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Best credit cards for airport lounge access 2022

Jordann Brown

Travel rewards credit cards typically include perks and benefits beyond just miles or points. Insurance coverage, reduced rates for car rentals, and 24-hour concierge service are all common benefits for rewards credit cards.


One of the most exclusive and sought after card perks is access to airport lounges. Below, we cover the benefits of lounge access, how it works and which credit cards offer lounge access as a complimentary benefit.

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Why airport lounges?

It’s simple: airline traffic is at an all-time high.

The hustle and bustle of the airport is not the quaint atmosphere that it was when the McCallister family went rushing through O’Hare in Home Alone almost 30 years ago, with some of the world’s busiest airports now serving well over 100,000 passengers every day.

In a nutshell, airports are busy, they are noisy, and downright stressful, especially if you’re stuck facing long wait times or a flight delay. Airport lounges are an oasis of calm in the chaos and offer: 

  • A private place of peace and quiet that’s secluded from the rest of the airport.
  • An abundance of plush leather or fabric chairs so you’ll never have to hunt for a comfortable place to sit. Even better, some lounges also include reclining seats for added relaxation and designated quiet areas with day beds.
  • The majority of airport lounges are equipped with free Wi-fi, phone charging stations, and complimentary refreshments including coffee, tea, light appetizers — even alcohol. Some lounges even serve hot meals and full-fledged buffets.
  • Feel refreshed while in between flights by taking advantage of shower facilities, which can be found in most lounges.
  • Stay up to date on your departure times with flight monitors or catch up on the news with daily newspapers and magazines, along with televisions tuned to news stations.
  • Need to catch up on work? Along with free Wi-fi, several lounges provide their own computers linked up to the internet, access to printers and fax machines, telephones for making international calls, and semi-private conference room facilities (in some cases, you may have to pay an additional fee to use these perks).
  • They also have operating hours that are convenient for travellers, opening as early as 5 a.m. and staying open late.

Airport lounge programs

There are four popular lounge programs, offering lounge access at dozens or even hundreds of airports around the world.

  • Priority Pass and Mastercard Experiences by LoungeKey both operate very similarly and offer access to many of the same lounges. The biggest advantage of these two programs is the sheer size of their lounge networks – Priority Pass grants access to 1,200 lounges worldwide while Mastercard Experiences offers access to 1,000. Most of these lounges are associated with airlines, and while amenities can vary from one lounge to the next, they all offer a comfy place to relax. And with so many options, you’ll always find a lounge no matter which airport you’re at.
  • Maple Leaf Lounges are operated by Air Canada. There are 17 Maple Leaf Lounges in Canada, the United States and Europe, and access is reserved to paying Maple Leaf lounge members, Air Canada or Star Alliance flyers with elite airline status, and people with the right credit card.
  • Centurion Lounges are run by American Express. These lounges are typically on the higher end of the spectrum and are often less crowded due to the fact they’re exclusive to AMEX cardholders. Eight lounges can be found south of the border and one is located in Hong Kong.

How to access airport lounges?

These lounges aren’t free, but you have a few options to get your foot in the door.

First, you could pay as you go. But paying per pass is an expensive route, especially if you travel often. The second option is to enroll in the lounge program directly. For example, you could become a Priority Pass member through their website at a cost of around USD$99 per year. This membership cuts down your visit fee to USD$27 per visit, per visitor.

The third option is to choose one of the best travel credit cards in Canada that includes lounge access as a perk. Below are the top three credit cards with lounge access. It’s important to note that the lounge access offered by these credit cards aren’t equal, they all have specific limitations, so if this is an important perk to you, make sure to choose the credit card that suits your needs.

Best airport lounge access credit cards

Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite

The Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite card is the best credit card for traveling as it is one of few cards waiving foreign transaction fees (a saving of 2.5% on all foreign currency) in addition to valuable travel benefits like comprehensive travel insurance, airport lounge access worldwide (with 6 free visits per year), and the ability to redeem your Scene+ points for travel. 

