Time spent at the airport can easily be the most dreaded portion of any trip. Once you make it through security, grab an unappetizing pre-made sandwich, and fight to find a seat in a crowded waiting area, you might find yourself wishing you’d just stayed home.
But what if there was a place tucked away inside the airport where you could escape the chaos? Maybe you could charge your phone in peace without staking out the few available outlets, or relax with a complimentary glass of champagne. Would you feel differently about your experience at the airport?
Whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, it’s easy to turn a long layover into a luxury lounging experience with Priority Pass. Though a typical membership could set you back more than $100, here’s how to get Priority Pass for free.
Benefits of Priority Pass
Priority Pass is a members-only program that lets you access more than 1,200 lounges in airports around the world. And these lounges feature more than just comfortable seating — many offer complimentary refreshments, free Wi-Fi, access to showers if you need to freshen up, and even spa services.
Your Priority Pass membership gets you access to lounges at over 30 U.S. airports, some with multiple facilities. Each lounge is unique and offerings vary, but you can expect to find some free goodies at almost all of them.
Aside from the luxurious lounges, you can get a credit towards a meal at select airport restaurants or save on purchases at airport retailers with Priority Pass offers. You’ll need to log in to your account on the website or mobile app to see offers available near you, after which you’ll generate a code to use at checkout.
Priority Pass currently has three membership options available for purchase:
- Standard: A $99 annual fee gets you lounge visits for $32 each.
- Standard Plus: A $299 annual fee gets you 10 free visits, after which visits cost $32 each.
- Prestige: A $429 annual fee gets you unlimited free visits.
Guest visits cost $32 on any membership plan.
How to get Priority Pass for "free"
If those membership fees seem hefty to you, don’t give up just yet. Many credit cards now offer free Priority Pass benefits. Sure, you’ll likely pay an annual fee for the card, but you’ll also get tons of other benefits, such as annual travel credits or bonus points, that usually make signing up for a credit card a better value than purchasing a Priority Pass membership by itself.
Credit cards that include Priority Pass benefits
|Card||# of Free Visits/Year||# of Guests||Annual Fee|
|Chase Sapphire Reserve||Unlimited||2||$450|
|Citi Prestige Card||Unlimited||2||$495|
|Hilton Honors Ascend Card from American Express||10||0 additional, but visits can be applied to guests||$95|
|Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express||Unlimited||2||$450|
|Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card||Unlimited||2||$450|
|The Platinum Card from American Express||Unlimited||2||$550|
|The Business Platinum Card from American Express||Unlimited||2||$595|
|U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve||4||1||$400|
Note that some airport lounges will not admit guests. Each airport lounge has its own set of rules, so you’ll want to check out the details on the Priority Pass website before you visit.
Is Priority Pass worth it?
The value of each of the credit cards above depends on how often you travel and how frequently you plan to use your Priority Pass benefits.
If you plan to visit a Priority Pass lounge even once throughout the year, you could save money by signing up for the Hilton Honors Ascend Card from American Express as opposed to purchasing a Priority Pass membership directly. That’s because the card’s annual fee is only $95, while a Priority Pass Standard membership with one visit would cost a total of $131 (a $99 annual fee plus a $32 visit fee).
If you plan to bring a guest, keep in mind that each of the Priority Pass memberships require a $32 guest fee, whereas most of the credit cards we mentioned allow you to bring up to two guests free. For example, six visits with a Priority Pass Standard membership would cost you $483 if you brought a guest each time. If you plan to hit up six airport lounges with a travel companion in the course of a year, you could offset the cost of the annual fee on many of the credit cards we mentioned.
And that’s not even considering the myriad of other benefits you’ll get when you sign up for a credit card that features Priority Pass. For example, if you take into account the $300 annual travel credit you get with the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card, it’s like you’re only paying $150 for the annual fee. That’s less than the cost of two visits with a Priority Pass membership.
However, one potential drawback is that the two-guest limit on many credit cards might make it difficult for some families to utilize the Priority Pass benefit. After all, a family of four would need two Priority Pass cards to make use of the airport lounges.
Depending on the credit card, it’s possible to get around this issue by adding an authorized user to your account (likely for a fee). For example, you could add an authorized user to your Chase Sapphire Reserve card for just $75, and the person you add will have identical Priority Pass benefits to the cardholder. That means a family of six could enjoy unlimited access to airport lounges for an annual fee of $525. Note that some cards, such as the U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve card, only allow Priority Pass benefits for the primary cardholder.
How to activate your Priority Pass membership
So you’ve decided to take the plunge and sign up for a rewards credit card that offers a Priority Pass membership as one of the benefits. Congratulations! Your future travels are looking cozy. If you’re wondering how to get Priority Pass activated on your credit card, it’s a simple process, but it will vary slightly depending on what card you chose.
To set up Priority Pass on any eligible credit card, you can always call the number on the back of your card for assistance. But if you’re not in the mood to talk to a real human, you can likely activate your account online.
For most credit card issuers, you’ll do this by logging into your account and navigating to your benefits. You’ll need to manually enroll in Priority Pass at most issuers by clicking a button under your Priority Pass benefit. Once you receive your Priority Pass card in the mail, you’ll also need to register online at PriorityPass.com.
For most credit card issuers, it’ll take about 10-14 days to receive your Priority Pass card in the mail once you activate your membership. It may also be helpful to download the Priority Pass mobile app to access your digital card, just to be sure you always have it with you while traveling.
Whether you’re required to travel frequently for business or you’re a travel junkie aspiring to fill your passport, you could benefit from using a credit card that has robust travel rewards. Why not double up on perks by choosing a card that also offers a free Priority Pass membership? You’ll find a home away from home in hundreds of participating airports, so you can kick back and relax before even reaching your destination.