What Canadian Credit Cards Will Give You Free Airport Lounge Access?
Nothing makes a long layover more tolerable than credit cards with lounge access. Entry into one of those bespoke resting spots can be a true oasis during grueling flight itineraries.
Airport Lounge Access Programs for Canadians
Different travel credit cards grant entry to different networks of rest areas. The four main types of lounge programs available to Canadians are:
- American Express Global Lounge Collection
- Priority Pass
- Air Canada’s Maple Leaf Lounge
While opinions vary on which is the best, with over 1200 each, Priority Pass and American Express Global Lounge have the largest number of sanctuary spaces globally, so a membership in either of those means you’ll likely have airport lounge access no matter where you fly. LoungeKey has approximately 1000 lounges, and Maple Leaf is a distant fourth, with only about 16 in Canada and over 200 worldwide (depending on what membership level you hold).
What to Look for in a Credit Card with Lounge Access
Lounges might offer some combination of plush, comfy chairs and sofas; luxury restrooms (some with showers); free alcohol and food; complimentary Wi-Fi; massages; sleeping areas and more. But not all airport lounge perks are created equal, and different cards offer different levels of access. When looking for credit cards with lounge access, keep the following in mind:
- Are you truly getting free access, or just a discount on a lounge pass membership?
- How many visits are you permitted annually?
- Does your access level permit access to a guest?
Without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the top airport lounge access credit cards in Canada.
Best Credit Cards for Airport Lounge Access 2019
|Lounge Program||Recommended Credit Card||Lounge Benefit||Review|
|Priority Pass||Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite||6 yearly airport passes||Read more|
|LoungeKey||BMO World Elite Mastercard||4 annual complimentary passes||Read more|
|American Express Global Lounge Collection||American Express Platinum||Unlimited access|
Free valet/security lane access at Toronto Pearson
|Maple Leaf Lounge||TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Privilege||4 annual passes (on Aeroplan Rewards flight)||Read more|
|Priority Pass||Scotiabank Gold American Express||Option for 1 yearly basic membership||Read more|
Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite
Another of my favourite airport lounge access cards is the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite, which gives cardholders six annual passes on the Priority Pass airport lounge program. If you use all your passes before the annual renewal, you can pay for entry at a cost of US$27 per person, per visit. The allotment of six yearly airport passes makes this the most generous among comparable premium cards.
The card is currently offering 35000 bonus points with a conditions apply. You can save significant cash if you travel frequently outside of Canada, thanks to its lack of foreign transaction fees—a feature that helps offset its $139 annual fee. You’ll get 2 Scotia Rewards points for each $1 you spend on groceries, dining, entertainment and daily transit costs, including things like subways, taxis and more. Points can be redeemed for travel, merchandise and gift cards.
BMO World Elite Mastercard
– Credit score required: good_excellent
– Min personal income required: $80000
– Annual fees: $150
The BMO World Elite Mastercard is the lounge access credit card I’m presently using and one that tends to be a top pick among those who travel frequently. The BMO World Elite Mastercard gives cardholders membership in Mastercard Airport Experiences by LoungeKey, complete with four annual (they renew each year) complimentary passes to use at any of the over 1000 lounges belonging to the LoungeKey program. While there aren’t as many lounges as there are with the Priority Plus membership, I like that BMO lets you use your four passes for yourself or for a guest to join you. Once your four passes are used up, you have the option to pay for lounge entry for US$27 per person, each visit.
The card offers quite a few noteworthy perks aside from its lounge access. Right now there’s a nice welcome bonus of 35000 points (with a minimum spend of $3,000 in the first 3 months), and the $150 annual fee is waived your first year. Cardholders amass points quickly with 3 BMO Rewards points per $1 spent on eligible travel, dining and entertainment, and 2 points for every $1 spent on other purchases. Redeem points for travel-related expenses, merchandise or even cash toward your BMO investment account.
American Express Platinum
The motherload of airport lounge access is available with the muy exclusivo Amex Platinum card. Sure, it will set you back a whopping $699 a year, but you get a boatload of benefits for your money (including a $200 travel credit, effectively bringing the annual fee down to $499).
