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Airport lounges are absolutely awesome. I’ve had access to them for over 5 years now and I’ll never go back to life without them, at least as a frequent flier who travels a lot (and doesn’t really travel in luxury except for airport lounges). And it’s so easy to access them for free!

Since there are 3 cards among the incredible offers currently ongoing that come with airport lounge access in addition to having huge welcome bonuses, we want to give you an intro on that (we’ll have an ultimate guide with much more info soon).

Best credit cards for
airport lounge access
WELCOME BONUS
( VALUATION)
Lounge
passes
Platinum Card from American Express
Card:
Bonus: spend $6k in 3 mos.
Rewards: ≈ $1910
Card Fee: $699
Unlimited + 1 guest
worldwide
Priority Pass + more
ends September 20th
American Express Aeroplan Reserve Card
Card:
Bonus: spend $6k in 6 mos.
Rewards: ≈ $1725
Card Fee: $599
Unlimited + 1 guest
in North America
Air Canada Lounges (on *A)
ends September 20th
American Express Gold Rewards Card
Card:
Bonus: spend $3k in 3 mos.
Rewards: ≈ $1165
Card Fee: $250
4 passes
in Canada
Plaza Premium only
ends September 20th
Terms and conditions apply. Flytrippers editorial opinion only. Financial institutions are not responsible for maintaining the content on this site. Please click "See More" to see most up-to-date information.
Best credit cards for
airport lounge access
Platinum Card® from American Express Platinum Card from American Express
Card:
Bonus: spend $6k in 3 mos.
WELCOME BONUS
ends September 20th
Rewards: ≈ $1910
Card Fee: $699
Lounge passes: Unlimited + 1 guest worldwide
Priority Pass + more
American Express® Aeroplan®* Reserve Card American Express Aeroplan Reserve Card
Card:
Bonus: spend $6k in 6 mos.
WELCOME BONUS
ends September 20th
Rewards: ≈ $1725
Card Fee: $599
Lounge passes: Unlimited + 1 guest in North America
Air Canada Lounges (on *A)
American Express® Gold Rewards Card American Express Gold Rewards Card
Card:
Bonus: spend $3k in 3 mos.
WELCOME BONUS
ends September 20th
Rewards: ≈ $1165
Card Fee: $250
Lounge passes: 4 passes in Canada
Plaza Premium only
Terms and conditions apply. Flytrippers editorial opinion only. Financial institutions are not responsible for maintaining the content on this site. Please click "See More" to see most up-to-date information.

 

The types of access included with the 3 cards are all very different. They’re also very different from the other options out there, which are listed at the end (but should probably be avoided right now; keep those for your next application).

 

Basics of airport VIP lounges

Airport lounges are absolutely awesome.

I’m not going to share all the details today, but at least for travelers unfamiliar with the concept of airport lounges, I’ll share the basics.

At the very least, lounges offer:

  • free food
  • free drinks
  • comfortable seating
  • good Wi-Fi connection
  • a more relaxed and peaceful atmosphere
Sala VIP Internacional Quito (UIO) in Ecuador (photo credit: Priority Pass)

 

The quality varies greatly of course — from decent to exceptional — but it’s always infinitely more enjoyable than a typical airport experience (and you’ll save a lot of money on airport food, too).

Lounges make travel (and airports) much more enjoyable and comfortable. You can join our free travel rewards webinar on August 9 if you want to talk about airport lounges.

 

Airport lounge access by card (3 amazing offers)

Here are the details for each of the 3 cards with great offers right now.

 

American Express Platinum Card

Platinum Card® from American Express
Flytrippers Valuation
of Welcome Bonus (net value)
≈ $
ends September 20th

minimum income required: $0
spend $6000 in 3 months
Terms and conditions apply. Flytrippers editorial opinion only. Amex is not responsible for maintaining the content on this site. Please click "Apply Now" to see most up-to-date information.
Platinum Card® from American Express
Flytrippers Valuation
of Welcome Bonus (net value)
≈ $
ends September 20th

minimum income
required: $0
spend $6000 in 3 months
Terms and conditions apply. Flytrippers editorial opinion only. Amex is not responsible for maintaining the content on this site. Please click "Apply Now" to see most up-to-date information.

