If you’ve visited an airport lounge lately, you may have noticed it’s more crowded than ever before. That’s thanks in a big way to credit cards, which have opened the doors to passengers regardless of cabin. 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.
For those of you relying on credit cards for access, here’s a look at the best options out there.
Summary: Credit cards with airport lounge access
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.
|Card||Lounge Network||Free Visits|
|Income Requirement S$30-50K|
(annual fees waivable)
|UnionPay Cards||Plaza Premium Lounges||Spend S$140 to unlock 1-time visit (promo till 14 Oct 23)|
|Maybank Horizon Visa Signature||Selected lounges in SIN, KUL, HKG||Spend S$1K in single trxn. within 3 months prior to travel|
|Diners Club Cards||Diners Network||1*||N/A|
|Citi PremierMiles||Priority Pass||2*||N/A|
|DBS Altitude Visa||Priority Pass||2||N/A|
|AMEX HighFlyer Card||Priority Pass||2||N/A|
|SCB Journey Card||Priority Pass||2||N/A|
|HSBC TravelOne Card||DragonPass||4||N/A|
|AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend||Plaza Premium||4||N/A|
|Income Requirement ≥S$120K|
(annual fees generally not waivable)
|CIMB Visa Infinite||DragonPass||3||N/A|
|Maybank Visa Infinite||Priority Pass||4||N/A|
|BOC Visa Infinite||Plaza Premium||4#||N/A|
|SCB Visa Infinite||Priority Pass||6||N/A|
|UOB Lady’s Solitaire Metal Card||LoungeKey||6*||6*|
|DBS Vantage||Priority Pass||10||N/A|
|OCBC VOYAGE||Plaza Premium||∞||∞|
|HSBC Visa Infinite||LoungeKey||∞||∞|
|UOB VI Metal Card||DragonPass||∞ + 1 guest||N/A|
|Citi Prestige||Priority Pass||∞ + 1 guest||N/A|
|AMEX Platinum Charge||Priority Pass, Plaza Premium, AMEX & Centurion Lounges, and others||∞ + 1-2 guests||∞ + 1-2 guests|
|Priority Banking Customers|
|OCBC Premier Visa Infinite||Plaza Premium||2||2|
|SCB Priority Banking VI||Priority Pass||12^||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 two visits
The main lounge networks used by credit cards are Priority Pass, DragonPass, LoungeKey and Plaza Premium.
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.
Because of this, Priority Pass now has network gaps in airports where Plaza Premium is the sole lounge operator.
- Brisbane (restaurant amenity available)
- Hong Kong Terminal 2 (restaurant amenity available)
- London Heathrow Terminal 2 (where SIA operates out of; restaurant amenity available)
- Phnom Penh (restaurant amenity available)
- Siem Reap
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.
|💳 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 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 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.
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 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 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 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):
- Diners Club
- Citi PremierMiles
- HSBC TravelOne Card
- UOB Lady’s Solitaire Metal Card
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.
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.
|AMEX Platinum Charge||1-2, 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.
As a rule of thumb, lounge privileges are only accorded to the principal cardholder. That said, there are a few exceptions.
|Card||Supp. Cardholder Entitlement|
|AMEX Platinum Charge||Unlimited visits (only the first supplementary cardholder gets a Priority Pass)|
|HSBC Visa Infinite||Unlimited visits (available for up to five supplementary cardholders)|
|OCBC VOYAGE||Unlimited visits|
|UOB Lady’s Solitaire Metal Card||6 visits|
|OCBC Premier Visa Infinite||2 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
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 happy lounge hopping in 2023!