Best credit cards for airport lounge access in 2020

Feb 1, 2020

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Even if I only grab coffee or a light snack, complimentary lounge access before a flight or during a layover makes me happy. Many of the top premium credit cards offer lounge access — but the types of lounges you can use vary greatly from card to card.

The Escape Lounge at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Let’s consider the best credit cards that offer complimentary airport lounge access.

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In This Post

Best credit cards for airport lounge access in 2020

Before diving into the lounge access and benefits provided by each card, let’s look at how many points or miles you can earn from the welcome bonus on each of these credit cards.

Comparing welcome bonuses of best credit cards for airport lounge access

Credit Card Annual fee Welcome bonus
The Platinum Card from American Express $550 (see rates & fees) 60,000 points after $5,000 in purchases in the first three months. Terms apply.
The Business Platinum Card from American Express $595 (see rates & fees) Up to 75,000 bonus points: 50,000 bonus points after you spend $10,000 and an extra 25,000 bonus points after you spend an additional $10,000 all on qualifying purchases within your first three months of cardmembership.  Terms apply.
Chase Sapphire Reserve $550 50,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in your first three months
Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard $450 50,000 miles after spending $5,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening
United Club Card* $450 75,000 miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. Offer ends March 12, 2020.
Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card $550 (see rates & fees) 80,000 miles and 20,000 MQMs after you spend $5,000 in purchases in your first three months. Plus, an additional 20,000 miles after your first anniversary of cardmembership. Terms apply. Offer expires April 1, 2020.
Delta SkyMiles Reserve Business American Express Card $550 (see rates & fees) 80,000 miles and 20,000 MQMs after you spend $5,000 in purchases in your first three months. Plus, an additional 20,000 miles after your first anniversary of cardmembership. Terms apply. Offer expires April 1, 2020.

*The information for the United Club 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.

Here’s a breakdown of why these are seven of the best cards for lounge access.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

The Amex Centurion Lounge in Philadelphia (PHL). (Photo by Zach Honig / The Points Guy)
The Platinum Card will get you into the Amex Centurion Lounge in Philadelphia. (Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy)

The Amex Platinum has a $550 annual fee (see rates and fees), but if you travel frequently and value the membership benefits of this card, you’ll likely get more than the annual fee in value from the card.

Lounge access

The Amex Platinum is the best overall card for lounge access because it provides entry to the largest number and variety of high-quality lounges. First and foremost, you’ll be able to access Amex’s Centurion Lounges which boast free drinks, a great selection of hot and cold food, amenities and more. There are currently ten Centurion Lounges and five more are scheduled to open by the end of 2020.

Unfortunately, unless you can show that you’re in transit from another flight, you’ll only be able to access Centurion Lounges within three hours of scheduled departure with a same-day, confirmed boarding pass. And access upon arrival is no longer allowed. You can bring up to two guests at no additional charge, as well as any children under two.

You’ll also be able to access Delta Sky Clubs when you’re flying Delta. You’ll also get a Priority Pass Select membership with two guests included. However, this Priority Pass Select membership won’t provide access to restaurants in the Priority Pass network. You can also access various other lounges in the American Express Global Lounge Collection including Escape Lounges, Airspace Lounges, Plaza Premium Lounges and international American Express lounges.

Related reading: A guide to lounge access with the Amex Platinum Card

Other benefits on the Platinum Card

The Amex Platinum Card earns 5 Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on airfare booked directly with the airline or through Amex Travel, as well as 5 points per dollar spent on prepaid hotels booked through Amex Travel. You’ll also get a credit of up to $200 to use toward fees on one airline of your choice each calendar year. And you’ll get up to $200 in annual Uber credits, up to $100 in annual Saks Fifth Ave credits, Gold Elite status with Marriott, Gold status with Hilton and many more benefits.

