October 7, 2022

Alex o'Loughlin

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5 best credit cards for airport lounge access in 2022

Airport lounges are no longer limited to first class fliers and airline elites. With lounge access credit card benefits, any savvy cardholder can escape the airport chaos and enter into the world of free airport snacks.

Different credit cards offer different types of lounge access. You’ll want to choose a card that matches your flying preferences, including the airlines you like to fly and the airports you frequent. With that in mind, here are our top picks:

Intro BonusEarn 100,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.

APRSee Pay Over Time APR

Recommended Credit Excellent/Good

Reward Rates

  • Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year.
  • Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.

Annual Fee$695

Intro Purchase APRN/A

The Platinum Card is the best all-around card for lounge access — no matter what airline you fly or where you travel. Its lounge benefits give you access to six different airport lounge networks, including Priority Pass Select, American Express Centurion lounges, Delta Sky Clubs (when flying on Delta or Lufthansa same day), Escape lounges, Airspace lounges, and Plaza Premium lounges.

In general, cardholders can access the lounges with up to two additional guests for no charge, unless the lounge network has different rules (additional fees apply for guests at Delta Sky Clubs). American Express allows additional cardholders to access the same lounge benefits as the primary cardmember, however, there is a charge of $175 to add up to three additional users to your American Express Platinum account.

The business version of this card — the American Express Business Platinum Card® — also offers comparable access to these same lounge networks.

Pros

  • Access to six lounge networks
  • 24 Centurion Lounges (13 US and 11 abroad)
  • High value travel benefits and annual credits

Cons

  • High annual fee of $695
  • Fee for additional card users
  • American Express Priority Pass excludes participating airport restaurants
  • Some of the benefits aren’t practical for the average user (like private jet credits)

You can read our full review here.

Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Enrollment may be required for select American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more.

Intro BonusEarn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

APR17.24% – 24.24% Variable

Recommended Credit Excellent Credit

Reward Rates

  • Earn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Earn 5x total points on air travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Earn 3x points on other travel and dining.
  • 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Annual Fee$550

Intro Purchase APRN/A

The Chase Sapphire Reserve is the top all-around credit card for avid travelers, and it also comes with solid lounge benefit that are about to get even better.

While Chase’s list of lounges you can access as a cardholder isn’t as extensive as the Amex Platinum’s list, the card does give you full access to Priority Pass for you and two guests, including the participating airport restaurants excluded by American Express’s Priority Pass access. This can be a game-changer if your home airport is in a smaller city and has Priority Pass restaurant options but not lounge options. 

Chase has also announced it is planning to open six Sapphire lounges in 2022 and 2023, with the first three slated for New York LaGuardia (LGA), Boston (BOS), and Hong Kong (HKG).

Additional users on your Chase Sapphire Reserve account do get full access to the same benefits of the primary cardholder, but there is a $75 annual fee per additional card.

Pros

  • Priority Pass Select with access to airport restaurants
  • $300 annual travel purchase credit
  • Best travel insurance options

Cons

  • High annual fee of $550
  • $75 fee per authorized user
  • Sapphire lounge network not yet open

Intro BonusEarn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

APR17.24% – 24.24% (Variable)

Recommended Credit Excellent

Reward Rates

  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases

Annual Fee$395

Intro Purchase APRN/A

The Capital One Venture X Rewards Card is the newest credit card for the luxury lounge seeker. This card is best for travelers who frequently travel through airports with a Capital One Lounge.

The Capital One Lounge is currently open in Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) with locations in Denver (DEN) and Washington Dulles (IAD) opening soon. Venture X cardholders receive unlimited access to the lounges with up to two additional guests at no charge. These lounges offer a full bar, hot food, grab-and-go meals, showers, and even a yoga room with Peloton bikes.

In addition to the growing network of Capital One lounges, the Venture X also gives you Priority Pass Select membership for you and two guests, with access to participating airport restaurants included.

Capital One allows you to add four additional cardholders to your Venture X Rewards Card account at no cost, and additional users are able to access the full lounge benefits — including registration for Priority Pass.