 

It’s the card I’ve had myself for 5 years and I wouldn’t go without it as you can see.

It’s by far the best for airport lounge access for frequent travelers, there’s absolutely no doubt about it! So many lounges in almost every major airport on the planet!

How airport lounge access works with the American Express Platinum Card:

  • The largest number of airport lounges all over the world
  • Unlimited access, no limit to the number of visits
  • Access for you AND 1 guest at any time (sometimes more)
  • Access regardless of airline or flight type

Airport lounges accessible with the American Express Platinum Card:

  • 1,300+ Priority Pass lounges worldwide
  • 100+ Plaza Premium lounges with a strong presence in Canada
  • 4 Aspire Lounge/Swissport lounges in Canada
  • 24 Centurion Lounges primarily in the US
  • 14 Escape Lounges in the US only
  • 1 Airspace Lounge in the US
  • 50+ Delta SkyClub lounges in the US*
  • 14 Lufthansa Business lounges in Germany*

*Exceptions: Delta SkyClub lounges are only available if you fly Delta Air Lines and no guests are included; Lufthansa Business lounges are only available if you fly Lufthansa, SWISS, or Austrian Airlines and no guests are included

We can’t list them all since there are so many, but here are the ones in Canada at least:

  • Air France Lounge by Plaza Premium (international non-US) – Montréal (YUL)
  • National Bank Lounge (international non-US) – Montréal (YUL)
  • VIP Lounge by Club Med (all flights) – Québec City (YQB)
  • Aspire Lounge (domestic/international non-US) – Ottawa (YOW)
  • Plaza Premium Lounge (domestic T1) – Toronto (YYZ)
  • Plaza Premium Lounge (domestic T3) – Toronto (YYZ)
  • Plaza Premium Lounge (US T1) – Toronto (YYZ)
  • Plaza Premium Lounge (US T3) – Toronto (YYZ)
  • Plaza Premium Lounge (international non-US T1) – Toronto (YYZ)
  • Plaza Premium Lounge (international non-US T3) – Toronto (YYZ)
  • Air France / KLM Lounge (international non-US T3) – Toronto (YYZ)
  • Plaza Premium Lounge (domestic B) – Vancouver (YVR)
  • Plaza Premium Lounge (domestic C) – Vancouver (YVR)
  • Plaza Premium Lounge (US) – Vancouver (YVR)
  • Plaza Premium Lounge (international non-US) – Vancouver (YVR)
  • SkyTeam Lounge (international) – Vancouver (YVR)
  • WestJet Elevation Lounge (domestic) – Calgary (YYC)
  • Aspire Lounge (US) – Calgary (YYC)
  • Aspire Lounge (international non-US) – Calgary (YYC)
  • Plaza Premium Lounge (domestic/international non-US) – Edmonton (YEG)
  • Plaza Premium Lounge (US) – Edmonton (YEG)
  • Plaza Premium Lounge (domestic/international non-US) – Winnipeg (YWG)

It’s absolutely phenomenal! Even in super niche locations like Banjul (BJL) in Gambia, I had a lounge before my flight! In almost all cases, you can even use lounges upon arrival, after your flight! It saves you the cost of one more meal.

The only shortcoming is on the US transborder side in many Canadian airports, because of our US preclearance facilities. And on the domestic and US transborder side in my home airport of Montréal, since the 2 lounges the American Express Platinum Card gives access to are only accessible with an international flight (US excluded) because of the terminal configuration. 

We’ll have a more detailed guide to airport lounges in every Canadian airport soon.

Most lounges are very good, especially outside of North America of course. Anything hospitality-related is always better outside North America. The best lounges in North America are definitely the Centurion Lounges owned by Amex, with premium food from local, renowned chefs.

And having the American Express Platinum Card is literally the only way to get in. It’s selective, but they’re so popular that in these, guests won’t be allowed as of February 2023, just you (these are the only ones like this, in the other 1,400+ lounges you’ll continue to have a free guest).

Centurion Lounge in Charlotte (CLT) in April 2022 (photo credit: Andrew D’Amours/Flytrippers)

 

(Note that you don’t need a business to have the “business” version, the Business Platinum Card from American Express, which has the same lounge access and a slightly more straightforward welcome bonus structure if you prefer!)

