Why I Won’t Renew my American Express Hilton Aspire Next Year

When the Hilton Aspire Credit Card from American Express hit the rewards scene a few years ago, I immediately signed both myself and my husband up despite the card’s $450 annual fee. With the $250 resort credit it offers, the free weekend night you get every year, the automatic Hilton Diamond status, and the $250 airline fee incidental credit, I knew I could get a ton of value in return.

So far, I’ve been thrilled with the results. I racked up 800,000 Hilton Honors points and used them to book my 40th birthday getaway in Aruba, plus I have used my Hilton Diamond status on more than one occasion. I also cashed in the airline fee credits for gift cards last year and successfully used the resort credits for hotel bills at Hilton properties in Arizona.

Considering all the perks I’ve earned — and the $7,000+ in hotel stays I’ve booked with points earned from this card — I would say it was well worth it when I paid the annual fee and renewed our cards this year.

Why I Won’t Renew My Hilton Aspire Card Next Year

But I’m pretty sure I won’t renew again when our annual fees are charged in March of 2020. This is mostly due to the fact that, as we have all learned from numerous FlyerTalk threads, the airline credit is no longer being triggered by small denomination gift card purchases.

While the airline credit this card offers has always been limited to “incidentals,” gift cards have traditionally worked provided they were purchases in small increments. Well, not anymore.

This means you can only use the airline credit for expenses that may never amount to $250 per year with a single airline — expenses like onboard internet, onboard food and drink, and checked baggage.

While the Hilton Aspire has plenty of other perks, I’m not sure I am a huge fan of the $250 resort credit, either. You have to use this credit at a Hilton resort property for starters, meaning it doesn’t apply at every Hilton property. I am going to use our upcoming credits for my 40th birthday at the Hilton Aruba this time, but I got lucky because I want to go there anyway.

And, to be honest, Hilton Diamond status really is hit or miss. We were treated like a king and queen due to status at the Hilton Imperial Dubrovnik and the Hilton York recently, but other Hiltons we’ve stayed at didn’t acknowledge our status at all.

The Bottom Line

It will be hard for me to justify keeping this card next year with no good way to use the airline credit — or, at least not one I plan to utilize. Paying $450 for a hotel credit card is a lot, and the fact the airline credit is so limiting means the value of the card has gone way down.

Fortunately, there are plenty of other rewards and travel credit cards to focus on once I cancel this one. The game is always changing, and this is just another unfortunate example.

Are you keeping your Hilton Aspire Card next year? Why or why not?


[Image: Hilton]

Source: frugal travel guy

Online Travel Agent Sites and the Illusion of Choice

Expedia gobbling up rivals

So you go pull up your favorite online travel agent site and you don’t like the hotel prices you’re seeing. No problem, there are dozens of others to choose from, right? No, there are really just two. Unless you count the small ones making up 5% of bookings, every brand you see is from one […]

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Source: Cheapest Destinations

The Single Best Rewards Credit Card for Your Needs

Sorting through hundreds of available travel cards to find the best one might seem like an impossible task. However, it becomes much easier if you remember one of the cardinal rules of the points and miles world: Transferable points are the most valuable currency you can have.

The reasoning behind it is simple. You may be exclusively loyal to a single airline or hotel chain—if so, there’s a card that will allow you to accumulate points or miles in that specific program. If you value flexibility, though, you want points that transfer to the largest number of airline or hotel partners.

Example: Say a trip to Singapore is at the top of your bucket list. The award-winning flag carrier, Singapore Airlines, is known for a fabulous inflight experience. While the airline is notoriously stingy with award space for partner airlines, booking an award is much easier if you’re a member of its frequent flyer program. Singapore Airlines happens to be a transfer partner of American Express, Chase, Citi and others. Enroll in the program, search for award space, transfer your points, and you’re on your way.

Depending on your individual priorities, here are the best travel rewards cards:

Low Annual Fee, Large Number of Transfer Partners

Capital One has jumped into the points and miles arena with a splash over the past year, and their Venture Rewards Card is well worth getting: it ranks in the top tier of travel rewards cards for comparatively little cost.

