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How to Get Free Lounge Access in Airports Around the World

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Have you ever been stuck in an airport, forced to share a crowded terminal and bathrooms with thousands of other travelers? It doesn't have to be like that. Airport lounges can make traveling much more pleasant, and if you have the right credit card, you may be able to get access to lounges around the world for free.

Airport lounges are like little oases, hidden throughout airports and filled with comfy chairs, free food and clean bathrooms. Some even have open bars, private showers and areas to catch some shut-eye. Access to these lounges was once reserved for elite frequent flyers, but now most people can get access to them just by having certain credit cards.

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Here are a few ways to use a credit card to navigate your way into lounges around the world.

Get a Credit Card That Comes With Priority Pass

The Priority Pass program gives members access to a network of more than 1,200 airport lounges, restaurants and suites around the world and is an easy way to make traveling more comfortable. Once you're a Priority Pass member, as long as you are in an airport with a Priority Pass lounge, you can access it as part of the membership. Priority Pass has lounges in over 500 cities—and in places where they don't have a lounge, you may be able to use your membership to get a voucher or discount at participating restaurants and shops.

While Priority Pass provides several membership options on its website, the membership given out by most credit card issuers is called Priority Pass Select. This option allows members to visit lounges around the world for free, in some cases giving them a discounted rate for guests.

Given their value, Priority Pass Select memberships are not offered with all rewards cards and are typically reserved for higher-end luxury cards. Here are a few popular credit cards that currently come with a Priority Pass Select membership. You can also browse through Experian's credit card marketplace to check out other reward cards.

  • The Platinum Card® from American Express
  • Luxury CardTM Mastercard® Black CardTM
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve®
  • Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card (up to 10 complimentary lounge visits each Priority Pass membership year)

Get an Airline Credit Card

Another way to gain access to airport lounges is by getting a co-branded airline credit card. Major airlines often have their own airport lounges, and certain elite cards offer lounge access as an added perk. Depending on where the airline is based and operates, it might be best to get a card with an airline that has lounges in airports you frequent.

Find the best airline credit cards in Experian CreditMatch.

These are a few of the larger airline lounge clubs, each of which has a co-branded credit card that comes with discounted or free access to their lounges.

Sky Club® (Delta Air Lines)

Annual Fee: $550
Day Pass: No longer available for purchase
Best Credit Card to Use for Free Access: Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Card From American Express

Having a membership to Delta's Sky Club gets you access to more than 250 lounges around the world—50 of which are Delta Sky Clubs. With the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Card, you get free access to Delta Sky Clubs and can purchase passes for up to two guests for $39 per person. You can also access Sky Clubs with the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card, which offers cardholders a discounted entry rate of $39 for the cardholder and up to two guests. Sky Clubs offer many of the common lounge amenities, including an open bar, free food, comfy furniture and more. Both cards offer these benefits on the same day you're a passenger on flights marketed or operated by Delta.

Admirals Club (American Airlines)

Annual Fee: $650
Day Pass: $59
Best Credit Card to Use for Free Access: Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World EliteTM MasterCard®

Admiral Club memberships come with access to nearly 50 Admirals Club locations along with access to over 60 partner lounges. People with the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World EliteTM MasterCard® not only skip the annual fee, but they also get complimentary access to the nearly 50 Admirals Club locations in addition to other travel perks when flying with American Airlines. Similar to other lounges, Admirals Club locations offer a variety of amenities including private showers, business centers, free food and drinks, and more.

United Club (United Airlines)

Annual Fee: $550
Day Pass: $59
Best Credit Card to Use for Free Access: UnitedSM Explorer Card from Chase

United Club members can get unlimited access to more than 45 locations globally and can bring up to two members with them for free. With the United Explorer Card, you get two free day passes for the United Club each year you have the card (the passes expire after a year). United Clubs offer all the usual amenities.

Find the best airline credit cards in Experian CreditMatch.

Other Ways to Get Into an Airport Lounge

Check out The American Express Global Lounge CollectionSM. This program—available only to people with The Platinum Card® from American Express or Centurion® Card—gives cardholders complimentary entry to the exclusive Centurion® Lounges along with access to a network of other airport lounges around the world. Centurion Lounges offer similar amenities to other airport lounges, but are only found in a few locations around the world.

Join a frequent flyer program. If you travel enough, joining an airline's frequent flyer program could be a great route to accessing perks like lounge access, seat upgrades, free checked bags and priority boarding. The higher your status within the program, the more of these elite perks you'll be eligible for. Most of these programs are free and easy to join. Contact your preferred airline for more information.

Buy a day pass. If you don't travel often but still want lounge access for an occasional trip, think about buying a day pass. This could be a good option if you have a long layover in a certain city, or if you prefer to wait in comfort while traveling. Not all lounges offer day passes, so do some research before your trip make sure the airport lounge you are thinking about going to has this option. To find specific airport lounge locations, check the websites of different airlines. You can also browse airport web pages to find the different lounges they provide.

The information about the Luxury CardTM Mastercard® Black CardTM, Delta Reserve® Credit Card From American Express, Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World EliteTM MasterCard®, and UnitedSM Explorer Card was collected by Experian and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuers of the cards.