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One of the worst things about travelling is the airport experience before a flight or during a layover. Think about the uncomfortable seating (when available), crowded bathrooms, overprice food and noisy/busy areas.

To escape this chaotic environment, you can head into airport lounges which are private, offer food, and comfortable seating. Each lounge is different and offers different amenities, but there’s no denying how comfortable they are. The problem is, normally you need to pay a yearly membership fee of $99 USD and then $32 USD for each visit which is not exactly cheap.

However, if you have credit cards with lounge access, then you could end up paying nothing at all which is the ideal scenario. Before you get to my full list of free airport lounge access credit cards, it’s important to know the different lounge programs that you’ll typically encounter.

CardLounge visitsAnnual Fee
American Express Platinum CardUnlimited$699
American Express Business PlatinumUnlimited$499
Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite6$139
BMO World Elite Mastercard4$150 - FYF
CIBC Aventura Visa Infinite Card4$120

Airport lounge programs

Priority Pass – Priority Pass is a club that gives its members access to airport lounges all over the world. Members pay an annual fee for membership and depending on membership level, they get a number of free entrances or pay a reduced fee for each entrance. Priority Pass gives access to over 1,200 lounges and even restaurants at airports. Note that American Express Priority Pass members do not get the restaurant discount. Read my Priority Pass review now for the full details

Mastercard Airport Experience by LoungeKey – Very similar to Priority Pass, the Master Card Airport Experience grants access to about 1,000 airport lounges, most of it are the same as Priority Pass. Honestly, there isn’t much difference compared to Priority Pass, the only real difference is that your credit cards with lounge access must be a World Elite Mastercard to get access to Airport Experience by LoungeKey.

Maple Leaf lounges and airlines specific lounges – Most major international airlines have their own lounges in their hubs and most frequented destinations. Air Canada owns the Maple Leaf lounges that you can visit in 11 Canadian cities as well as New York, Paris, London, Frankfurt and Los Angeles.

American Express Centurion Lounges – Exclusive to American Express Platinum cardholders and Centurion members, the Centurion Lounges are among the best in the world with upscale cuisine and family rooms. Generally speaking, if you have access to an American Express airport lounge, you should choose it as it’s almost guaranteed to be better than the Priority Pass lounge.

The best credit cards with lounge access

While there are more than 20 airport lounge access credit cards, I’ve selected the best and most popular ones in the list below. Keep in mind that each card has its own individual benefits, so I’ve also provided a link to my reviews if you’re looking for more details. Also, note that you can always apply for multiple credit cards with lounge access which essentially gives you more free passes and can be ideal for those travelling as a family. Best of all, the credit cards I’ve featured below also make my list of the best travel credit cards in Canada so you know you’ll have a winner with any of these cards.

American Express Personal Platinum

  • $699 annual fee
  • 25,000 Membership Rewards points sign up bonus
  • Earn 3 points per $1 spent on dining
  • Earn 2 points per $1 spent on travel
  • Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • $200 Annual travel credit
  • Unlimited airport lounge access
  • Special benefits at Toronto Pearson International Airport
  • Hotel status upgrades
  • Fine Hotels & Resorts benefits
  • Exclusive dining experiences with the Global Dining Collection
  • Comprehensive travel insurance package
  • Buyer’s assurance
  • Purchase protection

If you’re a frequent traveller then the American Express Platinum Card is the best credit card with lounge access for you since it gives unlimited free visits for you and one guest. Yes, the fee is steep at $699 per year, but keep in mind that you also get an annual travel credit of $200 so it brings down the fee to $499 which is pretty reasonable when you factor in the unlimited airport lounge visits, travel insurance, and the upgraded loyalty tier you get at many hotels.

Don’t forget about the massive sign up bonus which can easily be worth more than the annual fee. Since you earn Membership Rewards points with this card, your points are incredibly valuable. Note that this card also ranks as one of the best American Express credit cards in Canada.

American Express Business Platinum

  • $499 Annual fee
  • 75,000 Membership Rewards points welcome bonus when using a referral link
  • Earn 1.25 points for every $1 spent
  • Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status
  • 55 interest free days
  • Unlimited airport lounge access
  • Comprehensive travel insurance package
  • Buyer’s assurance
  • Purchase protection

As the name implies, the American Express Business Platinum is the business card version of the Platinum card. The differences are minor, but it can make a huge difference. With the business card, the annual fee is just $499 but you don’t get the annual $200 travel credit as the personal Platinum card has. You also won’t get hotel status upgrades with the business card, but you do get an earn rate of 1.25 points per $1 spent on all purchases.

