The types of lounges you can use vary significantly from card to card. So, today I’ll take a closer look at the best travel rewards cards from our partners that offer complimentary airport lounge access.
If you can maximize the up to $300 statement credit toward Capital One Travel, the Venture X’s annual fee effectively comes down to $95, the same annual fee pegged to the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card. Add in a 10,000-mile bonus every account anniversary (worth $185, according to TPG valuations) and lounge access, and the card may become the strongest option out there for a lot of travelers. Read our full review of the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card.
The Business Platinum Card from American Express is a great card for frequent travelers looking to add a touch of luxury to their business trips. While the card does come with a high annual fee, you’re also getting a ton of valuable benefits in return. They include generous annual travel credits, unparalleled lounge access that includes Amex Centurion Lounges and more. Read our full review of the Amex Business Platinum Card.
The Amex Platinum is unmatched when it comes to travel perks and benefits. If lounge access, hotel elite status and annual statement credits are important to you, this card is well worth the high annual fee. Read our full review of the Amex Platinum card.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve is one of our top premium travel cards. With a $300 travel credit, generous points on dining and travel purchases and other benefits, you can get excellent value that far exceeds the annual fee on the card. Read our full review of the Chase Sapphire Reserve.
The Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard is the best for those who fly American Airlines and want Admirals Club lounge access. It also gives you helps you earn and maintain elite status and comes with priority perks. Read our full review of the Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard.
The Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card is the premier choice for Delta loyalists who value an accelerated path to elite status, Delta SkyClubs lounge access, an annual companion certificate and strong earning rates on Delta purchases. Read our full review of the Delta SkyMiles Reserve Amex Card.
If you’re a high-budget business owner and fly Delta often, the Delta SkyMiles Reserve Business American Express Card is an elite airline card with a sleuth of benefits. While the card does come with a high annual fee, the impressive benefits including exclusive Delta SkyClub and Amex Centurion lounge access, airport, free checked bags, priority boarding and a fast track to Delta’s elite Medallion flying status by spending a considerable amount on the card. Read our full review of the Delta SkyMiles Reserve Business Amex Card.
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Now, let’s take a closer look at each of the best cards for airport lounge access.
The Amex Platinum has a $695 annual fee (see rates and fees). But if you travel frequently and value the lounge membership benefits of this card, you’ll likely get your money’s worth from the card.
The Amex Platinum is the best consumer card for lounge access because it provides entry to the greatest number of high-quality lounges. First and foremost, you’ll get access to Amex’s Centurion Lounges. Although Amex closed its Centurion Lounges during the early parts of the coronavirus pandemic, all U.S. Centurion Lounges are now open. Plus, Amex has several new and expanded Centurion Lounges in the works.
Unfortunately, unless you can show that you’re in transit from another flight, you’ll only be able to access Centurion Lounges within three hours of scheduled departure. And access upon arrival is no longer allowed. You can bring up to two guests at no additional charge, as well as any children under 2 years of age. However, do know that this is changing in Feb. 2023 when guests will no longer be complimentary unless you charge $75,000 annually on the card.
You’ll also be able to access Delta Sky Clubs when you’re flying Delta or select Delta partners on the same day. And Amex Platinum cardmembers get a Priority Pass Select membership with two guests included. However, this Priority Pass Select membership won’t provide access to restaurants in the Priority Pass network. Enrollment required for select benefits.
But you can also access various other lounges in the American Express Global Lounge Collection, including Escape Lounges, Airspace Lounges, Plaza Premium Lounges and international American Express lounges.
TPG’s Staff Pick: “Whilst this card has a high annual fee, it more than justifies itself for frequent travelers like me. The lounge access options that come with the Platinum are unrivalled by competitors. I put all of my flights — whether bought with cash or points — on this card to earn 5 points per dollar spent and travel protections. I make sure to take full advantage of the Uber, Saks Fifth Avenue, Hulu/Disney+ and Clear credits. And, honestly, pulling a Platinum card out of your wallet to pay for something does feel pretty fancy.” – Matt Moffitt, Editor
Related: Who should (and who shouldn’t) get the American Express Platinum?
The Amex Platinum Card earns five Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on airfare booked directly with the airline or through Amex Travel (on up to $500,000 of these purchases per calendar year) and five points per dollar spent on prepaid hotels booked through Amex Travel. And the Amex Platinum has many other perks. Some of the top perks include:
Enrollment required for benefits listed above.
To learn more, check out our review of The Platinum Card from American Express.
Official application link: The Platinum Card from American Express
The Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card is a stellar option in the premium rewards card space — but comes with a lower $395 annual fee. In 2021, Capital One released the Venture X alongside the debut of the very first Capital One lounge in Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), reinventing the wheel on the airport lounge by offering chef-inspired food and drink choices, Peloton bikes, nap pods and more.
