Best Credit Card for Lounge Access (4 Expert Picks)

Best Credit Card for Lounge Access (4 Expert Picks)

credit card advice

Aaron Crowe
By: Aaron Crowe
Posted: January 25, 2016
Our personal finance experts dish out the most trusted credit card advice on the web, including juicy tips, tricks and secrets from inside the credit card industry.

Finding somewhere to relax in an airport before your flight departs can be challenging. Finding an open seat, nabbing an outlet to plug your phone into, and getting a snack without waiting in a long line can be nearly impossible — but not if you have a credit card that offers lounge access.

Fliers with free lounge access as part of their credit card benefits can get into an airport lounge without being a first-class or business-class traveler. Features differ by airport, but common benefits offered at airport lounges include free snacks and beverages including alcohol, WiFi and computer workstations, comfortable seating, showers, and massages. Some even offer sleep rooms. 

Here are four of the best credit cards available that offer airport lounge access:

1. American Express Platinum

The American Express Platinum offers access to more than 800 airport lounges, including the Centurion Lounges at LaGuardia Airport in New York City, Dallas, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Miami and Seattle. It also allows access to Delta SkyClub and Priority Pass Select.

While amenities differ among lounges, the Centurion Lounge at the San Francisco airport is 8,200 square feet, offers a variety of local beers, and has a wine machine that offers up to five different wine samples per visit. There’s even a separate sound-proof family room for kids to play in.

Photo of American Express Centurion Lounge, San Francisco International Airport

American Express Centurion Lounge, San Francisco International Airport

The card offers many other benefits, including a fee credit of $100 for Global Entry or $85 for TSA Precheck, making airport check-in a lot easier.

2. Diners Club Premier

Annual fees for airport lounge credit cards are often high, but the Diners Club Premier has one of the lowest fees at $100 for the primary card and $35 for additional cards.

Photo of Diners Club Lounge in Graz Airport, Austria.

Diners Club Lounge, Graz Airport, Austria

This card offers access to all Diners Club Airport lounges, with more than 500 worldwide. Amenities vary by location. The lounge at Los Angeles International Airport, for example, offers showers, WiFi, and newspapers and magazines to read.

3. United MileagePlus Club Card by Chase

The United MileagePlus Club Card offers free snacks and beverages to the primary cardmember and eligible travel companions at all United Club locations and participating Star Alliance affiliated lounges worldwide.

This card also offers 1.5 miles per $1 spent, free first and second checked bags, premier travel services such as security screen privileges, and no foreign transaction fees. The annual fee is $450.

Photo of United Club Lounge, Chicago O'Hare International Airport

United Club Lounge, Chicago O’Hare International Airport

One thing to note is that the credit card alone won’t get you into the airport lounge — a United Club membership card is required.

Chase says the membership is worth up to a $550 value per year. The fine print on the card’s website says that United Club membership will be renewed automatically on each credit card anniversary date, though members can cancel their membership at any time and receive a prorated refund.

4. Citi Prestige Card by Citi

Citi Prestige offers free access to 40 American Airlines Admirals Club lounges for the primary cardholder and immediate family, or up to two traveling guests, when flying on American Airlines. Cardholders also get into 600 Priority Pass Select membership lounges around the world.

The Admirals Club lounges are undergoing a makeover — better food and furniture with power ports built in are being added, for example. Light snacks and drinks are free, and more food is available for purchase.

Photo of American Airlines Admirals Club Lounge, John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York

American Airlines Admirals Club Lounge, John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York

Other benefits of the Citi Prestige Card include a $250 travel credit each year, a free fourth night for any hotel stay, and triple points on air travel and hotels. The annual fee is $450.

Final Thoughts

When deciding which credit card is best for you to gain airport lounge access, consider how often you travel. The annual fees for these credit cards are high, and frequent traveling can make them worthwhile.

Also consider which airports you travel to most often and what lounges are available there. The credit card won’t be much of a benefit if it doesn’t offer free access to a lounge at your main airport. But once you’ve got the right card in your wallet, you’ll be lounging VIP-style in no time. 

Photo credits: airnation.net, efficientasianman.boardingarea.com, thecenturionlounge.com, dinersclublounges.com