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The world is filled with thousands of airport lounges, ranging from basic workspaces and chill-out areas to full-blown luxury experiences. Unfortunately, no single card will grant you access to every lounge.

However, premium travel reward credit cards do often come with complimentary lounge access for specific lounge networks. This perk can be of massive monetary value, as the equivalent cash-cost for access to these lounges can be exorbitant.

Let’s look at how airport lounges work, the different types of lounges available and the best cards for granting you access to these lounges.

Best Cards for Airport Lounge Access

Before jumping into our guide, here’s a brief rundown of the top cards for lounge access benefits, their exact offerings, plus their annual fees.

Card NameAnnual FeeLounge Access
The Platinum Card® from American Express$695 (Rates & Fees)Access to the American Express Global Lounge Collection, including complimentary Priority Pass membership
Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card$395Access to Capital One Lounges plus complimentary Priority Pass membership
Chase Sapphire Reserve®$550Complimentary Priority Pass Select membership
Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®$595Complimentary Admirals Club® membership
Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card$550 (Rates & Fees)Access to Delta Sky Club as well as Centurion and Escape Lounges (terms and conditions apply)
The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card$95 (Rates & Fees)Priority Pass Select membership, with up to 10 complimentary visits
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card$650 (Rates & Fees)Complimentary Priority Pass Select membership
The Business Platinum Card® from American Express$695 (Rates & Fees)Access to the American Express Global Lounge Collection, including complimentary Priority Pass membership
U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite Card$400Priority Pass Select membership, with up to eight complimentary visits
United Club℠ Infinite Card$525Complimentary United Club membership, plus access to participating Star Alliance operated lounges
A man resting in Lounge of Airport

Types of Airport Lounges

There are three main types of airport lounges:

  1. Card issuer-operated lounges
  2. Airline-operated lounges
  3. Independently operated lounges

Some lounges allow you to buy a day pass, while others require membership either via a credit card or paid membership card. For some airline-operated lounges, you’ll need to be flying with the specific airline on the same day to access them.

Let’s take a look at some of the most common lounges you’re likely to run into during your travels.

American Express Lounges

Depending on your credit card, American Express offers access to their Global Lounge Collection. This gives you global access to 1,400 airport lounges across 650 cities.

The Global Lounge Collection consists of the following airport lounge networks:

  • Airspace Lounges
  • Delta Sky Club®
  • Escape Lounges – The Centurion® Studio Partner
  • Lufthansa Lounges
  • Plaza Premium Lounges
  • Priority Pass
  • The Centurion® Lounge

The Centurion Lounges are operated by American Express and are available to eligible cardholders and accompanying guests only (terms and conditions apply). Membership can’t be purchased separately. 

Cardholders of the following cards have access to Centurion Lounges:

The Centurion network consists of more than 40 locations worldwide, including Centurion Lounges and Escape Lounges – The Centurion Studio Partner.

You can access a Centurion Lounge up to three hours before your flight departs. Access is available only if you have a departing flight or a layover.

Bar at JFK Delta Sky Club lounge
Bar at JFK airport’s Delta Sky Club lounge. Image Source: Rank Studios (via Delta.com)

Capital One Lounges

American Express isn’t the only card issuer that operates its own lounges.

Capital One has begun opening lounges that compete with many of the premium Centurion Lounges.

As of now, there are two Capital One lounges in the United States: one in Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) and one in Washington-Dulles International Airport (IAD). However, Capital One has plans to continue opening new top of the range lounges in the coming years.

Access can be gained via qualifying Capital One cards, or you can purchase access for $65 per person.

You can access Capital One lounges three hours before your flight departs. Access isn’t granted on arrival without an onward connecting flight.

Chase Lounges

Relatively new to the scene, Chase Sapphire Lounges are beginning to open up.

These lounges are available to the Chase Sapphire Reserve® cardholders as well as all Priority Pass members because of Chase’s partnership with The Club. However, Priority Pass members get a maximum of one complimentary visit per year.

You can also purchase a day pass for Chase Sapphire Lounges, which will cost you a steep $100.

As with many airport lounges, access is available for a maximum of three hours before your flight departs and is denied on arrival flights without an onward connecting flight.

Escape Lounges – The Centurion Studio Partner

There are currently 15 Escape Lounges – The Centurion Studio Partner across the U.S.

If you have access to the American Express Global Lounge Collection, you’ll have complimentary access to Escape lounges.

