Best Credit Cards for Free Airport Lounge Access
If you travel often, being able to relax in the airport lounge between flights is a convenient perk. Lounge access usually comes with a fee, unless it's included in your travel rewards credit card.
Some of the most popular travel cards offer free lounge access. They also feature plenty of other valuable travel extras. If you don't mind paying an annual fee, these are the best cards to have if you're looking for airport lounge access.
1. American Express Platinum Card
The Platinum Card from American Express is a top-shelf travel rewards card. Members enjoy access to 1,000+ lounges in more than 500 airports in 120 countries worldwide. The Lounge Collection offers access to these programs:
- The Centurion Lounge Network
- The International American Express lounges
- Delta Sky Clubs
- Priority Pass Select lounges
- Airspace Lounges
- Escape Lounges
The Platinum Card lets you earn 5X points per dollar on flights booked through the airline or American Express Travel. You also earn 5X points per dollar on hotels booked through AmexTravel.com. Along with a generous introductory points bonus, other card perks include:
- $200 annual airline fee credit
- Fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Precheck
- Gold Status membership in the Starwood Preferred Guest program
- Hilton HHonors Gold Status
This card packs quite a punch for travelers, all for an annual fee of $550.
2. Chase Sapphire Reserve
Chase Sapphire Reserve is a premium travel rewards card. Members and their authorized users can access over 1,000 VIP airport lounges worldwide with Priority Pass Select.
Lounge access includes amenities like free snacks, beverages, and Wi-Fi at some of the world's biggest airports, including:
- London Heathrow
- O'Hare International
- JFK International
- Paris Orly
- Sao Paolo Guarulhos International
- Beijing Capital International
The Sapphire Reserve card offers 3X points per dollar on travel and dining. There's a 50 percent rewards bonus when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. You can earn up to a $300 travel reimbursement credit annually and transfer points on a 1:1 basis to selected travel loyalty programs.
Other perks include a fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Precheck, car rental privileges and access to The Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection. The annual fee is slightly lower than the American Express Platinum Card, at $450.
3. Citi Prestige
The Citi Prestige card is designed for travelers who want to fly in style and save on hotel stays. Similar to the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, this card also comes with lounge access through Priority Pass Select. You and your authorized users have complimentary access to the program's extensive network of lounges, with up to two guests per visit.
Citi Prestige lets you earn 3X points per dollar on hotels and airfare. Dining and entertainment purchases earn 2X points per dollar; you'll earn 1 point per dollar on everything else.
Some of the card's other great features include:
- Complimentary 4th night when you book a minimum 4-night stay through Citi ThankYou
- $250 annual air travel credit for incidentals
- Citi Prestige Concierge service
- 25% points bonus on airfare redemptions through ThankYou.com
- Fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Precheck
Something else this card has in common with the Chase Sapphire Reserve card: a $450 annual fee.
4. Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard
You may prefer the Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard if you tend to fly American Airlines more than another carrier.
This card comes with free membership in the Admirals Club, which has over 50 locations worldwide. Membership also gives you access to more than 60 partner lounges in major cities around the globe. Some of the amenities members enjoy in lounge locations include snacks and beverages, shower suites, personal travel services and a business center.
You'll earn 2 miles per dollar on eligible American Airlines purchases, plus 1 mile per dollar on all other purchases. There's a sizable introductory miles bonus if you meet the minimum spending requirement within the first three months.
You'll also enjoy:
- Fee credits for Global Entry or TSA Precheck
- No foreign transaction fees
- Free first checked bag on American Airlines flights for yourself and up to 8 companions
- Free priority check-in
The price tag for all those benefits comes to $450 per year.
5. Delta Reserve
If you're a Delta fan, the Delta Reserve card from American Express is designed with you in mind. This card comes with Delta Sky Club access included, which lets you explore 229 Delta Sky Clubs and partner lounges all over the world. Sky Club lounges are meant to be a personal retreat, with benefits like a fully stocked bar, dining services, entertainment and showers if you need to freshen up.
If you're a Delta SkyMiles member, you can use this card to rack up even more frequent flyer miles. You earn 2X miles per dollar on Delta purchases, and the introductory bonus allows you to earn bonus miles along with Medallion Qualification Miles towards free flights. Miles can be redeemed for travel aboard Delta or more than 15 airline partners.
Your first checked bag is free on Delta flights and priority boarding cuts down on your wait time at the airport. You can get a domestic first-class Delta Comfort+ or Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate when you renew your card membership each year. That does mean, however, paying the $450 annual fee.
