Free Airport Lounge Access

Compare credit cards that give cardholders complimentary entry passes into airport airline lounges in Australia and overseas.

15 reviews
120,000 bonus Qantas Points and $150 back when you spend $7,500 on eligible purchases in the first 3 months.
Earn 1 Qantas Point per $1 spent on eligible purchases up to $7,500 per statement period.
Get complimentary Overseas Travel and Medical Insurance (eligibility criteria apply) provided by QBE Insurance.

Many premium credit cards come with complimentary access to airport lounges. This is a boon for travellers, especially those heading overseas. Early check-in times mean that there can often be a couple of hours to kill before boarding, or in transit between flights, and the standard passenger areas can be crowded, uncomfortable and noisy. It’s not the best way to begin a long journey. But if you have a credit card which grants airport lounge access, you can enter a world of comfort and privilege.

Types of credit card lounge access

The range of lounge access granted varies from card to card. Some (but not all) cards linked to a frequent flyer program (allowing you to earn frequent flyer points on your purchases) will give you access to that particular airline’s lounges (e.g. Qantas and Virgin). Other cards, usually rewards points cards aimed at regular travellers, are likely to grant access to lounge programs like Priority Pass or Veloce, which are not linked to any specific airline. American Express has its own lounges for its premium cardholders.

Depending on your card tier, you may get two single-visit lounge passes each year, or full membership of a single lounge program including unlimited visits, possibly incorporating additional free access for a travelling companion. Cards with a very high annual fee ($700+) may come with full membership of two, three, or even more lounge programs (e.g. Virgin + Priority Pass + Delta). Since there is no guarantee that travellers will find a lounge belonging to a specific program in every airport they may use, being a member of more than one program will maximise the likelihood of finding an affiliated lounge, wherever in the world they happen to be.

Not all lounges are created equal

Australia’s remoteness means that its airports are not busy hubs for transit passengers, unlike megahubs such as Atlanta, Dubai, Tokyo and London. As a result, some lounge programs have only a limited presence in Australia, and your membership or single-visit pass may only entitle you to a food and beverage discount at selected eateries in the standard passenger concourse.

On a domestic flight, you will have more choice if you are departing from Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane (especially if your access is to Qantas, Virgin or American Express lounges) but lounge membership or passes are most valuable for use before and during long-haul international flights.

Some lounges are fairly basic, providing only comfortable seating, video entertainment, quiet work areas with Wi-Fi, newspapers and magazines, plus complimentary tea, coffee and small snacks. But at the top end of the scale you can expect a wide choice of complimentary full meals and beverages, plus shower amenities, and in first class lounges even spa facilities and massages, or personal transfers by electric vehicle between the check-in desk, the lounge and the boarding gate.

Before you leave on your long-haul flight, it’s worthwhile doing some research online to find out what you can expect in your program’s lounge at your departure or transit airport.

Affiliated lounge access

The lounges to which you have access may not always be badged with the name of the program to which you belong. As a result of airline alliances, you may be able to use another airline’s lounges. Non-airline lounge programs, like Priority Pass and Véloce, may cooperate with other lounge networks, such as Rex and Plaza Premium.

Frequent travellers will get the greatest benefit

Is it worth paying a higher annual fee for a credit card, just because it comes with airport lounge access?

Clearly, airport lounge access only has any value when you are travelling, especially on a long-haul flight. So if you only fly overseas once every couple of years, you’re not going to get much value from your benefit. You cannot ‘roll over’ unused single-entry passes into subsequent years: they have to be used within a limited period, usually not more than 12 months. Regular overseas travellers, especially business passengers, will extract the best value from this benefit.

What is a credit card lounge access worth?

Here’s a short summary of the most common Australian credit card lounge access benefits and cost:

  • Qantas

You won’t gain admittance to the attractive lounges owned by Qantas unless you are travelling in Qantas Business or First, or are a member of Qantas Club, or have a very high frequent flyer status, or are granted access by virtue of your credit card. Qantas don’t allow non-qualifying travellers to pay for access to their lounges, and they have blocked the sale of surplus single-entry passes on eBay (although they still appear to be available at Gumtree). Qantas Club currently costs $399 to join, plus $450 per year. So getting access to a Qantas lounge with your card is very valuable if you have no other way of qualifying.

