Best Credit Cards for Airport Lounge Access
Want to upgrade your time at the airport? We figured out which travel credit cards offer the best airport lounge perks. Happy travels!
How do you like to spend your time waiting at the airport for your flight?
If you said, "I like to sit in those uncomfortable chairs by the gate and fight for an outlet to charge my phone," then we'll bid you good day.
But if you said, "I like to sit in a comfy chair while I enjoy free snacks and beverages as I stream a movie or TV show on free Wi-Fi," then we hear you.
And that is why airport lounges rock.
If you'd prefer—and who wouldn't?—a more comfortable preflight experience when you travel, then you'll need a credit card that offers you the most access to airport lounges throughout the world.
A credit card that will make you want to arrive at the airport hours before your flight, and maybe, just maybe, not be too sad if that flight is delayed?
How We Picked These Best Cards For Airport Lounge Access
There are lots of travel card options out there, but we narrowed the field down to four great picks for airline perks.
The biggest decision you'll have to make with these cards is whether the $450+ annual fee is worth it.
Spoiler alert: It is.
Annual fees that are worth every penny. That's because, with each credit card on our list, you will be able to recoup the annual fee—and then some.
Free snacks, non-alcoholic beverages, MUCH comfier chairs...need we say more?
(Oh, but we will.)
Lots of lounge choices. Having airport lounge perks mean nothing if you don't actually use those airports and airline terminals where the lounges are located.
We went with cards that offer a wide variety of options, so you're bound to find a lounge wherever you jet.
Carte blanche access. We skipped the lower-fee credit cards that offer discounted access or a couple of lounge passes per year and went straight for the gold (or platinum, in one instance) credit cards that offer total, no-strings-attached free lounge entry.
Lux layovers. If luxury is the name of your travel game, then you'll want access to the best of the best lounges around the world—and we found 'em.
Here are the four cards we think are great picks for airport lounge perks.
Platinum Card from American Express
You'll love this card if you love to travel in style
If a credit card were able to drop a mic, it would be the Platinum Card from American Express.
This card has often topped all those best credit card lists with good reason: It is simply one of the very best for travel perks, including free access to some of the most amazing airport lounges in the world.
Just how many lounges are we talking about?
More than 1,000 of them in over 120 countries, as a matter of fact!
Besides the International American Express lounges and renowned Centurion Lounges—found in seven U.S. cities and in Hong Kong—your card gets you into Delta Sky Club and Priority Pass Select lounges.
Indeed, traveling with this card is truly a "platinum" experience—and that's even before we get to its stellar sign-up bonus (more on that later).
Enjoy a higher status with Hilton and Starwood. Platinum card members are automatically upgraded to Gold status in both the Hilton Honors Starwood Preferred Guest program.
That means you can earn reward stays and upgrades faster.
Get perks in the air. You'll get a $200 airline fee credit each calendar year to be used for any incidental airline fees charged to your Amex like in-flight meals and checked baggage.
Speed through security. You'll get expedited screening at participating airports, plus a credit for any Global Entry or TSA Pre✓ fees.
That's a total value of $185!
Rent a car, and hit the road. You'll get special discounts and upgrades for rental cars with this card.
Your rental will also be covered in case of theft or damage (restrictions apply).
Skip the foreign transaction fees. We told you this card would make a great travel companion! Go abroad and shop all you'd like, fee-free!
Get free rides with Uber. You'll get $15 in credit for Uber rides in the U.S. each month, and in December, Amex gives you an additional $20.
That's $200 a year just for using your Uber app!
Luxurious upgrades on vacation. Enjoy little extras like daily breakfast, room upgrades (restrictions apply), and complimentary Wi-Fi, which all add up to around $550 in extra perks.
Bank on that bonus
When you spend $5,000 with your Platinum Card from American Express in the first three months, you'll get 60,000 points, which adds up to over $1,000 in travel when you book through Membership Rewards.
If you apply for this card, make sure you can swing that spend for the sign-up bonus.
Redeem points easily on the Amex site
The Platinum Card from Amex really wants you to go on vacation and explore the world more often. And it's all too glad to help with its Membership Rewards program.
Earn 5x the points on travel. When you book your travel through American Express, you'll earn five times the points.