6. United MileagePlus Club
The United MileagePlus Club card from Chase offers access to United Club lounges. As a member, you can visit more than 45 United Club locations, Copa Club locations and participating Star Alliance affiliated airport clubs around the world. You get a free annual membership to United Club locations every year.
You'll earn 2 miles per dollar on tickets purchased from United and 1.5 miles per dollar on everything else. Introductory bonus miles are available if you meet the minimum spending requirement. Priority boarding is included and your first checked bag is free. Travel insurance benefits like trip delay reimbursement and baggage delay insurance round out the card's features.
Its annual fee is comparable to the other cards on this list at $450 per year.
Priority Pass Lounges
Some of the cards included here offer Priority Pass Lounge access. Ordinarily, membership ranges from $99 to $399 per year, depending on the tier you choose. The highest level membership offers entry to more than 1,000 lounges for free, with a $27 fee for guests. At the lower levels, members pay $27 per visit for themselves and their guests.
Compare it to the cost of access to airline-operated lounges:
One-Time Passes and Membership Fees for Major Airline Lounges
|Lounge||One-Time Pass Fee||Annual Membership Fee|
|Delta Sky Club||$59||$495 (no additional fee if you have an AMEX Platinum Card)|
|Admirals Club (American Airlines)||$59||$550 (no additional fee if you have a Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard)|
|British Airways Lounges||No fee - you have access if you're a Silver/Gold Member of the British Airways Executive Club or a Sapphire/Emerald member of any of the oneworld airline frequent flyer programs||No fee - you have access if flying first class or business class (access to Club World or Club Europe)|
|JetBlue (only in Montego Bay (Mobay), Jamaica and Kingston, Jamaica)||Club Mobay: $35 for departures and $50 for arrivals
Club Kingston: $30 for departures and $35 for arrivals
|No annual fee - only one time pass fee|
|Virgin America Clubhouse||$40 (for San Francisco Airport) or $45 (for Washington D.C. airport)||No annual fee - only one time pass fee|
|Hawaiian Airlines (only in Hawaii)||The Premier Club: $20 - $40 (no fee for first and business class passengers on domestic flight)
The Plumeria Lounge: $40 (no fee for business class passengers on international flight)
|No annual fee - only one time pass fee|
Lounges are usually located in the airside part of the airport, past the security checkpoint. Some, however, may come before security. Another thing to know: some lounges may have restricted access or hours that are reserved for certain travelers. In some cases, access may be limited if space is an issue during peak travel hours.
There may also be restrictions on some of the amenities lounges offer. For instance, you may be limited to a certain number of alcoholic drinks while you're in the lounge. It's a good idea to research specific lounges before you visit so you're aware of any rules or limitations.
Priority Pass Lounges in the U.S. by Major Airport
|John F. Kennedy International (JFK)||Air France Lounge - located in Terminal 1
KAL Business Class Lounge - located in Terminal 1
Wingtips Lounge - located in Terminal 4
Bobby Van's Steakhouse - located in Terminal 8
|Max. 3 hour stay at Air France Lounge
Max. 4 hour stay at Wingtips Lounge
$28 off food and drink bill at Bobby Van's Steakhouse
|LaGuardia (LGA)||Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge - located in Terminal B||Alcoholic drinks only available from 11 AM until close|
|San Francisco International (SFO)||Air France (KLM Lounge)- located in International Terminal||Max. 3 hour stay|
|Los Angeles International (LAX)||Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse - located in Terminal 2
Alaska Lounge - located in Terminal 6
KAL Lounge - located in Tom Bradley International Terminal
|Complimentary alcoholic drinks are limited to beer and wine only for Virgin Atlantic Club
3 drink max for Alaska Lounge
Limited to two guests per cardholder for KAL Lounge
|Newark Liberty International (EWR)||Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge - located in Terminal A
Art & Lounge - located in Terminal B
|Max. 3 hour stay in Art & Lounge|
|Chicago O'Hare International (ORD)||Air France (KLM Lounge) - located in International Terminal 5
Swissport Lounge - located in International Terminal 5
|Max. 3 hour stay for Air France (KLM Lounge)
Swissport Lounge is closed on Christmas and New Year's Day
|Miami International (MIA)||Club America F - located in Central Terminal Concourse F
Corona Beach House - located in North Terminal Concourse D
Avianca VIP Lounge - located in South Terminal Concourse J
VIP Lounge Miami - located in South Terminal Concourse J
|$30 off food and drink bill at Corona Beach House
Avianaca VIP Lounge operates 24 hours daily
Max. 3 hour stay at VIP Lounge Miami
|Dallas/Fort Worth International (DFW)||Minute Suites - located in Terminal A
Minute Suites - located in Terminal D
The Club at DFW - located in Terminal D
|Max. 1 hour stay at Minute Suites locations (every hour after that is $28/hr)|
|Denver International Airport (DEN)||Timberline Steaks & Grille - located in Concourse C||$28 off food and drink bill|
|Phoenix Sky Harbor International (PHX)||The Club at PHX - located in Terminal 4||Lounge closes at 5:30 PM|
|Minnesota/St. Paul International (MSP)||PGA MSP Lounge - located in Terminal 1||Max. 3 hour stay
$15 off food and drink bill or golf experience
|Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International (ATL)||Minute Suites - located in Concourse B
The Club at ATL - located in International Terminal Concourse F
|Max. 1 hour stay at Minute Suite (every hour after that is $28/hr)|
|Orlando International (MCO)||The Club MCO - located in Terminal A Concourse 1
The Club MCO - located in Terminal B Concourse 4
|Children's play area available at both locations|
|Seattle Tacoma International (SEA)||The Club at SEA - located in Concourse A
Alaska Lounge - located in Concourse C
Alaska Lounge - located in Concourse D
Alaska Lounge - located in North Satellite
The Club at SEA - located in South Satellite
|Alcoholic drinks are limited to three per adult for both Alaska Lounges
Separate prayer room available at The Club at SEA located in South Satellite
Lounge Access Guest Policies
Lounge networks generally allow you to bring along guests but there are some things to be aware of.