Cardholders can enter the Capital One lounges (with two more locations at Denver and Washington-Dulles to open in 2022) and bring up to two guests. Each guest thereafter will cost $45 each.
While the full network of Capital One lounges isn’t robust just yet, you’ll also get access to 1,300-plus Priority Pass lounges for you and up to two guests.
Perhaps the best part of the card is the ability to add up to four authorized users for no additional annual fee. This is a fantastic strategy for families, as each authorized user can get their own Capital One and Priority Pass lounge access and bring up to two guests. If you fully maximize this benefit, that means you and up to 14 guests can enter the lounges with this singular card.
Related: Who should (and who shouldn’t) get the Capital One Venture X?
The benefits don’t stop at lounge access. Cardholders will also get up to a $300 travel credit for bookings made through the Capital One portal, a 10,000-mile bonus upon card renewal each cardmember anniversary, a Global Entry/TSA Precheck statement credit, travel and purchase protections and more.
To learn more, check out our review of the Capital One Venture X.
Official application link: Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card
The Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard has a $450 annual fee, with no charge for up to 10 authorized users. Suppose you’re mainly interested in the card for Admirals Club access. In that case, you’ll notice that the annual fee is lower than the cost to purchase or renew an individual Admirals Club membership.
The AAdvantage Executive Card comes with an Admirals Club membership for the primary cardholder. Admirals Club membership includes access to American Airlines Admirals Club lounges and other lounges with which American Airlines has reciprocal access privileges. Authorized users, on the other hand, only have access to American’s Admirals Club lounges.
The primary cardholder and each authorized user can bring immediate family members or two other guests into the lounge. However, you must show a boarding pass for same-day travel on any departing or arriving flight that is marketed or operated by American Airlines, marketed and operated by any Oneworld carrier or marketed and operated by Alaska Airlines.
Note that only some American Airlines lounges have reopened. You can see a current listing of open lounges on American Airlines’ website.
Related: 3 reasons why this is the best card for Admirals Club lounge access as travel returns
With the AAdvantage Executive Card, you’ll earn 2 miles per dollar spent on eligible American Airlines purchases and 1 mile per dollar spent on all other purchases. Plus, you’ll get Group 4 priority boarding and your first checked bag free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to eight companions traveling on the same reservation.
To learn more, see our Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard credit card review.
Official application link: Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard
The Chase Sapphire Reserve is easily the best travel card for Priority Pass lounge access. Admittedly, the card previously had competitors in this area. But the Citi Prestige® Card is now far less appealing than other premium travel cards. And Amex cards fell behind when they stopped offering Priority Pass restaurant access.
The information for the Citi Prestige has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders get a Priority Pass Select membership that includes access to airport lounges, restaurants, cafes and markets participating in the Priority Pass Select network. Primary cardmembers and authorized users each get their own Priority Pass Select memberships. However, you will need to enroll in Priority Pass before you have access. And, once registered, you can bring up to two guests into each lounge with you.
Many Priority Pass airport lounges are reopening, but some are still closed. So, check the lounge’s page on the Priority Pass website to determine whether a particular lounge has reopened.
Related: Sapphire showdown: Chase Sapphire Preferred Card vs. Chase Sapphire Reserve
The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers 10 points per dollar on hotels, car rentals and Chase Dining purchases through the Ultimate Rewards portal, 10 points per dollar on Lyft purchases (through March 2025), 5 points per dollar on flights booked through the Ultimate Rewards, 3 points per dollar on all other travel and dining purchases and 1 point per dollar on all other eligible purchases.
The card also offers a $300 annual travel credit and travel protections such as trip delay protection and delayed baggage protection.
To learn more, check out our Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card review.
Official application link: Chase Sapphire Reserve
The Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card has a $550 annual fee (see rates and fees). But the card offers Delta Sky Club access as one of its benefits — and this single benefit may justify the annual fee if you travel with Delta frequently.
Delta Reserve cardmembers have complimentary access to Delta Sky Clubs when traveling on a same-day Delta-operated or Delta-marketed flight. However, not all Delta Sky Club locations have reopened. You can see a list of the open Sky Club locations on Delta’s website.
You can also access Delta Sky Clubs when traveling on a Delta partner flight that isn’t marketed or operated by Delta. But, in this case, you’ll need to pay $39 per visit. You can bring up to two guests, or a partner and children under 21, for $39 per person per visit. But Reserve cardholders also get two one-time guest passes each year for complimentary guest access to the Delta Sky Club.
Delta Reserve cardholders also get access to American Express Centurion Lounges when traveling on a Delta-marketed or Delta-operated flight paid for with a U.S.-issued American Express card. You’ll only be able to access the lounge up to three hours before your flight or during connections, though. And although you can bring up to two guests, you’ll pay $50 for each.
