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For Delta flyers, the airline offers several credit cards through American Express. Its most high-end option is the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card, which comes with a massive list of features to match its $550 annual fee.
Though that's a lot to spend for a credit card, you can get thousands of dollars in value from all those benefits. To see if this is the right card for you, our review covers all the good and the bad, plus a couple of potential alternative cards to consider.
This card comes with huge perks if you are a loyal Delta customer. The annual fee pays for itself in a hurry if you are able to take advantage of all this card has to offer.
Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases.
Balance Transfers: N/A
Earn 40,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Also, receive a fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
40,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs): You'll earn these bonus miles and MQMs after $3,000 of purchases in the first three months of card membership. With 10,000 MQMs, you'll only need 15,000 more to reach Silver status, the first elite status in the Delta SkyMiles® program.
Earn up to 3 miles per $1: This card earns 3 points per $1 spent on Delta flights and Delta Vacations. It earns 1 point per $1 on all other purchases.
Complimentary airport lounge access: You can visit Delta Sky Club locations and American Express Centurion lounges free of charge any time you fly with Delta. This perk also applies to any authorized users on your account who have this card (note that there is a $175 annual fee for each additional Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card on your account).
In addition, you'll get two one-time Delta Sky Club guest passes per year.
Annual companion certificate: One of the most valuable benefits of this card is the Delta Reserve Companion Certificate. You'll receive it each year you renew the card by paying the annual fee. With this certificate, you can book a complimentary round-trip ticket for a travel companion in domestic first class, Delta Comfort+®, or the main cabin. You still need to pay government-imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75.
Global Entry/TSA Precheck credit: This card covers the cost of a membership fee to Global Entry or TSA Precheck. It's better to apply for Global Entry, because that program includes TSA Precheck.
Free checked bag: You and up to eight additional travelers on your reservation can check one bag free of charge. Since Delta normally charges $30 per flight for the first checked bag, this can save you $60 per round trip if you're traveling solo. If you're traveling with family or a large group, it can be worth much more.
Reach elite status more quickly: The Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card has two features that help you climb the ranks of its loyalty program. With StatusBoostTM, you'll earn 15,000 MQMs for every $30,000 in purchases on your card per calendar year, up to four times per year. That means you can earn up to 60,000 MQMs per year (70,000 in the first year because of the card's welcome offer of 10,000 MQMs).
By spending at least $25,000 in purchases per calendar year, you'll also get a Medallion Qualification Dollar (MQD) waiver, so you don't need to meet the typical spending requirements with Delta to achieve any of its elite statuses.
Benefits vary by status but can include complimentary upgrades, more miles earned, and fee waivers.
Complimentary upgrades: As a cardholder, you'll be eligible for complimentary upgrades when available, and you'll have priority over other passengers within the same status tier of Delta SkyMiles®. For example, if you have Gold status, you'd receive upgrades after Diamond and Platinum passengers, but before any other Gold passengers.
20% back on in-flight purchases: You'll get 20% back when you use your card for eligible Delta in-flight purchases of food, beverages, or headphones.
Priority boarding: When flying in the main cabin, you'll be in the priority boarding group, which boards before the other main cabin passengers.
Consumer and travel protections: This card has an excellent set of consumer and travel protections, which include:
No foreign transaction fees: As you'd hope from a luxury travel card, there's no foreign transaction fee for international purchases.
Welcome offer: Considering the $550 annual fee for this card, its welcome offer is underwhelming. Other Delta credit cards offer similar bonus amounts for much smaller annual fees, and there are plenty of other big sign-up bonuses that put this one to shame.
Bonus categories: It'd be nice to see some additional bonus categories besides just Delta purchases, such as travel, dining, or entertainment. Many travel cards offer these kinds of bonus categories, and that allows cardholders to maximize their rewards.
Airport lounge guest fees: After you've exhausted your two free annual guest passes to Delta Sky Club, guest visits cost $39 each, and you can bring up to two people with you. American Express Centurion lounges also have a two-guest limit, but the rate is even higher at $50 per guest.
We recommend that you have a FICO® Score of 670 or higher to apply for the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card. You usually need good credit to get any of the best travel credit cards, and this one is no exception.
Keep in mind that credit card companies never base their approval decisions solely on your credit score. Some consumers get declined for this card with good or excellent credit. There are also a select few who get approved with average credit scores.
Although the annual fee is steep at $550, the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card is worth it for frequent Delta flyers who can take advantage of its benefits.
The two big-money perks are airport lounge access and the annual companion certificate. A one-year individual membership to Delta Sky Club is $545, so if you were thinking of buying that, it's better to apply for this card. The price is practically the same, and you can also get into American Express Centurion lounges as a cardholder.
The annual companion certificate can be extremely valuable, depending on how you use it. If you and a travel companion often take flights that cost $500 or more, then you'll easily make most or all of that $550 annual fee back. And if you use the card to book in first class, you could get a free ticket worth $2,500 or more.
The Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card provides many of the same benefits at a much cheaper $250 annual fee. It also offers an annual companion certificate, free checked baggage, and a Global Entry/TSA Precheck certificate. The main reasons it costs less are that it doesn't offer complimentary airport lounge access, and it doesn't earn as many MQMs. If neither of those is a big deal to you, then you may want to save $300 and go with the more affordable card.
If you need travel rewards you can use to book a variety of airlines and hotels, then The Platinum Card® from American Express could be a better option. It earns American Express Membership Rewards points, and you can transfer those points to many different travel partners. Delta Air Lines is one of those partners, so you'd still be able to use your points to book Delta flights.
The Motley Fool recommends Amex. We’re firm believers in the Golden Rule, which is why editorial opinions are ours alone and have not been previously reviewed, approved, or endorsed by included advertisers. The Ascent does not cover all offers on the market. Editorial content from The Ascent is separate from The Motley Fool editorial content and is created by a different analyst team.
The Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card is made for Delta's most frequent flyers. You should apply if you fly with Delta at least five or six times per year, you'd like elite status in Delta SkyMiles, and you want airport lounge access every time you fly.If you're not sure about the cost of this card, or you don't think you'll need all its benefits, then you should look at Delta's other credit card options. As mentioned above, the Platinum version has many of the same perks for a $250 annual fee, and there's also the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card for under $100 per year. You can get more value from the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card than any other Delta card, but that's only if it fits your travel habits.
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