International travel can be tiring, but even if you’re flying forward in premium economy, airport lounge access is rarely included as part of the parcel – and that’s where the right credit card (or charge card) comes in handy, to help you relax and unwind before your flight.
While many cards in Australia include two free airport lounge visits each year, that Platinum or Black plastic in your passport wallet could be the ticket to either unlimited lounge access, or to a greater number of lounge visits to cover your travel plans, so here’s what’s on offer right now.
1. American Express Platinum Charge Card
For the most comprehensive package of lounge perks, look no further than the American Express Platinum Charge Card, which begins with complimentary access to Virgin Australia domestic lounges whenever flying with Virgin Australia, plus access to Delta Sky Clubs when travelling with Virgin’s Stateside partner.
The roster continues with access to American Express lounges such as in Sydney, Hong Kong and New York, and also Plaza Premium lounges – in Brisbane, for example – when flying with any airline. That same flexibility is also enjoyed through two unlimited Priority Pass memberships, unlocking 1,000+ lounges globally.
Some of the lesser-known lounge perks include access to the Lufthansa Business Lounges (when flying economy) and the Lufthansa Senator Lounges (when flying business class) in Munich Airport’s T2 Satellite Terminal when travelling with Lufthansa, Swiss or Austrian airlines, and access to Airspace and Escape lounges in the USA simply by presenting your AMEX Platinum card.
Finally, cardholders can access Eurostar’s Business Premier Lounges, and there’s an opportunity to fast-track to Star Alliance Gold through the Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer program after taking just three Singapore Airlines flights, when you register for complimentary Shangri-La Golden Circle Jade membership – another perk included with the card – and attach this to a KrisFlyer account.
2. Citi Prestige Visa Infinite credit card
While not as all-encompassing as the AMEX Platinum Charge Card, Citibank’s Citi Prestige Visa Infinite card sits as the next-best option for lounge access, with a complimentary unlimited Priority Pass membership included as part of the parcel.
That provides access to over 1,000 airport lounges worldwide, and as with AMEX, you can always bring a guest in with you at no additional charge.
Just note that only one Priority Pass card is included per Citi Prestige account – compared to two cards with AMEX Platinum – but if travelling with your partner or spouse, the allowance of one complimentary guest with the main cardholder could be sufficient.
3. Diners Club personal charge cards
In third place, the Diners Club personal charge card and the Diners Club Qantas Frequent Flyer personal charge card: each providing access to 700+ global lounges on presentation of the card.
This isn’t a Priority Pass membership – it’s Diners’ own network of partner lounges, which includes the Plaza Premium Lounge in Brisbane (below) and the Catalina Lounge in Darwin as part of its Australian network.
More broadly, lounges can also be found in places like Singapore, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Tokyo (Haneda and Narita), Los Angeles, New York (Newark and JFK), Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Doha and London (Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and Luton), among other places.
4. ANZ Frequent Flyer Black Visa credit card
Offering two complimentary Qantas lounge passes every year and discounts on paid Qantas Club membership – unlocking savings of up to $497 in year one – is the ANZ Frequent Flyer Black Visa credit card, which kicks things off with no card annual fee in the first year: another $425 saving.
If you take up that paid membership, you could still use the complimentary passes to bring extra guests into a lounge with you, over and above your normal entitlement, or could use them to sample the lounges before deciding to spend money on a yearly membership.
Also included with ANZ’s card is unlimited access to a small network of independent ‘Veloce’ lounges – not to be confused with Virgin Australia Velocity – although as these lounge listings often change, cardholders should register for a free account with Veloce World, which provides up-to-date lounge listings based on your card type.
ANZ Rewards Black cardholders also enjoy the same access to Veloce lounges and no annual fee in the first year: just without Qantas Club passes or discounts, as this card earns points with Velocity, KrisFlyer and Asia Miles instead of Qantas.
5. Qantas AMEX Ultimate Card + AMEX Velocity Platinum Card
Many points-earning cards offer two airport lounge visits every year – either with Qantas, Virgin Australia or Priority Pass – but the Qantas AMEX Ultimate Card and the AMEX Velocity Platinum Card double that to provide four yearly lounge visits instead.
Choose the Qantas Ultimate Card to receive two Qantas lounge passes each year after purchasing selected Qantas products and services (like booking a Qantas flight using your AMEX), plus two visits to the American Express Lounges in Sydney Airport or Melbourne Airport (from March 27 2018).
Or, with the AMEX Velocity Platinum card, you’ll get two complimentary Virgin Australia lounge passes each year which unlock Virgin Australia domestic lounges when travelling with the airline, plus two yearly visits to the AMEX Lounges in Sydney and Melbourne also.