Related reading: The king of luxury benefits: The Platinum Card from American Express review

Official application link: The Platinum Card from American Express

The Business Platinum® Card from American Express

(Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy)
The Amex Centurion Lounge at Miami International Airport. (Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy)

The Business Platinum card has slightly different benefits than its personal Platinum counterpart, along with a slightly higher $595 annual fee (see rates and fees). It’s a card primarily designed for businesses with travel needs that can take advantage of the credits and perks it provides, especially airport lounge access.

Lounge access

The Amex Business Platinum is the best overall business card for lounge access. Like the personal Amex Platinum, the Business Platinum offers access to Amex’s Centurion Lounges and to Delta Sky Clubs when you’re flying Delta, along with a Priority Pass Select membership with two guests included (but no restaurant access). The entire American Express Global Lounge Collection is also available to Business Platinum cardmembers. However, the same restrictions on Centurion lounge access — admittance only within three hours of departure, no access upon arrival and two free guests only — also apply to the Business Platinum.

Other benefits on the Business Platinum Card

The Business Platinum Card has many of the same perks as the personal Platinum Card, but there are some differences. The Business Platinum earns 5 Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on airfare and prepaid hotels booked through Amex Travel, as well as 1.5 points per dollar spent on each eligible purchase of $5,000 or more (up to one million additional points per year).

You’ll get an airline-fee credit of up to $200 on one airline of your choice each calendar year, Gold Elite status with Marriott, Gold status with Hilton and up to $200 in annual Dell credits. Plus, you’ll get a 35% rebate when you book a first- or business-class flight, or any class of flight with the airline you selected for your airline-fee credit, with Amex Travel using Pay with Points (up to 500,000 points back per calendar year) and more benefits.

Related reading: Big price, big perks: A review of the Business Platinum Card from American Express

Official application link: The Business Platinum Card from American Express

Chase Sapphire Reserve

(Photo courtesy of Priority Pass)
Use your Chase Sapphire Reserve Priority Pass benefit to get into the lounge at Miami International Airport. (Photo courtesy of Priority Pass)

With the recent changes and benefit reductions on the Citi Prestige® Card and the loss of Priority Pass restaurant access on American Express cards, the Chase Sapphire Reserve is now the best general travel card for Priority Pass lounge access.

However, note that the Sapphire Reserve’s annual fee increased from $450 to $550 for new applicants as of Jan. 12, 2020, and will increase for current cardholders when they renew on or after April 1, 2020.

Lounge access

Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders get a Priority Pass Select membership that includes access to airport lounges, restaurants, cafes and markets participating in the Priority Pass Select network. Primary cardmembers and authorized users are granted access to Priority Pass lounges and are each allowed a maximum of two included guests who accompany them.

Other benefits of the Chase Sapphire Reserve

The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers 10 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on Lyft (a new benefit that began on Jan. 12, 2020 and will be available through March 2022), 3 points per dollar spent on other travel and dining worldwide and 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases. The card also offers a $300 annual travel credit and travel protections that include trip delay protection and delayed baggage protection.

Related reading: Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card review

Official application link: Chase Sapphire Reserve

Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®

Get Admirals Club access with the Executive Card, including use of this Admirals Club in Tampa. (Photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy)

The Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard has a $450 annual fee that includes up to 10 authorized users. If you’re mainly interested in the card for Admirals Club access, you’ll notice that the annual fee is lower than the lowest cost to purchase or renew an individual Admirals Club membership.

Lounge access

The AAdvantage Executive Card comes with an Admirals Club membership for the primary cardholder. Admirals Club membership includes access to American Airlines Admirals Club lounges as well as other airline lounges and clubs with which American Airlines has reciprocal lounge or club access privileges. Authorized users, on the other hand, only have access to American’s Admirals Club lounges. The primary cardholder and each authorized user can bring with them immediate family members or up to two traveling guests.

However, you must show a boarding pass for same-day travel on any departing or arriving flight that is marketed or operated by American Airlines, marketed and operated by a Oneworld partner carrier, or marketed and operated by American Airlines or Alaska Airlines in any combination. You can visit the Admirals Club on departure or arrival, but only when you’re flying with American Airlines or partner airlines.