Pros: Signup bonus of 50,000 Venture Miles after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening; earn two miles per dollar spent; $95 annual fee, waived the first year; no foreign transaction fees; 15 airline transfer partners; $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck; through January 2020, 10 miles per dollar spent at hotels.com.

Cons: Miles transfer at a 2:1.5 ratio for most partners, except for Emirates, JetBlue and Singapore, which are slightly worse (2:1). Although this is offset by the earning rate, it’s not the 1:1 transfer ratio offered by many other cards.

Insider tip: This is a strong value proposition at a very reasonable price. Estimates on the value of Venture Miles range from 1 to 1.4 cents.

Most Valuable (And Some of the Most Versatile) Rewards Points

Chase Ultimate Rewards points are estimated to be worth 2 cents apiece with transfer partners, or a minimum of 1.5 cents when booked through the Chase Travel Portal. The Sapphire Reserve is Chase’s top travel rewards card, and it offers attractive earning rates on both travel and dining purchases. The $450 annual fee may seem high, but remember that you receive a $300 travel credit each year that effectively lowers the card fee to $150.

Pros: 50,000 bonus points when spending $4,000 in the first three months your account is open; earn triple points on all travel and dining; Priority Pass Select membership; $100 credit toward Global Entry or TSA PreCheck; points transfer at a 1:1 ratio to nine airline partners and three hotel partners (Hyatt, IHG and Marriott Bonvoy); primary car rental insurance, along with a host of other travel insurance benefits.

Cons: Recent reports indicate that qualifying for this card requires a high credit score and a very high income. The $450 annual fee has to be paid up front.

Insider tip: If you don’t qualify for the Sapphire Reserve, start with the Chase Sapphire Preferred, which offer some of the same perks for a more modest $95 annual fee. Once you establish yourself with Chase, you can apply for a product change to the Reserve in a year or two.

Luxury Travel Perks, Largest Number of Transfer Partners

When it comes to benefits, nothing compares to the Platinum Card from American Express or the Business Platinum Card from American Express Open. Both versions offer 18 airline partners and three hotel partners (Hilton, Choice Hotels and Marriott Bonvoy), and most transfer at a 1:1 ratio. If you can rationalize the annual fee ($550 for the personal card, $595 for the business version), this is the most valuable travel card to have. Most estimates value American Express Membership Rewards points at 1.5 cents apiece; shop around for signup bonus offers, which change constantly.

Pros: 65,000 points after spending $5,000 in the first three months (personal); 50,000 points after spending $10,000 in the first three months, with an additional 50,000 points after $15,000 spending in the same period (business); gold status with both Hilton and Marriott; the largest lounge access program (including the American Express Centurion lounges, Priority Pass and five other networks); the largest number of transfer partners; $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck; $200 airline credit annually; discounts through the Fine Hotels and Resorts collection, plus a host of other benefits.

Cons: As noted above, the annual fees for these cards are stiff. Earning rates are also low (one Membership Rewards point per dollar), with the exception of five points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or American Express Travel.

[Source: Shutterstock]

Source: frugal travel guy

5 tips for visiting England’s Lake District in autumn

The Lake District is one of the most significant tourist destinations in the United Kingdom, taking in a whopping 15 million visitors every year. Located in Cumbria in the northwest of England, it is flooded with lots of different types of tourists.

Outdoorsy nature lovers comprise one significant stream, as do the literary-minded – above all else fans of Beatrix Potter and William Wordsworth.

For all of its beautiful countryside, England isn’t really a fall colors destination, though one overhears plenty of comparisons to New England in the Lake District in the autumn, and these comparisons are fair.

In the autumn months, the Lake District becomes a wet splendor, dripping with fall color and, well, rain. The region cradles the season in strong golds, reds and yellows. It’s captivating yet somehow understated. Tourist numbers dip in the off-season as well, and rates come down from their July and August highs.

Visiting the Lake District in fall

Here are five tips for making the Lake District work for you in the off-season.

