Delta SkyClub Access. You can access any of Delta’s SkyClubs as long as you’re traveling on a Delta flight that day. Just note that guests are not included in your access. They will cost $29 each.
The most Medallion Qualifying Miles. The Delta Reserve lets you earn up to 30,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles a year, which will get you closer to Silver, Gold, Platinum, or Diamond Medallion status. And like all Delta MQMs, any that go beyond the status level you earn for this year can roll over to help you qualify for status next year.
First Class Companion ticket. Each year you renew the card you get a voucher that lets you bring a companion along on a domestic trip without having to pay the companion’s airfare. You just pay the taxes and fees. And it’s good for both First Class and Economy Class travel, giving you extra options for value.
$450 annual fee. Getting into SkyClubs isn’t cheap, and the $450 fee covers that. The consolation is the fee is same Delta charges general members for SkyClub membership on its own without all of the card benefits.
There are faster earning options. While there is a boost of 15,000 miles for the first $30,000 you spend and another 15,000 after $60,000 in annual spending, you can still earn SkyMiles more quickly with at least one other card option.
The card earns 1 mile per dollar on most purchases and 2 miles per dollar on Delta purchases, along with a free first checked bag and priority boarding.
The main attractions though are the Delta SkyClub access, Medallion Qualifying Miles, and First Class companion certificate. If you value at least 2 of those benefits a year, then the card can be worth it.
But there are other benefits…
Priority security. This is the only card that lets you use Delta’s SkyPriority security lanes and check-in at the airport, letting you get through more quickly. There are nearly 100 airports where you can take advantage of the benefit. Of course, it also includes priority boarding, though beware that it’s ‘Group 1’ boarding, which in reality is behind First Class and Delta’s most frequent fliers.
Upgrade priority. If you’re already a Delta Medallion member, the card will give you a slight edge on upgrades. You’ll be prioritized ahead of other Medallions in your fare class and Medallion level.
Gifting Medallion Qualifying Miles. If the MQMs you earn from the Delta Reserve are more than you need, you can gift them to a friend or family member, an exclusive benefit of the Delta Reserve Card.
The Delta Reserve Card is a decent choice if you value both SkyClub access and the ability to earn Medallion Qualifying Miles. But there are other options for each of those benefits you may want to consider which cost less:
The Platinum Card from American Express: Lounge Access
If you just want the card for Delta SkyClub access, you’re better off getting The Platinum Card from American Express. The annual fee is the same ($450), but you get access to many more lounges.
That’s because The Platinum Card also lets you use American Express’ new Centurion Lounges, which offer high quality wines, full hot meal options, and an experience like no other airport lounge you’ve seen in the U.S.
They’re currently at the New York – La Guardia, San Francisco, Dallas Fort Worth, and soon Miami and Seattle airports.
In addition, you can request a Priority Pass membership card which gives you access to more than 700 other lounges worldwide. They won’t help you much for basic domestic travel, but they are really useful for international travel.
The Platinum Card also has a $200 annual airline fee credit which can help offset the $450 annual fee, and makes it a really compelling alternative to the Delta Reserve.
The credit can be used for things like inflight purchases, change fees, bag fees, or upgrades. But it can’t be used to cover the cost of plane tickets. Some people have luck buying airline gift certificates online and getting those reimbursed. So it’s not hard to make the card cost only $250 a year out of your pocket, instead of $450.
Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card: Medallion Qualifying Miles
If you want Medallion Miles and don’t want to pay $450 a year consider the $195 a year Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card.
It only earns a maximum of 20,000 MQMs a year, but you have to spend less to get them. Just $25,000 in spending during a calendar year earns you 10,000 MQMs and $50,000 in spending earns you another 10,000 MQMs.
Compare that to the Delta Reserve which earns you 15,000 MQMs after $30,000 in spending and another 15,000 after $60,000 in spending.
So if you’re just borderline on needing MQMs this could be a better deal.
You may want to consider pairing the Platinum Delta SkyMiles credit card with The Platinum Card (confusing, we know) for lounge access.
