Priority Pass is a program that provides access to airport lounges and business suites and gives credits you can use at airport restaurants. While you can purchase a membership in the program, most people from the United States have a Priority Pass Select card from a credit card that provides membership as a perk. That’s where things get interesting. While lounges may limit access to the club due to capacity issues, the cardholder will get in by showing their Priority Pass card (or a digital card if available). If you want to bring in a guest, each card has rules that are worded slightly differently and those small differences may cost you an additional $32 for each extra guest.
I do have a word of warning about bringing additional guests into a Priority Pass lounge. The desk agent checking you in usually will not tell you if you’re bringing in guests that you’ll need to pay for. You see, you’re not asked for payment at the club. Instead, the charge for the guest will be automatically billed to the credit card associated with the membership. So do your homework ahead of time to avoid any surprise charges later on. Here’s a list of the cards that provide Priority Pass Select membership and the guest policies they each have:
American Express Platinum and Business Platinum
American Express (AMEX) cards on this list no longer provide a $28 credit when visiting airport restaurant locations like Bobby Van’s at JFK. They still do include other airport experiences like the Minute Suites at Charlotte Airport.
American Express allows the cardholder and two guests to enter a lounge with the Priority Pass card at no charge. For additional guests, you will have to pay $32 each.
A workaround to this fee is adding additional cardholders to your Platinum card. While it’s not cheap, $175 entitles you to have three extra cardholders and each of them gets their own Priority Pass card. This is a good workaround if you frequently have to pay to get additional people into the lounges.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve used to have a very liberal guesting policy that allowed you to bring in as many guests as you wanted. Apparently, some people took that as a challenge and invited everyone they saw in the airport (and you wonder why we can’t have nice things?). The new policy is similar to the Amex Platinum, where the cardholder and two guests can get in for free. Additional guests are $27.
The Citi Prestige card offers a Priority Pass membership and allows the cardholder and two additional guests OR their immediate family (spouse, domestic partner and children under 18). This is a great benefit if you’re a traveling family with more than one child. Many Priority Pass lounges have kids’ rooms, like The Club at MCO where they had a video game set up to play Harry Potter LEGO. Additional guests are $27.
CNB Crystal Visa Infinite
The City National Bank Crystal Visa Infinite card previously offered the most generous Priority Pass membership available. When CNB slashed the card’s benefits in 2020, the unlimited guest Priority Pass benefit was one of the casualties. The current policy is that each card provides two Priority Pass memberships. However, each membership provides entry only to the cardholder. Guests are charged $32 per person. You could also add an additional cardholder who will get their own card but that will cost an additional $95 per year.
Hilton Surpass AMEX
This card has the lowest annual fee on the list, only costing $95 a year. While the other cards provide unlimited visits for the cardholder, the Priority Pass membership with the Surpass is good for ten lounge visits annually. This does provide some flexibility as you can have ten solo visits, two visits with yourself and four guests or just one visit with yourself and nine of your best friends. Additional visits will cost $32 per person.
The Aspire is the luxury Hilton card offered by American Express. The Priority Pass membership is identical to the one you get with the AMEX Platinum – access for the cardholder and two guests for lounges but no credits for restaurants. Additional guests cost $32.
This card, no longer available to new applicants, has a very generous guest policy for Priority Pass lounges. You’re allowed to bring in as many people who are in your travel party, at the discretion of the lounge and as per capacity restraints.
This American Express issued card has the same rules as the other AMEX luxury cards. Access is included for the cardholder plus two guests; additional guests are $32.
U.S Bank Altitude Reserve
The Altitude Reserve is the premium travel card issued by U.S. Bank. However, the Priority Pass membership is restrictive for a premium card since it limits the cardholder to four free visits on which they’re allowed to bring one additional guest. After those visits, or if you want to bring additional guests, you’ll be charged $27 per person.
Mastercard Black Card
The card best known for being the heaviest credit card on the market does provide access to Priority Pass lounges. For your $495 annual fee, as per the card’s website, the primary cardmember and authorized user(s) get unlimited visits for themselves as well as guests.
The two cards offering the best guest policies are the no longer available Ritz-Carlton card and the hard-to justify annual fee Black Card. After them, the Citi Prestige’s flexibility makes it the next best on the list, but that only matters if you’re traveling with a family. The AMEX cards are the worst because they no longer provide credit for airport restaurants.
A few final things to remember. With almost all of these credit cards, signing up for Priority Pass is an extra step required after getting your card, usually by requesting a card from the bank’s website. An exception is Black Card that automatically enrolls cardholders into Priority Pass.
When at the airport, you’ll need to show the Priority Pass card at the club lounge or restaurant, not your credit card. Finally, if you need to pay for extra guests, the charge will automatically go to the card associated with the Priority Pass membership.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary