This series of articles about credit cards, points and miles, and budgeting for travel is brought to you in partnership with The Points Guy.
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While some like to bemoan the sunset of the Golden Age of Travel, others might argue we’re in the midst of it. Premium travel experiences are more accessible than ever, and sometimes all it takes is a single credit card.
Airport lounges are just one example of a premium travel amenity going mainstream. Airport lounges provide travelers with a comfortable and luxurious space to relax before and after a flight. These lounges often have comfortable seating, complimentary beverages, snacks and other amenities. Some lounges even have showers, allowing travelers to freshen up before their flight or after a long journey. With these features, airport lounges make travel much more comfortable and enjoyable.
A credit card with airport lounge access is a great way to improve your travel experience. Many of these cards also offer priority boarding privileges which can help you get on the plane faster and avoid long lines at the gate. Furthermore, you’ll earn bonus points on flights, which can be used towards free flights or upgrades in the future. With annual fees ranging from $95-$695, there’s a card for every budget.
We’ve rounded up the best credit cards for airport lounge access to help you narrow your options. Here are our top picks:
The best credit cards
The Amex Centurion Lounge in Denver International airport © Zach Griff / The Points Guy
The Platinum Card® from American Express: Best for the largest lounge network
The Platinum Card® from American Express is the best card for those who want access to an extensive lounge network. With this card, you can access more than 1400 airport lounges worldwide. Cardholders receive complimentary Priority Pass Select membership, which provides access to over 1300 lounges worldwide. You can also access the exclusive Centurion Lounges, Escape and Airspace lounge networks, Delta Sky Clubs when flying with Delta and Lufthansa lounges when flying with Lufthansa Group.
The card also comes with an airline fee credit of up to $200 every year. So if you happen to be at an airport that doesn’t operate a lounge in this vast network, you can buy a day pass with your Platinum Card and get reimbursed. Best of all, Amex Platinum Card authorized users get their own lounge privileges, which may be worth the additional fee. See rates and fees.
Welcome bonus: 80,000 points after $8000 spent within six months of account opening.
Rewards: Earn 5 points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or Amex Travel (up to $500,000 per calendar year); 5 points per dollar on prepaid hotels booked with Amex Travel; 1 point per dollar on everything else.
Lounge benefits: Access to American Express Global Lounge Collection, which includes lounges in the Centurion network, Priority Pass, Plaza Premium, Escape, Lufthansa and Delta Sky Club lounges.
Other travel benefits: Up to $1500 in annual travel, dining and entertainment credits; Hilton and Marriott Gold elite status; elite status with Avis, Hertz and National rental car; trip delay insurance; trip cancellation & interruption insurance*.
Credit score required: Good to Excellent.
Annual fee: $695. See rates and fees.
- Offers access to the most extensive lounge network of any credit card.
- Authorized users get their own lounge privileges.
- Over $1500 in annual travel credits, including airline incidental fees.
- High annual fee.
- $175 annual fee for up to three authorized users.
- Approval is subject to Amex’s once-per-lifetime rule (ie, you can only earn a card’s welcome bonus once unless you get targeted for special offers).
The Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card © Wyatt Smith / The Points Guy
Chase Sapphire Reserve®: Best for Priority Pass Select membership
Several premium credit cards offer Priority Pass Select membership, but not all memberships are the same. Getting yours through the Chase Sapphire Reserve® includes dining credits at select airport lounges and cafes. This is useful when lounges are crowded or you just want to grab a quick bite for the plane.
There are some great restaurants within the Priority Pass network, like Landry’s at George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) or Bobby Van’s Steakhouse at New York-JFK’s Terminal 8. Qualifying Priority Pass Select members will receive a $28 credit per person at these establishments, which is plenty. This benefit extends to authorized users, who get their own Priority Pass memberships.
Unfortunately, Capital One and American Express cardholders don’t get restaurant privileges. That’s why the Chase Sapphire Reserve® is a superior card for Priority Pass Select membership.
Welcome bonus: 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
Rewards: Earn 10X points on Chase Dining purchases, hotels and car rentals through Chase Ultimate Rewards; 5X points on flights purchased travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards travel; 3X points on other travel and dining (including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out); 1X point on all other purchases. All travel reward rates will kick in once the $300 travel credit is used.
Lounge benefits: Priority Pass Select membership with restaurant privileges and Chase Sapphire lounges.
Other travel benefits: Receive up to $300 in annual travel statement credits, including airfare, hotels and rental cars; get 50% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards; Priority Pass Select membership; application fee credit towards Global Entry, TSA Precheck or NEXUS every four years; travel protections including cancellation/interruption insurance, trip delay reimbursement, primary rental car insurance (up to $75,000 in the US and abroad) and lost luggage reimbursement.
Credit score: Excellent.
Annual fee: $550 (plus $75 per authorized user).
