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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 lounge schemes for Australian credit cards is the extensive Priority Pass program, which has more than 1,000 lounges worldwide. 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 lass you have.
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 at four Australian airports: Sydney, Brisbane, Cairns and Darwin.
Some of the 'lounges’ in Brisbane, and all Sydney 'lounges’, are in fact restaurants or bars with whom Priority Pass has an arrangement for a A$36 bill discount per person, per visit. Facilities in these establishments are more limited than in the fully-fledged lounges found in Brisbane, Darwin and Cairns (the latter with shower facilities).
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 lounge visits per year, or one visit with an accompanying guest. Standard Priority Pass membership normally costs US$99 per year, allowing members and their guests to use lounges for US$27 per person, per visit. So an annual benefit of two single-entry passes could be said to be worth US$153 ($99 = $27 + $27).
More prestigious and expensive credit cards may give greater access. Standard plus membership (US$249 per year) gives members 10 free visits per year, after which they are required to pay the usual US$27 fee. Prestige membership confers unlimited free lounge access for members, but members’ guests are always charged at US$27.
If you are a frequent business or leisure traveller, you could make good use of Priority Pass lounge access. Check out the credit cards listed below, all of which have this feature.
Although you can buy Priority Pass lounge membership by paying an annual fee (and possibly an additional fee per visit, depending on the membership level), if you have the right credit card you can get free access as a complimentary benefit.
This may take the form of two single-entry passes per year, or unlimited free access (generally confined to cards with a very high annual fee).
So the only cost is your credit card’s annual fee.
No. While most of the more expensive cards come with complimentary travel insurance, shoppers’ insurance and other benefits, airport lounge access is restricted to about 20 credit cards. The lounge brands offered include Priority Pass, American Express, Qantas, Virgin Australia, Veloce, Diners Club and Delta Skylines. Some cards give access to more than one brand of lounge, for maximum availability.
Under some circumstances (e.g. your flight is delayed for six hours) access to a Priority Pass lounge could be considered priceless. But to put a dollar value on it, there are three levels of membership:
So two single-entry passes are worth US$153 ($99 + $27 + $27) per year. The unlimited access granted by very few (extremely expensive) credit cards is worth US$399 in any year where you think you are likely to make more than 15 visits to a Priority Pass lounge.
You will need to apply for your single-entry lounge passes (usually two per year) through your credit card’s website.
Prestige credit cards with complimentary Prestige Priority Pass membership, granting unlimited access, will come with instructions about how to obtain your Priority Pass membership card. Some credit cards give you a digital membership card, included in the Priority Pass app.
If you have a prestige card which comes with Prestige Priority Pass membership your lounge visits are unlimited.
If your credit card offers two single-entry lounge passes per year you may still have Standard Priority Pass membership, which means that you can pay for each lounge visit once your two annual passes have been used. Check your credit card’s terms and conditions in order to verify this.
No. Rather than operating their own lounges, Priority Pass have arrangements with local lounge operators at airports around the world. So you will not necessarily see the Priority Pass logo or signage prominently displayed, if at all.
Visit the Priority Pass website, or use the Priority Pass app, to see if the airport you are passing through has an affiliated lounge.
Priority Pass originated in the US, so that’s where most lounges are located. But their website says that they have over 1,000 lounges in over 130 countries, so you are likely to find at least one at most major airports. Some airports, such as London Heathrow, will have multiple Priority Pass lounges.
No. While some lounges offer luxurious surroundings, complimentary food and drinks, business amenities including free Wi-Fi, conference rooms, shower facilities and even spa treatments, others will have more limited features. Some, including many in Australia, may actually be affiliated restaurants or bars where members receive a discount on their food and beverage bill.
No. If your credit card has complimentary Priority Pass lounge access (either in the form of single-entry passes or unlimited membership) it doesn’t matter which airline you are travelling with.
No. If your credit card has complimentary Priority Pass lounge access (either in the form of single-entry passes or unlimited membership) you will be admitted to the Priority Pass lounge regardless of your fare status.
No. There’s no need to book ahead. Just present your single-entry pass or Priority Pass membership card, plus your flight boarding pass, at the reception desk on arrival.