How Much Is A Priority Pass Membership Worth?

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Reader Daniel asked the following question in the Ask Lucky forum regarding Priority Pass memberships:

do you have a member card?
did you pay for this? did you get it by any other way?
what is your opinion about it?
is it worth it?

I figured I’d provide an explanation of what Priority Pass is, how much it costs, and whether I think it’s worth it or not.

What is Priority Pass?

Priority Pass is the world’s largest independent network of airport lounges. Priority Pass doesn’t operate any lounges themselves, but rather gives you easy access to 850+ airline lounges around the world.

Not all lounges participate in Priority Pass, in particular those of some major airlines. For example, in the US, no American Admirals Clubs, Delta SkyClubs, or United Clubs participate in Priority Pass. That’s because they’d view joining Priority Pass as cannibalizing their own business, since they want to be able to sell memberships directly.

For the lounges which do participate in Priority Pass, the individual lounges are being paid by Priority Pass every time you visit one of their partner lounges.

Plaza-Premium-Lounge-London-Heathrow - 14
Plaza Premium Lounge London Heathrow, a member of Priority Pass

How do you get a Priority Pass membership?

Priority Pass has several types of memberships you can purchase. Which membership makes most sense for you depends on how often you plan on visiting their lounges. The Priority Pass membership options include:

  • Standard for $99 per year: this doesn’t get you any free lounge visits, but rather you have to pay $27 per visit
  • Standard Plus for $249 per year: this gets you 10 free visits per year, and then each subseuqent visit is $27
  • Prestige for $399: this gets you unlimited free visits to Priority Pass lounges

Priority-Pass-Membership-Cost

But generally buying a Priority Pass membership directly isn’t the best value, as there are some premium credit cards which come with Priority Pass memberships, including the following:

All of these cards give you unlimited access to Priority Pass lounges, so basically give you the same perks as the $399 membership level.

The Citi Prestige® Card has a $450 annual fee, though comes with a $250 annual airline credit, which you can use for any airline purchase. That means the real annual “out of pocket” on this card for me is $200. So that’s at most what a Priority Pass membership is “costing” you through this card, and that’s not accounting for all the other benefits offered by the card.

Air-Canada-Lounge-LAX - 13
Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge Los Angeles, a member of Priority Pass

How much is a Priority Pass membership worth?

There’s no good way to develop an objective valuation of a Priority Pass membership, given that it’s entirely dependent on how often you use it. To state the obvious, a Priority Pass membership is worth how many times you use their lounges, multiplied by how much you value each visit.

I struggle with crunching the numbers, since it’s tough to parse the various ways I get lounge access:

So do I value a Priority Pass membership based on the assumption that the above cards wouldn’t come with a Priority Pass membership anymore, or based on not having the above cards (in which case I wouldn’t have Admirals Club or Centurion Lounge access)?

I don’t have a good answer, so let me share where I get value out of my Priority Pass membership:

  • It gets me access to Alaska Board Rooms, which are great when flying out of Seattle and Los Angeles
  • Internationally there are some instances where the only way I get lounge access is through Priority Pass, as they have a ton of contract lounges
  • More often that not, the benefit to me of a Priority Pass membership is that it lets me visit more lounges than I’d otherwise have access to, rather than getting me lounge access when I wouldn’t otherwise get it

Alaska-Board-Room-LAX-02
Alaska Board Room Los Angeles, a member of Priority Pass

So if I had to put a number to it, I’d say I probably value my Priority Pass membership through the Citi Prestige® Card at ~$200. I just did the math, and I’ve used Priority Pass lounges ~20 times over the past year, and on five occasions guested people into the lounge. These often aren’t “high value” lounges, since I’m often only dropping in for a few minutes. But they’re certainly better than nothing.

Helsinki-Airport-Lounge - 22
Almost@Home Lounge Helsinki Airport, a member of Priority Pass

Priority Pass membership bottom line

The value of a Priority Pass membership will vary significantly depending on the time of traveler you are. If you do want a Priority Pass membership, however, you’re almost always going to be better off getting one through a credit card. It’s pretty amazing that cards like the Citi Prestige offer a better membership than anything Priority Pass even offers directly.

I do get a lot of value out of my Priority Pass membership, and I’d say it’s probably worth ~$200 per year to me.

