Effective August 1, 2019, American Express issued cards with the Priority Pass membership benefit will no longer include restaurants. Amex cards affected
First and foremost, let’s nail down what Priority Pass is.
Priority Pass is an airport lounge membership program that provides access to more than 1,200 lounges worldwide.
Priority Pass memberships can be purchased at the following plan/annual fee amounts:
- Standard – $99 per year (member visit fee: $32, guest visit fee: $32)
- Standard Plus – $299 per year (member visit fee: 10 free then $32, guest visit fee $32)
- Prestige – $429 per year (member visit fee: free, guest visit fee $32)
To put it bluntly, though, there is no need to pay a fee for a Priority Pass membership. You’ll just be throwing your money away.
The much better option is to enjoy a Priority Pass Select membership for absolutely no charge.
How, you might say? Well, it’s pretty simple, actually…via credit card, of course.
You see, several high-end travel credit cards offer complimentary Priority Pass Select memberships as a cardmember perk.
A few of these cards include:
Chase Sapphire Reserve – Primary cardholder and authorized users receive a Priority Pass Select membership. Free access for cardholder and up to 2 guests.
The Platinum Card from American Express – Primary cardholder and authorized users receive a Priority Pass Select membership. Free access for cardholder and up to 2 guests
Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card (no longer available to new applicants) – Primary cardholder and authorized users receive a Priority Pass Select membership. Free access for cardholder and an unspecified number of guests.
Citi Prestige – Primary cardholder and authorized users receive a Priority Pass Select membership. Free access for cardholder and up to 2 guests.
Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express – Free access for primary cardholder and up to 2 guests.
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card – Free access for primary cardholder and up to 2 guests.
Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card – 10 free visits per year for primary cardholders, no free guests.
U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite Card – Membership available to one cardmember per account. First four visits are free, as well as four individual
You’ll receive the same exact benefits as those who pay the hefty Priority Pass membership fees, for nothing more than the credit card’s annual fee.
Yes, those annual fees are on the higher end, but when factoring in the other benefits those cards provide, as well as the points earning
When receiving your Priority Pass membership via credit card, you’ll have to call Priority Pass to register your membership and have a physical Priority Pass card mailed. You’ll need the physical Priority Pass card to access Priority Pass lounges and benefits while traveling. There is a digital Priority Pass card, but acceptance at lounges can be spotty.
You can read more about Priority Pass and view its lounge listings at the link below.
Priority Pass Lounges
Priority Pass has a wide network of lounges and mini-suites around the world. The reality, however, is that its lounge offerings in the U.S. leave a bit to be desired.
There are approximately 34 U.S. airports that have Priority Pass lounges, only a few of which might be worth going out of your way to enter.
On the other hand, there are a number of international Priority Pass lounges that are worth visiting. Especially if you have a multi-hour layover and want some peace from the normal airport hustle and bustle.
Lounges, however, aren’t the only benefit to having a Priority Pass membership.
Restaurants – The Priority Pass Benefit Gem
The Priority Pass program added restaurants to its benefits list over the past year or so, allowing members to enjoy a sit-down dining experience in place of, or in addition to, a lounge visit.
There are currently 29 Priority Pass restaurants in 20 U.S. airports, at which Priority Pass members and guests (number of guests depends on the credit card benefit terms) can typically get $28 per person of free food and drink. The exact amount can differ depending on the restaurant.
Here are general Priority Pass terms as it relates to the dining credit:
- The US$28 is valid for the purchase of any meal and/or drinks.
- To be eligible, Cardholders must present a valid Card and Boarding Pass with confirmed same-day travel before placing an order.
- US$28 is non-transferable & cannot be exchanged for cash substitute or refund if the final bill is lower than US$28 per person.
Cardholderis responsible for the balance if totalfinal bill exceeds US$28 per person.
- Any remaining balance cannot be used towards gratuity.
Be sure to tip the wait staff accordingly since, even though you’re not “paying” for your meal, they are providing the service.
Some Priority Pass restaurants have location-specific terms and conditions that differ from those listed above. It’s always advisable to check a specific restaurant’s Priority Pass link prior to dining.
Below is the current list of Priority Pass restaurants and the U.S. airports at which they are located. Note that some airports have multiple Priority Pass restaurants.
- Boston (BOS): Jerry Remy’s Sports Bar and Grill
- Boston (BOS): Stephanie’s
- Cleveland (CLE): Bar Symon
- Denver (DEN): Timberline Steaks & Grill
- Fort Lauderdale (FLL): Kafe Kalik
- Greenville–Spartanburg (GSP): RJ Rockers Flight Room
- Houston Intercontinental (IAH): Cadillac Mexican Kitchen & Tequila Bar
- Houston Intercontinental (IAH): Landry’s Seafood
- Indianapolis (IND): The Fan Zone
- Lexington (LEX): Kentucky Ale Taproom
- Los Angeles (LAX): P.F. Chang’s ($30 per guest)
- Los Angeles (LAX): Rock & Brews
- Miami (MIA): Air Margaritaville
- Miami (MIA): Corona Beach ($30 per guest)
- Miami (MIA): Viena
- Minneapolis/St. Paul (MSP): PGA MSP Lounge ($15 per guest)
- New York Kennedy (JFK): Bobby Van’s Steakhouse
- St. Louis (STL): The Pasta House (Terminal 1)
- St. Louis (STL): The Pasta House & Schlafly Beer (Terminal 2)
- San Francisco (SFO): San Francisco Giants Clubhouse
- San Francisco (SFO): Yankee Pier
- Syracuse (SYR): Johnny Rockets
- Tampa (TPA): The Café by Mise en Place
- Tucson (TUS): Noble Hops
- Washington DC Dulles (IAD): Chef Geoff’s
- Washington DC National (DCA): American Tap Room
- Washington DC National (DCA): Bracket Room
And, if you’re traveling overseas and want a free meal, here are the current Priority Pass restaurants at international airports.
- Brisbane (BNE): Bar Roma
- Brisbane (BNE): Corretto Cafe & Bar
- Brisbane (BNE): Graze Grill & Bar
- Helsinki (HEL): Fly Inn Restaurant
- Lima (LIM): Bleriot Bar & Lounge
- Lima (LIM): La Bonbonniere
- London-Gatwick (LGW): Grain Store Cafe & Bar
- São Paulo (GRU): Bleriot Bar & Lounge
- Sydney (SYD): Bar Roma
- Sydney (SYD): Better Burger
- Sydney (SYD): Bistro 2020 & Bar
- Sydney (SYD): Chicken Confidential
- Sydney (SYD): MoVida
- Sydney (SYD): Peroni Bar
- Sydney (SYD): Wok on Air
- Tel Aviv (TLV): Schmoozy Bar
Of course, participating restaurants can change at any time, so it’s always best to ask before being seated if a particular restaurant is still part of the Priority Pass program.
For most, purchasing a Priority Pass membership just isn’t worth it.
Luckily, many high-end travel credit cards offer a free Priority Pass Select membership to cardholders. And that’s in addition to the various other benefits and points earning potential that the cards offer.
And while Priority Pass lounge access can come in handy, especially when traveling overseas, it’s the restaurant benefit that many domestic U.S. travelers just might find the most beneficial.
For travelers transiting any of the airports listed above, the $28 per person food and drink credit the Priority Pass membership provides can mean the difference between a quality meal free and clear or a refrigerated turkey and cheese sandwich and a bag of chips for an outrageous price.
I know which one I’d choose.