 

American Express Aeroplan Reserve Card

American Express® Aeroplan®* Reserve Card
Flytrippers Valuation
of Welcome Bonus (net value)
≈ $
ends September 20th

minimum income required: $0
spend $6000 in 6 months
Terms and conditions apply. Flytrippers editorial opinion only. Amex is not responsible for maintaining the content on this site. Please click "Apply Now" to see most up-to-date information.
American Express® Aeroplan®* Reserve Card
Flytrippers Valuation
of Welcome Bonus (net value)
≈ $
ends September 20th

minimum income
required: $0
spend $6000 in 6 months
Terms and conditions apply. Flytrippers editorial opinion only. Amex is not responsible for maintaining the content on this site. Please click "Apply Now" to see most up-to-date information.

 

I’ve been taking advantage of this one too since the record-breaking offers last summer.

It’s really interesting for those who travel mostly with Air Canada

How airport lounge access works with the American Express Aeroplan Reserve Card:

  • Only 19 Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounges 
  • Only in North America
  • Unlimited access, no limit on the number of visits
  • Access for you AND 1 guest
  • Access only if you fly Air Canada or Star Alliance

Airport lounges accessible with the American Express Aeroplan Reserve Card:

  • Maple Leaf Lounge (domestic) – Montréal (YUL)
  • Maple Leaf Lounge (US) – Montréal (YUL)
  • Maple Leaf Lounge (international non-US) – Montréal (YUL)
  • Maple Leaf Lounge (domestic/international non-US) – Ottawa (YOW)
  • Maple Leaf Lounge (domestic) – Toronto (YYZ)
  • Maple Leaf Lounge (US) – Toronto (YYZ)
  • Maple Leaf Lounge (international non-US) – Toronto (YYZ)
  • Maple Leaf Lounge (domestic) – Vancouver (YVR)
  • Maple Leaf Lounge (US) – Vancouver (YVR)
  • Maple Leaf Lounge (international non-US) – Vancouver (YVR)
  • Maple Leaf Lounge (domestic/international non-US) – Calgary (YYC)
  • Maple Leaf Lounge (domestic/international non-US) – Edmonton (YEG)
  • Maple Leaf Lounge (all flights) – Regina (YQR)
  • Maple Leaf Lounge (all flights) – Saskatoon (YXE)
  • Maple Leaf Lounge (domestic/international non-US) – Winnipeg (YWG)
  • Maple Leaf Lounge (domestic/international non-US) – Halifax (YHZ)
  • Maple Leaf Lounge (all flights) – St. Johns (YYT)
  • Maple Leaf Lounge (Terminal 6) – Los Angeles (LAX)
  • Maple Leaf Lounge (Terminal B) – New York LaGuardia (LGA)

It’s a very limited network, but there’s one for every type of flight (domestic, US transborder, international) at Air Canada’s major hubs like Montréal and Toronto, as well as most Canadian airports.

Having to travel with Air Canada or a Star Alliance member is also quite a bit more restrictive. But if you often travel with them, the American Express Aeroplan Reserve Card may be more appropriate, but otherwise, the previous one really is the best though.

Most Maple Leaf lounges are very good, with a menu of hot meals that you can order à la carte from your cell phone, at least in bigger airports (like Montréal and Toronto). You can also visit lounges after landing for an extra meal, snacks, and drinks!

Maple Leaf Lounge in Montréal (YUL) in January 2022 (photo credit: Andrew D’Amours/Flytrippers)

 

(Note that you don’t need a business to have the “business” version, the American Express Aeroplan Business Reserve Card, which has the same lounge access and a slightly more straightforward welcome bonus structure if you prefer!)

 

American Express Gold Card

American Express® Gold Rewards Card
Flytrippers Valuation
of Welcome Bonus (net value)
≈ $
ends September 20th

minimum income required: $0
spend $3000 in 3 months
Terms and conditions apply. Flytrippers editorial opinion only. Amex is not responsible for maintaining the content on this site. Please click "Apply Now" to see most up-to-date information.
American Express® Gold Rewards Card
Flytrippers Valuation
of Welcome Bonus (net value)
≈ $
ends September 20th

minimum income
required: $0
spend $3000 in 3 months
Terms and conditions apply. Flytrippers editorial opinion only. Amex is not responsible for maintaining the content on this site. Please click "Apply Now" to see most up-to-date information.

