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How to access the best airport lounges in the US

Find an oasis in the airport with comfy seats and other perks.

While access to airport lounges may be included for business class ticket-holders, here’s how the rest of us can unlock the complimentary refreshments, perks and serenity tucked away in a VIP airport lounge.

Using a credit card to get into the best airport lounges

Premium credit cards often come with complimentary lounge access — though the type of lounge you can access depends on your card. For example, with the The Platinum Card® from American Express, you get access to a variety of lounges, including the Centurion Lounge, the International American Express lounges, Delta Sky Club and Priority Pass Select lounges after you enroll.

But if you get a cobranded airline card, you’ll likely only get complimentary or discounted access to the airlines’ lounges, such as Delta Sky Club access with Delta cards, United Club access with a United card or Admirals Club access with an American Airlines card.

Consider applying for a credit card that gives you access to the lounges you visit most often.

Compare credit cards that offer lounge access

Credit cards are among the best ways to enjoy travel rewards and perks — including access to airline lounges.

1 - 3 of 6
Name Product Welcome Offer Rewards Annual fee Filter values
Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card
75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 in your first 3 months of account opening
2x miles on every purchase, every day, 10x miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, 10x miles when you book on Turo, the world’s largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023, 5x miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
Capital One's premium luxury travel card, featuring airport lounge access at Capital One Lounge and 1,300+ Priority Pass lounges.
Luxury Card Mastercard® Black Card™
1x points on all purchases with 2% point value when you redeem for airfare and 1.5% for cash back
Receive an annual $100 air travel credit toward flight-related purchases including airline tickets, baggage fees, upgrades and more.
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
New Offer: Earn 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months, from account opening. That's $900 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
5x points on flights and 10x points on hotels and car rentals through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3x points on other travel after earning your $300 travel credit, 10x points on Lyft rides, 10x points on Chase Dining through Ultimate Rewards, 3x points on other dining and 1x points on all other purchases
Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example $900 points are worth $900 toward travel

Compare up to 4 providers

Other ways to access airport lounges

If you’re not interested in opening a credit card, here’s how you can still gain entry to airport lounges.

1. Reach elite status

Reaching one of the top tiers of a frequent flyer program can unlock discounts on lounge passes or give you free access to select lounges. For example:

  • MileagePlus Premier Gold and higher status. This United Airlines elite status grants free access to United Club lounges if you have a same-day boarding pass for an international flight operated by a Star Alliance member airline. You can access the lounge at departure, during connections and upon arrival.
  • SkyTeam Elite Plus status. SkyTeam Elite Plus includes Delta Gold Medallion and higher status tiers with the Atlanta-based airline. This tier can get you free access to Delta Sky Club before departing with a SkyTeam carrier. You can also get free access upon arriving at an airport if you’re connecting to another SkyTeam flight.

    2. Enter as the guest of your traveling companion

    If you’re traveling with a companion that has a credit card with complimentary lounge access or a lounge membership, you can often access the lounge free-of-charge or at a discount.

    3. Purchase a day pass or annual membership

    Your final option is the obvious one — purchase a day pass or an annual membership. You can do this through a service like LoungeBuddy or Priority Pass.

    The Best Airline Lounges in the US

    These lounges are known for offering best-in-class complimentary food and beverages, along with high-speed Wi-Fi. Here’s a guide to help you compare extra perks, locations and airport lounge reviews.

    Airports (US)Special perksCredit cards that grant complimentary accessAirport lounge reviews
    Amex Centurian Lounge12CLT, DFW, IAH, LAS, LAX, MIA, LGA, PHL, SFO, SEA
    • Spa services
    • Menus with regionally-sourced and locally inspired dishes
    • Wine is hand-picked by sommalier Anthony Giglio, while cocktails are designed by mixologist Jim Meehan
    • The Platinum Card® from American Express
    • The Business Platinum Card® from American Express
    • Centurion® Card from American Express
    According to first person reviews on travel blogs around the web, Centurian lounges are generally considered the best in the biz. The food and drinks are as close to gourmet as you’ll find in any airport lounge within the US, and the decor is glitzy and posh.

    That said, they’re not always easy to access. Sometimes, Centurian lounges are located outside of security, or in the international terminal.

    Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse9BOS, EWR, IAD, JFK, LAX, SFO

    Partner lounges: ATL, LAS, MIA, MCO, SEA

    • Popular clubhouse bars have a designated quarterly magazine called Spirit of the Clubhouse
    • Freshly cooked food
    • JFK, Heathrow and Gatwick lounges have full-service spas
    • The Platinum Card® from American Express
    • The Business Platinum Card® from American Express
    • Chase Sapphire Reserve®
    • Hilton Honors American Express Card

    *The Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at Washington Dulles (IAD) and Newark (EWR) can both be accessed with a Priority Pass membership

    According to reviews on TripAdvisor, these clubhouses are known for having chic, upscale decor and a cosmopolitan vibe. The Heathrow and JFK Virgin Atlantic Clubhouses are particularly popular, as both feature sit-down table service.

    However, Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse has the smallest amount of total lounges, so folks looking for widespread access may want to look elsewhere.

    • Satellite TVs
    • Productivity tools like fax machines and hotspot printers at select locations
    • Showers with Malin + Goetz products, towels and hair dryers
    • The Platinum Card® from American Express
    • The Business Platinum Card® from American Express
    • Delta Reserve
    • Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card
    • Delta Diners Club Card (3 times per year)
    Delta Sky Club lounges are generally beloved for their convenience and customer service. According to Reddit, guests appreciate the concierge assistance for missed or delayed flights.

    Just keep in mind that Delta lounges are notoriously exclusive. You’ll need to be a loyal Delta flyer to make one of these memberships worth it.

    Alaska Airlines Board Room50ANC, JFK, LAX, PDX, SEA
    • Bar includes West Coast wines and local beer, plus Starbucks coffee
    • Free access to the New York Times
    • Select locations have conference rooms
    • Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®

    *Except for Seattle and Portland locations, you can access Alaska Airlines lounges with any credit card that includes Priority Pass.

    Decor in Alaska Airlines lounges is inspired by the Northwest, with leather chairs and rustic details. If you’re a frequent flyer with this airline, you’ll likely enjoy the comfortable setting and tasty beverages, according to reviews around the web.
    American Airlines Admirals Club50ATL, AUS, BOS, CLT, DCA, DEN, DFW, HNL, IAH, LAX, MIA, BNA, JFK, LGA, EWR, MCO, PIT, PHL, PHX, ORD, RDU, SFO, SNA, STL, TPA
    • La Colombe coffee and barista-style espresso and lattes at select locations
    • Unlimited downloads of magazines/newspapers through the Admirals Club Wi-Fi
    • Select locations have shower suites and business centers “Free access to the New York Times
    • Select locations have conference rooms
    • Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®
    Some Redditors praise the Admirals Club for offering a quiet space with just enough creature comforts to relax and recharge. Other travelers, however, complain about the lack of made-to-order food options.

    Admirals Club lounges are also rather exclusive. The only way to get in is with the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® or elite status with American Airlines (aside from the standard ways, like purchasing a day pass or having a first-or business-class ticket).

    • Most lounges have PCs available for internet use.
    • Select locations also have showers, conference rooms and newspapers/magazines.
    • United MileagePlus® Club card
    • United Club℠ Business Card

    *Priority Pass also inludes access to most United Club lounges

    Overall, users on reddit agree that the United Club Polaris lounge at O’Hare airport in Chicago is a true standout. Otherwise, the general consencus is that United Club membership is most beneficial to people who travel 15+ times per year.

    The ability to access newspapers and magazines is a perk, as are the staff on hand to help with delays and layovers. Frequent United flyers may benefit most from this membership.

    Bottom line

    There are many ways to access airport lounges for free or with a discount. If you’re a frequent traveler, the most cost-effective way is to use a credit card with lounge access. This way, you’ll get lounge access, along with other card perks, such as earning rewards, getting priority boarding, free checked bags and more.

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    2 Responses

    1. Default Gravatar
      s3n10rJuly 4, 2018

      what credit card will provide
      1. free airport lounge including American, United, Delta, Air Canada and
      2. will provide multiple sub-account card with individual limits (for staff) with the total charges of each sub-account card charged to the main card, and
      3. will provide points for all charges made on card that can be redeemed at par for use to purchase flights on airlines mentioned in Par#1 above?

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