The Best Credit Cards with Lounge Access

There are a number of credit cards that offer airport lounge access, but they all come with pretty hefty annual fees (which are almost never waived) so you want to make sure that you’re going with the card that will benefit you the most before applying for them. Which card will be best for you will depend on factors such as what airline you frequently fly with, which airports you frequent, and how much you value additional benefits that the card offers. Here’s a breakdown of my top 5 credit cards that offer airport lounge access.

Platinum Card from American Express

PLATINUM CARD

  • Annual Fee: $450

The Platinum Card from American Express offers you the “Prestige” level membership to Priority Pass  — worth $400 a year. This grants you access to over 850 airport lounges worldwide and you should be able to find a lounge at just about every major airport. Most of the lounges provide complimentary alcohol, refreshments and/or meals, free wifi, comfortable and quiet spaces to relax, a selection of magazines, power outlets, and some even have showers, spa, and bed facilities.

The Platinum Card also provides you with access to American Express Centurion Lounges for yourself and two guests or immediate family members. Centurion lounges are among the best lounges that you’ll find at U.S. airports. They currently have locations at SFO, SEA, LAS, LGA, MIA, DFW and coming this year (2016) they will have one in Houston (IAH).

https://flic.kr/p/qfAvYn
The Centurion Lounge at SFO.

Photo by Mighty Travels via Flickr.

What’s really nice about the Centurion lounges is that with the Platinum Card you’re allowed to bring in immediate family members or up to two guests for no additional fee. Thus, if you frequent any one of the above airports with Centurion lounges with travel partners or family, you may want to seriously consider the Platinum Card. 

Also not to be forgotten is that the Platinum Card provides access to Delta Sky Club lounges; however, you will need to be flying with Delta that day in order to gain access.

The Platinum card allows up to three authorized users to be added for the total price of $175 and each of the authorized users will be offered full benefits like Priority Pass and entrance into the Centurion and Delta Sky Club lounges. If you can max out the authorized users there’s a potential for huge value as you’d getting well over $1,200 in value a year for a mere $175.

Other benefits include:

  • $200 annual airline credit (essentially reducing the annual fee to $250)
  • $100 statement credit for Global Entry/TSA Pre-Check (a Godsend that’s good for 5 years!)
  • Gold status with Hilton and Starwood
  • Free Boingo Wifi subscription (worth $120 per year)
  • Rental car benefits like express check-in, free upgrades, and discounts with status.
  • Concierge service

The standard sign-up bonus for the Platinum Card is 40,000 Membership Rewards but you can come across targeted offers for as high as 100,000 Membership Rewards making the potential value of the Platinum Card very hard to beat.

Citi Prestige

citi-prestige-card

  • Annual Fee: $450

The Citi Prestige also offers Priority Pass but with the Citi Prestige, you can take up to two guests with you into the lounge for free. Compare this with the Amex Platinum which requires the guests to pay $27 each time for lounge access. If you and your partner do all of your traveling together then this essentially operates as a free membership for them, which means you’re getting about $800 in benefits!

The Club lounge
The Club Lounge at MCO accessed via Priority Pass

With the Prestige, you are also offered access to the Admirals Club lounges when you fly American Airlines on that day. Unfortunately, this benefit is not offered to authorized users and can only be utilized by the primary cardholder.

You can add an unlimited number of authorized users to your Citi Prestige for $50 each. Authorized users for the Prestige aren’t given the 4th night free, Admirals Club access, or the Global Entry Credit, but they do get the Priority Pass membership, which means they’re getting a $400 benefit for only $50, so it’s still a sweet deal!

Other benefits include:

  • $250 airline credit (which can be used for broader expenses, such as airline tickets)
  • Complimentary night at any hotel of your choice after a minimum 4-consecutive-night booking (Probably the most valuable benefit)
  • $100 Global Entry credit
  • 3 free rounds of golf through GolfSwitch
  • Rental car benefits like express check-in, free upgrades, and discounts with status.
  • Concierge service
  • Bonus category spending:
    • 3X on air travel and hotels
    • 2X on dining and entertainment
    • 1X on all other purchases

The Citi Prestige also comes with a solid sign-up bonus at 40,000 Thankyou Points and can even be as high as 100,000!

