If you get airborne more than once a year, and especially if you fly with family or friends, it’s inexcusable to suffer beyond the unavoidable. Not in this day and age. You can use an airport lounge even if you are flying in Economy. Actually, strike that! You must use a lounge especially if you’re flying in Economy. Use it before the departure to have some good coffee and snacks (don’t beat me up, but I love the new soups in Admiral Clubs), or a quick meal if you have found yourself in a better lounge. Use a lounge on arrival, too, when possible and when it makes sense. When does it make sense? Say, you arrive early in the morning, and you won’t be able to check in before the afternoon, so why not take a shower, have some munchies, and relax in a comfortable chair for an hour or two?
I wrote my first Definitive Guide to Free or Very Cheap Access to Airport Lounges over a year ago. Things have changed. In fact, some things have changed for the better. Who cares about free lounge access? How about getting paid?
Some people don’t think Priority Club lounges are upscale enough for them. I call it the Maria Antuanetta syndrome. Please: in the very least you are getting comfortable sitting, free WiFi, some free booze, free finger food and free coffee. At most, you’re getting free showers, free top shelf booze, free delicious hot food, and even a free massage. Note how often I’ve used the word free to make my point. Completely unnecessary, I know.
The biggest player in the lounge game is Priority Pass. They have 700 lounges in 400 cities around the world. The access plans they sell to third parties are not created equal. They offer different terms to different partners.
Partner 1: AMEX Platinum Credit Cards
There are currently four AMEX Platinum products that provide you access to Priority Club Select lounges
1. Ameriprise AMEX Platinum, No Annual Fee for the First Year.
The Ameriprise Amex Platinum card offers the same benefits that all other Platinum cards, but it doesn’t charge you for the first year. Highlights:
- 25,000 MR points sign up bonus
- $200 a year credit for “incidentals”
- $100 credit for Global Entry (you can get it for anyone)
- Free Gold SPG status
- Free cards to authorized users
- Access to:
- You are supposed to be an Ameriprise client, but nobody cares
- You are supposed to have one MR bonus per personal AMEX Platinum card, but it appears, they still treat it as a different product
- The 25,000-point offer ends on June 30.
2. AMEX Platinum
- 40,000-100,000 MR points sign up bonus
- $450 Annual Fee
- $175 for up to 3 authorized users
- Other terms and benefits are the same as above
3. AMEX Platinum Mercedes Benz
- 50,000 MR points sign up bonus
- $475 Annual Fee
- You are supposed to have one MR bonus per any personal AMEX Platinum card, but they still seem to treat it as a different product
- A couple of bennies for Mercedes owners
- Same terms and benefits as above
4. AMEX Platinum Business
- 50,000-150,000 MR points sign up bonus
- $450 Annual Fee
- A few bennies for business owners
- $300 for each authorized user
- Can be churned 12 months after closing
- Same terms and benefits as above
There is one problem about the AMEX Platinum Priority Pass (and Delta SkyClubs) access: only the holder and authorized users are covered. All other companions will be charged $29 per visit.
Partner 2: Citi ThankYou Prestige Card
Let me repeat the same question: how would you like to be paid to get access to hundreds of airport lounges?
Yes, this card has a whopping $450 annual fee, but it gives you $250 back in air credits in a calendar year, and they don’t have to be incidentals, either. Just buy your tickets outright with the Citi Prestige card and you will be reimbursed. Twice!
Furthermore, if you open a Citi Gold account (with a 30,000 AAdvantage miles bonus, for example), you will receive a $350 annual fee rather than $450. Read my Citi Prestige post and a mintcilantro’s comment.
- $350-450 Annual Fee
- 50,000 ThankYou Points
- $250 Air Travel credits in calendar year
- Access to Priority Club lounges for a family or up to two guests (best access among all credit card offers)
- Access to Admiral Clubs for a family or up to two guests
- $50 for authorized users, and they can bring up to 2 guests to the lounge as well. Party up!
- Other great benefits like free golf and a free hotel night
Partner 3: Chase Ritz Carlon Credit Card
I fell in love with Chase Ritz Carlton card when it offered 70,000 Ritz Carlton/Marriott points with no annual fee and 140,000 points with $395 annual fee. I grabbed the no-fee version (cheap bastard I am) and I’ve been enjoying this card ever since! That awesome sign up bonus is gone now (officially, at least), and the only bonus you get out of it is a free night at a Tier 1-4 Ritz Carlton, which is quite lame if you ask me.
No matter what, this card will also pay you for gracing their lounges with your presence. Highlights:
- $395 annual fee
- $300 credit for Air Travel incidentals per calendar year (easy to get reimbursed)
- Lounge Club access for you and 2 guests.
- Gold RC status and reciprocal elite benefits for Marriott
- Best Visa Signature benefits I’ve ever seen, including free medical travel insurance
- Excellent Ritz Carlton benefits
- Seriously handsome and heavy metal card
Lounge Club is a program run by Priority Pass, as well. It has half as many lounges as Priority Pass Select, and most of them are international. It’s worth mentioning, however, that “half as many” still means you’re getting access to over 350 lounges at over than 200 airports. Not too shabby!
Partner 4: City National Crystal Card
This is a bank for “the rich” that might require you to have a banking relationship in order to get the card. In addition, they want you to fax them your W2 or 1099, which is annoying for anyone who, like me, is not accustomed to spend on a credit card application more than 30-40 seconds of their life. This is a reason why I’m listing this card last, however, if you can grind your teeth and comply with their requirements (not mentioning their limited footprint), then you might be able to make a killing, no less!
Read about my City National Crystal Card Odissey.
The Crystal Card Highlights:
- Waived annual fee for the first year
- $250 a year credit for Air Travel incidentals, and authorized users get it too!
- Priority Pass access for two people and their guests!
- Additional cards for authorized users are free.
See if Priority Pass or Lounge Club lounges are going to work for your travel plans.
So, are there other options to get access to lounges?
Of course, but you’d have to pay for them.
Why would you want to?
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