Everything you need to know about the Priority Pass program

Mar 4, 2020

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Lounge access: It’s not just for the rich and famous. It’s for anyone who wants to make their airport travel experience more luxurious and less stressful.

Many of the top rewards credit cards offer access to the Priority Pass, a network of airport lounges around the world. Although you may already have a Priority Pass card in your wallet, it’s sometimes unclear what that means and what’s included in your membership.

We’re taking a closer look at the different levels of Priority Pass membership, as well as which cards offer the benefit and how to get the most out of your access.

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In This Post

Priority Pass basics

Priority Pass is a network of airport lounges, mini-suites and even airport restaurants. As of this writing, it boasts 1,300 eligible locations in more than 600 airports in 148 countries.

Although those numbers are impressive, many of the lounges are outside of the U.S. So while the network is large, there’s no guarantee you’ll have a lounge that’s convenient for you on every trip you take.

Bar at The Club at MCO (Photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy)
Bar at The Club at Orlando Airport (MCO). (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

There’s a good chance Priority Pass can help you on many of your trips. Priority Pass is accepted at more than 40 U.S. airports, and some of them have multiple lounges. You can find Priority Pass lounges here:

Related: How to choose the best Priority Pass lounge in Miami

This domestic coverage is solid, but still leaves out some pretty large hub airports including LaGuardia (LGA), Denver (DEN) and Salt Lake City (SLC), not to mention busy secondary airports like Chicago Midway (MDW), Dallas Love Field (DAL) and Houston Hobby (HOU).

When you’re traveling internationally, you may find lounges in small to midsize airports such as Liberia, Costa Rica (LIR) or Entebbe, Uganda (EBB) — there’s even a lounge with a pool in Punta Cana (PUJ).

(Photo by Scott Mayerowitz / The Points Guy)
The lounge in Punta Cana even has a pool. (Photo by Scott Mayerowitz/The Points Guy)

The facilities in the Priority Pass network vary by owner and location. Some lounges, like The Club at ATL in Atlanta, are independent facilities while others are affiliated with airlines. Both the Air France lounge and KAL business-class lounge at New York-JFK are some examples of this.

Lounges can also vary in terms of quality, from more spartan facilities in Honolulu, to nicer ones, such as The Club at MCO in Orlando.

Related: Best Priority Pass lounges in the US

Guests and children are often allowed, but you’ll want to check the rules of your desired lounge location and your Priority Pass membership to be sure of your inclusions.

Restaurants and Mini-Suites

A few years ago, Priority Pass expanded its offerings by partnering with airport restaurants, mini-suites and more, giving Priority Pass members an opportunity to enjoy perks at locations that either don’t have a traditional lounge or the chance to eat at a restaurant rather than an airport lounge for a change.

As of mid-2019, American Express-issued Priority Pass memberships no longer include the restaurant benefit. However, Chase, Citi and U.S. Bank have confirmed with TPG that they have no plans to change any of the benefits on their cards that come with Priority Pass membership.

There are currently close to 30 Priority Pass participating airport restaurants within the U.S. and more available internationally. You can view the full restaurant list here, but some examples include:

Breakfast tacos from Landry’s Seafood at Houston’s IAH Priority Pass restaurant. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

The amount of the Priority Pass restaurant credit varies, but it’s often around $28 per person. Some restaurants also cap the number of guests. If you have one member and one included guest on your membership, then you may be able to enjoy $56 worth of food and drinks for your table by swiping your Priority Pass card from a credit card such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

At bars and restaurants, gratuity is not included, so be sure to tip on the amount of the bill before the credit is applied. Many locations do not allow you to take items to-go, so it might not be the best option if you are in a rush.

The Priority Pass restaurant perk works well for families and groups, such as when TPG’s Richard Kerr enjoyed $53 worth of food and booze at SYD thanks to Priority Pass.

Priority Pass also has some less-conventional airport options in some locations. For example, the PGA MSP Lounge at Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport (MSP) offers free access to a putting green, along with golf lessons and a golf simulator available for a fee. This lounge also offers a $15 credit that can be applied toward food or drink, or a golf experience (for non-Amex Priority Pass members).

Minute Suites at ATL.
Minute Suites at ATL. (Photo by The Points Guy)

Finally, Priority Pass comes with access to Minute Suites at locations including Atlanta, Dallas-Fort Worth, Philadelphia and Charlotte. The first hour is included with your Priority Pass and additional hours can be rented at a discounted rate of $28. You can also take a shower (30 minutes) for an extra $20.

On the other side of the world, sleep pods are available at Dubai International Airport (DXB) for two to three hours.

Photo of the Atlanta Concourse B Minute Suites location. (Photo by JT Genter / The Points Guy)
Photo of the Atlanta Concourse B Minute Suites location. (Photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy)

Related: Best Priority Pass lounges in the world

Priority Pass vs. Priority Pass Select membership levels

There’s a lot of confusion surrounding the terms “Priority Pass” and “Priority Pass Select,” so we want to clear the air.

