Top Credit Cards With Airport Lounge Access
Airports are not places of emotional respite and quiet contemplation. Airports are angry, crowded, chaotic, exploitative places where anxiety thrives like bacteria on picnic potato salad. Heavily-policed cathedrals of dread and frustration where the malware-ridden charging stations are all occupied and a mediocre sandwich costs 12 bucks. The modern airport experience distills and concentrates the existential toxicity we spend our lives trying and failing to avoid.
Wouldn’t it be nice if there were something you could do to make airports less awful? As it turns out, for a price, there is.
Most airports have lounges where you can take refuge from the rest of the airport. While airports differ in terms of the lounge benefits they offer, these benefits typically include complimentary snacks and drinks, free wi-fi, computer workstations, comfy seating, and other luxury amenities. Some even offer full spa treatments!
You can just pay to get into these lounges, but if you use them with any frequency, this will cost you quite a bit. Thankfully, some travel credit cards come with complimentary airport lounge access, entitling you — and up to two companions, in most cases — to use these lounges and enjoy their benefits. While these cards normally carry a high annual fee, you’ll still come out ahead if you use these lounges often enough. Plus, premium travel cards offer a host of additional benefits, like travel protection, the ability to earn points or cash back, and more.
Read on to get the details of the top travel credit cards with lounge access. Hopefully, you’ll find one that appeals to you!
|Credit Card||Annual Fee||Lounge Access|
|The Platinum Card from Amex||$550||Amex Centurion, Priority Pass, Delta Sky Clubs, Airspace|
|The Business Platinum Card from Amex||$595||Amex Centurion, Priority Pass, Delta Sky Clubs, Airspace|
|Mastercard Black Card||$495||Priority Pass|
|Chase Sapphire Reserve||$450||Priority Pass|
|Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard||$450||American Airlines Admiral’s Club|
|Hilton Honors Amex Aspire||$450||Priority Pass|
|Hilton Honors Amex Ascend||$95||Priority Pass|
Table of Contents
The Platinum Card from American Express
The Platinum Card from Amex earns first mention from us in this article. Why? Because no other credit card out there (with the exception of the business version of this card) gets you access to as many airport lounges as this one.
With Amex’s Platinum Card, you’ll gain access to the American Express Global Lounge Collection, which includes the following airport lounge networks:
- Amex Centurion — Typically rated as the most luxurious of the bunch, Amex Centurion lounges can be found at 8 domestic airports and 8 non-US airports
- Priority Pass — Priority Pass is the world’s biggest airport lounge network with over 1,200 locations across 130 countries
- Delta Sky Clubs — You must be flying with Delta to take advantage of these lounges
- Airspace — Airspace lounges can currently be found in just two airports, Cleveland and San Diego
The Platinum Card gives you and up to two companions free access to these lounges. Not too shabby!
The airport lounge benefits are only the beginning of the perks you’ll be able to access. You’ll earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $5,000+ on purchases within 3 months. You’ll get an annual $200 airline fee credit to cover incidentals with an airline of your choosing. You’ll get up to $200/year worth of Uber credits.
Shall I go on?
You’ll get 5X Membership Rewards points on a) flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel, and b) prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com. You’ll get a statement credit to cover the cost of applying for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck. You can use your points to book travel with amextravel.com and not have to deal with blackout dates or seat restrictions. You’ll even get complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts.
As you can see, the Amex Platinum Card carries a great many high-value benefits (and I didn’t even list them all!). However, these benefits don’t come cheap, as the card carries a $550 annual fee. Now, keep in mind that every other card featuring this level of free airport lounge access also carries a hefty annual fee (over $400). Of course, in order to come out ahead financially with any of these cards, you’ll have to fly often enough to take full advantage of your travel benefits.
Keep in mind that this is a charge card — you have to pay your balance in full each month.
The Business Platinum Card from American Express
You guessed it: The Business Platinum Card from American Express is the business version of Amex’s Platinum Card. Naturally, the two cards are similar, but not identical.
The similarities? Both cards offer the same level of airport lounge access and largely carry the same travel perks, such as a fee credit for Global Entry/TSA PreCheck and a $200 airline fee credit. Also, both are charge cards.
The differences? The Business Platinum card has a slightly higher annual fee ($595) and no Uber credits. It also sports a higher signup bonus, though you have to spend more in order to get it in full. The Amex Business Platinum offers 50,000 points after you spend $10,000 in your first three months and another 25,000 points after you spend an additional $10,000 within those same three months.
The card’s points-earning structure is also a bit different: 5X points on airfare and prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com and 1.5X points on purchases of $5,000 or more. All other purchases earn you 1 point per dollar spent.
As the Amex Business Platinum is a business credit card, you can get cards for your employees for no additional fee.
Mastercard Black Card
The Mastercard Black Card doesn’t carry the same level of travel benefits as most of the other cards here, so it’s fair to ask how one can justify getting this card, given its $495 annual fee. Well, there’s one thing the Mastercard Black Card can offer that other travel cards with airport lounge access don’t.