What will likely interest people is the crazy sign up bonus which is the largest welcome bonus in Canada. That said, you need to charge $7,000 to your card in the first three months of cardmembership. to get your bonus.

Using those points will be easy since you have multiple ways to redeem your points including transferring them to Marriott Bonvoy or booking a flight via the American Express Fixed Travel Program. if you want to know the differences between the Amex Platinum and the Business Platinum Cards, I wrote a detailed post.

Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite

  • $139 annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 20,000 Scotia Rewards points when you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months
  • Priority Pass Standard Membership + 6 free visits per year
  • Earn 2 Scotia Rewards points per $1 spent on eligible grocery, dining, entertainment, and transit purchases
  • Earn 1 Scotia Rewards point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual bonus of 10,000 points ($100 value) if you spend a minimum of $40K per year
  • Included travel emergency medical, delayed and lost baggage, and trip cancellation / trip interruption insurance
  • Rental car collision / Loss damage insurance included
  • Hotel / Motel Burglary insurance included

Despite the fact that there are 10+ free lounge access credit cards, the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite card is the only credit card that also comes with no foreign exchange fees which can help you save if you make a lot of purchases in a foreign currency. Right now, new applicants who apply for this card get 25,000 Scotia Rewards points as a signup bonus which has a value of $250. You also get 6 free annual airport lounge passes which is the most from any credit card with an annual fee of $150 or less. To find out the full details of the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite card, you can read my full review here.

BMO World Elite Mastercard

  • $150 Annual fee – Fee waived in the first year
  • Get up to 40,000 BMO Rewards points as a welcome bonus ($285 value)
  • Earn 3 BMO Rewards points per $1 spent on dining, entertainment, and travel purchases
  • Earn 2 BMO Rewards points per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Mastercard Airport Experiences membership provided by LoungeKey, plus 4 annual complimentary passes
  • Comprehensive travel insurance package included
  • Free global WiFi

The BMO World Elite Mastercard comes with 4 free airport lounge passes and the annual fee is waived for the first year so you check out some lounges for free. Your earn rate is 3 BMO Rewards points per $1 spent on dining, entertainment, and travel purchases. That works out to a 2.1% return in those categories which the highest you’ll get of the cards on this list. One little known fact about this card is that the car rental insurance includes a personal effects benefit which means if you’re personal property is stolen from your rental car, you’re insured up to $1,000 per person with a maximum of $2,000 per vehicle. In addition, for the travel insurance to apply, you only need to charge any amount of your travel purchases to your card which is fantastic since other cards require you to charge 75-100% of your travel purchases. Check out my full thoughts of the BMO World Elite Mastercard and find out why it’s one of the best BMO credit cards.

CIBC Aventura Visa Infinite Card

  • $120 Annual fee
  • 20,000 Aventura Points welcome bonus with your first purchase (until March 1, 2020)
  • 15,000 Additional Aventura points when you spend $10,000 in the first year of card membership
  • Priority Pass membership plus 4 annual free passes
  • Mobile device insurance
  • NEXUS rebate
  • Earn 2 Aventura points per $1 spent on travel purchased through the CIBC Rewards Centre
  • Earn 1.5 Aventura points per $1 spent on other travel purchases
  • Earn 1 Aventura point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Comprehensive travel insurance package included

Of the best credit cards with lounge access, the CIBC Aventura Visa Infinite is the only card to give you mobile device insurance and a rebate on your NEXUS membership. Those are some incredibly unique benefits that will appeal to travellers. Your card gives you 4 annual airport lounge passes, but it also comes with a generous sign up bonus of 20,000  CIBC Rewards points and comprehensive travel insurance. You can read my CIBC Aventura Visa Infinite review to find out how CIBC travel rewards work.