Pros

  • Lounge access - Priority Pass membership with six free visits per year to over 1,200 lounges worldwide
  • One of the few Canadian credit cards to offer no foreign transaction fees (saving you 2.5% on all your purchases made in a non-Canadian currency)
  • Earns three Scene+ points for every dollar spent at participating grocery stores like Sobey's, IGA, and FreshCo, among others; two Scene+ points for every dollar spent on eligible grocery, dining, entertainment and daily transit purchases
  • Flexible point redemption
  • Access to the Visa Infinite Luxury Hotel Collection and Visa Infinite Dining series
  • Complimentary Avis Preferred Plus membership
  • Comprehensive travel insurance including coverage for emergency medical, trip cancellation/interruption, and flight delay, among others

Cons

  • Annual fee of $ is higher than the average for cards of this calibre
  • Much lower return than other cards with comparable annual fees

American Express Platinum Card

When it comes to extra perks, the American Express Platinum Card is in a class all its own and is very easily classified as the best premium credit card in Canada. While its annual fee isn't cheap, the American Express Platinum Card offers all the bells and whistles and benefits that makes it worthwhile. Aside from its point value (three points per dollar on eligible dining/food delivery in Canada, two points per dollar on travel, one point per dollar on everything else), this card comes packed with tons of extra benefits, including complimentary airport lounge access with unlimited passes to Priority Pass and Centurion lounges, a dedicated concierge line, an annual $200 travel credit, hotel upgrades and Platinum Concierge services, and one of the best travel insurance packages on the market. 

Pros

  • Lounge access - unlimited free access for you and one guest to over 1,200 airport lounges as part of the American Express Global lounge collection 
  • Very lucrative welcome bonus that can earn you a possible 80,000 points (an $800 value)
  • One of the best travel insurance packages on the market, including everything from out-of-province emergency medical to $500,000 travel accident insurance and beyond
  • 3x points on eligible dining and food delivery in Canada (which will come in handy when traveling domestically) and 2x points on travel purchases
  • No minimum income requirement - a rarity for a card of this calibre
  • VIP benefits at Toronto Pearson Airport including access to Pearson Priority Security Lande, free valet parking (usually a $25 fee), and 15% discount on parking as a statement credit
  • Upgraded gold hotel status with Marriott Bonvoy, Radisson Rewards and Hilton Honors and car rental privileges with Hertz and Avis 
  • Transfer point 1:1 to several freuqent flyer programs

Cons

  • A very high annual fee of $699, which can be seen as $499 after the annual $200 travel credit
  • American Express isn’t as widely accepted in Canada compared to Visa and Mastercard

Scotiabank Gold American Express

The Scotiabank Gold American Express Card has a best in class return on spending due to the 5 times multiplier for every $1 spent on groceries, restaurants, food delivery and entertainment and 3 times multiplier on gas and transit. This adds up to a ton of points on your everyday purchases. On top of that, cardholders will not have to pay a foreign transaction fee on foreign currency purchases and have access to a cohesive travel insurance package. The Scotiabank Gold American Express card is a great travel companion offering significant savings. 

Pros: 

  • Lounge access - No foreign exchange fee on any foreign currency purchases while traveling abroad or shopping online (typically a 2.5% fee)
  • Extensive insurance coverage - The $1 million travel medical insurance lasts for 25 days, which is one of the longer coverage periods you’ll get. 
  • High average % return on spending (5 points per $1 on purchases) - best in class multipliers across groceries, restaurants, entertainment, gas and transit
  • Great welcome bonus with the opportunity to earn up to 40,000 Scene+ bonus points within your first year (up to $400 towards travel) with the first year annual fee waived
  • Access to VIP airport lounges and around the clock concierge services 

Cons:

  • Points will expire if they are not used with 12 months of the purchase date
  • American Express isn’t as widely accepted in Canada compared to Visa and Mastercard
  • Annual Fee $120

Find your perfect credit card in under 60 seconds - No SIN required

  1. Tell us a bit about yourself

    Answer some questions so we can personalize our recommendations - this won't impact your credit score

  2. Check your eligibility

    We confirm your eligibility with our partner, TransUnion. This will be a ‘soft credit check’ which you can see but lenders cannot

  3. Find your perfect matches

    We show you the cards you’re most likely to want and most likely to get

let's get started

Credit cards with lounge access in Canada

If you already have a credit card that offers lounge access, or you’re considering one of the credit cards above, the bottom line is that lounge access is one of life’s little pleasures, and if you have the option, make the most of it.

Also read:

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