Skip to content

Everything you need to know about the Priority Pass program

Jan. 26, 2023
11 min read
20190429_Punta Cana_SMayerowitz-5
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information.

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. It's also worth noting that Priority Pass membership isn't automatic; if you have a credit card that offers membership, you still need to enroll to activate your membership benefits.

Let's take 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.

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 over 150 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 an access lounge on every single trip you take. However, there's a good chance Priority Pass can help you on many of your trips.

The bar at The Club at MCO in Orlando. SUMMER HULL/THE POINTS GUY

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: Best Priority Pass lounges in the US

This domestic coverage is solid. However, it 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).

Sign up for our daily newsletter

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).

The lounge in Punta Cana even has a pool. 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 Lufthansa Business Lounge at DTW and the Air France Lounge at BOS are some examples of this.

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

Guests and children often are 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

Priority Pass also has a partnership 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.

American Express-issued Priority Pass memberships no longer include the restaurant benefit as of 2019, and Capital One removed this benefit at the start of 2023. However, Priority Pass membership affiliated with Chase and U.S. Bank credit cards remain unaffected.

There currently are more than 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. SUMMER HULL/THE POINTS GUY

The amount of the Priority Pass restaurant credit varies, but it averages $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 bill amount 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.

Related: Savvy Saturday: The $112 secret Priority Pass restaurants don't want you to know

The Priority Pass restaurant perk works well for families and groups, such as when a former TPG employee enjoyed $53 worth of food and booze in Sydney thanks to Priority Pass.

Priority Pass also has some less-conventional airport 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 and drinks or to a golf experience. Remember that this location has the same limitations applied to other non-lounge visits mentioned above.

Minute Suites at ATL. THE POINTS GUY

Finally, Priority Pass provides access to Minute Suites at locations including Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas-Fort Worth and Philadelphia. The first hour is included with your Priority Pass membership, and additional hours can be rented at a discounted rate of $34.

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

Related: The best Priority Pass lounges around 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 $35 each for the member and any guests.
  • Standard Plus membership: $329 per year; includes 10 free visits, with subsequent visits for $35 each (the same price as all guest visits).
  • Prestige membership: $469 per year; all visits are included for the member, though guests are charged at $35 per visit.

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.

Related: Best credit cards for airport lounge access

Credit cards that offer Priority Pass Select memberships

These are multiple credit cards through which you can get a Priority Pass Select membership.

These include not only premium travel cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve and The Platinum Card® from American Express but also hotel credit cards like Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card and the relative newcomer Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card that even offers unlimited guests.

Related: 10 credit cards that offer Priority Pass airport lounge access

VIP Lounge at Punta Cana's terminal B. 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. You first need to enroll in the program using a link with your credit card account. Find the link under “Benefits” when you log into your account.

Related: How to enroll in Priority Pass with eligible credit cards

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. In the meantime, 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 reception team at the lounge won’t know your specific guest privileges. For example, if you have Priority Pass Select access through your Amex Platinum, you receive guest access for up to 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're charged until you see your statement.

The Turkish Airlines lounge in Miami. ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

The lounge might be full

Your best-laid lounge plans may not work out. Nowadays, many travelers have lounge access and the lounges sometimes reach capacity. Some lounges are available to Priority Pass members during select hours only. Be sure to check the Priority Pass website before your next trip for available locations and their hours — and don’t be shocked if some lounges are temporarily at capacity during peak times.

Related: Overcrowding at lounges is not a new problem — but what can be done about it?

Bottom line

Several cards offer Priority Pass Select membership as a benefit, which can improve your travel experience with goodies like free food and drinks, as well as 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.

Additional reporting by Ryan Smith.

Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.