A primer on credit card lounge access

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.

Lee Cardholder always cracks me up for some reason

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 No of Free Visits Subsequent Visit Guest Visit
Citibank Prestige Unlimited N/A Free
Citibank Premiermiles 2 per annum US$27 US$27, however 2 free visits can be shared between guest and cardholder
DBS Altitude (Visa only) 2 per 12 month membership period US$27 US$27, however the 2 free visits can be shared between guest and cardholder
CIMB Visa Infinite 3 per year US$27 US$27
ANZ Travel Card

 

2 per quarter with S$10,000 spend N/A N/A
ANZ Signature Priority Banking Visa Infinite 2 lounge passes with min S$5,000 spend in a month N/A N/A
Standard Chartered Visa Infinite 6 per year S$38 S$38
HSBC Visa Infinite Unlimited N/A S$35
OCBC Voyage Unlimited visits for cardholder + 1 guest till 31 Dec 17 to the following lounges

https://www.ocbc.com/assets/pdf/cards/voyage-lounge-locations.pdf

1 free guest US$27
OCBC Elite World 2 per 12 month membership period US$27 US$27
Diners Cards 1 free visit to Diners Club partnered airport lounges from Apr-March Fees apply Guest fees apply
Krisflyer Ascend 4 vouchers for selected SATS and Plaza Prem. Lounges per membership year N/A Voucher can be used for a guest as well
UOB JCB Card (thanks Spinn3rX) Unlimited access to JCB-partnered airport lounges till 31 Mar 17 except in Singapore N/A Guest fees chargeable
Maybank Horizon Platinum Visa 1x Access available with min S$400 spend on airtickets within 3 months of charge. Lounges in SG, JB, KL and HK S$42 Guest fees chargeable @ 20% discount to S$42

Thanks to Louist on HWZ for some additional datapoints that I missed first time round

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.

uobprvilounge

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-

photo credit: thedesignair.net
photo credit: thedesignair.net
photo credit: thedesignair.net

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).

Conclusion

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.

 

35 thoughts on “A primer on credit card lounge access”

    1. holy moley you’re right. I just assumed both cards had it but upon closer inspection it appears the altitude amex doesnt have a PP. I can’t figure out why though, doesn’t DBS earn more transaction fees on the AMEX? Weird.

    1. awesome awesome resource louis, thank you. did you start that thread on hwz? i added a few i was missing to my table and left a link to your thread.

  1. How does one benefit from owning multiple cards if each card has a tie up with priority pass? Eg. If i own an Altitude card visa, does it mean that I get another 2 free entry if I also have citibank premiermiles?

  2. UOB JCB card has unlimited lounge access in Asia (eg. Plaza Premium Lounge in HK!). Only thing is you can’t use the lounge in the card issued country (i.e. SG in our case). Still a good one if you frequently travel around Asia I suppose?

  3. Some relevant info for supplementary card holders: Lounge benefits like Priority Pass usually only goes to Principal cardholders, but HSBC Visa Infinite does extend Priority Pass (unlimited) to supplementary cardholders.

    Am not sure about other cards.

      1. the DBS lounge is great though, much better than SKL at least in terms of food IMO, although many may not appreciate the lack of showers.

  4. The citi Prestige has PP that has guesting privileges, but the Ultima that costs 10 times as much doesn’t. its a bit ridiculous, but i guess many of you would consider paying that much for a CC absurd anyway.

    1. they probably go on the assumption that if you hold the Ultima, you are flying nothing less than biz class, and the PPL access (or lack of) becomes a non-issue.

  5. Question: What happens if you cancel the credit card linked to the priority pass? Would you still be able to use it?

  6. Honestly, I don’t get the attraction of the PP lounges.

    The only differences it has over pacing outside with the herds are pre-packed sandwiches, no-other-choice-so-got-to-eat dishes and some drinks. Moreover, PPL access is so ubiquitous that you are often tussling for the last chair and rummaging over dehydrated meat and vegetable scraps.

    In all fairness, the same could be said for Krisflyer Gold lounge.

  7. You can also download the app and set up various accounts on it. I have two accounts in the same app and you can switch btw the accounts. Depending on the account, you can also use the digital card on the phone and load it up to your apple wallet.

    1. thanks. i’ve not used jetquay before but i read a couple of trip reports and the experience seems to be underwhelming. is the only hot food they have there still instant noodles?

  8. I was wondering – is there any way to pre-determine in advance which boarding the gate the plane is going to be at in the airport other than knowing it only upon arrival at the airport when your boarding pass is printed?

    I understand that gate allocation may usually done last minute, but any sort of advance information (even if it is 1 to 2 hours before arriving at the airport) would be useful to plan as to which is the nearest/best lounge to visit and wait prior to boarding.

    1. if you’re departing from SIN, not really. departing from overseas SQ generally uses the same few gates because those are located closer to their lounges.

  9. Hey Aaron

    Would you happen to know if ur plane departs from say terminal 2, how do u visit a lounge in terminal 1? Are they connected?
    If not, how does it work? You pass the gate, then exit again later and take the Sky train to terminal 2??

    1. Its easy at Changi, there is a skytrain airside so no need to go through immigration or security.

      I have flown Malaysian a few time from T2 but happily trekked over to T1 to visit the rather good Qantas lounge. The lounge dragons always give me a bemused smile. 🙂

  10. Thanks! So if I wanna check out the lounge in t1, do I pass immigration at t1 then take the airside train to t2? Or do I pass immigration in t2 and take the train to t1?

    1. You have to go through immigration in the terminal from which your flight departs and then take the airside train to go to the other terminals. I’ve also done this numerous times.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.