Best Credit Card for Lounge Access (4 Expert Picks)

By: Aaron Crowe • 5/24/2018

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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. Chase Sapphire Reserve®

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® provides a range of travel benefits, including lounge access to over 1,000+ lounges around the world through enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select.

Additionally, enjoy a Global Entry or TSA Pre✔® fee credit to smooth your way through security and customs. And cardholders also earn 3X points per $1 spent on travel and dining purchases, plus 1X point per dollar on all other purchase.

Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse, LAX International (left), Lounge L, Seoul Incheon International (right)

Other nice travel perks available to Chase Sapphire Reserve® cardholders can give a little peace of mind, like trip cancellation, trip interruption, and baggage delay insurance, as well as lost luggage reimbursement and travel accident insurance.

2. The Platinum Card® from American Express

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.

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 Pre✔®, making airport check-in a lot easier.

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.

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 / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard

Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard offers free access to over 50 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 a Global Entry or TSA Pre✓® application fee credit.

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.

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

Other benefits of the Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard include your first checked bag free, priority boarding, and double miles on eligible American Airlines purchases.

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, prioritypass.com

Editorial Note: 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.

About the Author

Aaron Crowe

Aaron Crowe is a seasoned journalist who specializes in personal finance writing and editing. Aaron has written for a variety of websites, including AOL, Learnvest, US News & World Report, Wells Fargo, WiseBread, AARP and many insurance and investing sites. He is a former newspaper editor and reporter, and can be found at his website AaronCrowe.net. Aaron also writes for two personal finance blogs he owns: Add-Vodka.com and CashSmarter.com.