How to gain access to the best lounges in the US

Five ways to access airport lounges.

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For many travelers, airport lounges are a blissful escape within a hectic airport. They often provide delicious meals, complimentary Wi-Fi and even shower suites. While first- and business-class ticket holders get into these VIP lounges for free. access can be more challenging for the rest of us. But there are other ways to get into airport lounges for free or with a discount.

Using a credit card to get into the best airport lounges

Premium credit cards often come with complimentary lounge access, though the kind of lounges you can access depends on your card. For example, if you get 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.

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.

Our pick for lounge access

American Express® Green Card

  • Earn 30,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $2,000 on purchases on your new card in your first 3 months.
  • Earn 3x Membership Rewards® points on all eligible travel, from subway swipes and window seats to hotel stays and city tours.
  • Earn 3x Membership Rewards® points at restaurants worldwide.
  • Receive up to $100 per year in statement credits when you use the American Express® Green Card to pay for your CLEAR® membership at select airports and stadiums across the U.S. and Permissible Biometric Scanning Technology terms: eye scanning, irises scanning and fingerprints scanning.
  • Use the American Express® Green Card to purchase lounge access through LoungeBuddy to any of the lounges in the LoungeBuddy network — no memberships, elite statuses, or first class tickets required. Earn up to $100 in statement credits per calendar year on your LoungeBuddy purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • $150 annual fee.
  • Terms apply.
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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.

Updated January 28th, 2020
Name Product Welcome offer Rewards Annual fee Filter values
American Express® Green Card
30,000 points after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months
3x Membership Rewards® points on all eligible travel, 3x points at restaurants and 1x points on all other purchases
$150
Earn 3x Membership Rewards® points on all eligible travel, 3x points at restaurants and 1x points on all other purchases. Rates & fees
CardMatch™ from creditcards.com
See terms
See terms
See terms
Can't decide on a card? Get personalized credit card offers with CardMatch™.
Luxury Card Mastercard® Black Card™
N/A
1.5x points on all purchases with 2% point value when you redeem for airfare and 1.5% for cash back
$495
Receive an annual $100 air travel credit toward flight-related purchases including airline tickets, baggage fees, upgrades and more.
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
50,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months
10x points on Lyft rides, 3x points on dining and travel after earning your $300 travel credit and 1x points on all other purchases
$550
Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
The Platinum Card® from American Express
60,000 points after spending $5,000 in your first 3 months
5x points on directly-booked flights or on flights and hotels on Amex Travel. 1x points on all other purchases
$550
Get 5x Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel and 5x points on eligible hotels booked on amextravel.com. Rates & fees

Compare up to 4 providers

Other ways to access airport lounges

Getting a credit card with lounge access is one of the best ways to enter airport lounges for free or with a discount. But there are other ways you can access airport lounges, too.

1. Reach elite status

Rising in the ranks of a frequent flyer program can get you 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 can get you 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 equals Delta Gold Medallion and higher status tiers. This tier can get you free access to Delta Sky Club when traveling on a SkyTeam carrier on international flights on departures. You can also get free access on arrival airports if you’re connecting to another SkyTeam flight.

2. Active military personnel

Active duty military members in uniform, with present leave orders or with rest and recuperation papers can get free access to some lounges, such as:

  • United Club. Access United Club locations on the same day they when traveling on a United or United Express flights. All you need is military ID, your boarding pass and supporting documentation for entry. Family members also get free access.
  • Admirals Club. American Airlines Admirals Club is available for US military personnel traveling in uniform on American Airlines flights. The only exception is the Airspace Lounge in San Diego (SAN) and JAL Sakura Lounge in Honolulu (HNL). All you need is military ID and boarding pass of your American Airlines flight. Family members also get free access.

3. Enter as a guest to a traveling companion’s lounge access

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 either free of cost or at a discount.

4. Purchase a day pass or annual membership

Your final option is the obvious one — purchase a day pass or an annual membership if you often travel.

The Best Airline Lounges in the US

Use your credit card or your first- or business-class ticket to access epic airline lounges around the country. Do your research to learn whether you can put these awesome lounges on your next itinerary.

Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at JFK

Photo courtesy Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd

Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at JFK
One of the best airline lounges in the United States, the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at JFK’s Terminal 4 offers guests the ultimate airport experience. This luxurious lounge provides guests with a variety of exclusive services:

  • A complimentary made-to-order food and drinks menu of breakfast, tapas, burgers and more.
  • An in-house Bumble & Bumble salon and spa offering complimentary haircuts and mini spa treatments using Dr. Hauschka products.
  • Pool tables to pass time with friends or fellow guests.
Delta Sky Club at ATL

Photo courtesy Delta Air Lines, Inc.

Delta Sky Club at ATL
Located in Concourse B at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, this Delta Sky Club provides travelers with plenty of space and a quiet, relaxing environment. Accommodating up to 500 guests, it offers:

  • An impressive wine wall and tastings, with wines selected by Master Sommelier Andrea Robinson.
  • A newly enhanced menu designed by award-winning Chef Linton Hopkins.

American Airlines Admirals Club at SFO

Photo courtesy American Airlines

American Airlines Admirals Club at SFO
Nestled within newly renovated Terminal 2 at San Francisco International Airport, the Admirals Club is an oasis away from the crowds of this busy airport. With floor-to-ceiling windows, you’ll have an undisturbed view of the taxiways and San Francisco Bay, along with:

  • Complimentary Wi-Fi and power points to catch up on work or social media.
  • Food and drinks for purchase.
  • Shower suites for freshening up before the next leg of your adventure.
Alaska Airlines Board Room

Photo courtesy Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines Board Room
You might think only large airlines attach their names to the best lounges. But the Alaska Airlines’ unique Board Room at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport will blow you away with:

  • Complimentary food and snacks, along with its famous pancakes.
  • Beverages and cocktails, serving everything from a good cup of coffee to stronger libations.
  • Productivity tools that include complimentary Wi-Fi, quiet workstations and conference rooms.

Virgin America Loft at LAX

Photo courtesy Virgin America

Virgin America Loft at LAX
Another popular, chic airline lounge is the Virgin America Loft at LAX. Made for a more mature crowd, this lounge turns away anyone under the age of 12. It offers guests:

  • A fully stocked bar in which to unwind after a long flight.
  • Made-to-order food, from pizza to cheeseburgers.
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi.
United Club in ORD

Photo courtesy United Airlines

United Club in ORD
Chicago’s often wild weather can result in serious delays for travelers. Where better to spend your time than in the United Club lounge that offers guests:

  • Complimentary food and drinks while waiting for your flight.
  • Shower suites and a full set of refreshing amenities.

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.

Disclaimer

Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.

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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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