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ANZ Frequent Flyer Black

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Bonus Points

Earn 130,000 bonus Qantas Points and $255 back to your new ANZ Frequent Flyer Black credit card when you spend $3,000 on eligible purchases in the first 3 months from approval. New card. T&Cs, eligibility criteria, fees & charges apply (including annual fee, currently $425).


How to get free airport lounge passes

If you’re curious as to how you can get access to airport lounges for free, it may be worth looking into credit card perks which do just that. 

Booking into an airport lounge will typically cost flyers anywhere from tens to hundreds of dollars. You may also need to have frequent flyer status or be flying in business or first class to consider booking in, and even then, you may only be offered a discount for your lounge pass.

However, several providers offer free airport lounge access as a benefit of their credit cards. These are typically associated with premium credit cards or rewards credit cards. Keep in mind that while these perks are considered free, you will generally need to pay an annual fee or other ongoing costs for this card type. 

The airport lounges on offer are typically related to specific airlines such as Qantas, Virgin and Emirates, or they offer access to a broader program such as Priority Pass, which allows cardholders to access its own network of airport lounges located around the world.

Which credit cards give you free airport lounge access?

Which airport lounges can I access with a credit card? 

The airport lounges you may have access to will depend on which airlines are affiliated with your chosen credit card. The most commonly affiliated airlines for Australian credit cards are Qantas or Virgin.

Some credit card issuers allow a greater level of global access through affiliation with Priority Pass. This airport lounge membership program offers members access to over 1,300 lounges worldwide. While you can purchase a membership without a credit card, some higher-status credit cards, such as the American Express Platinum Card, may offer membership as a perk.

The difference between airport lounge access and an airport lounge pass

Airport lounge passes allow travellers to book individual lounge visits with affiliated airlines, domestically and internationally, typically at a full or discounted price. Cardholders usually have access to 2-4 free airport lounge passes a year. 

Full airport lounge access is a feature offered by some credit cards that provides unlimited entry to affiliated airlines. These credit cards are designed to appeal to frequent travellers, by granting them access to the exclusive services provided in airport lounges before their trips.

Many credit cards let you book in airport lounge access using rewards points you’ve accrued, while some will grant you direct access, which could potentially save you hundreds of dollars in yearly membership fees.

It’s important to note that the level of access granted by these credit cards can differ. Some credit cards have limited lounge passes, with two to four complimentary visits standard across the industry. Others may offer full lounge access as part of the perk of being a cardholder with said provider or a member of their higher-status credit card.

What are the conditions for getting free airport lounge passes?

Different airport lounges offer a large range of perks and services including food, beverages and even beauty treatments. Depending on the card conditions, you may be able to access just the base services, or all of the above.

Like any perk or reward, there are usually conditions associated with the use of the card to ensure you can utilise the airport lounge, so do your research before you decide which one may be best for you. Specifically, conditions attached to the cards are likely to vary based on:

  • Spending minimums – some cards will have a minimum amount of money you’re required to spend before you can redeem the complimentary lounge pass.
  • Purchase requirements – many cardholders will require you buy the plane tickets with the credit card to gain access to the airport lounge.
  • Member requirements – enrolling in the airline or lounge network’s membership service may be a prerequisite to acquiring the free lounge pass. You may also be limited to specific airlines through the card provider (such as only Qantas lounges).
  • Access limitations – If your card only offers airport lounge passes, then you may be limited to a few visits per year (2-4 most common). If your card offers airport lounge access, then this may not be a concern. 
  • Guest limitations – only one guest per cardholder can be a common limitation of credit cards offering free airport lounge passes or full access. 

How to compare credit cards with free airport lounge access

The next step for those considering these cards is to look more closely at everything on offer so that the lure of a free visit in an airport lounge doesn’t financially outweigh the more financially important features of the card. You need to look at:

  • Interest rates and fees – there may be a special introductory fee or interest rate that comes with the card for the first year, or a fee waiver on balance transfers, but with rates and fees you need to look at what both revert to after that initial period. This is the biggest game-changer on all cards and should always be your first priority.
  • Overseas travel costs – another thing to consider is the purchase rate and cash advance rate on the card, particularly when making those transactions in another country. You may get a free visit to the airport lounge but if you’re overseas and using the card for purchases or withdrawing money from local ATMs, look at the rate and fee attached to both, as they can sometimes be quite hefty.
  • Travel insurances – these are commonly attached to the same cards and can either be complementary or the offer taken up when you spend a certain amount of money. You need to look at the coverage they provide as well as who is providing the insurance.
  • Other elements to consider – if you’re a regular traveller, look at what lounges you’ll be able to access around the world and how that will align with your travel plans and habits.

Having access to a limited amount of airport lounges in countries you’re not likely to visit may not provide any real benefit, but when you consider on a global scale there can be a vast difference in the number of airline lounges attached to different carriers and programs, this should be taken into account, along with everything else.

The sky will certainly continue to be the limit on these types of credit cards, so ensure you compare like for like when you’re looking at everything on offer.

That said, if you can combine a credit card with airport lounge access with other credit card travel perks like credit card travel insurance and cheap flights you’ve earned through the rewards program, then you have the potential to knock hundreds of dollars off the overall cost of your trip.

This article was reviewed by Personal Finance Editor Mark Bristow before it was published as part of RateCity's Fact Check process.

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