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Published August 9, 2023
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How Airport Lounge Access With A Credit Card Works

Airport lounge access on a credit card may be a complimentary membership or free passes that get you into a private lounge before a flight.

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Backpacking on a budget is charming, but airport lounge access, especially when free with a credit card, elevates the travel experience. The hours spent in the airport become part of the holiday, not just something to count down in a jetlag state. No travellers need airport lounge access more than Australians, whose default overseas travel time is 24 hours. 

With lounge access, airport waits and long layovers are a breeze. You can bypass the expensive food with freshly made meals and other perks that will help you board your flight feeling clean, nourished, relaxed and excited.

Best of all? You can get airport lounge access for free with the right type of credit card

What is an airport lounge? 

An airport lounge is a private, designated area inside an airport, accessible only to certain travellers — like those with a pass or membership. Inside, visitors can enjoy perks like complimentary food and drinks, barista coffee, cosy couches, workstations and bathrooms with showers.

There are airport lounges all over the world, and most fall into one of the following categories: 

  • Airline-affiliated (e.g. Qantas Club lounges)
  • Credit card-affiliated (e.g. Centurion Lounges by American Express) 
  • Alliance-affiliated (e.g. Star Alliance lounges)
  • Independent (e.g. Priority Pass). 

Airport lounges are accessible to passengers with a premium flight ticket (business or first class), elevated status or membership with a frequent flyer program, paid membership to a lounge network, purchased single-use pass, complimentary single-use pass received as a perk, or certain travel credit cards. 

To enter the lounge, present one of the qualifying materials and adhere to the dress code if applicable.

Major airport lounges and networks in Australia 

These are just a few of the major airport lounges and networks you’ll find in Australia and abroad.

  • Qantas Club. Australia’s largest lounge network, Qantas Club, offers access to more than 600 lounges worldwide. 
  • Virgin Australia. With Velocity points, you can access Virgin’s international partner airline lounges, such as those of Virgin Atlantic, Singapore Airlines, Etihad, Qatar, United Airlines and Air Canada. 
  • The Centurion Lounges. For American Express (AMEX) cardholders, the Centurion Lounges transport travellers into another world at the airport — complete with signature cocktails, renowned chefs and spa services. 
  • Priority Pass. Members of Priority Pass, the world’s largest independent lounge access initiative, can visit over 1,300 lounges globally. The yearly membership fee ranges from US$99 to US$469. 
  • LoungeKey. Like Priority Pass, members of this network enjoy more than 1,000 lounges worldwide, no matter who they fly with. Travellers can sign up for LoungeKey using an eligible Mastercard. 
  • Mastercard Travel Pass by DragonPass. The Mastercard Travel Pass by DragonPass is available to Mastercard holders and has access to more than 1,300 airport lounges. 

How to access an airport lounge with a credit card

Credit cards with lounge access either provide single-use passes or ongoing memberships. Both will get you into airport lounges, but the scope varies. 

Free single-use passes provide a free visit to a lounge. You may get one pass as an annual perk with your credit card or a few through a sign-on bonus after taking out a travel credit card.

Ongoing memberships provide access to lounges in a network or program — but not necessarily free entry. Most airport lounges require a pass for each visit, although credit cards with complimentary memberships usually offer cardholders two free single-use passes per year.

Getting in for free

The easiest way to access airport lounges for free with a credit card is to claim an introductory offer or sign-up bonus after you get the card. Usually, a spending requirement must be met to activate the invitation. 

If you’re planning an overseas trip and looking for a credit card, shortlist a few options that offer bonus points, free travel insurance, and airport lounge passes. Then, wait for the right offer and apply.

New rewards credit cards are introduced regularly, and they often offer attractive welcome offers that can convert into lounge access points. Even if the card doesn’t specifically list complimentary passes, you can usually get in by cleverly using your points. 

Alternatively, you can apply directly to a credit card affiliated with your airline of choice.

Australian credit cards with airport lounge access

Many Australian banks and credit card companies have airport lounge access benefits, including some of the smaller institutions. 

Please note: the following cards are only examples of those offering airport lounge access. This is not a comprehensive list and should not be taken as recommendations. Details are correct at the time of publication. 

Regional banks

St. George Bank, Bank SA and Bank of Melbourne offer two yearly Qantas Club Lounge invitations (plus 90,000 bonus points) for specific credit card products. 


Altitude Black credit cardholders get two complimentary airport lounge passes per year. Altitude Qantas grants access to the Qantas Lounges, Altitude Velocity to the Virgin Australia Domestic Lounges, and Altitude Rewards to the Priority Pass program. 


Smart and Ultimate Awards credit cards provide two complimentary airport lounge passes via Mastercard Travel Pass. It’s also important to note that both cards come with a sign-up bonus of Qantas points, redeemable as free lounge passes. 


The ANZ Frequent Flyer Black credit card offers two free annual Qantas Club lounge passes. 


Various AMEX credit cards provide access to the Centurion Lounges, Virgin Australia domestic lounges, and the Priority Pass network. These include the Qantas American Express Ultimate Card, the Velocity Platinum Card, the Platinum Card and the Express Explorer Credit Card. 

How to use your free lounge pass like a pro 

To maximise the free airport lounge experience, try saving it for a big overseas trip. These airport lounges become a luxury and a refuge when travelling long distances. Get to the airport early, bring an appetite, avoid buying snacks once checked in, and head straight to the lounge to enjoy all the airport amenities. 

If you have a long layover, you’re better off saving your lounge pass for that trip than accessing it in your home state to kick off a holiday. Whichever destination you choose for your airport lounge experience, it’s all the more luxurious knowing it came free with your credit card.

Frequently asked questions about airport lounge access with a credit card

How do I know if my credit card has access to lounges? 

Free airport lounge access typically comes with travel or rewards credit cards, not standard other types of cards, like low-rate or low-fee options. Credit cards at the premium end are likelier to have free airport lounge passes. Check with your online banking or call customer service. 

Is airport lounge access free with a credit card? 

Yes. Certain credit cards offer complimentary airport lounge passes, usually two per year. For example, the Westpac Altitude Qantas Black credit card gives access to Qantas lounges and the Altitude Velocity Black to Virgin lounges. 


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