 

If you don’t want a premium card, this is the only other lounge access option among cards that give a net value of close to $1,000 with the welcome bonus right now. The minimum spend requirement is also much lower on this card.

Other cards with airport lounge access give hundreds of dollars less as you’ll see below, so it’s a very expensive opportunity cost compared to this one after all!

How airport lounge access works with the American Express Gold Card:

  • Only 14 Plaza Premium lounges in Canada
  • Only 4 passes per year
  • Access regardless of airline or flight type

Airport lounges accessible with the American Express Gold Card:

  • Air France Lounge by Plaza Premium (international non-US) – Montréal (YUL) 
  • Plaza Premium Lounge (domestic T1) – Toronto (YYZ)
  • Plaza Premium Lounge (domestic T3) – Toronto (YYZ)
  • Plaza Premium Lounge (US T1) – Toronto (YYZ)
  • Plaza Premium Lounge (US T3) – Toronto (YYZ)
  • Plaza Premium Lounge (international T1) – Toronto (YYZ)
  • Plaza Premium Lounge (international T3) – Toronto (YYZ)
  • Plaza Premium Lounge (domestic B) – Vancouver (YVR)
  • Plaza Premium Lounge (domestic C) – Vancouver (YVR)
  • Plaza Premium Lounge (US) – Vancouver (YVR)
  • Plaza Premium Lounge (international) – Vancouver (YVR)
  • Plaza Premium Lounge (domestic/international) – Edmonton (YEG)
  • Plaza Premium Lounge (US) – Edmonton (YEG)
  • Plaza Premium Lounge (domestic/international) – Winnipeg (YWG)

It’s more limited, so it’s obviously not the main benefit of this card. But if you’re hesitating between this one and the American Express Aeroplan Card, which has no lounge access and an offer that’s worth only $30 more, maybe it’ll tip the scales towards the American Express Gold Card.

I tried out the brand new Air France Lounge in Montréal in May 2022 and it’s phenomenal, so if you’re planning to fly internationally from Montréal, it’s going to give you access to a really nice lounge!

Air France Lounge in Montréal (YUL) in May 2022 (photo credit: Andrew D’Amours/Flytrippers)

 

(Note that the “business” version, the American Express Business Gold Card, doesn’t have the same lounge access, unlike the 2 previous ones!)

 

Airport lounge access with other cards (teaser)

The full airport lounge guide coming soon will help you with other ways to get access to airport lounges for free and a lot more info.

But let’s at least show you the other cards with airport lounge access.

These cards’ welcome bonuses are so low compared to the 3 above that if you want airport lounge access, it just doesn’t make sense to get anything other than those 3 options right now — unless you’re really not able to spend enough to unlock the bonuses (despite our tips).

As you can see, these other options will give you a welcome bonus that’s several hundred dollars lower… which makes your lounge access pretty expensive when you think about it, because you’re losing out on the hundreds of dollars in rewards!

