Advertiser Disclosure

capital one plaza premium

The 4 Cheapest Credit Cards for Airport Lounge Access

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. The content on this page is accurate as of the posting date; however, some of the offers mentioned may have expired. For more information check out our Advertising Disclosure.
Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Enrollment may be required for select American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more.

Let's face it: You hold on to that premium travel credit card, with its massive annual fee, for the perks. And no perk is sweeter than getting access to airport lounges every time you fly. But paying upwards of $600 a year for some of the most premium travel cards with lounge access adds up fast, especially if you hold other cards that have annual fees, too.

If you want lounge access from a credit card, you won't be able to avoid an annual fee entirely. But there are a handful of more budget-friendly cards that will still get you into lounges at your home airport or wherever your travels take you. So even though you'll have to pay up each year, holding one (or more) travel cards for this particular perk doesn't have to completely break the bank, either.

Let's explore some of the most affordable options for airport lounge access.


The Capital One Venture X and Venture X Business Cards

The *venture x* and the *venture x business* are arguably the best value of all travel rewards cards on the market. Both cards have an identical $395 annual fee, but with the $300 travel credit and 10,000 bonus miles (worth at least $100 towards travel) you get each year on your card member anniversary, it's almost as if Capital One is paying travelers to hold these cards.


capital one venture x card


Capital One's foray into premium travel cards is giving banks like American Express and Chase a run for their money – and a big part of that comes down to lounge access. In addition to its brand-new Capital One Lounges the Venture X cards also come with a Priority Pass membership and access to Plaza Premium Lounges – making them some of the best cards for lounge access, period.

Read more: Here's Why Renewing Your Venture X Is a No-Brainer


Capital One Lounges

After years of planning (and building), Capital One opened its first lounge at Dallas-Forth Worth (DFW) and followed it up with additional locations at Washington D.C.–Dulles (IAD) and Denver (DEN) nearly two years later. For now, Las Vegas is the only other lounge location in the pipeline but Capital One is also building out a new concept it calls Capital One Landings at Washington, D.C.-Reagan (DCA) and New York City-LaGuardia (LGA).

With an emphasis on high-quality, local food and drinks, a grab-and-go section for those short on time, and other top-notch amenities, Capital One Lounges are among the nicest in the country. And after this year, the only way to get in for free is with a Venture X or Venture X Business card.


capital one lounge seating


Both Venture X and Venture X Business cardholders get unlimited complimentary access to any of the bank's branded lounges for themselves and up to two guests.

Incredibly, Capital One also does not charge you to add authorized users on your Venture X card. You can add up to four authorized users to your account at no additional cost. Best of all? Those authorized users will get their own lounge access with the ability to bring up to two complimentary guests as well. Sadly, this authorized user benefit is only available on the personal version of the card. If you've got the Venture X Business, additional employee cards don't come with lounge access.

Read More: How to Get Airport Lounge Access for the Whole Family with 1 Credit Card


Priority Pass Lounges

The Capital One Venture X and Venture X Business also come with a Priority Pass Select membership that will get you complimentary access to over 1,300 airport lounges worldwide. Authorized users get their own Priority Pass membership, too.

In some ways, the Priority Pass membership that comes with the Venture X card is even stronger than the one you get with *amex platinum* and the *chase sapphire reserve*. That's because you will be allowed to bring an unlimited number of guests with you on each visit – assuming there's space available in the lounge.


Priority Pass access card


It's not all good news, though. Much like the Amex Platinum Card, you won't have access the growing list of Priority Pass-affiliated airport restaurants. Capital One cut this benefit on the personal Venture X a few years ago. That's where the Venture X Business card has an edge, though. The Priority Pass membership that comes with the business version of the card still includes  Priority Pass Restaurant access for the primary cardholder and up to two guests.

Related reading: Which Cards Still Include Priority Pass Restaurant Access?


Plaza Premium Lounges

Capital One Venture X cardholders can also get into Plaza Premium Lounges, opening the doors to dozens more lounges abroad … and a few at home. The Plaza Premium name includes locations in two U.S. airports, Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) and Orlando (MCO); several lounges across Canada; MERA Business Lounges at the Cancún (CUN) airport; and Avianca lounges throughout Colombia.

Here’s the full list of Plaza Premium lounges accessible to those with a Venture X card.


