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Priority Pass: Why You Want It and How to Get It

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Priority Pass hit a milestone last year by offering members access to over 1,000 lounges worldwide. That makes it the most comprehensive independent airport lounge network available, all but guaranteeing that you’ll have a comfy place to relax, snack or get a little work done at any major airport in the world. The best part? You can get a free membership with the right credit card.

What You Get

Every lounge in Priority Pass’s network offers free snacks and beverages, including beer and wine. Many also offer a complimentary hot meals and cocktails.

The lounges are designed to cater to whatever needs a traveler might have. Entertainment options include TVs, newspapers, magazines and WiFi, and many locations offer work areas, printers, fax machines and conference rooms.

The Priority Pass Lounge at Kennedy Airport
The Priority Pass Lounge at JFK

Sitting in comfortable chair in a quiet lounge with a cold beer and a snack while watching TV is a great alternative to hunting down a seat at a crowded gate. Airport lounges can make what’s often the worst part of traveling—dealing with long waits at busy airports—into something a little more civilized. Some lounges even offer spa treatments and showers, which are particularly great after long international flights.

Lounge Locations

Priority Pass added access to over 130 lounges in 2016 and continues to add more. Many of the new locations are in regions with growing demand for service including Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Europe, the Asia Pacific and Russia.

There were notable domestic additions too, including The Lounge at Boston Logan and the Turkish Airlines Lounge at Washington Dulles. All told, there are 43 Priority Pass lounges in the U.S.

These are the domestic lounges accessible to Priority Pass members:

AnchorageThe Club at ATLConcourse C, Gate C1
AtlantaThe Club at ATLInternational Terminal, Concourse F
BaltimoreChesapeake Club LoungeInternational Terminal
Boston LoganThe LoungeTerminal C, Gate C19
Boston LoganThe LoungeTerminal C, Gate C19
Boston LoganThe ClubTerminal E
Chicago O’HareSwissport LoungeTerminal 5, Gate M8
Chicago O’HareAir France KLM LoungeTerminal 5, Gate M8
CincinnatiThe Club at CVGConcourse A, Gate A8
Colorado SpringsMortgage Solutions Financial Premier LoungeMain Terminal, Gate 6
Dallas, DFWThe Club at DFWTerminal D, Gate D22
HonoluluThe Plumeria LoungeInterisland Terminal
Houston, George Bush IntercontinentalKLM Crown LoungeTerminal D, Gate D8
Houston, George Bush IntercontinentalAir France LoungeTerminal D, Gate D12
Las Vegas McCarranThe Club at LASTerminal 1, Gate D16
Las Vegas McCarranThe Club at LASTerminal 3, Gate E2
Los Angeles, LAXAir Canada Maple Leaf LoungeTerminal 2, Gate 24
Los Angeles, LAXThe Virgin America LoftTerminal 3
Los Angeles, LAXAlaska LoungeTerminal 6
Los Angeles, LAXKAL LoungeInternational Terminal
MiamiClub AmericaConcourse F
MiamiVIP Lounge MiamiConcourse J South, Gate J5
MiamiAvianca VIP LoungeConcourse J South, Gate J4
Minneapolis–St. PaulEscape LoungeTerminal 1
NewarkArt & LoungeTerminal B, Gate B2
New York, JFKAir France LoungeTerminal 1, Gate 1
New York, JFKKAL Business Class LoungeTerminal 1, Gate 3
New York, JFKWingtips LoungeTerminal 4
New York, La GuardiaAir Canada Maple Leaf LoungeCentral Terminal, Concourse A
Orlando InternationalThe Club at MCOTerminal B, Gate 91
Orlando SanfordThe Royal Palm LoungeTerminal A
Phoenix Sky HarborThe Club at PHXTerminal 4, N4 Concourse
PortlandAlaska LoungeConcourse C, Gate C5
San FranciscoAir France KLM LoungeInternational Terminal, Concourse A
San Jose MinetaThe Club at SJCTerminal A, Gate 15
San JuanAvianca operated by Global LoungeTerminal C
Seattle, SeaTacThe Club at SEAConcourse A, Gate A11
Seattle, SeaTacAlaska LoungeConcourse D, Gate D1
Seattle, SeaTacAlaska LoungeNorth Satellite, Gate N1
Seattle, SeaTacThe Club at SEASouth Satellite, Gate S9
Washington DullesBritish Airways Galleries LoungeMidfield Terminal, Concourse B
Washington DullesAir France KLM LoungeMidfield Terminal, Concourse A, Gate A22
Washington DullesTurkish Airlines LoungeMidfield Terminal, Concourse B, Gate B43

How to Join

Priority Pass was founded in 1992 as a way to give economy class flyers the airport lounge experience previously only available to premium-cabin passengers. At its core, Priority Pass is designed to be accessible to any type of traveler.

They offer three levels of membership: Standard, Standard Plus and Prestige. Standard costs $99 a year and gives members lounge access for $27 a visit. The Standard Plus membership costs $249 and includes 10 free visits a year, with additional visits costing $27. For $399 a year, you can get a Prestige membership and all visits are free. Guests are welcome to accompany members of all three tiers for an additional $27 fee.

 CostMember Access FeeGuest Fee
Standard$99$27 per visit$27
Standard Plus$24910 free visits, $27 after that$27
Prestige$399Unlimited free visits$27

There are other ways to get unlimited free access to these lounges. Many premium travel credit cards offer free lounge access, including a Priority Plus membership. While these cards all have a hefty $450 price tag, that’s only $50 more than a Priority Pass Prestige membership. Plus you’ll get a whole lot of other perks with these cards.

