4 Best Travel Credit Cards for Airport Lounge Access

Business people waiting for a flight at the airport vip lounge.
izusek / Getty Images

When you’re waiting for your flight at the airport after you’ve cleared security, there are two ways to kill time. You can stuff down vending machine snacks while scouring the wall for an open outlet so you can sit on the floor and charge your phone — or you can lounge in a lounge. 

Airport lounges have cushier seating, better food and drinks, and a more laid-back vibe than the terminal, where the stressed-out masses cram into plastic seats — but not just anyone can stroll inside. With the right credit card, however, you’re an instant VIP

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Are you shopping for a travel card with airport lounge access in mind? Each and every one of these cards will give first-class seating right there on the ground. 

Capital One Venture X

Capital One’s newest travel card is also its most premium. Venture X was designed to compete with the market’s high-end cards — and it competes well for a much lower annual fee. For most people, $395 per year is nothing to shrug off, but the card more than pays for itself if you use the perks it provides. 

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Its rewards program includes 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 in three months, as well as a $300 annual travel credit and 10,000 bonus miles per year on your account’s anniversary — that alone washes out the annual fee. You get 10X miles per dollar spent on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, 5X miles on flights through Capital One Travel and 2X miles on all other purchases. 

Now on to the lounge perks: 

  • Unlimited free visits to Capital One Lounges for cardholders and two free guests. Additional guests cost $45. 
  • All-inclusive amenities include fresh local food, posh relaxation rooms and high-speed Wi-Fi.
  • You also get complimentary Priority Pass membership, which gives you unlimited free visits to more than 1,300 participating non-Capital One VIP lounges in more than 600 cities in 148 countries.

American Express Platinum

American Express Platinum has a high annual fee of $695, but cardholders get a whole lot of bang for all those big bucks. The card comes with juicy rewards: 150,000 points after $6,000 spent in six months, 5X points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel, 5X points on hotels booked through AmexTravel.com and 1X points on everything else. Travelers get $200 in hotel credit, $200 airline fee credit, $200 in Uber Cash and a fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Precheck. 

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But the real perks are all about lounge access: 

  • Cardholders get access to more than 1,400 airport lounges across 650 cities in 140 countries. 
  • Your Amex Platinum and a same-day boarding pass are all you need to enter the Centurion Network of lounges, which includes the Centurion Lounge, Escape Lounge, Centurion Studio Partner, Delta Sky Club and Lufthansa Lounge. 
  • You’re also welcome to hang out in American Express Global Lounges, Plaza Premium Lounge and Air Space Lounge.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

The Sapphire Reserve card from Chase offers top-shelf travel perks for an annual fee of $550. You also get 60,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 in the first three months — that’s $900 for travel expenses when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards — plus a $300 annual travel credit.

You get 5X points on flights purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 10X points on hotels and car rentals through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 10X points on Chase Dining and 3X points on other dining. Cardholders can increase their redemption value by 50% by redeeming for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. 

A one-time enrollment gets cardholders free Priority Pass membership, which gives them access to more than 1,300 VIP lounges in more than 600 cities across the world — not to mention personal airport guides.

Delta SkyMiles Reserve 

Several Airlines maintain their own exclusive lounges — including Alaska, American, Hawaiian, Virgin and United — but none has more locations than Delta, whose Sky Club boasts more than 50 lounges at airports across the world. You can pay between $545 and $845 per year to join, or you can sign up for the Delta SkyMiles Reserve card from American Express, which gives you full access to all locations, plus a whole lot more.

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The annual fee is $550, but the card delivers 125,000 bonus miles plus 10,000 Medallion qualification miles after you spend $5,000 in three months. You get 3X miles on Delta purchases made through Delta and 1X miles on everything else. 

Your Sky Club membership comes with two Delta Sky Club guest passes every year to share with friends or family members. On top of that, you’ll get complimentary access to Amex’s Centurion Lounge.

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About the Author

Andrew Lisa has been writing professionally since 2001. An award-winning writer, Andrew was formerly one of the youngest nationally distributed columnists for the largest newspaper syndicate in the country, the Gannett News Service. He worked as the business section editor for amNewYork, the most widely distributed newspaper in Manhattan, and worked as a copy editor for TheStreet.com, a financial publication in the heart of Wall Street's investment community in New York City.

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