Airport lounges are a great way to get away from the hustle and bustle of a busy airport, enjoy a complimentary cocktail and bite to eat, and just relax before your flight. Lounge offerings and size vary by chain and airport, but most standard lounges have free drinks (including alcohol!) and food along with nice and comfortable seating to relax and charge up. Bigger lounges I've seen offer extensive food menus, showers, massage and nail services, and even rooms to nap in! From what I've seen, lounge entry prices range from $45-$100 depending on amenities.
I'd never stepped foot in one before getting a credit card that offers free lounge access (you can read about that credit card and ALL its perks HERE) and now I always try to get to the airport a little early to enjoy one. While you can pay your way into one, here are a couple ways to get into a lounge for FREE!
Credit cards with priority pass
This is how I can now get into airport lounges for free! My credit card comes with a free membership to Priority Pass, which is essentially an airport lounge membership. There are a number of credit cards that offer a complimentary Priority Pass membership, including Amex, Chase, and Capital One.
Top Tier Status With An Airline
Many airlines (including Delta and United) provide lounge access for their top tier, frequent flyers. It really pays to book directly through an airline and stay loyal to one!
Fly Business Or First Class
I know I know, if you are already paying up for a business or first class ticket you probably wouldn't bat an eye at paying to enter an airport lounge, but if you got a free or cheap upgrade you are still eligible to enter the lounge for free so make sure to advantage of that perk!
A variety of brands of lounges offer free access to military members. Some lounges offer free access to dependents while others only offer to active duty members in uniform for the complimentary access but it never hurts to ask for their policy!
Credit Card W/ Airline Credit
A lot of credit cards offer airline credit where you are credited back a certain amount of money per year when you pay for amenities directly with an airline (baggage, seat upgrades, drinks + food onboard, etc). If the airline you select to receive credit from has lounges you can get credit back for buying a lounge pass through them!
Fly With Friends / Make Friends
A lot of people with credit cards that allow them to enter lounges are allowed to bring two complimentary guests with them into the lounge. If you are flying with others, see if they have this perk! Chatted with a stranger at bag drop off and see them entering the lounge? Maybe they'll accompany you in as their guest. You never know!
It was the end of December, and my husband and I made a discovery - he hadn't earned his 2022 companion pass through Southwest yet! He flies so much that we have had no problem earning it the past couple years, but with the pandemic he has been flying less. But the pass was super close in reach, less than 1000 points away!
We have a Southwest credit card that also earns us points towards the companion pass, but unfortunately for us the last statement had already closed so we couldn't make any more purchases that would count towards this year. So, we did what any other sane person would do - we bought a $300 ticket for Bjorn to fly up to Oakland and then fly directly back home so we could earn enough points. He didn't check a bag or leave the airport - he didn't even leave the terminal. It was a pain in the butt but it will only take one roundtrip flight with the companion pass to pay off.
What is the companion pass?
The companion pass allows you to travel with one designated person every time you fly for free (aside from fees which are around $12 bucks). You can even switch the designated person a couple times throughout the year. There are no limits or black out dates, no locations that Southwest flies you can't go. You still get two free checked bags, and the check in process is the exact same. If you are familiar with how Southwest does their ticket tiers, there are three different levels of tickets you can buy depending on what kind of refund you want, and if you want to board earlier. There are only a certain number of each type of ticket. "Wanna Get Away" is the cheapest ticket type, but you can still book a ticket with your companion pass even if the "Wanna Get Away" tickets are all booked out. You have to earn 125,000 points in one calendar year to qualify for the companion pass, but there are other ways to get it which I will take about more down below.
My Experience With Companion Pass
I've been flying with the companion pass for years, and honestly it hasn't been any different than flying with a ticket you paid for. I've never been denied a flight, or taken off a flight to allow for a paying customer. When I check in for my flight 24 hours ahead of time (if you are not familiar with Southwest, this is how you get your boarding position since you don't pick a seat ahead of time) I still get great numbers with my husband. Now that we have a baby, I can even add Stella as a lap child with my companion pass ticket. It is such an amazing perk that we have totally taken advantage of, so that is why it was so important for us to get it again in 2022!
How To Get The Companion Pass
Earn 125,000 Points In One Calendar Year By Flying
When you are a part of Southwest's rewards program, you get points for each flight you book directly through Southwest. The amount of points you earn depends on the price, so if you book a more expensive ticket tier you will get more points for the same flight.
Fly 100 One Way Flights In One Calendar Year
Pretty self explanatory - for every one way flight you book you can work your way up to 100 and get your companion pass.