Related: Credit card showdown: Amex Platinum vs. Delta Reserve
The Delta Reserve Card earns 3 miles per dollar spent directly with Delta and 1 mile per dollar spent on all other eligible purchases.
You and up to eight companions on the same reservation will get your first checked bag free and Main Cabin 1 priority boarding when flying with Delta. You’ll also receive a domestic first class, Comfort+ or Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your card.
Elite status is also more attainable with this card. When you spend $25,000 on your card within a calendar year, you will get a Medallion Qualification Dollar waiver for Platinum, Gold and Silver Medallion status. For Diamond Medallion status, you’ll need to spend $250,000 on the card.
For more information, check out our Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card review.
Official application link: Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card
The Business Platinum card has slightly different benefits than its personal Platinum counterpart but with the same $695 annual fee (see rates and fees). But it’s a compelling option for business travelers who can use the credits and perks it provides.
The Amex Business Platinum is the best overall business credit card for lounge access. Like the personal Amex Platinum, the Business Platinum offers access to Amex’s Centurion Lounges as well as to Delta Sky Clubs on same-day Delta flights. You’ll also get a Priority Pass Select membership with two guests included. Enrollment required for select benefits.
The entire American Express Global Lounge Collection is also available to Business Platinum cardmembers. However, the same restrictions on Centurion lounge access — admittance only within three hours of departure, no access upon arrival and two free guests only — also apply to the Business Platinum.
Related: Credit card showdown: Amex Platinum vs. Amex Business Platinum
The Business Platinum Card has many of the same perks as the personal Platinum Card. But there are some differences. The Business Platinum Card earns five Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on flights and prepaid hotels booked through Amex Travel. You’ll also earn 1.5 points per dollar on eligible purchases in select business categories and eligible purchases of $5,000 or more; on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year.
You’ll get an annual airline-fee credit of up to $200 on one selected airline each calendar year, Gold Elite status with Marriott, Gold status with Hilton and up to $400 in annual Dell credits (for U.S. purchases) (enrollment required for these benefits). Plus, you’ll get a 35% rebate when you book a first- or business-class flight through Amex Travel using Pay with Points (up to 1 million points back per calendar year). This discount also extends to any flight class on the airline you selected for your airline fee credit. Enrollment required for select benefits.
To learn more, see our review of the Business Platinum Card from American Express.
Official application link: The Business Platinum Card from American Express
The United Club Infinite Card offers United Club membership as a perk. So, this card can make sense for frequent United flyers.
The United Club Infinite Card offers United Club membership for the primary cardholder. This membership gives the primary cardholder access to United Club locations with a same-day boarding pass for travel on United, a Star Alliance partner or a contracted partner. United Club members can bring two adults or one adult and dependent children under 21 years of age as guests.
Related: The best credit cards for United Airlines flyers
The United Club Infinite Card offers various other perks besides lounge access when flying United. For example, you’ll earn 4 miles per dollar spent on United purchases, 2 miles per dollar spent on travel and dining and 1 mile per dollar spent on all other purchases. And you and one companion can get your first and second checked bags free on United-operated flights when you buy the tickets with your card. Plus, you’ll get a statement credit of up to $100 every four years to reimburse a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee.
For more information, see our United Club Infinite Card review.
Official application link: United Club Infinite Card
The Delta SkyMiles Reserve Business American Express Card also offers Delta Sky Club access as one of its benefits. As such, the Delta Reserve Business Amex can be helpful for business travelers who frequently fly on Delta.
Like the personal Delta Reserve credit card, Delta Reserve for Business cardholders have complimentary access to Delta Sky Clubs when traveling on a same-day Delta-marketed or Delta-operated flight. You can also get access when flying on a Delta partner flight not operated or marketed by Delta, but you’ll have to pay $39 per visit. You get two one-time complimentary guest passes each account year. But you’ll need to pay $39 per person per visit for other guests.
Cardholders also get access to Centurion Lounges when traveling on a same-day Delta-marketed or Delta-operated flight when paying the fare with a U.S.-issued American Express card. You can access the lounge up to three hours before departure or during connections. And you can bring up to two guests by paying $50 per person per location.
Related: Choosing the best credit cards for Delta flyers
The Delta Reserve for Business earns 3 Delta miles per dollar spent directly with Delta and 1 mile per dollar spent on all other eligible purchases. However, you’ll earn 1.5 miles per dollar spent on all purchases after $150,000 in spending each calendar year.
