How to Maximize Your Priority Pass Select Membership

Airport layovers can be a real treat when they're spent in an exclusive club, noshing on tasty snacks, sipping wine and reclining in a comfy armchair - all without paying a dime.

For avid travelers, that's why getting a premium credit card with a Priority Pass Select membership is so valuable. This membership, included on many credit cards with annual fees of $400 or more, can get you through the door at more than 1,000 airport lounges worldwide at no charge.

Used strategically, the perks you get with it can far surpass the cost of that high annual fee. Here's how you can make the most of it.

Nerd tip

Priority Pass Select is a type of membership some credit cards offer through the airport lounge network Priority Pass. The network also offers paid memberships, which come with slightly different benefits. In this article, "Priority Pass" refers to the network of airport lounges, while "Priority Pass Select" refers to the set of airport lounge benefits that come with your credit card.

Enroll in the program ASAP

With many premium cards, you aren't automatically enrolled as a Priority Pass Select member the moment you're approved. Instead, you have to activate your benefits separately and wait for your membership card - which is separate from your credit card - to arrive in the mail. Do this as soon as possible, so you can start maximizing those benefits sooner.

Enrolling is generally a simple process. With the Chase Sapphire Reserve℠ , for example, just navigate to your "Card Benefits" page and click "Activate" under the section marked "Airport Lounge Access." Or if you have The Platinum Card® from American Express , log on to your account on AmEx's Priority Pass page and check the box to confirm your enrollment. Having trouble? Call the number on the back of your card for help.

» MORE:So you've got airport lounge access? You sure?

Get your digital membership card

At some point, you may leave your Priority Pass Select membership card at home while traveling. Or maybe it is just misplaced. At times like these, having a digital membership card - that is, a card with your membership information that's saved to your smartphone - can be a godsend.

If your credit card gives you the option of adding a digital membership card, get it by downloading the Priority Pass app through Google Play or the Apple App Store. Today, digital membership cards are accepted by most Priority Pass lounges.

Scope out potential lounges

Priority Pass has plenty of lounges - over 1,000 internationally - but as of this time, only 60 locations are in the U.S. That means you might not be able to count on a lounge visit at every airport. So plan ahead. Find out whether the airports you're flying to and from offer Priority Pass lounges. Before arriving, consider these factors:

  • Cost of bringing kids: Many lounges allow you to bring your kids along for free, if they're under a certain age
  • Hours: Make sure the lounge will be open while you're at the airport
  • Food and drinks: Check the amenities available on the Priority Pass website before visiting

Next, plan your layovers strategically.

For example, suppose you could choose between two equally priced flights, and one had a layover in Oregon's Portland International Airport (PDX), while the other had a layover in Utah's Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC). If you chose the PDX layover, you would have access to a lounge and three places to use food or drink credits. SLC, meanwhile, doesn't have Priority Pass lounges.

Show up early

The key to maximizing any airport lounge experience is simple: Arrive early.

That gives you plenty of time to relax and take advantage of the lounge's amenities, which can go far beyond food and drinks. In one St. Paul, Minnesota, lounge , you can test out the indoor putting green. In a Dubai lounge , you can nap in a sleep pod while your phone charges. And in a London lounge , you can get a massage or manicure before your flight - though you'll have to pay for those services separately.

Just keep in mind that some of these lounges limit how much time visitors can spend there, ranging from one to four hours. If you can spend only two hours at a lounge, don't show up six hours before your flight.

Use credits at restaurants and bars

Here's a little-known perk of the Priority Pass program: Aside from lounge access, you can also score free meals and drinks at select restaurants and bars in airports. Here are the U.S.-based places that offer a food-and-drink credit of about $28 to $30 per Priority Pass Select member. (Note: Some of these options limit you to just one guest for this perk, regardless of your card's terms, so call to see what limits may apply.)

Timberline Steaks & Grille: Denver International Airport, Denver

Kentucky Ale Taproom: Blue Grass Airport, Lexington, Kentucky

Corona Beach House: Miami International Airport, Miami

Bobby Van's Steakhouse: John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York

Capers Market: Portland International Airport, Portland, Oregon

Capers Cafe Le Bar: Portland International Airport, Portland, Oregon

House Spirits Distillery: Portland International Airport, Portland, Oregon

The Pasta House: St. Louis Lambert International Airport, St. Louis

The Pasta House & Schlafly Beer: St. Louis Lambert International Airport, St. Louis

To take advantage of the credits, visit these locations and let the server or cashier know before ordering that you'll be paying with your Priority Pass Select membership. Keep in mind that you might not be able to use credits for certain items - like to-go meals, in some cases - and that you can't use the credit as a gratuity.

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Claire Tsosie is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: Twitter: @ideclaire7.

The article How to Maximize Your Priority Pass Select Membership originally appeared on NerdWallet.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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