The Priority Pass program gets you access to more than 1,200 airport lounges, and you can get a free membership with the right credit card

Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse LAX Priority Pass
The Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at LAX is part of the Priority Pass program. Priority Pass

If you’ve ever spent a prolonged amount of time near a departure gate, you’re probably familiar with just how chaotic an airport terminal can be. From flustered travellers running around to crying babies to limited seating, it can make for a very unpleasant experience.

That’s where airport lounges like those in the Priority Pass network come in. You can get free Priority Pass access from a few different credit cards and use it to escape the madness in favour of a quiet space, free food, and drinks. The Priority Pass program also includes select restaurants and cafes at airports, and members can get up to $US30 per person in free food and drink.

Below is a breakdown of the Priority Pass program and how you can get access through select credit cards.

Keep in mind that we’re focusing on the rewards and perks that make these credit cards great options, not things like interest rates and late fees, which will far outweigh the value of any points or miles. It’s important to practice financial discipline when using credit cards by paying your balances in full each month, making payments on time, and only spending what you can afford to pay back.

What is Priority Pass?

Priority Pass is a network of more than 1,200 airport lounges, restaurants, and cafes worldwide. You’ll find that Priority Pass has more lounges internationally than it does in the US, so having a Priority Pass membership can come in especially handy when you travel abroad.

Priority Pass lounges

The airport lounges in the Priority Pass program offer a comfortable place to relax before a flight, but the specific amenities will vary from location to location, and the lounges outside of US airports are generally much nicer (and plentiful) than the ones you’ll find stateside.

Keep in mind that Priority Pass reserves the right to deny access to its lounges if they are overcrowded. Again, this is usually more of an issue in the US, where there are more limited Priority Pass lounge locations, than it is abroad.

Priority Pass restaurants and cafes

In addition to more than 1,200 airport lounges worldwide, the Priority Pass program includes restaurants and cafes at airports such as Los Angeles (LAX) and St. Louis (STL). Priority Pass members can get $US28 to $US30 of free food and drink at participating restaurants.

Business Insider’s Sarah Silbert took advantage of this perk in Portland (PDX) and got a full breakfast and coffee, plus some snacks for the plane. It’s a great way to avoid paying the high mark-up for a meal at the airport. Travel website The Points Guy has a list of all the Priority Pass airport lounge locations in the US.

Priority Pass membership options

There are three Priority Pass membership tiers:

  • Standard membership – costs $US99 per year and enables you to buy lounge passes for $US32 per visit
  • Standard Plus – costs $US299 per year and gets you 10 free visits
  • Prestige membership – costs $US429 per year and includes unlimited free visits to Priority Pass lounges

All of these membership tiers allow you to purchase guest passes for $US32 per person.

Alternatively, you can get Priority Pass membership through several rewards credit cards. A Priority Pass membership that you can from a credit card is called Priority Pass Select – it’s a different type of membership than what you get by purchasing it directly from Priority Pass. The benefit is that it’s completely free, and with some credit cards you even get free guest access, making it a much better deal the publicly available membership plans.

Which credit cards offer Priority Pass membership?

The Platinum Card from American Express and the Business Platinum Card from American Express

The Platinum Card and Business Platinum Card from American Express both offer extensive lounge access, including the Priority Pass network. Cardholders and authorised users get Priority Pass Select membership with complimentary admission for up to two guests per visit. Additional guests beyond the two can be admitted for $US32 per person.

The big caveat here is that American Express cardholders no longer get access to the restaurants and cafes that are part of the Priority Pass Lounge network. This is unfortunate because the program has some pretty nice restaurants that are now off-limits. But Platinum cardholders can take solace in their exclusive access to Centurion Lounges, The International American Express lounge network, and more.

Read more:
Amex Platinum vs. Amex Business Platinum – which card is best?

Click here to learn more and apply for the Amex Platinum.

Click here to learn more and apply for the Amex Business Platinum.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

If American Express’ exclusion of restaurants and cafes bothers you, you might want to opt for this card instead. Not only does the Sapphire Reserve card offer lots of great travel perks, but the Priority Pass Select membership doesn’t exclude access to restaurants and cafes.

For just $US75, you can add an authorised user to your Sapphire Reserve card, and this qualifies for the same membership perks. That includes bringing up to two guests into the lounge per visit. Any guests beyond this number can enter at a discounted rate of $US27 per person.

Read more:
Chase Sapphire Reserve review

Click here to learn more and apply for the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Citi Prestige® Card

The Citi Prestige Card’s Priority Pass Select membership is unique in that it extends access to immediate family or up to two guests. Family is defined as a spouse, domestic partner and/or children under 18. If you want to bring in additional guests beyond this allowance, you can do so for $US27 per person.

Read more:
The Citi Prestige just got a heavier metal design

Hilton Honours American Express Aspire Card

With premium benefits to boot, the Hilton Aspire is one of the best hotel credit cards out there. Cardholders get free top-tier Diamond status with Hilton, up to $US250 Hilton in resort credits each year, up to $US250 in airline fee credits each year, up to a $US100 Hilton property credit on two-night stays, an annual free weekend night and more.

But perks don’t extend to just hotel stays. Hilton Aspire cardholders also receive Priority Pass Select membership and guest privileges (up to two per visit). As this is an American Express Card, access to restaurants and cafes is unfortunately restricted. However, with all the other benefits this card has to offer, I can personally overlook this flaw.

Read more:
Hilton Aspire Amex card review

Click here to learn more and apply for the Hilton Honours Aspire card.

Hilton Honours American Express Surpass® Card

If you’re looking for great travel perks for a lower ($US95) annual fee, the Hilton Honours Surpass card is a great alternative to the Aspire card.

Hilton Surpass cardholders receive 10 free Priority Pass lounge visits every year. Not as good as unlimited visits, but no bad considering you’re paying a lower annual fee for this card and still getting almost one lounge visit per month out of it.

Click here to learn more and apply for the Hilton Honours Surpass card.


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