Everything You Need to Know About the Priority Pass Program
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There are many top rewards credit cards that offer some form of access to the Priority Pass network of airport lounges, but it’s sometimes unclear what that means and what’s included in your membership. Let’s take a closer look at the levels of Priority Pass membership, which credit cards offer this benefit and how to use it.
Priority Pass Basics
Priority Pass is a rapidly expanding network of airport lounges, mini-suites and restaurants. As of this writing, it boasts 1,220 eligible locations in 629 airports in more than 140 countries. The company was created in 1992 and it claims to be the largest airport lounge network in the world. Although these numbers sound impressive, the vast majority of lounges are outside of the US, and many are in small airports.
As of publish time, your Priority Pass will be accepted at facilities at 40 US airports, and some have multiple lounges:
- Anchorage (ANC)
- Atlanta (ATL)
- Baltimore Washington International (BWI)
- Boston (BOS)
- Chicago-O’Hare (ORD)
- Charlotte (CLT)
- Cincinnati (CVG)
- Cleveland (CLE)
- Colorado Springs (COS)
- Dallas-Ft. Worth (DFW)
- Denver (DEN)
- Detroit (DET)
- Fort Lauderdale (FLL)
- Greenville-Spartanburg (GSP)
- Honolulu (HNL)
- Houston Intercontinental (IAH)
- Indianapolis (IND)
- Jacksonville (JAX)
- Las Vegas (LAS)
- Lexington (LEX)
- Los Angeles (LAX)
- Miami (MIA)
- Minneapolis (MSP)
- New York-JFK (JFK)
- Newark (EWR)
- Orlando International (MCO)
- Orlando-Sanford (SFB)
- Philadelphia (PHL)
- Pittsburgh (PIT)
- Portland (PDX)
- San Francisco (SFO)
- San Jose (SJC)
- San Juan (SJU)
- Seattle (SEA)
- St. Louis (STL)
- Syracuse (SYR)
- Tampa (TPA)
- Tucson (TUS)
- Washington-Dulles (IAD)
- Washington National (DCA)
This leaves out some pretty large hub airports like Fort Lauderdale, Detroit and Salt Lake City, not to mention busy secondary airports like Chicago Midway, Dallas Love and Houston Hobby. The upside is that many smaller airports in foreign countries have a lounge in the Priority Pass network, so membership can come in handy around the globe. For example, I’ve visited lounges in small airports like Liberia, Costa Rica and Entebbe, Uganda.
The facilities in the Priority Pass network also vary by owner. Some lounges are independent facilities like The Club at ATL in Atlanta, while others are affiliated with airlines, such as the Air France Lounge and Korean Airlines-run KAL Business Lounge at New York-JFK, or the British Airways Galleries Lounge at Washington-Dulles. Lounges can also vary quite a bit in terms of quality, with some very spartan facilities like the one in Honolulu, to some pretty nice ones like The Club at MCO in Orlando.
Restaurants and Mini-Suites
American Express announced May 29 that it was cutting complimentary restaurant access for its credit and charge cards that include a Priority Pass membership, starting on August 1, 2019. The move covers 44 restaurants around the world that are part of the program.
“The Priority Pass Membership benefit offered on American Express Platinum and Centurion Cards and Hilton Ascend (now Hilton Surpass), Hilton Aspire, and Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ Cards will no longer include complimentary access to non-lounge airport experiences,” an Amex spokesperson told TPG. “Non-lounge airport experiences and outlets include but are not limited to restaurants, cafés and bars where a food and beverage credit is offered as an alternative to entrance into a traditional airport lounge.”
However, Chase, Citi and US Bank confirmed with TPG that they currently have no plans to change any of the benefits on their cards that come with Priority Pass membership. These include the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Citi Prestige Card and the U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite Card.
There are 28 Priority Pass restaurant lounges in 20 US airports. They include the Corona Beach House at Miami Airport (MIA), offering members $30 worth of food and drink. Five restaurants at the Sydney Airport (SYD) are part of the program as well — read Richard Kerr’s post on getting $53 worth of food and booze at SYD through Priority Pass.
