Best credit cards for airport lounge access in 2019

Sep 23, 2019

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Even if I only grab a coffee or light snack, knowing I have complimentary lounge access before a flight or during a layover makes me happier and calmer. Luckily, many of the top premium credit cards offer lounge access — but the types of lounges you can access vary greatly from card to card.

So, let’s consider the best credit cards that offer complimentary airport lounge access as one of their benefits.

Best credit cards for airport lounge access in 2019

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

Comparing airport lounge credit card welcome bonuses

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 3 months. Terms Apply.
The Business Platinum Card from American Express $595
(see rates & fees)
Up to 100,000 points: 50,000 points $10,000 in purchases and an extra 50,000 points after an additional $15,000 in qualifying purchases, all within the first 3 months. Terms Apply.
Chase Sapphire Reserve $450 50,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in your first 3 months
Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard $450 50,000 miles after spending $5,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
United Club Card* $450 50,000 miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express $450 ($550 if application is received on or after 1/30/2020)
(see rates & fees)
40,000 miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases in your first 3 months of account opening.
Delta Reserve for Business Credit Card $450 ($550 if application is received on or after 1/30/2020)
(see rates & fees)
40,000 miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases in your first 3 months. Terms Apply.

*The information for the United Club has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Continue reading for a breakdown of why these are seven of the best cards for lounge access.

Best credit cards with airport 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 (PHL). (Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy)

The Amex Platinum has a $550 annual fee, 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 benefits and credits provided by it.

Lounge access

The Amex Platinum is one of the best overall cards for lounge access because it provides access 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 nine Centurion Lounges, and six new locations 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 and 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: A Guide to Lounge Access With the Amex Platinum Card

Other benefits on the Platinum Card

The personal Platinum Card earns 5x Membership Rewards points on airfare booked directly with the airline or through Amex Travel as well as 5x on prepaid hotels booked through Amex Travel. You’ll also get an up to $200 airline fee credit 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.

Further reading

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 in Miami. (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. It’s a card primarily designed for businesses with travel needs who can take advantage of the credits and perks it provides, especially airport lounge access.

Lounge access

Like the personal Amex Platinum, the Amex Business Platinum is also one of the best overall cards for lounge access. It offers the identical access to Amex’s Centurion Lounges and Delta Sky Clubs when you’re flying Delta as the personal version, 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. The same restrictions on Centurion lounge access — admittance only within three hours of departure, no access upon arrival and two free guests only — are true of the Business Platinum as well.

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 5x Membership Rewards points on airfare and prepaid hotels booked through Amex Travel as well as 1.5x on each eligible purchase of $5,000 or more (up to one million additional points per year).

You’ll also get an up to $200 airline fee credit 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 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 more benefits.

Further reading

Official application link: The Business Platinum Card from American Express

Chase Sapphire Reserve

(Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)
Get access to Priority Pass lounges, like the pictured SATS Premier Lounge in Singapore (SIN) T2, with the Sapphire Reserve. (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

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 $450 annual fee Chase Sapphire Reserve is easily the best general travel card for Priority Pass lounge access.

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 allowed a maximum of two accompanying guests each.

Other benefits on the Chase Sapphire Reserve

The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers 3 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on travel and dining worldwide, and 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases. The card also offers a $300 annual travel credit and excellent travel protections including trip delay protection and delayed baggage protection.

Further reading

Official application link: Chase Sapphire Reserve

Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard

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

The Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard has a $450 annual fee that includes up to ten authorized users. If you’re mainly interested in the card for Admirals Club access, you’ll notice that the card’s 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 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 may have reciprocal lounge or club access privileges. Authorized users, on the other hand, only have access privileges to American Airlines Admirals Club lounges. The primary cardholder and each authorized user are allowed access with immediate family members or up to two traveling guests.

However, effective November 1, 2019, the access policies will change. From November 1 onward, you’ll need 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 any Oneworld partner carrier, or marketed and operated by American Airlines or Alaska Airlines in any combination. So, you’ll still be able to 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 miles 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.

Further reading

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, but it 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. So, if 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 and a government-issued photo ID in order to gain access to 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.

However, effective November 1, 2019 you’ll need to show a same-day boarding pass for travel on United, Star Alliance or a contracted partner operated flight in order to access any United Club locations.

Other benefits on the United Club

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 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.

And, you’ll 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.

