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How to Access VIP Airport Lounges for Free?

To the point

With these credit cards, you will have free access to VIP airport lounges around the world! Find out how.

In almost all airports there are VIP lounges, most of which are real havens of peace, where you can relax:

  • focus if you have to work
  • relax before taking your flight
  • eat at the buffets
  • celebrate your departure on a trip with an alcoholic beverage
  • take a shower, incredibly convenient after a red-eye flight
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American Express Centurion Lounge Hong Kong

In short, VIP airport lounges represent a real plus in the traveller’s experience but are often reserved for a specific clientele:

  • Frequent flyers (for Air Canada’s Maple Leaf Lounges)
  • “premium” clients of a bank/credit union (such as the National Bank lounge or the Odyssée Desjardins lounge in Montreal-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 lounge networks such as Priority Pass and/or LoungeKey (lounges can be members of both networks).

These networks then partner with credit card issuers to offer access to airport lounges as a “travel benefit” for cardholders.

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Canopy Lounge - Nice Airport

So, by choosing the right credit card based on YOUR traveller profile, you will also be able to access airport lounges!

1/ Objective: access to airport lounges

You will have to establish your profile as a traveller; we are not going to suggest a card allowing unlimited access to airport lounges for two people when 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 airport lounge programs:

Some credit cards issued in Canada are part of either 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.

salon air canada alexandra
Souhaitez-vous accéder aux salons?

3/ Credit cards to access airport lounges

Many credit cards offer free or paid access to airport lounges.

Some come with a Priority Pass or LoungeKey subscription, but you’ll have to pay a fee for each visit.

Other cards come with 2 to 10 lounge passes per year; or unlimited access with the American Express Platinum Card® (or the version for self-employed: the American Express Business Platinum Card®).

Visa Infinite Privilege cards offered by CIBC, Desjardins, TD and RBC include 6 annual access to Priority Pass lounges, but the annual fee is high: from $399 to $599. That’s why we prefer the other cards listed below.

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Salon Premium Plaza Lounge Toronto

Let’s see which card to 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 are:

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Salon - Aéroport de Malte La Valette

Goal: more than 6 visits per year

If you plan to access airport lounges more than 6 times a year, you’ll have to apply for high-end cards.

Our best choices are:

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

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The National Bank of Montreal-Trudeau lounge

Goal: access to American Express Centurion lounges

If you regularly travel to the United States, and especially to the cities where American Express Centurion lounges are located (Las Vegas, Miami, San Francisco, New York LGA, etc.), it is best to have one of these 2 cards:

You’ll get unlimited access to American Express’s exclusive lounges: Centurion lounges.

Business Platinum Card® from American Express Centurion
Business Platinum Card® from American Express and Centurion Lounge access in San Francisco

Goal: Access to Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounges

If you travel regularly with Air Canada, here are the cards that give you access to the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounges:

Conclusion

Thanks to this strategy, you’ll travel more comfortably with access to airport lounges!

You can apply for two different cards to get more airport lounge passes according to YOUR needs!

Our 5 recommended cards in this strategy are:

  1. CIBC Aventura® Gold Visa* Card: 4 annual visits for a card with no fee in the first year, ideal for a beginner without a high income
  2. BMO® World Elite®* Mastercard®*: 4 annual visits for a first-year free card ($80,000 income required)
  3. Scotiabank Passport™ Visa Infinite* Card: 6 annual visits for a card with no foreign exchange conversion fees, ideal for an international traveler ($60,000 income required)
  4. American Express® Aeroplan®* Reserve Card: unlimited access to Maple Leaf Lounges in North America, ideal for Air Canada frequent flyers (no minimum income required)
  5. Platinum Card®: unlimited access for two to more than 1,200 airport lounges, ideal for frequent travellers (no minimum income required)
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