Earn Points Through Purchases On The Southwest Credit Card
If you link a Southwest Chase credit card to your rewards account, you earn points with your purchases that go directly to your rewards points amount. You get 1 point for most purchases, but for special purchases, like Southwest tickets, you get bonus points.
Southwest Credit Card Promotions
One of the years we had the companion pass, we weren't going to earn it through points or flights. At the time, when you open a Southwest credit card and spend a certain amount of money within a certain time frame, you will automatically earn the companion pass for the year. We used the credit card to pay for things we already needed anyway so it worked out great!
Southwest Rapid Rewards Promotions
Keep an eye on promotions available on your account! Once we received a promotion where if we flew 5 one way flights (2.5 round trips) through the rest of the year we would earn the companion pass for the next year. I believe at the time we received this promotion it was October so it was pretty easy for my husband to earn it through flying for work. 5 is a lot less flights than 100! More recently, last year Southwest had a promotion where if you booked a flight and flew before mid November, you would earn the companion pass for two months.
Every time I am crammed into an economy seat on a 10 hr flight to Europe I always regret not doing more to figure out a way to be in a big comfy seat in the front of the plane. I follow a lot of travel hack accounts that show themselves in fancy airplane suites, but the points system always seemed confusing and I wasn't really sure how it worked.
Fast forward to summer 2020 when we had all the time in the world and we were trying to plan a trip to Europe for 2021 *fingers crossed* My business bank account is only a debit card, and I really wanted to find a way to take advantage of all the money I was spending for my business. I started doing more googling and found a lot of websites and blogs about taking advantage of credit card points for travel, and the most straight forward credit card with a lot of travel perks I kept coming across was the American Express platinum card.
The first thing I saw was the big $550 annual fee. 0__0 Honestly, I've never had a credit card before with an annual fee. It definitely sounds like a lot of money, and it is if you don't take advantage of all the perks and offers they have. Keep scrolling to see all the perks and why it makes $$$ sense to get it!
Uber Credits+Uber Eats Pass - $319
Once you add your amex card to your Uber account, you will automatically receive a $15 credit on the first of every month which you can use either on rides or eats. In the month of December you actually get $35 because of an end of the year $20 bonus. On top of all that you get the Uber Eats pass for free, which is regularly $9.99/month. With the UE pass you get free delivery and an extra discount on your food.
Phone Bill Credits - $240
When you use your amex card to pay your phone bill through a carrier, you get a $20 statement credit to your account. What I've done is just make a $20 payment with the amex card, and then the $20 credit pops up automatically.
Saks Credits - $100
Twice a year (once Jan-Jun and Jul-Dec) you will receive a $50 statement credit to your account when you make a purchase at Saks Fifth Ave. There is no minimum purchase requirement so you can literally get free items (like makeup or skincare!) I used my credit to purchase my favorite perfume, Coco Mademoiselle. This stuff is so popular and is never on sale, but I got it half off thanks to this credit.
Streaming Credits - $240
Similar to the phone bill credits, if you use your amex card to pay for your streaming membership (Netflix, Hulu, Peacock, Disney+, etc) you get up to $20 a month back in statement credits. Doesn't everyone have at least 3?
Free Tsa Precheck- $100
You get up to $100 credit for either TSA Pre Check ($80) or Global Entry ($100) when you use your amex, which is good for 5 years. Global Entry is for international travel, but also includes TSA Pre Check so I will be registering for that one.
Airline Credit - $200
Every year you get $200 credit towards money spent with airlines, which can include upgrades, luggage fees, and even service on the plane (cheers!) The one catch is you can only select one airline to receive this credit with.
At this point you already have over $1000 in credits and free stuff!
Points Bonus for Signing Up
When I signed up, the promotion was that if you spend $5000 in the first 3 months, you receive 75,000 bonus points. With all the work we have being done on our house now, we already had a plan for this and that wasn't too much for us as we were planning to spend it anyway.
Intl Lounge Access
This is a perk I am very excited about! Bjorn has travelled first class for business so he has spent some time in airport lounges, but unfortunately I have not. With the Amex card you get into over a thousand airport lounges all over the world for free, along with two free guests. Free drinks, free food, and some have showers and rooms for sleeping! Generally one ticket into an airport lounge is anywhere from $60-$100 depending on the types of amenities.
Hotel Membership Status
You are automatically placed into Marriott and Hilton gold status, which comes with a lot of perks, which includes free upgrades, free breakfast, free parking, and a lot of other great perks!
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