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 1,300 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.
Read more: Your credit card could get you a free drink and a comfortable place to relax at the airport
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.
Read more: Orlando Airport has two of the same lounges. I used my credit card perk to access both and found one was way better.
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.
Read more: I pay $550 a year for my Chase Sapphire Reserve card, and it gives me a perk so valuable I won’t travel without it
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.
Read more: I used a credit card perk to get free airport meals in the UK for myself and a friend and it’s still my favorite travel hack
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 Chase Sapphire Reserve® is a great option. Not only does the Chase Sapphire Reserve® offer lots of great travel perks, but the Priority Pass Select membership doesn’t exclude access to restaurants and cafes like membership through American Express cards do.
Read more: 11 benefits that make Chase Sapphire Reserve a must-have for frequent travelers
The card currently offers a welcome bonus of 50,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. The annual fee is $550, but cardholders receive up to $300 in travel credits each year and top-notch travel and purchase protections.
For just $75 annually, you can add an authorized user to your Chase Sapphire Reserve®, and this qualifies for the same membership perks. That includes bringing up to two guests into the lounge per visit. Any guests beyond this number can enter at a discounted rate of $27 per person.
Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card
16.99% – 23.99% Variable
100,000 bonus miles when you spend $10,000 on purchases in the first 6 months from account opening
The new Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card is Capital One’s first-ever premium credit card, and it’s a great value if you want a Priority Pass Select membership with unlimited visits, restaurant access, and two free guests (additional guests cost $32).
Its annual fee of $395 is lower than similar travel rewards cards, and you’ll also get access to Capital One airport lounges, the first of which recently opened at Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW), with a second opening next year in Denver (DEN).
Read more: Capital One Venture X vs Chase Sapphire Reserve: Which premium rewards credit card is best for you?
The Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card is also an affordable choice if you want your authorized users to receive Priority Pass access as well. You can add up to four authorized users for free, and each gets their own Priority Pass Select membership and Capital One airport lounge access.
The Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card offers a welcome bonus of 100,000 bonus miles when you spend $10,000 on purchases in the first 6 months from account opening. In addition, new cardholders receive up to $200 in statement credits toward vacation rental purchases (like Airbnb and VRBO) made with their card in the first year, and up to $300 in credit toward Capital One travel portal purchases each year.
The Platinum Card® from American Express
See Pay Over Time APR
100,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $6,000 in your first 6 months of card membership, plus 10x points on eligible purchases on the Card at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the U.S., on up to $25,000 in combined purchases, during your first 6 months of card membership
The Platinum Card® from American Express offers one of the most comprehensive airport lounge programs of any premium credit card, which includes access to the Priority Pass network as well as Centurion lounges, Delta Sky Clubs (when you fly Delta), and several other lounge brands.
Read more: The best airport lounges you can access with the Amex Platinum card
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 Platinum Card currently offers a welcome bonus of 100,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $6,000 in your first 6 months of card membership, plus 10x points on eligible purchases on the Card at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the U.S., on up to $25,000 in combined purchases, during your first 6 months of card membership. It also recently added a slew of new benefits to help offset its $695 annual fee (See Rates).
The Business Platinum Card® from American Express
14.24% – 22.24% Variable
Good to Excellent
120,000 Membership Rewards® points after spending $15,000 on eligible purchases with your card within the first 3 months of card membership
0% Intro APR for 12 months on purchases eligible for Pay Over Time
Small-business owners who travel frequently might prefer The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, which comes with the same Priority Pass and other lounge access as the personal version of the card. Authorized users cost $300 each (See Rates) and receive their own Priority Pass membership with guest privileges.
Read more: The Amex Business Platinum card just got a makeover with a whopper 120,000-point bonus and new benefits — but the annual fee is increasing, too
It’s a very good time to apply for the Amex Business Platinum, because its annual fee of $595* (See Rates) will go up to $695 starting January 13, 2022.
The Amex Business Platinum Card is offering a welcome bonus of 120,000 Membership Rewards® points after spending $15,000 on eligible purchases with your card within the first 3 months of card membership. It also comes with valuable statement credits for airline incidental fees**, wireless providers, Dell purchases**, and more.
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card
15.74% to 24.74% variable APR
Good to Excellent
Earn 75,000 bonus points after using your new card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. Plus, earn up to $200 in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. Restaurants within the first 6 months of card membership
The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card is Marriott’s premium credit card, and along with upscale hotel perks and statement credits, it also offers a Priority Pass Select membership for the primary cardholder.
Read more: 9 things to do once you have the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex to enjoy benefits like free hotel status and over $400 in statement credits
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.
