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Traffic-choked checkpoints. Ever more crowded terminals. Serpentine security lines. Jam-packed gate areas. Getting to and through the airport today is more stressful than ever. Airport lounges can provide a respite from the hordes and the hassle of flying. Luckily, many of the top travel rewards credit cards include lounge access as part of their benefits packages.
Some of these credit cards, like the Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard, the Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express and the United Club Card only get you into their own airlines’ clubs.
However, others like The Platinum Card® from American Express and the Chase Sapphire Reserve let cardholders register for Priority Pass Select membership, which grants access to more than 1,200 airport lounge and restaurant locations worldwide (though Amex cardholders won’t be able to use the restaurants effective August 1, 2019).
Popular Priority Pass locations in the US include the Turkish Airlines Lounge at Washington Dulles (IAD) and the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at Newark (EWR). Internationally, the SkyTeam Lounge at London Heathrow (LHR) is a crowd pleaser, while the VIP Lounge at Punta Cana (PUJ) even has its own swimming pool.
Given that large footprint, here’s a roundup of the best credit cards currently available to new applicants that offer Priority Pass lounge access to cardholders, and the specific rules and policies for each.
- Chase Sapphire Reserve
- Citi Prestige Card
- The Platinum Card from American Express
- The Business Platinum Card from American Express
- Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card
- Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card
- US Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite Card
- Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card
- Hilton Honors American Express Business Card
|Card||Lounge Access||Welcome Bonus||Annual Fee|
|Chase Sapphire Reserve||Cardholder + 2 guests free, $27 per guest after that||50,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first three months||$450|
|Citi Prestige||Cardholder + immediate family or 2 guests free, $27 per guest after that||50,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first three months||$495|
|The Platinum Card from American Express||Cardholder + 2 guests free , $32 per guest after that||60,000 points after spending $5,000 in the first three months (possibly higher through CardMatch)||$550 (see rates & fees)|
|Business Platinum Card from American Express||Cardholder + 2 guests free, $32 per guest after that||Up to 75,000 points after spending $20,000 total in the first three months. Terms Apply.||$595 (see rates & fees)|
|Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card||Cardholder + 2 guests free, $32 per guest after that||150,000 Hilton Honors points after spending $4,000 in the first three months. Terms Apply.||$450 (see rates & fees)|
|Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card||Cardholder + 2 guests free, $32 per guest after that||75,000 Marriott Bonvoy points after spending $3,000 in the first three months. Terms Apply.||$450 (see rates & fees)|
|US Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite||12 months free, 8 passes per year after that, $27 per guest after that||50,000 points after spending $4,500 in the first three months||$400|
|Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card||10 free visits per year, $32 per visit after that||125,000 Hilton Honors points after spending $2,000 in the first three months. Terms Apply.||$95 (see rates & fees)|
|Hilton Honors American Express Business Card||10 free visits per year, $32 per visit after that||125,000 Hilton Honors points after spending $3,000 in the first three months. Terms Apply.||$95 (see rates & fees)|
Here are the details on each card, along with current welcome bonuses, annual fees and other notable perks.
Chase Sapphire Reserve
Benefits: The Chase Sapphire Reserve is one of the most popular premium travel rewards credit cards thanks to its impressive list of benefits. Cardholders receive $300 in annual travel statement credits for a wide range of travel purchases. The card earns 3x points per dollar on travel and dining, and 1x point per dollar on everything else. Ultimate Rewards can be transferred to nine airline and three hotel partners. Points may also be redeemed directly through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal at a rate of 1.5 cents apiece. The card reimburses members up to $100 once every four years for a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application and waives foreign transaction fees.
Benefits: The Citi Prestige earns a phenomenal 5x points per dollar at restaurants and on air travel, 3x points per dollar at hotels and on cruise lines, and one point per dollar on all other purchases. Cardholders are eligible for up to $250 worth of annual statement credits each calendar year toward travel purchases.
Citi ThankYou Rewards points can be transferred to 15 airline partner programs, and are worth one cent apiece when redeemed directly for travel through the Citi portal (starting in September, until then, it’s 1.25 cents). Cardholders can book a fourth night free on up to two hotel stays per year when reserving through the Citi concierge or online at thankyou.com. No foreign transaction fees. They’re also eligible for a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee reimbursement once every five years.