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Comments

  1. I really like Priority Pass. I recently lost my card and called Citi to try to get a new one, and the person I spoke with had no idea what I was talking about. Should I call Priority Pass directly instead? Or HUACA with Citi?

  2. For nearly US$400 for membership , You’ll have to use it everyday to make it worthwhile.
    And they serve very mediocre food and wine. Don’t even think about champagne.

  3. I use the Priority Pass for the lounge at LAS which is in the same terminal as the American gates. A little on the small side but has snacks and a quiet place to hang out.

  4. Priority Pass is something I’d never pay for but I value a lot. For me the best use of it is those short economy flights you take between destinations. Ones that are too cheap to use points and too short to pay for anything above economy. Never get a ton of use for it in the US but it’s been great overseas.

  5. It is worth noting that Priority Pass lounge quality varies widely, which makes it even harder to put a value to a membership. There are some that I would say are truly worth $20 per person per visit, but there are also quite a few where I’m happier to sit in the regular terminal.

  6. Lucky,

    Do you have a value on a visit basis for the AMEX Centurion lounges? I have the AMEX Platinum card and trying to figure out if I got my money’s worth last year on all the priority pass and AMEX lounges I visited in total.

  7. @Lauren

    Why don’t you just download the Priority Pass app for your phone and use that? I have never used the actual physical card when checking in. I’ve always just pulled up my virtual card on the iPhone.

  8. I am based in Seattle. Priority Pass is a decent alternative to a Board Room membership if you’re a west coast flyer on AS. Seattle and LAX have Board Rooms. The Club in LAS is acceptable (as is the one in ATL), as is the Air France lounge in SFO. That said, I get my Priority Pass through the Prestige Card.

  9. If even you are only getting $200 in value out of it every year, sounds like it’s worth about $20 max to people who don’t travel full-time.

  10. Good article. It would be great if you could compare the lounges provided by priority pass and the diners club. i’m a Japan based reader and am struggling to decide which credit card to keep – a 90 USD p.a. mastercard which gives me the prestige membership of priority pass or the standard diners club card which costs $200 USD p.a. I’m a OW emerald member so rarely needs any access, but thought it could be useful in the rare case that I fly with non OW airlines.

  11. The Ritz chard from chase comes with Lounge Club, not Priority Pass, and while their permitted lounges aren’t completely coextensive, I’ve yet to run into a situation where I want to go to a lounge that was in the PP network but not in the lounge club network. For me, the value is significant — the lounge club membership that comes with the Ritz card (like the Prestige PP card) includes my whole family. Where it really pays off is in Europe, because it’s frequently unnecessary to spend extra cash or miles to travel in business class given that the product itself usually is just an empty middle seat and some food. So, you can book $60 tickets from VCE to ZRH or use 4,000 avios to fly Gatwick to Bordeaux, and still get lounge access for the whole family.

  12. I like Priority Pass quite a bit as I use the Alaska Board Room at PDX about 25 times a year alone. It’s no Centurion Lounge, but it’s not bad at all, and the people are friendly and accommodating-true to the AS way of doing business.

    @Louis EVERY Alaska Board Room serves champagne, and I’m no expert on the subject but I don’t think it is half bad.

    One of the coolest things is being able to access The Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge in LAX Terminal 2 as pictured above. In my book, this is one of the nicer non-premium lounges around. They always have decent food and drinks and it’s a great place to watch the planes land and pass the time if you have a long layover.

  13. Personally as a CFO, having this card distributed to my entire management team, with very weak condition by the Credit Card provider (XX Bank), I find it more troublesome than having XX number of Gold/Silver Star Alliance cards at my disposal based on flight revenue.
    At least being based in North-Scandinavia, where PP is hardly present, I find it hard to push 4*USD27 towards my team based on them having a card issued by the XX Bank, granting them access to a medi-core lounge.

  14. I think Priority Pass has a lot more value to people outside the US e.g. in Europe, where they have lounges at most airports and terminals and there are a lot of low-cost airline options to fly and typical flights are shorter than in the US. Priority pass combined with a low-cost airline or airline where you have no status makes for a much improved good overall experience. I find Priority Pass has a lot of value around here allowing more convenient travel using any available airline option, including low-cost airlines. Also PP has worked pretty well in many places around Asia and elsewhere. The lounges are usually “B tier”, but still an improvement over the noisy general terminal.

