The Best Credit Cards for Complimentary Airport Lounge Access [2021]

Lufthansa First Class Terminal Lounges
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Anticipating the sanctuary of an airport lounge before or after a long-haul flight for a drink and a light meal may border on bliss — until you’re hit with a $50 entry fee.

If you’re a frequent traveler, consider a premium credit card that offers complimentary airport lounge access. You’ll not only receive lounge access with these cards but a whole treasury of travel benefits.

Premium credit cards offer generous sign-up bonuses, travel purchase credits, free internet access, the ability to earn travel rewards, luxury perks and benefits, assistance when things go wrong, and travel and purchase protections.

Don’t buy a lounge membership or even a day pass until you’ve reviewed our collection of credit cards to consider for complimentary lounge access, which cards provide this perk to authorized users, which cards offer discounted lounge access, and our breakdown on how much complimentary lounge access is worth.

The Best Personal Credit Cards for Complimentary Lounge Access

Personal consumer credit cards are the go-to cards for securing complimentary lounge access, as you’ll find a wider selection than with business credit cards.

Here are the best personal credit cards for airport lounge access:

  1. The Platinum Card® from American Express (accesses the most lounges)
  2. Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card
  3. Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card
  4. Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card
  5. United Club℠ Card

It’s difficult to compare credit cards on lounge access benefits alone, as a card with a high annual fee might offer other perks or rewards that more than offset that annual fee. You’ll have to investigate further to see if a card is right for your situation overall and not just a perfect fit from a lounge access perspective.

For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve card offers 50% more redemption value when you use Ultimate Rewards points earned on the card to purchase travel via the Chase travel portal, and it has an annual $300 travel credit.

The Amex Platinum card comes with a multitude of perks and benefits, including $200 in airline fee statement credits, $200 in prepaid hotel credits, and earns 5x Membership Rewards Points on eligible flight and prepaid hotel purchases via Amex Travel. If you’re lucky, you might even kick off with a 100k or 125k welcome bonus for the Amex Platinum card!

Credit CardLounge Access & Guest Access Info
The Platinum Card® from American Express


Learn More
(at Amex's secure site)
Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Learn More
(at Chase's secure site)
  • Priority Pass Lounge access.

  • Allows access for cardholder plus up to 2 additional guests.

  • Cardholder annual fee: $550
Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card

Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card
Learn More
(at Amex's secure site)
Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card

Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card
Learn More
(at Amex's secure site)
Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®

AAdvantage Executive World Elite Card
Learn More
(at our partner's secure site)
  • American Airline's Admiral's Club access and select partner One World Alliance Lounges.

  • Allows access for cardholder plus immediate family or 2 additional guests.

  • Cardholder annual fee: $450
UnitedSM Explorer Card

United℠ Explorer Card
Learn More
(at Chase's secure site)
  • United Club Lounge access.
  • 2 single day passes issued each card anniversary year.

  • Annual Fee: $0 intro for the first year, then $95.
Citi Prestige® Card

Citi Prestige Card
  • Priority Pass Lounge access.

  • Allows access for cardholder plus immediate family or 2 additional guests.

  • Cardholder annual fee: $495
United Club℠ Card

United Club Card
  • United Club and select partner Star Alliance Lounges.

  • Allows access for cardholder plus immediate family or 2 additional guests.

  • Cardholder annual fee: $450

Most credit cards that have global lounge access, including Priority Pass Select membership, allow 2 additional guests at no cost.

The number of guests you can bring and the amount you will be charged for guests beyond the allotted maximum differs by card.

You can review the guest details in the offer information before you select a card or check the terms and conditions in the card benefits guide when you receive your card for current rates.

Bottom Line: Although lounge access may be a primary reason you’re considering a credit card, you’ll want to review the other perks, benefits, credits, and rewards that come with the card to see it’s a fit overall. 

The Best Business Credit Cards for Complimentary Lounge Access

Centurion Lounge JFK View
Centurion Lounge JFK. Image Credit: James Larounis

When it comes to business cards, there are significantly fewer options that offer airport lounge access, but there are still a few compelling options. So for any business owner looking for a great card that also provides lounge access, here are the top options:

  1. The Business Platinum Card® from American Express (accesses the most lounges)
  2. Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card
  3. The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card
Business Credit CardLounge Access & Guest Access Info
The Business Platinum Card® from American Express

The Business Platinum Card®  from American Express
Learn More
(at Amex's secure site)
Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card


Learn More
(at Amex's secure site)
  • Access to Delta Sky Club Lounges, Amex Centurion Lounges, and The Escape Lounge – The Centurion® Studio Partner.

  • Lounge access for the cardholder only when traveling on Delta; get 2 additional guests at a discounted rate, children 2 and under are free.

  • Annual Fee: $550

  • Terms and limitations apply. For rates and fees of the Delta Reserve Business Card, click here.
The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card


Learn More
(at Amex's secure site)
  • Priority Pass Select access.

