Airport lounge access for £50 per year via Diners Club, the card that time forgot

(EDIT:  Diners Club removed this offer in October 2013, see http://www.headforpoints.com/2013/10/03/diners-club-stops-free-airport-lounge-access-for-cardholders/)

Reader Neil recently reminded me of the existence of Diners Club, the charge card that time forgot.

Most of you will probably have never ever seen a Diners Club card.  In London, you are more likely to find a shop accepting China UnionPay cards than Diners Club.

Diners Club was the first real ‘travel and entertainment’ focussed charge card, well before American Express chose to focus on this market.  Well before credit cards were first available, the charge cards issued by Diners Club and Amex were the only way to pay for items on plastic.  In recent years ownership has passed from Citi to Discover Financial Services, although the UK operation is a franchise, independently owned by Affiniture Cards since 2012.

Diners Club

Diners Club in the UK does still operate a loyalty scheme, with some decent partners.  However, the earnings rate is very poor.

You earn 1 point for every £5 spent on your card.  These transfer to:

Oddly, the website also lists Swiss Travel Club as a partner, which has not existed for a long time!

These exchange are roughly 50% as good as you would get from holding an Amex card or a dedicated credit card from one of these programmes.  I would say that the AA, IHG and Starwood options are the best of the bunch, with the Hilton transfer rate looking particularly poor following the devaluation of the programme this year.

However, there is one benefit of membership which looks interesting.

You get access to 400 airport lounges, in what looks like a cut-down version of the Priority Pass programme.  These include the No 1 Traveller lounges at both Gatwick terminals.  You receive free entry as the cardholder, with a charge for guests.

If you travel solo, this may work out as a cheap way of getting lounge access.  For comparison, if you paid to join Priority Pass (which has a bigger network globally but not in the UK) you would pay £259 for unlimited lounge access (or £159 for 10 free visits and then £15 per visit).

A Diners Club personal card has a fee of just £50 per year.  This could be a cheap way of getting airport lounge access for yourself.  You would pay £15 per guest, but if you travelled with a guest a lot then they could get their own card as well.  (It is not clear is Diners Club supplementary cardholders get lounge access for free.)  Some of the other Diners Club franchises around Europe have started to add an annual ‘minimum spend’ to the card to retain the lounge access perk, but for now it is available without restriction in the UK and Ireland.

As with Priority Pass, the lack of a lounge in Heathrow Terminal 5 is a problem.  All the other terminals are covered, though, as are most UK regional airports.  For this reason – and only this reason – Diner Club may be worth a look.

(To see our complete list of all current credit card bonuses, click here to visit our ‘Credit Cards Update’ page or use the link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

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Comments

  1. I was given one of these in my first job during my gap year at a big computer company when I was 18. I remember using a lounge for the first time while flying on a ridiculously cheap flight on LH to Florence that I bought on Priceline when it first started. I was completely awed by the whole experience as all I had was this silly card I could never use for anything, except brilliant airport time. I could even take a guest for free all those years ago.
    The lack of places taking Diners still seems to be the case but it is a very good little perk!

    This card may be one of the reasons I can now count myself as an avgeek!

  2. This brought back memories. I had a diners card late 80’s early 90’s when it was a bit more usable and offered lounge access for free then. Used lounges in Dusseldorf, Glasgow and Heathrow to name just a few!
    Priority club is of course better but too many of their lounges make up the rules as they go along and some are simply decrepit.
    There is urgent need to have a priority club type lounge in T5 to offer some competition to BA.

  3. Great spot this. £50 yearly access to the lounges at Malta airport and beyond!

    I think I can answer your question re lounge access for supplementary card holders too: on the application form it says the following “I would like you to issue a Supplementary Diners Club Card (and any renewal or replacement Cards) to the individual named below. I understand that Supplementary Cardholders are entitled to all the benefits of Diners Club Membership”.

    So that would very much suggest that the additional £19 gets you full lounge access for the supplementary card holder.

    • I have used this card for a while now and yes, the supplementary card holder also get acces even if he/she travels alone.

      It’s actually a great deal and so far there has been an included lounge at every airport i have used (well except T5 of course).

      Well recomended.

  4. Priority Pass – no LHR T4 lounge

    • Are no1 opening one at t2 when it opens?

      • We don’t know yet. I have seen floorplans for T2 but it doesn’t say what each area is for, let alone who will occupy it. Because of the number of airlines using it, there will presumably be some third party lounge and they usually link with Priority Pass.

        • The plans I have seen is for ONE *A lounge in T2a. No more. Also apparently been designed to NOT have enough capacity for the number of flights, forcing people to stay in the shopping centre…

          Personally I can’t see this lasting long before another one is built.

  5. LIke others, I have memories of DC which was my first charge card. My boss at the time referred me and we split the case of wine he earned.

