How to Get into Airline Club Lounges without Becoming a Member
How to Get into Airline Club Lounges without Becoming a Member

I arrived to New York’s dismal LGA Airport an hour before boarding but instead of mulling around the gates I remembered I just got an American Express Platinum card. Even though it has a hefty $450 a year fee it’s a great deal for frequent fliers. First of all, it gets me into more than 600 airport lounges worldwide—including Delta’s. A membership alone to would cost that much.

The card also gives me a $200 airline fee credit towards incidental fees such as checked bags, in-flight drinks, and change fees (I will use it for the latter since I don’t check bags or drink booze). I also love the fact there’s no international transaction fees and when staying at some luxury hotels it can get me a room upgrade, free breakfast and a guaranteed 4 pm late check-out.

As an added bonus for those who don’t yet have Global Entry (not sure what you are waiting for since it’s the best thing to happen to international travel – see my post), the Platinum card will reimburse you for your Global Entry enrollment fee which is $100.

For more: Credit card offers from our partners

Delta Sky Club
I went to Delta’s Sky Club, showed the receptionist my AMEX Platinum card, ticket and ID and I was in. They offered free Wi-Fi, computers, food (mostly snacks like bagels, muffins, yogurt, trail mix, fruit, and oatmeal), drinks (including alcohol), comfortable seats, and clean bathrooms.

Delta’s Overpriced Miles
I then hopped on a 1-hour and 20-minute flight to Detroit (one of my favorite airports in America) and then a 28-minute flight to Erie, Pennsylvania so I could visit my dad and family. Since I didn’t know when my nephew Theiss was going to be born I waited to buy my one-way ticket which is a big no-no if you want to save money. I thought I would use my miles but Delta’s are seriously an absolute joke to cash in. Delta doesn’t give half price for one-way tickets like most of their competitors and I think they stopped offering domestic tickets for 25,000 miles. Every time I look to use them it’s 40,000 miles for a roundtrip or one-way. It’s a joke, right? I could’ve used United miles on them or their Star Alliance partner US Airways but I didn’t feel like flying a small prop plane in the middle of the day since I knew there would be delays with the high temps.

AMEX Rewards
I ended up using 29,100 American Express Membership Rewards. What’s nice about them is there are no blackout dates and you still earn miles for your tickets. To use your AMEX points you can log on to their website, call their 800 number or have your travel agent book the tickets. Since I was in a hurry I just called my travel agent (John Dekker 1-714-894-4774) and had him book it for me. He charges $35 per transaction so book all your travel in one shot.

If you aren’t familiar with American Express Membership Rewards they charge 100 points to every $1 and because my last minute ticket cost $291 it was 29,100 points.

Full Disclosure: American Express gave me 250,000 (equivalent to $2,500) this summer to fly my dad to Europe but since he declined my offer I’m now using them to visit him and some other trips (you will just have to wait to find out).

FYI: Not all American Express cards have a yearly fee. I chose the Platinum card because of all the benefits but the American Express Blue Card has no annual fee and receives Membership Rewards.

So there you have it. Please let me know if you found this information helpful or not in the comment section below.

25 Comments On "How to Get into Airline Club Lounges Without Becoming a Member"
  1. Al (@Elbie_Nickel)|

    I forgot all about the incidental fees – how do you get credit for them for luggage or drinks?

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Hi Al,

      You can receive up to $200 in statement credits annually for airline incidental fees
      (In other words, when you use your Platinum Card, it’s credited back to your account).

  2. Mike|

    Agree 100% with your comments on value of Plinum AMEX card inspite of its yearly dues. Between the club access and the $200 incidental credit, it can pay for itself in no time for a frequent flyer.

    Agree with you on Delta. American and United programs offer more milage options.

  3. Cameron Clark (@cameroneclark)|

    They automatically credit your card when you purchase baggage fees. (You have to choose ONE airline) but you can change it anytime. Delta Crown room recently rejected me in Atlanta because I was flying US AIR vs. Delta — little know fact — if you are trying to get into a Delta Crown room, they can ask to see your boarding pass and reject you if they feel like it if you are flying another airline. LAME! I ADORE my AMEX Platinum card. If you fly an airline that charges for baggage and you are currently a GOLD member, upgrade — it will pay for itself in just a few trips.