You can also pay for a day membership to Escape lounges. It costs $45 if you pay at the door or $40 if you book online at least 24 hours before departure. For a standard entry visit, you can come a maximum of three hours before your flight departs.

Plaza Premium

The Plaza Premium lounge network has more than 130 lounges across the world. In the U.S., Plaza Premium lounges also operate under the name of Virgin Atlantic Clubhouses.

Access to Plaza Premium lounges can be gained through the American Express Global Lounge Collection as well as select access via the Capital One Partner Lounge Network.

You can buy Plaza Premium lounge access, but you’ll need to ensure that you make a reservation at least one hour before arrival if it’s a one-time use day pass. You can also buy multiple visit lounge passes for differing prices on Premium Plaza’s website.

Priority Pass Lounges

Priority Pass lounges are a network of more than 1,400 lounges across the globe. 

Priority Pass membership can either be purchased or earned via a credit card. Purchased membership offers the following three tiers:

  1. Standard: annual fee of $99, plus $35 per member or guest visit
  2. Standard Plus: annual fee of $329, up to 10 complimentary visits and then $35 per member or guest visit thereafter
  3. Prestige: annual fee of $469, unlimited member visits and $35 per guest visit

Many premium travel rewards credit cards offer complimentary Priority Pass Select membership, which offers almost the exact same benefits as a bought membership does, except from access to certain non-lounge Priority Pass amenities, such as suites, spas and restaurants.

Best Cards for Airport Lounge Access

Best Cards for Airport Lounge Access 2023

Here are the top cards that come with airport lounge access perks.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

With the Platinum Card® from American Express, you’ll receive access to the American Express Global Lounge Collection. As already mentioned, this will give you more than 1,400 lounges to choose from during your travels, from Centurion and Escape lounges to Priority Pass, Lufthansa Business and many more.

The Amex Platinum Card remains unchallenged by other cards in terms of the number of lounges you’ll gain access to, justifying the annual fee of $695 (see rates and fees).

To receive complimentary guest access for up to two people, you’ll need to charge a minimum of $75,000 to your card per calendar year. Otherwise, each guest you bring will be charged $50, or $30 for children aged 2 to 17 years old.

However, the Platinum Card also comes with Priority Pass Select membership, which enables you to bring up to two guests free of charge to Priority Pass lounges.

When you’re flying with Delta Air Lines or select Delta partners, you’ll also be able to access the Delta Sky Club lounges on the same day for departing flights.

Here’s what the American Express Platinum Card has on offer:

  • 5X points on eligible flights booked with American Express Travel or directly with the airline, on up to $500,000 in charges per calendar year
  • 5X points on eligible prepaid hotel reservations when booked with American Express Travel
  • Receive either a $100 statement credit every four years for a Global Entry application fee or a statement credit up to $85 every 4.5 years for a TSA PreCheck® application fee
  • Complimentary premium status for numerous car rental companies (enrollment required)
  • Access to the American Express Global Lounge Collection
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Access to the American Express International Airline Program (for discounted airfares)
  • Access to the Fine Hotels + Resort Collection for bookings made through American Express Travel
  • Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite and Hilton Honors Gold status (enrollment required)
  • Up to $200 hotel credit (given in statement credits) on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts or The Hotel Collection bookings through American Express Travel, minimum 2-night stay required
  • Up to $240 digital entertainment credit, issued in $20 monthly statement credits for eligible purchases (enrollment required)
  • Up to $300 Equinox credit, given in statement credits
  • Up to $189 per year in statement credits toward a Clear® Plus membership
  • Up to $200 airline incidental fee credit, given in statement credits
  • Up to $200 Uber Cash, issued in increments of $15 per month with a bonus $20 in December

It should be noted that all American Express cards that come with Priority Pass Select membership allow lounge access only. Non-lounge amenities, such as Priority Pass Be Relax Spas, Minute Suites and restaurants, are not included.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $8,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Apply and select your preferred metal Card design: classic Platinum Card®, Platinum x Kehinde Wiley, or Platinum x Julie Mehretu.

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Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card

The Capital One Venture X Rewards card offers a lot of value for a much lower annual fee of $395.

With the Venture X Rewards card, you get complimentary access for you and up to two guests at Capital One lounges. On top of this, the card comes with complimentary Priority Pass Select membership as well as access to Plaza Premium lounges.

One of the standout benefits of the Venture X Rewards card is that you can add up to four authorized users free of charge, each of whom can enroll in Priority Pass Select and bring up to two guests. That means if there are five cardholders, each of whom brings two guests, a family of up to 15 people could access a lounge at once (subject to capacity constraints). 

