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Update: The offers mentioned below for the Delta Gold and Platinum cards are no longer available. View the current offers here: Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express
With so many great travel rewards cards out there, it can be a challenge to find the one that best meets your needs. Below, TPG Senior Points & Miles Contributor Jason Steele takes a look at the best options for travelers who frequently fly Delta.
If there’s one airline that’s the most closely tied to a credit card issuer, it’s Delta. A decade ago, American Express lent Delta hundreds of millions of dollars to help it to exit bankruptcy, and Amex has since offered a vast portfolio of travel rewards cards that earn Delta SkyMiles directly or include the airline as a transfer partner.
In today’s post, I’ll take a look at the eight best credit cards for Delta flyers, with the goal of helping find the best one for you.
While this isn’t the entry-level SkyMiles card (American Express offers a standard SkyMiles card with few benefits), it’s certainly the least expensive one worth considering. The current sign-up bonus is 30,000 miles after spending $1,000 within three months of account opening, plus a $50 statement credit when you make a Delta purchase in the first three months. (Though you may be eligible for a 50,000-mile sign-up bonus.) As with all Delta SkyMiles cards, you earn 2x miles for Delta purchases, and 1x for everything else.
This card also offers an impressive slate of benefits when traveling on Delta. Cardholders enjoy priority boarding, reduced prices for Sky Club entry, discounts on in-flight purchases and a free checked bag. You can also avoid Delta’s Medallion Qualification Dollar (MQD) requirement when you use the card to spend $25,000 or more in a qualification year. There’s a $95 annual fee for this card that’s waived the first year, and no foreign transaction fees.
This is another highlight in the SkyMiles credit card lineup. It offers 35,000 miles and 5,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs) to new cardholders who spend $1,000 within three months of account opening, as well as a $100 statement credit. It also offers 10,000 MQMs and 10,000 bonus miles after you spend $25,000 in a calendar year, and another 10,000 MQMs and 10,000 bonus miles after reaching $50,000 in a calendar year, for 20,000 MQMs total. This means that if you spend $50,000, you could earn Silver Medallion status from this card alone in your first year.
As with the Gold Delta SkyMiles Card , you receive the MQD waiver, priority boarding, reduced prices for Sky Club entry and in-flight purchases and a free checked bag for the cardholder and other travelers on the same itinerary. But the biggest — and most valuable — difference between this card and the Gold card is that it offers a domestic main cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon card renewal. This certificate is only valid for flights in the contiguous 48 states, and it doesn’t work for first class or Basic Economy fares. There’s a $195 annual fee for this card, and no foreign transaction fees.
3. Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express
This is the top-of-the line Delta SkyMiles card, and it offers some worthwhile benefits. New applicants earn 10,000 MQMs and 10,000 bonus miles after their first purchase with no minimum spending requirement. You can earn another 15,000 MQMs and 15,000 bonus miles when you spend $30,000 in a calendar year, and an additional 15,000 MQMs and 15,000 miles when you reach $60,000 in a calendar year. You can even gift those MQMs to others to help them meet Medallion status, an amazing feature for true road warriors who will easily blow past Diamond Medallion status based on their paid travel.
Another unique feature of this card is the upgrade priority it offers over other travelers in the same Medallion class, which means that you could be sitting in first class more often. In addition, this card’s companion certificate is also valid for first-class domestic flights, unlike the certificate offered by the Platinum SkyMiles Card from American Express. Finally, you receive Delta Sky Club access, though additional guests must pay at the reduced rate of $27 (for up to two people). There’s a $450 annual fee for this card, and no foreign transaction fees.
This card offers you a greater return on airfare purchases than the Delta co-branded cards; it earns 3x Membership Rewards points on all flights booked directly from airlines, and Delta is a transfer partner of the Membership Rewards program, as are SkyTeam partners AeroMexico, Alitalia and Flying Blue (Air France, KLM and others). In addition, you can transfer points to miles with other Delta partners Virgin Atlantic and Hawaiian.
Other cardholder benefits include a $100 annual statement credit toward incidental airline fees (not actual airfare), which is similar to the $200 credit on The Platinum Card from American Express. For more information on how to use this credit, see TPG Points & Miles Editor Sarah Silbert’s post, Maximizing the Amex Premier Rewards Gold Card in 2016. This card also offers 2x points at US gas stations and supermarkets and 1x elsewhere. The current sign-up bonus for this card is 25,000 points after new cardholders spend $2,000 within three months of account opening, however you may be targeted for a higher offer, so be sure to check the CardMatch tool. There’s a $195 annual fee that’s waived the first year, and no foreign transaction fees.
5. Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express
This card could be a smart choice for Delta flyers for several reasons. First, you can transfer Starpoints to Delta and other SkyTeam and non-alliance partners, essentially earning you 1.25 SkyMiles per dollar on all purchases when you factor in the 5,000-mile bonus for transferring 20,000 points to miles at the same time.
