Skip to content

Credit card showdown: AA MileUp vs. Delta Blue Amex

June 03, 2021
7 min read
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Two of the major domestic airlines, American Airlines and Delta Air Lines, offer no-annual-fee credit cards in addition to their far-reaching portfolio of cards: the American Airlines AAdvantage® MileUp® and the Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card.

New to The Points Guy? Sign up for our daily newsletter and check out our beginner's guide.

These cards have no frills but do a great job of the basics — earning airline miles for the opportunity to redeem award tickets for just the cost of taxes and fees. Let’s see how these two competitor cards stack up.

American and Delta go head-to-head as some of the major airlines in the U.S. (Photo by Philip Pilosian/Shutterstock)

Comparing the AA Mileup card vs. Delta Blue Amex card

We’ll look at the card’s features on a broader scale, then parse out the differences to analyze which card is the best pick for you.

American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Delta SkyMiles Blue American Express Card
Annual fee$0$0 (see rates & fees)
Sign-up bonus/Welcome offerEarn 10,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles and a $50 statement credit after spending $500 in purchases in the first three months of account opening.Earn 10,000 bonus miles after spending $1,000 in purchases on your new card in your first six months of card membership.
Bonus categories2x on eligible American Airlines purchases and groceries, 1x on everything else.2x on eligible Delta purchases and dining at restaurants, 1x on other purchases.

Sign-up bonus

At face value, both sign-up bonuses seem relatively comparable — you’ll have to reach a doable minimum spend of $500 within the first three months of card opening. Let’s take a look at the value of each airline currency to help you understand the award travel possibilities with each offering.

According to TPG’s most recent valuations, American AAdvantage miles are worth 1.4 cents each, while Delta SkyMiles are worth 1.1 cents each. As a result, the MileUp card’s sign-up bonus is worth $190 (with the $50 statement credit offer), while the Delta Blue Amex is worth $141.

Winner: The AAdvantage MileUp card is the clear winner here, thanks to the higher value of AAdvantage miles and the $50 statement credit.

Bonus categories

Both cards offer 2x on their respective eligible airline purchases and an additional bonus category, plus 1x on all other purchases. The better-earning rate will be dependent on your everyday spending habits.

According to 2020 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, American households spent $4,725 on groceries and $2,994 on restaurants on average. We won’t consider how much you spend on flights, as that will depend on how often you travel.

Sign up for our daily newsletter
American AAdvantage MileUp Delta SkyMiles Blue American Express Card
Groceries: $4,7252x at grocery stores (9,450 miles)1x on groceries (4,725 miles)
Dining: $2,9941x on everything else (2,994 miles)2x on dining at restaurants (5,988 miles)
Total annual rewards12,444 miles, worth $174.22 according to TPG valuations10,713 miles, worth $107.13 according to TPG valuations

Winner: The American AAdvantage MileUp card is more lucrative, based on data of American household spending.

Redemption options

Both frequent flyer programs employ dynamic pricing and have experienced devaluations over the past few years.

However, you may find the AAdvantage program to be a favorable option, as it still offers an award chart for MileSAAver and partner award tickets where you can tend to find the greatest value for your miles — especially on off-peak dates. The AAdvantage program also offers web special awards and AAnytime awards that are (oftentimes) even cheaper than the MileSAAver rates.

The Delta SkyMiles program has award tickets that fluctuate wildly. The carrier increased the price of many of its partner award tickets in October 2020, but there’s still value to be found using SkyMiles.

In the past, I’ve scored dozens of round-trip flights from New York (JFK) to my hometown of Raleigh-Durham (RDU) for under 10,000 SkyMiles. We’ve even noted Delta flash sales for award flights as low as 2,500 miles one-way and 10,000 for first class.

Winner: The American AAdvantage MileUp card wins, thanks to its much more predictable redemption opportunities (though you can still find some great deals with Delta SkyMiles). More importantly, the best card for you will depend on which carrier you fly more often and fits your route network best.