1. Boats not cars

When it comes to the lakes themselves, consider opting out of a car rental and basing yourself at one or another lake. Traveling by car will mean getting wet and dealing with navigation hassles. Four lakes can be navigated on luxuriously slow, lumbering cruises.

Windermere Lake Cruises operates on Lake Windermere (limited winter schedule), Keswick Launch runs on Derwentwater (limited winter schedule), Ullswater Steamers churn the waters of Ullswater (limited winter schedule), and Coniston Launch provides tours of Coniston Water, though only through early November.


Glide through the Lake District with Ullswater Steamers. Photo: Simon

2. Bus tours – and buses as transportation

Bus tours can be booked by a company called Mountain Goat Tours, which operates daylong tours. In the off-season (November through Easter) the number of tours on offer shrinks to just two, but these are, arguably, the essential two: the Ten Lakes Spectacular (£39) and the Beatrix Potter & William Wordsworth’s Countryside (£35).

For general bus travel around the region, there is the North West Explorer day pass, which costs £11.50 for adults (£8.50 for children) and allows travel on buses throughout Cumbria and beyond.

3. Mint cakes

Get sugared up. The Lake District is known for the Kendal Mint Cake, a block of sugar cooked with peppermint oil that became a favorite of outdoor enthusiasts. Think of it as an energy booster. Or as candy. Your choice.

4. Cheap beds

Bed down in the lap of value, at Rooms at the Apple Pie in the village of Ambleside at the head of Lake Windermere. The rooms are a literal add-on to a successful local café-bakery. Eight rooms, all en suite, are simple but cheery. Doubles begin at £60 and dip to £50 per night for midweek stays of two nights or more.

Search for more hotels in Cumbria and the Lake District.

Plan a stay at Rooms at The Apple Pie for Lake District charm.

5. Escape the rain with Peter Rabbit.

If the weather is just too terrible to explore, there’s the World of Beatrix Potter Attraction in Bowness for fans and the generally curious alike. There is a short film, a virtual walk through the surrounding countryside, various displays (or “areas”) devoted to various of Potter’s characters, and a shop and tearoom. Admission is £7.95 for adults and £3.95 for children.

The post 5 tips for visiting England’s Lake District in autumn appeared first on EuroCheapo's Budget Travel Blog.

Source: Euro Cheapo

New York City: New budget hotels in Brooklyn

Many tourists flock to Manhattan for a Big Apple vacation, and while there’s lots of the New York hustle and bustle there (Times Square, anyone?), there’s still plenty of other exciting things to do in the outer boroughs. Even more important for Cheapos, you can save big by staying in the many budget hotels outside of Manhattan.

Brooklyn, with its iconic Brooklyn Bridge and seemingly endless options for cool, laid-back food, drink and entertainment, is a great option. You’re bound to find some incredible deals on accommodation here, too, and you can still access Manhattan quickly and cheaply via the subway.

To narrow down your choices of affordable hotels in this borough, we chose some of our favorite budget hotels in Brooklyn, specifically in the popular neighborhoods of Williamsburg, Greenpoint and Downtown Brooklyn, to add to our New York guide.

So choose your hotel and read up on our New York tips to have a fun Big Apple trip like a true Cheapo.

hostel room with patterned wall paper, twin bed and green curtains

NY Moore Hostel offers great deals and a youthful, spirited ambiance.

NY Moore Hostel

Neighborhood: Williamsburg and Greenpoint
179 Moore Street
Beds starting at $40 a night

With a spirited vibe, the NY Moore Hostel will warmly welcome you to New York and situate you just a short walk to the subway into Manhattan.

Rooms here feature playful murals and artworks as well as vibrant pops of color. The grab bag of furnishings feel a bit collegiate, but fun. You can save money and make friends by grabbing a bed or reserve a private room that sleeps up to three people.

You’ll find everything you need for a comfortable stay: free Wi-Fi, air conditioning, a library, a game room. Breakfast isn’t available, but you’ll find something delicious in the neighborhood.

Book a cheapo stay at NY Moore Hostel.

sitting area in hotel room with striped sofa

The stunning Hotel Indigo is conveniently located just a half-mile from the Brooklyn Bridge.

