The five best credit cards for free airport lounge access

The five best credit cards for free airport lounge access

While many high-end credit cards dish out two free airport lounge passes each year, a handful go above and beyond to offer anything from four free yearly visits through to unlimited worldwide lounge access with multiple airlines.

Don’t be stuck out in the terminal – if your passport wallet doesn’t pack a coveted Platinum frequent flyer card, your Platinum, Black or Infinite credit card could be just the ticket.

1. American Express Platinum Charge Card

Okay, so the American Express Platinum Card a ‘charge’ card as opposed to a ‘credit’ card, but it’s worthy of a mention.

It starts with free and unlimited Priority Pass Prestige membership – giving you access to over 700 airport lounges across the globe regardless of your seat number or even which airline you’re travelling with, releasing you from the shackles of frequent flyer programs and airline alliances.

Add to that: free, unlimited use of any Virgin Australia domestic airport lounge before your Virgin Australia flight, along with any Delta Sky Club worldwide before a Delta flight.

As icing on the proverbial lounge cake, you’ll enjoy unlimited access to the American Express Sydney International Airport lounge regardless of which airline you’re flying with, along with Centurion Lounges in the USA and both Centurion Clubs and Platinum Lounges in South America and India.

2. Citi Prestige Infinite Visa

Remember that works-with-any-airline unlimited Priority Pass card? It’s also yours with the Citi Prestige Visa from Citibank, which too waives the usual fees for one additional guest in the lounges.

While Priority Pass’ coverage in Australia is poor with just one lounge in Cairns International, you’re covered pretty much everywhere else – all of the likely suspects are on the ‘lounge list’ including Los Angeles, Dallas, New York, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, London and Paris, among many others.

Also not forgotten is Singapore, where members can visit a staggering 11 lounges before their flight, including the newly-renovated SATS T1 Premier Lounge:

Conveniently located in the same terminal used by Qantas, Emirates, British Airways and Jetstar, inside you’ll find private shower suites to rival those of the Qantas Singapore Lounge plus plentiful seating, power points and more.

Read: New SATS T1 Premier Lounge, Singapore: Changi Airport's best Priority Pass lounge?

3. Diners Club

Whether you pick the standard Diners Club card or the one Qantas-branded, you'll enjoy unlimited access to over 500 lounges worldwide through Diners' own network

Aside from one lounge in Auckland International, the Diners Club partner lounges overseas are much further further away – but you'll still find the popular spots such as Singapore, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Los Angeles and New York among them.

Also on the list, the No. 1 Traveller lounge at London Heathrow which has a separate day spa where cardholders can pay for a massage.

Start your journey in style with a massage at the No. 1 Traveller lounge day spa.

You'll find a full list of participating lounges on the Diners Club website – just flash your Diners Club card and you're good to enter.

4. ANZ Frequent Flyer Black

ANZ has its own lounge hook-up, instead giving its Frequent Flyer Black cardholders free and unlimited access to over 60 Velocé network lounges [PDF, 52kb] around the globe.

While none of these are found in Australia, you’re covered in a reasonable range of major overseas airports such as Tokyo Narita, Jakarta, Singapore, London, Frankfurt, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Johannesburg and of course, Auckland, where the Emperor Lounge awaits.

It’s nothing overly-lavish, but still provides you the option of a shower after a long day’s work, and somewhere quiet to catch up on email before switching off for the flight home.

You’ll also pocket two single-use Qantas lounge passes – valid in Australian domestic Qantas Clubs and Qantas international business class lounges before any Qantas or Jetstar flight, along with two free visits each year to the AMEX Sydney lounge when flying with any airline.

A close second: the ANZ Rewards Black cards, providing the same Velocé and AMEX lounge access but without the additional Qantas lounge passes.

5. Westpac Altitude Black

As with ANZ’s above-Platinum cards, Westpac’s Altitude Black cardholders also start out with two free visits to the American Express lounge in Sydney – as always, regardless of the airline you’re travelling with.

Then, it depends on how you earn points on your everyday spend.

Opt for ‘Altitude Qantas’ and you’ll also net two free Qantas lounge passes, or for members using Altitude Rewards, it’s a complimentary Priority Pass membership with two free visits included on your account.

While not as comprehensive as cards that provide unlimited global access, the bank is at least providing the most relevant lounge access for each cardholder: Qantas lounges for those earning Qantas Points and Priority Pass for chasing points with Virgin Australia, Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific and more.

Also read: Westpac Altitude Black AMEX + MasterCard review

Highly commended: AMEX Velocity Platinum

The American Express Velocity Platinum card trails Altitude only as there’s no choice when it comes to lounge access, delivering two free visits to Virgin Australia’s domestic lounges each year.

Redeemable when travelling onward with Virgin Australia, Velocity Gold or Platinum frequent flyers could also use these to bring an additional guest into the lounge over and above their regular entitlement – handy for families or groups of colleagues travelling together.