  • Virgin

Virgin Australia’s joining and membership fees (which include reciprocal access to Air New Zealand lounges) are slightly lower, but they do allow any Virgin passengers to purchase single-entry passes for $65. So if your card comes with two Virgin single-entry passes, they are effectively worth $130 in any year that you use both of them.

  • American Express

For an American Express lounge you’ll need either one of their top-tier (and expensive) cards for unlimited access, or one of the lesser cards which gives two single-entry passes per year. There is no other way to gain access, such as paying an annual membership fee: the lounges are exclusively for AmEx cardholders, regardless of which airline they are flying with. Accompanying children up to 17 years of age are admitted free of charge, and for other guests you can pay $55 each. No-one else is admitted, even American Express cardholders whose card does not come with lounge access. So once again it’s a valuable benefit, and two single-entry passes appear to be worth $110.

  • Priority Pass

The Priority Pass group have over 1,200 lounges worldwide, and at the time of writing were affiliated with seven lounges in Australia, in Adelaide, Brisbane, Cairns, Darwin, Melbourne and Sydney airports. Additionally, lounge program members and day pass holders can instead use their lounge access to obtain a substantial cash reduction (currently $36 per member or single visit pass holder) at affiliated restaurants and bars at Coolangatta, Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney airports.

After payment of a Standard annual fee of USD99, members and their guests can access the lounge for a fee of USD27 each, per visit. Alternatively, the USD249 Standard Plus annual fee entitles the member to 10 free visits per year, while for USD399 the Prestige membership grants unlimited access. The guest fee is USD27 at all membership levels.

Unlimited Priority Pass lounge access via a credit card is therefore worth USD399 if you’re a regular traveller likely to make more than 10 lounge visits per year. Two single visit passes are technically worth USD153 (the annual fee + two visits, or AUD72 if used to obtain a bar or restaurant discount.

  • Delta SkyClub

The USD495 annual membership fee includes unlimited lounge visits for members, plus USD29 per guest, to 223 lounges worldwide (including six Virgin and one SkyTeam lounge in Australia).

  • Véloce World

The Véloce program is affiliated with over 100 lounges worldwide, but none in Australia at the time of writing and very few in New Zealand, although there are plenty in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and North America. It’s a program designed for holders of specific linked credit cards, so it’s not possible to pay for membership. Accompanying guests may sometimes be admitted at the discretion of the local lounge operator, but to be sure of gaining entry for a regular travelling companion (such as your spouse) the safest and cheapest option would be to request a supplementary credit card for them on your account, even if it means paying an additional annual fee.

  • Diners Club

Like Véloce, and American Express, Diners Club operates or is affiliated with airport lounges exclusively for the benefit of its cardholders, with no membership fee payable. There are currently six affiliated lounges in Australia, and over 800 globally. Once again, a supplementary credit card is the best way to guarantee guest access.

In summary, two single-entry lounge passes are probably worth somewhere between $75 and $130 per year in any year that you can use them, and an unlimited-visit membership could be worth more than $500 for a very frequent traveller.

Consider the card’s cost and other benefits when making your choice

Credit cards granting airport lounge access via single entry passes are likely to have a reasonably high annual fee, and those with full lounge membership attached may have a fee that is very high indeed. When considering the worth to you of the card, take into account any other attached benefits, such as rewards points, complimentary insurance (especially travel insurance) and any free flights or travel credits. If you travel regularly, it may be that the total value to you of the benefits is far in excess of the annual fee. On the other hand, if you travel overseas only once every two years, or even less often, it may not be worthwhile paying a high price for a card designed to benefit frequent flyers.

All the cards listed on this page offer some kind of airport lounge access to cardholders, and one of them could be a good fit for you.

