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Ever wondered how some travellers can get behind the closed doors into exclusive lounges at the airport? Many airport lounges are only accessible to those travelling in premium First Class or Business Class seats. However, most people don’t realize that many lounges in Canada and around the world will admit you into their private retreat, REGARDLESS of the class of travel, the price of your ticket or the airline you’re flying — that is, if you have the right credit card in your wallet.

Many premium credit cards provide complimentary access to airport lounge access around the world but they vary greatly in overall benefit. For Canadian residents, these are the five best credit cards in Canada for airport lounge access:

Continue reading for a breakdown of why I think these are the five best options for Canadians today.

american express platinum card canada lounge access1. American Express Platinum Card

Best Credit Card for Frequent Travellers and Luxury Travellers
Annual Fee: $699 CAD
Minimum Income: none

Lounge Access

By far, this is the best card in Canada for unlimited airport lounge access. With this card, you will have unlimited access for you and at least one guest (for free!) to:

  • Priority Pass Airport Lounges – complimentary Select access, giving you and your guest access to 1200+ locations in 500 cities across 140 countries worldwide.
  • Canadian Platinum Lounge Benefit – complimentary lounge access across most major Canadian cities regardless of airline or fare booked.
  • Plaza Premium Lounges – in at least 34 cities around the world including 14 locations at  Vancouver (YVR), Edmonton (YEG), Winnipeg (YWG), and Toronto (YYZ).
  • Executive Lounges by Swissport – includes access to Aspire and AspirePlus lounges in the U.K., Europe, Dubai (DXB), and Hong Kong (HKG). Canadian locations include Calgary (YYC) and Montreal (YUL).
  • Québec City’s Jean Lesage International Airport VIP Lounge
  • American Express Centurion Lounges and Studios – in Dallas (DFW), Hong Kong (HKG), Houston (IAH), Las Vegas (LAS), New York (LGA), Philadelphia (PHL), Miami (MIA), Seattle (SEA) and soon to open in Los Angeles (LAX).
  • American Express International Lounges and Centurion Clubs – in Delhi, India (DEL), Buenos Aires, Argentina (EZE), Melbourne, Australia (MEL), Mexico City, Mexico (MEX), Monterrey, Mexico (MTY), Sydney, Australia (SYD), Toluca, Mexico (TLC).
  • Delta Sky Club Lounges – complimentary access across the U.S. and internationally when traveling with Delta Airlines.

When travelling in or departing from airports in Canada, the Canadian Platinum Lounge Benefit is fantastic. Having a comfortable departure lounge to relax in, get a bite, or catch up on emails and phone calls away from the crowds makes a huge difference to how you experience domestic and international travel, right from your home airport.

When travelling in the United States (and now in Hong Kong), American Express Centurion Lounges are well regarded as an oasis in busy airports for its modern interiors, top notch locally sourced wine and beer, handcrafted cocktails, chef-designed hot and cold food plus other amenities such as shower facilities, workspaces, Wi-Fi and spa facilities.

The only way to get into Centurion Lounges yourself is to be a Platinum or Business Platinum Card member. Every member can also admit two guests. For me, the lounge benefit alone represents an exceptional value amidst many other benefits, especially if you travel frequently for business or leisure.

When travelling around the world, the Priority Pass membership is an absolute no-brainer. With over 1200+ lounges around the world, it can dramatically change your globetrotting experience.

Even early departures and long layovers don’t seem so bad, when you have access to some of the most comfortable and beautiful lounges around the world, with complimentary food, drinks and Wi-Fi. When you are in the lounge, you are shut off from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the airport.

For world travellers, Priority Pass is truly a benefit that you would use time and time again.

FYI, the retail value of a Priority Pass membership with unlimited access is $399 USD ($525 CAD).

