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These days, arriving early to the airport is a must, so having access to a lounge where you can relax with a drink, snacks and a quiet place to work is key. If you have club memberships to airline lounges like the Admirals Club or Delta Sky Club, you’ll want to make sure that you have a same-day ticket on an eligible airline to access it at the airport.
Other lounges, like the Centurion Lounge, do not require a particular airline, but you must have a same-day boarding pass. Both Sky Club and Centurion lounges also have restrictions on when you can enter (only within three hours of the flight’s departure time).
If your preferred airport doesn’t have a credit card-affiliated or airline-branded lounge, not all hope is lost. Priority Pass, a network of more than 1,300 lounges around the world, may have a lounge or dining option available for you. Here’s how to get into a Priority Pass lounge before a flight.
» Learn more: Are Priority Pass lounges usually crowded?
Purchase a Priority Pass membership
If you’re looking to become a member of Priority Pass, you have several options. For starters, you can purchase Priority Pass membership at three different membership levels.
Standard membership, the cheapest option, has an annual fee of $99. You’ll then pay $35 per person each time you enter a lounge. This is the best option for those who travel less frequently.
The Standard Plus membership has a higher annual cost at $299, but it comes with 10 free lounge visits per year. After 10 visits, the per-person cost is $35. This is a good option for more frequent travelers who are likely to visit an airport lounge several times per year.
The best deal for the most frequent flyer is Prestige membership, which costs $429 per year but includes unlimited lounge visits. Each accompanying guest would pay $35.
» Learn more: The best Priority Pass lounges in the U.S.
Carry the right credit card
There are many travel cards that include access to Priority Pass Select membership as one of their benefits. This is a solid way to gain entry into these lounges, especially if you’re already paying the card’s annual fee.
Cards with Priority Pass benefits include:
Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card. Enrollment required. Existing cardholders who enrolled in Priority Pass on or before Jan. 31, 2023 will no longer have a membership as of Feb. 1, 2024. Cardholders who enroll between Feb. 1, 2023 and Jan. 31, 2024, will continue to have membership through Oct. 31, 2024. Terms apply.
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card. Enrollment required.
The Platinum Card® from American Express. Enrollment required.
Keep in mind that not all Priority Pass access via travel card is the same. Some cards offer unlimited lounge visits, while others come with a set amount of complimentary entries. Make sure to read your card’s benefits to understand the specifics of this perk.
In some cases, applying for one of these cards could be cheaper than buying the top Priority Pass membership by itself. For example, the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card has a $395 annual fee (cheaper than the $429 that Priority Pass charges for its Prestige membership). This could be a great option for lounge access since the card also comes with access to Capital One lounges and 100 plus Plaza Premium lounges. If you’re looking for extensive lounge options, the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card is a winner.
While The Platinum Card® from American Express has a higher $695 annual fee, it comes with a whole collection of lounges that you can use to more than cover the yearly cost. These include Delta Sky Club when flying Delta (up to 10 visits per year starting Feb 1, 2025), Centurion Lounge and a host of others like Escape Lounge and Plaza Premium facilities. It all comes down to studying the complement of card perks before deciding which is best for you. Terms apply.
» Learn more: The best travel cards right now
Buy a lounge day pass
You will often see the Priority Pass name or logo outside a lounge or on the reception desk, and you may decide last minute that you want to try it out. Some, but not all, lounges sell day passes allowing you to bypass Priority Pass membership.
By asking the lounge receptionist if they sell day passes you might just find an easy way to enter the lounge.
If the airport you’re flying from has multiple lounges, check the availability of a day pass from different options. Some may be more affordable than others and have better amenities. You can use an airport lounge website like LoungeBuddy to help you see what’s available.
What else to know about Priority Pass
You may need to activate membership
Your credit card company may automatically mail you a Priority Pass membership card if you are eligible, but in some instances, you will need to enroll with Priority Pass first or call the credit card company to acquire and activate it.
Luckily, Priority Pass now has a digital card helping to make things a bit easier.
Restaurants and other venues are sometimes included
One of the nice features of Priority Pass is that it is not restricted to lounge access. In many airports, it also includes a food and beverage credit at participating restaurants or video game centers.
It is important to know that Priority Pass membership cards issued via American Express do not gain access to these venues. The same will be true for the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card beginning Jan. 1, 2023.
Not all lounges are created equal. Some have open bars, like the Lignum Club in the Bahamas, while others may have a more limited selection. The amount of food will also vary, with some lounges offering a more substantial selection than others.
A few lounges really go all out. In Punta Cana, one lounge has an outdoor plunge pool overlooking the planes. Others have showers or spa facilities, and Priority Pass even partners with some airport spas to offer free chair massages.
You can buy your way into a Priority Pass lounge through membership or day passes or swipe your way in with a credit card that includes Priority Pass access. Of course, you can also fly your way into an airline branded Priority Pass lounge if your ticket or status level comes with that perk.
Whatever way you gain entry, you’ll be glad you have lounge access if you have a lot of time waiting for a flight.
The information related to Citi Prestige® Card has been collected by NerdWallet and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product or service.
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 2023, 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