My monthly spend: 
$5,000
 
Features: 
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Types: 
All types
rewards program
airport lounge access
earn rate
Points earned
Receive 50,000 bonus Velocity Points when you apply online, are approved and spend $3,000 on your card within the first 3 months.
Earn 1.25 Velocity Points per $1 spent, except government bodies where you will earn 0.5 Velocity Points per $1 spent.
A complimentary domestic return flight every year with travel insurance and entry into Virgin Australia Lounges.
More info
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Velocity Frequent Flyer
Velocity Frequent Flyer
Yes
1.25 pts
per $1 spent
ANZ Frequent Flyer Black Credit Card
Apply by 31 mar 19
15 reviews
120,000 bonus Qantas Points and $150 back when you spend $7,500 on eligible purchases in the first 3 months.
Earn 1 Qantas Point per $1 spent on eligible purchases up to $7,500 per statement period.
Get complimentary Overseas Travel and Medical Insurance (eligibility criteria apply) provided by QBE Insurance.
More info
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Qantas Frequent Flyer
Qantas Frequent Flyer
Yes
-
Citi Signature Qantas Credit Card
Apply by 31 jan 19
Receive 50,000 bonus Qantas Points when you spend $2,000 within 90 days from card approval.
Redeem Points for Qantas Frequent Flyer travel, experiences and more.
0% p.a. for 6 months on balance transfers.
More info
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Qantas Frequent Flyer
Qantas Frequent Flyer
Yes
0.5 pts
per $1 spent capped
Earn 80,000 points when you apply online, are approved and spend $3,000 in the first 3 months.
Complimentary access for you and a guest to over 1,200 Airport lounges across 130 countries.
Point redemption rates will change as of 15 April 2019. Please go to bit.ly/rwd415 for more details.
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Membership Rewards Ascent Premium
Membership Rewards Ascent Premium
Yes
1 pt
per $1 spent
Bank of Melbourne Amplify Signature Credit Card (Qantas)
Apply by 23 jan 19
Up to 80,000 Qantas points. Conditions Apply.
Reduced annual fee of $179 in the first year, currently saving you $100.
Every year get a birthday bonus with a 10% extra points of the total points earned in the previous year.
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Amplify Qantas
Amplify Qantas
Yes
0.75 pts
per $1 spent
Bank of Melbourne Amplify Signature Credit Card Online Exclusive Offer (Amplify)
Apply by 17 dec 18
ONLINE EXCLUSIVE OFFER
Up to 100,000 Amplify points. Conditions Apply.
No annual fee in the first year, currently saving you $279.
Every year get a birthday bonus with a 10% extra points of the total points earned in the previous year.
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Amplify Rewards
Amplify Rewards
Yes
1.5 pts
per $1 spent (Amplify)
BankSA Amplify Signature Credit Card (Qantas)
Apply by 23 jan 19
1 review
Up to 80,000 Qantas points. Conditions Apply.
Earn 1.5 Amplify Points per $1 spent in Australia.
Reduced annual fee of $179 in the first year, currently saving you $100.
More info
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Amplify QantasAmplify Rewards
Amplify Qantas or Amplify Rewards
Yes
0.75 pts
per $1 spent
BankSA Amplify Signature Credit Card Online Exclusive Offer (Amplify)
Apply by 17 dec 18
ONLINE EXCLUSIVE OFFER
Up to 100,000 Amplify points. Conditions Apply.
No annual fee in the first year, currently saving you $279.
Earn 1.5 Amplify Points per $1 spent in Australia.
More info
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Amplify Rewards
Amplify Rewards
Yes
1.5 pts
per $1 spent (Amplify)
St.George Amplify Signature Credit Card (Qantas)
Up to 80,000 Qantas points. Conditions Apply.
Reduced annual fee of $179 in the first year, currently saving you $100.
Boost your Amplify Qantas account with 0.75 points per $1 you spend.
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Amplify Qantas
Amplify Qantas
Yes
0.75 pts
per $1 spent
St.George Amplify Signature Credit Card Online Exclusive Offer (Amplify)
Apply by 17 dec 18
ONLINE EXCLUSIVE OFFER
Up to 100,000 Amplify points. Conditions Apply.
No annual fee in the first year, currently saving you $279.
Boost your Amplify account with 1.5 points per $1 you spend.
More info
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Amplify Rewards
Amplify Rewards
Yes
1.5 pts
per $1 spent (Amplify)
Emirates Citi World Mastercard
Apply by 31 dec 18
4 reviews
Earn up to 60,000 Skyward Miles (Spend criteria applies).
One complimentary chauffeur-drive service per year to and from the airport when flying Emirates.
2 x lounge passes for you and a guest for any Emirates Lounge in Australia.
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Emirates Skywards
Emirates Skywards
Yes
1 pt
per $1 spent capped
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Q&A's about Free Airport Lounge Access from customers

Q: What type of facilities can I expect in an airport lounge?