- Provides access to Chase and Priority Pass lounges, including participating airport restaurants and cafes.
- Lounge benefit extends to authorized users.
- The $300 annual travel credit partially offsets the high annual fee.
- High annual fee
- Adding an authorized user costs $75, which most travel cards don’t charge.
- Approval is subject to the Chase 5/24 rule (ie, you won’t be approved if you’ve opened five credit cards in the last 24 months).
American Airlines Admirals Club © Joseph Hostetler / The Points Guy
Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®: Best for Admiral’s Club lounges
If you frequently travel in or out of an American Airlines hub, you might enjoy the comforts of an Admiral’s Club membership. A cheaper alternative to paying upwards of $625 for membership is to apply for the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®. The card has a $450 annual fee and gives you access to over 50 lounges worldwide. You can even bring up to two companions with you.
The card offers many other perks that improve your travel experience, like priority check-in and security screening, free checked bags and the ability to earn elite status through credit card spending. But it can be worthwhile even if you stick the card in a sock drawer and only utilize the Admiral’s Club membership.
Welcome bonus: Earn 50,000 miles after spending $5000 within three months of account opening.
Rewards: Earn 2X miles on eligible American Airlines purchases and 1X miles on all other purchases.
Lounge benefits: Complimentary Admiral’s Club membership, valued at up to $650. Includes access for up to two guests.
Other travel benefits: Up to $100 Global Entry/TSA Precheck credit every five years; 10,000 Loyalty Points after spending $40,000 per status year; primary cardholder and up to eight travel companions get a free checked bag, priority check-in, security screening and boarding when flying American; 25% savings on in-flight American Airlines purchases.
Credit score: Good to Excellent.
Annual fee: $450.
- Every dollar spent earns 1 Loyalty Point towards AAdvantage elite status.
- Admirals Club lounge benefit is worth more than the annual fee.
- Complimentary lounge benefit extends to authorized users.
- Enhanced travel benefits when flying American Airlines.
- The annual fee is high if you don’t use the Admirals Club benefit.
- The welcome bonus isn’t very competitive against other airline cards.
- Limited earning potential outside of American Airlines purchases.
United Club © courtesy of United Airlines
United Club℠ Infinite Card: Best for United lounges
United Airlines has 45 airport lounges worldwide, providing comfortable spaces to unwind before a flight. A United Club membership costs $650 and even includes access to select Star Alliance partner lounges. You can save $125 by opting for the United Club℠ Infinite Card instead. The card offers complimentary United Club membership, which grants access for up to two adults (or one adult plus dependent children under the age of 21).
The card also comes with Premier Access travel services to further improve your airport experience. It includes priority check-in, security screening, boarding and baggage handling where available.
Welcome bonus: Earn 80,000 bonus miles plus 1000 Premier qualifying points (PQP) after you spend $5000 in the first three months of account opening.
Rewards: Earn 4X miles on purchases from United, including tickets, Economy Plus, inflight food, beverages and wi-fi; 2X miles on all other travel purchases, including 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. Plus, earn 500 PQP for every $12,000 spent (up to 8000 PQP annually).
Lounge benefits: Complimentary United Club membership, with access for up to two travel companions.
Other travel benefits: Free first and checked bag for the primary cardholder and up to four companions; Premier Access travel services; Premier upgrades on award tickets; up to $100 Global Entry/TSA Precheck credit every four years; 25% back on United in-flight and Club premium drink purchases; IHG One Rewards Platinum elite status; two annual $75 statement credits for IHG hotel purchases; Avis President’s Club circle.
Credit score: Excellent.
Annual fee: $525.
- Substantial welcome bonus.
- United Club membership is valued up to $650.
- Ability to earn PQP towards United elite status via credit card spending.
- Enhanced travel experience when flying United.
- High annual fee.
- Travel perks aren’t useful if you don’t regularly fly United.
- United doesn’t publish an award chart and award rates can be higher than other airlines.
Delta Sky Club in Phoenix © courtesy of Delta Air Lines
Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card: Best for Delta Sky Club
If you’re looking for Delta Sky Club and Centurion Lounge access without the $695 annual fee, then the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve card is an excellent alternative. The card offers complimentary Delta Sky Club access to primary cardholders, plus two one-time guest passes annually. Aside from the Amex Platinum Card, this is the only card that includes Centurion Lounge access. The caveat is that you must pay for your Delta flight with this card to access the Centurion Lounge. At $550 it’s a much more cost-effective option. See rates and fees.
Welcome bonus: Earn 85,000 miles after spending $6000 in the first six months of account opening.
Rewards: Earn 3X miles on purchases made directly with Delta and 1X on everything else.
Lounge benefits: Complimentary Delta Sky Club access, two one-time guest passes each year when you fly Delta. Plus, access to the American Express Centurion Lounge when you book a Delta flight with your SkyMiles® Reserve Card.