Like the personal Delta Reserve, you’ll get a first free checked bag for you and up to eight companions on the same reservation, along with Main Cabin 1 priority boarding when flying with Delta. You’ll also get a round-trip companion certificate for bookings in domestic first class, Comfort+ or Main Cabin each year upon renewal. Plus, you can spend to get a Medallion Qualification Dollar waiver.
For more information, see our Delta SkyMiles Reserve Business American Express Card review.
Official application link: Delta SkyMiles Reserve Business American Express Card
Uber Cash up to $200 each calendar year (enrollment required).
35% rebate when booking eligible flights through Pay with Points (up to 1 million points per calendar year).
$300 annual travel credit.
2 miles per dollar on eligible American Airlines purchases after that.
Group 4 priority boarding.
First checked bag free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to eight companions.
Round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your card.
First checked bag free and Main Cabin 1 priority boarding for you and up to eight companions.
Round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your card.
First and second checked bags free for you and a companion.
The annual fees on the cards discussed so far in this guide all top $400. These cards carry enough benefits and earn enough points to recoup the annual fee many times over for some travelers.
But if you can’t justify high annual fees or don’t travel frequently, you may want a card with a lower annual fee. So, here are a few ways to get a few complimentary lounge visits each year while paying a lower annual fee:
The information for the Amex Green card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Related: The best credit cards with annual fees under $100
Here are a few of the most commonly asked questions about the use of credit cards for lounge access:
Priority Pass is an airport lounge membership program that provides members with access to more than 1,300 airport lounges — and sometimes non-lounge experiences such as restaurants — around the world. With a Priority Pass membership, you can visit these lounges regardless of the airline you’re flying or your ticket class. You can even access Priority Pass lounges when you’re flying in economy class on a low-cost airline.
If you have Priority Pass access benefits through a credit card, you’ll usually need to enroll in Priority Pass Select. However, the access policies vary across cards, so be sure to determine what benefits your card offers before heading to the airport. For example, Priority Pass Select memberships for American Express cards don’t cover visits to restaurant lounges. And cards with lower annual fees, such as the Hilton Surpass and Hilton Business cards, only offer 10 complimentary lounge visits per year.
Related: The best credit cards for Priority Pass lounge access
Enrollment required for select benefits
Centurion Lounges are high-end lounges accessible to select American Express cardmembers. These lounges are often known for offering locally curated, high-quality dining and drinks. Some Centurion Lounges even provide other perks, including spa services and wine tasting. However, Amex has modified select Centurion Lounge perks during the pandemic.
The easiest way to access Centurion Lounges is by holding an eligible card such as The Platinum Card from American Express or The Business Platinum Card from American Express. But Delta SkyMiles Reserve and Delta SkyMiles Reserve Business cardholders can also access Centurion Lounges when flying Delta on the same day on a ticket paid for with a U.S.-issued Amex card.
Delta Reserve cardholders don’t get complimentary guest access, but Amex Platinum cardholders can bring up to two guests with them free of charge. And Centurion members can bring up to two guests or their immediate family free of charge, but this will change in Feb. 2023.
Related: 6 ways airport lounges are improving — and one way they definitely aren’t
Depending on how frequently you travel, the airports you visit and the airlines you fly, it may make sense to have multiple cards that offer access to different lounge networks. Since you can only access Delta, United and American lounges when flying each airline, it’s essential to have the correct credit card for lounge access based on the airports you’re visiting and the airline you’re flying.
Related: 4 reasons why the Amex Platinum might be the ideal credit card for Delta flyers
If you are traveling during the pandemic and travel through airports with open lounges, it can make sense to carry one or more cards that provide lounge access. But if you don’t intend to restart travel soon or plan to skip airport lounges, it may not make sense to have airport lounge cards now. I recommend assessing your credit card portfolio to determine which cards are worth their annual fees.
Related: 7 ways I’ve changed my flight routine to make pandemic travel easier
Airport lounges typically provide access to seating, power, Wi-Fi, nonalcoholic drinks and snacks for no additional charge. However, some airport lounges offer other amenities such as meals, spa services, shower rooms, meeting rooms and alcoholic drinks. And in some cases, these additional amenities are also complimentary for anyone who has access to the lounge.
Related: How valuable is a Priority Pass lounge membership?
The easiest way to get free airport lounge access is to sign up for a credit card that offers lounge access as a perk. However, you may be able to snag airport lounge access with some types of airline elite status. And if you reside outside the U.S., you may find that some non-travel memberships include free access to some airport lounges.
Related: The 7 do’s and don’ts in an airport lounge
Additional reporting by Stella Shon and Christina Ly.
For rates and fees of the Platinum Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Business Platinum Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Reserve, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Reserve Business, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Surpass, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Business Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Green Card, please click here.
Featured photo of the Amex Centurion Lounge at New York-JFK by Zach Griff/The Points Guy.
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Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.