Here’s a summary of what the Venture X Rewards has on offer:

  • 10X miles on rental cars and hotels when booked through Capital One Travel
  • 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Complimentary access for you, your authorized users and up to two guests for Priority Pass, Capital One Lounges and Plaza Premium Group (enrollment required)
  • Transfer Capital One Miles to more than 15 travel loyalty programs
  • Enjoy cardholder benefits, from experience credit to room upgrades, when staying with the Premier or Lifestyle Collections 
  • Up to $300 annual statement credit when booking travel through Capital One Travel (per account, not per user)
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 10,000 bonus miles every year on your account anniversary (per account, not per user)

Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card

Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

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Chase Sapphire Reserve®

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® offers complimentary Priority Pass Select membership. You can add authorized users for a fee of $75, each of whom can bring up to two guests in Priority Pass lounges free of charge.

The key advantage of the Chase Sapphire Reserve is that it’s one of the few cards that still gives members access to non-lounge Priority Pass features, such as restaurant credits.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve card comes with the following perks and rates:

  • Points have 50% more value (1.5 cents per point) when redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 10X points on hotels and car rentals purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards (after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually)
  • 5X points on flights booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards (after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually)
  • 3X points on other travel purchases (after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually)
  • 10X points on Chase Dining purchases 
  • 3X points on other dining at restaurants, including eligible takeout and delivery services, as well as dining out
  • 1X point on all other purchases
  • Complimentary Priority Pass Select membership
  • $300 annual travel statement credit
  • $100 statement credit Global Entry application fee or TSA PreCheck application fee
  • Get access to special benefits when staying with The Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection
  • Travel and protection coverage
  • 24/7 access to a customer service specialist
  • No foreign transaction fees
Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. 

LEARN MORE 

Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® offers complimentary Admirals Club membership, worth up to $850. This immediately offsets the annual fee of $595 by $255.

The primary cardholder will receive a full complimentary Admirals Club membership while the authorized user receives American Airlines Admirals Club lounge access (this excludes access to partner lounges). 

Immediate family members or up to two guests receive complimentary lounge access when accompanying the primary cardholder or the authorized user.

To access the lounge, you’ll need to display your Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard (if you’re an authorized user) or your AAdvantage number (if you’re the primary cardholder), plus your government issued I.D. and a same-day boarding pass for an eligible flight. Eligible flights include those operated by American Airlines, any member of the Oneworld alliance or Alaska Airlines.

The card comes with the following additional perks and rates:

  • 10X miles on eligible car rentals booked through aa.com/cars
  • 10X miles on eligible hotels booked through aa.com/hotels
  • 4X miles on eligible American Airlines purchases (after spending $150,000 in purchases within a calendar year, you’ll earn 5X miles on eligible American Airlines purchases for the rest of the year)
  • 1X mile on all other purchases
  • Bonus 10,000 Loyalty Points after reaching 50,000 Loyalty Points in a status qualification year. You can earn a second 10,000 Loyalty Point bonus if you reach 90,000 Loyalty Points in the same status qualification year.
  • 25% savings on in-flight food and beverage purchases
  • Free first checked bag on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to eight companions on the same travel reservation (value of up to $540 per round trip)
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck® application fee credit up to $100 every four years
  • Priority check-in, screening, and boarding when flying with American Airlines
  • No foreign transaction fees

Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card

If you’re a frequent flyer with Delta, consider the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card, which offers complimentary Delta Sky Club membership, with an annual card fee of $550 (see rates and fees).

Currently, this allows you to access Delta Sky Clubs three hours before departure when flying the same day on a Delta-operated or Delta-marketed flight. You’ll receive two annual one-time complimentary guest passess. Additional guests are allowed to join you but for a fee of $50 per person.

The cardholder will also receive complimentary access to Centurion and Escape lounges when flying the same day with a Delta-operated or Delta-marketed flight, purchased with a U.S.-issued American Express card.

As of Feb. 1, 2025, Delta Sky Club membership will no longer be unlimited and instead will be restricted to a maximum of 15 complimentary visits per year, with each visit costing $50 thereafter. To unlock unlimited visits, cardmembers will be required to charge a minimum of $75,000 to their card per year.