Platinum Card From American Express

The Amex Platinum card is probably the most recognizable premium credit card on the market. It comes with some great perks and, of course, a complimentary Priority Pass membership. Unfortunately, unlike the other cards on the list, the Amex Priority Pass membership does not include free access for guests. If someone accompanies you into the lounge, they’ll have to pay $27.

However, this card also gives you access to a wide variety of other lounges, including Amex’s swanky Centurion Lounges, Delta Sky Clubs and Airspace Lounges. It would be difficult to find an airport without a lounge that you could get into with this card.

The Platinum card has a lot of other things going for it too. You’ll get a 40,000-point bonus and access to one of the most flexible awards programs available. The Amex Membership Rewards program partners with 17 airlines, allowing you to transfer your points to any of their frequent flyer programs at a 1:1 ratio. That includes Delta, British Airways, JetBlue, Air France KLM, Virgin America, Singapore Airlines and more.

You’ll earn points for every purchase, including quintuple points for all airfare purchased directly from airlines or with Amex Travel. The card also comes with a $200 annual airline fee credit, which can be applied toward any incidental charges like bag fees, and a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck.

Citi Prestige

With the Citi Prestige card, you can get yourself and your immediate family or two guests into any Priority Pass lounge for free. The card does not get you access to any other lounges.

With Citi Prestige card you can get Priority Pass lounge for free
With the Citi Prestige card you get a free Priority Pass membership

Like the Platinum card, you’ll get a 40,000-point sign-up bonus. It can be transferred to any of the 12 ThankYou airline partners, including Air France KLM, Cathay Pacific, Etihad, Virgin America and more.

The card comes with an annual $250 air travel credit that can be used for any flight-related expenses, including airfare. That makes it more useful than the similar Amex credit. You’ll also get the $100 credit for Global Entry.

While you won’t get quintuple points for any purchases, the Prestige card is a bit better than the Platinum card when it comes to bonus earning categories. You’ll get triple points for airfare and hotels, as well as double points for dining and entertainment.

You’ll also get a complimentary fourth night at any hotel booked through Citi’s concierge service and other discounts on luxury tours and vacation packages.

Ritz-Carlton Rewards

The Ritz-Carlton card is a little different because it’s part of a hotel rewards program. That means that the points you earn are only good for rewards offered by Ritz-Carlton, such as free nights. If you often stay at a Ritz-Carlton, it might be worth getting, but it is notably less flexible than the other cards on this list.

This card was revamped and upgraded from a Visa Signature to a Visa Infinite in 2016. The new card benefits are similar, but slightly better than the old card’s. First of all, the airport lounge program was upgraded from the Lounge Club to Priority Pass. And while Ritz-Carlton is not clear on the policy, cardholders have reported that they’ve been able to get guests into lounges for free.

The card also comes with an annual $300 travel credit. It cannot be applied to airfare, but you can use it for all incidentals, such as bag fees, as well as lounge access. So if you’d prefer a non-Priority Pass lounge, you’ll have that option too.

The other big change with this card was the addition of a $100 airline credit. It can be applied to airfare booked through the Visa Infinite Discount Air Benefit website. It includes many, but not all major airlines.  There’s no limit to the number of times you can get this discount, but you have to book a roundtrip itinerary for at least two passengers to be eligible.

Instead of a standard points-based sign-up bonus, you’ll get two free nights at a Ritz-Carlton hotel and 10,000 points if you add an authorized user. You’ll earn five points per dollar spent at Ritz-Carlton and participating SPG hotels, and two points per dollar for airfare, car rentals and dining out.

Like the rest of the cards, you’ll also get a $100 statement credit to cover the Global Entry application fee.

One thing to keep in mind with the Ritz-Carlton card is that all of the various statement credits it offers are not automatically applied to your account. Most cards, including the others on this list, will do that. With the Ritz-Carlton card, you have to call within four months of the qualifying purchase and ask that the credit be applied.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

The Chase Sapphire Reserve made a huge splash when it was introduced last year in part because of its impressive 100,000-point sign-up bonus. That has since been slashed in half, but the card still has a lot to offer, including a complimentary Priority Pass membership that allows cardholders to bring guests with them for free.

In addition to the 50,000-point sign-up bonus, the card also comes with an annual $300 travel credit. This is the most flexible credit offered by any of these cards. It can be applied to anything designated as travel, including hotels and airfare. It’s very easy to use all of that credit and it goes a long way to covering the annual fee.

Get Priority Pass membership with Chase Sapphire Reserve
Get Priority Pass membership with Chase Sapphire Reserve

This card also has generous bonus earning categories. You’ll get triple points for all travel-related purchases—such as airfare, hotels, taxis, trains and more—and for dining out.

You can get 50 percent more for your points with the Reserve card when you make purchases through Chase Ultimate Rewards. The cost of airfare through the UR website is often comparable to what you’ll find direct from airlines, and that’s before the discount. If it isn’t though, you can also transfer your points the UR program’s seven airlines partners, including United, Southwest, Singapore Airlines and British Airways.

It’s Worth It

Whether you’re a business traveler or a casual vacationer, having lounge access will make your time at the airport a lot better. The quiet atmosphere, comfortable chairs and free beverages alone can make a layover much more pleasant.

Get away from the hordes and pamper yourself with a civilized travel experience. Grab a Priority Pass membership for as little as $99 a year, plus $27 per visit, or get a premium travel credit card and join for free.

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