The Mastercard Black Card gives you access to Priority Pass lounges via the Priority Pass Select program, but unlike other credit cards offering this benefit, the Mastercard Black Card bestows free access to Priority Pass lounges for both you and an unlimited number of guests. The other credit cards offering Priority Pass Select limit free lounge access to two companions with any additional companions subject to a fee for entry. If Priority Pass Select membership is of the utmost importance to you and you travel frequently with a sizable family or entourage, the Mastercard Black Card might be just what you’re looking for.
While the Black Card’s other benefits don’t quite live up to those of the other cards listed here, the card does offer 2% of your value back (in the form of points) for airfare redemptions and 1.5% value for cash back redemptions. You’ll also get a $100 annual air travel credit toward all flight-related purchases as well as a fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck.
Additionally, the card is made out of stainless steel, so it looks cool.
Chase Sapphire Reserve
Chase’s Sapphire Reserve card is a solid contender in the travel credit card race, offering free access to all Priority Pass lounges for you and up to 2 guests. The annual fee is $450, but in exchange, you’ll be entitled to some great high-value benefits.
The Sapphire Reserve has an impressive signup bonus of 50,000 points after you spend $4,000+ on purchases in the first 3 months. When redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards, those points will be worth $750, as your points get a 50% value boost when you redeem them this way. You’ll also get a statement credit of up to $300 to cover your travel purchases each account anniversary year.
As far as ongoing points-earning goes, you’ll earn 3X points on all travel purchases after earning your $300 annual travel credit. You’ll also get 3X points on all restaurant purchases and 1 point for all other purchases. And yes, you’ll get a statement credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck.
With the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you can also transfer your points over to other leading travel loyalty programs on a 1:1 basis. Score one for points flexibility!
Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard
Here’s a luxury travel card with lounge access for frequent American Airlines travelers. The Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard’s main benefit is the access it grants you to AA’s Admiral’s Club program. Both you and your immediate family (or two unrelated companions) will get free access to the 50+ Admiral’s Club lounges around the world along with 60+ partner lounges.
While the card does carry an annual fee of $450, consider that a standalone Admiral’s Club membership costs up to $650/year for an individual membership and $1,250/year for a household membership!
The Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard comes with a host of additional travel benefits. You and up to 8 travel companions will get one free checked bag on domestic AA flights, and if your companions are on your reservation, you’ll all enjoy priority check-in, priority airport screening (where available), and priority boarding.
You’ll also get 25% savings on inflight food and beverage purchases on AA flights, a statement credit to cover your Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee, 50,000 AAdvantage miles when you spend $5,000+ in the first 3 months, 2 miles for every dollar spent on AA purchases (1 mile per dollar spent on everything else), dedicated concierge service, and more.
Hilton Honors American Express Aspire
Hilton-heads out there will appreciate the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire card. Yes, you’ll get Priority Pass Select membership granting you and up to 2 companions free access to Priority Pass lounges. You’ll also get a nice set of Hilton-specific benefits, including:
- Hilton Honors Diamond status
- Two weekend award nights — one when you open your account (and on your account anniversary) and one when you spend $60,000 in a calendar year
- $250 Hilton Resort statement credit — you get one each calendar year
- $250 airline fee credit for incidentals with an airline of your choosing
As far as points go, you’ll get 150,000 Hilton Honors points when you spend $4,000+ on purchases in the first 3 months. The Aspire card also offers a whopping 14X points on all Hilton-related purchases along with 7X points on flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com, car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies, and US restaurant purchases. All other purchases will earn you 3X points.
The Hilton Honors Amex Aspire card carries a $450 annual fee.
Hilton Honors American Express Ascend
No, we didn’t screw up and list the same card twice. The Hilton Honors American Express Ascend (not the Aspire) card differs from its sister card — and every other credit card listed in this article — in that it offers airport lounge access while sporting an annual fee of just $95. Relatively speaking, the Ascend card is the “bargain” option if you want a credit card that grants you airport lounge access!
However, along with the smaller annual fee comes a lower level of lounge benefits. You get 10 free visits per year to Priority Pass lounges, with each subsequent visit costing $27. And if you want your guests to get in for free, you’ll have to use up one of your 10 free lounge visits on each person you bring with you.
The card comes with a bonus offer of 125,000 Hilton Honors points after you spend $2,000+ on purchases in your first 3 months. You’ll also earn 12X points on all Hilton purchases, 6X points on US restaurants, supermarkets, and gas stations, and 3X points on everything else. Additional benefits include complimentary Hilton Honors Gold status and a free weekend reward night after you spend $15,000 on purchases in a calendar year.
Airports are not fun places. If you’re prepared to pay for the privilege of having a more pleasant airport experience, a travel credit card gives you a better deal on airport lounge access than a standalone membership. If you travel often enough to take advantage of the benefits of these cards, you can easily recoup the value of these cards’ high annual fees.
Still searching for the credit card that fits your needs? Let these articles inform your decision!