  • Get 10 Free Passes per year, $27 per person per visit after the 10 passes are used

  • Annual Fee: $95

  • Terms Apply. For rates and fees of the Hilton Honors Business Card, click here.

Similar to our personal card list, the Amex Business Platinum card takes the top spot thanks to it providing access to 6 different airport lounge networks including Priority Pass lounges, Amex Centurion lounges, Delta Sky Clubs, Escape lounges, Airspace lounges, and Plaza Premium lounges.

Bottom Line: There aren’t many business credit cards offering complimentary lounge access, so you may want to look for lounge access benefits on a personal consumer credit card, as there are more choices available. 

GOL Premium Lounge Sitting Options
Enjoy a nice respite from airport chaos with complimentary lounge access. GOL Premium Domestic Departures Lounge at Rio de Janeiro International Airport. Image Credit: Chris Hassan

The Best Credit Cards With Lounge Access for Authorized Users

When you’re traveling, complimentary lounge access for you and your family or other travel companions is a great perk.

There are times, however, when others may be traveling without you and would greatly benefit from complimentary lounge access. Simply adding an authorized user can allow them to enjoy some of the same travel benefits with the credit card, including complimentary lounge access.

These are some of the cards that grant lounge access for authorized users and a breakdown of the associated fees.

Credit CardLounge Access for Authorized UsersAnnual Authorized User Fee
The Platinum Card® from American Express


Learn More
(at Amex's secure site)
American Express Global Lounge Collection access; that's 1,300+ airport lounges, including Priority Pass Lounge Access), plus the luxurious Amex Centurion Lounges.

Annual Fee: $695 (See Rates & Fees)
$175 Total fee for up to 3 authorized users (See Rates & Fees)
Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®

AAdvantage Executive World Elite Card
Learn More
(at our partner's secure site)
American Airlines Admiral's Club access.

Annual Fee: $450
$0 for up to 10 authorized users
Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Learn More
(at Chase's secure site)
Priority Pass Select lounge access.

Annual Fee: $550
$75 per authorized user
Citi Prestige® Card

Citi Prestige Card
Priority Pass Select lounge access.

Annual Fee: $495
$50 per authorized user

Bottom Line: While adding an authorized user can be a cost-effective way to secure lounge access and other card benefits, keep in mind that with Chase, there could be 5/24 rule implications for the authorized user. Remember that you’re responsible for all charges made to the credit card, including those made by an authorized user.

Credit Cards With Discounted Lounge Access

Not all credit cards with a lounge access benefit offer it for free. Some include a basic lounge membership (normally worth about $99) and then discount the access fee. Your complimentary membership might be with Lounge Club, Priority Pass, or LoungeKey, all similar or related global lounge networks.

A credit card with this benefit includes the Hilton Surpass card that includes Free Priority Pass membership with 10 free visits per year, then $32 per visit.

If you have a World Elite Mastercard, you have discounted lounge access through the Mastercard Airport Experiences provided by LoungeKey. Other credit cards, like the Hilton Surpass card, may offer free standard Priority Pass membership, but may or may not include free passes per year, then offer discounted access for $32.

Hot Tip: Discounted lounge access is not a stand-alone reason to select a credit card, but you may want to check if any of your current cards have this valuable benefit. You could be enjoying some of the most luxurious lounges in the world for just a $32 entrance fee.

Just call the number on the back of your card or check your cardholder agreement to see if you have free lounge network membership and discounted lounge access.

Priority Pass
Purchasing lounge access memberships through airlines or with companies such as Priority Pass can be expensive. Complimentary lounge access with a premium credit card can save you plenty. Image Credit: Priority Pass

The Real Value of Airport Lounge Access

You don’t need to have a premium credit card to enjoy access to airport lounges, but you will need to secure a potentially pricey lounge membership or a day pass. And remember, not all lounges can be accessed with a card, like PS LAX.

This breakdown of membership costs illustrates the approximate value of the complimentary lounge access you can receive with premium cards.

Lounge Network or ServiceSingle 1-Year Membership CostCost To Add a Spouse, Partner, or Guest To MembershipSingle-Day Pass for 1 Person
  • $550 to $650 depending on elite status
  • $600 additional for household membership depending on elite status
  • $59
  • $545
  • $300 additional for Executive Membership which includes access for up to 2 additional guests
  • $39 (for Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express cardholders)
  • $550 to $650 depending on elite status
  • $650 additional for spouse or partner
  • $59
  • $429
  • N/A; annual membership covers only cardholder, additional guest $32 per visit
  • $32 per visit for cardholder with basic $99 annual standard membership
  • N/A
  • N/A
  • $50 for third guest
  • N/A
  • N/A
  • $19 to $60 per visit
  • N/A
  • N/A
  • $35 to $65 for a 2- to 6-hour pass
  • N/A
  • N/A
  • $25 to $55 per visit
  • £259.99
  • £140
  •  £35

If you’re a frequent traveler who purchases several single-lounge access passes per year or an annual lounge membership, you may fare better by selecting a premium credit card that includes complimentary lounge access.