Hotel Indigo – Brooklyn

Neighborhood: Downtown Brooklyn
229 Duffield Street
Doubles starting at $114 a night

The gorgeous three-star Hotel Indigo Brooklyn is ideally situated in Downtown Brooklyn, just a half-mile from the iconic Brooklyn Bridge.

Guestrooms are adorned in a neutral color palette and contemporary design leads the way. Add in amenities like flat-screen televisions, free Wi-Fi, coffee machines, air conditioning and toiletries, and you’ll be amazed by how affordable this hotel really is, especially in New York.

Breakfast is available at a very steep price ($30!), so we recommend heading out into the neighborhood for your morning meal instead.

Enjoy a comfortable stay at Hotel Indigo – Brooklyn.

hotel room with white, black and gray decor and Brooklyn wall mural

Rooms at NU Hotel benefit from trendy decor and city views.

NU Hotel

Neighborhood: Downtown Brooklyn
85 Smith Street
Doubles starting at $129 a night

The lovely three-star NU Hotel in Downtown Brooklyn is conveniently close to the subway.

Each room features a sleek design and plenty of amenities: free Wi-Fi, flat-screen televisions, iPod docking stations, satellite radio and a 24-hour gym. Nearly every room benefits from city views, too.

The hotel also has extras like private workstations for business travelers and an on-site bar with a great tapas menu. The hotel also offers its guests free bike rentals to explore the city.

Breakfast is included in the room rate.

Whether you are traveling for business or pleasure, NU Hotel has a room for you.

hotel room with wood floors and large white bed

Hotel Le Jolie is less than a 20-minute walk to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Hotel Le Jolie

Neighborhood: Williamsburg & Greenpoint
235 Meeker Avenue
Doubles starting at $132 a night

The three-star Hotel Le Jolie is sweet and simple with an amazing location just a five-minute walk to the subway and a 15- to 20- minute walk to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The rooms are basic, with wood furnishings and a splash of color here and there. Although the decor is standard, the amenities are plentiful and include flat-screen televisions, mini-fridges, iPod docks and free Wi-Fi.

The nightly rate includes breakfast.

Stay in the reliable Hotel Le Jolie.

rooftop patio with tables and chairs and views of NYC

Aloft Hotel has an on-site restaurant, lounge and bar with incredible views of the city.

Aloft Hotel

Neighborhood: Downtown Brooklyn
216 Duffield Street
Doubles starting at $152 a night

The modern, three-star Aloft Hotel enjoys an excellent location just one mile from the Brooklyn Bridge and a 2-minute walk to the subway.

Each room sports standard hotel decor, think wood furnishings and striped accents, with NYC-themed art throughout. There are plenty of amenities in the guestrooms, such as private bathrooms, air conditioning, flat-screen televisions, coffee/tea machines and free Wi-Fi.

There are also many great features in the hotel, including a large meeting room, a pool table, a snack shop, the XYZ Bar and the on-site restaurant and lounge.

Breakfast is available for an additional $10.

Take advantage of the value rates and plentiful amenities at Aloft Hotel.

lobby with patterned sofa, wall art and industrial lighting

From lobby to guestroom, The Box House Hotel welcomes visitors with attractive, industrial chic decor.

The Box House Hotel

Neighborhood: Williamsburg & Greenpoint
77 Box Street
Doubles starting at $152 a night

The industrial chic, three-star Box House Hotel is tucked into a converted factory building just a short walk to the nearest subway station.

From the lounge areas to the guestrooms, the building’s history lends extra charm to the hotel. Rooms feature attractive decor and benefit from NYC views. The spotless marble bathrooms feel luxurious, and the studio hotel rooms also include full kitchens. If you can splurge, some rooms have balconies available. The hotel also has a gym, a sauna and a business center.

Breakfast is served daily for an additional $19, or you can venture into the neighborhood and stop at a cafe.

Live luxe on a budget by booking a room at the Box House Hotel.

white and gray hotel room

The Tillary Hotel Brooklyn offers luxe rooms near the Brooklyn Bridge at value rates.

