Lounge access used to be something reserved only for premium cabin flyers or long suffering elites stuck in coach. But frequent-flyer targeting credit cards are changing that equation now by offering lounge memberships.
The vast majority of card issuers partner with Priority Pass to provide lounge access to their cardholders. However, not all tie-ups are equal, as the table below shows
|Card||Income Req||Lounge Network||No of Free Visits||Susbsequent Visit||Guest Visits|
|DBS Altitude (Visa only)||30,000||Priority Pass||2 per 12 month membership period||US$27||US$27|
|UOB JCB Card||30,000||JCB-partnered lounges||Unlimited access except in SG||N/A||Prevailing rates|
|Maybank Horizon Plat||30,000||4 lounges in SIN, KUL and HKG||1 visit per S$400 spent on air tickets/travel packages within 3 months||S$42||Prevailing rates|
|SCB Priority Banking VI||30,000 (Min AUM: 200,000)||Priority Pass||4 (if AUM <$200K), 24 (if AUM >$200K). Unlimited for Priority Private + Private Banking||N/A||US$27|
|Diners Club Cards||30,000||Diners Club Lounges||1 free visit between April and March||S$32.10||S$32.10|
|Citibank PM||50,000||Priority Pass||2 per calendar yr||US$27||US$27|
|Krisflyer Ascend||50,000||Plaza Premium + SATS lounge in SG||4 per calendar yr||N/A||Vouchers can be used for guest as well|
|Citibank Prestige||120,000||Priority Pass||Unlimited||N/A||1 free guest, unlimited|
|CIMB VI||120,000||Priority Pass (Dragon Pass from 1 Oct 2017)||3 per calendar yr||US$27 (US$25 from 1 Oct 2017)||US$27 (US$25 from 1 Oct 2017)|
|HSBC VI||120,000||Priority Pass||Unlimited||N/A||S$38, but supp cardholder gets a complimentary unlimited Priority Pass as well|
|OCBC Voyage||120,000||Plaza Premium||Unlimited||N/A||1 free guest, unlimited|
|BOC Visa Infinite||120,000||Plaza Premium||2 per 12 month membership period||N/A||Prevailing rates|
|SCB VI||150,000||Priority Pass||6 per calendar yr||S$38||S$38|
|Maybank VI||150,000||Priority Pass||Unlimited||N/A||US$27|
|AMEX Platinum Card||Invitation||Priority Pass, AMEX lounges, Delta lounges||Unlimited||N/A||1 free guest, unlimited|
Surprisingly, the UOB PRVI Miles card does not seem to offer lounge access, which is pretty shocking for something marketed as a frequent flyer card. Instead, they offer 20% and 10% off Singapore/Malaysia and Global Plaza Premium Lounges. That’s just weak.
EDIT: KT has pointed out that the Altitude AMEX does not have a Priority Pass. I can’t explain why, but it appears from the site that that is indeed the case.
Citibank Prestige clearly has the best lounge policy- unlimited free visits for the cardholder + one guest. That’s almost unheard of as most of the other banks will charge you for guest visits. HSBC Visa Infinite and ANZ Travel Card also offer unlimited visits, but for the cardholder only.
The other thing you should note about your credit card lounge access is whether your bank tracks it by calendar year or membership year.
If your bank says that you get 3 free visits per calendar year, it means you get 3 free visits from 1 Jan -31 Dec each year. But your bank may say you get 3 free visits per membership year. In this case, if your Priority Pass membership starts 1 May, then you have 1 May to 30 April in the subsequent year to use the 3 visits. Don’t get caught out by this!
Are the lounges actually worth it?
The vast majority of Priority Pass lounges will be run by 3rd party contractors like Plaza Premium or the airport authority (although some airlines will also sell access to Priority Pass). Therefore the quality is highly variable.
For example, some of the refurbished Plaza Premium lounges are really nice. Here’s Hong Kong, for example-
Or the Star Alliance lounge in Sao Paulo, also open to Priority Pass cardholders
And on the other extreme you will have some very, very miserable lounges. Lounges so miserable I can’t be bothered to add photos of them (I can think of a couple I’ve visited in China and India though…)
So some will be great (eg. Star Alliance Lounge Sao Paulo) with champagne, showers and will be a great place to spend a few hours, while others will be purely a touch and go experience.
The best precaution against wasting your limited lounge visits on a crappy lounge is to simply ask at the front desk whether you can have a quick look inside before you decide. I’ve never had anyone say no to this before.
Another thing to note are that some lounges may impose time limits in theory, though I’ve never seen these actively enforced (since it’s simply logistically too difficult to track who came in when).
Do you really need lounge access? Some airports are destinations in themselves and it would be a pity to lock yourself away in a corner the whole time and not explore.
But if you’re rushing some work, or if you’re in a dumpy airport, or if you’re empty inside and feel nice sitting in a slightly more exclusive place (guilty) then you should definitely see which of these cards you can make work for yourself.