Following the trend, you’ll also enjoy two free visits to the American Express international lounge every 12 months...

... complementing your Virgin Australia lounge passes which can only be used before domestic flights.

Also read: Is paid airport lounge membership worth the cost?

Follow Australian Business Traveller on Twitter: we're @AusBT

 

15 Comments

  • mockkie

    mockkie

    28 May, 2015 12:07 pm

    The Citibank Black Emirates World Mastercard also includes two free lounge visits to any Emirates lounge.

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  • Brian Williams

    Brian Williams

    29 May, 2015 12:42 pm

    @mockkie - Unless they've changed the rules recently, this card only allows you to use the EK lounges in Australia. Would be very happy to be proved wrong though.

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  • Chris Chamberlin

    Chris Chamberlin

    29 May, 2015 04:30 pm

    Brian is correct – it's two passes per year which are valid in EK's Australian lounges only.

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  • flex737

    flex737

    29 May, 2015 09:07 am

    Diners Club also offers unlimited access round the globe...except of course in Australia, where they use Priority Pass so that's Cairns and Melbourne only. 

    Much cheaper per year than the Amex Plat card. 

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  • Chris Chamberlin

    Chris Chamberlin

    29 May, 2015 09:41 am

    I don't believe Australian Diners Club cards include a Priority Pass membership, given that there's a lot of overlap between the two?

    United's lounge in Melbourne is also no longer part of the Priority Pass program, so it's down to just Cairns now.

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  • EscapeNow

    EscapeNow

    29 May, 2015 11:15 am

    Diner’s affiliate lounges are free? I have always been charged USD28 pp when entering Diners Club lounges around the world. (Your Diners is swiped and charged upon entry).  If I'm up for a couple of stiff drinks, a small hot meal and access to a power station, then I don't usually mind paying, but if it's a quick transit, a cold beer at the airport bars usually suffices.

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  • Chris Chamberlin

    Chris Chamberlin

    29 May, 2015 11:34 am

    According to the Diners Club website, these are free for the current range of standard and Qantas Frequent Flyer personal cards issued in Australia:

    "Free access to 450 airport lounges worldwide" (The lounge guide instead says "over 500", so that's the figure we've used.)

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  • EscapeNow

    EscapeNow

    29 May, 2015 11:48 am

    Thanks Chirs - I just called Diners & they are arranging a refund!

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  • Chris Chamberlin

    Chris Chamberlin

    29 May, 2015 11:50 am

    Ah, great to hear!

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  • Ken Endacott

    Ken Endacott

    29 May, 2015 11:20 am

    You haven't given the annual fees for these cards.

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  • Chris Chamberlin

    Chris Chamberlin

    29 May, 2015 11:38 am

    Correct – we don't expect that people would choose a credit card solely based on lounge access, but acknowledge that it can be a deciding or influential factor in making that decision.

    The list above provides the basics and empowers readers to do their own research to find the 'perfect' credit card for their circumstances – as on top of an annual fee, other things would also be considered such as frequent flyer points, travel insurance and so forth, the inclusion of which would expand the article beyond something concise.

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  • NinjaFlyer

    NinjaFlyer

    29 May, 2015 04:22 pm

    Diners Club? Seriously? LoL... It's been years since I've been anywhere that accepts Diners without tacking on extra fees. Heck, I've even lived in Chicago where Diners was invented and nobody accepted it there. Citi Prestige is the way to go particularly if you can get the U.S. version. 

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  • cchurch

    cchurch

    5 Jun, 2015 10:03 am

    Agreed, however in Aus you can get the Diners Club Card with a MasterCard "companion" - costs a bit extra but near guarentees acceptance of the account with the benefits of diners (inc. lounge access). Amex is better, i'll say that, but for a fraction of the annual fee, Diners with the MasterCard companion card is a good alternative. 

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  • lm1

    lm1

    10 Jul, 2015 06:26 pm

    Unless I'm mistaken, the Diners + MasterCard companion is actually an excellent deal, given the MasterCard earns 1 QFF point per $1, plus a very satisfactory international unlimited lounge membership. A priority pass membership costs $150-ish for two visits a year, so subtract that off the Diners annual fee and you've got yourself a $110-ish high earning MasterCard. This may be an excellent replacement for the soon-to-be-useless HSBC Qantas Platinum card.

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  • EscapeNow

    EscapeNow

    10 Jul, 2015 06:38 pm

    Thanks for backing me up Im1!  And I purchase all my flights and accom (and occasional international shopping) through online US agencies like Expedia, who generally accept Diners, so there's a least 1.25point in the bag per $1 for those transactions.

    http://www.dinersclub.com.au/travel_card_overview.htm

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7 Dec, 2016 09:28 pm

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