There are few things as tedious as waiting at an airport. Not only is it a boring place with little to do, but business travelers are wasting valuable time when they could be productive. In addition, even basic necessities can be absurdly expensive — like $15 for a sandwich and $5 for a bottle of water.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Just down the hall from your gate is probably an airport business lounge. Inside, you’re likely to find free drinks, snacks, WiFi and a comfortable place to work or relax. Some of the more upscale lounges might include gourmet meals, showers and even spa treatments.
International business class passengers are usually given free access to airport lounges, but how do the rest of us get into one of these lounges? At about $50 for a day pass, or around $500 for an annual pass, admission can be unaffordable. But at the same time, there are several credit cards that offer complimentary airport lounge access as a cardholder benefit. These are premium rewards cards that offer numerous other perks, but cost less than most annual business lounge memberships.
Yet not all airport lounge access is equal. Some cards offer admission to a single airline’s lounge network, while others feature access to a network of lounges. With over 1,000 locations around the world, the largest airport lounge network is called Priority Pass. And a common stand-by in a business owner’s wallet, American Express has built its own network of Centurion lounges, including seven locations in the U.S.
The other thing that you should consider is the guest policy of a credit card’s lounge benefit. Some cards only grant the primary cardholder access, while others allow the primary cardholder and a limited number of guests. Some credit cards will even come with lounge access for additional authorized cardholders, but usually there is an additional fee for each cardholder.
Most of these credit cards have high credit thresholds, so be sure to know where you stand before you apply. Getting denied for a business credit card creates an inquiry on your personal credit report, which can lower your credit scores. (You can check your full business credit profile — personal and business credit scores — for free at Nav.)
Here are five credit cards with the best airport lounge access to keep you living large while traveling.
This card provides access to the Priority Pass Select program, Delta SkyClubs and their own Centurion lounges, which feature a full buffet. The Priority Pass and SkyClub membership doesn’t offer complimentary guest access, but you can bring in two guests to the Centurion lounges. Other benefits include a $200 airline fee credit and elite status with Starwood, Marriott and Hilton Hotels.
. Cardholders earn 5x points on flights and prepaid hotels booked through the Amex travel site, and one point per dollar spent elsewhere. There’s a annual fee for this card. (Editor’s Note: This offer was updated June 1.)
2. The United MileagePlus Club Business Card From Chase
The United MileagePlus Club Business card provides complimentary membership to the United Club and participating Star Alliance lounges. Membership includes guest access for two adults or one adult and dependent children. Other benefits include two free bags for the cardholder and one companion, as well as priority service at check-in, boarding and for baggage.
Cardholders earn 2x miles for each dollar spent on United purchases and 1.5x elsewhere.
The card also provides a $100 statement credit after one purchase, and it has a $450 annual fee.
3. Citi Prestige
The Citi Prestige card provides users with membership to the Priority Pass network, along with two guests. It also offers 3x points for air travel and hotel purchases, 2x for dining and 1x elsewhere. Other benefits include a $250 annual air travel credit, and a fourth night free when you book three consecutive nights of hotel accommodations using Citi’s designated travel agency.
This card also currently offers new applicants 40,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 within three months of account opening. There’s a $450 annual fee for this card.
The Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express provides just the primary cardholder with complimentary access to all Delta Sky Clubs and discounted rates for up to two companions. Benefits include a free checked bag, priority service and upgrade priority over other travelers with the same Medallion elite status. Each year upon renewal, it also offers a free companion certificate for a roundtrip first-class or main cabin flight (taxes and fees not included). There’s a annual fee for this card. You can also add up to three additional authorized users for $175 per year.
The Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard is unique in that it offers the primary cardholder and each additional authorized user access to Admirals Club membership. In addition, all cardholders can bring in two adult guests or their entire immediate family.