Best credit cards for airport lounge access in 2020

Nov 1, 2020

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As some travelers have returned to the skies, airport lounges have slowly begun reopening. Although the pandemic has changed the airport lounge experience, not all of the changes are bad. For example, when I visited The Club at ATL this summer, the food was fresher, the lounge was quieter and the staff more attentive.

My friends and family are often impressed when they travel with me due to the lounges we visit. But they too could access many of the same lounges even when traveling on their own. After all, many of the best premium travel rewards cards offer complimentary airport lounge access as a perk.

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

However, the types of lounges you can use vary significantly from card to card. So, let’s take a closer look at the best cards that offer complimentary airport lounge access. Then, you can apply for the card or cards that provide the best lounge access for your travels.

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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 sign-up bonuses/welcome offers of best credit cards for airport lounge access

Credit Card Annual fee Welcome offer/sign-up bonus
The Platinum Card from American Express $550 (see rates & fees) 75,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in your first 6 months of Card Membership.  Terms apply.
The Business Platinum Card from American Express $595 (see rates & fees) 75,000 points after you spend $15,000 on qualifying purchases within the first 3 months of account opening. Terms apply.
Chase Sapphire Reserve $550 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
Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card $550 (see rates & fees) 40,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening. Terms apply.
Delta SkyMiles Reserve Business American Express Card $550 (see rates & fees) 45,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening. Terms apply.
United Club Infinite Card $525 $0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $525

Now, let’s take a closer look at all seven of the best cards for airport lounge access.

The Platinum Card from American Express

The American Express Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas' McCarran International Airport. (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)
The Amex Platinum Card provides access to American Express Centurion Lounges, including the Centurion Lounge in Las Vegas. (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

The Amex Platinum has a $550 annual fee (see rates and fees). But, if you travel frequently and value the lounge membership benefits of this card, you’ll likely get your money’s worth from the card.

Lounge access

The Amex Platinum is the best overall card for lounge access because it provides entry to the largest number of high-quality lounges.

First and foremost, you’ll get access to Amex’s Centurion Lounges. Although all 12 Centurion Lounges closed earlier this year due to the pandemic, the Seattle and Philadelphia Centurion Lounges reopened on Oct. 5, 2020. Amex is taking a phased approach to reopening, so other locations will likely follow. Plus, Amex has scheduled three new Centurion Lounges to open by the end of 2020.

Related: Amex has reopened nearly 40% of Centurion Lounges and more

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. 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 or select Delta partners on the same day. And, Amex Platinum cardmembers 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. But 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: Amex’s Centurion Lounges make the Platinum Card increasingly hard to ignore

Other benefits on The Platinum Card

The Amex Platinum Card earns 5x Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on airfare booked directly with the airline or through Amex Travel (that will be capped at $500,000 per calendar year starting on Jan. 1, 2020) and 5x points per dollar spent on prepaid hotels booked through Amex Travel. And, the Amex Platinum has many other perks. But, some of the top perks include:

To learn more, check out our The Platinum Card from American Express card 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 use the credits and perks it provides, especially airport lounge access.

Lounge access

The Amex Business Platinum is the best overall business credit card for lounge access. Like the personal Amex Platinum, the Business Platinum offers access to Amex’s Centurion Lounges as well as to Delta Sky Clubs on same-day Delta flights. You’ll also get 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.

Related: How to get a family of 4 or more into an Amex Centurion Lounge

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 Card earns five Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on flights and prepaid hotels booked through Amex Travel. You’ll also earn 1.5x points per dollar spent on each eligible purchase of $5,000 or more, up to one million additional points per calendar 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 (for U.S. purchases). Plus, you’ll get a 35% rebate when you book a first or business class flight through Amex Travel using Pay with Points (up to 500,000 points back per calendar year). This discount also extends to any flight class on the airline you selected for your airline fee credit.

To learn more, see the Business Platinum Card from American Express card review.

Official application link: The Business Platinum Card from American Express

Chase Sapphire Reserve

The Priority Pass lounge in Punta Cana (Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
Being a Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholder gets you a Priority Pass Select membership, which can get you into this lounge in Punta Cana. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

The Chase Sapphire Reserve is easily the best travel card for Priority Pass lounge access. Admittedly, the card previously had competitors in this area. But, after changes and benefit reductions, the Citi Prestige® Card is far less appealing than other premium travel cards. And, Amex cards fell behind when they stopped offering Priority Pass restaurant access.

