What is Priority Pass and how do I get lounge access?

Businesswomen meeting in a priority pass airport lounge, using a laptop at breakfast table Businesswomen meeting in a priority pass airport lounge, using a laptop at breakfast table Image:

In a Nutshell

Who hasn’t been intrigued by the mysterious airport lounge? With Priority Pass™ membership, you can check out lounges in hundreds of locations. Here’s how to get it and ways to get a lot out of it.

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This offer is no longer available on our site: Citi Prestige® Card

Recommended cards that grant Priority Pass™ lounge access

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

  • Access lounges after one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select
  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
Platinum Card® from American Express

  • Access Priority Pass™ lounges through the American Express Global Lounge Collection℠ after one-time enrollment
  • Up to $200 for Uber rides annually (credit and Uber VIP status available only to Basic card members)
  • Up to $200 airline fee statement credit per calendar year for baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline
  • 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months
Citi Prestige® Card

 

 

  • Access lounges after enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select
  • $250 air travel statement credit each year for flight-related expenses
  • Complimentary fourth-night hotel stay after booking at least four consecutive nights through ThankYou.com or the Citi Prestige® Concierge (based on your average night stay, exclusive of taxes and fees)

Priority Pass™ access is a nice perk offered with a number of elite travel credit cards

Wouldn’t it be great to find a nice quiet place with free drinks, snacks and an abundance of electrical outlets while flying through crowded airports? That’s exactly what Priority Pass™ can offer. For a fee (or even free with the right credit card), you can whisk yourself away to a hidden oasis among the noise while traveling through bustling airports.

After all, haven’t you ever wondered what was in those nondescript hole-in-the-wall lounges? But before you go charging in, there are a few things you should know about how to get a Priority Pass™ membership and ways to help get the most out of it.

Priority Pass™ lounges can offer relief from stressful travels, but is the cost really worth the price? We’ll help you decide and show you some ways you can gain access with a travel rewards credit card.


What is PriorityPass™?

Airport lounges themselves aren’t anything new. Many airlines and credit card issuers operate their own airport lounges, for example the American Express Global Lounge Collection℠.

You can purchase a one-time pass to airport lounges, but here’s what’s special about Priority Pass™: With a Priority Pass™ membership, you can gain access to more than 1,000 lounges in more than 130 countries in one fell swoop.

“The food and drink at lounges will vary,” says Lee Huffman, a travel expert and blogger at Bald Thoughts. “Some lounges offer the bare minimums of domestic beers, house wine and non-alcoholic beverages to go with some salty snacks and cheese cubes. Other lounges step up their game and offer local craft brews, premium cocktails and gourmet munchies.”

Huffman has visited a number of Priority Pass™ lounges and said his experiences varied. “The best lounges offer full-course meals, premium drinks, showers and even massages,” he says.

How can you get Priority Pass™ lounge access?

Priority Pass™ Membership Annual fee Cost per visit Cost per guest visit
Standard $99 $27 $27
Standard Plus $249 Includes 10 visits (then $27 per visit) $27
Prestige $399 Free $27
Priority Pass™ Select Varies depending on card issuer Varies depending on card issuer Varies depending on card issuer

You can sign up for one of three levels of Priority Pass™ through the lounge network’s website. However, unless you purchase the Priority Pass™ Prestige plan, you’ll pay both an annual membership and an entry fee (after your first 10 visits with Standard Plus) each time you want to use a lounge.

Another way to get Priority Pass™ access is through a credit card that offers a Priority Pass™ Select membership. Some card issuers that offer membership as a perk include Chase Sapphire Reserve®, Platinum Card® from American Express and Citi Prestige® Card.

From our partner

Platinum Card® from American Express

From cardholders in the last year

See Details, Rates & Fees

What should I know before using my Priority Pass™ access?

It can be confusing to know where each Priority Pass™ lounge is located and what the rules are, especially if you’re traveling on the fly (pun intended). That’s why it can be a good idea to download the Priority Pass™ app, which should have all the details you need to know, as well as the digital membership card you can use for entry to the lounge.

According to travel expert Gwen Merz of the Fiery Millennials website, the Priority Pass™ Select membership can occasionally have drawbacks.

“Some [lounges] limit the times you can use the lounge, while others will give priority to their members if it starts to fill up,” says Merz. “Just be flexible when trying to use it, is my main advice.”

Your Priority Pass™ access membership also gives you a $28 credit at participating restaurants at certain airports.

“My daughter and I enjoyed a wonderful meal at the Timberline Steaks & Grille while flying home from North Carolina,” says Huffman. “And when I stopped in Miami on my way to the Bahamas, I was able to grab some drinks and snacks for the plane from the Corona Beach House.”

Are PriorityPass™ lounges worth the cost?

You certainly might not need a Priority Pass™ membership to get into a lounge. You can purchase a day-pass at a lounge on your own, but you may have to pay a heftier price for it. A day pass at the Alaska Airlines LAX lounge will set you back $45 per person, for example.

To calculate whether the cost of a paid membership with Priority Pass™ is worth it, consider how often you fly and how often you’d use the lounges. For example, you’d need to visit the Alaska Airlines LAX lounge mentioned above nine times in order to make a Priority Pass™ Prestige membership with its $399 fee worth it.

Of course, you can always consider applying for a credit card with complimentary Priority Pass™ Select membership. However, these credit cards often come with fees of their own.

For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® comes with a $450 annual fee (although you will receive up to $300 in statement credits as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year). This means you’d need to use the travel credit and make multiple lounge visits to equal the worth of the Priority Pass™ Prestige.

From our partner

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

From cardholders in the last year

See Details, Rates & Fees

Bottom line

There’s no doubt about it: Waiting in crowded airports to get on an even more crowded plane with screaming babies and limited bathroom access can take the fun out of traveling. But with Priority Pass™ lounges, you may be able to get a first-class experience while you’re still in the airport, even if you can’t afford a first-class plane ticket.

Just remember to stay flexible with your Priority Pass™ plans and your expectations of what you might find in each lounge. Still, it’s more than worth it to many people, including Merz: “I love to use them!”