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Credit Card Lounge Benefits

If you’ve visited an airport lounge lately, you may have noticed it’s more crowded than ever before. That’s thanks in a large way to credit cards, which have opened the doors to passengers flying in Economy, or on budget carriers. Whether that’s a good or bad thing depends on which side of the fence you sit, but love it or loathe it, democratised access to airport lounges is here to stay. 

On that note, it’s time once again for our annual look at the best credit cards for lounge access. 

Summary: Credit cards with airport lounge access

Ambassador Transit Lounge seating
Ambassador Transit Lounge Changi Terminal 3

Here’s an overall summary of which credit cards grant airport lounge access, the network they use, and how many free visits you’re entitled to. 

CardLounge NetworkFree Visits
(Per Year)
PrincipalSupp.
Income Requirement S$30K
Maybank Horizon Visa SignatureSelected lounges in SIN, KUL, HKGSpend S$1K in single trxn. within 3 months prior to travel
Diners Club CardsDiners Network1*N/A
Citi PremierMilesPriority Pass2*N/A
DBS Altitude VisaPriority Pass2N/A
AMEX HighFlyer CardPriority Pass2N/A
Income Requirement S$50-80K
SCB X CardPriority Pass2N/A
AMEX KrisFlyer AscendPlaza Premium4N/A
Income Requirement ≥S$120K
CIMB Visa InfiniteDragonPass3N/A
BOC Visa InfinitePlaza Premium4#N/A
UOB VI Metal CardDragonPass4N/A
SCB Visa InfinitePriority Pass6N/A
UOB Lady’s Solitaire Metal CardLoungeKey6*6*
OCBC VOYAGEPlaza Premium
HSBC Visa InfiniteLoungeKey
Maybank Visa InfinitePriority PassN/A
Citi PrestigePriority Pass + 1 guestN/A
AMEX Platinum ChargePriority Pass, Plaza Premium, AMEX & Centurion Lounges, and others + 1-2 guests + 1-2 guests
Priority Banking Customers
OCBC Premier Visa InfinitePlaza Premium22
SCB Priority Banking VIPriority Pass24^N/A
*Allowance follows calendar year instead of membership year
#BOC Visa Infinite allowance runs from 1 November to 31 October the following year
^With min. AUM S$200K. If AUM falls under S$200K, then four visits

Lounge networks

The main lounge networks used by credit cards are Priority Pass, DragonPass, LoungeKey and Plaza Premium.

NetworkSizeNotes
1,300 lounges
  • F&B dining credits at selected airport restaurants
  • Sleep pods and nap rooms
1,300 lounges
  • Lounge access at 60 railway stations in China
  • Discounts or free set meals at selected airport restaurants
1,250 lounges
  • Dining offers at selected airport restaurants
150+ lounges
  • Sole lounge operator in several ASEAN airports

Priority Pass

Priority Pass is by far the most common provider, and also offers the largest lounge network globally. However, it suffered a big blow in 2021 when Plaza Premium announced it would sever its relationship with Priority Pass (and LoungeKey) to cosy up with DragonPass instead. 

Plaza Premium Lounge Singapore
Plaza Premium Lounge Singapore- no longer accessible to Priority Pass/LoungeKey

Because of this, Priority Pass now has network gaps in airports where Plaza Premium is the sole lounge operator.

To bolster their value proposition in airports where they have no lounge agreements, Priority Pass has added alternative amenities like F&B credits, or access to sleep pods in Dubai or nap rooms in selected US airports.

Bar Roma at SYD, which offers Priority Pass holders a dining credit
💳 Using American Express?

If your Priority Pass membership is issued by American Express, take note that it does not cover so-called “non-lounge experiences” like restaurants or sleep pods. You’ll be billed separately if you use your Priority Pass for these. 

When in doubt as to whether something counts as a “non-lounge experience”, refer to the American Express lounge finder. If you see a lounge listed there, it’s safe to use your American Express-issued Priority Pass.

LoungeKey

LoungeKey has 1,150 lounges worldwide, and partners with Mastercard to offer eligible cardholders lounge access during flight delays. Members also have access to special dining offers at selected airport restaurants. 

There isn’t a whole lot to differentiate LoungeKey and Priority Pass, since they are owned by the same company. Just note you’ll face the same issues accessing Plaza Premium Lounges, as mentioned previously. 

