There are several ways to get cheap or free airport lounge access when you travel. The best way is to get a credit card that gives you a number of free lounge visits per year. Find out more about the benefits of different airport lounge programs in Canada and compare credit cards to find the one that will give you the best airport lounge experience for your needs.
Tangerine World Mastercard
Tangerine World Mastercard
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Tangerine World Mastercard
Apply today and earn 2% cash back in up to three spending categories of your choice. Plus, travel in style with Mastercard Airport Experiences provided by LoungeKey.
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An airport lounge is a designated space in an airport that gives you a place to relax and unwind before your flight. Getting access to airport lounges can be very expensive and is often reserved for those who pay a hefty fee or have a first or business class ticket. That said, you may be able to access an airport lounge for free if you have this perk on your credit card.
Many airport lounges come with free food and drinks (including alcoholic beverages) as well as Wi-Fi and Internet stations. A select few come with extra benefits such as showers, conference rooms for meetings, pre-flight massages, printing stations and a host of other perks. The benefits you get will depend on which lounge you visit and where.
How can I access an airport lounge?
You can access an airport lounge in a number of different ways and each method will cost a different amount:
Purchase a lounge membership. You can buy a membership to bring down the cost of every lounge visit. For example, if you spend $150 on an annual membership, the price of your lounge access might go from $70 per visit down to $20 per visit.
Purchase a day pass. You may be able to purchase a day pass for some lounges for between $50 and $200. This will give you access to everything that members get but you’ll pay a higher price upfront.
Show a business or first class ticket. You’ll usually be able to get into an airline lounge for free if you’re travelling on a first class or business class ticket. You just need to check in with your airline ahead of time to find out the details.
Have a premium credit card with lounge access. Getting a premium credit card with lounge access can give you a free membership to lounge programs such as Priority Pass or LoungeKey, as well as complimentary free lounge visits every year.
Which credit card has the best airport lounge access?
The credit card with the best airport lounge access will depend on how much you want to spend on your annual fee.
Low fee cards. These offer a general lounge membership which means you can access the lounge for a discounted rate but you won’t get any free passes to enter.
You’ll need to follow these steps to access the airport lounge of your choice with a credit card:
Enroll for the lounge access program that’s affiliated with your credit card (or just have your credit card on you for some programs).
Make sure that the name on your card matches the name on your boarding pass when you book travel.
Find out which lounges you’re eligible to enter before visiting the airport if possible.
Visit the lounge in person on your day of travel and show your membership card or credit card to the front desk agent along with your boarding pass.
Use the complimentary visit you get with your credit card or pay the required fee to access the lounge.
Can I use my family’s credit card for lounge access?
You won’t usually be able to use a family credit card to get lounge access in most cases. This is because lounge access is typically reserved for the primary cardholder. The only card that seems to offer lounge passes for supplementary cardholders is the Scotiabank Platinum American Express Card.
That said, you may be able to get access to an airport lounge with some programs if you enter as a guest with the primary cardholder. You’ll just need to check the rules for your program in advance as some programs allow members to enter with guests while others require every person to pay separately or have their own valid entry pass.
Airport lounge programs in Canada
Find out more about the major airport lounge programs in Canada in the table below.
You can compare a number of features to find the best airport lounge access credit card for you.
Monthly or annual fees. Some lounge access cards come with no fees while others will charge high annual fees. Look for the card that will give you the most lounge access for the smallest fee possible.
Interest rates. Many lounge access credit cards come with regular interest rates while others charge upwards of 30% on purchases if you don’t pay your balance in full each month. Make sure you check your rates before you sign on for a card.
Number of lounge visits. Find out how many visits you’ll get for free with your credit card and make sure this matches up with your travel plans. For many low or no fee cards, you’ll usually need to pay for lounge visits at a discounted rate.
Other travel perks. Some lounge access credit cards come with airport perks such as a free companion pass, NEXUS rebates, travel credits, priority boarding and free checked baggage. Find the one that has the best variety of perks you’ll actually use.
Return on rewards. You’ll want to make sure that you get a high return on rewards along with a decent amount of lounge access if you’re paying a high annual fee. Most cards come with frequent flyer miles or points (but not cashback).
