How Priority Pass Can Help You Avoid Crowded Airport Terminals During Post-Pandemic Travel

A photo to accompany a story about Priority Pass membership Image Courtesy of Heathrow SkyTeam Lounge
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In case you’ve forgotten during the pandemic, airports can be loud, crowded, and expensive.

As the world starts traveling again,, there’s a way you can skip those less appealing aspects of the airport experience. 

Airport lounges offer a place to relax for hours with free Wi-Fi, quiet, and access to drinks and snacks. And for travelers who go in and out of many different airports, Priority Pass lounge membership is a solid choice.

Pro Tip

Benefits and accommodations vary between Priority Pass lounges. Use the lounge directory to learn the specifics of what a lounge offers before you arrive.

One of the most cost effective ways to get Priority Pass membership is by opening a credit card with membership as a cardholder benefit. These cards are typically travel credit cards — and come with costly annual fees — but offer rewards on your everyday spending, too, plus additional benefits that can help you gain value toward future travel.  

Priority Pass vs. Priority Pass Select

Priority Pass and Priority Pass Select are two different things that, however, get you the same result: Access to airport lounges.

Priority Pass is a lounge membership program with three different tiers, priced from $99 to $429 per year, explained below. You can purchase a plan regardless of whether you hold a travel rewards credit card.

Priority Pass Select is a version of membership in Priority Pass designed for the holders of certain credit cards, generally premium travel credit cards with an annual fee. When you are approved for a credit card that offers Priority Pass Select membership, you’ll pay the annual fee for your credit card and enjoy your lounge membership for free. 

Priority Pass Select membership comes with unlimited access to more than 1,300 Priority Pass airport lounges in 600 different cities and about 150 countries around the globe. 

Priority Pass Lounge Membership Benefits

One of the main benefits of Priority Pass membership is having a place to go while you wait for your flight to depart, during layovers, or an unexpected delay. Depending on the airport, Priority Pass membership may also include perks like:

  • Snacks and drinks, including free alcohol at most locations
  • Free WiFi access in most lounges
  • Dining, retail, and spa discounts (when available) through merchant partnerships at airports
  • Lounge access for guests
  • Discounts, typically $28 per person, at participating restaurants in airports around the world. Our sister site The Points Guy, which shares an owner with NextAdvisor, has a list of airport restaurants that participate in Priority Pass. (This particular benefit does not apply to members who have Priority Pass Select through a card issued by American Express)
  • Premium customer service and support

But each Priority Pass lounge offers a different level of benefits that can widely vary. Where some Priority Pass lounges have a full spread of premium food and drink, others might just have coffee and snacks. Your Priority Pass membership will guarantee you entry into participating lounges based on availability, but what you get once you’re inside depends on the location.

You can use Priority Pass’ Lounge Directory or the Priority Pass mobile app to review all the benefits available within a specific lounge before arriving.

Credit Cards with Priority Pass Select

Premium travel credit cards that offer Priority Pass Select membership are generally travel rewards credit cards geared toward frequent travelers willing to splurge on an annual fee in exchange for premium card benefits. Here are the cards currently offering Priority Pass Select membership as a benefit:

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with Priority Pass Select membership with unlimited access for the cardholder and up to two free guests. For its $550 annual fee, you’ll also get a $300 annual travel credit, fee credits for Peloton and DoorDash, Lyft Pink and DashPass subscriptions, and 50% more value for your points when you redeem them for travel through Chase. You’ll earn 3x points on travel (after earning $300 annual travel credit), 3x points on dining and 1x points on other purchases.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

The Platinum Card® from American Express comes with Priority Pass Select airport lounge membership for the cardholder and up to two free guests. It also includes membership to Amex Centurion lounges and entry into Delta Sky Clubs when you fly Delta. Other cardholder perks you’ll get in exchange for the $695 annual fee (See Rates & Fees) include up to $200 in Uber Cash per year, up to a $200 airline fee credit, a fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck membership, and more. You’ll earn 5x points on up to $500,000 spent on flights booked direct or through American Express Travel each calendar year (then 1x points), 5x points on prepaid hotels booked through American Express Travel and 1x points on other purchases. Plus, you can earn 100,000 bonus points after spending $6,000 within the first six months of card membership and 10x points on eligible purchases at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the U.S., on up to $25,000 in combined purchases, during your first 6 months of card membership.

Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express

The Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express* comes with Priority Pass Select membership, offering free access for the cardholder and up to two guests. It also offers other perks like automatic Hilton Diamond status, up to a $250 annual Hilton resort credit, up to a $250 airline fee credit per calendar year for your chosen airline, a free weekend night each year, and more, for a $450 annual fee,  Cardholders earn 14x points on Hilton purchases, 7x points on flights booked directly with airlines or with AmexTravel.com, car rentals booked with select rental car companies and dining at U.S. restaurants and 3x points on other purchases.

Citi Prestige® Card

The Citi Prestige Card* has the most generous guest policy among cards that offer Priority Pass Select membership. The cardholder can bring into lounges for free two guests, or their immediate family. Immediate family is defined as spouse, domestic partner and/or children under 18, meaning people with large families can get them into the lounge at no charge. The card also offers a complimentary 4th night free hotel benefit, a fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Precheck membership, a $250 annual travel credit and more. You’ll also earn 5x points on dining and air travel, 3x points on hotels and cruises and 1x points on other purchases. A $495 annual fee applies. 

The Business Platinum Card® from American Express

The Business Platinum Card from American Express offers the same broad airport lounge membership (including Priority Pass Select) as the personal version of this card. You’ll also get perks like a 35% airline bonus when you redeem your points (on up to 500,000 points back per calendar year), a fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Precheck, Gold status with the Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton Honors programs, up to $400 in statement credits each year with Dell and more. For the $595 annual fee, which will be $695 if the application is received on or after 1/13/2022 (See Rates & Fees), you’ll earn 5x points on flights and prepaid hotels booked through AmexTravel.com, 1.5x points on eligible purchases of $5,000 or more and on eligible purchases in key business categories (on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year), and 1x points on other eligible purchases. 

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card

The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card comes with a Priority Pass Select membership (free access for cardholder and two guests) as well as a fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Precheck, 15 elite night credits each calendar year toward elite status, up to a $100 property credit for eligible St. Regis and The Ritz Carlton stays, a free night on your cardmember anniversary (50,000 points or less) at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy™ program (certain hotels have resort fees), up to a $300 statement credit for participating in the Marriott Bonvoy™ program and more. You’ll also earn 6x Bonvoy points on eligible purchases at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels, 3x points on U.S. restaurants and flights booked with airlines, and 2x points on all other eligible purchases for a $450 annual fee (See Rates & Fees).

Other Card Options

Some additional travel credit cards also offer a limited Priority Pass membership. For example, the U.S. Bank Altitude® Reserve Visa Infinite® Card* comes with Priority Pass Select membership for 12 months with four free individual visits and four free guest visits. The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card and The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card offer 10 free visits to cardholders per year. 

More Ways to Access Priority Pass Membership

If you’re not looking to take on a new travel credit card or don’t want to pay the steep annual fees involved, you have the option to pay for your Priority Pass membership directly. 

The plan most similar to Priority Pass Select with unlimited visits (a Prestige plan) is $429. You can also purchase other Priority Pass plans with limited visits each year for $99 (Standard) or $299 (Standard Plus).

Maximizing Priority Pass Membership

If you’re not traveling a lot right now and concerned about paying the high annual fee for a credit card that offers Priority Pass Select membership, there are some strategies you can use to get more for your membership:

  • Add up the value of other cardholder benefits. While credit cards with unlimited airport lounge membership charge annual fees of $450 or more, most come with big welcome bonuses and other cardholder perks that can offset the fee. For example, the signup bonus on the Chase Sapphire Reserve is worth $750 in travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards on its own (50,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months). With that in mind, your travel credit card can be an excellent deal the first year and after, even if you don’t use your Priority Pass membership that often — or won’t until your travel schedule picks up again down the road.
  • If you travel infrequently, consider credit cards with limited free visits. A card with a limited number of Priority Pass visits that charges a much lower annual fee may be beneficial for occasional travelers who want the convenience of lounge access without all the luxury benefits (and pricetag) of a premium rewards card. The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card can be a good option if you like Hilton properties. You can visit Priority Pass lounges 10 times per year and you’ll pay just a $95 annual fee (See Rates & Fees) to carry the card. 

Bottom Line

Especially for frequent travelers, Priority Pass membership can make unavoidable time spent in airports more comfortable. But instead of paying for membership out of pocket, consider a credit card that offers lounge access as a cardholder benefit. For a similar cost to Priority Pass membership alone, you can get access to lounges worldwide, plus rewards on your regular spending and additional benefits to use at home as well as on your next big trip.

*All information about the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express, Citi Prestige Card, and the U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite Card has been collected independently by NextAdvisor and has not been reviewed by the issuer.

For rates and fees of The Platinum Card from American Express, click here

For rates and fees of The Business Platinum Card from American Express, click here

For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card, click here

For rates and fees of the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card, click here