Full Benefits of the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card

  • Welcome Offer Bonus: bonus_miles_full
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit: Each year, cardholders will get a $300 travel credit to use through the Capital One Travel booking portal.
  • Capital One Lounge & Priority Pass Select Lounge Access: Cardmembers will also be able to bring guests with them at no additional cost on each visit.
  • Up to a $100 Credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck: Membership in either program is good for five years.
  • 10,000 Mile Anniversary Bonus: Every year on your account anniversary, you’ll receive 10,000 bonus miles after paying your card’s annual fee. These miles are worth a minimum of $100 towards travel.
  • Earn 2x Miles on every purchase & More: Cardholders will earn 2x miles on every dollar spent. Cardholders will also earn 10x miles on hotels and rental cars booked through the Capital One travel portal and 5x miles on flights booked via the portal.
  • Complimentary Hertz President’s Circle Status
  • $395 Annual Fee: Add up to four authorized users at no additional cost


*venture x*


Learn more about the *venture x*.


Full Benefits of the Capital One Venture X Business Card

  • Welcome Offer: Earn *Venture X Biz Offer*
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit: Every year, you get a $300 travel credit to use on any flights, hotels, or rental cars booked through the Capital One Travel portal.
  • Lounge Access: Complimentary access to 1,300-plus lounges in the Priority Pass network and Capital One's lounges in Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW), Washington, D.C.-Dulles (IAD), and Denver (DEN). Cardholders get two free guests, too.
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck: Up to $100 in statement credits to sign up for either TSA PreCheck or Global Entry. This credit is good once every four years, and membership in both programs lasts five years.
  • Earning More Points: Capital One Venture X cardholders will earn 10x miles on hotels and rental cars, 5x miles on flights booked via the Capital One Travel portal, and an unlimited 2x miles on every dollar spent on all other purchases with the card.
  • 10,000 bonus miles: Every year starting in year two, you'll get 10,000 bonus miles after renewing your Venture X Card.
  • Annual Fee: $395


*venture x biz*


Learn more about the *venture x business*.


The Ritz-Carlton Card

The Ritz-Carlton Card isn't talked about much these days, but that doesn't mean it isn't worth the discussion. The card comes with a $450 annual fee and is packed with many of the same benefits as the top ultra-premium travel rewards cards at a fraction of the price. You could think of it as a souped-up version of the top-tier *bonvoy brilliant* – but even that's underselling it.

With a lower annual fee than the *chase sapphire reserve*, this card is the best choice for Chase customers looking for lounge access … so long as you're able to get it.

The Ritz-Carlton Card is no longer open to new applicants – but that doesn't mean you're completely out of luck. You can still get this card by opening a different Chase Marriott Bonvoy card first and then completing a product change to the Ritz Card later. Doing so requires jumping through some hoops – and a bit of patience – but for a card with so many benefits, it's worth it.

When it comes to lounge access, you'll get the best Priority Pass memberships of all cards and unlimited complimentary access to Chase's growing list of Sapphire Lounges. Best of all? You can add authorized users to your card for free and they each get their own lounge access … even when they're not traveling with you.

Read more: How to Get The Ritz-Carlton Credit Card (& Why You Should)


Chase Sapphire Lounges

Chase has been working for years to build its own branded lounges dubbed the Chase Sapphire Lounge by The Club – and from what we've seen so far, they're worth the wait. After opening a location abroad over in Hong Kong (HKG), Chase opened its first U.S. lounge in Boston (BOS) in 2023 and followed it up by opening a pair of lounges at New York City airports just last month. And even more are on the way.


chase sapphire lounge laguardia


These Chase lounges are run in collaboration with Airport Dimensions, the same group behind “The Club” family of lounges that you'll find throughout the U.S. that Priority Pass members can currently access. But Chase has upped the ante for its own lounges: The design is chic and spacious, complimentary food and drinks are a big step above your typical airport club, and there are also upscale amenities like showers and wellness areas.

It probably comes as no surprise that Chase's flagship Sapphire Reserve card will get you in but The Ritz-Carlton Card will work as well. Better yet, you can also bring an unlimited number of guests, too! Chase's own access policies spell out this incredible perk.


Priority Pass Membership

Many of the best travel rewards credit cards on the market today offer a Priority Pass lounge membership, so this benefit alone shouldn't be too exciting. But there are a couple of distinctions with the Priority Pass Select membership that comes with the Ritz-Carlton Card that make it worth discussing.

First off, you'll not only get access to Priority Pass lounges, but you can also access Priority Pass restaurants. Again, this is in contrast to the Priority Pass memberships that come with cards from American Express and the personal Capital One Venture X Card. While getting a $28 per person restaurant credit might not seem all that exciting, in many airports (especially in the U.S.), having access to these restaurants is a far greater benefit than what you'd get with a true lounge.


turkish airlines lounge priority pass


But perhaps what makes the Ritz-Carlton Priority Pass better than any other is the fact that you can bring in unlimited guests with you. And this benefit even applies to the card's authorized users, which won't cost you an extra dime to add. This is in stark contrast to the Sapphire Reserve and Amex Platinum which charge $75 to $195 more each year for adding an authorized user. Even though the Venture X gets unlimited Priority Pass guests, free authorized users are capped at four. This card easily tops that, and then some!


