Why You Should Get a Priority Pass! Access Business Class Lounges for Free!

I can't believe I went this long without a priority pass. If you're a frequent traveler or a digital nomad, you absolutely need one and are seriously missing out big time if you don't! Having a Priority Pass has taken me from dreading airport layovers and needing to get to the airport 2 hours early to looking forward to it. It'a also made unexpected delayed flights a pleasant bearable experience instead of waiting at the airport torture. I guarantee that if you start using one, you'll never want to go back to not having access. Having a Priority Pass is a huge hack for frequent travelers and digital nomads. It's one of these things you need to take advantage of while it lasts because I almost can't believe it exists and don't know if it'll still be around in the future. It's that good.

The only two reasons why I didn't get one sooner and the reason why you might not have one yet is either because you don't think you need it, or because you think it's too expensive or not worth the price. Trust me on this one, you do need it, once you have it you'll wonder how you ever lived without it, and it's cheaper than you think! In this blog post I'm going to go into deep detail on all the benefits and specific situations where I was glad to have the pass, how it has paid for itself and actually saved me money and, some hacks about it that most people don't know, and how you can get one for a lot less money than you think, or even for free like I did. Yes that's right, I got my Priority Pass for free, and here's how I did it.

Why Airport Lounges?

Before anything else, I want to stress how nice it is to spend time in airport lounges verses waiting for your flight at the terminal. I've always walked by them assuming I didn't really need to go in, or that they were a waste of money. It turns out, it was my ego making excuses on something I assumed I either could never have access to or couldn't afford. If this is you, stop lying to yourself, airport lounges are amazing and you're doing both yourself and your friends a disservice by not gaining access. I'm honestly a bit of an idiot and was really late to this, which is why I'm writing this post today. I'm hoping to knock some sense into some of you to learn from the mistakes I made so you don't do the same. I've been traveling for the past 10 years and never visited an airport lounge until I started flying business a few years ago. It was amazing, I loved every minute of it. Flying business class turned dreading long international flights for months before going on the plane to looking forward to them.

But aside from the actual lay flat seats and better food and service on the planes itself, what I really came to love is getting free business class lounge access. Imagine this. You arrive at the airport 2-3 hours early you have two choices. The first is sitting around at the gate, surrounded by loud noises, a ton of people, and desperately trying to find a place to plug in your laptop or phone to charge, while trying to connect to the airport wifi which either doesn't work at all or wants to charge you something ridiculous. Your other option is to go to a restaurant to eat overpriced food and pay $5 for a bottle of water. Or instead of all of that torture, you go to the business class lounge and actually have a comfortable experience. Inside you'll find peace and quiet, comfortable seats or tables, free stable wifi and food and drinks, all included. Almost all lounges have a free open bar with top shelf liquor, good coffee, and decent food. The better lounges have showers, massage chairs, nap rooms, and other cool features.

Breakfast at the Kathmandu Lounge

Drinks in New Delhi

Incredible Indian food Buffet at the Lounge

Open Wine Bar in Madrid's Lounge

Best and Worst Lounges

The biggest issue with reading about how amazing the Priority Pass is through other online reviews is the fact that people always leave out the bad experiences and the times it disappoints. I've now been to dozens of lounges all around the world and some honestly sucked. The worst thing you can do is get your hopes up and start having expectations before you go to a lounge. I've once heard that the difference between happiness or not is simply the difference between having expectations or appreciation. So before we get you too excited, just realize that the Priority Pass is more of a perk than it is a guarantee. For an example, even though you can technically gain access to some lounges at domestic airports, most often it's only valid for international flights. Also a lot of airport lounges in the U.S. are overcrowded and honestly kind of suck, at least compared to ones I've used internationally. There is also a growing trend for lounges that look cool in photos but are superficial and lack substance or real food. The best food I've ever had at lounges were in random places like India, Egypt, or Guangzhou as they had buffet setups that weren't pretty but tasted like real, hearty food that you'd get at a lunch buffet type restaurant.

The best looking lounges I've been to that had the worst food was in Los Angeles and Madrid. Everything was instagram worthy in small individual portions or prepackaged and looked great at first glance but wasn't real food. Ironically even though the airport in Qatar told us they only served snacks, it ended up being one of the best lounges I've been in as it actually had great food, and a really nice coworking space area. The funny thing was that this was before I got my Priority Pass and actually paid $55 for each person to go into the Doha lounge there, and even then it was worth it as we had an 8 hour layover. Being there essentially all day, we were able to have 2 full meals there, some snacks, dessert a shower, and had a comfortable place to get 6 hours of work in online. That experience alone being somewhere comfortable and quiet for 8 hours would have been worth the membership.

The food selection in Doha's Orxy Lounge

Our meal at the lounge. First of Many.

