Imagine this: you’re about to take a 17 hour flight across the world, and you’re too cheap to splurge on anything more than an economy class seat. Not to fret, there’s still a way to experience a life of luxury before the flight – airport lounges.
Almost every bank in Singapore offers at least one credit card with airport lounge access perks, so you can kick back, relax and rest up for your epic holiday. Think cushy seats, free food, free booze, fast Wi-Fi and even shower facilities.
Believe it or not, regular plebs like us can get access to these havens. All you need is the right credit card with airport lounge access benefits.
Best credit cards for airport lounge access 2020
Here are the best credit cards in Singapore that can get you free airport lounge access around the world. However, it’s a diverse bunch and each card is slightly different in its terms and benefits which I’ll talk about later.
|Credit card||Airport lounge benefits|
|UOB JCB Card||2 free visits to lounges in China, Korea, Thailand, Taiwan, UK, Malaysia, Germany + unlimited access in Japan, Hawaii|
|DBS Altitude Card||2 free visits to Priority Pass lounges|
|Citibank PremierMiles Card||2 free visits to Priority Pass lounges|
|Amex KrisFlyer Ascend||4 free visits to SATS Premier lounges in Singapore + Plaza Premium lounges worldwide|
|ICBC UnionPay / Global Travel Mastercard||6 free visits to DragonPass airport lounges worldwide (mostly in China)|
|Maybank Horizon Card||1 visit to Ambassador Transit Lounge in Singapore + Plaza Premium lounges in Singapore, KL, HK*|
* Requires minimum spend of $1,000 in one retail transaction within the past 3 months.
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UOB JCB Card
With Japan as one of Singapore’s top travel destinations of all time, we’re kick-starting this list with the UOB JCB Card, which is especially useful for those who love visiting the country.
Cardholders are entitled to UNLIMITED free entry into airport lounges in 32 Japanese airports including Narita International Airport, Haneda Airport and Kansai International Airport. Airport lounge access is also free and unlimited in Hawaii. But it’s limited to 2 free visits for lounges in China, Korea, Taiwan, Germany, UK, Kuala Lumpur and Thailand.
Do note, however, that although the global JCB website states that there are 2 visits into the lounges in Singapore Changi Airport, it is not applicable to JCB cards issued in Singapore.
As JCB is widely accepted in Japan, it’s a useful all-round travel card to use if you like to travel there. You can also get free Wi-Fi when you travel and discounts on Japan travel passes and attractions.
For an entry-level credit card with such a low annual fee – and there’s even a first-year fee waiver – the UOB JCB Card airport lounge perks are really generous. Just be aware that it only covers a handful of countries.
Click through to apply for the UOB JCB Card.
DBS Altitude Visa Signature Card
Since the UOB JCB Card doesn’t cover too many countries, you can supplement it with the DBS Altitude which is also an entry-level credit card with a first-year fee waiver.
The DBS Altitude card gets you free membership to the Priority Pass programme. You get 2 complimentary passes for use during the 12-month membership period. Do note that you will need to apply for the Priority Pass membership online, and it will take around 2 to 3 weeks to process. So if you’re planning to use this perk, make sure you plan for it early.
Priority Pass is a huge global lounge programme with 1,000 lounges in hundreds of cities worldwide. The great thing about this is you can share your free passes with an accompanying guest if you want – so you and your travel buddy can both use the lounge together. Subsequent visits cost US$27 per entry.
Should you choose to keep this card after the first year, there’s an annual fee of $192.10. If you pay the fee you can get a bonus of 10,000 miles.
Citi PremierMiles Visa Card
Like the DBS Altitude Visa Signature Card, the Citi PremierMiles card also gets you a free Priority Pass membership along with 2 free passes. The same Priority Pass usage rules apply.
Both Citibank and DBS’s miles cards are very similar, right down to the earn rates. If you’re trying to decide between the 2, it might very well come down to the strength of their card promotions or your loyalty to the bank. You can read more about them in this list of best air miles cards in Singapore.
American Express KrisFlyer Ascend Card
American Express’s flagship air miles credit card is co-branded with Singapore Airlines and is squarely aimed at hardcore fans of the brand. It requires an annual income of $50,000.
Amex partners the very cushy SATS Premier Lounge at Changi Airport. Outside of Singapore, you also get access to Plaza Premium Lounges (smaller network than Priority Pass, found in fewer countries including China, India, Canada, Hong Kong and Malaysia).
You do get 4 free passes each year which is twice that of Citibank of DBS. However, note that you can only get the passes IF you pay the hefty annual fee of $337.05 on this credit card. Another downside is that you can’t use them on your travel companion. Considering the limited number of lounges, it seems like an unbalanced trade-off.
While Amex KrisFlyer Ascend’s travel perks and mile accrual rates don’t top the list, it does nonetheless offer an impressive welcome bonus if you’re planning for big expenses in the next 3 months.
ICBC UnionPay Dual Currency Platinum Card / ICBC Global Travel MasterCard
Those who frequently fly to Mainland China might already have one of these credit cards from ICBC. But in case you don’t, consider getting either of these cards for VIP airport lounge access – both are entry-level cards with a minimum income of $30,000 and the annual fee is waived for 3 years.
With either card, you get free access to DragonPass VIP lounges in airports and high-speed railway stations not only in China, but globally. Check the list of lounges to see if it’s present in your destination.
How it works: When you sign up for an ICBC card and register on DragonPass, you’ll get 6 DragonPass points in your account. You get 6 Dragonpass points for each card registered. These points can be used to enter DragonPass airport lounges, “paying” 1 point per person per entry. VIP lounges at high-speed railway stations cost 0.5 points each. You can bring in guests; the points are simply deducted from your DragonPass point balance. DragonPass lounges also include Plaza Premium & SATS Premier Lounge in various countries outside of China.
The promo expires on 31 Dec 2020, so make sure you use them up this year. More details on ICBC x DragonPass here.
Maybank Horizon Visa Signature Card
If you’ve exhausted all the other options, you can turn to Maybank’s air miles credit card. Unlike most of the other cards on this list, you CAN simply flash your credit card to get into the lounge (there are only a few participating lounges though, in Singapore, KL and Hong Kong).
The drawback is that it’s capped at 1 free visit, AND you have to charge a minimum of $1,000 in a single retail transaction on the card in the past 3 months.
On the other hand, having this card is practically free as the annual fee is waived for 3 years(!).
Can I just flash my credit card to get lounge access?
No. Unless you have the Maybank Horizon card, please don’t make the mistake of whipping out your credit card – you’ll just get laughed out of the lounge.
So how does it work? Credit cards partner with airport lounge access programmes, each of which has its own chain of participating lounges across the globe. The most popular ones are Priority Pass, Plaza Premium, and Dragon Pass. Priority Pass is by far the most prolific chain, with over 1,000 lounges worldwide. Dragon Pass has 900+ lounges, while Plaza Premium has about 80.
Do note that some Plaza Premium lounges are included in the DragonPass lounge program.
In order to get in, you usually have to sign up for membership after you get the card (though some banks will apply for you). Membership is usually on an annual basis. Note that it might take a few weeks to process your membership so don’t register the night before you fly off!
Have you been to any of the airport lounges mentioned in this article? Give us your feedback!