Which Delta American Express Card Is The Best?

Nov 2, 2011

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If you don’t fly Delta, you can skip this post. However, if you are a Delta flyer, it may make sense for you to have one of the three premier co-branded American Express cards: the Gold, Platinum and Reserve cards. I do not recommend having these cards as your sole credit card, because only collecting one type of miles/points is not a smart strategy – you never want to put all of your eggs in one basket (especially not SkyMiles because they are among the least valuable miles). I personally recommend leveraging a transferable points program, like Chase Ultimate Rewards which gives you a ton of flexibility in terms of transfer partners to airlines, hotels and even Amtrak when it comes time to redeem – and it doesn’t hurt they are running a 40,000 point sign-up bonus for their Sapphire Preferred (personal) and 50,000 point bonus for the Ink Bold (business) cards.

So why would someone want an airline-branded credit card? It’s all about the perks. Transferable points cards are great, but they won’t get you free bags (well, except the Amex Platinum which refunds $200 a year in airline fees) or priority boarding. In general, airline co-branded credit cards can enhance your flying experience and save you time and/or money.

Three Options with Delta

1) Gold Skymiles card: Amex just today increased the sign-up bonus by 50% – you now get 30,000 miles when you spend $500 within the first three months (used to be 20,000). $95 annual fee, waived the first year.
Pros: 2 miles per dollar spent on Delta, free checked bag for up to 9 people on the same reservation, zone 2 priority boarding (meaning you can get on the plane before all of the overhead bin space is full – avoiding gate checked bags will save you time), 20% off in-flight food and entertainment and the ability to Pay With Miles (meaning you have the option of redeeming Skymiles for 1 cents towards airfare – a $300 Delta flight can be purchased for 30,000 points, whereas you might have needed 60,000 Skymiles to redeem for it as a normal award), a $99 coach companion ticket and the ability to buy discounted $25 SkyClub passes.
Cons: No elite mile benefit, Pay With Miles flights do not earn miles/elite status and Delta recently slashed value of its gift card program, which used to be a big benefit of having a co-branded card.
Verdict: This card is good for the casual traveler who flies Delta, but doesn’t have elite status. With the first checked bag costing $25, this benefit can pay for the annual fee if you check bags on 2 roundtrips a year or more.

2) Platinum Skymiles card: Not to be confused with the American Express Platinum card, this card is a nice mix of benefits without a huge annual fee. Receive 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) and 35,000 bonus miles after spending $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in the first three months.
Pros: All Gold Card benefits, plus 10,000 MQMs when you reach $25,000 in eligible purchases during a calendar year and an additional 10,000 MQMs with $50,000 in spend within the same calendar year. Also an annual companion ticket for coach domestic travel in the cheapest fare classes – this can easily save you a couple hundred dollars and the main ticket still earns miles/upgrades (the companion does not).
Cons: Companion tickets aren’t eligible for upgrades (and only the paid ticket gets miles), high spend requirements for the MQMs
Verdict: This card is for Medallions who value MQMs, but may already have Skyclub access through the Amex Platinum card or Diamond status. Also, the companion ticket is free vs. $99 with the Gold, so generally I think the Platinum card is a better bet if you can use the certificate.

3) Delta Reserve card: This card offers 10,000 MQMs and 10,000 SkyMiles after your first purchase.
Pros: Receive 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) and 10,000 bonus miles after making a first purchase on your new Card. 15,000 MQMs if you hit $30,000 within a calendar year and then an additional 15,000 when you hit $60,000, Delta SkyClub access with 2 guests, domestic first class companion ticket (this works for coach and discounted first class so it’s actually pretty valuable) and elevated upgrade status – you outrank someone at your same Medallion level and fare class if they don’t have the card.
Cons: $450 annual fee isn’t bad if you value the SkyClub access, but it’s hefty if you already have it as a Diamond Medallion or Amex Platinum cardholder.
Verdict: A good fit for the Silver-Platinum flyer who values SkyClub access and needs the MQMs to retain status. Or for Diamond Medallions who value the MQMs and the companion certificate.

Overall, whether you love it or hate it, Delta gives a ton of benefits to their co-branded credit card holders. In fact, Delta was ahead of the pack and others are catching up – with American even adding an EQM earning premium credit card this year. While I will reiterate that you shouldn’t just accumulate SkyMiles – having one of these cards can easily pay for itself as long as you choose the best card to align with your needs.

See also: Sunday Reader Question: How Can You Spend Your Way to Airline and Hotel Elite Status?

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Offer ends 11/10/2021.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 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. Offer expires 11/10/2021.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Recommended Credit
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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