The SkyMiles Reserve card offers the following:

  • 3X miles on direct purchases with Delta
  • 1X miles on all other purchases
  • First checked bag flies free on Delta flights
  • Complimentary upgrades, after Medallion Members on priority lists
  • Save 15% when booking award flights with Delta (excluding partner-operated flights as well as taxes and fees)
  • Complimentary Delta Sky Club access plus two Delta Sky Club one-time guest passes each year. Effective Feb. 1, the SkyMiles Reserve Card members will receive 15 visits per year to the Delta Sky Club only (to gain unlimited access, the total eligible purchases on your card will need to equal a minimum of $75,000 per calendar year).
  • 20% back in statement credits on in-flight Delta purchases (when using your card to pay)
  • Priority boarding
  • No foreign transaction fees 

The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card

With an annual fee of only $95 (see rates and fees), the Hilton Honors American Express Business Card comes with excellent value for money.

You’ll get complimentary Priority Pass Select membership, which includes up to 10 free visits per year. If you use these visits, that alone will more than offset the annual fee.

The 10 complimentary visits are per account, not per card user, meaning authorized users don’t receive an additional 10 complimentary visits. However, authorized users and accompanying guests can have their visits counted toward the 10 annual complimentary visits of the primary cardholder.

The card offers the following perks and rates:

  • 12X Hilton Honors points on purchases made directly with hotels and resorts in the Hilton portfolio
  • 6X points on business purchases at U.S. gas stations, U.S. shipping, and wireless phone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers
  • 3X points on all other purchases
  • Free night reward from Hilton Honors after you charge $15,000 in purchases on your card plus a second free night reward after charging $60,000 in purchases to your card
  • Complimentary Priority Pass Select membership with up to 10 complimentary visits
  • Complimentary Hilton Honors Gold Status with an option to upgrade to Hilton Honors Diamond status after spending $40,000 in eligible purchases on your card
  • No foreign transaction fees
The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card

The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card

Earn 130,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 in purchases on the Hilton Honors Business Card within the first three months of Card Membership.

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Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card

For frequent guests of Marriott Bonvoy hotels looking for airport lounge access benefits, the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card could be a great match.

While the annual fee of $650 (see rates and fees) isn’t cheap, the card is packed with benefits that help to offset the membership fee.

In terms of lounge benefits, the card offers complimentary Priority Select membership with the ability to bring up to two guests free of charge. Unfortunately, this benefit only applies to the primary cardholder, not authorized users.

The card offers the following perks and rates:

  • 6X Marriott Bonvoy points on eligible purchases at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy
  • 3X points on restaurants worldwide
  • 3X points on flights booked directly with airlines
  • 2X points on all other purchases 
  • $300 statement credit on dining at restaurants worldwide, issued in $25 monthly credits
  • Annual free night award redeemable at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy (worth 85,000 Marriott Bonvoy points)
  • Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Platinum Elite status
  • Receive 25 elite night credits each calendar year toward the next level of Marriott Bonvoy Elite status
  • Receive either a $100 statement credit every four years for a Global Entry application fee or a statement credit up to $85 every 4.5 years for a TSA PreCheck® application fee
  • Complimentary Priority Pass Select membership

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card

Earn 95,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after you use your new Card to make $6,000 in purchases within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

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The Business Platinum Card® from American Express

The Business Platinum Card® from American Express offers the same airport lounge access perks as the consumer Platinum Card, and that is access to the American Express Global Lounge Collection.

This makes it the most competitive business card in terms of airport lounge access.

Although the annual fee of $695 (see rates and fees) is steep, the combined value of statement credits totals $1,419. When you combine this with access to the Global Lounge Collection, the annual fee can more than easily be offset.

The card includes Priority Pass Select membership and the ability to bring up to two guests free of charge to Priority Pass lounges. However, unlike with the consumer card, Priority Pass Select membership doesn’t extend to authorized users.

The Amex Business Platinum Card offers the following rates and perks:

  • 5X points on flights and prepaid hotels booked through AmexTravel.com
  • 1.5X points on eligible purchases in business categories, as well as on eligible purchases of $5K or more
  • 1X point on all other purchases
  • $400 statement credit for Dell Technologies purchases, issued semi-annually in up to $200 statement credits (enrollment required)
  • $360 statement credit for purchases with Indeed, issued in up to $90 quarterly credits (enrollment required)
  • Up to $150 statement credit on select business purchases from Adobe Creative Solutions (enrollment required)
  • Up to $120 statement credit on U.S. wireless phone purchases, issued in $10 monthly increments (enrollment required)
  • Access to the American Express Global Lounge Collection (1,400+ lounges, enrollment required)
  • Up to $200 airline incidental fee credit
  • Up to $189 CLEAR® Plus membership fee credit
  • Get 35% points back after you use the Pay With Points feature for all or part of a flight booked with American Express
  • Receive either a $100 statement credit every four years for a Global Entry application fee or a statement credit up to $85 every 4.5 years for a TSA PreCheck® application fee
  • Benefits with the Fine Hotels + Resorts program
  • Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status (enrollment required)
  • Hilton Honors Gold status (enrollment required)
The Business Platinum Card® from American Express