The Tillary Hotel Brooklyn

Neighborhood: Downtown Brooklyn
85 Flatbush Avenue
Doubles starting at $159 a night

The elegant, four-star Tillary Hotel Brooklyn, also aptly called the Dazzler, offers swanky rooms at value rates less than a mile from the Brooklyn Bridge.

From the lobby to the guestrooms, stately decor reigns king in the Tillary Hotel Brooklyn. You can enjoy views of NYC from every room, which also features kettles, flat-screen televisions and free Wi-Fi. If that isn’t enough, there is also a fitness center and spa services available.

Perhaps the most enticing part of this hotel is the indoor-outdoor beer garden. Breakfast is available for an additional fee, but you’ll save more money by hitting the neighborhood for a coffee and pastry instead.

Indulge in a sophisticated cheapo stay at the Tillary Hotel Brooklyn.

Looking for more cheap accommodations in this borough? Check out all budget hotels in Brooklyn.

The post New York City: New budget hotels in Brooklyn appeared first on EuroCheapo's Budget Travel Blog.

Source: Euro Cheapo

Why I’m Refocusing On Earning Flexible Points

Over the last six to twelve months, I’ve become annoyed with the travel rewards world as a whole. This is mostly based on the fact I haven’t seen any exciting new offers to sign up for. But it’s also because some of my favorite cards and programs have lost their luster. For example:

  • The Hilton Aspire credit card’s $250 airline fee credit no longer works for gift cards, so I plan to cancel this card when it renews next year. I loved this card up until now, so I’m not happy about this new change.
  • American Airlines still posts an award chart, but they’re rumored to go to dynamic award pricing soon. However, I personally think their availability is already changing. I have several hundred thousand American miles and I have been struggling to find a good way to use them the last few months. I am finding less award availability, crazy flight options with multiple layovers, and higher award pricing overall.
  • SPG and Marriott programs completed their merger, and I personally don’t like Marriott Bonvoy. I don’t plan to sign up for any of their credit cards even though I could probably qualify at this point.

These are just a few reasons why I am currently funneling all my spending onto a handful of credit cards—my Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard, my Chase Sapphire Reserve, my Ink Preferred Business Card, and my Ink Business Unlimited Card.

Why There’s Always Value in Flexible Rewards

If you’re feeling pessimistic about the rewards world or simply want to hang on until another really good offer comes along, focusing on flexible points can help. For starters, I love by Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard because I earn 2x points for each dollar I spend and I can redeem my points for any travel expense over $100 at a rate of one cent per point. I have personally used Barclays credit to cover cruises, hotels, campgrounds and more. I even paid off the mortgage on my house by using my Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard and funneling all my payments through Plastiq.com.

Then there’s Chase Ultimate Rewards, which is my personal favorite program of all time. I like using three specific Chase credit cards for all my purchases because I can consolidate all my points in my Chase Sapphire Reserve account to get 50% more travel when I book with points. And yes, I really do use the Chase portal for all kinds of travel. I occasionally book flights through the portal, but I also book rental condos, hotels, and excursions.

Obviously, the biggest benefit of Chase Ultimate Rewards is the fact that you can transfer points 1:1 to popular airline and hotel partners like World of Hyatt, Southwest Rapid Rewards, British Airways, and JetBlue. Also, note that you are not tied down to using your points in a specific way—or even for travel. You can redeem Chase points for gift cards, merchandise, or even statement credits to your account.

The Bottom Line

If you’re irritated with your favorite hotel or airline programs, don’t forget that flexible travel rewards will never let you down. With so many ways to redeem your rewards, you will never be stuck with points you can’t use. Until things change with my favorite loyalty programs, this is where I’m focusing the bulk of my spending.

Do you prefer earning flexible points? Why or why not?


[Image: Shutterstock]

Source: frugal travel guy

6 Cheapo reasons for visiting New York in the fall

Autumn in New York really is as magical as the song makes it out to be. When the sweat of summer washes away, the air is crisp, the leaves are spectacular and there’s a sort of leisurely feel to the shortening days. All this makes fall the most coveted (and expensive) time to visit, right?

