Airport Lounge Access | Credit Cards that Give You Free or Discounted Access

Before this year, I’d never stepped inside an airport lounge.  I guess I had a little curiosity about what was behind those translucent doors, but for the most part, I was content to be in the wide open spaces of the airport.

This year I stepped into my first airport lounge.

Kids playing computer games at the Admiral Club at JFK

Food selection in the British Airways lounge in Toronto

At this point, I’m trying to balance two opposing preferences.  I still want to travel cheaply, but I seem to be traveling enough that traveling comfortably is becoming a little bit more important to me.

If you’re wanting to see how lounge access impacts your travels, then the best way to experience it is with a credit card that gives you airport lounge access.

Credit Cards that Give Free or Discounted Airport Lounge Access

American Express Platinum

The ultimate best card that gives lounge access is the American Express Platinum.  The annual fee is not for the faint of heart – $450 per year. (Here’s how I justify the annual fee.)  However, with that $450 price rage you’ll get up to $200 credit for sundry fees with a designated airline.  I’ve designated American airlines and get up to $200 refunded on baggage costs, on-board meals, and some people have even reported getting gift cards refunded.

If you time your application sign up and cancellation, you can get two calendar years allowance of $200 credit for one 12 month annual fee of $450.

Another financial benefit of the card is a refund on the Global Entry cost.  With the $100 fee, that’s a nice refund.

Best of all (and most pertinent to this post), you get airport lounge access when you fly on American, Delta, and US Airways.

The value of these benefits depends a lot on your usage.

When we were in Buenos Aires, our flight was scheduled to leave at 8 pm-ish.  Our kids hadn’t eaten, but we knew we’d be served a meal on the plane.  At the lounge, we were all able to get enough snacks to hold us over till the flight.

Be sure to familiarize yourself with the lounge entrance policies.  American allowed me to enter with one guest and kids flying on the same itinerary.  As a result, we’ve always been able to get whole family into a lounge with the Platinum card.  Delta allowed my wife and I to enter.

With the Platinum card, you’re also eligible for the Priority Pass Select program.  This gives you free access to all participating lounges (including many overseas).  If a guest joins you in the lounge it will cost an additional $27 for a guest.

Ink Bold

The primary lounge benefit of the Ink Bold is the Lounge Club.

By holding a Lounge Club access you can enter different lounges located internationally and domestically.

The card gives you free access on two occasions, and then you’ll pay $27 for each visit thereafter.

This card has a $95 annual fee.  The fee is waived for the first year and also offers up to 50,000 bonus points for signing up and reaching the minimum spend.

Citi Executive AAdvantage 

This card comes with a $450 annual fee and gives you access to American Admirals Club lounges.

However, for $450, I can’t think of any reasons why one would get this card over the Platinum card which gives access also to Delta and US Airways, along with a $200 airline credit.

United Mileage Plus Club Card

With this $395 annual fee, you’ll get access to United lounges.

If a person travels almost exclusively on United, this could be a valuable card.  In addition to the lounge access, you’ll be able to get priority check-in, 1.5 miles per dollar spent (2 miles per dollar for United flights), first and second bag free, no short notice booking fees, and more.  Of course, if you fly United enough, most of these will also be benefits of being an elite member.

United Card

The United credit card comes with two free lounge access passes.  Each year you keep the card, you’ll get an additional two lounge passes.  This card comes with a $95 annual fee which is waived the first year.

Do you have another card or do you know of another card that gives lounge access?



  1. SgFm says

    A correction, the Amex Platinum Priority Pass membership gives **free** entrance to a lounge for the card holder. If you have a guest, then they will charge for that person, (which I believe is $27).

  2. monster says

    If you have the Amex Platinum card you actually get access to Priority Pass Select lounges for FREE. It’s only ADDITIONAL guests that need to pay the $27.

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