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Now that travel is making a comeback, the crowds have returned — and navigating a busy, loud airport can be stressful at the best of times. Fortunately, there are travel credit cards that can make your airport experience more civilized, including cards that offer statement credits for TSA PreCheck and Global Entry to speed through security and customs lines and credit cards with priority boarding to help get you settled on the plane sooner.
There's another credit card perk that can offer an escape from the hustle and bustle of the airport terminal. Priority Pass is a network of over 1,400 airport lounges around the world, and you can get a free membership to access these lounges when you have certain credit cards. Some cards also offer up to $30 per person in free food and drinks at select airport restaurants that participate in the Priority Pass program.
Many of these are premium cards with high annual fees that come with other lucrative travel perks — but there are a few that won't cost you an arm and a leg. And getting Priority Pass access through a credit card is a better deal than purchasing a Priority Pass membership directly — the program normally charges up to $429 per year for the privilege.
Here's a breakdown of the Priority Pass program and how you can get access through select credit cards.
What is Priority Pass?
Priority Pass is a network of more than 1,300 airport lounges, restaurants, and cafés worldwide. Many of these are independent lounges that aren't affiliated with a particular airline, but sometimes you'll find branded lounges — like the Air France/KLM lounge or Star Alliance lounge — at certain airports.
Many larger US airports have Priority Pass lounges and restaurants, but there are even more overseas, so having a Priority Pass membership is especially useful if you travel internationally.
You can find Priority Pass lounges and restaurants by searching for your airport on the Priority Pass website or through the Priority Pass app. Here you'll be able to check lounge hours, amenities, guest policies, and any restrictions to be aware of.
Priority Pass lounges
Typically, airport lounges in the Priority Pass network are off-limits to the general public unless you have access through a membership, airline ticket, elite status, or via a paid day pass. They offer a quieter, more comfortable place to relax before a flight, usually offering light food and drinks, free Wi-Fi, and sometimes showers or other amenities depending on the location.
International lounges are often nicer with better amenities and food than you'll find in US airports, too. Keep in mind that Priority Pass can deny access to its lounges if they are overcrowded — if it's busy, you may have to wait to get in.
Priority Pass restaurants, cafés, spas, and more
In addition to airport lounges, the Priority Pass network includes restaurants and cafés at airports like Houston (IAH) and San Francisco (SFO). Priority Pass members can get anywhere from $28 to $30 of free food and drinks at participating restaurants.
The credit is usually enough for an entrée or snack and adult beverage — and this can be a great way to save money if you'd otherwise buy a pricey meal at the airport. Some airports have multiple participating restaurants, and there's no reason you can't use the credit at each one, even on the same trip.
Some airports also have other non-lounge experiences (like spas or rest suites) that are included in the Priority Pass network. In these cases, check the Priority Pass website or app to find out what's included in your complimentary visit.
Keep in mind American Express cardholders no longer get access to Priority Pass airport restaurants or most other non-lounge locations (like Be Relax airport spas).
Priority Pass membership options
If you want to buy a Priority Pass membership, there are three options:
- Standard membership: $99 per year and enables you to buy lounge passes for $32 per visit
- Standard Plus: $299 per year and gets you 10 free visits
- Prestige membership: $429 per year and includes unlimited free visits to Priority Pass lounges
All of these membership tiers allow you to purchase guest passes for $32 per person.
Read more: How to get a free Priority Pass membership
The Priority Pass membership you get from a credit card is called Priority Pass Select, which you can't purchase directly. It's much better than the publicly available memberships in that most credit cards offer some form of free guest access.
Which credit cards offer Priority Pass membership?
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
If you want access to the full range of Priority Pass lounges and restaurants, the
The card currently offers a welcome bonus of
For just $75 annually, you can add an authorized user to your
Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card
Its annual fee of
The Platinum Card® from American Express
Primary cardholders and authorized users get Priority Pass Select membership** with complimentary admission for up to two guests per visit (additional guests cost $32). You won't get access to Priority Pass airport restaurants because this is an American Express card, so if that's important to you, another different card may be a better fit.