Other travel benefits: Annual Companion Certificate valid on domestic main cabin, Comfort+ and first class fares; 15% off award flights; upgrade priority over other Medallion members of the same level; upgrade eligibility for non-elite members; waived Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQDs) after spending $25,000 on the card (up to Platinum status); earn 15,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after spending $30,000 (up to four times in a calendar year); a free first checked bag for the cardholder and up to four companions; up to $100 Global Entry/TSA Precheck credit every four years; 20% statement credit on in-flight Delta food and beverage purchases.
Credit score: Good to Excellent.
Annual fee: $550.
- High welcome bonus.
- Premium travel perks typically reserved for elite members.
- Earns elite status requirements through credit card spending.
- Sky Club access limited to the primary cardholder.
- Low earning potential on non-Delta purchases.
- Delta SkyMiles® often has high redemption rates for premium cabins.
The Capital One Lounge at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport © Wyatt Smith / The Points Guy
Capital One Venture Card: Best budget card for lounge access
The Capital One Venture Card is the best option if you’re looking to access lounges without an exorbitant annual fee. The card has a $95 annual fee and provides up to two free airport lounge visits per year at Capital One or Plaza Premium Lounges. The only drawback is that Capital One currently has just one airport lounge in Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, with three others in the works at Denver International Airport, Harry Reid International Airport (Las Vegas) and Dulles International Airport. The Plaza Premium Lounges network is more expansive, with over 100 lounges worldwide.
Because lounge visits are limited to two per year, the Capital One Venture is best for infrequent travelers.
Welcome bonus: Earn 75,000 bonus miles after spending $4000 in the first three months of account opening.
Rewards: 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel; 2X miles on all other purchases.
Lounge benefits: Receive up to two complimentary visits a year to Capital One and partner lounges, including Plaza Premium Lounges.
Other travel benefits: Up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, Hertz Five Star status, rental car insurance and travel accident insurance.
Credit score: Good to Excellent.
Annual fee: $95
- Generous lounge policy for a $95 annual fee card.
- High welcome bonus and continued earning potential.
- Points are transferable to 18 airlines and hotels.
- Limited lounge network compared to other credit cards.
Who should get a credit card with airport lounge access?
A credit card with airport lounge access is a great option for frequent and occasional travelers. It provides access to exclusive lounges worldwide, allowing you to relax while waiting for your flight. You can save money at airports by taking advantage of complimentary food and drinks, fast wi-fi and other amenities that may not be available in the airport terminal.
Whether traveling for business or on vacation, having a place to relax and catch up on work can make traveling much more comfortable. Some lounges even offer dedicated kids’ areas to entertain them during an otherwise restless wait before the flight. With some credit cards offering lounge access for up to two guests, these spaces are attainable for small families and groups alike.
How to choose the best credit card with airport lounge access?
When choosing a credit card with airport lounge access, it’s important to consider your travel habits. If you fly exclusively with one airline, getting a co-branded card with access to its lounges can make sense. However, if you’re not loyal to a single carrier, you might want a more comprehensive lounge network like Priority Pass. Many credit cards, including the Sapphire Reserve and Amex Platinum Card, offer Priority Pass Select membership, so you can visit these lounges free of charge and bring up to two guests.
So take a look at the airports you travel through most often. Take inventory of the available lounges and get a credit card that provides adequate access. The Priority Pass network is wide enough to meet most consumers’ needs. However, if you often fly out of an American Airlines hub, you may do better with an Admiral’s Club membership courtesy of the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard.
In addition to the lounge access, look for cards that offer other travel-related perks such as free checked bags, priority boarding and discounts on in-flight purchases. Additionally, consider the card’s annual fee and compare it to other cards with similar features. It’s important to make sure that the benefits outweigh the annual fee.
The Centurion Lounge at New York-LaGuardia © Zach Griff / The Points Guy
Best credit cards for airport lounge FAQ
Which credit card gives free airport lounge access?
Many credit cards, including the Chase Sapphire Reserve® and Capital One Venture Card, provide airport lounge access. If you want access to a specific airport lounge, you might want to consider a premium airline credit card with lounge membership.
Which credit card has the most lounge access?
The American Express Centurion Card is widely regarded as having the most lounge access of any credit card. This exclusive card offers members access to over 1200 airport lounges in over 500 cities worldwide, including The Centurion Lounge, Delta Sky Club and Priority Pass Select.
How many times can you access an airport lounge with a credit card?
It depends on the credit card and the airport lounge. Some credit cards offer unlimited access to certain airport lounges, while others may only provide a certain number of visits annually. Be sure to read the terms and conditions of your credit card before attempting to access an airport lounge.
Get more details and compare the cards mentioned in this article.
* Eligibility and Benefit level varies by Card. Terms, Conditions, and Limitations Apply. Please visit americanexpress.com/benefitsguide for more details. Underwritten by Amex Assurance Company.
Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Enrollment may be required for select American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more.
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.