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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 seven top cards that offer complimentary airport lounge access among their benefits.

1. 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.

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. The other big draw is that these cards earn 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

2. Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard

The Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard offers cardholders and authorized users full Admirals Club membership.
The Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard offers cardholders and authorized users full Admirals Club membership.

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 include 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 and enjoy priority boarding, 25% savings on eligible in-flight purchases and a free checked bag for you and up to eight companions.

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.

With this card, you get Sky Club access when flying Delta and 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). While you no longer get complimentary guest access, these cards also come with 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. 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.

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)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 and 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 OPEN 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 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.

Annual Fee: $550

 

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.

Which card do you use to access airport lounges?

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are 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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