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For our 2017 staff holiday party, we had a very TPG-appropriate twist on the classic white elephant gift exchange. Mixed in with your standard kitschy presents (surfer Santa doll, anyone?) were some real travel gems.

While the jackpot item of $2,000 toward flights booked through Amex Travel was quickly swiped away from me (so rude that my coworkers wouldn’t just let me leave once I unwrapped this gift), I still ended up with a pretty sweet present: my choice of Delta Silver Medallion status or Delta SkyClub membership for a year. Oh, and also a Drake coloring book and some blow markers.

So I had a decision to make — one that was on the surface pretty easy for me. I almost never fly Delta, as my domestic carrier of choice is JetBlue thanks to my matched Mosaic status and awesome premium Mint seats. As for international travel, I tend to choose Star Alliance airlines such as United and Lufthansa over SkyTeam carriers like Delta. In fact, the only Delta or SkyTeam flight I’ve logged in the last few years was a last-minute family trip to Seattle. So the benefits of Delta Silver status, such as 7 miles per dollar on paid Delta flights, waived baggage fees and eligibility for complimentary upgrades, would be lost on me.

SkyClub membership, meanwhile, was more appealing. I have the Platinum Card from American Express which includes SkyClub access along with Centurion Lounge access and Priority Pass membership, but the card’s policies require you to have a same-day Delta ticket in order to access a SkyClub. Since for better or worse this will pretty much never apply to me, I gave SkyClub membership a closer look.

Purchasing an individual one-year SkyClub membership costs $495 per year. It includes access for the member only, with an entry fee of $29 per person, per visit for up to two guests. In late 2017, we learned that Delta will begin restricting SkyClub access to those with same-day Delta flights in 2019, but since my gifted membership would only be for 2018, I could still enjoy the airline’s lounges even when flying with a different carrier.

The next step was to look at Delta’s network of SkyClub locations to make sure I’d actually be able to access the lounges based on my most frequented airports. My home airport is JFK in New York, where Delta does have two SkyClubs, but neither is in Terminal 5 where JetBlue has its departures. Transferring between terminals just to access a lounge is usually more of a hassle than I’m willing to deal with, so this is pretty much a wash.

However, my other most-frequented domestic airport is San Diego (SAN), which has a SkyClub location in Terminal 2, where my flights depart. There’s also an Airspace Lounge at SAN, which I can access as a Amex Platinum cardholder, and this lounge gives you a credit toward a meal or alcohol as well as free snacks. However, the Sky Club’s location is more convenient for me based on where my flights usually depart. Plus, the SkyClub offers complimentary wine and snacks, so I’ll be set on the food and beverage front there as well.

While our latest Delta elite status valuation pegs the Silver tier at a higher $900, this obviously requires flying with the carrier in order to reap the benefits. Since I almost never fly Delta, I’d be getting virtually zero value from Silver status, while I’m certain to get some value from free drinks at the SkyClub. I have a trip to SAN on the horizon, and I’m looking forward to putting my newfound SkyClub membership to use!

Featured photo of the SkyClub at SEA by Peter Rothbart.

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The Platinum Card® from American Express

The American Express Platinum card has some of the best perks out there: cardholders enjoy the best domestic lounge access (Delta SkyClubs, Centurion Lounges, and Priority Pass), up to a $200 annual airline fee credit as well as up to $200 in Uber credits, and mid-tier elite status at Marriott and Hilton. Combined with the 60,000 point welcome offer -- worth $1,200 based on TPG's valuations -- this card is a no-brainer for frequent travelers. Here are 5 reasons you should consider this card, as well as how you can figure out if the annual fee makes sense for you.

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  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
  • Enjoy Uber VIP status and free rides in the U.S. up to $15 each month, plus a bonus $20 in December. That can be up to $200 in annual Uber savings.
  • 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
  • 5X Membership Rewards points on prepaid hotels booked on
  • Enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
  • Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts. Learn More.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
  • Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. Enrollment required.
  • $550 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
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