Wrong. While January through March is the cheapest season for hotel rates and flights, things are still downright affordable in the fall. Throw in the added bonus that the weather is almost perfect, and you will be ready to fall in love with New York — in fall!

Cheapo Guide: Visiting New York on a budget
5 Super cheap hotels in Manhattan
The Best cheap hotels near Broadway theaters

 Visiting New York City in fall

Before the holiday season kicks into high gear, New York can be surprisingly affordable for travelers. Here are 6 reasons to visit New York in the fall.

1. Airfares are lower

As the temperature drops in New York, so do the airfares. For example, while summer fares from San Francisco to New York hover around $500, they drop below $400 in September. Other cities showed similar trends, with airfare dropping anywhere from $20 to $150 between the middle of September and the middle of November. Note, though, that your window is small: Fares will spike again at Thanksgiving and remain high through the holidays.

Comfortable climes make fall great for enjoying New York's many parks. Photo: artolog.

Comfortable climes make fall great for enjoying New York’s many parks. Photo: artolog

2. The weather is fine

Because so many of New York’s major attractions are best seen while strolling through the city, pleasant weather can make a huge difference in a trip. Fall is that sweet spot sandwiched between summer’s mugginess and winter’s bitter chill, and its moderate weather makes it a joy to explore, whether you’re leaf-peeping in Central Park or strolling through the gorgeous streets of the West Village.

Related: Which neighborhood is right for your New York City trip?

3. The hotel rates drop

Like airfares, New York hotel rates also take a dip after the summer rush. A recent search found that a double room at the stylish Ameritania Hotel near Time Square costs $404 a night at the end of August, and throughout the fall runs between $300 and $350, dropping as low as $221 in mid-November.

Keep in mind, though, that there will be a shocking spike during Fashion Week (in early September) and again over Thanksgiving weekend, although there are some deals for Turkey Day.

Related: How to save on your hotel in New York City

4. The crowds are smaller

After the summer throngs had returned to school and work and real life, New York suddenly feels a whole lot calmer. True, the streets are still crowded, but somehow it feels like you have a lot more space. Plus, crowds at the most famous attractions will be smaller too.

Related: 6 Under-the-Radar (and free) parks to explore in NYC

new york farmer's market

Fall is the perfect time to enjoy all things apple in the Big Apple. Photo: Tom Lin

5. Explore free sights abound

The number of free sights in New York does not necessarily expand in the fall, but the viability of hitting them all is proportional to the weather: The more comfortable the temps are, the easier it is to be outside. Thus, while in summer and winter you may be more inclined to seek air conditioning or heat indoors (quests that often involve paying for a drink or museum ticket), during the fall you can save on food, entertainment and transportation since it’s easier to wander around attractions and taking in the city’s myriad beautiful parks.

Related: 5 haunted (and free!) haunted New York City spots

6. It’s a festive time of year

Between pumpkins, technicolor leaves and all things apple, fall has a cozy yet vibrant feeling that is hard to beat. And everything from Central Park to the Union Square farmer’s market catches the fever.

Finding cheap hotels in New York City

Ready to visit New York? Browse all of our budget hotel picks to find the perfect place to stay and check out all of our NYC articles for more advice on finding a hotel.

What’s your favorite part of visiting New York in the fall? Tell us in the comments below!

The post 6 Cheapo reasons for visiting New York in the fall appeared first on EuroCheapo's Budget Travel Blog.

Source: Euro Cheapo

The Truth About Lounge Access

An airport lounge sounds like an oasis, a sanctuary from the insanity of the crowds where you can relax, catch up on email, and enjoy a drink or a snack. Some are even better: Most of the business and first-class lounges operated by international airlines have elaborate, restaurant-style dining. The American Express Centurion lounges offer open bars, full buffets with dishes created by local chefs, and spas in some locations.

All of this is great, provided you live in a city where your home airport is populated by lounges, or if you travel regularly and the hubs of your favorite airline have lounges you can use. Otherwise, the value of a lounge membership can be negligible.

