Here are a few important things you should consider when selecting a credit card for lounge access:
What lounge network does the card partner with?
The most common provider that banks partner with is Priority Pass. The Priority Pass network has over 1,200 lounges worldwide, so no matter where you’re heading, you’re almost certain to find an affiliated facility there.
Even better, Priority Pass has started to partner with restaurants in airports to give passengers additional options. Priority Pass members get a dining credit to offset the cost of their meal, which ranges from US$28-30 in the USA to A$36 in Australia.
The second most common lounge network used by banks is DragonPass. The DragonPass network is somewhat smaller than Priority Pass at 1,200 lounge worldwide, but they also offer dining discounts and lounge access at railway stations within China. And from June 2021 onwards, it has partnered with Plaza Premium to expand the offerings for both company's customers. This makes credit cards with DragonPass or Plaza Premium lounge access that much more competitive.
Speaking about Plaza Premium, it has fewer locations (190-odd worldwide) but tends to offer higher quality than your average contract lounge. The exciting thing about Plaza Premium is that the network has started a series of “First” lounges, which offer a more upmarket experience that would rival an airline’s own First Class experience. These lounges are accessible for a small upcharge. Furthermore, Plaza Premium will be planning to grow its own network to over 500 lounges by end-2024.
How many times can I visit?
Although entry-level S$30,000 credit cards can get you lounge access, the number of free visits will be limited. It’s only at the S$120,000 income level that cards start to offer unlimited access.
Fortunately, free Priority Pass entitlements from different cards stack, so you can easily get additional visits by applying for a few cards. For example, if I hold both the DBS Altitude Visa Signature and the Citi PremierMiles Visa, I will have a total of four free visits (2 from DBS Altitude Visa Signature, 2 from Citi PremierMiles Visa).
Remember, however, that each bank will issue you a separate Priority Pass, and your free visits are tied to an individual card – so don’t mix them up! Label your cards carefully and note down how many visits you have used on each.
Also, check if your free visit entitlement is renewed each membership year (i.e. the anniversary on which your lounge pass was issued) or each calendar year (i.e. 1 Jan - 31 Dec). The majority of banks award free lounge visits by membership year, although Citibank’s PremierMiles cards award free visits based on calendar year.
Can I bring a guest?
Yes, but it’ll cost you a free visit. For example, bringing a guest with you on your Citi PremierMiles Visa Priority Pass would use a total of two visits.
Higher-end cards like the OCBC VOYAGE and Citi Prestige allow you to bring a guest for free, and cards like the HSBC Visa Infinite issue a Priority Pass for supplementary cardholders that carries the same unlimited visits.
It’s standard policy to count any child above the age of two as an additional visit, but there is no hard and fast rule about enforcement. Some places will close one eye, others will insist on sticking to the letter of the law.
If you know which cards to get, there’s no reason to pay ridiculous airport concession prices for a bottle of water, or fight over meager public Wi-Fi ever again. Lounge access is a great perk to have, so get the right air miles cards and escape the crowds.
Furthermore, the competition is heating up between Priority Pass and DragonPass + Plaza Premium. Remember, the latter two companies inked a deal and Plaza Premium has pledged to expand its lounge network rapidly through the course of the next three years. Therefore, you might find it valuable to have two credit cards that grant access to Priority Pass and DragonPass or Plaza Premium.
Read these next:
6 Credit Cards Which Give Free Access to Airport Lounges
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Air Miles Cards: 8 Questions To Help You Choose The Right Card
Why Citi PremierMiles Visa May Be the Most Useful Miles Card in Singapore
Here’s Why You Should Never Use Air Miles Redemption For Economy Class