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Free access to airport lounges thanks to travel hacking

To the point Do you think airport VIP lounges are reserved for business travellers or wealthy people? Don't get me wrong! With the right credit card, you could access it too! Find out how in this travel hacking strategy about access to airport lounges!

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
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Salon American Express Centurion Lounge Hong Kong

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)
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Etihad Arrivals Lounge Abu Dhabi

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.

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Canopy Lounge - Aéroport de Nice

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.

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Le Saigonnais Business Lounge

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!

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Le salon Feuille d'Érable International de Montréal

2 / Programs to access airport lounges

In Canada, there are two main programs for accessing airport lounges:

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!

In addition from credit cards, it is also possible to purchase a Priority Pass membership, which will be more or less expensive depending on the number of visits required per year.

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Souhaitez-vous accéder aux salons?

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).

Visa Infinite Privilege cards offered by CIBC/Desjardins/TD/RBC will all include 6 annual Priority Pass lounge access, but their fee is high: $399. We will prefer the other card listed below.

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Salon Premium Plaza Lounge Toronto

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:

  1. BMO® World Elite® Mastercard®: This is the only card to be first-year free AND 4 annual accesses to airport lounges.
  2. 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)
  3. BMO® AIR MILES® World Elite®* Mastercard®*:This card is first-year free and offers two annual accesses to airport lounges.
BMO® AIR MILES® World Elite®* Mastercard®*
  • Annual Fee: First Year Free
  • Welcome Bonus: 2,000 miles
  • Value: $312
Scotiabank Passport™ Visa Infinite* Card
  • Annual Fee: $139
  • Welcome Bonus: up to 40,000 points
  • Value: $391
BMO® World Elite®* Mastercard®*
  • Annual Fee: First Year Free
  • Welcome Bonus: up to 35,000 points
  • Value: $453

If you want to see what airport lounges look like, without getting too involved, the BMO® World Elite®* Mastercard®* is the only one to be offered in the first year!

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Salon - Aéroport de Malte La Valette

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:

  1. The National Bank’s World Elite Mastercard® card :if you regularly fly from Montreal for international flights, this is the card you need.
  2. 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.
  3. Scotiabank Platinum American Express® Card: This card offers ten annual access to airport lounges!
NBC World Elite Mastercard
  • Annual Fee: $150
  • Welcome Bonus: Get a refund of up to $250 per year
  • Value: $240
Scotiabank® Platinum American Express® Card
  • Annual Fee: $399
  • Welcome Bonus: 30,000 points
  • Value: $351
The Platinum Card®
  • Annual Fee: $699
  • Welcome Bonus: 25,000 points
  • Value: $278

With unlimited access to the Montreal-Trudeau National Bank VIP lounge, the National Bank’s World Elite Mastercard® card is the one you need if you travel internationally often from Montreal!

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Le salon Banque Nationale

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
Value

$495

Welcome Bonus

40,000 miles

Best For

Annual Fee

$499

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Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge - Montreal Trudeau

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:

  1. The Platinum Card® from American Express
  2. The Business Platinum Card® from American Express

They will give you unlimited access to American Express’s exclusive lounges: Centurion lounges.

Business Platinum Card® from American Express
Value

$495

Welcome Bonus

35,000 points

Best For

Annual Fee

$499

Value

$278

Welcome Bonus

25,000 points

Best For

Annual Fee

$699

carte de platine entreprise centurion
Platine card giving access to the Centurion Salon in San Francisco

Conclusion

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:

  1. BMO® World Elite®* Mastercard®*: Four annual accesses for a first-year free card is ideal for a beginner!
  2. Scotiabank Passport™ Visa Infinite* card: Six annual accesses for a no-currency conversion fee card is ideal for an international traveller!
  3. The American Express® AeroplanPlus®* Platinum Card: unlimited access to Maple Leaf lounges is ideal for an Air Canada frequent traveler!
Scotiabank Passport™ Visa Infinite* Card
  • Annual Fee: $139
  • Welcome Bonus: up to 40,000 points
  • Value: $391
BMO® World Elite®* Mastercard®*
  • Annual Fee: First Year Free
  • Welcome Bonus: up to 35,000 points
  • Value: $453
American Express® AeroplanPlus®* Platinum Card
  • Annual Fee: $499
  • Welcome Bonus: 40,000 miles
  • Value: $495

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