This card also makes sense considering the Crossover Rewards partnership between Delta and Starwood, where SPG Platinum and Gold members earn one Starpoint for every dollar spent on eligible Delta flights and SPG Platinums get priority check-in and boarding on Delta, as well as a free checked bag and eligibility for complimentary upgrades. When staying at Starwood hotels, Platinum and Diamond Medallions receive Starwood perks such as late checkouts and room upgrades, and all elites receive one mile per dollar spent. Plus, all Delta Medallion members earn one SkyMile per dollar spent at Starwood properties.
Currently, new cardholders receive 35,000 points after spending $3,000 in purchases within three months of account opening (note that this is an increased sign-up bonus that ends today). Other benefits include free in-room premium internet service and Boingo Wi-Fi membership. Finally, cardholders receive Starwood Gold status when they spend $30,000 on their card within a calendar year. There’s a $95 annual fee for this card that is waived the first year, and no foreign transaction fees.
The EveryDay cards from Amex also work well for earning Membership Rewards points that can be transferred to Delta SkyMiles or miles with other Delta partners. The Everyday Preferred Card offers 3x points on up to $6,000 spent each year at US supermarkets, 2x points at US gas stations and 1x elsewhere. Plus, it offers a 50% points bonus each statement period when you make at least 30 transactions, so you have the potential to earn 4.5x and 3x at supermarkets and gas stations, respectively, and a phenomenal 1.5x everywhere else.
Amex is currently offering new applicants 15,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend $1,000 within three months of account opening. This card has a $95 annual fee, and it does charge foreign transaction fees.
This is the no-annual-fee version of the Amex Everyday Preferred and it offers 2x points on up to $6,000 spent at US supermarkets and 1x elsewhere. If you make 20 or more transactions in a month, you’ll earn a 20% bonus on your points, which works out to 2.4 points and 1.2 points per dollar, respectively. In addition, this is the only no-fee credit card that allows transfers of points to miles.
Amex is currently offering new applicants 10,000 Membership Rewards points after making $1,000 in purchases in the first three months.
This card, not to be confused with the Delta SkyMiles Platinum Card from American Express, is an interesting alternative for Delta flyers. It earns just 1 point per dollar on all purchases, but you can earn 2x points on travel booked through American Express Travel. And while it offers a Delta SkyClub membership, you also receive access to the airport lounges of the Priority Pass Select program and American Express’ own Centurion Lounges.
In addition, this card offers many perks such as Gold status with both Hilton and Starwood, plus numerous travel insurance and purchase protection benefits. This card does have an annual fee of $450, but that’s offset by both a $200 annual airline fee credit and the $100 Global Entry application fee credit.
Choosing the Best Card for You
As always, the card that’s best for you depends on what perks you’re looking for. If you want to get the MQD waiver and enjoy a few other benefits along the way, the Gold Delta SkyMiles Card could be right for you, but the Platinum Delta SkyMiles Card is also worth considering. The value of the companion certificate easily outweighs the extra $100 in annual fee (although you won’t receive the certificate until you renew your card). Also, the ability to earn 5,000 MQMs as a sign-up bonus and another 20,000 MQMs each year will vault many people to the next level of Medallion status or offer significant rollover to the next year. Meanwhile, if you’re a real Delta loyalist, the Reserve Card may make the most sense due to Sky Club access and the upgrade priority benefit.
That’s not to say you should limit yourself to co-branded cards. If your priority is getting the biggest return on airfare purchases, the American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card is your best bet with 3 miles per dollar on Delta (and all other airline) tickets. The Amex Everyday Preferred Card is another solid option, offering the most points per dollar on items outside of the bonus categories and the ability to transfer Membership Rewards points to Delta. Nearly all the reward travel enthusiasts I know have a Starwood Amex to earn high-value Starpoints and transfer them as needed to the 30-plus airline partners, including Delta. Finally, the Platinum Card from American Express makes sense for those who travel internationally, as the Priority Pass lounge network is very strong outside the US and the growing number of Centurion Clubs offer more luxury than most domestic airline lounges.
The key to selecting the right card for Delta flyers is to find the best combination of products that best fit your needs. Hopefully, this post has given you some ideas for finding the options that will help you reach your travel goals.
What’s your favorite card to use for frequent travel on Delta?
With some great bonus categories and an annual fee that’s waived for the first year, the American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card has a lot going for it. If you don’t have PRG, now’s as good a time as any to add it to your wallet, as Amex added some great new benefits several months back.
- Receive 25,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $2,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership.
- 3X points for flights booked directly with airlines. 2X points at US restaurants, US gas stations, and US supermarkets. 1X points on other purchases. Terms and limitations apply.
- No matter where you're traveling, when you use your Premier Rewards Gold Card there are no foreign transaction fees from American Express.
- $100 Airline Fee Credit. Up to $100 a year in baggage fees and more at one airline.
- Get a $75 hotel credit on qualifying charges, plus a room upgrade upon arrival, if available with The Hotel Collection at americanexpress.com/hc. Terms apply.
- There is a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $195.
- Terms and limitations apply.
- See Rates & Fees