HSBC World Elite Mastercard

  • $149 annual fee ($50 rebate for Premier account holders)
  • 20,000 welcome bonus points ($100 value) after your first purchase
  • 3% (6 points per $1 spent) in travel rewards on all eligible travel purchases
  • 1.5% (3 points per $1 spent) in travel rewards on all other eligible purchases
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $100 annual travel enhancement credit
  • Mastercard Airport Experiences Provided by LoungeKey
  • 10% discount on select hotel bookings on your card with Expedia and Agoda
  • Unlimited Wi-Fi through Boingo at over 1 million hotspots worldwide

Of all the cards on my list of credit cards with lounge access, the HSBC World Elite Mastercard is the only one that doesn’t include any free lounge visits. With this card, you get Mastercard Airport Experiences Provided by LoungeKey which means you pay the regular fee ($27-$32) if you decide to visit a Priority Pass lounge. The only reason I added this card to my list is that I think it’s an excellent all in one travel credit card since it comes with a ton of travel benefits so it was worth the inclusion.

Is an airport lounge access credit card worth it?

If you’re wondering if an airport lounge access credit card is worth it, the simple answer is yes. The credit cards on this list give you access to Priority Pass or Mastercard Airport Experiences Provided by LoungeKey. If you were to buy an annual membership with Priority Pass, it would cost you US $99 and you would still have to pay a fee of US $32 every time you visit. You could get the Standard Plus membership that costs $299 but gives you 10 free annual passes. There’s also the Prestige membership that comes with unlimited free visits for US $429. When you do the simple math, comparing the annual fee that comes with an airport lounge access credit card to the actual cost of a lounge visit is of good value.

Price aside, the next question is if airport lounge access worth it? As in, is it worth paying a fee to get access to better seating, drinks and food. Admittedly, some airport lounge are of poor quality, but I think it beast sitting in the common areas of airports. There are some airports that have great public areas, but those same airports typically have exceptional lounges. The value of airport lounge access may be relative, but you definitely get value out of it when using an airport lounge access credit card.

Final thoughts

If you like to travel, getting one of the best credit cards with lounge access can make your airport experience a lot better. You may not think it’s that much of an improvement, but once you’ve been in a good lounge, you won’t want to go back. Your vacation starts at the airport and credit cards with lounge access will make you enjoy your trip more.

The Best Credit Cards With Lounge Access

32 Comments

  1. […] Priority Pass Membership with unlimited free entries […]

  2. Ryan on February 26, 2019 at 1:20 AM

    Awesome info…. very useful. Thank you for taking the time to do this. I just made up my mind!

  3. Navi on March 18, 2019 at 9:21 AM

    Thanks for the info. Does the MBNA world Elite also offer this?

    • Barry Choi on March 18, 2019 at 9:29 AM

      Navi,

      No, the MBNA world Elite cards do not give you free lounge access.

  4. Zanne on April 13, 2019 at 12:35 PM

    BMO World Elite is down to 2 passes a year as of March 1, 2019. They keep whittling down the benefits.

    • Barry Choi on April 13, 2019 at 5:27 PM

      Zanne,

      You might be mixing up the two BMO World Elite cards. The BMO World Elite card comes with 4 annual lounge passes whereas the BMO Air Miles World Elite card has just 2 annual passes.

  5. Victor on April 27, 2019 at 11:02 AM

    Which one would you recommend? I currently have the BMO World Elite Mastercard and am happy with it till I heard of the Scotiabank Passport VISA. We are a party of three that travels twice a year. 6 passes versus 4 seems a no brainer but am anxious about value of the rewards. BMO is 3 points = $1 versus Scotiabank 1 point = $1 as we don’t usually use our credit cards abroad. If possible, we usually pay with cash except for things that needs extra protection like local tours, airline tickets etc.

    • Barry Choi on April 27, 2019 at 7:33 PM

      Victor,

      The BMO World elite Mastercard is decent but keep in mind that 3 ponts per $1 spent is only 2.4% return since it takes 140 BMO points to claim $1 in travel. I personally prefer the Scotiabank card because it comes with more passes and has no forex fees.

      Using the Scotiabank card abroad as opposed to cash would save you money on the exchange rate. The BMO card charges a 2.5% fee for anything charged in a foreign currency.

    • bgates on March 10, 2020 at 10:49 AM

      get the amex hilton @ 95 year, 10 free passes including guests.

  6. Victor on April 27, 2019 at 9:03 PM

    Thanks Barry!

  7. Manny on June 5, 2019 at 12:36 PM

    Hey Barry,

    When you mention things like “Priority Pass + 4 annual passes”.. What do you mean by 4 annual passes?
    Does that mean you are just allowed to enter a lounge worldwide 4 times a year? Lets say If I travel from Canada-London-Dubai & I gain access to the Lounge in Canada, and London. Does that mean I can only do that 1 more time during the entire year?

