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The coveted airport lounge: A place where the crowds disperse, comfortable seating is available, you don’t have to sit on the floor to charge your device and complimentary snacks and beverages are offered. As you step out of the loud and chaotic halls of an airport terminal, the relative quiet is the first thing that greets you.
Lounge entry comes at a price, but some of the best travel cards offer it as a perk. Here are some cards that can get you into airport club lounges:
The Platinum Card® from American Express
» Learn more: American Express Platinum review: Luxury isn’t cheap
You’ll get into more than 1,300 lounges in 130 countries, including the Centurion Lounge, the International American Express lounges, Delta Sky Club, Escape Lounges, Plaza Premium and Priority Pass lounges. Enrollment required. Many of these lounges feature a premium bar, snacks, shower suites, power stations, Wi-Fi and large flat-screen TV’s.
Cardholders can bring up to two guests free of charge, though the exact guest policy depends on the lounge.
The annual fee for The Platinum Card® from American Express is $695, which equates to a little over $45 per month for access to free food, drinks and space to work. Terms apply.
With The Business Platinum Card® from American Express you will receive a few more rewards outside of the airport lounges for $595 (10/14-1/12/22) annually, which is around $50 per month. Terms apply.
Enjoy: The Centurion Lounge at New York’s LaGuardia Airport is located between Concourse B and C. It features fresh seasonal fare created by Chef Cedric Vongerichten, one of Zagat’s top 30 under 30 chefs.
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
For $550 per year, Chase Sapphire Reserve® cardholders receive access to more than 1,300 airport lounges in 500 cities worldwide through Priority Pass Select.
You can bring in two guests at no charge. This Priority Pass Select membership works with third party airport lounges, so you may find a lounge with a spa and another with just snacks. Taking the card’s annual fee into account, it works out to $37.50 per month for access to airport lounges, as well as some restaurants.
Enjoy: Priority Pass has several lounges at London’s Gatwick airport. Club Aspire provides cocktails and Wi-Fi in the North Terminal’s Lounge Pavilion.
Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®
Access to American Airlines’ Admirals Club is included for those with a Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®. Admirals Club membership can cost up to $650 per year, so the card’s $450 annual fee can be well worth it.
In addition to operating Admirals Club lounges, American partners with more than 60 lounges to expand its network.
Enjoy: Chicago-O'Hare airport features three Admirals Clubs. The club at Concourse H/K in Terminal 3 even offers showers and conference rooms.
» Learn more: Citi AAdvantage Executive review: Your key to the club
United Club℠ Infinite Card
Holders of the United Club℠ Infinite Card receive United Club membership, including access to participating Star Alliance lounges around the world. United Club membership can cost up to $650 per year or 85,000 miles. The United Club℠ Infinite Card’s $525 annual fee is a cheaper alternative.
If you do not travel often enough to justify the annual fee in exchange for lounge access, the United℠ Explorer Card has a lower annual fee: $0 intro for the first year, then $95. The card offers two one-time passes every year, which are valued at over $100. Restrictions apply.
Enjoy: Tokyo’s United Club at Satellite 3, Airside, features family rooms for some privacy and quiet when traveling with the kids.
Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card
The Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card is a solid lounge-access alternative. Cardholders get complimentary access to both the Delta Sky Club and American Express' Centurion Lounge network. Terms apply.
Enjoy: Delta opened its first Sky Decks in Atlanta and at New York-JFK in 2016. During warmer months, you can relax on an outdoor terrace. With runway views, sunshine and breezes, it’s a chance to feel less cooped up at the airport.
Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card
With the Priority Pass Select membership available through the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, you and up to two guests receive free access to over 1,200 airport lounges. Enrollment required. Terms apply.
The bottom line
For frequent flyers who make use of airport lounges often, paying a credit card annual fee in exchange for lounge access can be a win. But even if you don't travel every week, the various perks offered by these credit cards can help you get (almost) free flights and hotels. If travel rewards are important to you, picking a rewards card that includes complimentary lounge access can be smart.
All information about the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card has been collected independently by NerdWallet. The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is no longer available through NerdWallet. To view rates and fees of The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, see this page. To view rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card, see this page.
How to Maximize Your Rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card