Card benefits

For starters, the American AAdvantage MileUp card offers a 25% discount on inflight food and beverage purchases on American-marketed flights. While there’s no checked baggage waiver or priority boarding benefit, there’s a unique opportunity to waive the Elite Qualifying Dollar (EQD) requirement to earn AAdvantage Gold, Platinum or Platinum Pro elite status for 2021. To qualify, you’ll need to spend $30,000 or more in purchases with this card by Dec. 31, 2021. While this is a hefty spending requirement, it’s not often that a no-annual-fee credit card offers an elite-earning incentive like this.

Meanwhile, the Delta Blue Amex offers a 20% statement credit on inflight purchases and no foreign transaction fees (see rates & fees) when using this card internationally. This is a huge plus, as the MileUp card charges a 3% foreign transaction fee.

The Delta Blue Amex also comes with the ability to get $50 off your flight for every 5,000 miles you redeem on Delta’s website. This could add up to huge savings the more you take advantage of award tickets. Last but not least, you’ll enjoy secondary car rental coverage, 24/7 emergency travel assistance, purchase protection and extended warranty with this card.

Winner: The Delta Blue Amex offers much more robust benefits than the AAdvantage MileUp card. It waives foreign transaction fees, offers a discount on eligible award tickets and a diverse range of travel and purchase coverages.

Which card should you get?

There are pros and cons to both of these airline cards that serve as excellent introductions to each loyalty program. While the AAdvantage MileUp wins in most categories, the differences aren’t too drastic when it comes to these cards. Ultimately the best pick will depend on which airline you fly more often.

If you’re lucky enough to live in an area serviced by both American and Delta, here are a few factors that can help you decide the better card for you.

If you’re more interested in a higher sign-up bonus, spend more on groceries, want access to more predictable award tickets and the opportunity to earn elite status, opt for the AAdvantage MileUp card. The Delta Blue Amex is the better choice for you if you want no foreign transaction fees, spend more on dining at restaurants and want access to complimentary travel and purchase protections.

Bottom line

You could certainly opt for a more expensive airline credit card (with annual fees of $95 or much greater). But a basic airline card such as the AAdvantage MileUp or the Delta Blue Amex is still a solid option to consider. Take away all of the extra benefits and emphasize the importance of earning airline miles on everyday purchases, and you’ll have both cards that can be excellent additions to your wallet.

Depending on your lifestyle choices and spending habits, there’ll be a clear winner for which card will benefit you the most.

Application link: American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp available for 10,000 bonus miles and a $50 statement credit in the first three months of account opening.

Application link: Delta SkyMiles Blue American Express Card available for 10,000 bonus miles after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first six months of account opening.

For rates and fees of the Delta Blue Amex, click here.

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

Top offers from our partners

How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
See all best card offers

TPG featured card

Best luxury travel rewards card
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

5X points
5XEarn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year.
5XEarn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.

Intro offer

Earn 80,000 Points
Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on the Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.

Annual Fee

$695

Recommended Credit

670-850
Excellent/Good
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

Sometimes it's worth a large investment to reap the benefits of a great credit card. That's exactly the case with the Amex Platinum card. In exchange for the annual fee, you'll unlock access to the Amex Membership Rewards program that let you access airline and hotel transfer partners, along with new lifestyle and travel credits. This card is also incredibly rewarding for travel purchases, helping you rack up a ton of Membership Rewards points for your next award trip.

Pros

  • The current welcome offer on this card is quite lucrative. TPG values it at $1,600.
  • This card comes with a long list of benefits, including access to Centurion Lounges, complimentary elite status with Hilton and Marriott, at least $500 in assorted annual statement credits and so much more. (Enrollment required for select benefits.)
  • The Amex Platinum comes with access to a premium concierge service that can help you with everything from booking hard-to-get reservations to finding destination guides to help you plan out your next getaway.