Get points for everyday spending. The Amex card gets you one point per every dollar spent. You'll earn quickly when you spend more at certain retailers; for example, one current promotion includes double points for every dollar spent at Macy's.
Is the annual fee worth it?
Absolutely! When you take advantage of all the perks of Platinum, recouping the scary-sounding $550 annual fee, is very possible.
Oh, and considering that access to most lounges carries an entry price tag of $50 and higher, the value of this perk increases the more you travel.
"How can you get your own Platinum Card by American Express?"
Cardholders with stellar credit scores may receive a thick platinum-colored invitation in the mail, cordially inviting them into the Amex realm.
If you're not as patient and you know your credit score is in the "good" or "excellent" range, then you can skip the pomp and circumstance and just head over to the American Express website to apply.
Chase Sapphire Reserve Card
Reserve flights easily with this card
The Chase Sapphire Reserve is another darling of our top credit card lists.
If you like being able to carry a balance (perhaps overindulged a bit on vacation?), then this card is a great alternative to the Amex Platinum charge card.
You'll also get to see more of the world with your Chase Sapphire Reserve card thanks to hassle-free bookings and travel perks like Priority Pass Select membership, which welcomes you into over 1,000 airport lounges throughout the world.
A very enjoyable annual travel credit. In addition to travel points accrued, you'll get up to $300 in statement credit each year for travel-related purchases.
Points that are transfer-happy. Chase's Ultimate Rewards points are transferred point for point with many other frequent traveler programs.
Spend less time in security. Get to the lounge faster with your Global Entry or TSA Pre✓® pass—the Chase Sapphire Reserve grants you a $100 credit toward it.
Rev your engine. Enjoy rental perks at National Car Rental, Avis, and Silvercar.
Check-in to luxury. Enjoy benefits and upgrades at participating hotels within the Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection.
No foreign transaction fees. Save more money—or spend it. Your choice!
"What do I get with the sign-up bonus?"
Lots of points—50,000 of them to be exact, when you spend $4,000 on your card in the first three months of opening it.
That sweet sign-up bonus adds up to $500, which more than offsets the $450 annual fee for at least the first year.
Earn and redeem points easily
Chase likes making things easy for its cardholders.
Triple your points. Earn three points for every dollar spent on restaurants and travel, including airfare, hotels, trains, and ground transportation.
Keep earning every day. For all other purchase, you'll get one point per dollar you spend.
Double your pleasure. When you redeem your points through Chase Ultimate Rewards, you'll get a 50% bump in their value.
So when you're ready to spend your sign-up bonus, those 50,000 points (100 points = $1) will convert to $750.
No blackout dates, no restrictions.
"Can I really use my travel rewards for any airline or hotel?"
You sure can. That's the beauty of this card.
With Ultimate Rewards, you have the flexibility of booking rewards travel where you want, when you want.
If you happen to be loyal to a certain airline or hotel, that's cool, too—your Ultimate Rewards points can usually be traded 1-to-1 with many other frequent traveler programs.
Apply for the card, and start packing
You'll need good credit to be eligible for this card—and boy, will you be rewarded.
If the Chase Sapphire Reserve sounds like a worthy travel companion, visit the Chase website to apply.
Do you bank with Chase? You'll likely also get an offer in the mail.
United Mileage Plus Club Card
Board early and often with this card
Don't have enough in the bank for your own jet? With a great sign-up bonus, no blackout dates, and priority boarding, the United Mileage Plus Club Card will serve as a very nice consolation prize.
After all, you'll travel like a VIP thanks to this card's Premier Access perks, which will help you glide through the airport with priority check-in, faster screening (as available), and expedited boarding and baggage handling.
You'll also get a $100 credit when you sign up for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓.
Of course, you might not want to speed through your airport experience after all. This aptly named credit card gives you access to many airport lounges around the world, including the wonderfully inviting and comfortable United Club lounges.
Comfy chairs + free snacks and beverages = game-changer.
And that's not all...
Travel when you want. There are no blackout dates, and thanks to economy Saver Awards, you can use fewer points to fly.
Trips in the continental US and Canada start at 12,500 miles each way, so it is possible to fly round-trip twice for free just using your sign-up bonus alone.
You can also book with partner airlines, like those in the Star Alliance.
