One of the reasons premium credit cards are worth it is because of the airport lounge access that certain cards provide. In Canada, some premium cards provide a Priority Pass membership to cardholders. Typical airport lounges charge $40-$60 for access, which is quite pricy if you’re just looking for an hour of quiet and some food.
Priority Pass Memberships
If you buy a Priority Pass membership directly, three membership plans are offered.
Unless your employer is reimbursing you, I strongly recommend against purchasing a membership directly. Instead, sign up for a credit card.
Credit Cards with Priority Pass Lounge Access
There are four credit cards I recommend for airport lounge access with Priority Pass. All provide a free membership and free visits. Other cards merely give you a discount on the membership and/or charge you per visit, which is a bad deal.
American Express Platinum Card
The American Express Platinum Card is the only card in Canada that provides unlimited lounge access. With each lounge visit, you can bring in an additional guest for free. When you’re flying with a friend or family member, this doubles the value of the benefit. As a frequent traveller, this is extremely important for me. The “money I save” is in the four figures if I paid for everything.
But let’s forget that a moment, and just say the actual value of a lounge (i.e. the maximum amount I would be willing to pay for entrance) is $15. I’ve probably used my Priority Pass 20 times in the last six months, so even with that lower value, it’s a huge benefit just by holding a credit card.
On top of that, you can access Centurion Lounges in the US and and Plaza Premium lounges worldwide for free with this card. AMEX Centurion lounges are one of the best spaces in North America, with a full open bar and chef-inspired dining.
Currently, this card has a signup bonus of 60,000 Membership Rewards points after completing minimum spend, which sweetens the deal on top of all the travel benefits you get.
The American Express Business Platinum Card offers a higher signup bonus with 75,000 points, also with AMEX lounge access. However, that card charges for Priority Pass visits, but still, it’s not bad for Centurion and Plaza Premium lounge access.
Lounge access is just one benefit of the Platinum Card – there are tons of travel benefits that make the card an even better deal.
Application Link: American Express Platinum Card
Scotiabank Platinum American Express
The Scotiabank Platinum American Express Card offers a Priority Pass membership with 10 free passes per year. Each visit after will cost $27 USD. If you already have the AMEX Platinum Card, this card doesn’t really make sense. However, there’s one where it does – Manufactured Spend.
A while back, I wrote about earning 4% back with the Scotiabank American Express Gold Card through prepaid cards. Incidentally the Gold Card offer has improved to a whopping 30,000 points after completing minimum spend, with an annual fee waiver.
Additional Reading: Getting 4% Back on All Purchases – Manufactured Spend
That card has as $50,000 annual limit for earning 4x points on gas, groceries, dining, and entertainment. However, the Scotiabank Platinum card doubles that, offering a $100,000 cap on 4x points. If you’re a heavy spender, picking up this card may be useful. The lounge access is the icing on top.
Application Link: Scotiabank American Express Platinum Card
BMO World Elite MasterCard
The BMO World Elite MasterCard comes with 4 free Priority Pass lounge visits annually. While there is an annual fee, there’s a promotion where your annual fees are waived with certain requirements. This makes it an entirely fee-free option for those who don’t travel as much.
This card offers 20,000 rewards points after approval, worth $200. With ongoing spend, you earn 2% in travel rewards, so this is actually not a bad option for straight 2% returns if you want to diversify away from traditional airline and hotel programs.
Application Link: BMO World Elite MasterCard