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What's the Best Card to Use for Purchasing Delta Flights?

Feb. 08, 2018
5 min read
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What's the Best Card to Use for Purchasing Delta Flights?
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"Reader Questions" are now answered twice a week — Tuesdays and Thursdays — by TPG Assistant Editor Brendan Dorsey. Brendan has been with TPG for a year and a half and hails from Northern California.

What's the best card to put your flights on, you ask? Well that's a question we've answered quite a few times in different forms and styles. But TPG reader Len wrote in asking a more specific version of that question.

[pullquote source="TPG Reader Len"]I have an Amex Platinum and an Amex Delta Reserve Card. With the 5X points on airfare with the Platinum, is it better to charge my Delta flights on the Platinum or the Reserve?[/pullquote]

Well Len, first off you're in a pretty good place. Both the Platinum Card® from American Express and the Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express are great cards for frequent Delta flyers. The main and most obvious difference between the two cards, at least in regards to bonus points and miles, is that the 5x points on airfare when booked directly with the airline or through from the Platinum will generate a much higher return than the 2x Delta miles you'll earn with the Reserve.

Plus, the nice part about Amex points is aside from being able to instantly transfer them to Delta, Amex has 19 other travel partners. Having that flexibility opens up many more options than if you're restricted to just Delta SkyMiles.

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Say you purchase $10,000 worth of Delta flights directly from the airline in a year. If you charge the them all to the Amex Platinum, you'll rake in 50,000 Membership Rewards Points. That's worth $950 according to TPG's valuations. The Reserve would only net you 20,000 Delta miles, worth a measly $240. Heck, the Platinum card even took our top spot on best cards to use for airline purchases. So if you're in need of redeemable miles, I'd absolutely go with the Platinum when purchasing flights.

(Photo by Eric Helgas for The Points Guy)
(Photo by Eric Helgas for The Points Guy)

But wait! There's a second point worth considering. Some Delta Amex cards come with both a Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQM) fast-track and a Medallion Qualifying Dollar (MQM) waiver — which are key when trying to attain status with the airline. With the Delta Reserve card, you'll receive 15,000 MQMs (and 15,000 redeemable miles) after spending $30,000 in qualifying purchases in a calendar year and another 15,000 MQMs and 15,000 redeemable miles after spending an additional $30,000.

All Delta Amex cards are eligible for the MQD waiver. You'll have to spend $25,000 on an eligible card and Delta will waive the MQD requirements to reach Silver, Gold and Platinum status — but not Diamond. Delta recently changed the MQD waiver for aspiring diamonds, requiring them to make an exorbitant $250,000 in purchases to waive the MQD requirement for Delta's highest status tier.

Let's take into account the value of Delta status. TPG values Delta Silver medallion at $900, Gold Medallion at $2,275 and Platinum Medallion at $4,025. But even if you value status, that doesn't necessarily mean it's the best move to put your flights on the Reserve to hit the MQM and MQD waiver.

Delta's new first class seats.
Delta Gold status and higher will get you upgrades into the airlines' domestic first class seats. Image courtesy of Delta.

If status is something you're after, Len, my recommendation would be to put your flights on your Amex Platinum to maximize the Membership Rewards points 5x bonus and put all other purchases on your Delta Reserve card. There's really not a reason not to put your flights on the Delta Reserve if you already have the Platinum and can hit the MQD and MQM spend requirements without charging the flights to your Delta card. You'll still get your free checked bags and Delta lounge access if you're flying Delta. Plus, the Platinum comes with better travel and baggage insurance.

So, Len, it comes down to whether you want to maximize your return on spending and if earning status is important to you. If you can hit the MQD waiver requirement and get the bonus MQMs based on non-airfare spending, then I'd split your spend between the Amex Platinum and the Delta Reserve. But if you're really trying to hit Delta status and need to put all your spend on the Reserve, I'd go with that option. Thanks for the question, and if you're a TPG reader who'd like us to answer a question of your own, tweet us at @thepointsguy, message us on Facebook or email us at