One of my favorite credit cards is the Citi Prestige. The card has some decent points-earning categories (3x hotel and air, 2x dining), but it really shines for the benefits it provides. One of the benefits is a Priority Pass Select membership. Priority Pass is the largest independent operator of airport lounges in the world. They have over 900 lounges and this membership gets me (and guests) into them all! Priority Pass sells memberships itself, but many financial institutions offer Priority Pass Select membership. As far as I can tell, the “Select” piece means that the membership was issued by a financial institution and not Priority Pass itself.
Most airports are chaos inside and getting into a lounge is a way to escape until it is time to board your flight. So far I have used the benefit 4 times: once in Tahiti, Helsinki, Malta, and Athens. On each occasion, having access to a lounge was amazing. In Tahiti it was nice to escape the boiling hot terminal that was crowded with people; in Helsinki we had a few hours to kill and wanted somewhere quiet to blog; in Malta we were short on time and it gave us a free breakfast…you get the point. It is always nicer to wait in a lounge than to wait in the terminal. These are the two biggest benefits of having lounge access.
- Peace and quiet from the terminal
- Free wifi
- Free food and drink (especially when traveling for a year!)
None of these lounges have been mind blowing like the Turkish Airlines business class lounge, but they have all served their purpose very well. The Citi Prestige card either has a $450 or $350 annual fee every year and I view this particular benefit as being worth at least $100 of that annual fee (but probably a lot more).
Mistake & Lesson
After I signed up for the Prestige card, I received two different Priority Pass membership cards in the mail within the same week. I figured that a mistake must have been made and 2 accounts were created for me. I was correct in that I had two accounts created for me. Last year I randomly took one of the two cards with me to our trip to French Polynesia and had no issues using the card to escape the Tahitian heat before our flight boarded.
This trip, I did the same thing and randomly took one of the cards with me on our trip. I quickly realized I was incorrect in assuming that both of my membership cards/numbers were created as a result of my Citi Prestige card. What I did not know was that the American Express Hilton Surpass card also comes with a Priority Pass Select membership, a benefit I had no idea even existed! Recently I had upgraded my no-fee American Express Hilton card to the Surpass card to net 50,000 points, which caused this Priority Pass Select membership to be created.
Not all Priority Pass Select memberships are created equally. The one from my Citi Prestige card offers me and up to two guests free access to lounges. The one from the American Express Surpass card charges $27 per person including the card holder! I used the incorrect American Express one 3 times on our around the world trip before a charge showed up in my American Express account for $54 (for the first visit). Ouch! I know I have 2 more of these charges coming from the other 2 lounge visits. It was just bad luck that these events happened around the same time, causing my membership cards to arrive around the same time. It was also bad luck that I randomly took the right membership card to Tahiti with me. If I took the wrong one then, it would have “only” been a $54 mistake, whereas this will turn out to be a $162 mistake.
I contacted Priority Pass to see if they could transfer my 3 visits using my American Express Priority Pass Select account to my Citi Priority Pass account. They responded that they are unable to transfer visits between accounts, so it looks like I lost this money. I hope no one has to make this mistake again. If you have multiple Priority Pass Select memberships, make sure you use the right one!