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

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. Both primary cardmembers and authorized users get Priority Pass Select memberships. And, you can bring up to two guests into each lounge with you.

Many Priority Pass airport lounges are reopening. But, some Priority Pass lounges are still closed. So, check the lounge’s page on the Priority Pass website to determine whether a particular lounge has reopened.

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

Other benefits of the Chase Sapphire Reserve

The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers 10x Chase Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on Lyft through March 2022, 3x points per dollar spent on other travel and dining worldwide and one point per dollar spent on all other purchases. The card also offers a $300 annual travel credit and travel protections such as trip delay protection and delayed baggage protection.

To learn more, check out the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card review.

Official application link: Chase Sapphire Reserve

Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard

American Airlines Admirals Club entrance
The AAdvantage Executive Card can get you into Admirals Clubs when you fly American. (Photo by Chris Dong/The Points Guy)

The Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard has a $450 annual fee, with no charge for up to 10 authorized users. Suppose you’re mainly interested in the card for Admirals Club access. In that case, you’ll notice that the annual fee is lower than the 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 and other lounges with which American Airlines has reciprocal 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 immediate family members or two other guests into the lounge. 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 an Oneworld partner carrier or marketed and operated by Alaska Airlines.

Note that only some American Airlines lounges have reopened. You can see a current listing of open lounges on American Airlines’ website.

Related: 9 ways the pandemic has transformed the American Airlines lounge experience

Other benefits on the AAdvantage Executive Card

With the AAdvantage Executive Card, you’ll earn 2x miles per dollar spent on eligible American Airlines purchases and 1x 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 on the same reservation. And, you can earn 10,000 elite-qualifying miles after making $40,000 in purchases each calendar year.

To learn more, see the Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard credit card review.

Official application link: Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard

Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card

Signage throughout the lounge (Photo by Chris Dong/The Points Guy)
Delta SkyClubs look a little different during the pandemic. (Photo by Chris Dong/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. And, this single benefit may justify the annual fee if you travel with Delta frequently.

Lounge access

Delta Reserve cardmembers have complimentary access to Delta Sky Clubs when traveling on a same-day Delta-operated or Delta-marketed flight. However, not all Delta Sky Club locations have reopened. But, you can see a list of the open Sky Club locations on Delta’s website.

You can also access Delta Sky Clubs when traveling on a Delta partner flight that isn’t marketed or operated by Delta. But, in this case, you’ll need to pay $39 per visit. You can bring up to two guests, or a partner and children under 21, for $39 per person per visit. But Reserve cardholders also get two one-time guest passes each year for complimentary guest access to the Delta Sky Club.

Delta Reserve cardholders also get access on departure to American Express Centurion Lounges when traveling on a Delta-marketed or Delta-operated flight 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. And although you can bring up to two guests, you’ll need to pay $50 for each.

Related: 7 ways in which visiting a Delta Sky Club is different during the pandemic

Other benefits on the Delta Reserve credit card

The Delta Reserve Card earns 3x Delta SkyMiles per dollar spent directly with Delta and 1x 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, Comfort+ or Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your card.

Elite status is also more attainable with this card. When you spend $25,000 on your card within a calendar year, you will get a Medallion Qualification Dollar waiver for Platinum, Gold and Silver Medallion status. For Diamond Medallion status, you’ll need to spend $250,000 on the card.

For more information, check out the Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card credit card review.

Official application link: Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card

Delta SkyMiles Reserve Business American Express Card

(Photo by Chris Dong/The Points Guy)
Visiting a Delta Sky Club is a bit different during the pandemic. (Photo by Chris Dong/The Points Guy)

The Delta SkyMiles Reserve Business American Express Card also offers Delta Sky Club access as one of its benefits. As such, the Delta Reserve Business Amex 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 same-day Delta-marketed or Delta-operated flight. You can also get access when flying on a Delta partner flight not operated or marketed by Delta, but you’ll have to pay $39 per visit. You get two one-time complimentary guest passes each account year. But, you’ll need to pay $39 per person per visit for other guests.

