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Don’t spend hundreds of dollars on airport lounge membership; select credit cards offer access — or even membership — to lounges among their benefits. Below, TPG Points & Miles Contributor Richard Kerr takes a look at some top card options that will have you waiting out your time at the airport in comfort.

Traveling today is stressful. Load factors are at an all time high in the US, and airports always seem to be crowded. It’s important to keep your blood pressure down by taking every strategy available to make the airport more enjoyable. For me at least, knowing that I have complimentary airport lounge access goes a long way in keeping me calm. Today, I’ll cover six top cards that offer complimentary airport lounge access among their benefits.

1. The Platinum Card from American Express

It's hard to beat Centurion Lounges.
It’s hard to beat Centurion Lounges.

This card earns the top spot because it gives you access to Centurion Lounges, which are among the best you’ll find at any airport. Visit them at Dallas (DFW)LaGuardia (LGA), Las Vegas (LAS), Miami (MIA)Seattle (SEA) and San Francisco (SFO).

The Platinum Card also gets you Delta Sky Club access when you’re flying Delta, plus a Priority Pass Select membership for the cardholder (you can bring guests for $27 each). Make sure you read about all of the benefits of the card, which more than make up for the annual fee. I’ve used the Priority Pass membership more times than I can count, as there’s been a lounge at almost every airport I visited in the past three years. The Platinum Card from American Express gives you access to so many lounges — high-quality lounges — that it’s a no-brainer for this list.

Annual Fee: $450

2. Citi Prestige

Admirals Club access is an often overlooked perk of the Citi Prestige Card.
Admirals Club access is an often overlooked perk of the Citi Prestige Card.

This card gives you complimentary and unlimited access to American Airlines Admirals Clubs for the primary cardholder and immediate family or up to two traveling guests when traveling on American. You also get Priority Pass Select membership, giving you access to 600 lounges around the world for your immediate family or up to two guests.

Other benefits include 3 ThankYou Points per dollar spent on airlines and hotels, 2x on dining and select entertainment and 1x everywhere else. Plus, the $250 travel credit makes the annual fee easier to recoup. The 4th Night Free perk can be tremendously valuable as well.

Annual Fee: $450

3. Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card 

The Ritz-Carlton Visa gives your airport and hotel lounge access.
The Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card gives your airport and hotel lounge access.

With this card, you get complimentary membership in the Lounge Club program and access to its more than 350 airline lounges around the world. You can also enter any lounge you like and be reimbursed up to $300 per year for lounge passes you buy with the card.

The card also offers a 10% annual bonus on all points earned, three upgrades to Ritz-Carlton Club Level per year on paid stays of up to seven nights each, a $100 hotel credit on paid Ritz-Carlton stays of at least two nights and more. I’ve really enjoyed my Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card and the Club Level upgrades it’s provided. I’ve easily recouped the annual fee many times over with the $300 travel credit and value of the upgrades I received at Ritz-Carlton properties. I also received the card when it had a 140,000-point sign-up bonus, though currently the card offers two free nights at a Tier 1-4 Ritz-Carlton property after spending $4,000 in the first three months of account opening.

Annual Fee: $395

4. Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard 

The Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard offers cardholders and authorized users full Admirals Club membership.
The Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard offers cardholders and authorized users full Admirals Club membership.

The Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard comes with Admirals Club membership, along with access for immediate family members or up to two traveling guests. Even better, Citi just updated the card’s perks to include membership for authorized users of this card.

Other benefits include 10,000 elite-qualifying miles after making $40,000 in purchases each calendar year, and no foreign transaction fees on purchases. Earn 2 miles per dollar spent on eligible American Airlines purchases and enjoy priority boarding, 25% savings on eligible in-flight purchases and a free checked bag for you and up to eight companions.

Annual Fee: $450

5. Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express 

Enjoy Sky Club access with the Delta Reserve Card from American Express.
Enjoy Sky Club access with the Delta Reserve Card from American Express.

With this card, you get Sky Club access when flying Delta and the ability to earn 30,000 MQMs per calendar year (15,000 after you spend $30,000, and another 15,000 when you spend $60,000). While you no longer get complimentary guest access, these cards also come with a free checked bag, priority boarding and 20% in-flight savings.

The business version, the Delta Reserve for Business Credit Card, can save you 3%-10% automatically on business expenses from FedEx, Hertz, OfficeMax and more with OPEN Savings. Plus, you get an annual Reserve Companion Certificate for first/business (or economy) travel within the 48 contiguous United States.

Annual Fee: $450

6. United MileagePlus Club Card

Holders of the United MileagePlus Club Card can enjoy United Club access.
Holders of the United MileagePlus Club Card can enjoy United Club access.

The final card on this list offers access to United Clubs, Star Alliance-branded business lounges around the world and Amtrak Acela lounges. Just make sure you have your United Club membership card in hand, not the credit card. The other big draw is that these cards earn 1.5 United miles per dollar spent everywhere and 2x points on United purchases. You’ll receive two free checked bags each for two people, waived close-in ticketing fees and premier access travel services such as priority boarding. This card takes the No. 6 spot because, while the lounge access is nice, this card only offers a $100 statement credit after your first purchase as a sign-up bonus, though you may be able to sign up with the fee waived for the first year.

Annual Fee: $450

Find Your Own Oasis

You don’t have to be an elite flyer to relax in the lounge instead of at the gate — where the chairs and recharging outlets quickly fill up hours before departure time. The annual fees on these cards appear high at first glance, but they carry enough benefits and have the ability to earn you enough points to recoup the fee many times over.

Which card do you use to access airport lounges?

The Platinum Card® from American Express

While this premium card has one of the highest annual fees on the market, it has several valuable perks that could make it worthwhile, depending on your travel patterns. These include a $200 annual airline rebate, lounge access, free Hilton Gold status and free Starwood Preferred Guest Gold status.

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More Things to Know
  • Earn 40,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
  • 5X points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 a year for baggage fees and more at one airline. Terms Apply.
  • As a Platinum Card Member, you can enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations worldwide. Terms Apply.
  • Enroll to enjoy the benefits of complimentary Hilton HHonors™ Gold Status with your Platinum Card.®
  • No interest charges because you pay your balance in full each month.
  • Terms and Conditions apply.
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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are 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.

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