Priority Pass – What Is It? Is It Worth It?

If you’re a frequent traveler, getting some peace and (relative) quiet in the airport is a welcome option. If you travel often on a specific airline, you may find your bliss through the airline’s airport lounges, such as Delta Sky Club or United Club. But, if you use a variety of airlines, or you only travel every so often, you may want to consider Priority Pass.

What is Priority Pass?

Priority Pass is a membership club that gets you access to a network of airport lounges throughout the United States and the world. Priority Pass does not own these lounges, but instead partners with airlines, airports, and independent lounge operators to give their members access. When you are a Priority Pass member, you get a membership card which gives you access to a lounge; there is no need to reserve or book the lounge in advance.

Note that in many cases an airport in the Priority Pass system may not have an available lounge and instead you are offered a credit toward a meal at an airport restaurant — $28 if traveling alone, $56 if traveling with a guest.

How much does membership cost?

Priority Pass offers three levels of membership (cost in U.S. dollars):

  • Prestige – $429 annually for free access to all Priority Pass lounges. (Extra charge if you bring a guest: $32)
  • Standard Plus – $299 annually for 10 free lounge visits, then each visit costs $32. (Guests are $32 extra)
  • Standard – $99 annually to gain access for $32 per visit. No free visits. (Guests are $32 extra.)

But wait! You could get Priority Pass Select for free!

How do I get Priority Pass for free?

There are several credit cards that include Priority Pass Select as part of their basic card perks. Priority Pass Select is essentially the same as the Prestige package (detailed above) that gets you into all lounges for free — except you don’t have to pay the membership fee!

That said, these credit cards have annual fees, so you are getting Priority Pass Select as one of the perks of paying for the card.

You can get Priority Pass Select if you have one of these credit cards:

  • Chase Sapphire Reserve – This travel credit card offers Priority Pass Select as one of its many perks. It does have a $550 annual fee, but includes many other perks such as a $300 travel credit and points program that offers 3 points per dollar on travel and dining purchases, 1 point per dollar everywhere else.
  • The Platinum Card from American Express – This travel charge card offers Priority Pass Select as part of an even wider selection of airport lounges, including American Express’ own Centurion Lounges, Delta Sky Club lounges, and more. BUT note that American Express does NOT honor the restaurant credits that Priority Pass normally offers at airports without lounges, so you should consider that if your travels take you to smaller airports without lounges. Annual fee of $550 for this card, but in addition to lounges, you get $200 in airline purchase credits, 5 Membership Rewards points per dollar on air travel and hotels (1 point per dollar on everything else) and more.
  • Citi Prestige Card – Citi’s high-end travel credit card includes Priority Pass Select as one of its perks. The card has a $495 annual fee but also includes many other perks, including a $250 annual travel credit, free fourth night on a hotel stay of at least four nights, ThankYou points program with 5 points per dollar on air travel & restaurants, 3 points per dollar on hotels and cruises, and 1 point on everything else.

Which airports have Priority Pass lounges?

In the United States you will find Priority Pass lounges at (3-letter abbreviation is IATA code):

  • Atlanta Jackson-Hartsfield (ATL)
  • Baltimore-Washington International (BWI)
  • Boston Logan International Airport (BOS)
  • Buffalo Niagara International Airport (BUF)
  • Charleston (SC) International Airport (CHS)
  • Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT)
  • Chicago O’Hare (ORD)
  • Cincinnati International (CVG)
  • Cleveland Hopkins International Airport (CLE)
  • Colorado Springs (COS)
  • Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)
  • Fort Lauderdale – Hollywood International Airport (FLL)
  • Honolulu International (HNL)
  • Houston George Bush (IAH)
  • Indianapolis International Airport (IND)
  • Jacksonville International Airport (JAX)
  • Las Vegas McCarran (LAS)
  • Lexington Blue Grass Airport (LEX)
  • Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
  • Miami International Airport (MIA)
  • Minneapolis/St. Paul (MSP)
  • Newark International (EWR)
  • New Orleans Louis Armstrong Airport (MSY)
  • New York John F. Kennedy International (JFK)
  • Orlando International (MCO)
  • Orlando Sanford (SFB)
  • Philadelphia International (PHL)
  • Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT)
  • Portland (OR) International (PDX)
  • San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
  • San Jose Mineta (SJC)
  • Seattle-Tacoma (SEA)
  • St. Louis Lambert Airport (STL)
  • Syracuse Hancock Airport (SYR)
  • Tampa International Airport (TPA)
  • Tucson International Airport (TUS)
  • Washington DC Dulles (IAD)
  • Washington DC Ronald Reagan National (DCA)

There are also many international lounges. Go here for a list.

Is Priority Pass worth it?

If you are a frequent traveler who does not have a go-to airline that already offers lounge access, Priority Pass could be worth it. Access to airport lounges makes for a better travel experience, and it gives you a quieter space to work, make phone calls, or just relax while on the road.

That said, we think that most people who might consider Priority Pass would be better off getting Priority Pass Select through one of the credit cards mentioned above. The annual fees on these cards are not that much more than the cost of the top-level Priority Pass membership, and you get all sorts of other great travel perks in addition. If you are already a frequent traveler, these cards reward you for the money you’re already spending on travel purchases while giving you the airport lounge access that a Priority Pass membership would bring.