Travel rewards credit cards typically include perks and benefits beyond the miles or points or dollars earned. Insurance coverage, reduced rates for car rentals, and 24-hour concierge service are all common benefits for rewards credit cards.
But if you’re anything like me, you probably researched and read up on all of these benefits before applying for your credit card, and once it arrived, you promptly forgot about the benefits and focused on the miles or points rewards. While this is common, it shouldn’t be. You’ve qualified for these benefits, and in some cases, you even pay an annual fee for them. You should use your credit card perks to the fullest extent you are able, to maximize all of the rewards your rewards credit card offers.
Let’s start with exclusive airport lounge access.
Why airport lounges?
First, why would you want to use an airport lounge in the first place?
It’s simple: Canadian airline traffic is at an all-time high, reporting record numbers in 2017. 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. Airports are busy, they are noisy, and downright stressful. An airport lounge is an oasis of calm in the chaos.
Airport lounges offer a variety of amenities beyond just peace and quiet:
- Most airport lounges are equipped with free Wi-fi, phone charging stations, and complimentary refreshments including coffee, tea, light appetizers — even alcohol.
- 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.
- They also have operating hours that are convenient for travellers, opening as early as 5 a.m. and staying open late.
- Finally, if you’re in between flights on a long trip, some airport lounges offer complimentary showers including soap, shampoo, and towels for your convenience.
Another major draw for airport lounges is their consistency from airport to airport. Most lounge programs offer lounge access at dozens or even hundreds of airports around the world. For example, there are two popular lounge programs in Canada, the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounges, and the Priority Pass Lounges. The Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounges are available at 16 airports in Canada, the United States, and Europe. The Priority Pass covers 1,200 airport lounges worldwide. To see which lounges are available at which airports, the website LoungeBuddy (there’s also an app for iOs devices only) offers a convenient list including opening hours, amenities, and reviews.
Accessing 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 use 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 nine credit cards that have lounge access as a complimentary perk. 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.
For example, the Scotiabank Platinum American Express Card has a steeper annual fee of $399, but offers cardholders a complimentary Priority Pass membership and 10 free visits per year for the primary cardholder, plus an additional four free visits per year for a supplementary cardholder. Alternatively, the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite has an annual fee of $139 and includes a free Priority Pass membership and six free lounge visits per year.
Conversely, the TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite credit card only offers a single one-time visit to the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge, and only if you book your flight using your Aeroplan Rewards.
For your reference, here’s a table of credit cards and their corresponding lounge access:
|Credit card||Card’s annual fee||Lounge access|
|Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite||$139||Priority Pass membership + 6 free lounge visits a year (USD$27 per visit after)|
|BMO World Elite Mastercard||$150||Priority Pass membership + 4 free lounge visits a year (USD$27 per visit after)|
|Scotiabank Platinum American Express Card Card||$399||Priority Pass membership + 10 free lounge visits a year for primary cardholder; 4 free visits per year for supplementary cardholder|
|BMO Air Miles World Elite Mastercard||$120||Priority Pass membership + 2 free lounge visits per year (USD$27 per visit after)|
|Scotiabank Gold American Express||$99||Priority Pass membership discount offered (35% off for a total of $65 USD), and cardholder must pay USD$27 for each lounge visit|
|American Express Platinum Card||$699||Canadian Platinum cardholders can access the American Express Global Lounge Collection, which includes Priority Pass, Delta Sky Club, Plaza Premium, The Centurion Lounge, and Executive Lounges by Swissport|
|TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Privilege||$399||Four annual one-time passes to the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge when you travel on an Aeroplan Rewards flight|
|TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite||$120||One annual one-time passes to the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge when you travel on an Aeroplan Rewards flight|
|CIBC Aerogold Visa Infinite||$120||One annual one-time passes to the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge when you travel on an Aeroplan Rewards flight|
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.
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