Priority Pass Airport Lounge Program and how does it work?

Priority Pass Lounge - Punta Cana

Lounge access: It’s not just for the rich and famous. It’s for anyone who wants to make their airport travel experience more luxurious and less stressful. Priority Pass is an airport lounge membership program that provides members with access to more than 1,300 airport lounges — and sometimes non-lounge experiences such as restaurants — around the world.

Many of the top rewards credit cards offer access to the Priority Pass, a network of airport lounges around the world. Although you may already have a Priority Pass card in your wallet, it’s sometimes unclear what that means and what’s included in your membership.

We’re taking a closer look at the different levels of Priority Pass membership, as well as which cards offer the benefit and how to get the most out of your access.

With a Priority Pass membership, you can visit these lounges regardless of the airline you’re flying or your ticket class. This means you can even access Priority Pass lounges when you’re flying in economy class on a low-cost airline.

If you have Priority Pass access benefits through a credit card, you’ll usually need to actively enroll in Priority Pass Select. Different credit cards offer different access policies, so be sure to determine exactly what benefits your card offers. For example, Priority Pass Select memberships for American Express cards don’t cover visits to restaurant lounges and cards with lower annual fees such as the Hilton Surpass and Hilton Business cards only offer 10 free lounge visits per year.

Priority Pass Lounge - Punta Cana
The lounge in Punta Cana even has a pool.

Priority Pass Airport Lounge Program basics

Priority Pass is a network of airport lounges, mini-suites, and even airport restaurants. As of this writing, it boasts 1,300 eligible locations in more than 600 airports in 148 countries.

Priority Pass vs. Priority Pass Select membership levels

There’s a lot of confusion surrounding the terms “Priority Pass” and “Priority Pass Select,” so we want to clear the air.

Priority Pass is the name of the company that offers memberships to lounges in its network. You can purchase Priority Pass memberships directly from the site, with annual fees starting at $99. Here’s a breakdown of the membership options:

  • Standard membership: $99 per year; includes visits for $32 each
  • Standard Plus membership: $249 per year; includes 10 free visits, with subsequent visits for $32 each
  • Prestige membership: $429 per year; all free visits

Meanwhile, many credit cards offer club access benefits called Priority Pass Select. Some are for just one person, while others include guests. In either case, Priority Pass and Priority Pass Select members can pay for additional guests beyond what is included with their membership.

Priority Pass Lounge - Punta Cana
Food at Punta Cana Lounge

How to use Priority Pass benefits

Once you have a card that includes a Priority Pass Select membership, you’ve made great progress toward your next lounge visit, but there are some things to keep in mind.

You can’t just present your credit card at a participating lounge, restaurant or Minute Suite and receive complimentary access — though it would be nice. You first have to enroll in the program using a link with your credit card account. Find the link under “Benefits” when you log into your account.

Because it can take a week or two to receive your membership card in the mail, it’s best to enroll as soon as you receive your credit card. You can also download the Priority Pass app, which includes a digital membership card that you can use to access most, but not all, facilities.

Make sure to know if guests are permitted — and how many — ahead of your visit, because the representatives accepting your card won’t know. For example, if you have Priority Pass Select access through your Amex Platinum, you receive guest access for up two guests, so your card will be automatically charged $32 for each additional guest. Because you’re never asked to present your credit card at the lounge, you might not know that you were charged until you see your statement.

The lounge might be full

Your best-laid lounge plans may not work out. These days, there are lots of travelers with lounge access, and the lounges sometimes reach capacity; other lounges are sometimes only available to Priority Pass members during select hours. So, check the Priority Pass website before your next trip for not only available locations, but available hours, and don’t be shocked if some lounges are temporarily at capacity during peak times.

Bottom line

Several cards offer Priority Pass Select membership as a benefit, which can help improve your travel experience with goodies like free food and drinks, not to mention a comfortable place to relax or get some work done. Check specific details of your membership because the guest policies vary from card to card.

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