    Please clear this up, Thanks!

    • Barry Choi on June 5, 2019 at 12:40 PM

      Manny,

      That’s correct, each lounge visit would use up one of your passes.

  8. Will on June 26, 2019 at 4:03 PM

    You’re wrong about the Scotiabank Passport Infinite Visa being the only credit card that comes with no foreign exchange fees. The Home Trust Preferred Visa offers this, and it comes with no annual fee.

    • Barry Choi on June 26, 2019 at 4:06 PM

      Will,

      The Scotiabank Passport Infinite Visa card is the only credit card with no forex fees AND lounge access.

  9. Mako on June 28, 2019 at 4:42 AM

    Hey Barry I seriously appreciate all the info about each card. this is sooo great and soo useful to know and refer to. quick question. My Credit Card is with Vancity right now and I am almost done paying it. i was thinking of closing the account as soon as its paid off. what credit card would you recommend i go with? we’re a family of 3 and me and my wife also have a joint Credit card with RBC. we usually travel 1-2 times a year but next year were traveling 3 times. Thanks again.

    • Barry Choi on June 28, 2019 at 1:26 PM

      Hi Mako,

      Picking the right credit card has so many variables. You need to ask yourself the following first.

      Do you want a cash back or travel rewards credit card?
      How much do you charge to your credit card on average each month?
      Where do you do the majority of your spending? e.g. which grocery store?

      Once you’ve answered the above, I can try to help you narrow down your choices.

      With credit cards, you should never be holding a balance as the interest charges you pay will not be worth the rewards you get.
      When you travel, do you use one specific airline or hotel chain?

  10. Andrew on August 10, 2019 at 9:45 AM

    with the BMO World Elite, do you have to book your flight on the card to be able to use the lounge access? I have an AMEX Marriot Bonvoy that does not come with lounge access, leaving next month for my honeymoon and would really love to be able to access a lounge prior to departure.

    • Barry Choi on August 10, 2019 at 10:52 AM

      ANdrew,

      No, you don’t need to pay for your flights with the BMOWEMC to get access to the lounges.

  11. Amisha Patel on August 13, 2019 at 9:31 AM

    what is the difference between mastercard loungekey access / to the passes? I am looking for a new card- i already have the TD visa travel- and therefore looking for a mastercard now.

    • Barry Choi on August 13, 2019 at 4:56 PM

      Amisha,

      Mastercard loungekey access is your membership whereas the passes are when get you in for free. Mastercard loungekey access is similar to having a PriorityPass memberhsip as most of the lounges are the same.

      If you want a Mastercard with lounge access, take a look at the BMO World Elite Mastercard.

  12. Amisha Patel on August 14, 2019 at 12:26 PM

    the priority pass membership is a fee- and also comes with passes- or do we get a discounted rate to buy the passes as we have the membership?

    • Barry Choi on August 14, 2019 at 7:54 PM

      AMisha,

      The cards listed on this post give you a free PriorityPass Membership as well as as a few lounge passes (The Amex Platinum gives you unlimited access). Once you run out of lounge passes, you pay the “discounted” price of $32USD per visit.

  13. Dicky on September 8, 2019 at 6:38 AM

    Does TD Visa Infinite card give free access to any airport lounges, especially the airport lounges at European and Asian international airports?

    • Barry Choi on September 8, 2019 at 7:19 AM

      Dicky,

      That card doesn’t have any lounge access.

  14. Angela on October 6, 2019 at 9:35 PM

    Hi, thanks for all your research. I will be traveling with my husband and two children overseas with long layovers and want to know if we can each use one of the 6 priority passes from the Scotia Bank Passport Infinite Visa or if the passes are just for the cardholder?
    Thanks.

    • Barry Choi on October 9, 2019 at 7:46 AM

      Angela,

      You can use one pass per person but the primary cardholder with the PriotiyPass membership must be present.

  15. Adrien Faucher on January 5, 2020 at 8:39 AM

    Hi,

    Does the RBC Avion visa infinite provide any lounge access?

  16. smayer97 on February 24, 2020 at 4:47 PM

    You did not mention the Rogers Bank World Elite Mastercard. It includes a LoungeKey membership. No free visits included so have to pay $32/visit/person and allows one guest. Best feature is that there is NO annual fee.

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