Other Key Benefits You Should Know About

  • Sign Up Bonus: The American Express Platinum Card is currently offering a 50,000 Bonus Membership Rewards points (after $3000 CAD spend) for new sign ups. That is enough to fly 2 people anywhere in North America roundtrip in economy. Conservatively,  if the trip costs $500 CAD per person, that equates to $1,000 CAD in value, which more than covers the cost of the Annual Fee.
  • Easy Transfer to Frequent Flyer Programs: easily convert to many popular programs including Aeroplan or British Airways Avios at 1:1.
  • Faster Earn Rate: every $1 spend equates to 1.25 Membership Rewards point regardless of spending category, which means you can earn rewards faster.
  • $200 Annual Travel Credit: use it for a travel booking such as hotel accommodations.
  • Instant Gold Elite Status in Hotel Loyalty Programs: elite status in Starwood Preferred Guest (and Marriott), Radisson Rewards and Hilton Honors programs, without having to meet standard stay or spend requirements. While I can’t put a specific dollar figure on the value of the elite status, it does mean additional benefits such as room upgrades, complimentary Wi-Fi, early check-ins, late check-outs, and bonus points, all of which can dramatically enhance your travel experience in Canada and abroad. Overall value is worth hundreds, if not thousands of dollars.
  • Access to Fine Hotels and Resorts Program: 975+ properties globally, with room upgrade at check-in, daily continental breakfast for two, noon check-in and guaranteed late checkout.
  • Excellent comprehensive insurance.
Even early departures and long layovers don’t seem so bad, when you have access to some of the most comfortable and beautiful lounges around the world, with complimentary food, drinks and Wi-Fi.

american express business platinum lounge access centurion lounge canada2. American Express Business Platinum

Best Credit Card for Frequent Business Travellers
Annual Fee: $499 CAD
Minimum Income: none

Lounge Access

This is the next best card for Canadians. This card is offered to business travellers and offers the SAME level of exceptional airport lounge access. With a lower annual fee (difference of $200 CAD), you give up the $200 Annual Travel Credit, the slightly higher sign up bonus, elite status at Hilton and Radisson, and Emergency Medical insurance.

  • Priority Pass Airport Lounges – complimentary Select access, giving you and your guest access to 1200+ locations in 500 cities across 140 countries worldwide.
  • Canadian Platinum Lounge Benefit – complimentary lounge access across most major Canadian cities regardless of airline or fare booked.
  • Plaza Premium Lounges – in at least 34 cities around the world including 14 locations at  Vancouver (YVR), Winnipeg (YWG), and Toronto (YYZ).
  • Executive Lounges by Swissport – includes access to Aspire and AspirePlus lounges in the U.K., Europe, Dubai (DXB), and Hong Kong (HKG). Canadian locations include Calgary (YYC) and Montreal (YUL).
  • Québec City’s Jean Lesage International Airport VIP Lounge
  • American Express Centurion Lounges and Studios – in Dallas (DFW), Hong Kong (HKG), Houston (IAH), Las Vegas (LAS), New York (LGA), Philadelphia (PHL), Miami (MIA), Seattle (SEA) and soon to open in Los Angeles (LAX).
  • American Express International Lounges and Centurion Clubs – in Delhi, India (DEL), Buenos Aires, Argentina (EZE), Melbourne, Australia (MEL), Mexico City, Mexico (MEX), Monterrey, Mexico (MTY), Sydney, Australia (SYD), Toluca, Mexico (TLC).
  • Delta Sky Club Lounges – complimentary access across the U.S. and internationally when traveling with Delta Airlines.

Other Key Benefits You Should Know About

  • Sign Up Bonus: The American Express Platinum Card is currently offering a 40,000 Bonus Membership Rewards points (after $7000 spend) for new sign ups. That is enough to fly yourself to Mexico, the Caribbean or Central America roundtrip in economy. Conservatively, if the trip costs $500 per person, that more than covers the cost of the Annual Fee.
  • Easy Transfer to Frequent Flyer Programs: easily convert to many popular programs including Aeroplan or British Airways Avios at 1:1.
  • Faster Earn Rate: every $1 spend equates to 1.25 Membership Rewards point regardless of spending category, which means you can earn rewards faster.
  • Instant Gold Elite Status for Starwood Preferred Guest (and Marriott): no need to meet standard stay or spend requirements. While I can’t put a specific dollar figure on the value of the elite status, it does mean additional benefits such as room upgrades, late check-outs, welcome gifts and bonus points, all of which can dramatically enhance your travel experience in Canada and abroad. Overall value is worth hundreds, if not thousands of dollars.
  • Access to Fine Hotels and Resorts Program: 975+ properties globally, with room upgrade at check-in, daily continental breakfast for two, noon check-in and guaranteed late check-out.
  • Excellent comprehensive insurance, except for Emergency Medical.

