How valuable is a Priority Pass lounge membership?
Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.
Editor's note: Travel remains restricted worldwide, and many airport lounges are still closed. Be sure to check Priority Pass' website for updated information on any lounge you hope to visit.
Priority Pass is the world's largest collection of airport lounges, with more than 1,000 lounges around the world. Some are airline-operated, and therefore, the same lounge that the airline's own business class and first-class passengers have access to, as well as that airline's status-holding passengers. For example, at Oneworld airline Royal Jordanian's home in Amman (AMM) there is only one lounge, operated by Royal Jordanian, but it also accepts Priority Pass members.
As you would expect, those lounges are usually pretty decent.
But many Priority Pass lounges are operated by third parties. These companies don't operate flights — they simply provide lounge access for anyone willing to pay for it. They are not as motivated as an airline to provide a great lounge experience to keep customers loyal, so the quality of these lounges can differ enormously.
A Priority Pass membership can be gained in a few different ways. It's complimentary with The Platinum Card® from American Express, and both the primary cardholder and supplementary cardholder can bring in one guest for free. You can also purchase a Priority Pass membership, as I did for several years before I applied for my Platinum Card. Enrollment required for select benefits. The card has a $695 annual fee (see rates & fees).
So whether you are paying outright for your membership or factoring it into the cost of an annual fee of a credit card where the membership is part of the card offer, how much is it worth?
For paid memberships, there are three different types:
- Standard for $69 per year — You and any guests will pay $32 per person per lounge entry
- Standard Plus for $239 per year — You will have 10 lounge visits for yourself, any further visits for member and guests $32 each
- Prestige for $386 per year — You have free, unlimited lounge visits and any guests pay $32 per entry
In a typical year, I use my Priority Pass membership regularly and have seen some truly amazing Priority Pass lounges and some truly dire ones.
The value you will get out of your membership depends largely on how many lounge visits you would be likely to make each year. Of course, this year, everything is different due to the COVID-19 pandemic -- travel remains severely restricted and many lounges remain closed around the world. In today's post, we're talking as if we're living in a more-typical year (if only... ).
Most of these lounges do sell entry to anyone without access/a Priority Pass membership — costs range hugely but are usually around the $30 to $45 mark. The lounges do vary largely in quality, but I'd put the value of each visit I've had on average at around $15 to $20 per visit.
So let's look at the value of the membership based on a few different personal circumstances.
- Five visits per year — You would pay $160 for the five visits, and then $69 for your Standard yearly fee for $229 in total. I don't consider the membership to be worth $229 for five visits.
- 10 visits per year — You would pay $239 for the Standard Plus membership with your 10 visits free. At about $24 per visit, it likely wouldn't make sense to invest in a Standard Plus membership, as it's outside of the range of where I would value each lounge visit.
- 20 visits per year — A Prestige membership would give you all 20 visits for $386. Each visit would cost around $19 each, which is at the high end of where I value the visits.
- 30+ visits per year — This is where a Prestige membership becomes worth it. Each of your 30 visits would cost you less than $13, as all visits would be included in the yearly fee. I can easily get $13 worth from each visit. If you have the same guest traveling with you each of the 30+ times it would make sense for them to have their own Prestige membership rather than paying $20 as your guest each time. I don't track every visit (though the Priority Pass app does this for you), but would estimate I make 40-50 visits each year, so paying for the Prestige membership has made sense for me until I got the Platinum Card — now I get access for free as a perk of the card.
Also try and think about how long you are likely to spend in each lounge. If you're booking 6 a.m. flights you're unlikely to wake up even earlier just to get a free coffee and croissant. Similarly, if you're rushing from work to make a 6:30 p.m. flight and won't have time to enjoy a lounge don't plan to get $20 value from each visit.
So whether you are considering the value of a Priority Pass membership as part of paying the annual fee for a credit card that includes this benefit, or thinking of purchasing a membership outright, try and estimate how many visits you are likely to make each year and how long you will spend in each lounge to calculate the value of the lounge.
You can join the Priority Pass program here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum card, click here.