Other benefits on the AAdvantage Executive Card

With the AAdvantage Executive Card, you’ll earn 2 miles per dollar spent on eligible American Airlines purchases and 1 mile per dollar spent on all other purchases. Plus, you’ll get Group 4 priority boarding and your first checked bag free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to eight companions traveling with you on the same reservation. You can also earn 10,000 elite-qualifying miles after making $40,000 in purchases each calendar year.

Related reading: Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard review

Official application link: Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard

United Club Card

(Photo by Zach Griff / The Points Guy)
Get access to United Clubs as a United Club Card primary cardholder. (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

The United Club Card has a $450 annual fee and provides a United Club membership to the primary cardholder. To put the annual fee in context, a United Club membership can normally be purchased for $550 or $650 per year, depending on your status with United. If you want a United Club membership, you may come out ahead by signing up for the United Club Card.

Lounge access

The United Club Card provides a United Club membership to the primary cardholder, who must show a valid United Club membership card, a same-day boarding pass for travel on a United, Star Alliance or a partner-operated flight and government-issued photo identification in order to use United Club locations. The primary cardholder can bring one adult and dependent children under 21, or up to two guests, into the lounge with them.

Other benefits on the United Club Card

With the United Club Card you’ll earn 2 United miles per dollar spent with United, and 1.5 United miles per dollar spent on all other purchases. Plus, you and one companion traveling on the same reservation can get your first and second standard checked bags free on United-operated flights when you purchase the tickets with your United Club Card. You’ll have access to priority check-in and Group 2 boarding, and you can enroll in Hertz Gold Plus Rewards program’s President’s Circle tier.

You’ll also be covered by travel protections, including trip delay protection, baggage delay protection, lost luggage reimbursement, trip cancellation and interruption insurance and more when you purchase flights and other common carrier travel using your card. Finally, the United Club Card offers extended warranty protection, return protection, purchase protection and price protection for most items you purchase with your card.

Related reading: Credit card review: United Club Card

Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card

Los Angeles Delta Sky Club (Photo by Darren Murph / The Points Guy)
Grab some snacks at the Delta Sky Club before eligible flights. (Photo by Darren Murph/The Points Guy)

The Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card has a $550 annual fee (see rates and fees). The card offers Delta Sky Club access as one of its benefits — which may justify the annual fee if you travel with Delta frequently.

Lounge access

Delta Reserve credit card members have complimentary access to Delta Sky Clubs when traveling on a Delta-marketed and Delta-operated flight or on a Delta-marketed flight that is operated by WestJet and booked through Delta.

You can also access Delta Sky Clubs when traveling on a Delta partner, but you’ll need to pay $39 per visit. You can bring up to two guests, or a spouse or domestic partner and children under 21, but you’ll need to pay $39 per guest per visit. Reserve cardholders get two one-time guest passes for the Delta Sky Club each account year.

Delta Reserve cardholders also get access on departure to American Express Centurion Lounges when traveling on a Delta-marketed or Delta-operated flight that was paid for with a U.S.-issued American Express card. You’ll only be able to access the lounge up to three hours before your flight or during connections, though. And although you can bring up to two guests, you’ll need to pay $50 per guest per location.

Other benefits on the Delta Reserve credit card

The Delta Reserve Card earns 3 Delta miles per dollar spent directly with Delta and 1 mile per dollar spent on all other purchases.

You and up to eight companions on the same reservation will get your first checked bag free and Main Cabin 1 Priority Boarding when flying with Delta. You’ll also receive a domestic first-class, Delta Comfort+ or Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your card.

You can also get a Medallion Qualification Dollar waiver when you spend $25,000 on your card within a calendar year for Platinum, Gold and Silver Medallion Status or $250,000 for Diamond Medallion Status. You’ll also get extended warranty protection, return protection and purchase protection for most items when you purchase them with your card. And you’ll get trip delay protection and trip cancellation and interruption protection when you purchase round-trip common carrier tickets with your card.

