The Fastest Way to Access Luxury Airport Lounges in 2024

Let’s face it. Flying can be a stressful process, and airport terminals are typically not the most relaxing place to spend your time. That’s where airport lounges come in.

Airport lounges can provide you with a quiet place to work or rest. They typically have some sort of complimentary food and beverages (including alcoholic drinks). Some have kids’ play areas, shower facilities, and dedicated napping spots.

There are a few ways you can get airport lounge access, but some can take a while. For example, several major airlines will give their top-tier frequent flyers the ability to choose a lounge membership as a perk once they reach a top elite status tier. But even the most frequent travelers typically take several months at a minimum to get to the top level.

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With that in mind, there are two main ways to get airport lounge access quickly — as a credit card benefit or by purchasing a lounge membership. Here’s what you need to know about both options.

High-end credit cards are more popular than ever. It wasn’t that long ago that it was rare to see credit cards with annual fees of $200 or more, but now there are plenty to choose from. Not only are there plenty of expensive credit cards on the market right now, but you might be surprised at how much you get for the money. Airport lounge access is a common perk among high-earning credit cards, regardless of whether they’re airline-branded.

More: Our picks for the best credit cards

With that in mind, here are just a few examples of top high-end cards and the type of lounge access they provide:

You can buy a lounge membership — but it can be expensive

Credit cards certainly aren’t the only way to get lounge access, but they are often the most efficient and affordable way to do it.

There are three broad categories of airport lounge networks: Those run by airlines themselves, independent networks (like Priority Pass lounges), and lounges operated by credit card issuers like American Express and Capital One.

Airlines sell memberships to their lounges, but they can be significantly more expensive than when offered as a credit card perk. For example, an annual membership to the Delta Sky Club network costs $695, while the annual fee for the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card is just $550 — plus you get a bunch of other perks, like an annual companion certificate.

Independent lounge networks like Priority Pass can be a smart idea, especially if there are convenient locations in airports you frequently use. But it’s worth noting that Priority Pass memberships are often a credit card perk in addition to another lounge network.

It’s also important to mention that there are some lounge networks that you can’t even buy access to. The American Express Centurion lounge network is one big example. These are exclusively for certain Amex cardholders and are quite frankly a completely different level of luxury and amenities than airline-run lounges.

The bottom line is that airport lounge access can make traveling a whole lot easier. And there are a couple of ways to get it quickly. Buying a lounge membership directly is certainly an option, but can be a big hit to your personal finances. On the other hand, applying for a high-end credit card that offers lounge access can be (by far) a more economical way to go. Not only do you get lounge access, but you’ll get a bunch of other perks, and in many cases the value of the card can justify the annual fee several times over.

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