Don’t be fooled! Buying a discount Priority Pass membership makes no sense when you can get it for free

My mother was just visiting from Canada and told me about seeing discounted Priority Pass airport lounge memberships on WagJag, a Canadian discount site similar to Groupon.

Isn’t $69 for a year of lounge membership a good deal?” she asked. It does sound pretty reasonable on the surface. And while she’s already got her own Priority Pass membership through being an authorized user on one of my credit cards, she was thinking more as a gift for traveling friends. We had a look at the fine print. Turns out, the $69 membership was hardly worth it at all because of limited access (each visit for the member or a guest cost an additional $27!). Plus, why buy a membership when you can access 1,300+ airport lounges for free just by having the right credit card?

I’ll show you why, even with a discount, it rarely makes sense to purchase a Priority Pass membership — and how you can get access to airport lounges for free.

My daughter, mother, and I enjoyed complimentary food and drinks in the Air Canada Maple Leaf lounge in Paris before our flight, thanks to a  free Priority Pass membership. (Photo by Jasmin Baron/Million Mile Secrets)

Don’t pay for a Priority Pass membership (pretty please!)

Priority Pass is a membership which includes access to over 1,300 airport lounges worldwide. You don’t have to be an elite traveler or frequent flyer to enjoy free food, alcohol, Wi-Fi, and a comfortable private seating away from the bustle of the busy terminal. But if you want to buy a membership, it’ll cost you.

Non-discounted Priority Pass includes three levels of membership and prices per year:

  • Standard – $99: Includes membership, but each visit costs $32 for the member and $32 for guests
  • Standard Plus – $299: Includes membership, 10 free member visits ($32 per visit thereafter), $32 for guests
  • Prestige – $429: Includes membership, unlimited member visits, $32 for guests

If you do a quick Google search, you can often find discounts or promotion codes that bring the price down substantially. But that still doesn’t make it a good deal for most. What many folks outside of our hobby don’t know is that you can get an even better Priority Pass Select membership (which includes free guest privileges) just by having certain credit cards. No paid Priority Pass membership includes free guests.

Often, the net cost of having the credit card (especially when you include other perks and money-saving benefits) is far less than what you’d pay for a standalone Priority Pass membership. A bit of digging reveals Groupon offers up to 89% off on Priority Pass memberships periodically. Thousands of people jump on it! If they only knew…

Before you pull the trigger on a paid membership for yourself or a friend, check out the cards that get you complimentary Priority Pass membership!

These cards get you into airport lounges – for FREE

Certain cards include a Priority Pass membership which gives cardholders unlimited access to airport lounges worldwide. In many cases, you’re allowed two free guests or immediate family, as well.

Priority Pass Select membership comes with many cards, including:

Some of these cards come with substantial ($450+ per year) annual fees, but the card’s other perks in addition to lounge access make it well worthwhile for frequent travelers. For example, The Platinum Card from American Express or The Business Platinum Card from American Express) also come with Centurion Lounge privileges, plus airline incidental free credits, Global Entry / TSA PreCheck credits, and complimentary elite status at certain hotel and car rental chains.

But if you won’t use lounge access more than a few times a year, consider cards like the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card (see rates and fees) or The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card (see rates and fees), which both get you 10 free Priority Pass lounge entries a year. And the annual fee on either card is only $95, plus you’ll get complimentary Gold Hilton status (free breakfast at Hilton hotels, upgrades when available, bonus points and more).

Either way – getting a complimentary Priority Pass membership with a credit card is a far better deal than paying for one – even with a Groupon discount or promotion code.

Bottom line

If you’re not into miles and points or the best credit cards for travel, you might think finding a discounted Groupon or promotion online for Priority Pass airport lounge access is a great deal! Paying less is better than full price, but these paid memberships (except the top tier $429 one) don’t include unlimited member visits — and guests are always $32 each.

But with the right credit card, you can get a Priority Pass Select membership for free, often with a certain number of guests included. Airport lounges make air travel much more civilized with free food, drinks, Wi-Fi, and a comfy place to hang out before your flight. So why pay for access when you can get it for free?

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For rates and fees of the Hilton Surpass card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Business card, please click here.

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