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Update: As of June 2013, Ink cards are now Visa Business Cards and are no longer World MasterCards. The offer mentioned below for the Platinum Card from American Express has expired. View the current offer here.
Although the Chase Ink Bold and Ink Plus offer a plethora of valuable benefits including 50,000-point sign-up bonuses, category spending bonuses at office supply stores, gas stations and hotels, and all the perks of World Mastercards, one of the benefits I’m asked about most is the Lounge Club membership and two annual free lounge passes each card comes with. So I asked TPG contributor Jason Steele to take a detailed look at the benefit and how to maximize it.
One of the most convenient benefits a credit card can offer is a free pass to an airport business lounge. The Chase Ink Bold and Ink Plus cards offer an annual membership in the Lounge Club program and two free passes per cardmember year, while the Ink Classic offers free membership for the first year only. However, Lounge Club membership does not mean unlimited access to airport lounges, so cardholders need to use this benefit wisely in order to get the most value from it.
The Lounge Club does not own or operate lounges itself, but it contracts with lounges in airports throughout the world to provide access to its members. In some cases, these are lounges operated by airports or third parties, and in others, these lounges are run by airlines themselves. For example, the Alaska Airlines Board Rooms in airports such as Anchorage, Seattle, and Portland are part of the Lounge Club network, while members receive access to third party lounges in at airports like Raleigh, North Carolina and Dallas-Fort Worth. Until recently, Lounge Club didn’t even have a lounge at the Atlanta airport, the busiest in the world. Now, they offer a fantastic new facility at the new international Concourse F at Hartsfield.
Ink Plus and Bold cardholders receive automatic two free passes to the lounge each year you are a cardmember, while Ink Classic cardholders get them the first year of cardmembership. Each pass is good for one person, so two people entering at the same time uses both passes. At some clubs such as those operated by Alaska Airlines, children traveling over two must have a pass, while others offer free admission to guests under 12. Additional passes are $27 each, which are automatically billed to your linked credit card.
To get your free passes, first, you will need to obtain a separate Lounge Club card for each Ink Card you have. Call the customer service number on the back of your Ink card and ask for the access code for Lounge Club membership, then go to the Lounge Club Program Enrollment website and enter it then supply your credit card information to verify that you have a qualifying card (and so Lounge Club can bill you if you exceed your two free visits). Do so as soon as possible, because it can take 10 to 14 days to actually receive your card.
Then your card will come in the mail, and you can simply present it when traveling. You’ll get your two free visits automatically, and then will be charged after that.
Where Are Lounge Clubs?
Lounge Club offers access to over 350 airport lounges in dozens of countries, but the hardest place to find a lounge is actually right here in the United States, where there are only participating lounges at 19 airports. For instance, I have visited facilities in the Lounge Club network at airports in Cancun, London Heathrow, Tel Aviv, and Entebbe in Uganda, yet there are no lounges in Denver, Newark, Salt Lake City, Minneapolis, Detroit, Phoenix, Philadelphia, Charlotte, and other major hubs. Since this benefit is most useful overseas, don’t hesitate to check if there is a member lounge, even at some of the most remote airports.
Check out this post for TPG’s top Lounge Club picks around the world.
Lounge Club Locations in the US
That’s not to say that you won’t find any here in the US, and there are some great ones at major airports across the country – Los Angeles even has four! Here is the current list:
Anchorage – Alaska Airlines Board Room, Concourse C
Baltimore – Chesapeake Club Lounge International Terminal
Boston – Air France Graf Lounge, Terminal E
Chicago O’Hare – Air France VIP Lounge, Terminal 5
Dallas-Ft. Worth – The Club at DFW, Terminal D
Houston Intercontinental – KLM Crown Lounge, Terminal D
- Air France Business Class Lounge, Terminal 2
- Alaska Airlines Board Room, Terminal 6
- Relax Lounge, Tom Bradley International Terminal
- SkyTeam Korean Airlines Business Class Lounge, Tom Bradley International Terminal
New York JFK
Portland Oregon - Alaska Airlines Board Room, Concourse C
Raleigh Durham – The Club At RDU, Terminal 1
San Francisco – Alaska Airlines Board Room, Domestic Terminal 1
San Jose – The Club At SJC, Terminal A
Seattle – Alaska Airlines Board Room, Concourse D
Washington Dulles – British Airways Galleries Lounge, Midfield Terminal
Maximizing Lounge Club Membership
Before traveling, you will want research which airports on your itinerary have a participating lounge. You can find this information on the Lounge Club website, in this .pdf file, or by using one of their iPhone, iPad, Android or BlackBerry apps. Find out what food, beverage, shower, and WiFi options are offered. I recommend doing this before international travel, as you may encounter the Catch-22 of needing lounge access to get WiFi, but not being able to find out where the qualifying lounge is without Internet service.
Also, pay close attention to which terminal the lounges are in. For example, larger airports such as New York-JFK have more than one lounge, but they may as well have none if they are lot in the terminal you are departing from.
Next, you will want to keep track of how many passes you use each year for each card. Staff at the lounges will not know the answer, and after they have used up both free passes cardholders will simply find a $27 charge for each guest on their next statement. You should also check the lounge’s specific entry on the Lounge Club site to see its admission policies because as I mentioned above, some require children to have their own passes while others admit them for free. For example, the Club at ATL admits kids 12 and under free while the SkyTeam KAL Business Class Lounge at LAX only admits children under the age of two for free, and each cardholder is limited to two guests.
Finally, use the card as a last resort when you don’t have any other way to obtain free access. For example, those who have membership in Delta’s SkyClub can use the Alaska Board Rooms and Air France/KLM lounges, which are also part of the Lounge Club program. In addition, international travelers with business and first class tickets usually receive passes to a lounge, often one that is part of the Lounge Club network. Ticket agents are supposed to provide you with these passes, but may only do so unless you request it. Check out this post for the Top 10 Ways to Get Lounge Access for Free, and then if you have the personal, business or Mercedes-Benz Platinum cards from American Express, the lounge access benefit includes admittance to American, Delta and US Airways clubs as well as Priority Pass clubs.
There are lots of times that I redeem points and miles for coach tickets domestically and in Europe where short-haul business ticket use the same seats as coach, and it is on these occasions that having Lounge Club membership and getting those 2 free annual passes comes in handy since heading into a lounge is a great way to get some work done, recharge my electronics, surf the web and even grab a snack apart from the chaos of a terminal – and I don’t have to be flying in the front of the plane to do so. Although a lot of people are down on airline lounges, they can be great places to be productive and to relax from the rigors of travel, and Lounge Club membership is just one more reason the Chase Ink cards are such valuable travel tools.