The card grants unlimited access to the vast and drool-inducing American Express Global Lounge Collection, which includes the ultra-luxe Centurion Lounge, International American Express lounges, as well as Plaza Premium lounges and Priority Pass. Furthermore, there are airport-specific Toronto Pearson perks like free valet service, discounts on parking and access to the Pearson Priority security lane.
A generous 50000-point bonus offer for new signups gets you a long-haul flight to most locations in North America. You’ll get 3 Membership Rewards points for every dollar that you charge to the card, points which can be redeemed for statement credits, travel and more.
It’s important to note that the Amex Platinum is technically not a credit card, but rather a ‘charge card’, which means balances must be paid in full each month, lest the cardholder incur a hefty 30% interest rate on the unpaid balance.
TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite Privilege*
– Credit score required: good_excellent
– Min personal income required: $200000
– Annual fees: $399
The TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Privilege card grants its owners four annual passes to the elite (if numerically scant) Air Canada Maple Leaf airport lounges in Canada and about 200 affiliate lounges worldwide.
According to the fine print, cardholders are only allowed lounge access if “upon presentation of an active TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Privilege Card with a valid, same-day boarding pass for travel using an Aeroplan Flight Reward, only on flights operated by Air Canada, Air Canada Rouge or under the Air Canada express banner. To access this benefit, the Primary Cardholder must redeem their Aeroplan Flight Reward.” In other words, you can’t use the card to access a Maple Leaf lounge *unless* you redeemed Aeroplan miles for your flight.
The card also has other perks. It offers a nice bonus of 60000 Aeroplan miles (25,000 upon first purchase; 2x miles on your purchases during the first three months, up to 30,000 Aeroplan miles and an additional 5,000 when you add an authorized cardholder before December 1, 2019), and generates miles quickly, with 1.5 miles for every $1 you spend on groceries, gas, drugstore and Air Canada purchases. You’ll get 1.25 miles for all other purchases.
TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite*
– Credit score required: good_excellent
– Min personal income required: $60000
– Annual fees: $120
This offer is not available for residents of Quebec. For Quebec residents, please click here.
If you don’t want to pay the Privilege card’s high annual fee, you can opt for the TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite* card instead. The card comes with an annual fee of $120 (rebated for the first year) and a welcome bonus of 40000 miles (New cardholders get 15,000 Miles after a first purchase 2X Aeroplan Miles on eligible Purchases in the first three months up to a total of 20,000 Miles and another 5,000 Aeroplan Miles when you add an authorized user before December 1, 2019.)
You’ll also enjoy 1.5 miles per $1 spent on groceries, gas, drugstore and aircanada.com purchases and 1 mile for other purchases. Please note though that Visa infinite cardholders are also subject to the same lounge access policy as with the TD Privilege card. Cardholders will get 1 free pass annually to Air Canada’s Maple Leaf airport lounges.
Scotiabank Gold American Express
It’s pretty much impossible to get airport lounge access from a credit card with an annual fee below $100. An alternative, however, might be to get a card that offers discounted membership to an airport lounge program. The Scotiabank Gold American Express has an annual fee of $120 and gives cardholders the option of purchasing a yearly basic membership to Priority Pass for $65 USD, which is a 35% savings off the regular price. But don’t get too excited—the discounted membership doesn’t actually provide any free visits, but merely the option to access Priority Pass lounges at a rate of $27 USD per visit.
While the airport lounge access may seem underwhelming, the Scotiabank Gold American Express is a great travel card for those who spend a lot on groceries and gas. You’ll earn 5 Scotia Reward points for each $1 you spend at gas stations and grocery stores, as well as on dining and entertainment. You’ll get 1 point per $1 that you spend on all other purchases.
A Worthwhile Investment
Clearly, there’s no truly free way to get a credit card with lounge access in Canada. But if, like me, you spend hours and hours of your life in airports, it’s worth investing in an annual-fee credit card. Not only will they make your time at the airport terminal a pleasure rather than a misery, most of them have other attractive, wayfarer-friendly advantages that reduce the cost of your trips.
*This post was not sponsored. The views and opinions expressed in this review are purely my own.