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Some people love to travel and have no problem spending their day in transit. However, others see air travel as a means to an end and find the whole airport experience a hassle.
There are ways to improve the experience for these travelers, including heading to an airport lounge before your flight.
A membership with Priority Pass — a global network of airport lounges, experiences and restaurants — can be a good option to gain lounge access.
Let’s look at Priority Pass lounges, how they work and some key things about the program.
1. Multiple types of airport experiences are available
Priority Pass is most known as a worldwide airport lounge program, featuring more than 1,300 locations from which to choose. However, Priority Pass isn’t just limited to lounges — it also includes experiences and discounts for its members.
The types of experiences available will depend on the airport. At some, you can get up to $28 for you and your guests to eat at eligible airport restaurants. At others, this can mean complimentary spa treatments before your flight.
And if you’re on an exceptionally long trip, you may appreciate the private bedroom suites available to Priority Pass members.
Finally, even if there aren’t lounges, restaurants or sleeping suites available, Priority Pass options may be available as discounts at select stores.
2. Not all memberships are the same
Now that we’ve discussed all the options available to Priority Pass members, there is one crucial caveat: Priority Pass has several different membership levels, and they’re not all equal.
The cheapest Priority Pass tier that will grant you lounge access costs $99 per year, but you’ll need to pay $35 for each lounge visit.
The most expensive is $469 per year but includes unlimited, complimentary visits for yourself — though you’ll still be required to pay for your guests.
Some travel credit cards offer a Priority Pass Select membership as a benefit — including Chase, Capital One and American Express.
3. Chase cards have the best memberships
The most well-known Chase card to offer Priority Pass Select membership is the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, which allows unlimited entry to cardholders and up to two guests.
Chase cardholders also receive additional benefits compared to other Priority Pass Select memberships.
In addition to lounge access, they get all the above experiences, including credits at restaurants, spa treatments and sleeping suites.
This isn’t the case for Priority Pass Select memberships through Capital One or American Express, which only include airport lounge access.
» Learn more: The guide to Chase lounges
While Capital One cards don’t offer non-lounge Priority Pass access, they may be the best option if you’re trying to get a Priority Pass Select membership for more than just yourself.
Why? The Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card provides a Priority Pass Select membership for its cardholders, which allows the member and up to two guests to enter for free.
This comes in handy because Capital One allows cardholders to add authorized users to their card for no fee — and authorized users are entitled to their own Priority Pass Select memberships, which include access for themselves and two free guests.
Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card holders also get access to Plaza Premium lounges.
5. Other cards offer more lounge access
If you don’t have a Capital One or Chase card, don’t worry. There are other choices when it comes to airport lounges.
Eligible credit cards from American Express include access to the Global Lounge Collection and a Priority Pass Select membership.
How much of a difference does this make? Here are the additional lounges to which holders of The Platinum Card® from American Express can gain entry:
6. Limited passes are an option, too
What if you don’t travel enough to justify the cost of a full Priority Pass membership? You could pay for the mid-tier membership, which costs $329 per year and includes 10 complimentary visits annually.
Or, you could get a less-expensive credit card offering similar benefits at a much lower price. The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card, for example, charges a $95 annual fee but provides 10 free Priority Pass visits per year. Terms apply.
» Learn more: Best credit cards with Priority Pass
Priority Pass lounges recapped
Priority Pass membership can be a valuable perk if you’re a frequent traveler, especially if you can access lounges through your credit card. However, you’ll want to remember that not all memberships are equal and that each card issuer has its own pros and cons regarding airport lounge access.
Even if you’re only on a plane a few times per year, gaining access to a lounge via Priority Pass may be worth it, especially with memberships available for less than $100 per year.
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