The Business Platinum Card® from American Express
Small-business owners who travel frequently might prefer
It's a very good time to apply for the Amex Business Platinum, because its annual fee of
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card
Again, because it's an Amex card, there's no access to Priority Pass airport restaurants, and in this case, authorized users don't get their own membership.
Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card
Cardholders receive a Priority Pass Select membership and guest privileges (up to two per visit), but again, because it's an Amex card, restaurants are excluded. Authorized users do not get their own Priority Pass membership, either.
U.S. Bank Altitude® Reserve Visa Infinite® Card
If you're already a US Bank customer, you're eligible to apply for the
The card also comes with excellent Visa Infinite benefits including top-notch travel and purchase protections. Cardholders receive up to $325 per year in credit toward travel and dining purchases, which offsets most of the card's
There's also a solid welcome bonus on the
Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card
If you don't want to shell out hundreds of dollars for an annual fee but still want Priority Pass lounge access, the
This is a good choice for less-frequent travelers who might not need unlimited lounge visits or care about restaurant credits. Keep in mind authorized users won't receive Priority Pass membership, either.
If you open the
Cardholders also receive automatic Hilton Gold elite status which offers perks like better rooms and free breakfast (currently awarded as a food and beverage credit).
The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card
Read more: Guide to the best Hilton credit cards
For a reasonable
Other credit cards with Priority Pass lounge access
There are a couple of other credit cards that come with Priority Pass Select membership, but neither is currently available to new applicants:
Citi Prestige® Card: Unlimited visits for the primary cardholder and up to two guests or immediate family (defined as spouse/domestic partner and children under 18). Authorized users cost $75 and get their own Priority Pass Select membership with the same guest privileges. The annual fee is Citi Prestige® Card.
- Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card: Unlimited visits for the primary cardholder and no limit on the number of guests. Authorized users are free and receive the same unlimited guest privileges. $450 annual fee.
The Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card is still available as an upgrade from the
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) — Credit cards with Priority Pass
Is Priority Pass membership automatic when you open an eligible credit card?
In most cases, Priority Pass membership does not happen automatically when you're approved for an eligible credit card — you'll typically have to activate it by enrolling through your card's online account or by calling the number on the back of your card.
For example, with American Express cards like the
Can you access airport lounges with just your credit card?
To enter a Priority Pass lounge or receive a food and beverage credit at participating airport restaurants, you'll need to show your Priority Pass Select membership card. Most (not all) lounges will also accept a digital card through the Priority Pass app, but it's best to carry your physical card with you just in case.
Your credit card alone will not get you into Priority Pass lounges.
What if you have a large family or are traveling in a big group?
With most cards, you're limited to two free guests — but if you have more people traveling with you, it may be possible to pay an entrance fee (usually $27 to $32) for your additional companions. Keep in mind there may be restrictions due to space availability so this may not always be an option.
One workaround for those with large families is to add a family member as an authorized user to cards like the
Do children count as Priority Pass lounge guests?
Most lounges will allow children to enter as long as they're accompanied by a responsible adult, but keep in mind they'll usually be counted as a guest and be subject to an entrance fee if you're over your complimentary guest limit.
In some cases, lounges will allow children under a certain age to enter for free (without being counted toward your guest limit), but this is the exception rather than the rule.
If you cancel your credit card, can you still access Priority Pass lounges?
When you cancel your credit card, you won't be able to access Priority Pass lounges, even if the expiration date on your membership card is well into the future. The bank notifies Priority Pass about the cancellation and your membership will terminate effective the same day you cancel your credit card.
Can you 'stack' two Priority Pass memberships to get more guests into a lounge?
If you have more than one Priority Pass membership from different credit cards, it might be tempting to try to use both cards to allow yourself more free guests in a single visit. Unfortunately, you can only use one membership card per visit per person, so it's not possible to stack these benefits.
However, it is possible to visit more than one lounge or restaurant in the same airport on the same day.