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Beginner’s Guide to Points and Miles: Airport Club Lounge Access

Beginners Guide to Points and Miles

Whether you’re traveling in a premium cabin or not, having access to a decent airport lounge can take some of the stress out of your trip. You’ll have a quiet place away from the noisy terminal to access wifi and enjoy anything from a light snack to a full blown meal.

Thai Airways Royal First Class Lounge Bangkok Suvarnabhumi, Thai Airways First Class Lounge

Thai Airways Royal First Class Lounge Bangkok

Most people have to show up at the airport unreasonably early and then wait at the gate for hours until boarding. Airport lounge access can make these long waits and delays much more bearable. Every major airline either has its own lounge, a partner lounge, or a contract lounge available for passengers to use. Free wifi, complimentary drinks and snacks are provided. It’s a nice way to unwind before a flight, much more so than a crowded gate.

Single-day passes can be purchased for $29 – $50, while annual membership ranges from $450 – $500. Below is an outline of few ways you can get airport club lounge access if you’re not traveling in a premium cabin:

Airline Elite Status

Having elite status is one way to get club lounge access. You can spend a substantial amount of money mileage running or try to achieve status through credit card spending.

All AAdvantage elites get discounted admirals club membership, while Platinum and Executive Platinum members get OneWorld Lounge access. United and Delta both grant club lounge access for international travel to Gold members and up. US Airways offers all members a discount on club lounge membership, with complimentary club membership extended to those who fly 125,000 miles/150 segments per calendar year.

Airline Credit Cards 

Aside from sign-up bonuses, many airline credit cards also offer a pair of club lounge passes as part of the sign-up bonus or an annual benefit. Bloggers give these away like candy, that’s how plentiful they are. Below is a list of credit cards that give cardholders lounge passes:

While the annual fees for cards offering lounge membership are quite high at $450, in some cases this is less than the cost of buying a membership.

Premium Credit Cards

Premium credit cards like the Amex Platinum cards have sky-high annual fees, though they can be offset by perks like lounge access. Platinum cardholders get complimentary access for themselves and up to two companions (or a spouse and any children under 21) at participating American Airlines Admiral Club, Delta Sky Club, and US Airways Club lounges.

In addition, cardholders can enroll in Priority Pass Select, which grants access to up to 600 lounges  worldwide.

Similar to Priority Pass, the Chase Ink cards offer LoungeClub membership to cardholders. This entitles you to two free visits and a discounted $27 per visit fee after that.

Airport Lounge Day Passes

Whether the free wifi, snacks, and secluded area are worth upwards of $50 is up to you. I’ve visited lounges where the food was barely edible, wifi was slow, and I could easily get both for less then $30 by the gate. Also, keep in mind that being at the gate is sometimes more convenient – especially if the lounge is far away and not all that pleasant.

Delta, United, and American sell passes for $50. Alaska Board Room passes cost $45 and US Airways lets you buy passes online for $29 or $50 onsite.

Airport Lounge Membership

You can buy club lounge membership from Alaska, Delta, US Airways for $450 or from American or United for $500. There are discounts of up to 25% for elite members and renewals. United also charges a $50 new member initiation fee, so keep that in mind. All of the airlines let members pay for their membership with miles, with discounts for elites. Annual membership for regular members costs 80k for American, 70,000 for Delta, 65,000 miles for United. I would never pay 65k+ miles on lounge membership. At that rate, I’d rather save up for a premium flight, which will get me lounge access and a pleasant onboard experience.

Is lounge access important to you? Where do you usually get it from?

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Ariana Arghandewal

7 Comments

  1. Good stuff here!

    For some odd reason United sent me a 4 one-time club passes even after I cancelled their card. We’ll see if that glitch continues next year!

    • The same thing happened to me! I received 4 club passes after canceling my card, too bad all you get in United’s Club lounges are dry carrot sticks and Bud Light.

      • And wifi. That is more valuable, imo, than whatever dry crackers and tap water they serve in the lounge.

  2. Now, we need which hotel credit cards give any lounge access. Example: Fairmont.

    • Thanks Jerry. I did a similar post (Beginner’s Guide: Fast Track to Hotel Elite Status) that talks about how to get status with credit cards and what the benefits are.

      • Elite status not required or relevant. Some credit cards such as Chase Fairmont give lounge passes right away.

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