Best credit cards for lounge access
For a frequent traveller, lounge access can vastly improve air travel, especially if you have to make multiple flight connections. On a long-distance trip with layovers, having access to food and drinks, a quiet place to rest, entertainment, a business centre and even a shower during a stop on your journey can make the difference between arriving at your destination exhausted and arriving refreshed.
Of course, you can purchase one-time access to a lounge, but it will cost you only a little less than half the price of a yearly unlimited access subscription, such as Priority Pass. A variety of Canadian credit cards offer lounge privileges included with the annual fee, but there are differences around how access is granted and which ones you can visit. Some cards offer unlimited access to select airport lounges, while others offer limited access each year. If it’s possible to determine how many times you will be travelling in a year, it can help you decide which card will hold the most value for you.
In Canada, there are different types of airport lounges you can access through your credit card, including Priority Pass lounges, those in the American Express Global Lounge Collection and traditional airline-specific lounges, such as Air Canada’s Maple Leaf Lounge and the Mastercard Experience Lounges. With that in mind, we’ve rounded up the best credit cards for lounge access, along with annual fees and the value of their lounge benefits.
Best overall airport lounge access credit card
Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite Card*
With a $150 annual fee, this card gets you a Priority Pass membership, plus six free visits per year to all participating lounges worldwide, including both Priority Pass and Plaza Premium lounges. Each lounge offers complimentary snacks and refreshments, internet access, a spot to charge your devices and, of course, a relaxing atmosphere. If you consider the full retail value of these passes, not to mention the cards’ other perks, the annual fee pays for itself.
Beyond that, it offers no foreign transaction fees (both online and when you’re abroad). It also offers competitive travel insurance coverage, including emergency medical, flight delay, lost baggage, hotel/motel burglary and rental car coverage. What sets this card apart is that it’s well-rounded and makes for a great card even if you don’t end up travelling this year. It earns you Scene+ points on your everyday expenses, which you can redeem for travel, along with movies, merchandise, gift cards and more.
Best luxury airport lounge access card
TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Privilege*
If you’re a loyal Aeroplan points collector who also wants to have a better airport experience, consider this card. You’ll get access to Maple Leaf lounges, complete with complimentary snacks and beverages, internet access and showers. Plus, get six complimentary lounge visits from 1,200 airport lounges per year. You also get a host of other perks to make you feel like a VIP at the airport, like priority check-in, boarding and baggage handling (and other perks). You’ll also get a Nexus fee rebate of up to $100 every 48 months and free first checked bags, too. You’ll get an extensive suit of travel insurance, even as you continue to earn Aeroplan points on your every day purchases that you can redeem for Air Canada flights, merchandise and gift cards.
- Annual fee: $599
- Interest rates: purchases 20.99%, cash advances 22.99%
- Income requirement: $150,000 individual or $200,000 household annual income
- Welcome bonus: You can earn up to 105,000 Aeroplan points. First, earn 20,000 Aeroplan points when you make your first purchase with your card. Then earn another 30,000 Aeroplan points when you spend $3,000 within the first 90 days. Finally, earn 55,000 Aeroplan points when you spend $12,000 within the first 12 months of opening an account. Must apply by January 3, 2023.
- Rewards: 2 Aeroplan points per $1 spent on direct purchases with Air Canada and Air Canada Vacations, 1.5 Aeroplan points per $1 spent on eligible gas, grocery, travel and dining purchases, 1.25 points per $1 spent everywhere else.
- Other perks: Access to Maple Leaf Lounges, Nexus fee rebate up to $100 every 48 months, free first checked bag, priority check-in, priority baggage handling, priority boarding, priority airport standby, priority upgrades. Access a yearly round-trip companion pass from $99 (plus taxes, fees, charges and surcharges).
Best airport lounge access card for frequent travellers
American Express The Platinum Card*
This top-tier card offers unlimited access to the widest range of airport lounges, which are included with your annual fee. With it, you gain access to the lounges across the American Express Global Lounge Collection, including: Priority Pass, Amex’s own Centurion Lounge, Plaza Premium Lounges and Delta Sky Clubs (when flying with the carrier). The lounges in the American Express Centurion Lounge Collection are impressive, with seasonal and locally inspired menus, curated wine pairings and refreshing showers.
That said, the Platinum Card comes at a steep $699 annual fee, but along with it comes a suite of benefits, including hotel status, enhanced lounge options, and premium insurance coverage. When you factor in the $200 annual travel credit in the welcome bonus, it brings the annual fee down to $499. If you know you’ll leverage the benefits, like if you travel very frequently, this is a worthwhile option.
- Annual fee: $699
- Interest rates: N/A
- Income requirement: N/A
- Welcome bonus: Earn up to 80,000 membership rewards points. In the first 3 months, you’ll get 60,000 points after you charge $6,000 in purchases to your card. Then earn another 20,000 points when you make a purchase between the first 14 and 17 months of card membership.
- Rewards: 3 points per $1 on dining and food delivery; 2 points per $1 spent on travel; 1 point per $1 on everything else
- Perks: Priority Pass and American Express Centurion Lounge access; Toronto Pearson Airport priority lane; hotel status at select brands; premium medical, flight delay/cancellation and baggage insurance
Best airport lounge access card for occasional travel
BMO Ascend World Elite Mastercard*
With this card, you’ll receive four passes to use yourself or to share with your travel companions, which is a great option if you’re not a frequent flyer but still want the flexibility of using a lounge a few times a year. It offers no annual fee the first year, as well as a competitive welcome bonus 60,000 BMO Rewards points. It also offers participation in the Mastercard Airport Experiences program. Mastercard’s Airport Experiences program and lounges are run by LoungeKey and offer World Elite users access to 1,000 lounges around the globe. Beyond that, this card allows you to earn BMO Rewards points at a reasonable rate of three points per $1 spent on travel, dining and entertainment and two points per $1 spent on everything else. They can be redeemed for flights (including fees and taxes), hotels, car rentals, cruises and vacation packages. You can also use your points toward products and gift cards, contribute them to a savings account or use them toward eligible purchases.
- Annual fee: $150
- Interest rates: purchases 20.99%, cash advances 23.99%, balance transfers 22.99%
- Income requirement: $80,000 individual or $150,000 household annual income required
- Welcome bonus: Get 60,000 points when you sign up for the card.
- Rewards: 5 points per $1 on travel, 3 points per $1 on dining and entertainment, 1 point per $1 on everything else
- Perks: Acess to over 1 million Wi-Fi hotspots all over the world, BMO concierge service, extended warranty, purchase protection and BMO World Elite travel and medical protection
Best airport lounge access card for travelling to the U.S.
CIBC Aventura Visa Infinite
If you frequently cross the border to the U.S. for vacations, work trips or to visit family, you should consider this card. Not only does it gain you access to the Visa Airport Companion Program it gets you four visits a year and a rebate on your Nexus membership. While this card offers two less lounge visits than the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite, the annual fee is rebated the first year, and you get a Nexus membership rebate for $50. It also comes with an extensive suite of travel insurance, including out-of-province emergency travel medical insurance and more. Plus, you can earn Adventura points on your everyday purchases that can be redeemed plenty of ways, including for travel, merchandise, paying down your credit card or contributing to savings accounts.
Perks: Visa Airport Companion Program membership with 4 lounge visits a year; Nexus card fee rebate ($50 value, every 4 years); out-of-province emergency travel medical insurance; flight delay and baggage insurance; purchase protection and mobile device insurance; use Journie awards to save on gas.
This article was originally published on Nov 27, 2020. It was last updated on April 14, 2022.