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

Related: Choosing the best credit cards for Delta flyers

Other benefits on the Delta Reserve for Business

The Delta Reserve for Business earns 3x Delta miles per dollar spent directly with Delta and 1x mile per dollar spent on all other purchases. However, you’ll earn 1.5x 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. You’ll also get a round-trip companion certificate for bookings in domestic First-Class, Comfort+ or Main Cabin each year upon renewal. Plus, you can spend to get a Medallion Qualification Dollar waiver.

For more information, see the Delta SkyMiles Reserve Business American Express Card review.

Official application link: Delta SkyMiles Reserve Business American Express Card

United Club Infinite Card

United Club lounge (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)
Get access to United Clubs when flying United with the United Club Infinite Card. (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

The United Club Infinite Card offers United Club membership as a perk. So, this card can make sense for frequent United flyers.

Lounge access

The United Club Infinite Card offers United Club membership for the primary cardholder. This membership gives the primary cardholder access to United Club locations with a same-day boarding pass for travel on United, Star Alliance or a contracted partner. United Club members can bring two adults or one adult and dependent children under 21 years of age as guests.

Not all United Club locations have reopened yet. To see which lounges are currently open, check the list on United’s website.

Related: 7 ways the United Club experience has changed due to the pandemic

Other benefits on the United Club Infinite Card

The United Club Infinite Card offers various other perks besides lounge access when flying United. For example, you’ll earn 4x miles on United purchases, 2x miles on travel and dining and 1x miles on everything else. And, you and one companion can get up to two checked bags free on United-operated flights when you buy the tickets with your card. Plus, you’ll get a statement credit of up to $100 every four years to reimburse a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee.

For more information, see the United Club Infinite Card full review.

Official application link: United Club Infinite Card

Comparing benefits for 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

Terms apply

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

Terms apply

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

Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard $450 Admirals Club membership for the 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

Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card $550 (see rates & fees) Delta Sky Club access when traveling on a Delta-operated or Delta-marketed flight

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

Terms apply

Delta SkyMiles Reserve Business American Express Card $550 (see rates & fees) Delta Sky Club access when traveling on a Delta-operated or Delta-marketed flight

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

Terms apply

United Club Infinite Card $525 (waived for the first year) United Club access when traveling on United, Star Alliance or a contracted partner 4x miles on eligible United purchases

Two checked bags free for you and a companion

Priority boarding

Low-annual-fee options

The annual fees on the cards discussed so far in this guide all top $400. But, these cards carry enough benefits and earn enough points to recoup the fees many times over for some travelers.

However, if you can’t justify high annual fees or don’t travel frequently, you may want a card with a lower annual fee. So, here are a few ways to get a few complimentary lounge visits each year while paying a lower annual fee:

The information for the Amex Green 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.

Related: The best credit cards with annual fees under $100

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 class on a low-cost airline.

If you have Priority Pass access benefits through a credit card, you’ll usually need to enroll in Priority Pass Select. Different credit cards offer other access policies, so be sure to determine 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 complimentary 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 accessible to select American Express cardmembers. There are currently 12 Centurion Lounges, with three more scheduled to open by the end of 2020. Centurion Lounges are known for offering regional quality dining and drinks.

The easiest way to get access to Centurion Lounges is by holding an eligible card such as The Platinum Card from American Express or The Business Platinum Card from American Express. But Delta SkyMiles Reserve and Delta SkyMiles Reserve Business cardholders are also able to access Centurion Lounges when flying Delta on the same day on a ticket paid for with a U.S.-issued Amex card. Delta Reserve cardholders don’t get complimentary guest access, 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: 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 essential to have the correct credit card for lounge access based on the airports you’re visiting and the airline you’re flying.

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

Are cards with lounge access worth it during the pandemic?

If you are traveling during the pandemic and travel through airports with open lounges, it can make sense to carry one or more cards that provide lounge access. But, if you don’t plan to travel frequently until the pandemic subsides or until a vaccine is widely available, then it may not make sense to have airport lounge cards now. I recommend assessing your credit card portfolio to determine which cards are worth their annual fees.

Related: 10 credit cards that can get you $1,000 or more in value

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 SkyMiles Reserve, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles 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 United Club in San Francisco (SFO) by Zach Griff/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.

Apply Now
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 including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • 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
Regular APR
16.99%-23.99% 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.