First, there may be a limit on how many guests you can bring. Priority Pass Select doesn't restrict how many guests you can bring but individual lounges may have different policies.
Don't assume guests are free either. With Delta Sky Club, for example, you can bring up to two guests per visit but you'll pay a $29 fee for each of them.
Keep in mind that if you travel for children, individual lounges may impose age limits for access. Again, it's wise to research the lounge you plan to visit beforehand to make sure you don't run into any issues once you arrive.
Major Airport Lounges Guest Policy
|Lounge||Guest Policy||Children Policy|
|United Club||Up to 2 guests at no additional charge||Children 2 and younger can be admitted for free, if accompanied by an adult with a one-time pass|
|Delta Sky Club||Up to 2 guests at $29 extra per guest (you can buy an executive membership for $745 per year and take up to 2 guests at no additional charge)||Children 2 and younger can be admitted for free, if accompanied by an adult with a one-time pass|
|Admirals Club||Up to 2 guests at no additional charge||Up to 3 children under the age of 18 can be admitted for free, if accompanied by an adult with a one-time pass|
|Alaska Lounge||Up to 2 guests at no additional charge||Children 2 and younger can be admitted for free, with annual membership holders and one-time pass holders|
|Airspace Lounge||Up to 2 guests at no additional charge||Children 2 and younger can be admitted for free, with annual membership holders and one-time pass holders|
|Escape Lounge||All guests must pay to access the lounge, which is about $44/person (if you hold an AMEX Platinum card, you can bring up to 2 guests at no additional cost)||Children 2 and younger can be admitted for free (if you are bringing a child younger than 2, you must email Escape Lounge and inform them)|
What About Authorized Users?
As noted with some of the cards included here, lounge access usually extends to authorized card users. Two things to note, however.
First, some lounge programs like Priority Pass require you to show your membership card to get into the lounge. Your authorized users would need their own Priority Pass membership cards.
Second, some cards charge an annual fee for authorized users. With the Platinum Card from American Express, for instance, you'll pay a $175 annual fee for up to three additional cards. The Chase Sapphire Reserve card charges $75 for each authorized user.
If you want to give authorized users lounge access, remember to factor in how much it may cost you in annual fees or lounge entry fees.
Choosing a Travel Rewards Credit Card
Lounge access is an outstanding perk for frequent travelers but it's not the only thing to consider when choosing a travel rewards card. It's important to look at the bigger picture. That covers features including:
- Rewards - How many points or miles can you earn? How can those rewards be redeemed? Is there an introductory rewards bonus?
- Transfer programs - Does the card allow you to transfer rewards to other travel loyalty programs? What's the transfer value?
- Travel perks - What other travel benefits does the card offer? For example, do you get checked bags free, free companion tickets, in-flight discounts, concierge service, priority boarding?
- Fees - Is there an annual fee? How does the value of the rewards or perks the card offers compare to the fee? What about foreign transaction fees?
- APR - What's the regular variable APR for purchases? Is there a promotional APR on balance transfers or purchases?
The Bottom Line
The credit cards we've chosen here represent the best of the best when it comes to lounge access. The right one for you depends on how often you fly, which airlines you prefer and how much of an annual fee you're comfortable paying. Comparing their lounge access, as well as their other features, can help you choose the card that best fits your travel lifestyle.