To read up more on the Citi Prestige vs the Platinum Card from American Express read here.

Citi® AAdvantage® Executive

card-executive AMERICAN

  • Annual Fee: $450

This card will provide you with access to over 40 Admirals Club® lounges and access to other airline lounges, such as Qantas lounges. It also allows you to bring in immediate family members (spouse or domestic partner and children under 18) or up 2 guests traveling with the primary cardmember or authorized user. 

A newly added benefit is that authorized users are allowed access to the Admirals Club® lounges, though it comes with some restrictions. For example, the authorized user benefit does not provide: (i) access privileges to the Arrivals Lounge, Flagship Lounge facilities, or other airline lounges or clubs with which American Airlines may have reciprocal lounge or club access privileges, including lounges operated by members of the oneworld alliance. Still, even with some limitations, with no fee to add authorized users, this can be a tremendously valuable benefit. 

Other benefits include:

  • First Checked Bag Free
  • MileSAAver discount for on MileSAAver awards to destinations selected every other month
  • Global Entry or TSA Pre✓® Application Fee Credit
  • 25% savings on in–flight purchases of food, beverages, and headsets on flights operated by American Airlines
  • Priority check-in, airport screening, and priority boarding privileges when traveling on domestic flights
  • The primary cardmember will earn 10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) after spending $40,000 in purchases that post to cardmember’s January through December billing statements

The annual fee is $450 but it’s cheaper than what you’d pay for Admirals Club membership without status ($500).

The sign-up bonus for the Executive Card is 60,000 miles but offers have been as high as 100,000 in the past.

United MileagePlus® Club card

united_club_card

  • Annual Fee: $450

This card provides you with United Club membership but authorized users will not receive their own United Club membership and are only eligible for United Club access if they are traveling with the primary cardmember, as two guests or one guest and dependent children are allowed access to the lounge with the card. With the Club card, you’ll also have access to hundreds of Star Alliance lounges when departing from those airports on a Star Alliance partner (but be limited to one guest).

IAH united lounge
IAH United Lounge Terminal D

Other benefits include:

  • Designated check-in lines, priority security lanes, priority boarding
  • Free 1st and 2nd checked bag, priority baggage handling
  • Close-in booking fee waivers on award tickets booked less than 21 days before departure
  • Earnings of 1.5 miles for each $1 on purchases.
  • Primary Cardmember is eligible for Platinum status in the Hyatt Gold Passport program.
  • Use your miles to book any available seat, any time, on any United-operated flight. If seats are available for sale, they can be redeemed at the MileagePlus Standard Award level

The annual fee is $450 but it’s $100 cheaper than the $550 that you’d pay for United Club membership.

There is no sign-up bonus for miles with the card but you are given a $100 statement credit after your first purchase with the credit card.

Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express

DELTA RESERVE

Annual Fee: $450

This card offers you complimentary access to Delta Sky Club lounges and a discounted rate ($29 per person) for up to two guests, so guests cannot get in for free. Authorized users can be added for $175 per card. As of yet, the Delta Reserve Credit Card does not allow access to SkyTeam partner lounges. (You can use this tool to find lounges where you’d be allowed entry with the card).

Other benefits include:

  • Get 15,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMS) after you reach $30,000 or more on purchases on your Card within the calendar year and if you spend $60,000 or more, you will be awarded an additional 15,000 bonus miles and 15,000 MQMs.
  • You and up to eight more passengers in your reservation can board your flight with Zone 1 priority boarding
  • You can check your first bag free on Delta flights booked with your Card
  • Delta Reserve Companion Certificate
  • 20% savings on certain in-flight purchases of food, alcoholic beverages and audio headsets, and movies, shows, etc.
  • Delta Reserve Companion Certificate upon renewal of your card good for a round-trip domestic flight.

The sign up bonus is currently get 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) and 10,000 bonus miles after your first purchase on the Card.

Final Word 

Always consider the airlines you’ll be frequenting and the airports you’ll likely be visiting before jumping on a card for lounge benefits. In addition, some of the additional benefits, especially for the Platinum Card and Citi Prestige can be add up to save you thousands, so always factor in those benefits as well. 

 

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