Best Cards for Airport Lounge Access

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Updated: 6 days ago

Most people think of airports as loud, crowded, and miserable places to avoid spending any more time in than strictly necessary. Savvy travelers, however, know that access to an airport lounge can transform the terminal into a relatively relaxing space (or at least one with more abundant outlets!). Flying as many hundreds of thousands miles per year as we do means we value airport lounges tremendously — they give us a quieter place to work, usually with functional Wifi, and ideally a space to shower between long-haul flights. If you’re feeling peckish, airport lounges can be so much more than a place to avoid overpriced coffee stands. The best airport lounges in the world offer comfortable seating, friendly customer service agents, complimentary drinks, and quiet workplaces.

In the U.S., having the right credit card from American, Delta, or United can give you access to Admiral’s Clubs, Delta SkyClubs or United Clubs, respectively. You’ll have to get a premium card (with a correspondingly higher annual fee), but that’s almost always cheaper than paying outright for a lounge membership, even if you use none of the other card benefits.

If you’re not loyal to a specific airline domestically, our overall best pick for airport lounge benefits is the American Express Platinum or the American Express Business Platinum. The Amex Platinum cards offer the user access to three competitive lounge networks worldwide, including Centurion Lounges, Delta SkyClubs and Priority Pass. And apart from Delta SkyClubs, it doesn’t matter which airline you are flying — your credit card and a confirmed same-day boarding pass on any airline will get you access.

Overall, gaining entry to airport lounges is much easier than you may think because a variety of credit cards offer airport lounge benefits. Before you know it, you may actually schedule that later flight, just to give yourself a couple extra hours in the airport! Here are the best credit cards available that offer airport lounge access:

Earn 100,000 bonus miles

New United Club℠ Infinite Card

Limited-Time offer ends 5/18/2020
Foreign Transaction Fee: $0
Annual Fee: $525
on Chase's secure site
Why we like this card

Current Offer

  • Earn 100,000 Bonus Miles.
  • New Earn 4 miles per $1 spent on United purchases including tickets, Economy Plus, inflight food, beverages and Wi-Fi, and other United charges.
  • New Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on all other travel
  • New Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on dining
  • Earn 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • New Up to $100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck™ Fee Credit
  • Free first and second checked bags - a savings of up to $320 per roundtrip
  • 25% back as a statement credit on purchases of food, beverages and Wi-Fi onboard United-operated flight when you pay with your Club Card.
on Chase's secure site
Receive United Club℠ Membership

United Club℠ Business Card

Foreign Transaction Fee: $0
Annual Fee: $450
The card details for the United Club℠ Business Card have been collected independently by OMAAT and have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
on Chase's secure site
Why we like this card

This card is great if you fly on United quite often as you receive United Club membership, earn 1.5 United miles on everyday transactions, and receive Premier Access® benefits when traveling on United-operated flights.

Current Offer
50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open

Card Details
Get United Club Access -- up to a $550 value per year; 2X miles per $1 spent on United purchases; 1.5X miles per $1 spent on all other purchases; Free first and second checked bags

on Chase's secure site
Enjoy United Club℠ membership

United Club℠ Card

Foreign Transaction Fee: $0
Annual Fee: $450
The card details for the United Club℠ Card have been collected independently by OMAAT and have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
on Chase's secure site
Why we like this card

This card is great for United flyers, as you get an included United Club membership, earn 1.5-2 miles per $1 on all transactions, and receive Premier Access® benefits when traveling on United-operated flights.

Current Offer
50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

Card Details
United ClubSM membership – up to a $550 value per year; Earn rewards faster with 1.5 miles per $1 spent on purchases; Earn even more miles on tickets purchased from United – 2 miles per $1 spent; Free first and second checked bags

on Chase's secure site

The Best Airport Lounges in the World

We’ve not only compiled a guide to credit cards with lounge access, we’ve also actually visited most of the best (and worst) airport lounges in the world. When flying first or business class internationally, you’ll get complimentary lounge access at your departure airport, and sometimes on arrival. Over the years we’ve found some of the most spectacular lounges in the world that are true oases, and some of the worst that we’d actively avoid in the future. If you’re new to OMAAT, it’s worth pointing out that every flight or airport lounge review has been paid for independently (either through miles or cash).

On one end of the spectrum, are domestic lounges here in the United States, which primarily feature simple finger foods and house wines. But there are some more premium domestic lounges, many of which are accessible via credit cards with lounge access. One of our favorite domestic airline lounges is the Delta SkyClub in Seattle, with a stunning physical space, premium drinks, food by local chefs, and friendly staff. Across the board, Amex Centurion lounges are really hard to beat, especially the newly renovated spaces in Dallas and Miami.

On the other hand, the best airport lounges in the world rival some luxury hotels and restaurants, and offer guests a truly premium airport experience. Believe it or not, most of these lounges (and the airline you have to be flying to gain access) are available using points and miles. Here are the best airport lounges in the world:

As a reminder, some of the best lounges in the world, including the favorites above, can’t be accessed directly by holding any specific credit card. You have to be flying in a premium cabin or be a top-tier elite in a frequent flier program to gain access. Thankfully, the right portfolio of credit cards to maximize your spending can push you towards a huge first step in the right direction thanks to transferable point currencies and shortcuts to elite status.

What Are The Main Airport Lounge Benefits?

Whether you need to get work done or are just looking for a peaceful spot to recharge your devices on a layover, here are some of our favorite benefits of airport lounges:

  1. Premium Customer Service Rep Access – The staff in an airline lounge can be your best friend whenever you need help on the day of travel. Whether you’re trying to upgrade, track your flight or need to be rebooked from a missed connection, the agents at the lounge are typically there to help. At the very least, they tend to have a lot more patience during irregular operations since they won’t have a line of customers snaking through the terminal.
  2. Restaurant Benefits – If your credit card gives you Priority Pass membership, you may have access to a variety of airport restaurants worldwide, in addition to traditional airline lounges. You’ll get a fixed amount to spend at some really unique outlets in airports such as Portland PDX and Miami MIA.
  3. Complimentary Food & Drink – At minimum, airport lounges always offer complimentary coffee, water, soda and snacks. At most locations, you’ll also find a range of house beer, wine and spirits.
  4. Shower Facilities – There’s nothing better to reinvigorate you after sitting on a plane for 8 hours than a hot shower. Most lounges in airports with a considerable number of international flights offer complimentary shower facilities.
  5. Free Wi-Fi – Free wi-fi is becoming more mainstream at airports around the world, but they tend to come with restrictions such as time, bandwidth or needing to subscribe. Every airport lounge comes with unlimited access to wi-fi.
  6. Sleeping Areas – Sometimes this can be an actual private room, sometimes it is just a place to put your feet up. Either way, a lounge can be a great place to snooze between flights with your luggage safely secured.
  7. Business Center – Traveling for work and forget to print out a few documents for the meeting you’re en route to? Trying to print your hotel reservation to have for reference? Regardless what you need it for, nearly every airport lounge has a business center that typically offers complimentary desktop computers, as well as free printing.

The best airport lounges in the world actually encourage travelers to get to the airport early. At minimum, an airport lounge is an escape from the hustle of the terminal and can be an oasis to relax before a flight. Whether you travel for work or for leisure, the best way to access airport lounges is through your credit card. In almost every circumstance, this offers a better overall value than outright purchasing a membership to a specific airline club lounge or Priority Pass Network. The best credit card for lounge access ultimately comes down to your individual travel patterns and should be determined by the lounge network at the airports you frequent the most.

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