Enjoy travel protection. Should you have to cancel or interrupt your trip, you're covered when you book the travel on your card.
And 24/7 emergency service is also available (here's to hoping you don't need it!).
Shop fee-free while abroad. There are no foreign transaction fees.
Don't sweat the baggage carousel. Cardholders will get reimbursed for anything damaged or missing in transit.
Grab this easy-peasy sign-up bonus
You'll get 50,000 points for spending $3,000 in the first three months your account is open.
If you spend $1,000 per month with your credit cards, this is an easy feat.
Coupled with all the perks, we'll take bets on how quickly you'll offset the card's $450 annual fee.
"Is this card only about United?"
While this card is unbelievable for United fans, check out the other travel perks available to cardholders.
Upgrade with points. You can also use points to for other travel upgrades, ranging from free Wi-Fi onboard to car rentals to hotel stays.
Enjoy luxe hotels. As a cardmember, you'll be automatically be upgraded to Discoverist membership in the World of Hyatt program. You'll also get room upgrades and other perks at nearly 1,000 hotels worldwide as part of the Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection.
Get in the driver's seat. You'll be a part of the President's Circle at Hertz, which means you'll get a 25% point bonus when you rent a car.
Get ready for rewards travel
If you're feeling jet set and have a credit score in the "good" or "excellent" range, visit the United website to apply for this card.
United Mileage Plus members will also receive applications via mail.
Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard
Family and friends also get perks with this card
Like flying American Airlines? Then you'll love the Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard.
Yes, it's a mouthful to say. But we'll break down why you should make the Citi AAdvantage card your trusty travel companion for you and your (real-life) trusty travel companions.
First up, you get an Admirals Club membership, which provides access to about 50 lounges plus 60 partner lounges throughout the world.
Up to two fellow travelers or family members can join you in the Admirals Club.
And you can add up to 10 authorized users to your card for free—and they all get free access to the Admirals Club.
The perks—and perks to share—continue:
Board like a VIP. You'll enjoy priority check-in and boarding with this card—and the more, the merrier! You can have up to eight travel companions (must be on the same reservation) join you in the fast lane.
Skip the line. Apply for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓ and get a statement credit (up to $100).
Double your points. When you use your card for eligible AA purchases, you'll get two points for every dollar.
Earn on everyday spending. You'll get one point per every other dollar spent, so you'll be saving for vacation when you purchase gas, groceries, and more.
Qualify for AAdvantage Elite. You'll really hit the big leagues when you get 10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMS) when you spend $40,000 on your card each year.
What's so elite about those miles?
When you qualify as an elite status member, you'll be able to check bags for free, upgrade your flights, and accumulate more miles when you fly with American.
Shop more abroad. You can, thanks to no foreign transaction fees.
Use Citi to your AAdvantage
Get 50K points for $5,000 spent within the first three months on this card.
Nail this bonus, then grab a friend and start planning, because you can book two round-trip flights during off-season with those points (standard off-peak flights are 12,500 each way).
Redemption has its perks
You'll get a whopping 10% bonus when you redeem your AAdvantage miles—up to 10,000 per year.
Will this card benefit you even when you don't fly American Airlines?
In a word, yes.
Board more, save more. You'll save 25% on eligible purchases like in-flight meals.
Pack without the stress. Citi reimburses you the purchase price of any items damaged or lost in transit.
Book without worry. You're covered should you have to cancel your trip or leave early.
Stay protected on the road. Citi hopes you never have an accident, but it's there for you if you do, with worldwide travel accident insurance.
Join the club
If you've got a good credit score and think this card could give you an "advantage" in travel, visit the Citi website to apply.
Already an AAdvantage program member? Check your mail for credit card offers!
Pick the card that's an easy travel companion
Ready to bust out your suitcase for your next adventure?
These airport lounge perks certainly make your wait time at the airport seem like a vacation to themselves.
When deciding on which travel credit card is right for you, be sure you take your travel preferences into consideration.
Otherwise, this will be just another credit card in your wallet, and those spiced mixed nuts will just have to be eaten by some other seasoned traveler.
Are you a savvy traveler who uses credit cards for free airport lounge access?
How has it worked out for you?
Any great tips (or nightmares) to share with the rest of us?
Let us know in the comments below.