Lounge Passes and Credit Cards-Not Just for Business Travelers Anymore

First off, why do I need a lounge pass?

I get this question. I had never understood why anyone would pay $500 a year for a lounge pass. Yes, airports are  overcrowded and overpriced places full of mostly useless hoops to jump through, but it is just a fact of life and you get on with it. Then one of my siblings began using a credit card with lounge access and I have begun to see the light. Especially when traveling with children, a lounge can be a blessed reprieve. It’s a quiet oasis in the middle of civilized airport chaos.

Everyone can put their bags down and adults can use the restroom without worrying quite as much about their kids wandering off (unless your kids are toddlers then that is their only goal in life in every waking moment). And if you have a few hours to kill due to a delayed flight or long layover, the lounge really starts to look attractive with the free food and drink. It may be just snack food and house beer/ wine but I can always make a meal out of cheese and crackers and fruit. And beer makes long layovers better, this is something I have studied closely.

Nowadays, many lounges are stepping up their game with good hummus and fresh soup offerings as well as decent continental- type breakfast offerings. The American lounge in D.C.’s Reagan airport was offering guacamole made to order last time I was there. And many are incorporating at least one local craft beer into their selections. Besides the food and drink, the free high speed WiFi is a big plus as are the nicer (and larger bathrooms) when you need to refresh after a long flight. Many are upgrading to offer showers which is a fantastic way to stave off jet lag after an overnight flight. So now that I have made it sound so fabulous, should you invest?

A nice snack for a layover and all the decent coffee I can drink.

A nice snack for a layover and all the decent coffee I can drink.

Questions to ask yourself:

How often am I flying every year? If it’s less than 2 or 3 times a year then it may not be worth it for you to pay for a credit card.

What airline has a hub in your city? If you are mostly flying through Chicago, then a United or American card makes sense whereas if you are in Atlanta, a Delta program might be the best.

My favorite credit card for traveling with kids:

Now that you decided a card is worth it, which one is best for traveling with kids?

My favorite card is the Citi /AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard. (This is not the platinum card which only costs $95/ year, but the executive one that charges a cool $450/ year.) This is an American Airlines branded card.

Reasons to get it:

  1.  You can add authorized users at no additional charge and they get the same lounge access as the primary card holder. That means access for them and their immediate family or 2 guests. Delta (American Express Reserve card) charges for any guest over 2 years old and United cards only allow the primary cardholder to have free access for immediate family and guests. Get a sibling or close friend to split the cost of the card and now you have full lounge access for $225 a year. (All the accumulated points will go to one primary cardholder though).
  2. You do not need to be flying American to use the lounge. Any same- day boarding pass will work. This is true for United as well, but Delta requires you to be flying on Delta to use the lounge.
 A nice glass of wine makes any flight delay go better.....

 A nice glass of wine makes any flight delay go better.....

Reasons against it:

  1. It’s not that great internationally. There are only a few American lounges found in international airports and the lounges of their partner airlines don't accept the card. But it’s the same for the United and Delta cards. Because you are paying the credit card fee to that specific airline, partner airlines are not inclined to let you in and especially not your children.
  2. It’s $450 dollars a year.

* If you are looking at getting an airline credit card to start accumulating miles, that is a whole other ball of wax. For that, I would head over to The Points Guy. He provides a great discussion of different rewards cards and all of their benefits. A very useful site.

I hope this helps you make your decision. Enjoy your lounge stay if you decide to go that way. Please remember that just because somebody feels free to have a business call loud enough for everyone to share, that it is still uncool. Some of us are using this opportunity to nap. (That would be me.) And you will need some $1 bills for tipping. The house wines and beers are complimentary, but you can't tip with a credit card. (This is a reminder for people like me that rarely have cash on them. It will save you looking like a heel or running through the airport looking for an ATM.)

Whatever you decide, I hope that all your travels are hassle- free and that you never get specially selected for additional security.

Happy Trails!