Best Credit Cards for Lounge access in 2020

Best Credit Cards for Lounge Access

I am usually very excited about air travel, maybe the child in me has not grown up yet :D. Apart from the flight, another exciting part of air travel is the airport lounge, where one can relax and grab something to eat and drink, free of course. :D. Well, to get free airport lounge access one needs to have right credit cards.

Here, I have made a detailed list of most credit cards that provide complimentary lounge access. . The post is divided into 2 parts, part one where I list the credit cards on the basis on free lounge access they provide. The second part is my thoughts on how to select the best credit card for lounge access.

Best Credit Cards for Lounge Access

Credit Cards for Domestic Lounge Access

Below list is sorted based on cards giving maximum lounge access on domestic airports. In addition, I have added a metric “Cost/Access”– wherein the total number of lounge access possible (both domestic and international) is divided by the annual fees paid. This is to arrive at a mental number of what every visit at the lounge would cost.

1. Axis Bank Miles & More Select credit card

Domestic Lounge Access: 8 visits per quarter. Implies max. 32 visits in a year.
International Lounge Access: 4 international lounge visits in a year
Annual Fees (excl. GST): INR 4,500
Cost/Access: ~INR 150

2. Citibank Premiermiles

Domestic Lounge Access: 8 visits per quarter i.e. Max 32 visits in a year
International Lounge Access: NA
Annual Fees (excl. GST): INR 3,000
Cost/Access: ~INR 110
Notes: 8 per quarter limit is on the Visa variant. Mastercard variant has 6 per quarter limit. Read detailed review here

3. Standard Chartered Emirates World

Domestic Lounge Access: 2 per month i.e. 24 visits in a year. This is via Priority Pass. Thus applicable to international lounges too.
Annual Fees (excl. GST): INR 3,000
Cost/Access: ~INR 75
Notes: One needs to spend min. 10K in the previous month to get 2-lounge access next month. i.e 120,000 per year to take the full benefits on lounge access.

4. ICICI Bank Sapphiro

Domestic Lounge Access: 4 per quarter i.e Max 16 visits in a year
International Lounge Access: 2 per year
Annual Fees (excl. GST): INR 3,500
Cost/Access: INR 230

5. Axis Bank Miles & More World

Domestic Lounge Access: 4 per quarter i.e 16 visits in a year
International Lounge Access: 2 per year
Annual Fees (excl. GST): INR 3,500
Cost/Access: INR 230

6. ICICI Bank Carbon Credit Card

Domestic Lounge Access: 4 per quarter i.e 16 visits in a year
International Lounge Access: NA
Annual Fees (excl. GST): INR 1,000
Cost/Access: INR 75

7. HDFC Bank Regalia

Domestic Lounge Access: 12 per year
International Lounge Access: 6 per year
Annual Fees (excl. GST): INR 2,500
Cost/Access: INR165
Notes: Domestic lounge access for primary cardholder only. International is via Priority Pass and shared with add-on cardholder.

8. Yes Bank First Preferred

Domestic Lounge Access: 3 per quarter i.e 12 per year
International Lounge Access: 4 per year
Annual Fees (excl. GST): INR 2,500
Cost/Access: INR185

9. ICICI Bank Intermiles Rubyx Credit card

Domestic Lounge Access: 3 per quarter
Annual Fees (excl. GST): INR 2,500
Cost/Access: INR 250
Notes: 3/quarter on Amex variant. 2/quarter on Visa variant

10. HDFC Bank Diners Privilege

Domestic Lounge Access: 12 per year
Annual Fees (excl. GST): INR 2,500
Cost/Access: INR250
Notes:  Applicable on international lounge access too. Shared with add-on cardholder. Read detailed review here.

11. American Express Platinum Reserve

Domestic Lounge Access: 3 per quarter i.e 12 per year
Annual Fees (excl. GST): INR 10,000
Cost/Access: INR1000

Credit Cards with Unlimited Lounge Access

These cards provide one with unlimited lounge access, both on domestic airports and international destinations. No prize for guessing that these are mostly super premium credit cards and thus would come with high annual fees. However, if you are a frequent flier; you ought to have one of these. (P.S. The cards are not in any particular rank or order of preference)

Card Issuer Card Domestic Lounge Access International Lounge Access Annual Fees Notes
American Express American Express Platinum Credit Card Unlimited Unlimited INR60,000 + GST
Citibank Citibank Prestige Credit Card Unlimited Unlimited INR20,000 + GST Free lounge access available to all add-on card members too
HDFC Bank HDFC Infinia Credit Card Unlimited Unlimited INR10,000 + GST Free lounge access available to all add-on card members too
HDFC Bank HDFC Bank Dinersclub Black Unlimited Unlimited INR10,000 + GST Free lounge access available to all add-on card members too
ICICI Bank ICICI Bank Emeralde Unlimited Unlimited INR 12,000 + GST
Axis Bank Axis Bank Reserve Credit Card Unlimited Unlimited INR 30,000 + GST
Yes Bank Yes Bank First Exclusive Unlimited Unlimited INR 30,000 + GST Free lounge access available to all add-on card members too
Axis Bank Axis Bank Magnus Unlimited 8 lounge access per year. (Shared between the cardholder and accompanying guest) INR10,000 + GST Domestic lounge access only for the primary cardholder. On spending 7lakhs in a year, 4 additional international lounges available

Other credit cards with lounge access

Below is a laundry list of credit cards with lounge access. This ranges from 1 lounge access in a year to 8 lounge access. (P.S. this is not a comprehensive list; I may have missed a few cards)

List of credit cards with free Lounge Access

List of credit cards with free Lounge Access

So, Which is the best credit card for lounge access?

The problem with credit cards is no one credit card meets all the criteria. Thus for optimal usage, one needs to have more than one card in the pocket.

From a lounge access point of view too, one has to map his or her travels to decide for the best card. If one travels abroad too often then along with a primary credit card Standard Chartered’s Emirates World credit card may make sense. As this card provides 24 lounge accesses in a year via Priority Pass membership.

On the other hand, if one travels frequently on the domestic circuit, then I would suggest making a list of most often traveled routes first. Then try to identify the cards that give access to lounges on those airports. Case in point, Citibank Premiermiles on the Visa variant provides 32 lounge accesses in a year, but in Mumbai, the lounge access is only on T2 terminal and not on T1. Thus if one takes flights from T1, then this card may not make sense.

For someone with a family from the times of Nehruji and Indiraji, i.e. five or more members, cards that provide complimentary lounge access on add-on cards too would make sense. Another way could be applying for the cheaper credit cards with fees of 500-1000/year and use them exclusively for lounge access.

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