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How to get complimentary airport lounge access

If you travel a lot, you may have found yourself wondering how to access airport lounges. They offer a place to unwind, and they're often quieter and more comfortable than waiting by your gate. There are a few different ways to access these lounges, but you may want to explore travel credit cards that offer this benefit. 

What are airport lounges?

In the simplest terms, airport lounges are designated areas inside of airports that offer eligible travelers comforts that exceed the normal airport experience.

Some of the most common benefits you might find in an airport lounge include complimentary food and drinks, workstations, and more spacious and comfortable seating. However, some lounges include even more luxurious benefits, such as showers, nap pods, spas and workout equipment. 

Ways to access an airport lounge

Lounges usually fall into one of the following categories:

  • Independently operated
  • Airline affiliated
  • Credit card affiliated
  • Alliance affiliated

Depending on this and other factors, there are a variety of ways to gain a pass for an airport lounge, including:

Buy a day pass. Some lounges sell day passes at their check-in desk. There are also apps you can use to find lounges in your airport where you can purchase a day pass.

Become a member. You can purchase membership either through your airline of choice or through a company like Priority Pass™. The latter gives you access to a network of lounges. If you purchase through a specific airline, you'll typically only get access to the lounges affiliated with that specific brand.

If you're looking for complimentary lounge access, there are typically two ways in which you can gain access:

Fly premium. Sometimes you can access lounges by being part of an airline's elite status membership or by flying with a first or business class ticket when eligible.

Have the right credit card. Some travel credit cards include lounge access as a benefit to their cardholders. Which lounges will vary based on your card. For instance, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® card gets you complimentary access to both lounges in the Priority Pass network and Chase Sapphire Lounges. Many travelers find that this access, along with other travel benefits, are worth the card's annual fee. Some airline credit cards can also get you access to affiliated lounges. 

How to choose a credit card that includes complimentary lounge access

Not all credit cards offer the same level of lounge access, so make sure to do your research to find the one that best suits your needs.

When choosing a card, you may want to take into consideration other benefits, such as:

Travel habits. It may make sense that your card gives you access to lounges in the airports you're in the most often.

Points and miles. Check out how a card's points and miles system works so you know how to earn them and how you can redeem them. If you like to explore new restaurants, for example, you may want to look for a card that rewards that with points for dining out.

Travel credits. Some cards may offer you a yearly travel credit, which could be a big perk if you know you'll use it.

More travel benefits. You'll find that travel cards will sometimes offer reimbursement for the Global Entry, TSA PreCheck or NEXUS application fee, which can help ease your trip through security or customs.

Travel insurance. Some cards offer full trip protection so that you're covered if an airline loses your bag, you get sick and have to cancel, your flight is delayed, and various other circumstances.

Like other travel benefits, not every card will get you the same lounge benefits. With the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, for instance, cardholders are allowed two complimentary guests when they use Priority Pass to access lounges, so it may be a good option for a family.

In summary

If you're looking to make your travel experience a bit more comfortable, you may want to start looking into airport lounges. If you're looking for complimentary lounge access, finding the right credit card could be a good place to start.

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