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Earning points and miles with a credit card is great, but airport lounge access can be one of the best benefits of having a travel rewards card. Only a few travel rewards cards offer this benefit, and you need to be careful to choose the card that offers the type of lounge access that you can use most.
Choosing the card that’s right for you
There are several situations where you might need access to an airport lounge. Travelers who live far from the airport often need to leave early in order to ensure they have plenty of time to get through security checks, but when things go smoothly, they end up with extra time that can be spent relaxing in the lounge. Other travelers use airport lounges between flights when they must change planes, and lounges with shower facilities are especially welcome after an overnight flight.
Here are some things to consider when choosing one of these cards:
1. How often will you need lounge access? Those who live near their airport and rarely need to change planes won't need to use the lounges too often, if at all. Therefore, one of the cards that offer a fixed number of day passes may suit their needs. Furthermore, many of these cards offer discounted access for future visits, so even if you use a lounge every month or two, it may still be less expensive to purchase day passes than pay the higher annual fee for a card with an unlimited membership.
2. What lounges do you have in your home airport, and where are they? Not all airports operate with all airlines. For example, a Delta SkyClub membership won't help you at Denver's airport, since they don’t have a SkyClub there. Also, a card that offers lounges in The Priority Pass network will offer admission to several lounges at JFK airport in New York, but not in all of their terminals. If your flight is leaving from a terminal without a member lounge, you may as well not have any access at all.
3. What is the guest policy? If you frequently travel with family, friends, or colleagues, it is important to know how many guests can access the lounge for free, and how many you will have to pay extra for. The best policies allow immediate family or your flight companion.
4. What other benefits are offered? The cards that offer unlimited lounge benefits are premium reward cards that come with many more features. Taking a moment to explore their benefits will help you to choose the right card for your needs. The Visa Signature and World (Elite) MasterCard programs are some of the most popular features and benefits programs.
Two types of credit cards with lounge access
Some reward credit cards offer cardholders a membership in a lounge network, good for as many visits as you want, while others offer a limited number of visits during the year.
Cards that offer unlimited visits:
- Delta SkyMiles Reserve card from American Express. This card offers membership in the Delta Sky Club, but only for the cardholder as guests must pay extra. There is a $450 annual fee for this card.
- United Club card* from Chase. Cardholders gain access to any United Club along with their spouse and children 21 and under, or as many as two guests. There is a $395 annual fee for this card.
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. This card offers a membership in the Admiral's Club as well as the US Airways Club locations for the cardholder his or her immediate family, or up to two traveling guests. There is a $450 annual fee for this card.
- The Platinum Card® from American Express. The Platinum card offers a Delta SkyClub membership, which only grants access to the cardholder and no guests. It also features access to lounges in the Priority Pass network, except for United Club locations. American Express has also started to open its own Centurion Lounge locations at Las Vegas, Dallas Fort Worth, New York La Guardia, and Miami airports. With the Centurion lounge only, cardholders may bring their spouse or domestic partner and children under 18, OR two traveling companions, as complimentary guests. There is a $450 annual fee for this card.
- Ritz-Carlton Rewards card from Chase. This card offers a membership to the Lounge Club network, which is valid for the cardholders only and no guests. There is an annual fee of $395 for this card.
- Visa Black card from Barclaycard. This card offers access to lounges in the Priority Pass network, except for United Club locations. There is a $495 annual fee for this card.
Cards that offer a fixed number of day passes:
- Chase Ink Bold and Ink Plus. Both of these business cards offer a Lounge Club card that features two free annual visits to airport lounges in the Lounge Club network, with subsequent visits or guests being charged $27. There is a $95 annual fee for these cards. *This offer and/or promotion may have since changed, expired, or is no longer available.
- United MileagePlus® Explorer Card. Cardholders receive two, one-time passes each year that offer access to United Clubs for themselves and no guests. There is a $95 annual fee for this card that is waived the first year.
- US Airways Premier World MasterCard from Barclaycard. This card offers a single day pass each year to US Airways clubs. there is an $89 annual fee for this card.
*Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.
*The content in this article is accurate at the publishing date, and may be subject to changes per the card issuer.
*The information related to the United Mileage Club Card has been collected by CompareCards.com and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.