  15. @Dale

    Why not value the Amex Centurion Lounge visits at $50 per person? That’s the price of admission if you have a non-Platinum or Centurion Amex card. Am I missing something?

  16. Ben (and anyone else),

    Have any PP lounges you’ve visited stood out as above average (at least relative to other PP accessible lounges)?I’ve used it at the JAL lounge in Honolulu and the #1 Lounge at Heathrow.

    I agree generally with your review of the JAL lounge (nice quiet space, very weak wifi signal, minimal food options, essentially a library atmosphere).

    The #1 Lounge at LHR was packed (as expected) for our afternoon flight back to JFK, but I found the couches comfortable and the food/drink spread fairly decent for a non-premium lounge.

    Would appreciate any feedback on other PP lounges from people’s experience.

  17. it’s well worth it if you travel internationally especially in asia and south america. also good for the maple leaf lounge at LHR, which is a decent arrivals lounge.

  18. @Larry, your lounge club membership with Ritz Carlton card is not supposed to let your whole family in for free, it is supposed to only be you and one guest. It apparently has worked for more for you in the past, but don’t be surprised if there is a charge put through on your card at some point in the future if they decide to stick to their actual terms.

  19. My wife and I took a trip around the world and a lot of the travel was on coach so we would not have otherwise had lounge access without the Priority Pass, which we got through the Citi Prestige Card.

    We valued it a lot because the lounges we used always had free wifi, not always very fast but at least enough to check email and social media, and some food and drink. The food and drink does vary but in most cases I would have rather eaten the snacks and soft drinks in the lounge than pay for fast food in the airport.

  20. Lucky, as an aside, the AmEx Platinum Card issued in Canada (which I have) comes with a unique Priority Pass membership tier as well, as it includes unlimited entry to member lounges for yourself – plus a guest. So similar to what you’re saying with the Citi card, this is an even better level of included access than PP sells themselves (although not as good as the Citi card which you say includes two guests).

  21. I’d say zero value as no-one probably needs to go to a lounge. Nothing to see that is so life shattering that it is essential. I got the PP membership with the RC card and threw it in the bin. I manage to get to the airport and make it on the plane without spending any money without doing lounge visits.

  22. @Ben – My wife and I very rarely get to travel internationally on business, so the priority pass is a big benefit especially in Europe and Asia . AA does not have lounges in a lot of places so once cannot use the Citi cards to get in, but priority lounges are almost everywhere .. and given the fact that it comes free with the Citi card, it’s an added bonus .. a delighter !
    As a matter of fact , my wife who flew from Austin-JFK-Abu Dhabi -BOM , yesterday on economy got to use lounges all the way, thanks to the Priority Pass card

  23. @Karens

    I’m also Japan-based. I’ve been thinking about the Rakuten premium Mastercard, which gives PP prestige membership for about 100 USD. What card are you talking about for 90USD?

  24. Ben – You state that the Citi Prestige® Card comes with a Priority Pass membership, and you can take two guests or immediate family members for free – does this mean that all immediate members (kids) of a family of 4+ can use the lounge for free?

  25. @Ned. I have taken my family (total of 5 people) to multiple lounges with the PP membership that comes with the citi prestige card.

  26. @Christian
    Yes the card I was talking about is Rakuten premium, which at current Fx rate is worth around usd 90 or so (rounded).

  27. @Karens
    I see. I’d ditch the Diners Club if I were you! 🙂 Though Rakuten points are less flexible, I’m thinking about just getting to card for PP and only using it occasionally. I looked at the Diners Club card, and the transfer partners are better (though most cards in Japan are nowhere near as good as the US-based cards!), but it is double the price of the Rakuten card. Also…I wish we had better sign up bonuses like the US. Some cards only give you 500 points/miles if you sign up T.T

  28. It all depends on your travel patterns and specific circumstances. Once when I had PP, I connected to an uncomfortably long EasyJet flight from Amman to London Gatwick and the lounge access on both ends was clutch: the Royal Jordanian lounge in Amman (decent buffet, drinks, plenty of comfortable chairs in an otherwise awful airport), and a nice arrivals lounge at Gatwick run by the Sofitel there (good showers, coffee, breakfast stuff after the brutal redeye). On that flight alone I’d say I got $50 of value out of Priority Pass. Other times when I used PP, I got virtually no added value (e.g. a 10-minute stop at a Plaza Premium lounge before a morning flight with just enough time to grab a subpar coffee).