Best credit cards for
airport lounge access
WELCOME BONUS
( VALUATION)
Lounge
passes
Platinum Card from American Express
Card:
Bonus: spend $6k in 3 mos.
Rewards: ≈ $1910
Card Fee: $699
Unlimited + 1 guest
worldwide
Priority Pass + more
ends September 20th
American Express Aeroplan Reserve Card
Card:
Bonus: spend $6k in 6 mos.
Rewards: ≈ $1725
Card Fee: $599
Unlimited + 1 guest
in North America
Air Canada Lounges (on *A)
ends September 20th
American Express Gold Rewards Card
Card:
Bonus: spend $3k in 3 mos.
Rewards: ≈ $1165
Card Fee: $250
4 passes
in Canada
Plaza Premium only
ends September 20th
National Bank World Elite Mastercard
Card:
Bonus: spend $3k in 3 mos.
Rewards: ≈ $350
Card Fee: $0 $150
Unlimited + 1 guest
at YUL only
NBC Lounge (intl)
ends August 31st
Scotiabank Platinum American Express Card
Card:
Bonus: spend $3k in 3 mos.
Rewards: $560
Card Fee: $399
10 passes
worldwide
Priority Pass & Plaza Premium
ends October 31st
CIBC Aventura Gold Visa Card
Card:
Bonus: make 1 purchase (no min.)
Rewards: ≈ $220
Card Fee:
4 passes
worldwide
DragonPass
CIBC Aventura Visa Infinite Card
Card:
Bonus: make 1 purchase (no min.)
Rewards: ≈ $220
Card Fee:
4 passes
worldwide
DragonPass
BMO Ascend World Elite MasterCard
Card:
Bonus: spend $3k in 3 mos.
Rewards: $240
Card Fee: $0 $150
4 passes
worldwide
DragonPass
Scotia Passport Visa Infinite Card
Card:
Bonus: spend $1k in 3 mos.
Rewards: $260
Card Fee: $139
6 passes
worldwide
DragonPass
BMO eclipse Visa Infinite Privilege Card
Card:
Bonus: spend $6k in 3 mos.
Rewards: $853
Card Fee: $499
6 passes
worldwide
DragonPass
Business Platinum Card from American Express
Card: no business required
Bonus: spend $7k in 3 mos.
Rewards: ≈ $1781
Card Fee: $499
Unlimited + 1 guest
worldwide
Priority Pass + more
limited time
American Express Aeroplan Business Reserve Card
Card: no business required
Bonus: spend $7k in 3 mos.
Rewards: ≈ $1481
Card Fee: $599
Unlimited + 1 guest
in North America
Air Canada Lounges (on *A)
limited time
Terms and conditions apply. Flytrippers editorial opinion only. Financial institutions are not responsible for maintaining the content on this site. Please click "See More" to see most up-to-date information.
Best credit cards for
airport lounge access
Platinum Card® from American Express Platinum Card from American Express
Card:
Bonus: spend $6k in 3 mos.
WELCOME BONUS
ends September 20th
Rewards: ≈ $1910
Card Fee: $699
Lounge passes: Unlimited + 1 guest worldwide
Priority Pass + more
American Express® Aeroplan®* Reserve Card American Express Aeroplan Reserve Card
Card:
Bonus: spend $6k in 6 mos.
WELCOME BONUS
ends September 20th
Rewards: ≈ $1725
Card Fee: $599
Lounge passes: Unlimited + 1 guest in North America
Air Canada Lounges (on *A)
American Express® Gold Rewards Card American Express Gold Rewards Card
Card:
Bonus: spend $3k in 3 mos.
WELCOME BONUS
ends September 20th
Rewards: ≈ $1165
Card Fee: $250
Lounge passes: 4 passes in Canada
Plaza Premium only
National Bank® World Elite Mastercard® National Bank World Elite Mastercard
Card:
Bonus: spend $3k in 3 mos.
WELCOME BONUS
ends August 31st
Rewards: ≈ $350
Card Fee: $0 $150
Lounge passes: Unlimited + 1 guest at YUL only
NBC Lounge (intl)
Scotiabank Platinum American Express® Card Scotiabank Platinum American Express Card
Card:
Bonus: spend $3k in 3 mos.
WELCOME BONUS
ends October 31st
Rewards: $560
Card Fee: $399
Lounge passes: 10 passes worldwide
Priority Pass & Plaza Premium
CIBC Aventura® Gold Visa* Card CIBC Aventura Gold Visa Card
Card:
Bonus: make 1 purchase (no min.)
WELCOME BONUS
Rewards: ≈ $220
Card Fee:
Lounge passes: 4 passes worldwide
DragonPass
CIBC Aventura® Visa Infinite* Card CIBC Aventura Visa Infinite Card
Card:
Bonus: make 1 purchase (no min.)
WELCOME BONUS
Rewards: ≈ $220
Card Fee:
Lounge passes: 4 passes worldwide
DragonPass
BMO Ascend World Elite®* MasterCard®* BMO Ascend World Elite MasterCard
Card:
Bonus: spend $3k in 3 mos.
WELCOME BONUS
Rewards: $240
Card Fee: $0 $150
Lounge passes: 4 passes worldwide
DragonPass
Scotia Passport Visa Infinite* Card Scotia Passport Visa Infinite Card
Card:
Bonus: spend $1k in 3 mos.
WELCOME BONUS
Rewards: $260
Card Fee: $139
Lounge passes: 6 passes worldwide
DragonPass
BMO eclipse Visa Infinite Privilege* Card BMO eclipse Visa Infinite Privilege Card
Card:
Bonus: spend $6k in 3 mos.
WELCOME BONUS
Rewards: $853
Card Fee: $499
Lounge passes: 6 passes worldwide
DragonPass
Business Platinum Card® from American Express Business Platinum Card from American Express
Card: no business required
Bonus: spend $7k in 3 mos.
WELCOME BONUS
limited time
Rewards: ≈ $1781
Card Fee: $499
Lounge passes: Unlimited + 1 guest worldwide
Priority Pass + more
American Express® Aeroplan®* Business Reserve Card American Express Aeroplan Business Reserve Card
Card: no business required
Bonus: spend $7k in 3 mos.
WELCOME BONUS
limited time
Rewards: ≈ $1481
Card Fee: $599
Lounge passes: Unlimited + 1 guest in North America
Air Canada Lounges (on *A)
Terms and conditions apply. Flytrippers editorial opinion only. Financial institutions are not responsible for maintaining the content on this site. Please click "See More" to see most up-to-date information.