The added value of a sign-up bonus, additional travel perks, rewards, credits for travel purchases, and travel and purchase protections can make securing a premium travel credit card a wise economic decision.

Bottom Line: While premium credit cards that include complimentary airport lounge access may come with high annual fees, these cards provide excellent value that goes beyond what you’d receive with an annual lounge membership.

Final Thoughts

Star Alliance Lounge GRU view below
The Star Alliance Lounge in São Paolo is an excellent lounge if you enjoy people-watching. Image Credit: Chris Hassan

Lounge access is one of the most valuable travel perks, so having this benefit included on a premium credit card makes sense for serious travelers. Plus, if you’re purchasing a lounge access membership elsewhere, it’s a simple economic decision to consider a premium credit card that includes this perk.

And while lounge access may be important, you’ll want to consider the whole package of benefits that come with each card as lounge access will be just one of many valuable benefits available on a premium travel card.


The information regarding the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card, United Club℠ Card , Citi Prestige® Card, Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, and United℠ Explorer Business Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer. 

For rates and fees for The Platinum Card from American Express, click here.
For rates and fees for The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, click here.
For rates and fees for the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card, click here.
For rates and fees for The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card, click here.


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The Best Credit Cards for Lounge Access


Frequently asked questions

Which is the best credit card for lounge access?

The best credit card for lounge access is the one that fits your travel priorities and budget. If you travel often with a specific airline, for example, you may consider that airline’s branded credit card. If you frequent airports with Priority Pass lounges, you may consider a different credit card entirely.

If you’re looking for a card with a lower annual fee than the typical $450 fee for premium cards, your choices will be limited, but there are a few available. Narrow your choices to the cards that match your lounge access priorities and then review the entire card packages before applying. Many travelers like the Amex Platinum card (or the Amex Business Platinum card) as it gets you access to the largest number of airport lounges worldwide.

How does Priority Pass work?

Priority Pass is a global lounge network that offers lounge access with different membership levels and price points.

Priority Pass partners with credit card issuers who include complimentary membership for cardholders. Depending on your card’s membership, you may enjoy free unlimited lounge access or have a limited number of free passes annually, then $32 per visit, or pay $32 for every visit.

Is there a credit card with no annual fee that comes with lounge access?

Most of the credit cards that offer complimentary lounge access have hefty annual fees. However, the Hilton Business Amex card has a lower annual fee and comes with 10 free passes to Priority Pass lounges worldwide, making it a very good economic choice for lounge access.

If you want a personal credit card, the Hilton Surpass card also offers 10 free Priority Pass visits per year with a similar non-premium annual fee.

Does adding an authorized user to my card hurt my credit score?

Adding an authorized user to your credit card will not hurt your credit score because you’re still the only one responsible for paying and managing the account. The authorized user is simply an additional user.

With that said, if the authorized user makes a lot of purchases you don’t know about and you fail to make sufficient payments on your card or are late in making payments, your credit score will be affected.

For this reason, you’d only want to add an authorized user you know and trust.

Do I use my credit card for lounge access?

If your credit card comes with Priority Pass Select membership, you will need to register with Priority Pass to receive a digital membership card and subsequent physical card that will arrive in the mail. You can then use your Priority Pass Select membership card to gain access to Priority Pass lounges.

Airline-branded credit cards and other premium credit cards such as the Amex Platinum card allow you to use your credit card for lounge access. For others, you’ll need your Priority Pass Select card.

You’ll need to reference your associated credit card agreement when you receive your card to determine which card to use for lounge access.

Christine Krzyszton

About Christine Krzyszton

Christine, who lives in Northern Michigan, travels about 300,000 miles a year despite her remote location. Her expertise is traveling the world on a weekend with no pre-determined destination in mind, letting the cost of the airfare determine where she will go. She has over four million flown miles and elite status on all three major domestic carriers.

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4 comments

  1. I am amazed at how many of my friends are either not aware or don’t use their card benefits especially when it comes to airport lounges. These are also the same people who complain about crowded boarding areas when sitting in their wallet is the solution. Great post!!

    Reply

  2. Martin Bazarian March 18, 2020

    I was told by American Express representative over the phone that there are 1200 airport lounges worldwide I can have access to with my Platinum Card without paying additional fees. At this site, there is no information about this promise. Does Nairobi have a lounge, or Addis Ababa, or Chicago, or Buenos Aires? This information should be available with one or two clicks. Prompt me if I am missing something or I was simply mislead by American Express.

    Reply

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