    If you don’t otherwise have lounge access, and especially if you’d otherwise be patronizing an airport bar, PP can make a lot of sense. If you usually have access due to class of service or status, or if you wouldn’t normally spend any money at the airport, there’s no point.

  29. I had the Standard Plus membership for a year and the way I looked at it was I didn’t get lounge access with PP, I got DISCOUNTED lounge access. S+ cost $250 and gives you 10 “free” visits. So basically I was getting lounge access for $25/visit, or about half off the cost of a day pass at most lounges. If I visited more than 10 times then I’d just pay $2/visit more. I’m Seattle based so if I don’t have lounge access I go to Anthony’s, have a salad and a beer or two, and walk out $30 poorer. PP grants me Boardroom access, complimentary drinks and snacks, and generally better wifi than what’s found in the terminal. So for me $25 for lounge access is marginally beneficial.

    There are cases where it doesn’t represent a good value. For example, before I got PP I once paid $50 for a Sky Lounge day pass. Normally this would be sooooo not worth it, but a Delta day pass covers all lounges in their network for 24 hours from time of purchase, including SkyTeam member lounges. That means I had access to the KLM Crown Lounge at AMS for my ~5 hour layover. For the approximately 8 hours total I was spending hanging out in airports on my outbound leg, $50 seemed reasonable. A few months later I did the same trip, this time armed with my PP card. The PP lounge on the Schengen side is okay, if a bit small, but the non-Schengen lounge is a total shithole (or so I thought until I saw Ben’s experience with the lounges at CSX). The Crown Lounge is enormous and almost perpetually crowded (at least every time I’ve been there) but its a palace compared to what PP holders have access to. In this particular case I think it was actually a better value to buy a day pass and have access to a much nicer space for several hours than use PP and be stuck in a place that was barely a step up from the terminal.

    That being said, looking at the PP website it appears either they have switched partners for their non-Schengen lounge or it’s been significantly updated.

    The way I see it the standard membership is only worth considering if you expect to fly fewer than 10 times a year, otherwise you’d get the S+. But in the best case scenario (9 visits per year) you’d be paying $38 per visit ($99/9 = $11, plus the $27 charge). Fewer visits and the cost goes up quickly. At 5 visits the cost/visit is $47! A Board Room day pass costs $45. Totally not worth it. And in order for the Prestige membership to break even with the value/visit of the S+ membership ($25/visit) you’d have to visit 16 times per year. However the value of the Prestige level gets marginally better with each visit beyond 16, but at that point you’re probably flying frequently enough to justify other lounge access methods as Ben mentioned in his post.

    One last point: I’m not sure if this is still the case but when I had my PP card many of the lounges in their network specifically prohibited PP members whose card was issued through a bank. However my friend has PP through his AmEx card and his PP card looked identical to mine, and according to him he’s never been denied entry to a lounge. I’m not sure how (or if) this policy is enforced but it’s something to consider.

  30. @Jed The Centurion Studio closes at 10 while the BoardRooms at SeaTac are open until midnight. If you are taking a redeye that makes a difference.

  31. I get a free prestige level Priority Pass issued by NatWest Bank in the UK as part of their Black Account. I normally travel economy so it’s a huge bonus for me.

  32. I think its a great benefit. Having a place to relax with complimentary food, drinks and wi-fi is tough to put a price on. Some places have showers and massages. Most have current newspapers and magazines. If you have a really long layover it’s almost priceless.

  33. Wouldn’t pay for it but get if for free from credit card. Comes in handy when you fly economy, however cannot use in domestic flights/terminal in US which is a pity.

