Priority Pass Membership: A Detailed Guide

Written By
G. Dautovic
Updated
November 29,2022

The worst thing about intercontinental travel is definitely airports, especially if you need to transfer between flights. But what if we told you that it doesn’t have to be like that? You could spend your time in an airconditioned area with Wi-Fi and free snacks and beverages while waiting for your plane. Sounds expensive, doesn't it? But it doesn’t have to be. 

Guests with the Priority Pass membership card gain access to the mentioned perks and more. Today, we'll go over how you can become a member and what that entails. 

What Is Priority Pass?

Airport lounges can cost anywhere between $25 and $75 per visit. If you travel often, the cost really starts adding up fast. But with Priority Pass membership, you get access to over 1,300 lounges and airport facilities worldwide. Facilities include restaurants, minute suites, sleeping pods, gameways, rentals, and more.

It's important to note that the options and offers will vary depending on the airport. That’s why it’s best to check and see if the airports you frequently use have facilities that are a part of the Priority Pass network before you apply for its card. 

Different Priority Pass Membership Levels

Priority Pass membership has three distinctive levels: Standard, Standard Plus, and Prestige. 

Priority Pass Card Standard Standard Plus Prestige
Annual Fee $99 $299 $429
Member Fee $32 10 free, then $32 All free
Guest Fee $32 $32 $32

Current prices for US residents.

The Standard card is the cheapest, but it provides the least value because, in addition to the annual fee of $99, you also have to pay $32 for Priority Pass lounge access. 

For example, let’s say you made 10 priority pass lounge visits. When the annual and membership fees are added, your standard card would cost you $419. You are now only $10 away from paying the annual prestige fee. If you make only six visits, your costs will amount to $291, which is almost the Standard Plus price. The Standard card won’t provide many benefits if you travel often, and the visits can add up fast to eat up those benefits. 

In case you only travel by plane several times a year but still more than six, you may want to invest in the Standard Plus membership. With Standard Plus, you get 10 free visits, after which you’ll be charged $32 for any additional airport lounge access.

On the other hand, the Prestige membership card is a perfect choice for those who often travel for work or pleasure and don’t want to count their visits. Lounge members are not charged anything for their visits, so you only have to pay if you bring additional guests with you. 

How To Get Priority Pass for Free

Paying for Priority Pass is one way to access airport lounges, but there is another way to obtain these perks at almost no cost. If you’re a frequent flyer, you probably already have a travel rewards credit card. Some of the best travel credit cards provide benefits, such as a unique Priority Pass™ Select membership that grants the holder access to some benefits only available to Priority Pass members. 

Before signing up for a credit card, be sure to check what the card provides. Some cards only offer discounts for airport lounges, while others give members and guests free access, which is more than what the Priority Pass provides. 

Differences Between Priority Pass and Priority Pass Select

Let’s clear up some confusion between Priority Pass and Priority Pass Select. First of all, Priority Pass is the name of the company providing access to airport lounges along with additional airport perks. The company offers three levels of service: Standard, Standard Plus, and Prestige. 

Priority Pass™ Select membership is a reward program offered by US banks when you sign up for a specific credit card. It functions similarly to other plans, including programs offered by the best credit cards for small businesses. The only difference is that you don’t have to obtain points to be able to use it. 

Anyone can apply for Priority Pass benefits on the website as long as they can afford it. However, just as obtaining a card requires waiting for bank approval, which takes time, getting Priority Pass Select membership is also a time-consuming process.

How To Use Priority Pass Select Benefits

With your new credit card, you won’t automatically gain airport lounge access. First, you’ll need to activate it in your banking app, and after two weeks, you’ll get your Priority Pass Select membership card. With the card in hand, you can now visit Priority Pass lounges and other facilities. 

Just be sure to check the Priority Pass website to see which facilities you have access to and if you are allowed to bring guests because the staff at each lounge is usually not required to know these particulars. While on the website, you can also download the Priority Pass app, which comes with a digital membership card. However, keep in mind that not all locations accept it, so you should still carry your physical card around. 

Benefits of Having a Priority Pass

Being a Priority Pass member brings several benefits that go beyond access to premium lounges.

Airport Lounge Access

The main benefit and selling point of the card is that it lets customers access lounges for free. While some lounges only provide basic amenities like free Wi-Fi and a private area where you can relax, others will serve free snacks and drinks, let you use showers, and more. What exactly you’ll be able to access and enjoy depends on your card and the airport you’re using. 

Keep in mind, though, that most lounges have a maximum allowed stay time, and you could be denied access if the lounge is overbooked or you do not meet the dress code. Before beginning to plan your trip, always check the website or Priority Pass app to see what to expect at the airport you’ll be departing from. 

Airport Restaurant Credits

Even if there is no lounge at your airport, you should check if any other offers are available. For instance, an offer could include restaurant credits which are usually $28-$30 per person for up to two persons but don’t include tips. While it doesn’t seem like much, even the best dining credit cards rarely offer bonuses which cover airport restaurants

You can only use your credit to eat at the restaurant, as it doesn’t apply to takeaway. To claim this credit, you only need your Priority Pass card and a valid boarding pass.