Video Tour of a Lounge

If you're curious to see what a business class lounge looks like, good news, I made a video tour. This one is filmed at HKG (Hong Kong) and isn't' actually a priority pass lounge as I actually scored a Business Class fight for the price of economy and had access to the HKAir lounge. But from what friends have told me, the Plaza Premium lounges that you do get access to are just as good and also serve great food, have showers, drinks, and dessert.

Here's a video tour so you can check it out yourself to see what you might have been missing all of your life during your long airport layovers!

What is Priority Pass?

Simply put, it's a physical card that allows you to access airport lounges for free, which is typically a perk of flying first or business class. It works all around the world but is used mainly at international flights, although I do have one friend who has used it a lot domestically as well. The confusing part is that there are multiple types of Priority Passes, four in total. However, the good news is when you hear digital nomads or most people talk about it, they are almost always talking about the free one they got with a credit card signup, called "Priority Pass Select."

But first lets talk about the paid options first as it's a bit easier to understand and might be a good option for people who either want to give it as a gift to a traveler, or just pay for one rather than get it through a premium credit card signup. With normal memberships, you can either get the standard which is basically just a discount card, as it reduces the normal fee of what the lounge charges down to $27 which I believe is the cost price that's actually charged to them. In general it's not worth it to get the standard membership as most airlines charge $30-$55 on average for cash entrance. The Standard Plus option is good for people who travel around 5 round trip flights a year or to give as a gift to someone who does. The Prestige is the best for frequent travelers, but is essentially what you'll get for free with credit cards which we'll talk about below.

Get 10% off Plans - Priority Pass Coupon Link

Priority Pass Credit Cards

The confusion often comes with which credit cards offer lounge access verses, which credit cards give you Priority Pass. Cards like Diners Club (which no one uses) or American Express give you access to their network of lounges, while some cards like American express also give you access to Priority Pass along with access to Delta Sky Club and their Centurion lounges. The easiest way to think of it is that the credit cards itself don't give you access to the lounges, but they basically give you a $399 Priority Pass membership for free which they call "Priority Pass Select." Cards like American Express give you access to both Priority Pass lounges as well as their own network of AMEX Centurion lounges and a few others. The AMEX Platinum Card gives all of that plus unlike the Prestige card, it lets you bring in one guest for free.

There are a bunch of other cards that also give free Priority Pass with signup including the Chase Sapphire Reserve. Here's a website that reviews all of the options on Reward Expert. If you live outside of the USA you can always get the American Express Platinum which is international, or just google your country and priority pass credit card to find options. Doing a quick search I found that banks like NatWest in the UK and HSBC Premier worldwide give free priority passes with signup. That being said, here comes the cost. Honestly the $450+ price tag of these cards scared me away from signing up and I never gave it a second thought. Luckily my friend David Vu gave me a card as a gift and with it, I've realized how much I've been missing out on all of these years. But not that I've started using it, I did the math and realized it would have been worth it in the first place even if I paid for it. Here's the math on how it all works.

The Value Calculation

Assuming you travel often or are a digital nomad, the value is actually insanely good and should be taken advantage of. Using the AMEX Platinum above as an example, even if you didn't factor in the other benefits and just used the travel and Uber credits, you'd essentially be paying just $50 for the Priority Pass, which means, it'll pay for itself in one flight. But if you plan on getting Global Entry or TSA PreCheck or any of the other benefits it'll pay for itself, especially with the one time 60,000 bonus point offer. There's a site called the Points Guy that breaks it all down, but he overvalues the points so read it as a reference and not fact. He also goes into the small print like the airfare credit is technically only for one airline and only for baggage and add ons and not the ticket itself, and the Uber credits are valid only in the USA, are issued monthly and don't roll over. That means that for me it wouldn't actually be worth it as I'm only in the US for a month out of the year. The only reason I'd get the AMEX card is if I really wanted to access the exclusive AMEX Centurion lounges and flew out of those airports often or if I often stayed at high end hotels and wanted the SPG Gold Status. 

The better option for most people would be the Chase Sapphire Preferred card which is also $450 a year but gives you $300 in Travel Credit which are much easier for everyone to actually use. Since everyone reading this will spend at least $300 in flights or hotels in a year, you'll essentially be paying $150 for the Priority Pass which is worth it as you can bring in 2 guests for free with every visit. It used to be "unlimited guests" but I'm glad they got rid of that feature as it was a bit in the grey zone and wasn't sustainable. It used to be really confusing as Priority Pass themselves don't limit the numbers of guests you bring in but the actual credit cards themselves. Now as of 2018 AMEX lets you bring in one guest, and Chase Sapphire lets you bring in 2 guests which makes it really easy and clear. But the way I got my membership as a gift and a way to get even more value from your card is in the next section. But before we get there, another new benefit introduced this year are restaurant credits! That means if the airport you're flying out, currently including JFK (New York), LAX, MIA (Miami), Denver, London Gatwick, Brisbane, Singapore and Sydney with more being added, you get $28-$30 in food and drink credit and you can bring a guest which means you'd get $56-$60 for free each time. See the video below for more info, and keep an eye out for more airports being added all of the time.

