So you just arrived at the airport, and you’re looking forward to a relaxing few hours in one of the airport lounges before a flight. But how do you go about getting access? Not all credit cards offer lounge access, but there are a number of ways to get in using your credit card. Here’s what you need to know.

The Turkish Airlines Lounge entrance at Washington Dulles (IAD).

What Is an Airport Lounge?

An airport lounge functions as an “exclusive” in-airport club (I use quotations because that exclusion is getting a bit more inclusive) and it provides members with all of the things you’ve been scrambling to find in the terminal: food, rest, seating, charging ports, nice bathrooms, WiFi, and even a shower.

Not all airport lounges are created equal. Some lounges are designed around a specific airline or alliance and are open to elite travelers within that airline or alliance. Others are a bit more general, and access to these lounges is getting more and more accessible. I’ll explain a bit more about accessibility in a bit, but first, let’s talk about the perks of airport lounges.

Complimentary Snacks and Beverages

Gummy Bears at the Lufthansa Business Lounge!

Almost every lounge comes with snacks and drinks, but the presentation varies between lounges. Generally, you can expect a selection of fresh fruits, snack foods like chips and cookies, and at least a variety of cold salads and sandwiches. Sometimes, the lounge will also feature a hot buffet with food that rotates with the time of day.

Some premium lounges offer sit down restaurants, but these are often only found in business and first class lounges overseas.

Whether you’re after a latte or a beer, you can find a wide selection of sodas, juices, coffees, cocktails, wines, and brews in most lounges. The majority of the time, these products are free with entrance but some lounges charge an extra fee for alcoholic drinks, or issue a limited number of drink tickets.

Lounge Tempelhof

Comfortable Seating, Charging Facilities, and WiFi

Air France Business Class Lounge JFK

Air France Business Class Lounge JFK

I am all about free food, but ample seating and power outlets are my favorite things about hitting up the airport lounge between flights. The chaos of the terminal outside fades away as I sink into a comfortable armchair and connect to the lounge’s own WiFi, with my laptop and phone powering up. Some lounges also have dedicated napping areas, which is great for travelers who need some shut-eye before their red-eye or during a short overnight layover.

Premium Amenities: Showers & Restrooms

Not every lounge has a shower room, but it’s pretty common. Just be sure to take into account the fact that the shower may not be available when you need it, especially during peak hours. Bathrooms, though, are always available and almost always spotless in my experience. If you want to shower, you may need to check in and get in line. Some lounges can have long waits for showers and require you to join a waitlist, while others may be more readily available.

Unique Airport Lounge Features and Surprises

Throughout the past decade, airport lounges have really stepped up their game. For a little while, David Guetta hosted his own airport lounge in Ibiza which included a DJ and a dance floor. Unfortunately, that airport club doesn’t exist now, but instead, head to Punta Cana and take a dip in their infinity pool that overlooks the tarmac.

Airport Lounge Access Through Premium Credit Cards

Credit cards are the ticket currently making lounge access attainable to many and it’s the fastest way to get yourself in, even on an economy ticket. There are several different ways by which you could play this one, and it depends on which lounges you’d like to access.

Of course, premier lines of credit are not practical nor accessible to everyone, but they are more accessible than elite status, and having the right card is a quicker way to gain lounge access, plus earn points and miles towards future travel.

Priority Pass Select Membership

Lufthansa Senator and Business Lounge, Washington D.C.

Most ultra-premium cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve® and The Platinum Card® from American Express will get you into Priority Pass network lounges. However, not all access to Priority Pass lounges is created equal. Notably, the Priority Pass access through the Platinum Card does not include access to Priority Pass restaurants.

You can access priority pass with the following credit cards:

American Express Centurion Lounges

Centurion Lounge Bar – Seattle

The Centurion® Network includes Centurion Lounges and Escape Lounges spread across more than 40 locations worldwide. Only eligible card members are granted access to these exclusive lounges where they can relax and enjoy food and drinks before taking off. The Escape Lounges and The Centurion® Studio Partner also provide deluxe perks to eligible Card Members.