Minute Suites

While the Priority Pass lounge gives you some peace and quiet, it’s not like you have the place to yourself. It’s more like an exclusive waiting room. If you need a quiet corner for a quick meeting, nap, or just relaxing, Priority Pass gives you access to minute suites where you get one hour of rest for free for you and up to three guests. Each subsequent hour is charged at a discount rate of $34. 

Sleeping Pods

There is nothing you want more during a long journey than to have a quick shower and catch some z’s. If you are such a person, then you’ll be pleased to hear that Priority Pass benefits include sleeping pods. 

The offers vary a lot depending on the time of your check-in. If you arrive during off hours, usually between noon and 10 p.m., you can get one hour in a single cabin plus 15 minutes of shower time or a three-hour stay. 

Outside those hours, you get two hours in a single cabin or one hour in a double bed cabin, but no free shower time. 

Car Rentals

Avis car rental and Priority Pass have partnered up to bring a premium offer to their members. When you book with Avis, you get a 25% discount on all rentals for any Mexico destination, and you also get a 20% discount on standard international rates. Besides these discounts, you are eligible for any complimentary upgrades when possible and a premium support line for reservations and assistance. 

WithU App 

When you are constantly traveling, you barely have time for anything else, let alone exercising. Lucky for you, one of the benefits of Priority Pass is access to a personalized audio trainer courtesy of the WithU app. 

The app offers over 1,000 workout guides for all levels, from beginners to professional athletes. Each workout guide is accompanied by a 3D avatar to guide you on how to exercise properly and without hurting yourself. 

Retail and Spa Discounts

Shopping is one of the favorite pastimes for airport travelers. If you’re an avid shopper, you'll be happy to learn that there is a section of the Priority Pass app devoted to special retail offers. And if you get tired of shopping, you can get a relaxing massage for free or at a discount before your trip. 

Disadvantages of Priority Pass

While the Priority Pass offer may look attractive due to all the options it provides for travelers like yourself, you should be aware of a couple of drawbacks. 

Priority Pass Locations

The Priority Pass name could be a bit deceiving because you don’t automatically get priority access. Your entry could be denied if the lobby is full or severely limited during peak hours. You don't even have access to some of the most prestigious US lounges, like AmEx Centurion and United Club. 

Not only that, but Priority Pass airport lounge membership only provides access to 40 lounges in the US. In some bigger airports, like Denver and LaGuardia, you don’t even have access to any of the lounges. Denver only provides discounts to one restaurant, while there are no facilities at LaGuardia available to Priority Pass users. 

Rules

You must constantly be aware of the benefits you’re entitled to because the members of said lounges and retail establishments aren’t required to know. They'll swipe your card, and it's possible that you'll be charged full price for something you thought was free because you are at the wrong place. That might not be a problem if it happens somewhere else, but airports are notoriously expensive. 

Should You Get a Priority Pass?

While the Priority Pass offer looks enticing, it has limited use in the US alone. All in all, across North America, there are around 150 facilities and benefits. While the network is limited, it can be useful if you frequently travel between locations with Priority Pass lounges and other amenities. 

The Priority Pass airport lounge membership truly shines if you travel abroad on a regular basis because it encompasses over 1,300 lounges. There’s nothing comfier than stretching out, showering, or having a spa treatment after a long flight above the ocean or while you wait for a connecting flight. 

As it stands now, getting a Priority Pass Select membership via credit card is definitely the way to go. Even though you might not receive all the retail and car rental benefits, plenty of credit cards will allow you and your guest to enjoy lounge access for free. 

FAQ

Is lounge access free with Priority Pass?

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You get free access with Priority Pass Prestige and Standard Plus for the first 10 visits. Priority Pass Select membership benefits vary considerably from card to card, so be sure to check out all the perks each one offers. 

Does Priority Pass allow a free guest?

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Standard Premium Pass membership doesn’t allow a free guest, but some credit cards with Priority Pass membership cover up to two guests’ fees as well.

What are benefits of Priority Pass?

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Benefits of a Priority Pass include access to airport lounges, discounts at stores, car rentals, spas, restaurants, the WithU app, minute suites, as well as sleeping pods, depending on the location. All of these perks are accessible in more than 1,300 airports around the world.

Is a Priority Pass worth it?

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Priority Pass membership is worth it only if you are a frequent flyer who uses airports with facilities in the Priority Pass network. If you got this membership as a perk with your credit card, then it’s handy to have, and you don't have to pay extra. 

About author

I have always thought of myself as a writer, but I began my career as a data operator with a large fintech firm. This position proved invaluable for learning how banks and other financial institutions operate. Daily correspondence with banking experts gave me insight into the systems and policies that power the economy. When I got the chance to translate my experience into words, I gladly joined the smart, enthusiastic Fortunly team.

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