Related readingLoaded with perks for Delta loyalists: Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card review

Official application link: Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card

Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card

(Photo by Nicholas Ellis / The Points Guy)
Enjoy the newly renovated Sky Club at JFK Terminal 4 before eligible flights. (Photo by Nicholas Ellis/The Points Guy)

The Delta SkyMiles Reserve Business American Express Card is the business version of the personal Delta Reserve card and comes with an identical $550 annual fee (see rates and fees). It offers Delta Sky Club access as one of its benefits, which can be useful for business travelers who frequently fly on Delta.

Lounge access

Like the personal Delta Reserve credit card, Delta Reserve for Business cardholders have complimentary access to Delta Sky Clubs when traveling on a Delta-marketed and Delta-operated flight, or on a Delta-marketed flight that is operated by WestJet and booked through Delta. When flying on a Delta partner, you’ll have to pay $39 to visit, and that same per-person fee applies to bring up to two guests, but you do get two one-time complimentary guest passes each account year.

Cardholders also get access on departure to Centurion Lounges when traveling on a Delta-marketed or Delta-operated flight for which the fare was paid with a U.S.-issued American Express card. You’ll be able to access the lounge up to three hours before your flight or during connections and can bring up to two guests by paying $50 per person per location.

Other benefits on the Delta Reserve for Business

The Delta Reserve for Business earns 3 Delta miles per dollar spent directly with Delta and 1 mile per dollar spent on all other purchases. However, you’ll earn 1.5 miles per dollar spent on all purchases after $150,000 in spending each calendar year.

Like the personal Delta Reserve, you’ll get a first free checked bag for you and up to eight companions on the same reservation, along with Main Cabin 1 Priority Boarding when flying with Delta. A round-trip companion certificate for bookings in domestic first class, Delta Comfort+ or Domestic Main Cabin also comes with the card each year upon renewal.

You’ll also find the identical Medallion Qualification Dollar waiver, return protection, extended warranty protection and purchase protection for most items when you purchase them for your business with the Delta Reserve Business card. And, you’ll be covered by trip delay protection and trip cancellation and interruption protection when you purchase round-trip common carrier travel with your card.

Further reading: Credit card review: Delta SkyMiles Reserve Business American Express Card

Official application link: Delta SkyMiles Reserve Business American Express Card

Comparing benefits of the best credit cards with airport lounge access

Credit Card Annual fee Lounge access Primary benefits
The Platinum Card from American Express $550 (see rates & fees) Centurion Lounges, Priority Pass lounges and other lounges in the American Express Global Lounge Collection when flying any airline

Delta Sky Club when flying Delta or select partner airlines

5x points on flights booked directly with airlines or Amex Travel and prepaid hotels booked through Amex Travel

Airline fee credit up to $200 each year

Uber credits up to $200 each year

The Business Platinum Card from American Express $595 (see rates & fees) Centurion Lounges, Priority Pass lounges and other lounges in the American Express Global Lounge Collection when flying any airline

Delta Sky Club when flying Delta or select partner airlines

5x points on flights and prepaid hotels booked through Amex Travel

1.5x points on each eligible purchase of $5,000 or more

35% rebate when booking eligible flights through Pay with Points

Chase Sapphire Reserve $550 Priority Pass lounges and restaurants when flying any airline 10x points on Lyft (through March 2022)

3x points on travel and dining

$300 annual travel credit

Travel and shopping protections

Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard $450 Admirals Club membership for primary cardholder and access for authorized users (limited to when you’re flying American Airlines or select partner airlines) 2x miles on eligible American Airlines purchases

Group 4 priority boarding

First checked bag free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to eight companions

United Club Card $450 United Club membership for primary cardholder (when you’re flying United, Star Alliance or a contracted partner) 2x miles on United purchases, 1.5x miles on everything else

Group 2 boarding

First and second checked bag free on United-operated flights for you and one companion

Travel and shopping protections

Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card $550 (see rates & fees) Delta Sky Club access when traveling on a Delta-marketed and Delta-operated flight, or on a Delta-marketed flight that is operated by WestJet and booked through Delta

Centurion Lounge access when traveling on a Delta-marketed or Delta-operated flight for which you paid with a U.S.-issued Amex card