  4. Vlad Iuga|

    Was the taxi’s $31 worth over the $2.25 for that 30 minutes? :)

  5. Alisa Clairet|

    I have a platinum Delta Sky Miles American Express card and you have to pay a $25 in order to get into the Delta lounge. You don’t get $200 credit back on inflight charges and baggage fees, only 20%. What is the difference?

    1. Johnny Jet|

      On the Amex website you can compare cards side-by-side. Here is the comparison of Platinum Card vs. Platinum Delta SkyMiles Card,137&eep=25330

  6. Pia|

    Any other tips besides AMEX card

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Most lounges will let you buy a day pass. Usually around $50pp

  7. Don Nadeau|

    Great advice.

    Admittedly finding 25,000 Delta award tickets in peak season can be hard.

    Nevertheless, the process is like finding any truly discounted fare in peak season. It’s best not to have specific dates in mind and also best, if you can, not to have a specific destination in mind.

    Think of it as being in the produce department of a supermarket. If the spinach looks fresher than the broccoli and is better priced, buy it instead, as long as you like spinach, of course! As an example, when the U.S. first required passports to return from Canada, you could grab 25,000 Skymiles tickets into Vancouver on nearly any summer day. Seattle was a totally different story.

    I appreciate that you gave a “full disclosure.” Not every travel writer does this.

  8. Rob|

    We are flying on BA from Amstersam to London. We fly into City airport, which I assume is Gatwick. Later the same day we fly from Heathrow to San Diego. We need transport between the two airports – any suggestion? Thanks.


    1. Johnny Jet|

      City Airport is London City not Gatwick (I’m pretty sure). I would take the tube(s)/train between airports or hire a taxi or a car service. The latter won’t be cheap but I’ve used

    2. Jo @ Indiana Jo|

      I’m a London girl and Johnny’s right, City Airport is not Gatwick. It’s located in East London. You can do the journey by Tube taking the DLR (Docklands Light Railway) from City Airport to Bank. Although called the DLR, it is still part of the Tube network. Change Tube at Bank and head to Paddington. From there you can take the Heathrow Express out to Heathrow. If money is tight, you can take the Tube all the way out to Heathrow but give yourself at least 1.5hrs from City Airport. These links will help: and

      1. Johnny Jet|

        Thanks for the great advice!

  9. Anonymous|

    You need to be flying on American to get into the lounge using AMEX platinum

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Without a doubt

  10. Anonymous|

    Why is Detroit one of your favorite airports?

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Favorite U.S. airport — not in the world. Beautiful, clean, not too big, lot’s of restaurants …

  11. Hal|

    Read this with interest regarding LaGuardia since just two weeks ago I made the mistake of ignoring your advice elsewhere in another one of your blogs about avoiding those shuttle people NY Airporter and booked them r/t, resulting in a very chaotic and slow in-out journey between Manhattan and the airport. Then on the departing leg there was something called Tropical Storm Andrea which had me trapped in that nasty concourse at LGA belonging to certain budget carriers, no free wi-fi of course, and definitely an example of needing a club lounge to stay connected and refreshed. Having said which, I think the underlying factor to always weigh with annual card fees is the value you derive based on the frequency of travel and travel situations. Sometimes it’s there, sometimes it’s not.

  12. Rosemary|

    Info that I didn’t know: If you have any free annual passes to an Airline Club that have expired … you can still use them for 1/2 the typical cost. For instance, I use United Club. I had an expired “free entrance” card (and unused!), but I paid $25 to use the Club, not $50. Still a value.

  13. Kj|

    You can usually buy American Ambassodor Club passes ans well as United club passes on EBAY – for about $25 each…..just saying!

  14. Anonymous|

    JJ – One REALLY big thing not mentioned regarding AMEX Platinum is their Business/First class 2-4-1 fares. One buys the business class ticket and their companion travels for taxes only. We take one leisure international trip a year and that alone is worth the price of the card. The other reason we have it is MediVac. If you have ANY kind of health issues and need to be airlifted in case of emergency – you’re covered – it’s the best insurance out there. PERIOD. Check it out. ~ Charlene

  15. Anonymous|

    Delta’s overpriced miles? Have you ever tried to redeem American Airlines ones. Ugh!!!

    1. Johnny Jet|

      I use my AA miles all the time — including an hour ago when I flew YYZ-LGA. Bought the ticket 90 minutes before the flight for 12,500 miles and taxes ($57)

  16. steve|

    The best value redeeming Delta Miles is ordering the Wall St Journal every year for just a few thousand miles…

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