Airport lounge access is a desirable credit card benefit. Premium credit cards designed for the travelling lifestyle often come with complimentary access to airport lounges. Cardholders able to access these lounges can relax in comfortable surroundings before or between flights, taking advantage of free meals, snacks and drinks, using dedicated working areas with Wi-Fi facilities, watching TV, reading newspapers or magazines, and even taking a refreshing shower or luxurious spa treatment.
One of the most popular airport lounge schemes for Australian credit cards is the extensive Priority Pass program, which provides access to more than 1,300 lounges worldwide by partnering with other lounge programs (such as Plaza Premium). The benefit of Priority Pass when compared with a specific airline’s lounges is that you will find one in most airports, and access doesn’t depend on which airline you are flying with, or which fare class you have.
Priority Pass lounges in Australia
Previously only a significant benefit for those travelling overseas, Priority Pass has expanded its Australian presence in recent years and now offers access to lounges in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Darwin and the Gold Coast.
Some of the ‘lounges’ in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, and the one in the Gold Coast, are in fact restaurants or bars with whom Priority Pass has an arrangement for a substantial bill discount for members or pass holders. Facilities in these establishments are more limited than in the fully-fledged lounges found in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Darwin.
Priority Pass single-entry passes
Your credit card may offer a number of single-entry passes per year. In most cases this will be two single-entry passes, allowing the cardholder to make two free lounge visits per year. Standard Priority Pass membership normally costs US$99 per year, allowing members and their guests to use lounges for US$32 per person, per visit. So an annual benefit of membership plus two single-entry passes is worth US$163 ($99 = $32 + $32).
Priority Pass membership levels
While the Standard membership, free with some credit cards, normally costs US$99 p.a., more prestigious credit cards may give greater access. ‘Standard Plus’ membership (US$299 per year) gives members 10 free visits per year, after which they are required to pay the usual US$32 fee. ‘Prestige’ membership, for $429 p.a., confers unlimited free lounge access for members, but members’ guests are always charged at US$32.
Deciding whether Priority Pass complimentary membership is worthwhile
Based on the lounge access granted by the various membership levels, two single-entry passes are worth US$163 ($99 + $32 + $32) per year, so in years when you use both passes you will significantly defray the annual fee cost of your credit card. These passes really shine for anyone travelling in Economy, because they can still use an airport lounge. They may be less worthwhile for Business Class travellers, who will usually be granted automatic access to the lounge of the airline they are flying with, or an affiliated lounge.
If you have a really expensive credit card granting unlimited Priority Pass access, the benefit is worth US$429 (the cost of Prestige membership) in any year where you think you are likely to make more than 14 visits to a Priority Pass lounge. That's still a substantial dent in any annual fee, no matter how high.
Alternative lounge access schemes
Priority Pass is not the only lounge access program able to be accessed by Australian credit cards.
- American Express lounges with premium American Express cards.
- Qantas lounges with some Qantas Frequent Flyer credit cards.
- Virgin Australia lounges with some Velocity Frequent Flyer credit cards, plus the American Express Platinum Card, American Express Platinum Business Card and ANZ Rewards Travel Adventures Credit Card.
- Delta Sky Club lounges with the American Express Platinum Card.
- Centurion lounges with American Express Platinum Card and American Express Platinum Business Card.
- Veloce lounges with some ANZ frequent flyer and various rewards points cards.
- Plaza Premium lounges with the American Express Platinum Card.
- LoungeKey lounges with the Commbank Ultimate Awards Credit Card.
- Diners Club lounges with Diners Club cards.
Regular travellers will appreciate Priority Pass lounge access
If you are a frequent business or leisure traveller, you could make good use of Priority Pass lounge access, especially if you travel overseas and need to relax or work before or between long-haul flights. Check out the credit cards listed below, all of which have Priority Pass lounge access as a complimentary benefit.