3x miles on eligible Delta purchases

First checked bag free and Main Cabin 1 Priority Boarding for you and up to eight companions

Round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your card

Delta SkyMiles Reserve Business American Express Card $550 (see rates & fees) Delta Sky Club access when traveling on a Delta-marketed and Delta-operated flight, or on a Delta-marketed flight that is operated by WestJet and booked through Delta

Centurion Lounge access when traveling on a Delta-marketed or Delta-operated flight for which you paid with a U.S.-issued Amex card

3x miles with Delta

First checked bag free and Main Cabin 1 Priority Boarding for you and up to eight companions

Round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your card

Low annual fee options

Although the annual fees on the cards discussed so far in this guide are high, they carry enough benefits and have the ability to earn you enough points to recoup the fees many times over if you travel frequently and use the benefits. But if you just can’t justify the annual fees on these cards or don’t travel frequently, here are a few credit cards that have lower annual fees and offer a handful of complimentary lounge visits each year:

Frequently asked questions

Here are a few of the most commonly asked questions about the use of credit cards for lounge access:

What is Priority Pass and how does it work?

Priority Pass is an airport lounge membership program that provides members with access to more than 1,300 airport lounges — and sometimes non-lounge experiences such as restaurants — around the world. With a Priority Pass membership, you can visit these lounges regardless of the airline you’re flying or your ticket class. This means you can even access Priority Pass lounges when you’re flying in economy on a low-cost airline.

If you have Priority Pass access benefits through a credit card, you’ll usually need to actively enroll in Priority Pass Select. Different credit cards offer different access policies, though, so be sure to determine exactly what benefits your card offers. For example, Priority Pass Select memberships for American Express cards don’t cover visits to restaurant lounges, and cards with lower annual fees such as the Hilton Surpass and Hilton Business cards only offer 10 free lounge visits per year.

Related reading: The best credit cards for Priority Pass lounge access

What are Centurion Lounges and how do they work?

Centurion Lounges are high-end lounges exclusively for select American Express cardmembers. There are currently 10 Centurion Lounges. Five more will open by the end of 2020. Centurion Lounges are known for offering quality dining and drinks; a few locations even offer complimentary spa services.

The easiest way to get access is by holding a Centurion card or a card like The Platinum Card from American Express or The Business Platinum Card from American Express. But Delta Reserve and Delta Reserve for Business cardholders are also able to access Centurion Lounges when flying Delta on a ticket paid for with a U.S.-issued Amex card. Delta Reserve cardholders don’t get any complimentary guests, but Amex Platinum cardholders can bring up to two guests with them free of charge and Centurion members can bring up to two guests or their immediate family free of charge.

Related reading: The ultimate guide to Amex Centurion Lounges

Should I have multiple cards with lounge access?

Depending on how frequently you travel, the airports you visit and the airlines you fly, it may make sense to have multiple cards that offer access to different lounge networks. Since you can only access Delta, United and American lounges when flying each airline, it’s important to have the correct credit card for lounge access based on the airports you’re visiting and the airline you’re flying.

Related reading: AA, Delta and United lounges have limited access to customers flying with them: Here’s what to do

Related guides

For rates and fees of the Platinum Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Business Platinum Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta Reserve, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta Reserve Business, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Surpass, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Business Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Green Card, please click here.

Featured photo of the Escape Lounge at Minneapolis Saint Paul (MSP) by Katie Genter/The Points Guy.

2019 TPG Award Winner: Premium Card of the Year
Chase Sapphire Reserve®

SIGN-UP BONUS: 50,000 Points

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,000

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 3X points on all travel and dining, $300 annual travel credit, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

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More Things to Know
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. $0 foreign transaction fees.
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,000+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select
  • Up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
  • One Year Complimentary Lyft Pink ($199 minimum value). Complimentary DashPass subscription from DoorDash after activating by 12/31/21.
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
18.49% - 25.49% Variable
Annual Fee
$550
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each balance transfer, whichever is greater
Recommended Credit
Excellent Credit

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.