Here’s a look at the major lounge networks, along with credit cards that give members the most useful access:

Priority Pass

Founded in 1992, this is the granddaddy of lounge networks. It currently includes over 1,200 airport locations in more than 500 cities, but beware: only 85 of those locations are in the U.S. and even that total probably includes airport restaurants where you can use your membership. Take a hard look at how useful the network may be before signing up.

Priority Pass has different membership levels. The Standard version is $99 annually; each visit costs $32 for members and guests. Standard Plus ($299) gives the member ten free visits, but guests are still charged $32. The Prestige level ($429) allows the member unlimited visits during the year, but again charges for guests. There is a fourth level, Priority Pass Select, which comes as a benefit with certain credit cards. Select generally gives the member free access and levies a fee for guests.

Some Priority Pass lounges are upscale, while others charge for drinks and provide nothing but cheese and crackers in the way of sustenance. Most of them reserve the right to turn away members during peak hours if the lounge is overcrowded. Make sure you study the list—and do the math—before you commit yourself.

Credit Cards: The following cards include a Priority Pass membership: Chase Sapphire Reserve ($450 annual fee); Citi Prestige ($495); CNB Crystal Visa Infinite ($400); American Express Platinum ($550 personal, $595 business); American Express Hilton Aspire ($450); American Express Bonvoy Brilliant ($450). The American Express Ascend ($95) and U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve ($400) also offer a limited version.

When it makes sense: When you don’t fly often and live near an airport with a Priority Pass lounge.

Airline Clubs

The major U.S. airlines have their own proprietary lounge networks. If you travel frequently and concentrate your flying with a single airline, this may be a good option for you.

  • American Admirals Club ($450 annually, $50 initiation fee, up to $100 discount with elite status): more than 50 Admirals Clubs and 60 partner lounges.
  • Delta Sky Club ($545 or 54,500 miles for individual membership plus $29 per guest; $845 or 84,500 miles for Executive Membership with two free guests): more than 50 locations.
  • United Club ($650 or 85,000 miles); more than 45 locations plus Copa Club lounges and participating Star Alliance airport clubs.
  • Alaska Airlines Board Room (starting August 30, prices range from $300-450 depending on airline status); more than 95 lounges including Alaska, American Qantas and others. Admirals Club member also have access to Alaska lounges.

When it makes sense: When you’re a frequent flyer with loyalty to one airline.

American Express Centurion Lounges

The Centurion Lounges are the crown jewel in the American Express Global Lounge Collection, which also includes access to Delta and Lufthansa lounges (when ticketed and traveling the same day), Priority Pass, and lounges in the Escape, Airspace and Plaza Premium networks. While they vary in size and format, Centurion lounges feature an open bar with craft cocktails designed by star mixologists, and a buffet with dishes create by a famous local chef; some locations have showers and spas.

Currently, Centurion Lounges are located in Dallas (DFW), Hong Kong (HKG), Houston (IAH), Las Vegas (LAS), New York (LGA), Philadelphia (PHL), Miami (MIA), Seattle (SEA) and San Francisco (SFO). Lounges are under construction or planned for Denver (DEN) New York (JFK), Los Angeles (LAX), London Heathrow (LHR), Charlotte (CLT) and Phoenix (PHX).

The quality and popularity of these lounges has created overcrowding issues, and American Express has instituted some restrictions. Members are now allowed in within three hours of their departing flights (arriving passengers are not admitted, unless they have onward connections). Two guests are complimentary, and members must purchase a day pass ($50) for each additional guest.

Credit Cards: Anyone with a Platinum ($550-$595 annual fee) or Centurion Card ($2,500 each year plus an initiation fee of $5,000).

When it makes sense: Only if you have one of these cards already and use the other benefits they offer.

Is membership in an airport lounge network a good option for you? Probably not, unless you meet the conditions outlined above. If you’re a frequent traveler, on the other hand, you likely already have a credit card that gives you lounge access—if not, that benefit doesn’t warrant an investment of $450 or more. Remember that Priority Pass is only useful if you do a lot of international flying. Many lounges will allow you to purchase a day pass, which gives you all the temporary rewards without the financial commitment of membership.


[Image: Shutterstock]

Source: frugal travel guy