The Business Platinum Card® from American Express

Earn 120,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with your Card within the first 3 months of Card Membership. Terms Apply.

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U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite Card

The U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite card offers up to eight annual complimentary visits for you and/or an accompanying guest in the Priority Pass network.

Previously, the perk stipulated that you had four cardholder and four guest visits per year. This policy has changed, giving you more freedom as to how you distribute your visits.

This Priority Pass benefit has an equivalent cash value of $379 ($35 x 8 + $99). This means if you use all of your complimentary visits, you’ll be close to offsetting the annual fee of $400. Combine this with the $325 annual statement credit for travel, dining, restaurant, takeaway and delivery service purchases, and you’ll have offset the annual fee by $302.

It should be noted that complimentary Priority Pass visits apply only to the primary cardholder and accompanying guest; it doesn’t extend to authorized users. Likewise, non-lounge Priority Pass amenities aren’t included.

The U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite offers the following:

  • $325 annual statement credit for travel, dining, restaurant, takeaway and delivery service purchases
  • Complimentary Priority Pass Select membership, including eight free visits per year for you and/or a guest
  • $100 TSA PreCheck® or Global Entry fee statement credit 
  • Access to the Visa Infinite Luxury Hotel Collection, including perks such as late checkout, room upgrades upon arrival and special amenity credits (all perks are subject to availability)
  • Consumer and travel protections
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 5X points on prepaid hotels and car rentals booked directly through the Altitude Rewards Center
  • 3X points on eligible travel purchases and mobile wallet spending via Apple Pay®, Google Pay™ and Samsung Pay
  • 1X point on all other eligible purchases

United Club℠ Infinite Card

The United Club Infinite card gives you complimentary United Club membership, worth $625. This more than offsets the annual fee of $525 from the get-go.

United Club membership gains you access to all United Club lounges as well as participating Star Alliance lounges worldwide. Star Alliance members boast more than 1,000 lounges globally, making this a significant perk of the card.

The primary cardholder and up to two guests are able to access United Club lounges, as long as you can show a same-day boarding pass for a departing United or Star Alliance partner flight. Unfortunately, membership doesn’t extend to authorized users.

The United Club Infinite Card offers the following rates and perks:

  • United Club membership
  • 4X miles on United purchases, such as tickets, Economy Plus® seat upgrades, in-flight food, beverages and Wi-Fi
  • 2X miles on all other travel purchases, from airfare, trains, local transit, cruise lines, hotels, car rentals, taxicabs, resorts, rideshare services and tolls
  • 2X miles on dining including eligible delivery services.
  • 1X mile on all other purchases
  • Free first and second checked bags for the cardholder and up to one companion
  • Receive either a $100 statement credit every four years for a Global Entry application fee or a statement credit up to $85 every 4.5 years for a TSA PreCheck application fee
  • Earn 500 Premier Qualifying Points for every $12,000 you spend on purchases with your United Club Card (up to 8,000 PQP in a calendar year)
  • 25% back in statement credit on in-flight purchases of food, beverages and Wi-Fi on United-operated flights and on Club premium drinks (when using your United Club Infinite card)
  • Premier Access® travel services, such as priority check-in, security screening, boarding and baggage handling privileges (subject to availability)
  • IHG One Rewards Platinum Elite status (enrollment required)

Final Thoughts

Gaining airport lounge access through travel rewards credit cards almost always makes more sense than buying a day pass or paying for a yearly membership.

When combined with added perks, such as hotel status, free night rewards, the ability to earn points on spending and access to multiple airport lounge networks, you’ll get a far greater return on your money compared to buying a membership.

While many premium cards offer lounge access with high annual fees (which can easily be offset), other more accessible cards, such as the The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card, offer lounge access for only $95 per year.

So consider adding one of these cards to your wallet to make your next airport visit less chaotic and more luxurious.