Pros

  • Growing network of Capital One Lounges
  • Travel credits on Capital One travel
  • No additional user fee for four additional cards

Cons

  • High annual fee of $395
  • Only open lounge is currently in DFW
  • Priority Pass membership may be discontinued as the Capital One Lounge network grows

Intro BonusEarn 50,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.

APR15.99%-24.99% Variable

Recommended Credit Excellent/Good

Reward Rates

  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases.
  • Earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases.

Annual Fee$550

Intro Purchase APRN/A

The Delta SkyMiles Reserve credit card from American Express is the best airline-specific lounge card on the market — if you’re a frequent Delta flyer who often travels solo. The Delta SkyMiles Reserve not only allows you to access Delta Sky Clubs, but you can also gain access to the American Express network of Centurion Lounges when you’re flying on Delta and have purchased your ticket using a US-issued American Express card.

Unlike many of the other cards that allow two of your companions to access the lounge at no charge, the Delta SkyMiles Reserve only covers lounge access for you. Cardholders get two guest passes each year; outside of the guest passes, you may bring two guests at a cost of $39 per person when accessing the Sky Club. When accessing the American Express Centurion Lounge with a Delta SkyMiles Reserve card, you may bring up to two guests. However, the cost per person is $50.

While both the American Express Platinum card and the Delta SkyMiles Reserve card offer access to both the Sky Club and the Centurion Lounges, this card may be more appealing to avid Delta flyers. This is especially great for those hoping to maintain levels of elite status, as this card offers Medallion Qualifying Miles earning bonuses.

Pros

  • Access to American Express Centurion Lounges
  • Medallion Qualifying Miles earning benefits
  • Delta SkyMiles bonus earnings

Cons

  • High annual fee of $550
  • Additional charge for lounge guests
  • Annual fee costs more than a Sky Club membership

You can read our full review here.

Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Enrollment may be required for select American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more.

Intro BonusEarn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.

APR16.24% – 25.24% (Variable)

Recommended Credit Excellent, Good

Reward Rates

  • 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases
  • 1 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on other purchases

Annual Fee$450

Intro Purchase APRN/A

The Citi AAdvantage World Elite Mastercard grants cardholders and two guests access to American Airline’s (AA) network of nearly 50 Admirals Clubs worldwide. Cardholders can also access some Alaska Airlines lounges and Qantas lounges when flying on the respective airline. Selective lounges internationally that are part of the Oneworld network are also accessible.

You do not have to be flying American on the same day to use your Citi AAdvantage World Elite Mastercard, but those who frequent American Airlines will get the most use out of this card’s lounge benefits, as nearly every AA hub has one or more lounges to visit.

A big perk to this card is that Citi will allow you to add up to 10 authorized users to your card for no additional fee, and each of these users receive the Admirals Club lounge access benefits. (Some partner lounges require you to be the primary card member to gain access).

Pros

  • Annual fee costs less than an Admirals Club Annual Membership
  • Up to 10 authorized users for no charge
  • AA airline benefits and Loyalty Points bonus earnings

Cons

  • Not a great option if you often fly with other airlines
  • High annual fee of $450

What is the best airport lounge access credit card?

The Platinum Card from American Express is our top choice

The Platinum Card from American Express stands out above the rest as the best credit card for airport lounge access. With six networks as part of the American Express Platinum lounge program, you’ll likely be able to access a lounge at almost any airport in the world.

How did we choose these airport lounge access credit cards?

There are many different credit cards that offer access to airport lounges. To select the best card for you, we considered:

  • Type of lounge benefit: Which airline you fly and the airport hubs that you visit the most will help you determine which airport lounge rewards card will best meet your needs.
  • Annual fee value: Does the lounge access — alongside the other rewards and benefits of the card — add up to meet or exceed the value of the annual fee?
  • Other travel benefits: In addition to lounge access, most of these cards offer other specific travel benefit including free baggage, priority boarding, or travel credits. These benefits help offset the high annual fees common to luxury travel cards.

Which airport lounge access credit card is right for you?