Adding Authorized Users

This is the section that no one talks about and is probably the most over looked way to get a Priority Pass for a lot less money. Most people don't realize that you can add friends or family members as authorized users and gift a Priority Pass membership to them. Chase charges you $75 per additional authorized user, while AMEX charges you $175 for up to 3 additional users. That means that if you don't want to go through the process of getting your own card, you can offer to pay a friend who already has one to set you up under their account. Obviously take them out to dinner as a thank you and offer the pay the extra fee if they do. But in theory if you know someone who has an AMEX Platinum card, you and two other people can pay $58.34 each and get all of the benefits.

I actually didn't realize that you could do this, or that they would be charged for doing it, until recently, but I'm glad it's an option. Now that I know my buddy David is actually paying each year for gifting me a membership, I'll be sure to take him out to a nice dinner as a thank you or at least send more people to his Dropshipping on Ebay course that I reviewed a while back, that's actually really good. This might be a lesson for a lot of people out there. I met David 3 years ago when I interviewed him on my podcast about his course, and added value my listeners by asking the hard questions that everyone wanted to know. By doing so, I revealed that it was actually a really good course and recommended it. In turn David got a bunch of new students, we became good friends, and ultimately a lot of happy customers came out of it as the course actually works. This is why when he saw that I had paid $55 to get lounge access during my Qatar Airport layover, he surprised me with a Priority Pass membership. What's really cool is that it's the gift that keeps on giving. Every time I fly and use a lounge I remember him and whenever I show the lounge in one of my Instagram stories, he gets excited that I'm using it.

Is Priority Pass Worth it?

100% you'll be happy you have it, and so will you friends. Before getting one myself, I loved traveling with my buddy Chris Lioe as he'd use his to get me in free as a guest. Now that I have one of my own, I love taking people in to share the experience. If it wasn't for me flying business class for free all of the years I was running dropshipping stores and racking up millions of reward miles I never would have excited lounge life myself. Now that I sold my dropshipping store and would need to pay out of pocket for business class, I usually can't justify it as they usually cost 400% more than economy tickets. But with the Priority Pass at least I get a good meal, a few bottles of water, and a comfortable layover and hot shower to break up long international flights.

In terms of pricing, it's definitely 100% worth it for the first year as the bonus points alone make it a no-brainer deal. The real question is if it's worth renewing for $450 or not. My suggestion is to use it for the year, then ask yourself if it was worth having or not. I'd be willing to bet that if you're a digital nomad, or you travel often, especially internationally, it'll be a must have. Do yourself a favor and get one for at least a year and see for yourself. Keep an eye out in the comments section of this blog post as things get updated and change all of the time with specific credit card rewards programs, bonuses, and things like new features and restaurant credits being added. But overall, it's one of those things I think every nomad should have and you'll be happy you have it, as well as your friends and sometimes even the random person you meet on the plane or airport that you invite in as a guest.

Warm Regards,

Johnny FD

Have you been to an airport lounge? Own a Priority Pass? Comment below! 

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  1. Is priority pass for any lounge in an airport? I think that's missing from your blog description. I see airline based lounges at airports and always figured it's for people with frequent flyer status. Can I go into Qatar's lounge if I'm flying Ethiad?

    1. Priority Pass has a list of lounges you can have access to. They don't give you access to just any lounge.

    2. Good question Rio. I recomend downloading the Priority Pass App on your phone to see which lounges accept the pass at the airport you're flying out of. You can also download the Lounge Buddy app to then find reviews of those lounges. In general not all airline lounges accept the pass but a lot of them do.

      You can also look ahead of time using the link Ken shared.

  2. I was flying out of Athens today and I couldn't get into a lounge, since I was traveling within the Schengen zone. Not sure if it's cuz of this or whether Athens is just set up weird. I ended up paying for overpriced coffee and it was a horrible experience. Priority Pass is so damn worth it.

    1. Ouch sorry to hear that. I just looked it up and it looks like some lounges in Athens allow Schengen tickets and others don't. Next time I'd suggest getting there a bit early and checking multiple lounges even if it's not the closest one to your gate:

  3. I got used to using lounges when I had an Etihad Silver loyalty card a few years back when I used to fly from the UK to Thailand 2 or 3 times a year. Now I fly less frequently I've lost my Silver status, so just use comparison sites to find the best price for a lounge as & when I need one.
    For anyone who flies frequently but uses different airlines, something like a OneWorld card will get you free lounge access if you've racked up enough miles.


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