The Platinum Card from American Express
Benefits: In addition to Priority Pass lounges, cardholders have access to Amex’s own Centurion Lounges, Delta Sky Clubs, Escape, Airspace, Plaza Premium and certain Lufthansa lounges. The card earns 5x points per dollar on airfare booked directly with the airline or Amex Travel and prepaid hotels purchased through Amex Travel. Cardholders can transfer Membership Rewards points to 22 airline and hotel partners.
It also comes with an annual rebate of up to $200 on incidental fees charged by a carrier you select each year, plus up to $200 in annual Uber credits. Cardholders qualify for a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee refund once every 4.5 years (up to $100). Booking stays through Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts confers plenty of value-added benefits, and you can register for both Gold status with Hilton Honors and Gold Elite status with Marriott Bonvoy. Amex’s International Airline Program can secure deep discounts on premium economy, business- and first-class tickets on 25 airlines. However, cardholders no longer receive dining credits at restaurants that participate in Priority Pass as of August 1, 2019.
The Business Platinum Card from American Express
Benefits: In addition to the personal version’s perks, the Business Platinum Card offers one complimentary year of WeWork access (must enroll by Dec. 31, 2019) and an annual statement credit up to $200 for Dell technology purchases. Cardholders can count on a 50% points bonus (1.5x per dollar) on purchases of more than $5,000, up to 1 million bonus points a year, plus a 35% rebate when redeeming points for airfare on their selected airline, or for business or first class tickets on any airline. Otherwise, it offers the same perks as the personal version, except for the Uber credits.
Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card
Benefits: This is the top Hilton card for a number of reasons. It earns 14x points per dollar on Hilton purchases; 7x points per dollar on flights booked through Amex Travel or directly through airlines, on car rentals and at US restaurants; and 3x points per dollar on everything else. Cardholders automatically receive top-tier Hilton Honors Diamond status, an annual free weekend night and up to $250 in statement credits each cardmember year for purchases at participating Hilton Resorts, plus up to $250 back each year for airline incidentals. They also qualify for up to $100 in credits for charges at participating Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts and Conrad Hotels & Resorts when booking two-night-minimum stays via HiltonHonors.com/aspirecard.
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card
Benefits: Among its most compelling perks, this card earns 6x points per dollar on Marriott purchases, 3x points at US restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines, and 2x points per dollar on everything else. Cardholders get a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application reimbursement once every 4.5 years (up to $100) and receive automatic Marriott Bonvoy Gold status (and Platinum status if they hit $75,000 spending requirement for a calendar year). A free anniversary night award is worth up to 50,000 points each year. Special rates on stays of two nights or more at The Ritz-Carlton or St. Regis properties are eligible for up to $100 in credit for qualifying charges, and receive up to $300 in statement credits each year of card membership for purchases at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels.
US Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite
Benefits: This card earns 3x points per dollar on travel and mobile wallet purchases, and 1x point per dollar on everything else. Cardholders can redeem points for 1.5 cents apiece on airfare, hotels and car rentals (or lower values for other purchases). They can also count on 12 complimentary Gogo in-flight Wi-Fi passes each year, and a reimbursement for a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application once every four years (up to $100). They are also eligible for up to $325 in statement credits per cardmember year for purchases made directly from airlines, hotels, car rental companies, taxis, limousines, passenger trains and cruise lines.
Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card
Benefits: This card earns 12x points for charges at Hilton portfolio hotels. Cardmembers also earn 6x points at US restaurants, US supermarkets and US gas stations and 3x points for all other eligible purchases. Cardholders receive automatic Hilton Honors Gold status and can spend their way to Diamond status by making $40,000 in eligible purchases on the card in a calendar year. They can also earn a Weekend Night Reward from Hilton Honors after spending $15,000 on purchases in a calendar year.
Hilton Honors American Express Business Card
Benefits: Earn 12x Hilton Honors points per dollar for purchases made directly with hotels and resorts in the Hilton portfolio; 6x points per dollar at US gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from US service providers, on US shipping purchases, at US restaurants, on flights booked directly with airlines or through Amex Travel, and on car rentals booked directly from rental agencies; then 3x points per dollar on everything else. Cardholders get automatic Hilton Honors Gold status (Diamond status with $60,000 spend) and a Free Weekend Night Reward after hitting $15,000 spend in a calendar year.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Business Platinum card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Aspire card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Ascend card, please click here.
Featured image by Daniel Ross/The Points Guy.
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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.
- 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®
- Named "Best Premium Travel Credit Card" for 2018 by MONEY® Magazine
- $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 & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. $0 foreign transaction fees.
- 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
- 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
- Access to 1,000+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select
- Up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®