I’ve been traveling the world for business and leisure for the past ten years, and having access to airport lounges has completely changed the way I travel, and has bettered the travel experience more than any other product you could acquire. Having access to airport lounges has allowed me to be more productive while flying, take away the stress of being in the airport environment, and has saved me countless dollars on food/drink in airports.
You don’t have to be in first/business class, or a high roller to gain access to airport lounges, and most yearly memberships are worth the fee even if you only travel a couple of times per month.
There are three ways to gain access to airport lounges; through credit cards that give cardholders access to lounges, buying a lounge membership directly from the airline, or buying a membership to a non-airline/non-credit card lounge program.
Below I’ll go over the different ways to gain membership to airport lounges, and the pros/cons of each option. Deciding which is best for you depends mainly on which airline you usually fly, and what airports you are usually using.
Credit Card Options
American Express Platinum Card
This is my option of choice because it aligns best with the airline clubs/lounges that I most want to use. The American Express Platinum Card will give you access to Delta SkyClubs, Priority Pass Lounges, and the new American Express Centurion Lounges. Also, it gives you a $200 statement credit for incidental charges at the airline of your choice, and they’ll reimburse you for the $100 fee to enroll for Global Entry.
- My favorite of all the options as it provides the broadest access to airline lounges. It does have a few holes though, mainly the lack of access to United Clubs. This card seems to fit my needs the most as I frequently fly Delta, and the new American Express branded Centurion Lounges are some of the nicest airport lounges in the world. They now have these lounges in Las Vegas, Dallas, San Francisco, Miami, La Guardia, Seattle, and soon to have one in Houston.
- Yearly Fee: $450
- Lounge Access: Delta SkyClub, American Express Centurion Lounges, Priority Pass, and Airspace Lounges.
- Guests: No guest access for Delta SkyClub, or Priority Pass, two guests per card member are allowed into the American Express Centurion Lounges.
- Other benefits: $200 per year credit for incidental charges at the airline of your choice, $100 statement credit when you enroll in Global Entry using the card,
- Small Print: When accessing the Priority Pass in association with American Express, United Clubs are not included. You need to have a ticket on Delta to access the Delta SkyClubs with your Platinum card.
Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard
Great option if you usually only fly on American Airlines or their partners. The card will give you full Admiral’s Club membership, and you can bring in two guests.
- $450, includes waived fee for global entry
- Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard
- American Airlines’ Admirals Club
- Small Print: you must be flying on American to access the lounge when using a Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite card.
Chase United MileagePlus Club Card
This Chase card will give you full United Club membership for $450 per year, which is $100 less than flat out buying a United Club membership. Great option if you primarily fly United, or their partners.
This card is designed to compete with the Platinum American Express card. The credit card gives you access to the VIP Airport Lounge Club, $200 in incidental charges to the airline of your choice, and waives the Global Entry fee.
- Annual Fee: $495
- Black Card
- Lounge Access: card holders receive a VIP Airport Lounge Club membership.
Diner’s Club Card
Diner’s Club Card members receive access to 650 lounges around the world, but guests are always charged a fee.
- Annual Fee: $95-$300
- Diner’s Club Card
This is great if you only plan to travel on Delta, as they have lounges in all of their hubs, and other focus cities. Their clubs are far better than any other domestic carrier’s clubs. They all offer free alcoholic drinks, upgraded food selections, and most have showers.
- Yearly Fee: $450-$695, the higher fees allows you to bring guests into the lounge with you free of charge.
- Delta SkyClub
- Small Print: Even if you aren’t flying on Delta you can use the club if you purchase the membership directly from Delta.
American Admiral’s Club
If you usually fly with American you can buy an Admirals Club yearly membership from them. They still allow the member to bring in two guests.
- Yearly Fee: $500-$775, the higher bracket gets a card for you and your spouse that you can use independently, and each person can bring two guests.
- American Admiral’s Club
- Small Print: When purchasing the membership directly from American, you can be flying on any airline and still access the lounge.
Great if you are only flying on United, and usually are traveling with a guest that you’d want to join you in the lounge. Club members are allowed to bring two guests when them into the lounges.
- Yearly Fee: $550
- United Club
Alaska Airline’s Boardroom
Buying Alaska’s Board Room pass gives you access to their lounges and a few American Admiral’s Clubs. Members are allowed to bring two guests with them free of charge.
- Yearly Fee: $450
- Alaska Boardroom
- Small Print: if you have the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card the fee is only $400 for the first year, then $350 a year to renew.
Priority Pass offers lounges around the world, and is great if you don’t always fly a specific airline, and is very valuable when you are traveling outside the United States. When buying a membership to Priority Pass directly from them it also gives you access to United Clubs. This is the best non-airline and non-credit card lounge access program, they offer 900 lounges around the world.
- Priority Pass
- Yearly Fee: $399 for unlimited access.
- Fine Print: Priority Pass always charges for a guest, usually $27. If you are usually traveling with a guest, I’d recommend getting other lounge access or buying two memberships.
Currently only available through business partners, like the Black Card, who are providing membership.
Executive Sky Guide
Buying this membership for $50-$100 per year gives you access to any lounge in the world through a reimbursement program. You can reimburse one lounge up to $50 per month with this program. This is a great option if you only travel once per month, and don’t want to commit to an airline membership or bigger yearly membership.
- Executive SkyGuide
- Other Benefits: You can use the type of program for one gym pass a month, and they will reimburse you for up to $25
- The Small Print: you have to save the copy of your receipts, and mail them in every time you want to be reimbursed. They then mail you a check for the amount up to $50