Beyond adding restaurants where members can get free food and drink, Priority Pass has expanded its network of lounges to include some less-conventional options. 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 toward a golf experience. We’ll likely see more restaurant and experiential options added to the Priority Pass network in the future.
Finally, Priority Pass comes with access to Minute Suites at locations including Atlanta, Dallas-Fort Worth Philadelphia airports, Additional hours can be rented at a discounted rate of $28, and a shower can be had for an extra $20 for 30 minutes. There’s also access to sleep pods at Dubai International Airport and pre-flight spa treatments at Aspire, the Lounge and Spa at LHR T5 in Heathrow.
Priority Pass vs. Priority Pass Select
The terms Priority Pass and Priority Pass Select are used in such a way that it can create some confusion. 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
Meanwhile, many US credit cards offer club access benefits called Priority Pass Select. It used to be that Priority Pass memberships included United Club lounges and the Priority Pass Select membership didn’t. But now that the United Clubs aren’t part of either program, there’s little distinction between the benefits of a Priority Pass membership purchased directly and the Priority Pass Select benefit offered by credit cards.
However, some credit cards offer Priority Pass Select benefits for just one person, while others include guests. In either case, Priority Pass and Priority Pass Select members can pay for additional guests beyond their benefit’s allowance at a rate of $32 per person.
Credit Cards That Offer Priority Pass Select Memberships
Here are the cards that you can currently apply for and get Priority Pass Select membership. Note that this list doesn’t include cards that are no longer available to new applicants, or are invitation-only.
Chase Sapphire Reserve — This wildly popular card travel offers a Priority Pass Select membership — but it only comes with free access for up to two guests. New applicants can currently receive a 50,000-point bonus after spending $4,000 within three months of account opening. There’s a $450 annual fee for this card, and each additional authorized user costs $75 per year (authorized users receive a Priority Pass Select membership of their own).
The Platinum Card® from American Express and The Business Platinum® Card from American Express — The primary cardholder and authorized users receive a Priority Pass Select membership good for themselves and two guests. Platinum cardmembers can also access Delta Sky Club lounges when they’re traveling on a Delta flight the same day, with guest access at a reduced fee ($29 per person for up to two guests). Both cards also offer free access to Airspace lounges (with two guests) such as the ones at Cleveland (CLE), New York-JFK (T5) and San Diego (SAN). Finally, personal and business Platinum cardmembers can access American Express Centurion Lounge locations, with up to two guests.
Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express — This card includes a Priority Pass Select membership that includes yourself and up to two guests. It currently offers 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 & fees) for this card.
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card — This card offers a Priority Pass Select membership with unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests. The card has a $450 annual fee (see rates & fees), and you can currently earn a 75,000-point welcome bonus after you use your new card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card (formerly the Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card) — This card includes a Priority Pass membership, however it offers just 10 free visits with no free guests. You can visit by yourself ten times, or visit once with nine guests. After that, you’ll have to pay a $32 fee per person, per visit. There’s a $95 annual fee (see rates & fees) for this card, and you can currently earn 125,000 Honors points when you spend $2,000 on the card in the first three months.
U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite Card — This 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 discounted $32 entry fee will apply to cardholders and guests. There’s a $400 annual fee for this card.
Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card — This card offers Priority Pass Select membership as a benefit, and there’s currently no official limit to the number of free guests, although individual lounges can impose limits. Authorized users will also receive their own Priority Pass Select card, and there’s no fee to add these cards to your account. Just note that this card is no longer open to new applicants.
How to Utilize Your Priority Pass Select Benefits
Once you have a card that includes a Priority Pass Select membership, you can’t simply present your credit card at a participating lounge, restaurant or Minute Suite to receive complimentary access. First, you must enroll in the program through a link that you receive with your card in order to receive a Priority Pass Select membership card.
Since 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. Alternatively, you can 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 will not 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. Since 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.
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. Just make sure you know the specific details of your membership, since the guest policies vary quite a bit from card to card.
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