  34. @Christian I’ve been using the Rakuten Premium card for several years before I got my JAL JGC card which allows me OW Sapphire status as long as I maintain the card. As for Diners Club, it used to be free when you spend more than 300 thousand yen in a year before Citi Japan withdrew their operation.. And it gives you some other benefits such as free meal for 1 person in selected restaurant when 2 or more people dines, probably better in a hindsight than Rakuten. Anyway, if you don’t mind churning cards, the best way for now is probably to get diners club card through affiliate site Get Money! (www.dietnavi.com) as DC’s running big promotion – you’ll get 47000 yen worth of points which you can transfer to your bank account or convert into miles. The cost of diners club basic card itself is 22000 yen p.a., which means you’re actually getting 25000 yen (or points convertible to miles) for signing up for the card, more than enough to cover 2 years worth of Rakuten Premium card fee plus lounge access. Aside from that DC is running a promotion that gives you 20 thousand points if you spend 300 thousand yen in the first 3 months – another 20,000 miles max depending on your choice of airline. Then after 1st year you can churn into Rakuten card 🙂 Mileage promotions in Japan are scarce, but not non-existent, luckily.

  35. @Vicky, a lot of us use the lounges as a comfortable place to conduct misc business or personal communications. Sometimes, checking out of the hotel time and your flight time don’t exactly align. I’d much rather sit in a comfortable chair with my laptop on a table and a glass of wine next to me than sitting on an uncomfortable chair with people 3 inches away, my laptop on my, uh, lap… And a crappy coffee sitting on the floor by my feet. Also too, very few germ wagons are running around in the lounges. For me, that is well worth any cost.

  36. @Vicky

    Aren’t you just a charming ray of sunshine?

    As @Dan said, a lot of us find ourselves stuck on 3-4+ hour layovers or have no other option after checking out of our hotel. Just being able to get away from the screaming kids (by the way @Dan, I prefer the term ‘crotchfruit’ over ‘germ wagons’) is worth the cost especially if it comes bundled with something I need anyhow or if work is paying for it.

  37. It’s unquestionably worth the cost of getting it through the Citi Prestige card, which is -$50 (negative $50) when you take into account the two $250 credits on general airline spending that you’ll get. The Priority Pass membership has a three year expiration date and, assuming that they don’t make special arrangements to cancel this membership if you cancel the credit card, is a great deal.

    I just used it to get me and a business colleague into the Air France lounge in JFK T1 prior to a Lufthansa economy trip to Europe. The lounge had quite decent hot and cold food and did, in fact, serve champagne (although I had port wine).

    One thing to note, however, is that when Priority Pass has a deal with an airline or alliance lounge it’s often subject to space availability in the lounge. I was told that we were the last two PP members who would be admitted due to the lounge “beginning to get crowded” (for all I know, she says the same thing to everyone, and the lounge cleared out when the next Air France flight departed).

  38. I have PP through the Prestige, but have yet to use it, and unfortunately I’m not sure I will. We have the SW Companion Pass, and from what I can tell, most of the PP lounges are not located near SW gates. For instance, the gates at our home airport of PHX are broken up into A-D, each with their own security screening, branching off into four different directions. The lounge is located airside in B, and Southwest is in C & D. How do I get any value out of my PP membership when lounges are airside of the wrong gates? Is PHX unique in screening locations that don’t connect once you’re airside?

  39. @ Debra

    I also have the SW Companion pass and fly out of Phx. we go through security at the B gates and then go to the lounge and then take the walk way over to the C or D gates. You don’t have to go through security to get there.

    The lounge is a long walk (we need the exercise) but we find it worthwhile to be able to sit in a quite place and enjoy a few snacks and drinks and fill our water bottles. Btw they have a really good pasta salad at the lounge.

    We received our PP through the Citi Prestige card and we are loving the lounge access. We love the Air France lounge at IAD.

  40. Priority pass is not worth having for UK citizens. What website fails to mention is that the lounges at London airports are rarely available in London airports. We tried three times in a month with no success at gaining entry because lounge space was pre sold to airlines block booking for business class travellers. Concierge told us Priority Pass holders had no hope at all.

  41. Honestly, don’t bother with this product. I fly from London Gatwick every week, and I can recall only 2 or 3 occasions in the last 12 months on which my PP card has allowed me access to a lounge at the airport. PP does not own the lounges, and in reality is nothing more than a secondary revenue stream for the lounge operators at times when their lounges are under-utilised by their regular paying customers and/or airline business class flyers. Consequently, the PP card only works at super-offpeak times, which at many airports is almost never. What is more, you will find PP’s “customer service” response is truly a masterclass in brainless platitudes. My advice, don’t waste your money.

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