How to Access American Express Centurion Lounges

A number of select American Express cards will get you access to the American Express Centurion Lounges, Delta Sky Clubs when flying on a same-day Delta-marketed or operated flight and Global Lounge Collection Lounges, in addition to Priority Pass lounges.

The Platinum Card® from American Express and The Business Platinum Card® from American Express holders can enter for free. Guests are charged $50 per adult and $30 per child (ages 2 through 17). If you spend $75,000 on either card each calendar year, you’ll qualify for complimentary guest access for up to two guests.

All eligible card members are required to present a physical government-issued I.D., same-day boarding pass and a valid American Express card. 

The following cards grant access to American Express Centurion Lounges:


Capital One Lounges

The Capital One Lounges are everyday airport lounges where you can relax, rejuvenate and explore. An excellent getaway from the bustling airport crowd, they provide luxurious and all-inclusive amenities to travelers.

Dallas Capital One Lounge | Photo Credit from Google Maps contributed by Tyler M

Dallas Capital One Lounge | Photo Credit from Google Maps contributed by Tyler M

To access any of the Capital One Lounges, you need to present a same-day boarding pass. Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card holders enjoy unlimited free access along with two complimentary guest visits per visit. Additional guests pay $45.

Capital One Venture Credit Card and the Capital One Spark Miles for Business card holders receive two complimentary visits per year, which can be used for guests access. Additional visit cost $45.

All other cardholders and non-customers can gain access for a $65 fee.

Children under the age of 2 can enter for free with a supervising parent or guardian. Reservations aren’t required, and access is subject to availability, which can be redeemed or purchased at the check-in desk. Eligible accounts must be in good standing to gain this access.

The following cards grant access to Capital One Lounges:

Chase Sapphire Lounges

Chase has introduced the Chase Sapphire Lounges by The Club into the airport lounge space. The first location has opened in Hong Kong, and more lounges are coming to New York, Boston, Phoenix and Las Vegas. Cardholders will have a variety of options when looking for a comfortable spot to relax before flying.


For the time being, both Priority Pass members and Chase Sapphire Reserve® card holders have free access to the Chase Sapphire Lounges. The availability of restricted or discounted access for other Chase credit cards, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, is unknown.

Airline Cards

Premier credit cards that are airline-specific also offer access to each airlines’ individual lounges. The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®, Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card, and the United Club℠ Infinite Card by Chase will get you into specific airline alliance lounges if you find that you’re frequently flying the same airline.

A number of United cards also offer a limited number of one-time use passes each year, but United has been known to restrict the use of these due to capacity limits.

Other Ways to Access Airport Lounges

Credit cards aren’t the only way to access airline lounges, of course. Here are three other ways to gain access before your next flight.

Airline Elite Status

If you’re an elite traveler for a particular airline or alliance, your status generally includes complimentary access into all alliance lounges. However, this isn’t necessarily the case if you have status with a U.S. airline and want access to that airline’s lounges within the U.S.

Elite travelers know, though, that the road to stardom is paved with, well, miles flown and miles earned. This can take quite a lot of time to build from the ground up. If you want access to a specific airline’s lounge, each of the three major U.S. airlines have a credit card that can get you access. This is a more sure-fire way to get access than working to get it from status.

Fly Business or First Class

If you’re flying in Business or First, your ticket will usually include complimentary access into alliance lounges. However, sometimes this perk only extends to international itineraries so you’ll need to double-check your entitlements if you’re planning on flying only domestically.

Buy a Day Pass

This method is a little bit dated due to recent surges of cardholders with newfound lounge access, but some lounges still allow passengers to buy their way in. You can purchase a one-time entry or a day pass, depending on your travel needs. Note that this only works for specific lounges and is something that is a little bit less common since many lounge-goers hold at least one relevant credit card anyway.

Final Thoughts On Airport Lounges

If you’re looking for a way to make your airport experience a little more luxurious, consider getting a credit card that offers access to airport lounges. Lounges offer a variety of amenities, from comfortable seating and work spaces to complimentary food and drinks. And, best of all, these spaces can help you avoid the crowds and long lines at the airport. So if you’re in the market for a new credit card, be sure to consider the cards on this list.