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Traveling today is stressful. Load factors are at an all-time high in the US, and airports always seem to be crowded. It’s important to keep your blood pressure down by taking advantage of every option available to make the preflight experience more enjoyable. For me at least, knowing that I have complimentary airport lounge access goes a long way in keeping me calm. Today, I’ll cover four top cards that offer complimentary airport lounge access among their benefits.

Here are the best credit cards for airport lounge access:

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

1. The Platinum Card from American Express

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The first international Centurion Lounge, in Hong Kong, is now open. Image by TPG reader Peter Madden.

Lounge access: This card earns the top spot because it gives you access to Centurion Lounges, which are among the best you’ll find at any airport. Visit them at Dallas (DFW), Houston (IAH)LaGuardia (LGA), Las Vegas (LAS), Miami (MIA), Philadelphia (PHL)Seattle (SEA) and San Francisco (SFO). The first international location in Hong Kong (HKG) is now open as well. Centurion Lounges boast free drinks, a great selection of hot and cold food, amenities and more. Unfortunately, due to the popularity of this lounge network, Amex will no longer let you purchase day passes for $50 unless you have an Amex Platinum, a Business Platinum Card from American Express or a Centurion Card.

The Platinum Card also gets you Delta Sky Club access when you’re flying Delta, plus a Priority Pass Select membership (with two guests included). Make sure you read about all of the benefits of the card, which can more than make up for the annual fee. I’ve used the Priority Pass membership more times than I can count, as there’s been a lounge at almost every airport I visited in the past three years. The Amex Platinum gives you access to so many lounges — high-quality lounges — that it’s a no-brainer for this list.

Other benefits: The American Express Platinum Card also earns 5x Membership Rewards points on airfare booked directly with the airline or through Amex Travel (along with 5x on prepaid hotels booked through Amex Travel), making it one of your best options when you need to buy a flight. You also get a $200 airline fee credit to use toward fees like checked baggage and in-flight meals on one airline of your choice each calendar year, and $200 in annual Uber credits.

Annual fee: $550

2. Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard

Lounge access: The Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard comes with Admirals Club membership, along with access for immediate family members or up to two traveling guests. Even better, Citi updated the card’s perks to include membership for authorized users of this card and it currently has a 50,000-mile sign-up offer after $5,000 spent within the first 3 months.

Other benefits: You’ll earn 10,000 elite-qualifying miles after making $40,000 in purchases each calendar year, and no foreign transaction fees on purchases. Earn 2 miles per dollar spent on eligible American Airlines purchases. Plus, enjoy priority boarding and the first checked bag free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to 8 companions traveling with you on the same reservation.

Annual fee: $450

3. Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express

Enjoy Sky Club access with the Delta Reserve Card from American Express.
Enjoy Sky Club access with the Delta Reserve Card from American Express.

Lounge access: With this card, you get Sky Club access when flying Delta. Unfortunately, you no longer get complimentary guest access, though you can bring in up to two guests (and children under the age of 21) at the discounted rate of $29 each.

Other benefits: This card offers the ability to earn 30,000 MQMs per calendar year (15,000 after you spend $30,000, and another 15,000 when you spend $60,000). As a cardholder you also get a free checked bag, priority boarding and 20% in-flight savings. The business version, the Delta Reserve for Business Credit Card, can save you 3%-10% automatically on business expenses from FedEx, Hertz, OfficeMax and more with OPEN Savings. Plus, you get an annual Reserve Companion Certificate for first/business (or economy) travel within the 48 contiguous United States.

Annual fee: $450

4. United MileagePlus Club Card

Holders of the United MileagePlus Club Card can enjoy United Club access.
Holders of the United MileagePlus Club Card can enjoy United Club access.

Lounge access: The final card on this list offers access to United Clubs, Star Alliance-branded business lounges around the world and Amtrak Acela lounges. Just make sure you have your United Club membership card in hand, not the credit card.

Other benefits: The other big draw is that this card earns 1.5 United miles per dollar spent everywhere and 2x miles on United purchases. You’ll receive two free checked bags each for two people, waived close-in ticketing fees and elite-like benefits such as priority boarding. This card’s currently offering 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months, a big step up from the previous offer, which didn’t include a sign-up bonus.

Annual fee: $450

Recap: Best 4 Credit Cards for Airport Lounge Access

Card Annual Fee Lounge Access Other Benefits
The Platinum Card from American Express $550 Centurion Lounges, Priority Pass lounges and Delta Sky Club when flying Delta 5x points on flights booked directly with airlines and Amex Travel hotel bookings
Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard $450 Admirals Club with access for immediate family and up to 2 guests 10,000 elite miles after making $40,000 in purchases per year
Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express $450 Delta Sky Club when flying Delta 30,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles per calendar year when you spend $60,000
United MileagePlus Club Card $450 United Clubs, Star Alliance-branded business lounges and Amtrak Acela lounges 1.5 United miles per dollar spent everywhere

Find Your Own Oasis

You don’t have to be an elite flyer to relax in the lounge instead of at the gate — where the chairs and recharging outlets quickly fill up hours before departure time. The annual fees on these cards appear high at first glance, but they carry enough benefits and have the ability to earn you enough points to recoup the fee many times over.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

The American Express Platinum card has some of the best perks out there: cardholders enjoy the best domestic lounge access (Delta SkyClubs, Centurion Lounges, and Priority Pass), up to a $200 annual airline fee credit as well as up to $200 in Uber credits, and mid-tier elite status at SPG, Marriott, and Hilton. Combined with the 60,000 point welcome offer -- worth $1,140 based on TPG's valuations -- this card is a no-brainer for frequent travelers. Here are 5 reasons you should consider this card, as well as how you can figure out if the $550 annual fee makes sense for you.

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More Things to Know
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
  • Enjoy Uber VIP status and free rides in the U.S. up to $15 each month, plus a bonus $20 in December. That can be up to $200 in annual Uber savings.
  • 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
  • 5X Membership Rewards points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
  • Enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
  • Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts. Learn More.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
  • Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. Enrollment required.
  • $550 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
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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.

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