scotiabank american express platinum amex lounge access canada3. Scotiabank Platinum American Express

Best Credit Card for Everyday Spend
Annual Fee: $399 CAD
Minimum Income: $12,000

Lounge Access

Includes Priority Pass Membership ($99 USD value)

  • Main cardholder: 10 free visits per year, $27 USD per visit after = $270 USD ($355 CAD) value
  • Supplementary cardholder: 4 free visits per year, $27 USD per visit after = $108 USD ($143 CAD) value
  • The membership does not include free guest visits.

Other Key Benefits You Should Know About

  • Sign Up Bonus: The Scotiabank Platinum American Express Card is currently offering a 30,000 bonus Scotia Rewards points (upon first purchase) for new sign ups which convert to $300 worth of travel purchase.
  • Flexible Points: book and redeem points on travel purchases anytime with no restrictions.
  • Earn 4X: every $1 spend in gas, grocery, dining and entertainment = 4 points
  • Earn 1X: every $1 spend in other categories = 1 point

This card offers a $100,000 cap on 4X earning which is great for those who can rack up substantial spending in the gas, grocery, dining and entertainment categories.

bmo rewards world elite mastercard lounge access canada4. BMO World Elite MasterCard

Best FREE Credit Card with Lounge Access
Annual Fee: $150, FREE for first year
Minimum Income: $80,000 or household income of $150,000

Lounge Access

Includes Priority Pass Membership ($99 USD value)

  • Main cardholder: 4 free visits per year, $27 USD per visit after = $108 USD ($143 CAD) value
  • The membership does not include free guest visits.

Other Key Benefits You Should Know About

  • Sign Up Bonus: The BMO World Elite MasterCard is currently offering a 35,000 bonus BMO Rewards points (after $3,000 CAD spend) for new sign ups which convert to $350 CAD worth of travel purchase.
  • Flexible Points: book and redeem points on travel purchases anytime with no restrictions.
  • Earn 3X: every $1 spend in travel, dining entertainment categories = 3 points
  • Earn 2X: every $1 spend in other categories = 2 points
  • Extended Warranty Protection, Purchase Protection and Travel Insurance

Free is free, right? With a Priority Pass membership that comes with four free visits annually, this card is ideal for casual travellers. It is also great who are interested to rack up points quickly for a dream vacation. With 3X and 2X earning opportunities for everyday spend, most people can rack up points rather quickly. The nice sign up bonus and FREE annual fee make this a compelling offer.

scotia passport visa infinite lounge access canada5. Scotia Passport Visa Infinite

Best Credit Card for Foreign Transactions
Annual Fee: $139 CAD
Minimum Income: $60,000, or household income of $100,000 or assets under management of $250,000

Lounge Access

Priority Pass Membership

  • Main cardholder: 6 free visits per year, $27 USD per visit after = $162 USD ($214 CAD) value
  • The membership does not include free guest visits.

Other Key Benefits You Should Know About

  • Sign Up Bonus: The Scotia Passport Visa Infinite card is currently offering a 25,000 bonus Scotia Rewards points (after $1,000 CAD spend) for new sign ups which convert to $250 CAD worth of travel purchase.
  • 0% Markup on Foreign Transactions
  • Flexible Points: book and redeem points on travel purchases anytime with no restrictions.
  • Earn 2X: every $1 spend in grocery, dining and entertainment, daily transit purchases (including buses, subways, taxis and more) = 2 points
  • Earn 1X: every $1 spend in other categories = 1 point

Cards that offer 0% markup on foreign transactions are rare in Canada so right away, this card stands out for that reason. For a card that comes with an annual fee of only $139, this card offers great value since the Priority Pass membership and Sign Up Bonus more than cover the first year’s annual fee. It is perfect for everyday spend and for the occasional domestic and world traveller.

So that’s it! These are our Top 5 Credit Cards in Canada for Airport Lounge Access. Of course, there are many other cards on offer that also offer complimentary airport lounge access.

See the complete list here for a quick comparison.

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