[UPDATE: Some offers mentioned below have expired and/or are no longer available on our site. You can view the current offers from our partners in our credit card marketplace. DISCLOSURE: Cards from our partners are mentioned below.]
Anyone who travels regularly has witnessed the following scene: An airline is preparing an aircraft for departure that seats over 200 people, using a boarding area that can comfortably accommodate only a fraction of the passengers. Throw in some delays for weather or mechanical failures, and the mood quickly takes on the air of an evacuation center.
Yet down the hall from your gate, the airline offers a business lounge that feels like more of a refuge than a refugee camp. If you haven’t paid hundreds of dollars a year for membership, or $50 for a day pass, don’t worry. Here are several clever ways that you can gain access to this oasis without giving up an arm or a leg.
1. Hold a premium airline credit card. Airlines such as Delta, United, and American each offer a co-branded credit card that offers a membership in their lounge club. And while these cards are expensive, their annual fee is usually equal to or less than the normal cost of a club membership.
2. Carry an American Express Platinum card. The American Express Platinum card offers lounge memberships with US Airways, American and Delta. In addition, it also includes a $200 per year airline fee credit that you can use to have your lounge entry fees reimbursed.
3. Get a Priority Pass/Lounge Club membership. Priority Pass and Lounge Club are two different credit card benefits that are offered by the same company. Standard memberships start at $99 per year and include unlimited visits to over 600 different lounges at $27 per visit. Better yet, this membership is offered with two free visits when you hold cards such as a Chase Ink Bold, a Chase Fairmount Visa, or a PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card.
4. Purchase passes on the secondary market. Transferrable day passes are often given out to frequent travelers who already hold lounge memberships, and it is not uncommon to find them on eBay for around $20 each.
5. Join The Skyguide Executive Privilege Club. This discount savings club is offered by American Express which will reimburse you for up $50 each for as many as 12 visits each year to airport lounges. Their memberships are available for as little as $19.99 per year, but reimbursements require that you mail a receipt to them via certified mail.
Airline business lounges were once just a haven for VIPs traveling in first class. But now, knowledgeable travelers can find affordable ways to access these comfortable hideaways.
[Credit Cards: Research and compare airline miles credit cards at Credit.com.]
At publishing time, The Platinum Card from American Express and the Ink Bold Charge Card are offered through Credit.com product pages and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for these cards. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.
Image: Malinki, via Flickr