Compare credit cards with free airport lounge access
Updated April 8th, 2020
Many rewards and frequent flyer credit cards provide complimentary access to airport lounges. This gives you the opportunity to relax between flights and enjoy premium services without paying an entry fee. Depending on the card and the lounge, you may even be able to share your access with a guest or family members travelling with you.
You can compare and apply for credit cards that offer complimentary airport lounge entry in this guide. We've also covered the common requirements you need to meet to get airport lounge access, highlighted popular lounges and weighed up the pros and cons so you can find the right card for your needs.
Comparison: 4 credit cards with free airport lounge access
Compare the airline lounge options and annual fees offered on these four, premium credit cards.
Qantas American Express Ultimate Card – This card offers two Qantas Club Lounge invitations annually (after your first eligible spend) and two entries to the American Express Lounge at Sydney or Melbourne airport each year, with a $450 annual fee.
Westpac Altitude Black – This card includes two complimentary Priority Pass lounge passes each year and charges a $250 annual fee.
VIDEO: How to get free airport lounge access with your credit card
How do credit cards with free airport lounge access work?
Most cards that offer complimentary airport lounge access give you a limited number of single-use passes you can use each year you have the card. There are also a few cards that provide lounge access on an ongoing basis through programs such as LoungeKey or Véloce.
Depending on the card and the type of airport lounge access available, you may be able to invite a guest or get access for a supplementary cardholder. In most cases, you also need to meet a set of requirements to enjoy airport lounge access through your credit card, such as spending a certain amount, keeping your account in good standing or requesting the passes directly through your card provider.
How can I get airport lounge access with a credit card?
The first step is to make sure you meet the eligibility requirements for this credit card perk. While these can vary based on the provider and the airport lounge, some of the most common conditions include:
Spending requirement. You may need to make an eligible purchase or spend a specific amount of money on your credit card each year to be eligible for complimentary airport lounge passes. For example, the ANZ Rewards Travel Adventures card offers two complimentary Virgin Australia domestic airport lounge passes when you use it to spend $500 on eligible purchases in the first 3 months of each card membership year.
Invitation requests. With some credit cards, you may need to contact the bank or provider and request the lounge invitations before they are issued in your name. The invitations will then be emailed or posted to you once you have met this requirement, and any other conditions that may apply to your card.
Program enrolment. Credit cards that offer airport lounge access through a member-based service such as Priority Pass may require you to enrol in that program to receive your complimentary passes or access.
Valid ticket. Most airport lounges require all guests to have a valid ticket for a flight departing that day.
Dress code. Lounges often have dress code requirements, such as smart casual dress and no shorts.
How do I use my card to get lounge access at the airport?
Once you have met the requirements, you can access eligible airport lounges by either presenting your invitations or showing your credit card to lounge staff, along with a valid boarding pass. If you want to bring a guest or family members into the lounge, the staff will then advise you of any charges that may apply for your companion/s.
What are the pros and cons of a credit card with airport lounge access?
A relaxed environment. An exclusive airport lounge takes you out of the chaos that is typically found in an airport waiting area.
Refreshments and meals. Enjoy free drinks and snacks while waiting to be called for your flight, as well as meals and buffet options (depending on your flight time).
Convenience. With cozy chairs, tables and work stations, you can spend your time wisely by taking advantage of free Wi-Fi to catch up on work, or your social media status.
Other benefits. Since the majority of these cards are part of a rewards program, using them will earn you points that can later be redeemed for airfare, merchandise and more.
Restrictions. In some cases, you might be restricted to which amenities are available to you inside the airport lounge.
Card fees. As a result of the benefits and perks that come with these cards, you will find that the annual fees are higher than with regular credit cards.
Accessibility. With some of these cards, you will find that the lounge you have free access to is not available at certain airports.
Limitations. Complimentary passes are usually offered in pairs. If you are travelling with a large group, you might find that not everyone will be able to wait with you inside the lounge.
How to compare credit cards with free airport lounge passes
Airport lounge access is just one feature you'll get on a credit card. So, as well as looking at the type of lounge access you'll get, make sure you compare the card's other features and costs to decide if it's worth it for you. This includes:
Annual fee. Credit cards with complimentary lounge passes are usually platinum or frequent flyer cards with high annual fees. Depending on the card, these can cost hundreds or sometimes thousands of dollars per year. Make sure the extra features including the lounge passes, frequent flyer program and complimentary insurance can help justify this cost. You may get lucky and find one that waives the fee for the first year, which could make it more enticing to sign up.
Rates. Depending on the way you plan to use the credit card, interest rates will make a big difference in the card's value. The purchase rate, cash advance rate and balance transfer rate may all differ in one card, so you will need a good idea of how you plan to use it before you start making comparisons. For example, if you are using it to earn points towards flights but don’t plan on carrying a balance, look for low purchase rates with extended interest-free days.
The number of lounges you can access. This feature is dependent on the airline and network that the card is working with. A Qantas cardholder for example will have access to close to 20 VIP lounges in Australia, while Rex Lounge and Virgin Lounge have three and six respectively. A priority pass membership allows access to approximately 600 airport lounges, and could be the best choice for travellers who always go with the airline that has the lowest price.
The rewards program or airline provider. Many of the credit cards with airport lounge access are a part of a rewards program that could be tied with a specific airline. If you favour one airline over another, this is definitely worth considering. Another thing to look for is whether or not your exclusive lounge access is contingent on the number of points you have earned.
Lounge perks. Airport lounges use various perks to please their first class passengers and frequent flyers. This could be as elaborate as massage tables in a garden-like setting like in the Qantas First Lounge in Sydney, or Wi-Fi access, showers and free wine available in Virgin Airline Lounges. The credit card you choose will determine the perks you are entitled to when waiting on flights.
Other benefits. See what else the card is offering outside of the complimentary access to airport lounges. You could find some that have money-saving balance transfer offers if you are carrying a lot of debt, or bonus rewards points if you are trying for free tickets on your next holiday.
What types of airport lounges can I access with a credit card?
The design and features of airport lounges vary depending on the company or airlines that operate them. But if you've never set foot in a lounge and want to know what they offer, here are some of the locations you could gain access to with an eligible credit card:
Priority Pass is a subscription-based service that provides members with access to over 800 lounges around the world. Depending on the level of membership, you can get unlimited access at no extra cost, a fixed number of free passes per year, or entry for a reduced fee. Credit cards that provide Priority Pass access and/or membership include the Citi Prestige Card, the Citi Premier Card, the St.George Amplify Signature and the Westpac Altitude Black. You can also pay for a membership, with fees ranging from US$99 per year to US$399 per year.
Qantas Club Lounges
Several credit cards provide complimentary access to the Qantas Club or Qantas Lounge invitations when you're booked on an eligible flight, including the ANZ Frequent Flyer Black, the Qantas American Express Premium and the Westpac Altitude Black (when you choose Altitude Qantas Rewards). You can also enjoy complimentary Qantas Lounge access when you have an eligible first class or business class fare with Qantas, Jetstar (Business Max only), if you're a Qantas Frequent Flyer Gold, Platinum or Platinum One member, a Qantas Club member, or have matching status with a partner airline program including Emirates Skywards and oneworld alliance.
American Express Lounges (domestic)
Many high-tier American Express credit cards come with complimentary passes to the American Express lounges. There are currently two Amex lounges, located at the Terminal 1 departures at Sydney International Airport and T2 international terminal at Melbourne Airport. When you visit an American Express lounge, you can treat yourself to complimentary dining and snacks which often includes buffet breakfast, lunch and dinner. You can also order soft drink, cocktails, wine, beer and barista-made coffee from the bar. Both of the lounges are well equipped with individual seats, lounges and bench-style tables. Whether you need to do some work or just want to scroll through your feed, you can look forward to complimentary high-speed Wi-Fi and device charging points in both lounges.
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Frequently asked questions about airport lounge access
Some credit cards include complimentary airport lounge access for at least one additional cardholder, but not all of them do. So make sure you check your card's terms and conditions, or call the provider to confirm whether or not your partner will also be able to access airport lounges when they travel.
Generally, no. The name on the pass and on the boarding pass usually must be the same.
No, the boarding pass will have to show that you are flying with Qantas or Jetstar on the same day that you want to visit the Qantas Club lounge.
Amy is an editor and writer at finder.com.au with more than 10 years experience covering credit cards, personal finance and various lifestyle topics. When she’s not sharing her knowledge on money matters, Amy spends her time as an actress.
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