You’ll probably pay less by holding the Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card at $195 and The Platinum Card at $450, less a $200 airline fee credit. So for $445 you can get all of the benefits of The Platinum Card for broad lounge access and the MQM earning of the Platinum Delta SkyMiles credit card.
And if you’re really into earning MQMs and can spend a lot on your card, you could consider carrying both the Delta Reserve and Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card.
Amex EveryDay Preferred: Faster SkyMiles earning
If you want the fastest route to earning Delta SkyMiles from your ongoing spending, there’s a good chance the Amex EveryDay Preferred will be your best bet.
That’s because it earns a 50% point bonus every billing period you use the card 30 times or more. And it offers 2x points on gas, and 3x on groceries (up to $6,000 in grocery spending a year). So in the months you qualify for the bonus you’ll get 1.5x points on your base spending, 3x on gas, and 4.5x on groceries.
That’s a lot better than the 1 mile per dollar of the Delta Reserve Card.
You could end up earning 1.5 miles per dollar with the Delta Reserve if you spend exactly $30,000 or $60,000 on it each year. That’s because you earn 15,000 miles at each of those thresholds, which works out to about 1.5 miles per dollar in earning.
But you can get the same earning, and even more with the Amex EveryDay for just $95 a year.
Priority boarding. You can board in Zone 1, though be aware that’s not the very first zone to board. It’s actually after First Class and Delta’s most frequent fliers.
First checked bag free. You can save the $25 each way first checked bag fee for you and up to 9 people in the same reservation. Just make sure your reservation has your SkyMiles frequent flyer number listed and the benefit will apply, you don’t need to use the card to purchase the ticket. Only works when your first flight is operated by Delta or Delta Connections (partners like Alaska Airlines don’t waive the bag fee). The benefit is only active for the SkyMiles account of the primary (not additional) card holder.
In-flight purchase discount. You get 20% off in flight purchases when you use your card, but note that WiFi purchases don’t count as they’re not handled by Delta.
Trip delay / cancellation insurance. Unfortunately like all American Express cards, there is no trip delay or cancellation coverage with this card. Many cards from Chase and Citibank do offer the coverage.
Auto rental collision damage. You’re covered for damage to vehicles worth up to $75,000 brand new, which is a step up from the $50,000 in coverage that’s standard with most American Express cards. But the coverage is secondary to your own policy for U.S. rentals, and for international rentals you’re not covered in Australia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, and New Zealand.
Upgrade priority. If you are a Medallion member, you will have priority on the upgrade list over those with the same Medallion status who do not hold a Delta Reserve card.
20% discount on in-flight purchases. Save 20% on food, beverage and entertainment purchases made in-flight with your card. Excludes duty free purchases.
‘Pay with miles’ option. Use your card to use miles as cash toward flight purchases – one mile is worth $0.01 to flights, so you can get for example $100 in savings for 10,000 miles.
Baggage insurance (not available with Gold SkyMiles card). This is an enhancement to the benefits not found with the base Gold Delta SkyMiles credit card. You get $500 in reimbursement for damage to or loss of checked baggage when you use the card to pay for the flight in full. Coverage also applies to your spouse / domestic partner and dependent children under 23 years old. There is a $250 maximum benefit for high risk items like jewelry, sporting equipment, photo equipment, and computers.
Purchase protection. If a purchase you make on the card is stolen or damaged within 90 days of the purchase, you can receive up to $10,000 for any one incident (versus $1,000 for the Gold and Platinum Delta SkyMiles cards), and up to $50,000 for all incidents in a year. You must file a claim within 60 days of the incident.
Return protection. If you try to return a designated item within 90 days from the date of purchase and the merchant won’t take it back, American Express may refund the full purchase price, up to $300 per item, excluding shipping and handling, and up to a maximum of $1,000 annually per Cardmember Account.