The right card for you will depend on factors like your airline preferences, frequent travel hubs, and more. Whether you often fly solo or not can also make a difference in your decision. The chart below can help you figure out where to start:

Credit Card

Annual Fee

Priority Pass Select

Lounge Networks

The Platinum Card from American Express

X (restaurants excluded)

  • American Express Centurion Lounges
  • Plaza Premium
  • Escape Lounges
  • Airspace Lounges
  • Delta SkyClub (with same day flight)

Chase Sapphire Reserve Card

$550

x

Capital One Venture X Rewards Card

$395

x

Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card

  • Delta SkyClub
  • American Express Centurion Lounges

Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard

$450

  • Admirals Club
  • Alaska Airlines & Qantas (with same day flight)

What are the credit card benefits for lounge networks vs. airline clubs?

Many of the best credit cards that offer airline lounge access offer some combination of access to either a lounge network or a membership to a specific airline’s club. There are also a few cards that offer both.

Some popular lounge networks are Priority Pass Select, Escape lounges, Airspace lounges, and Plaza Premium lounges. Each of the large and most popular credit card-issuing banks have also begun to launch their own networks of airline lounges: the American Express Centurion Lounges, the Capital One Lounges, and the recently announced Chase Sapphire Lounges. These networks allow you to visit any of the lounges within their network if your credit card gives you access to their membership. 

In the US, each of the large airlines has their own branded airline club, which you can join and access whenever you visit the airport. In lieu of a paid membership, most of the airlines offer a co-branded card that gives you access to their club when you travel. Choosing a card with this type of lounge access is typically best for travelers who frequently fly on a specific airline. These lounges are most often located within that airline’s hub cities and in the terminal from which that airline’s flights depart, making it convenient if you match your lounge credit card access choice to the airline you’ll most likely be flying.

What can I access with the Priority Pass Select credit card benefit?

Priority Pass is one of the most common lounge network benefits granted by credit cards, including access to more than 500 lounges and airport restaurants around the globe. Not all Priority Pass credit card benefits are created equal, however. Some credit cards, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve and the Capital One Venture X, give you universal access to all Priority Pass airport outlets — including participating restaurants and lounges. Others, like the American Express cards, offer a select access benefit which only allows you to use lounges and excludes participating restaurants. 

If you live in a smaller city that has few airport lounges but does have participating Priority Pass restaurants, you’ll want to make sure your credit card provides a Priority Pass membership with access to the restaurant benefit.

Can I use my credit card benefits to take a guest into the lounge?

The number of guests that you can bring into the lounge with you will vary by card as well as the amount charged for additional guests. Most cards will allow you to bring two additional guests or one guest and your dependent children. Additional guests will often be charged a discounted daily rate. For your guest to receive the lounge benefit, you, the cardholder, must be present with them.

Do credit card authorized users get lounge access? If you have a partner or dependent who is an authorized user on your credit card, most cards will grant this user the same lounge privileges as the cardholder. You will want to check the exact card terms to confirm. 

Some credit cards with lounge access charge a high fee to add an additional person, such as the American Express Platinum card. While other cards like the Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard will allow you to gift your Admirals Club lounge access benefits to up to 10 additional users (by making them additional cardholders on your card).

Are there alternative airport lounge access credit cards worth considering?

In addition to our top recommendations above for credit cards offering lounge access, there are many other options to consider. These may be better suited to meet your needs if you’re looking to gain exclusive access to one particular airline’s club, are looking for a business card, or are a less frequent traveler.

  • American Express Business Platinum Card: Comparable lounge benefits as American Express Platinum personal card
  • Hilton Honors American Express Card: 10 Priority Pass Select passes a year
  • United Club Infinite Card: Access for cardholder and two guests into United Clubs (excluding Polaris locations)
  • United Explorer Card: Two one-time United Club passes per year (no guests)
  • United Club Business Card: United Club membership with two guests.
  • American Express Green Card: $100 LoungeBuddy credit
  • U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Card: Priority Pass select membership with four lounge visits and four guest passes annually
  • Capital One Venture Card: Two free Capital One lounge visits per year, and special pricing of $45 per additional visit or guest
  • Capital One Spark Miles Card: Two free Capital One lounge visits per year, and special pricing of $45 per additional visit or guest