 

The access provided with these cards is all very similar. 

The main differences are:

  • The amount of passes included (10, 6, or 4 passes)
  • The minimum income required for the card (a restriction that doesn’t exist with the 3 Amex cards above that don’t require a minimum income or with the Amex “business” cards that don’t require a business or a minimum income)

The only exception is the National Bank World Elite Mastercard which only provides access to their own lounge in Montreal (YUL), and only if flying internationally (US excluded). Not really a valuable option for non-Montrealers. And it requires a minimum income of $80,000 (or $150,000 for your household).

 

The Scotiabank Platinum Card is the best with 10 passes and is the only one with access to the amazing WestJet Elevation Lounge in Calgary (YYC) — that’s the only Canadian difference between Priority Pass and DragonPass, which have basically the same lounges included all over the world with a few exceptions.

And along with the CIBC Aventura® Gold Visa* Card, it’s the only one for you if you who earn under $60,000 a year (or $100,000 for your household).

If you earn over $60,000 but under $80,000 (or $150,000 for your household), the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite Card has 6 passes while the CIBC Aventura® Visa Infinite* Card has 4, but with a slightly higher welcome bonus right now.

If you earn over $80,000, the BMO Ascend World Elite®* MasterCard®* has 4 passes. Finally, if you earn over $150,000, the BMO eclipse Visa Infinite Privilege Card* has 4 passes as well, with the best welcome bonus among the non-Amex cards with airport lounge access.

Beware of cards that market themselves as providing a Priority Pass or DragonPass membership. Many cards have that. But just the membership does not give you any free passes to enter the lounges, unlike with these cards. Not nearly as appealing. 

 

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Summary

The best deals to enjoy free airport lounge access are the ones ongoing this summer. With the American Express Platinum Card, American Express Aeroplan Reserve Card, and American Express Gold Rewards Card, it means ≈ $1,211 to ≈ $915 in welcome bonuses, plus airport lounge access!

What would you like to know about airport lounge access? Tell us in the comments below.

 

See the deals we spot: Cheap flights

Explore awesome destinations: Travel inspiration

Learn pro tricks: Travel tips

Discover free travel: Travel rewards

 

Featured image: Air France Lounge in Montréal (YUL) in May 2022 (photo credit: Andrew D’Amours/Flytrippers)

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Andrew D'Amours

Andrew is the co-founder of Flytrippers. He is passionate about traveling the world but also, as a former management consultant, about the travel industry itself. He shares his experiences to help you save money on travel. As a very cost-conscious traveler, he loves finding deals and getting free travel thanks to travel rewards points... to help him visit every country in the world (current count: 64/193 Countries, 47/50 US States & 9/10 Canadian Provinces).

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