Exclusions include animals and living plants; one-of-a-kind items (including antiques, artwork, and furs); limited edition items; going-out-of-business sale items; consumable or perishable items with limited life spans (such as perfume, light bulbs, non-rechargeable batteries); jewelry (including, but not limited to, loose gems, precious stones, metals, and pearls); watches; services and additional costs (such as installation charges, warranties, shipping, or memberships); rare and precious coins; used, altered, rebuilt and refurbished items; custom-built items, cellular phones; pagers; compact discs; digital video discs; mini discs; audiotapes; videotapes; computer software; firmware (such as console games, Nintendo, etc.); maps; books of any kind; health care items (such as blood pressure machines and diabetes equipment); formal wear; tickets of any kind; motorized vehicles (such as cars, trucks, motorcycles, boats, or airplanes) and their parts; land and buildings; firearms; ammunition; negotiable instruments (such as promissory notes, stamps and travelers checks); cash and its equivalent; and items permanently affixed to home, office, vehicles, etc., (such as garage door openers, car alarms).
Extended warranty. American Express will extend a warranty for up to one additional year, for a maximum of five years of total warranty coverage. Claims can have a value of up to $10,000 with up to $50,000 in losses per year.
Global assist hotline. 1-800-333-AMEX gives you access to medical, legal, and travel information. Use it for help with lost luggage, finding a doctor, and more. While there is no charge for advice, any services referred will incur a charge.
Roadside assistance. This program (enhanced versus that offered by the Gold and Platinum Delta SkyMiles cards) provides the following Roadside Assistance services: towing of up to 10 miles, winching, jump starts, flat tire change when spare is available, lockout service when key is in vehicle and delivery of up to 2 gallons of fuel. The estimated value is $50 per service. Coverage for these services is provided up to 4 times per calendar year. Coverage is available in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico, regardless of mileage from primary residence. These services are available when the Cardmember is present with the vehicle. Towing beyond 10 miles will be charged at $3 per additional mile.
Car rental loss and damage insurance reimburses a Cardmember for payments for damage to or theft of a Rental Auto that the Cardmember is required to make, up to the lesser of: 1) the actual cost to repair the Rental Auto, 2) the wholesale Book value minus salvage and depreciation costs, or 3) the purchase invoice price of the Rental Auto minus salvage and depreciation costs.
The coverage also reimburses the Cardmember for reasonable charges (those charges incurred at the closest facility that are usual and customary in the vicinity in which the loss or disablement took place) imposed by the Rental Company, such as towing or storage and Loss of Use.
Also includes coverage for up to $5,000 in medical expenses should an accident occur in the vehicle (the Gold and Platinum SkyMiles cards don’t offer this).
Travel accident insurance. If you or your spouse / domestic partner, or child under 23 dies, is dismembered, or loses sight during travel where the transportation is paid in full using the American Express card, you will be eligible for up to $500,000 in coverage (basic American Express cards usually have up to $100,000 in coverage). Note that tickets using frequent flyer miles where you use the card to pay for taxes and fees are not covered. However tickets using Membership Rewards points directly are eligible.
You can use the companion ticket anywhere in the lower U.S. 48 Delta flies. You buy one ticket in cash, and just pay the taxes and fees on the second. We talk about the details here, but the key catches are these:
You need to buy your ticket at least 21 days in advance, and for First Class it can only be on flights that have ‘A’ or ‘I’ inventory available. That’s not always available, so you may have to be flexible, but generally if you plan ahead you’ll find options.
For Economy Class you need seats in ‘L,’ ‘U,’ or ‘T’ class, which again tends to be available if you plan ahead.
You can only book using Delta.com, but they have a special place on the site that lets you look just for flights that are eligible for companion ticket travel.
American Express lets you add an authorized user to your account in two ways:
The discounted price for an additional authorized user is a nice perk that saves your spouse or other authorized user from paying the full $450 fee to get lounge access.
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Or, consider other cards for 50,000 or more miles or points that transfer into United miles with additional flexibility for your everyday spending.
$750 for air / hotel / car bookings. Or transfer points to United, Southwest, Hyatt, and more.
No annual fee.