Priority Pass is the name of the company that offers memberships to lounges in its network. You can purchase Priority Pass memberships directly from the site, with annual fees starting at $99. Here’s a breakdown of the membership options:

  • Standard membership: $99 per year; includes visits for $32 each
  • Standard Plus membership: $249 per year; includes 10 free visits, with subsequent visits for $32 each
  • Prestige membership: $429 per year; all free visits

Meanwhile, many U.S. credit cards offer club access benefits called Priority Pass Select. Some are for just one person, while others include guests. In either case, Priority Pass and Priority Pass Select members can pay for additional guests beyond what is included with their membership.

Credit cards that offer Priority Pass Select memberships

We rounded up our favorite cards that include Priority Pass Select membership.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers included Priority Pass Select membership with access for up to two free guests. Additional guests are $27 each. New applicants currently receive a 50,000-point bonus after spending $4,000 within three months of account opening. There’s a $550 annual fee for this card, and each additional authorized user costs $75 per year. Authorized users are eligible for a Priority Pass Select membership of their own.

Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders are eligible to enjoy the Priority Pass restaurant benefits.

(Photo by The Points Guy)
(Photo by Isabelle Raphael for The Points Guy)

The Platinum Card® from American Express and The Business Platinum Card® from American Express

Both The Platinum Card® from American Express and The Business Platinum Card® from American Express award Priority Pass Select memberships for the cardholder and two guests. Additional guests are $32 each. Amex memberships do not include the Priority Pass restaurant benefits but do include Minute Suites.

Platinum cardmembers can also access Delta Sky Club lounges when they’re traveling on a same-day Delta flight and can also enjoy the networks of American Express Centurion Lounge locations, with up to two guests. If you travel with kids, some Amex Centurion Lounges have family rooms.

Authorized users with Amex Platinum cards can also enjoy their own Priority Pass Select memberships. It costs $175 per year to add up to three authorized users (see rates and fees).

Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express

The Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express includes a Priority Pass Select membership for the cardholder and up to two guests. The card is currently offering new applicants 150,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on new purchases within three months of account opening. There’s a $450 annual fee (see rates and fees) for this card. If you like lounges, you’ll be happy to know that you’ll receive automatic Hilton Diamond status with this card — and you might be able to score lounge access at Hilton properties around the world.

The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card

The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card offers a Priority Pass Select membership for the cardholder and two guests. Additional guests are $32 each. The card has a $450 annual fee (see rates and fees), and you can currently earn 75,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.

Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card

The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card has a Priority Pass membership, but it works differently than the ones previously mentioned. This one only includes 10 free visits with no free guests. You can visit lounges by yourself 10 times, or visit once with nine guests. Your call.

After that, you’ll have to pay a $32 fee per person, per visit. There’s a $95 annual fee (see rates and fees) for this card, and you can currently earn 130,000 bonus points after you use your card to make $2,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership.

U.S. Bank Reserve Visa Infinite

The U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite Card comes with a limited Priority Pass Select membership for one cardmember per account, including authorized users. The member will receive complimentary access to participating lounges for the first four visits, as well as four individual guest visits. After the free visits are used, the $27 entry fee will apply to cardholders and guests. There’s a $400 annual fee for this card.

Citi Prestige® Card

If you have a larger family and want to bring everyone into the lounge, Citi Prestige® Card is a card to know about. This card allows the cardholder to bring two guests or their immediate family into the lounge at no extra fee. Have five kids? They can all come into the lounge with you without an added guest fee with this card. Immediate family is defined as spouse, domestic partner and/or children under 18. Otherwise, additional guests are $27 each. This card has a $495 annual fee.

The information for the U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite and the Citi Prestige card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

(Photo by Scott Mayerowitz / The Points Guy)
(Photo by Scott Mayerowitz/The Points Guy)

How to use Priority Pass benefits

Once you have a card that includes a Priority Pass Select membership, you’ve made great progress toward your next lounge visit, but there are some things to keep in mind.

You can’t just present your credit card at a participating lounge, restaurant or Minute Suite and receive complimentary access — though it would be nice. You first have to enroll in the program using a link with your credit card account. Find the link under “Benefits” when you log into your account.

Because it can take a week or two to receive your membership card in the mail, it’s best to enroll as soon as you receive your credit card. You can also download the Priority Pass app, which includes a digital membership card that you can use to access most, but not all, facilities.

Make sure to know if guests are permitted — and how many — ahead of your visit, because the representatives accepting your card won’t know. For example, if you have Priority Pass Select access through your Amex Platinum, you receive guest access for up two guests, so your card will be automatically charged $32 for each additional guest. Because you’re never asked to present your credit card at the lounge, you might not know that you were charged until you see your statement.

Priority Pass lounge in Punta Cana. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

The lounge might be full

Your best-laid lounge plans may not work out. These days, there are lots of travelers with lounge access and the lounges sometimes reach capacity; other lounges are sometimes only available to Priority Pass members during select hours. So, check the Priority Pass website before your next trip for not only available locations, but available hours, and don’t be shocked if some lounges are temporarily at capacity during peak times.

Bottom line

Several cards offer Priority Pass Select membership as a benefit, which can help improve your travel experience with goodies like free food and drinks, not to mention a comfortable place to relax or get some work done. Check specific details of your membership because the guest policies vary from card to card.

Related guides

Additional reporting by Jason Steele.

Featured photo by Scott Mayerowitz/The Points Guy.

For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Aspire, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Surpass, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant, please click here.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the 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.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.