Travel hacking to access airport lounges
In almost all airports there are lounges, most of which are havens of peace, in which you can:
- focus if you have to work
- relax before taking your flight
- restore with buffets
- have an alcohol drink
- take a shower, especially convenient after a night flight
In short, airport lounges represent a real plus in the traveller’s experience… but are often reserved for a certain clientele:
- frequent airline travelers (such as Air Canada’s Maple Leaf Lounge)
- “premium” customers of a bank /cash register (such as the National Bank lounge or the Odyssée Desjardins lounge in Montréal-Trudeau YUL)
However, most of these lounges are franchisees: to increase their revenues, they sell access rights to networks of lounges such as Priority Pass and/or LoungeKey (lounges may be members of both networks).
These networks then partner with credit card issuers to offer access to airport lounges as a “travel advantage” for cardholders.
This is where travel hacking comes in: by choosing the right card based on YOUR traveller profile, you will also be able to access… airport lounges!
1 / The travel hacking goal: access to airport lounges
Here, you will have to establish your traveller profile: we will not suggest a card allowing unlimited access to airport lounges for two people while you are alone and only travel once or twice a year!
That would not make sense.
Similarly, if you travel frequently with Air Canada for work, for example, but don’t have Elite status, you may want to access Maple Leaf lounges with a credit card!
2 / Programs to access airport lounges
In Canada, there are two main programs for accessing airport lounges:
- Priority Pass
Some credit card issued in Canada will be part of any of these programs.
Beyond these programs, some credit cards will allow you to access airport lounges directly, upon simple presentation of these.
Finally, there are credit card that offer both: a subscription to a lounge program AND the possibility to access on presentation of it. Here, there is an opportunity to accumulate the authorized entries which is very convenient for the family!
3 / Credit cards to access airport lounges
There are many credit cards offering paid or free access to airport lounges.
Some will only offer you a Priority Pass or LoungeKey membership… but each visit will be charged.
For others, they will include between 2 and 10 accesses per year; or even unlimited access as part of Platinum Card® from American Express (or the self-employed version: Business Platinum Card® from American Express).
Let’s see together which card apply for according to YOUR needs.
Goal: less than 6 individual visits per year
If you plan to access airport lounges less than 6 times a year, there is no need to go to expensive cards.
Our best choices would be:
- BMO® World Elite® Mastercard®: This is the only card to be first-year free AND 4 annual accesses to airport lounges.
- The Scotiabank Passport™ Visa Infinite* Card: This card offers six annual accesses to airport lounges, which is unmatched for a card at this level of contribution ($139)
- BMO® AIR MILES® World Elite®* Mastercard®*:This card is first-year free and offers two annual accesses to airport lounges.
Objective: more than 6 visits per year
If you plan to access airport lounges more than 6 times a year, it will be useful to refer to high-end cards.
Our best choices would be:
- The National Bank’s World Elite Mastercard® card :if you regularly fly from Montreal for international flights, this is the card you need.
- American Express Platinum Card®: It’s the frequent travellers card and offers the most opportunities to access airport lounges. Check out all the details in this article.
- Scotiabank Platinum American Express® Card: This card offers ten annual access to airport lounges!
Goal: access to Maple Leaf lounges
If you frequently travel on Air Canada or a Star Alliance, you will need this card:
- American Express® AeroplanPlus®* Platinum Card: This card gives you free access to Air Canada’s Maple Leaf lounges
Goal: access to American Express Centurion lounges
If you travel frequently to the United States, and especially to cities where American Express Centurion lounges are present (Las Vegas, Miami, San Francisco, New York LGA…), the best will be to have one of these two card:
They will give you unlimited access to American Express’s exclusive lounges: Centurion lounges.
This travel hacking strategy to access airport lounges should allow you to travel more comfortably!
Remember: you can subscribe to 2 different cards to have more access according to YOUR needs!
Our three cards recommended in this strategy are:
- BMO® World Elite®* Mastercard®*: Four annual accesses for a first-year free card is ideal for a beginner!
- Scotiabank Passport™ Visa Infinite* card: Six annual accesses for a no-currency conversion fee card is ideal for an international traveller!
- The American Express® AeroplanPlus®* Platinum Card: unlimited access to Maple Leaf lounges is ideal for an Air Canada frequent traveler!