DragonPass

DragonPass is a China-based lounge programme with more than 1,200 lounges, including some at railway stations in China. Members can redeem free meals at certain airport restaurants, or even things like complimentary massages. 

The Kitchen by Wolfgang Puck at Changi T3

More crucially, DragonPass has retained access to Plaza Premium Lounges, which makes it arguably more useful than Priority Pass or LoungeKey, depending on where you fly. 

Plaza Premium

Plaza Premium has a much smaller network of 180+ own-branded and third-party managed lounges worldwide. While its footprint is small, Plaza Premium lounges tend to be much higher quality than the average contract lounge, and in some airports (e.g. Penang and Langkawi), Plaza Premium is the only lounge operator. 

Plaza Premium has announced a strategic tie-up with DragonPass, which means that cardholders with Plaza Premium lounge entitlements will be able to access the DragonPass global network “in the near future”. 

Plaza Premium First Lounge, Hong Kong

Plaza Premium also has a chain of Plaza Premium First lounges, which offer an experience that could rival that of some First Class airline lounges. These require an upcharge, but you might find the experience very much worth it. 

Free visits

Free visit entitlements are usually refreshed based on membership year (i.e. the date when you got your lounge membership). For example, if your Priority Pass was approved on 1 April, your free visits will be tracked from 1 April to 31 March of the following year. 

However, there are a handful of cards which track entitlements by the calendar year (i.e. 1 January to 31 December):

If you hold a BOC Visa Infinite, do note your free visit entitlement runs from 1 November to 31 October. Don’t ask me why, it’s BOC. 

In case you were wondering, free visit entitlements can be stacked across cards. For example, if you have both the DBS Altitude Visa (two free Priority Pass visits) and the Citi PremierMiles Card (two free Priority Pass visits), you’ll have a total of four visits to use. You will need to register and keep track of separate Priority Pass cards, though. 

How I keep track of multiple Priority Pass cards

Guest allowance

With most cards, bringing a guest means you’ll have to use one of your free visit entitlements. For example, bringing a guest with you on your DBS Altitude Visa’s Priority Pass would exhaust your two visit allowance.

However, higher end cards like the Citi Prestige or AMEX Platinum Charge allow you to bring a guest for free. 

CardGuest Allowance
Citi Prestige1
AMEX Platinum Charge1-2, depending on lounge

The policy on children is more nebulous and varies by lounge. In general, infants under the age of 2 will be admitted for free, while some lounges may permit free entry for kids up to 12 years old. 

Supplementary cardholders

As a rule of thumb, lounge privileges are only accorded to the principal cardholder. That said, there are a few exceptions. 

CardSupp. Cardholder Entitlement
AMEX Platinum ChargeUnlimited visits (only the first supplementary cardholder gets a Priority Pass)
HSBC Visa InfiniteUnlimited visits (available for up to five supplementary cardholders)
OCBC VOYAGEUnlimited visits
UOB Lady’s Solitaire Metal Card6 visits
OCBC Premier Visa Infinite2 visits

Odds and ends

Here’s a few other pointers that didn’t fit into any other section:

  • If your annual fee is waived, you will still receive lounge visit entitlements as normal
  • If you earn a decent income and want a “free” lounge pass, sign up for a Maybank Visa Infinite. The first year’s S$600 fee is waived, and you’ll get an unlimited visit Priority Pass
  • It’s very easy to confuse all your different Priority Pass cards. I highly recommend labelling the physical cards, or registering them online so you can track your free visit entitlements

Conclusion

SATS Premier Lounge Terminal 3 seating areas
SATS Premier Lounge Changi Airport Terminal 3

The quality of airport lounges can be extremely variable, especially in the post-COVID era where amenities may be scaled back significantly. The best precaution against wasting your free visit on a crappy lounge is to simply ask whether you can have a quick look inside before deciding.

Here’s some things to look out for when surveying a lounge:

  • How plentiful are power outlets and USB charging ports?
  • What’s the quality of the F&B selection (especially alcohol!) like?
  • Are there shower rooms, and do they look clean?
  • Does the lounge have productivity pods or workstations?
  • Is there a napping area, or better yet, nap rooms?

In theory, some lounges do impose time limits on visits, but I’ve never seen this actively enforced because of the difficulty tracking who came in when. If lounges do enforce time limits, they usually base it on time of departure (e.g. if your flight departs at 9 p.m and the restriction is three hours per visit, they won’t let you in before 6 p.m).

Here’s to lounge hopping in 2023!

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