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 complimentary benefits.
- Cash Bonus offer
Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite
Earn up to $1,300 in value in the first 12 months, including up to 40,000 bonus Scene+ points and first year annual fee waived.
Apply now and you could earn up to 15,000 bonus points with the American Express Cobalt® Card
CIBC Aventura Visa Infinite
Join and get over $1,250 in value including a first year annual fee rebate
What are the benefits of 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 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 Airport 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 Airport 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 provide 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 23 Maple Leaf Lounges in Canada, the United States, and Europe, and access is reserved for 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 include 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 are not 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
Best for Travel perks
based on spending $2,200/mo after $150 annual fee
- Earn rewards
1pt – 3pts / dollar earn rate
- Welcome bonus
30,000 bonus points (a $300 value)
- Ratehub.ca’s 2024 Credit Card Award Winner
- Earn up to $1,300* in value in the first 12 months, including up to 40,000 bonus Scene+ points and first year annual fee waived¹
- Earn 3x Scene+ points¹ on every $1 you spend at Sobeys, Safeway, IGA, Foodland and participating
Co-ops and more
- Earn 2x Scene+ points¹ for every $1 you spend on other eligible grocery stores, dining, eligble entertainment puchases and eligible daily trasit options(including rideshares, buses, subways taxis and more)
- Plus earn 1 Scene+ point for every $1 spent on all other eligible everyday purchases
- No Foreign Transaction Fee
- 6 Complimentary Airport Lounge Access
- Comprehensive Travel Insurance coverage
- Visa Infinite* Concierge Services
- Visa Infinite* Hotel Collection
- Visa Infinite* Dining and Wine Country program
Rates, fees and other information are effective as of Jan.4, 2024. Subject to change
The Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite card makes a great vacation companion, designed for Canadians who travel abroad and explore the world. It is one of the few cards that covers foreign transaction fees, and also includes valuable travel benefits like airport lounge access.
- No foreign transaction fee: Save 2.5% on all non-Canadian currency purchases
- Scene+ points: Earn three Scene+ points per $1 spent at participating grocery stores (e.g., Sobey’s, IGA, and FreshCo) and two Scene+ points per $1 spent on eligible grocery, dining, entertainment, and daily transit purchases
- Flexible redemption: Enjoy flexible point redemption options including for travel, groceries, statement credits, gift cards, and movie tickets
- Airport lounge access: Access airport lounges with six free visits per year to over 1,200 lounges worldwide
- Visa Infinite benefits: Benefit from the Visa Infinite Luxury Hotel Collection, Visa Infinite Dining series, and complimentary Avis Preferred Plus membership
- Comprehensive travel insurance: Enjoy coverage for emergency medical, trip cancellation/interruption, flight delays, and more
- Annual fee: The annual fee of $150 is higher than some comparable cards
- Low point return: The earn rate for certain spending categories like dining and entertainment is lower compared to other cards
- Consistent point values: Travel points are always worth one cent per point and you can’t transfer your points to other airline rewards programs like you can with some Amex cards
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.
- 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
- Annual fee of 150 is higher than the average for cards of this calibre
- Much lower return than other cards with comparable annual fees
Best for Premium perks
based on spending $2,200/mo after $799 annual fee
- Earn rewards
1pt – 2pts / dollar earn rate
- Welcome bonus
70,000 bonus points (a $700 value)
- Anniversary bonus
30,000 pts (a $300 value)
- Ratehub.ca’s 2023 Award Winner – Best Perks Credit Card
- Unlock special experiences with the Platinum Card®
- Earn up to 100,000 Membership Rewards® points – that’s up to $1,000 towards a weekend away
- New Platinum® Cardmembers, earn 70,000 Welcome Bonus points after you charge $10,000 in net purchases to your Card in your first 3 months of Cardmembership
- Plus, earn 30,000 points when you make a purchase between 14 and 17 months of Cardmembership
- Earn 2 points for every $1 in Card purchases on eligible dining and food delivery in Canada, 2 points for every $1 in Card purchases on eligible travel, and 1 point for every $1 in all other Card purchases
- Access a $200 Annual Travel Credit through American Express Travel Online or Platinum® Card Travel Service
- Enjoy a $200 Annual Dining Credit at some of Canada’s best restaurants
- Unlock $200 or more in additional value with Member extras. You can earn statement credits for qualifying purchases with participating brands
- Take full advantage of The American Express Global Lounge CollectionTM which unlocks access to over 1300 airport lounges worldwide. This includes The Centurion® Lounge network, Plaza Premium Lounges, and hundreds of other domestic and international lounges designed to enhance your travel experience
- Enjoy flexible ways to use your points such as statement credits for any eligible purchase charged to your Card, new travel purchases booked on American Express Travel Online through the Flexible Points Travel Program, and eligible flights through the Fixed Points Travel Program
- Transfer points 1:1 to several frequent flyer and other loyalty programs
- Enjoy complimentary benefits that offer an average value of $750 CAD at over 1,300 extraordinary properties worldwide when you book Fine Hotels + Resorts
- Platinum Cardmembers can enjoy access to special events and unique opportunities
- Enjoy premium benefits at the Toronto Pearson Airport
- You will also have access to many leading hotel and car rental companies’ loyalty programs. Our partners include Marriott International, Hilton Hotels and Resorts, Hertz and Avis
- Interest applies in accordance with your Cardmember Agreement, Information Box, and Disclosure statement if the total New Balance is not paid by the Payment Due Date each month. All payments must be received by the Payment Due Date shown on the monthly statement
- American Express is not responsible for maintaining or monitoring the accuracy of information on this website. For full details and current product information, click the Apply Now link. If you apply and get approved for an American Express Card, (I/we) may receive compensation from American Express, which can be in the form of monetary payment
Ratehub.ca’s 2023 Award Winner – Best Perks Credit 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 make it worthwhile. Aside from its point value (three points per dollar on eligible dining/food delivery in Canada, two points per dollar on travel, and 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.