Further reading

Official application link: United Club Card

Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express

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 Reserve Credit Card from American Express has a $450 annual fee ($550 if application is received on or after 1/30/2020). But, 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 travelling 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 travelling on a Delta partner, but you’ll need to pay $29 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 $29 per guest per visit.

Other benefits Delta Reserve credit card

The Delta Reserve Card earns 2 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. Both delta cards also offer extended warranty protection, return protection and purchase protection for most items when you purchase them with your card.

Further reading

Official application link: Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express

Delta Reserve for Business Credit 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 Reserve for Business Credit Card is the business version of the personal Delta Reserve card and comes with an identical $450 annual fee ($550 if application is received on or after 1/30/2020). 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 credit card members have complimentary access to Delta Sky Clubs when travelling 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 $29 to visit, and that same fee applies to bringing in up to two guests at any of the Delta Sky Clubs.

Other benefits on the Delta Reserve for Business

When it comes to other benefits, the Delta Reserve for Business is identical to the personal Delta Reserve, earning 2 Delta miles per dollar spent directly with Delta and 1 mile per dollar spent on all other purchases. Just 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. The same round-trip companion certificate for bookings in domestic First Class, Delta Comfort+ or Domestic Main Cabin also come 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.

Further reading

Official application link: Delta Reserve for Business Credit 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 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 pre-paid hotels booked through Amex Travel

Up to $200 airline fee credit each year

Up to $200 in Uber credits each year

The Business Platinum Card from American Express $595 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 pre-paid 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 $450 Priority Pass lounges and restaurants when flying any airline 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

Effective November 1, 2019, access will be limited to when you’re flying American Airlines or select partner airlines

2x miles on 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

Effective November 1, 2019, access will be limited to 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 Reserve Credit Card from American Express $450 ($550 if application is received on or after 1/30/2020) Delta Sky Club access when travelling on a Delta-marketed and Delta-operated flight, or on a Delta-marketed flight that is operated by WestJet and booked through Delta 2x 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

Delta Reserve for Business Credit Card $450 ($550 if application is received on or after 1/30/2020) Delta Sky Club access when travelling on a Delta-marketed and Delta-operated flight, or on a Delta-marketed flight that is operated by WestJet and booked through Delta 2x 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 appear high at first glance, they carry enough benefits and have the ability to earn you enough points to recoup the fee many times over if you travel frequently and utilize the benefits. But, if you just can’t get past the annual fees on these cards, here are a few credit cards that have annual fees of less than $100 and offer a handful of complimentary lounge visits each year:

Frequently asked questions

If you’re looking for the best credit card for lounge access, you may have questions. Here are a few of the most commonly asked ones:

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 ten free lounge visits per year.

Related: 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 Amex Platinum and Centurion cardmembers. There are currently nine Centurion Lounges, as well as six more that will open by the end of 2020. Centurion Lounges are known for offering quality dining and drinks, and a few locations even offer complimentary spa services.

You’ll need to hold a Centurion card or a card like The Platinum Card from American Express or The Business Platinum Card from American Express to gain access to a Centurion Lounge. Platinum cardholders can bring up to two guests with them free of charge, while Centurion members can bring up to two guests or their immediate family.

Related: 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 Sky Club lounges while flying Delta and its partners, and United and American are adding similar policies as of Nov. 1, 2019, 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.

If you’re new to the points and miles game, check out our Beginner’s Guide to learn more.

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.

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

The Business Platinum® Card from American Express

Aside from the up to 100,000 points welcome bonus, Amex recently made huge improvements to the Business Platinum Card, including the fact that you will now earn 50% more points on purchases of $5,000 or more, earn 5x on flights and eligible hotels at Amextravel.com and cardholders will receive a $200 airline fee credit each year.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Welcome Offer: Earn up to 100,000 Membership Rewards® points.
  • Earn 50,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $10,000 and an extra 50,000 points after you spend an additional $15,000 all on qualifying purchases within your first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com.
  • Get 50% more Membership Rewards® points. That's 1.5 points per dollar, on each eligible purchase of $5,000 or more. You can get up to 1 million additional points per year.
  • 35% Airline Bonus: Use Membership Rewards® Pay with Points for all or part of a flight with your selected qualifying airline, and you can get 35% of the points back, up to 500,000 bonus points per calendar year.
  • Enroll to get up to $200 in statement credits annually by getting up to $100 semi-annually for U.S. purchases with Dell. Terms apply.
  • Terms Apply
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
N/A
Annual Fee
$595
Balance Transfer Fee
See Terms
Recommended Credit
Excellent Credit
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

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.