10 Tricks to Easily Get Airport Lounge Access, According to an Airline Miles Expert

Elevate your travel experience with these airport lounge access tips from an airline miles expert.

businesswoman having coffee at airport lounge
Updated May 28, 2024
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You can completely upgrade your airport experience by passing time in an airport lounge.

From sitting and relaxing away from busy waiting areas to enjoying free food and beverages, getting in doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg.

For over a decade, I’ve been using credit card benefits to step up my travel game and get to some destinations nearly free of charge. Here are some simple ways you can boost your airport experience, too.

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Use a credit card with lounge access

romankosolapov/Adobe businesswoman using tablet in airport lounge

One of the easiest ways to get lounge access is having a credit card that provides an airport lounge benefit.

In many cases, that’s your key to gaining access to a network of over a thousand airport lounges worldwide. And you often don’t have to do much more than qualify for a specific credit card and enroll in the lounge benefit.

Many top travel credit cards also provide airport lounge access as a benefit.

Become an authorized user

Jo Panuwat D/Adobe man enjoying champagne at airport lounge

If you don’t currently qualify for a credit card with airport lounge access, that doesn’t have to be the end of your airport lounge story.

It’s possible to have a friend or family member add you as an authorized user on one of their credit cards that provides lounge access. Depending on the card, this might cost you a fee each year.

But you typically receive your own physical credit card and don’t have to be with the primary cardholder to access applicable airport lounges. So you can travel on your own and still enjoy lounge access benefits.

Enter as a guest

AYAimages/Adobe colleagues having discussion in airport lounge

If you typically travel with a friend or family member with a premium travel card, you can enter airport lounges with them as a guest.

Access depends on the card, but many premium travel credit cards provide free access for a certain number of guests. Sometimes, you might have to pay a discounted rate to enter as a guest.

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Consider a third-party lounge membership

Adamov/Adobe businessman taking nap in airport lounge

You can join a third-party lounge program like Priority Pass or DragonPass that will give you access to its worldwide network.

These types of memberships could cost upwards of a few hundred dollars annually, but you typically have multiple plan options depending on how often you travel. 

For example, you might consider a cheaper plan if you only think you’ll visit lounges a few times per year.

Buy an airline lounge membership

bychykhin/Adobe airport lounge with aircraft landing view

Apart from third-party lounge memberships, you can also purchase lounge memberships directly from airline loyalty programs.

For example, you can purchase a Delta Sky Club membership if you’re a Delta SkyMiles Medallion Member. The membership would give you access to over 50 Delta Sky Club locations.

You can typically use cash or miles to purchase an airline lounge membership. Using miles for a membership might not give you the best redemption rate (redeeming miles for travel is often better), but it could help if you're flush with airline miles and don’t want to spend extra.

Buy a day pass

THANANIT/Adobe couple eating food in airport lounge

Many airport lounges offer the option to pay for a one-time pass to enter, allowing you to enjoy a lounge without having a particular credit card, membership, or other access.

Note that you have to research individual lounges to see if they allow one-time entries and how much they might cost. Whether paying for a day pass is worth it depends on how much you’re willing to spend if you have a long layover and what amenities the lounge offers.

For instance, if you’re about to spend $30 on airport food anyway, it might be worth spending $35 to get into a lounge that offers unlimited food and beverages.

Fly premium class

Falk/Adobe businessman traveling in first-class cabin

Business and first-class travelers enjoy excellent in-flight amenities, often including more legroom and better service. These premium fares can also grant them complimentary access to specific airport lounges.

If you plan on booking a premium ticket, consider whether you receive airport lounge access at your departure airport. You can check with the airline operating your flight to see if your ticket provides any lounge benefits.

Search for lounge access with LoungeBuddy

Maridav/Adobe woman waiting at airport using smartphone

You can book one-time lounge passes to specific lounges using the LoungeBuddy mobile app.

The app is an easy way to see how much it might cost to access specific lounges and take care of your lounge access before you even get to the airport.

LoungeBuddy can be a great way to research what lounges and amenities are available at airports worldwide, especially if you already have access to specific lounge networks with credit cards or memberships.

Earn elite status

220 Selfmade studio/Adobe woman using laptop in airplane

Earning a high elite status tier with specific airline loyalty programs could provide you with a certain level of airport lounge access.

For example, qualifying AAdvantage Executive Platinum, AAdvantage Platinum Pro, and AAdvantage Platinum members can access Admirals Clubs on flights between the U.S. and Asia, Australia, Europe, South America, and many other regions of the world.

If you fly a lot with a particular airline, it is worth looking into what airport lounge benefits are available if you earn a certain elite status.

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Take advantage of your military status

LIGHTFIELD STUDIOS/Adobe african american soldier posing with family

Many airport lounge networks offer complimentary access to active duty, uniformed military members.

Of course, the rules can vary by lounge, and your actual experience with entering specific lounges can vary depending on the employee(s) there that day.

But, in any case, active duty members can often access both Admirals Clubs and United Clubs. Military members and their spouses can often get annual fees waived on several travel credit cards. 

For military personnel, accessing different lounge networks through credit card benefits is possible if you’re an eligible military service member or spouse.

Bottom line

Jacob Lund/Adobe businessman using laptop in business lounge

Getting into airport lounges is easy if you plan ahead and follow tips to secure your lounge access.

And with the right credit card benefits, you don’t have to worry about paying to enter incredible lounges. If you’re just starting with rewards cards, check out the top credit cards to find the right fit.

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Bank of <span class='whitespace-nowrap'>America<sup>®</sup></span> Travel Rewards credit card
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Intro Offer

Earn 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases

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Author Details

Ben Walker, CEPF, CFEI®

Ben Walker, CEPF, CFEI®, is credit cards specialist. For over a decade, he's leveraged credit card points and miles to travel the world. His expertise extends to other areas of personal finance — including loans, insurance, investing, and real estate — and you can find his insights on The Washington Post, Debt.com, Yahoo! Finance, and Fox Business.