Restricted-entry airport lounges range from basic to luxuriously opulent. At the lowest end of the scale, your ‘lounge’ may actually be a bar or café on the ordinary passenger concourse, offering a discount on food and beverages to members (or single-entry pass holders) of specific lounge programs. The most opulent lounges may offer luxuries such as spa treatments, five-star dining, and personal transport between the airline’s check-in desk, the lounge, and the boarding gate.

In most lounges you will find many of the following facilities:

  • Comfortable seating
  • TV and movies
  • Complimentary newspapers and magazines
  • Complimentary food and beverages
  • A dedicated working area, with desks, device charging points, free Wi-Fi, and access to a computer if you don’t have your own
  • A ‘quiet area’
  • Showers, with towels provided
  • A screen with flight boarding information
Q: Can I take guests into the lounge with me?

If your credit card lounge access comes in the form of two single-visit passes annually, you can normally use the second pass for someone travelling with you. Or you may be able to pay a fee (usually between $35 and $65) for your guest’s entry.

If your card gives you full membership of a specific lounge program, you may be able to admit a guest free of charge, but this is not always the case. Check the terms and conditions found either in the small print at the foot of the credit card’s web page, or in the link to a file with full terms and conditions.

Q: How much is complimentary airport lounge access worth?

It depends on the level of access your card gives you, the quality of the lounge, and how often you travel.

Qantas lounges are mainly designed for Qantas Club members ($399 to join plus $450 per year), passengers travelling in Qantas business or first class seats, and high-tier frequent flyers. All of these lounge access methods require high expenditure, and Qantas lounges are very well-appointed, so even two single-entry passes are quite valuable.

Virgin Australia, Priority Pass and Delta SkyClub have similar programs, with joining and annual membership fees granting unlimited access.

Access to Véloce World, American Express and Diners Club lounges is limited to holders of specific credit cards, but it’s possible to argue that the value obtained is similar to that of programs with a joining and annual membership fee. For frequent travellers, membership of any program with unlimited lounge access is probably worth at least $500 per year.

Based on lounge programs which sell single-visit passes for guests or for travellers on their own linked airline, two single-visit passes are probably worth a total of between $75 and $130 per year.

Q: Will I find a lounge affiliated with my program at every airport?

Most lounge programs belong to a network of affiliated lounges, so you will probably gain access to at least one lounge (and sometimes more) at the world’s major airports. You may not be so lucky at lesser airports.

Qantas and Virgin lounge members will have lots of choice in Australia, and also find affiliated lounges overseas. In Australia, very few airports outside the state capitals have lounges.

Single-entry passes may have restrictions, such as being only available for domestic lounges, or only for international lounges, so be sure to read the small print.

Q: Can I rollover my unused lounge passes into the following year?

No. Single-entry passes must be used within 12 months. In a year where you aren’t travelling, and can’t use the passes, you will forfeit the benefit.

Q: Is it worth paying a higher annual fee for a credit card with lounge access?

Frequent air travellers are very likely to find it worthwhile to pay for a card granting unlimited lounge access in one or more programs, since it saves them the cost of joining a lounge program and paying an annual fee. It is also likely that the kind of premium card which confers full lounge membership will also have other valuable complimentary benefits, such as rewards points, travel insurance and free flights or travel credits, all of which also help to justify the high annual fee.

Infrequent travellers would probably struggle to justify the cost for this kind of premium card. Even a less expensive card – one giving two single-visit passes annually – may still not justify its cost in any year where you don’t use the lounge passes and travel insurance.

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