Cons

  • The high annual fee is only worth it if you’re taking full advantage of the card’s benefits. Seldom travelers may not get enough value to warrant the cost.
  • Outside of the current welcome bonus, you’re only earning higher rewards on specific airfare and hotel purchases, so it’s not a great card for other spending categories.
  • The annual airline fee statement credit can be complicated to take advantage of compared to the broader travel credits offered by competing premium cards.
  • Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on the Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year and earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
  • $200 Hotel Credit: Get $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings with American Express Travel when you pay with your Platinum Card®.
  • $240 Digital Entertainment Credit: Get up to $20 in statement credits each month when you pay for eligible purchases with the Platinum Card® at your choice of one or more of the following providers: Peacock, Audible, SiriusXM, The New York Times, and other participating providers. Enrollment required.
  • $155 Walmart+ Credit: Cover the cost of a $12.95 monthly Walmart+ membership with a statement credit after you pay for Walmart+ each month with your Platinum Card. Cost includes $12.95 plus applicable local sales tax.
  • American Express has expanded The Centurion® Network to include 40+ Centurion Lounge and Studio locations worldwide. Now there are even more places your Platinum Card® can get you complimentary entry and exclusive perks.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Select one qualifying airline and then receive up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year when incidental fees are charged by the airline to your Card.
  • $200 Uber Cash: Enjoy Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status is available to Basic Card Member only.
  • $300 Equinox Credit: Get up to $300 back each year on an Equinox+ subscription, or any Equinox club memberships when you pay with your Platinum Card. Enrollment required. Learn more.
  • $189 CLEAR® Credit: Breeze through security with CLEAR® Plus at 45+ airports nationwide and get up to $189 back per year on your membership (subject to auto-renewal) when you use your Card.
  • $695 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Apply for The Platinum Card® from American Express
at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best luxury travel rewards card
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

5XEarn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year.
5XEarn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on the Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.

    Earn 80,000 Points
  • Annual Fee

    $695
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

Sometimes it's worth a large investment to reap the benefits of a great credit card. That's exactly the case with the Amex Platinum card. In exchange for the annual fee, you'll unlock access to the Amex Membership Rewards program that let you access airline and hotel transfer partners, along with new lifestyle and travel credits. This card is also incredibly rewarding for travel purchases, helping you rack up a ton of Membership Rewards points for your next award trip.

Pros

  • The current welcome offer on this card is quite lucrative. TPG values it at $1,600.
  • This card comes with a long list of benefits, including access to Centurion Lounges, complimentary elite status with Hilton and Marriott, at least $500 in assorted annual statement credits and so much more. (Enrollment required for select benefits.)
  • The Amex Platinum comes with access to a premium concierge service that can help you with everything from booking hard-to-get reservations to finding destination guides to help you plan out your next getaway.

Cons

  • The high annual fee is only worth it if you’re taking full advantage of the card’s benefits. Seldom travelers may not get enough value to warrant the cost.
  • Outside of the current welcome bonus, you’re only earning higher rewards on specific airfare and hotel purchases, so it’s not a great card for other spending categories.
  • The annual airline fee statement credit can be complicated to take advantage of compared to the broader travel credits offered by competing premium cards.
  • Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on the Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year and earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
  • $200 Hotel Credit: Get $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings with American Express Travel when you pay with your Platinum Card®.
  • $240 Digital Entertainment Credit: Get up to $20 in statement credits each month when you pay for eligible purchases with the Platinum Card® at your choice of one or more of the following providers: Peacock, Audible, SiriusXM, The New York Times, and other participating providers. Enrollment required.
  • $155 Walmart+ Credit: Cover the cost of a $12.95 monthly Walmart+ membership with a statement credit after you pay for Walmart+ each month with your Platinum Card. Cost includes $12.95 plus applicable local sales tax.
  • American Express has expanded The Centurion® Network to include 40+ Centurion Lounge and Studio locations worldwide. Now there are even more places your Platinum Card® can get you complimentary entry and exclusive perks.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Select one qualifying airline and then receive up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year when incidental fees are charged by the airline to your Card.
  • $200 Uber Cash: Enjoy Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status is available to Basic Card Member only.
  • $300 Equinox Credit: Get up to $300 back each year on an Equinox+ subscription, or any Equinox club memberships when you pay with your Platinum Card. Enrollment required. Learn more.
  • $189 CLEAR® Credit: Breeze through security with CLEAR® Plus at 45+ airports nationwide and get up to $189 back per year on your membership (subject to auto-renewal) when you use your Card.
  • $695 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees