer free airport lounge access come with quite a high annual fee.
The lowest annual fee you’ll find is around $95 (the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card).
Are Credit Cards with Airport Lounge Access Worth It?
If you’re looking for a credit card with complimentary airport lounge access, you really need to consider whether or not your travel needs are going to make the annual fee worth it for you.
The annual fee will mostly cover the cost of membership to the various airport lounge networks, so this is only going to be worth it if you’re going to be using lounges on a regular and consistent basis.
If you aren’t going to be traveling as often, then you may want to opt for the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card. While you only get 10 complimentary lounge passes, that may be all you need with an annual fee of $95.
Whichever card you’re considering, be sure to do your due diligence, shop around, and always practice good credit card habits.