- 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 - earn up to 100,000 rewards points ($1,000 value). Conditions apply.
- 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 frequent flyer programs
- A very high annual fee of $799, 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
Best for Travel
based on spending $2,200/mo after $139 annual fee
- Earn rewards
1pt – 2pts / dollar earn rate
- Welcome bonus
40,000 bonus points (a $400 value)
- Welcome Offer: Join and get over $1,250 in value including a first year annual fee rebate!† Here’s how You can get over $1,250 in value
- Get a total of up to 40,000 Aventura Points (up to $ 850 in travel value†):
- 15,000 Aventura Points when you make your first purchase†
- 5,000 Aventura Points on first purchase within first 4 months
- 20,000 Aventura Points when you spend $3,000 or more in the first 4 monthly statement periods†
- Get a one-time annual fee rebate ($139) for you (the primary cardholder) and up to three authorized users ($50 each): over $189 value.†
- Elevate your airport experience with 4 complimentary visits at 1,200+ lounges globally through Visa Airport Companion Program: over $190 in value.†
- Plus, get a NEXUS◊ Application Fee rebate†: A $50 value† Plus, enjoy extra valuable travel benefits.
- Travel when it’s right for you – your Aventura Points don’t expire†
- Redeem your Aventura Points for more than travel with our Shop With Points/Pay with Points features†
- Travel local – Aventura Points can be redeemed for more than just flights – use your points for hotels and car rentals for a weekend getaway
- 2 points for every $1 spent on travel purchased through the CIBC Rewards Centre†
- 1.5 points for every $1 spent at eligible gas stations, EV charging, grocery stores and drug stores†
- 1 point for every $1 spent on all other purchases†
- Save on gas with CIBC and Journie Rewards Link and use your CIBC Aventura Visa Infinite Card with Journie Rewards to automatically save up to 10 cents per litre† at participating Pioneer, Fas Gas, Ultramar and Chevron gas stations.†
- This is a digital-exclusive offer.†
- To be eligible for this offer, 1) this offer must have been directly communicated to you from CIBC or from a partner/affiliate; and 2) you must apply for the eligible card through the link provided in the CIBC or partner/affiliate communication to you.† This offer is reserved for you. Please do not forward it to anyone else.
- CIBC may approve your application, but you are not eligible to receive this Offer if you have opened, transferred or cancelled another eligible card within the last 12 months.†
- This offer is not available for the residents of Quebec.
- †Terms and Conditions Apply
The CIBC Aventura Visa Infinite card really ramps up rewards for everyday purchases such as gas and groceries. It also provides extensive insurance coverage, lounge access, and a Nexus rebate, proving to be a great travel companion for travelers.
- Access to airport lounges: Enjoy four complimentary visits at over 1,200 lounges globally through the Visa Airport Companion Program
- Extensive insurance coverage: Enjoy a comprehensive insurance package from mobile device insurance to emergency travel medical insurance
- Additional rebates and perks: Receive a NEXUS application fee rebate and annual fee rebates for customers with a CIBC Smart Plus Account
- Low point earn rate: Other rewards cards offer higher points per spending category
- Income requirement: A minimum personal income of $60,000 may may be prohibitive to some
- Annual Fee: An annual fee of $139 is high compared to others on the market
- Limited travel redemption options: You’ll have to use the CIBC Rewards Centre to book travel with your points, whereas with other cards you can experiment with other providers and platforms to get the most value
The CIBC Aventura Visa Infinite card offers great rewards multipliers for everyday purchases such as gas and groceries. Cardholders can earn 2 points for every $1 spent through the CIBC Rewards Centre, 1.5 points for every $1 spent on gas, groceries, EV charging, and drugstores, and 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. The CIBC Aventura Visa Infinite card provides extensive insurance coverage proving to be a great travel companion.
- Lounge access - 4 complimentary visits at over 1200 lounges globally through Visa Airport Companion Program
- Extensive insurance coverage from mobile device insurance to emergency travel medical insurance
- Great welcome bonus - earn up to $1,250 in value including a first year annual fee rebate.
- Other rewards cards offer higher points per spending category
- High income requirements may be prohibitive to some
- Annual Fee $139
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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.