Full Benefits of the Ritz-Carlton Card

  • Earn 6x Bonvoy points for every dollar spent at Marriott Bonvoy hotels
  • Earn 3x Bonvoy points for every dollar spent on dining, airfare, and car rentals
  • Earn 2x Bonvoy points for every dollar spent on all other purchases
  • Annual free night award good for stays up to 85,000 Bonvoy points per night
  • Earn 15 Elite Night credits every calendar year towards Marriott Bonvoy elite status
  • Get automatic Gold elite status, with the ability to earn Platinum elite status with $75,000 in spending per calendar year
  • Three upgrades to the Ritz-Carlton Club each year (valid on eligible paid stays)
  • Up to $100 statement credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck every four years
  • $300 annual travel credit for things like baggage fees, seat assignments, lounge passes, and more
  • Airport lounge access through Priority Pass for the main cardholder and authorized users
  • Annual fee: $450


Ritz Carlton Card


The Ritz-Carlton Card is no longer open to new applicants but can still be attained through a product change.


The American Express® Green Card

The American Express® Green Card has long sat in the shadow of more popular cards like the Amex Platinum and *Amex Gold Card*. But thanks to its lower annual fee, an annual statement credit for CLEAR Plus, and Lounge Buddy credit, it could be a good option for infrequent travelers wanting lounge access.


Annual $100 Lounge Buddy Credit

The Amex Green Card doesn't come with a Priority Pass membership or traditional lounge access, but it does include an annual up to $100 credit to use with Lounge Buddy.

Lounge Buddy offers single-use airport lounge access passes starting at just $25 each. That means the credit that comes with the Amex Green Card can get you into lounges up to four times each year. If you don't have any other cards with lounge access, paying for access and having it covered by your card's Lounge Buddy credit is better than paying for over-priced airport food and waiting at the gate.


lounge buddy locations


American Express acquired Lounge Buddy back in 2019, but to date, the Green Card is the only American Express card with Lounge Buddy benefits. It's a reservation system that guarantees lounge access regardless of airline elite status, ticket class, lounge membership, or premium card type.


Full Benefits of the American Express Green Card

  • Welcome Offer Bonus: Earn 40,000 Membership Rewards Points after you spend just $3,000 in the first six months of card membership.
  • Earn 3x Membership Rewards points at restaurants
  • Earn 3x Membership Rewards points on travel – airfare, hotels, cruises, tours, car rentals, campgrounds, and even travel purchases on third party travel websites (including amextravel.com)
  • Earn 3x Membership Rewards on transit – trains, taxicabs, rideshare services, ferries, tolls, parking, buses, and subways
  • Earn 1x Membership Rewards points on all other purchases
  • $189 CLEAR Plus Credit: Earn up to $189 in statement credits per year after you pay for CLEAR Plus with your Green Card
  • $100 LoungeBuddy Credit: Earn up to $100 in statement credits per calendar year when you use your Green Card to purchase lounge access through LoungeBuddy
  • $150 Annual Fee (see rates & fees)

All information about the American Express® Green Card has been collected independently by Thrifty Traveler. 


American Express Green Card


Learn more about the American Express® Green Card. (for full disclosure, this is a personal referral)


Which Card is the Best Credit Card for Lounge Access?

As for which card is best for getting into airport lounges, it all comes down to your personal situation and travel patterns. Asking yourself a couple of simple questions can be a great place to start.

Does the airport you often fly out of have a lounge you can access with a credit card? Do other benefits make holding the more expensive Amex Platinum Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve a better choice?

Some top-tier airline co-branded credit cards will also get you into lounges. But then you're tied to that one airline, often paying the same or a similar hefty annual fee as one of these cards that will open far more lounge doors – and offer more widespread travel perks.

Ultimately, the answer to which card is best will be different for everybody, but there's no denying that airport lounge access is one of the sweetest travel card perks you can get. If that's your primary consideration for opening a new travel card, start with this list of the cheapest options.


Bottom Line

While plenty of travel credit cards will get you into airport lounges, these four are the best if you're looking for a budget-friendly option. If you spend a lot of time in airports, adding one of these cards to your wallet can make a lot of sense.


Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Get Free Flight Alerts

Cheap international and domestic flight deal email alerts

Get Cheap Flight Alerts