Most Canadian travelers don’t know that they can get unlimited access to airport lounges not only for free… but they can in fact essentially get paid to get it. Here’s how.
I’ve personally had the pleasure of enjoying airport lounge access for over two years now, and after over 100 lounge visits I can tell you it’s so amazing that I wouldn’t dare even thinking about going back to life without this amazing travel benefit.
Lounges used to be only for the very frequent fliers who earned costly elite status or bought expensive business-class seats.
What You Need To Know
First of all, let’s just be clear about one thing: airport lounges are incredible!
For those who don’t know what all the fuss is about: lounges have free food, free drinks, comfortable seating, premium Wi-Fi and a quiet relaxed atmosphere. It’s infinitely more enjoyable than your average airport experience (and you’ll save tons of money on airport food too).
Lounges make traveling (and airports) fun and pleasant. I even go to the airport early and book more layovers to take advantage of more lounge time, that’s how great they are.
Have you ever heard of the saying “the journey IS the destination”? Whoever said that definitely had lounge access.
By the way, Flytrippers’ mission is to help Canadians travel more. We do this by spotting flight deals at 50% off and by sharing travel tips… including tips about Travel Hacking, the best way to easily earn hundreds of dollars of free travel.
Travel Hacking. That’s how you can get free unlimited access to airport lounges for you and one guest. More specifically with the best credit card in Canada.
It will give you free access to great lounges in most major Canadian airports (YYZ, YVR, YUL, YYC, YEG, YWG).
But most importantly, it also includes lounges in airports all over the world so that you can relax almost everywhere you go. There are 1,200+ participating lounges (all accessible for free, even when flying economy class of course).
Keep reading to see how one specific credit card actually pays you to get access to these airport lounges, and then we’ll even give you a couple of other options to get at least a few free lounges passes each year if the unlimited access isn’t right for you: there’s no reason for you not to have lounge access with these options!
Free Unlimited Airport Lounge Access
It’s actually quite simple.
You get the American Express Platinum Card… and you’ll get free unlimited access to airport lounges.
You’ll also get many other travel perks, like Gold Elite Status at Marriott and Hilton hotels as well as excellent insurance coverage. The card has a great earn rate and AMEX Points are among the most valuable and flexible in Canada.
It’s also a great-looking sleek metal card, one of the most high-end cards in Canada… if you care about those kinds of things.
While the Platinum Card does have a steep fee, it currently offers a Welcome Bonus that gives you about $250 more value than the fee, meaning you essentially get paid to get access to all these amazing lounges.
You get ~$950 worth of free travel (AMEX Points + a travel credit) by getting the card and the fee is $699, for a net of ~$251 in your figurative wallet.
Lounges and $251. Awesome. An absolute no-brainer if ever there was one. It’s a great opportunity to splurge on the luxury of lounge access for at least a year.
Then for the subsequent years, the net fee is $499 with no Welcome Bonus obviously. Since you come out ahead by $250 in Year 1, that means the actual net for Year 2 is less than $250.
That’s not too bad for unlimited lounge access ($124 per year if you keep it for Year 2), but in all cases, trying it for a year at no cost will help you decide how much you value the perks.
It isn’t for everyone though. No need to be a luxury traveler (the Platinum Card has no minimum income requirement by the way), but we do recommend it only if you travel more than once a year!
If you don’t, there are other cards better suited for you, either as a travel rewards card or for lounge access. For example, there are other cards that give you free travel AND a few free lounge passes, we’ll get to these in a second. And there are also cards without lounge access but with better Welcome Bonuses, like the Marriott Bonvoy American Express, the best offer in Canada right now: up to 15 free hotel nights just by getting the card.
But one thing is for sure: if you do travel a bit and want to make your trips so much more enjoyable, the AMEX Platinum Card is definitely for you.
Getting $250 worth of free travel AND free unlimited lounge access is an amazing deal.
In fact, I can honestly say it is one of the best travel deals out there. Not just as a travel deals expert that appears in countless media outlets, but first and foremost as someone who travels a lot. Lounge access is truly amazing.
Before seeing other options, here is a summary of what you’ll get with the Platinum Card:
American Express Platinum
(unlimited free access, $251 in free travel)
- No minimum income required, only good credit
- $3,000 spend in 3 months to unlock Welcome Bonus
- Gold Elite Status at Marriott & Hilton
- 3X Points on dining, 2X on travel
- Many many other travel perks
You can apply for the Platinum Card today or read more details about all the perks and how it all works. Finally, you can check out what it’s like in airport lounges, the details of the AMEX Platinum lounge benefits and which Canadian lounges are included.
Free Lounge Passes
If you don’t travel often enough to justify getting the Platinum Card, there are a couple of other credit cards in Canada that also give you a few airport lounge passes so you can enjoy the good life.
Unlike with the Platinum Card’s unlimited access, there are no guesting privileges with passes, so each passenger will need to use a pass to get in.
Scotia Passport Visa Infinite
(6 free lounge passes, $121 in free travel)
This card is the one we recommend the most, apart from the Platinum. You’ll get 6 lounge passes (all others offer only 4 or 2), but a little less in terms of free travel with the Welcome Bonus.
However it also has a perk no other card with lounge access in Canada has (and a perk very few cards in Canada have): no foreign transaction fee. Almost all cards in Canada tack on a 2.5% fee to everything you buy in a foreign currency, but not this one.
- $171 in free travel (Welcome Bonus)
- 6 annual lounge passes
- $60,000 annual income required
- No foreign transaction fee
BMO World Elite
(4 free lounge passes, $287 in free travel)
Another interesting option if you don’t need the 2 extra passes.
It offers 4 lounge passes and one of the highest Welcome Bonuses currently available in Canada (behind the aforementioned Marriott Bonvoy American Express, although that one does not offer lounge access and is mostly for free hotel nights).
- $287 in free travel (Welcome Bonus)
- 4 annual lounge passes
- $80,000 annual income required
CIBC Aventura Card
(4 free lounge passes, $220 in free travel)
This card gives you 4 lounge passes and a slightly lower Welcome Bonus compared to the BMO World Elite, but more than the Scotia Passport if you don’t need the two extra passes.
You also get a credit to cover your NEXUS fee (worth an extra $50 if you don’t already have NEXUS).
- $220 in free travel (Welcome Bonus) or $270 if you don’t have NEXUS
- 4 annual lounge passes
- $60,000 annual income required
BMO Air Miles World Elite
(2 free lounge passes, $363 in free travel)
Air Miles are only valuable if you know how to use them well for flights, which is something very few Canadians know how to do (we’ll have a helpful guide soon as we revamp our Travel Hacking section, so subscribe to our Travel Hacking newsletter).
In all cases, it gives you 2 lounge passe. It isn’t much but it’s still better than no passes.
- $363 in free travel (Welcome Bonus)
- 2 annual lounge passes
- $80,000 annual income required
One Last Option For Lounge Access
If you don’t meet the minimum income requirements for the above cards (or want another way to access airport lounges without credit cards for some reason), you can purchase a Priority Pass membership directly. You can read more details about the 3 different Priority Pass membership levels.
The American Express Platinum Card has made us fall in love with airports, as lounge access is the most satisfying travel benefit there is. And getting that essentially for free for a year (well in fact being effectively paid to get it) is really the best deal in travel cards. If it’s not for you, at least getting a few lounge passes with the other cards will give you a bit of luxury on your next trip.
Do you have any questions about the AMEX Platinum Card or airport lounge access? Ask us in the comments below!
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Cover image: American Express Centurion Lounge Miami (photo credit: AMEX)