The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card currently offers a hefty welcome bonus: Earn 75,000 bonus points after using your new card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. Plus, earn up to $200 in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. Restaurants within the first 6 months of card membership.
There’s a $450 annual fee (See Rates), but in return, cardholders get up to $300 in annual Marriott statement credits, Gold elite status, and a free night each card anniversary at hotels that cost up to 50,000 points.
Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card
15.74% to 24.74% variable APR on purchases
Good to Excellent
150,000 points after you spend at least $4,000 in your first 3 months of account opening
The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is one of the best hotel credit cards because of the generous benefits it offers. Along with complimentary top-tier Hilton Diamond elite status, cardholders receive up to $250 in Hilton resort credits each anniversary year, up to $250 in airline incidental fee credits** each calendar year, and an annual free weekend night valid at nearly any Hilton hotel.
Read more: 5 luxury resorts where you can get great value from the Amex Hilton Aspire free night certificate — plus use up to $250 in credits
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.
The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is currently offering a welcome bonus of 150,000 points after you spend at least $4,000 in your first 3 months of account opening. There’s a $450 annual fee (See Review).
U.S. Bank Altitude® Reserve Visa Infinite® Card
16.99% – 23.99% Variable
50,000 points after you spend $4,500 on purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
If you’re already a US Bank customer, you’re eligible to apply for the U.S. Bank Altitude® Reserve Visa Infinite® Card. This premium card comes with a limited Priority Pass Select membership which is valid for 12 months and comes with four free visits for the primary cardholder and four guest visits. Additional visits are $32 each, and authorized users aren’t eligible for their own membership.
Read more: US Bank Altitude Reserve credit card review: One of the highest-earning premium travel cards on the market — but only when you combine it with a smartphone
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 $400 annual fee.
There’s also a solid welcome bonus on the U.S. Bank Altitude® Reserve Visa Infinite® Card. New cardholders can earn 50,000 points after you spend $4,500 on purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.
Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card
Good to Excellent
130,000 points after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of card membership. Plus, earn an additional 50,000 points after spending $10,000 total on purchases in the first 6 months
If you don’t want to shell out hundreds of dollars for an annual fee but still want Priority Pass lounge access, the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card is an excellent option. Its annual fee is only $95 (See Rates), but it comes with Priority Pass Select membership that includes 10 free visits a year.
Read more: The Hilton Honors Surpass credit card offers 2 perks that make it a powerful card for the price
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 Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card now, you can earn an excellent welcome bonus of 130,000 points after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of card membership. Plus, earn an additional 50,000 points after spending $10,000 total on purchases in the first 6 months.
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
15.74% – 24.74% Variable
Good to Excellent
130,000 points after spending $2,000 in purchases in the first 3 months of card membership. Plus, earn an additional 50,000 points after spending $10,000 total in purchases in the first 6 months
Like the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card, The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card is a solid choice if you don’t travel often but still want Priority Pass airport lounge access. Again, restaurants are excluded, but this card’s membership includes 10 free visits per year.
Read more: Guide to the best Hilton credit cards
For a reasonable $95 annual fee (See Rates), cardholders also receive Hilton Gold elite status and great bonus earning categories. Authorized users do not receive their own Priority Pass membership.
The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card is offering a huge welcome bonus right now: 130,000 points after spending $2,000 in purchases in the first 3 months of card membership. Plus, earn an additional 50,000 points after spending $10,000 total in purchases in the first 6 months. You can find out more in our Hilton Honors Business card review.
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 $495 for the primary cardmember.
- 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 Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card or Marriott Bonvoy Bold® Credit Card. If you’ve had one of these cards for at least a year, it’s possible to call Chase and request to change to the Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card. You won’t earn a welcome bonus, but it could be worth it if the card’s benefits are valuable to you.
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.
Read more: Activate your new American Express Platinum card benefits so you can get hundreds of dollars in perks
For example, with American Express cards like the Platinum Card, you’ll find an enrollment link under the “Benefits” tab in your account online. Each authorized user needs to enroll separately for their own Priority Pass membership as well.
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.
Read more: My family hoarded credit card points during the pandemic, and earned enough to take a big trip when we were ready to travel again
One workaround for those with large families is to add a family member as an authorized user to cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve® or Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card. That authorized user would get their own membership with two guests allowed — but keep in mind you must be at least 18 to enroll in Priority Pass.
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.
Read more: Canceling a credit card is easy, but you should ask yourself 3 questions before you do it
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.
Good to Excellent
3 free nights (each valued up to 50,000 points) after qualifying purchases and 10x total points on eligible purchases in select categories
Good to Excellent
$200 after spending $500 on purchases in the first three months from account opening
Good to Excellent