    At the time, I was travelling regularly to TXL and the Hugo Junckers lounge there was very useful, especially recovering from a few days in the former GDR.

    I see the potential minimum spend as likely – how can they pay for lounge access from subscriptions alone, and I wouldn’t be spending too much with such poor redemption possibilities.

    When I was thinking about applying, another obstacle was the lack of online application, so I didn’t. I have a packaged bank account now with PP lounge access should I need it, though I haven’t yet, but can see that this is an interesting option for those without lounge access.

  6. Our company has Diners as corporate charge cards for travel. Fortunately – Im a US expat based in London so I get the US version of Diners! This card is MasterCard branded so it can be used nearly everywhere. On top of that, Diners Club Rewards for US customers is fantastic. 1 pt for every $1 spent with 1:1 redemption options on BA, AA, AeroPlan, Hawaii, Thai, Alaska, Delta, Korean, SAS, South African, & Virgin Atlantic. Also have all hotel brands (HHonors, Marriott, Hyatt, SPG, IHG, etc.) but not at 1:1.

    I’ve spent ~$75k on my card this year for business travel – which have been converted to 75k avios! They run promotions on miles conversions, usually 30% nowadays, and BA had one earlier this summer.

    If you have any US credit, you might still be able to get a personal card, but can’t confirm this.

  7. Billy Keegan says:

    I have had a DC card since 1983 in its day it was great now really only any good for lounge access.

  8. The good old days!! Diners Club was my first credit card (together with a VISA issued by Banco Santander – before their merger with Banco Central Hispano)…

    In those days, when Lufthansa upgraded me to first (!!!) on a flight from FRA to LHR, I got hooked forever.

  9. I see the Diners Card gives access to the DXB First Class Lounge, anyone ever successfully gained access using the card? It’s only the DCA Business Class Lounge which you can get entry into with Priority Pass (and Marhaba Lounges), so I’m wondering if it’s an error.

  10. David Butcher says:

    In the days before Barclaycard and Access (remember them?) there was a tie up between Diners Club in the UK and either Nat West or the old Westminster Bank because I recall my Dad who was a bank manager with Westminster and then Nat West showing me this revolutionary piece of plastic – I think they had given all their managers a Diners Card to encourage them to show them off by using them in front of customers – I guess the bank got some commission for any referrals.

    I can’t recall my Dad ever making much use of it, but there were certainly a lot more Diners Club establishments around in those days.

    My only other connection is that when I was working in London in the 70s I actually applied for a job with Diners Club who at that time were at 214 Oxford Street if I recall correctly. I didn’t get the job – I’m sure if they had taken me on, their fortunes would have been very different!!!!!!

  11. Well this is quite interesting – I can’t quite justify the cost of PP, but £50 would be worth it for the amount of times I fly over and back to Ireland from LGW on Aer Lingus (where my BA Silver doesn’t work, and my Gold Circle has now expired).

    And how fabulously retro – you have to fill in a paper application form and post it off….the good old days indeed!

  12. Does anyone see what the criteria for acceptance is for this?

    • They accepted me with no trouble, own my own home, £80k household income, Emirates Blue status – you do have to send off a paper application, and it took about two weeks to get the card and PIN.

  13. Priority Pass doesn’t have lounge access at T4 either, so it’s only 1 and 3…..not that anyone really uses T4 these days 😉

    • Sir Stamford says:

      I know the comment is said tongue in cheek but on a more serious note, 9.8m passengers from the following airlines (not a full list) were using T4.

      Aeroflot
      Air Algerie
      Air Astana
      Air France
      Air India
      Air Malta
      Air Mauritius
      Air Transat
      Alitalia
      Arik Air
      Azerbaijan Airlines
      Biman Bangladesh
      Bulgaria Air
      China Eastern Airlines
      China Southern
      Delta
      Etihad
      Gulf Air
      JAT Airways
      Jet Airways
      Kenya Airways
      KLM
      Korean Air
      Kuwait Airways
      Malaysia Airlines
      Qatar Airways
      Royal Air Maroc
      Royal Brunei Airlines
      Saudia
      Sri Lankan Airlines
      Tarom
      Tunisair
      United Airlines
      Uzbekistan Airways

      Sir Stamford

  14. Qatar are in T4 – new one world partner. Plus etihad as well.

  15. Hi

    I have had a diners card for about 18 months
    (Solely for the lounge access and I have never actually used it).

    The physical card was replaced when the Citibank ownership ended

    I am sure that I have never paid an annual fee for this card ?

    Does the above post suggest a fee is looming ?

    Mark

    • There is a fee, £50 pa for the card.

      No fee for lounges, but some countries – not UK – impose a minimum annual card spend to retain lounge access. That is what could possibly change.

  16. I’m curious if the additional cardholder also gets free lounge access as well.