Benefits. The other benefits on offer with a lounge access card can make or break your decision to sign up. Look for a card that offers comprehensive travel insurance (including travel medical) and no foreign transaction fees to get the most bang for your buck.
Provider. When deciding on a prepaid credit card, you can choose from many providers. Look for a card with a company you trust and make sure the rewards are tailored to your lifestyle.
How to apply for a lounge access credit card
You can follow these steps to apply for an airport lounge access credit card:
Compare lounge access credit cards. Compare credit cards from a number of providers to find the one with the best mix of rewards and benefits for your needs.
Apply for the card of your choice. Apply for the credit card of your choice by visiting the main site of the provider you’re interested in.
Fill out application details. Fill out personal details such as your full name, address, email and phone number to start your application.
Click submit. Once you’re ready to apply, click submit on your application or call your credit card provider to apply over the phone.
Wait for your card to arrive. When your application is approved, your provider should send your card out in the mail or allow you to pick it up at a branch location.
How to maximize your credit card’s travel rewards
Besides getting airport lounge access, travel credit cards usually come with other discounts on travel you can access once you’ve built up enough points. Consider using these tips to help you maximize your rewards earning potential.
Earn the signup bonus. First, choose a credit card that offers a signup bonus. The bigger the bonus, the better. Use your card to pay for everything you possibly can within the bonus qualifying period.
Maximize spending in the highest-earning categories. If your travel card offers higher rewards on specific types of purchases, use your card for those purchases as much as possible. For example, if your card pays double points on restaurant purchases, pay for meals with it each time you dine out.
Book with the airline directly. You may be used to using Expedia or Orbitz to book your travel at the lowest prices. However, many travel credit cards won’t pay miles on purchases made through online travel sites. Instead, book your flight directly through the airline to earn rewards on your flight purchase.
Reach elite status. Miles you earn within an airline’s travel rewards program increase the opportunity to reach elite status. Generally, as your status increases, you’ll earn more miles per flight. “Elite” miles aren’t always redeemable for flights, but they can help you reach a higher rewards status that provides you with additional perks like free first-class upgrades, priority boarding, bonus miles and more.
Airport lounge access credit cards can come in handy when you want to travel in comfort. These cards often come with a high price tag but they typically offer a number of other travel perks and benefits to make up for the high annual fee. Find out more about how lounge access credit cards work and compare cards to find the best fit for your unique personal situation.
Frequently asked questions
That depends on how often you travel. You’ll want to travel at least as many times per year as you have free lounge visits if you want to take full advantage of your card. You may also want other privileges and benefits such as travel medical insurance or a companion pass above lounge access in some cases to get the most out of your benefits.
The Tangerine World Mastercard and the Rogers World Elite Mastercard both give you membership to LoungeKey for no annual fee. The downside is that this will only get you discounted and not free access to airport lounges. The cheapest card that offers complimentary lounge visits is the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite, which comes with an annual fee of $139.
Food and beverages are often free in airport lounges. This doesn’t mean you’ll get a gourmet meal but you’ll usually get access to unlimited snacks, drinks and even alcoholic beverages. You might get fancier food and drinks at more premium airport lounges but you’ll usually have to pay more to visit.
Yes. In some situations you can pay for lounge access but the price will be high if you’re not a member. For example, with some lounges you could pay between $70 and $200 to enter as a non-member. As a member, you might pay between $20 and $50 but you’d also have to pay an annual membership fee. This fee is often covered with an airport lounge credit card and you get a certain number of complimentary visits.
There are plenty of different types of travel insurance coverage that comes with credit cards including medical emergency, flight delay, lost baggage and more. Check out our guide here to learn more.
Claire Horwood is a writer at Finder, specializing in credit cards, loans and other financial products. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Gender Studies from the University of Victoria, along with an Associate's Degree in Science from Camosun College. Much of Claire's coursework has focused on writing and statistics, with a healthy dose of social and cultural analysis mixed in for good measure. She has also worked extensively in the field of "Blended Finance" with the Canadian government. In her spare time, Claire loves rock climbing, travelling and drinking inordinate amounts of coffee.
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