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Mid-tier card match-up: United Quest vs. Delta SkyMiles Platinum Amex

April 18, 2021
17 min read
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For a long time, there were primarily two classes of rewards credit cards: Those that cost $100 or less per year in annual fees and then ones that were $500 or more per year. Naturally, the $500-plus per year premium cards came with many more perks than those that cost under $100. But there's a whole lot of runway between those two annual fee amounts.

Luckily for those looking for a different option in the sweet spot between the entry-level and premium tiers, in recent years, the space for credit cards with annual fees costing between $200 and $300 per year has started to fill out a bit. This included splashes such as the big American Express® Gold Card revamp in 2018 ($250 per year; see rates and fees) and the trend continues now with the very recent introduction of the New United Quest Card, which comes with an annual fee of $250.

In the world of airline credit cards, the most head-to-head competitor to the United Quest Card at this mid-tier level is likely the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card, which also comes with a $250-per-year price tag (see rates and fees). These two cards are issued by different banks and provide miles and perks valid at different airlines, but they also share many similarities.

Let's see how these two cards stack up in a head-to-head competition.

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Comparing the United Quest and Delta Skymiles Platinum cards

CardUnited quest Carddelta skymiles platinum amex
Welcome offer80,000 bonus United miles after $5,000 in spending in the first 3 months and another 20,000 miles after a total of $10,000 in spending in the first 6 months90,000 bonus miles after $3,000 in spending on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening

Terms apply

Annual fee$250$250
Earning rates3x miles on United purchases (immediately after earning your $125 annual United purchase credit)

2x miles on all other travel — including other airlines, hotels, car rentals and more

2x miles on dining, including takeout and delivery

2x miles on select streaming services

1x miles on other purchases

3x miles on eligible purchases with Delta and hotels (made directly with the hotels)

2x miles on purchases made at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets

1x miles per dollar spent on all other eligible purchases.

Airline benefits$125 annual purchase credit that you can use toward United flights

Two 5,000-mile flight credits per year as a reward for redeeming miles, starting with your first cardmember anniversary

Free first and second checked bag

Priority boarding

25% back on United inflight purchases

Complimentary Premier upgrades on award flights for United elites

Annual domestic companion certificate at each renewal

Free checked bag on Delta flights (including up to eight companions)

Priority boarding

20% off Delta inflight purchases

Club benefitsNoneDiscounted Sky Club access ($39 per person per visit)
Elite status benefitsEarn up to 3,000 Premier qualifying points (500 PQPs for every $12,000 charged)Earn 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles after spending $25,000 in a calendar year

Earn an additional 10,000 MQMs after spending $50,000 in a calendar year

Welcome bonus

Both of these mid-tier airline cards come with impressive welcome bonuses right now.

The new United Quest Card offers up to 100,000 bonus miles with its introductory offer. This bonus is awarded in two parts: 80,000 bonus United miles after $5,000 in spending in the first three months and another 20,000 miles after a total of $10,000 in spending in the first six months. TPG values the full 100,000-mile bonus at $1,300.

The Delta SkyMiles Platinum Amex is currently offering 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening for a limited time (offer ends May 5, 2021). TPG values these 90,000 miles at $990.

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Which is better?

While TPG values the full United Quest bonus at over $300 more than the Delta Platinum Amex bonus, making it the winner in this category, your particular valuations may vary based on how you usually use your miles. Here are some of our favorite ways to redeem 100,000 United miles.

It's also worth highlighting that earning the full 100,000-mile bonus with the United Quest card requires a total of $10,000 in spending, while the Delta Platinum Amex requires just $3,000 in spending to earn the full bonus, which may be an easier assignment for some. Here are some ideas on big-ticket everyday expenses you could shift to your card if you need help reaching that $10,000 total within six months.

Winner: United Quest Card

Main benefits and features

The United Quest Card offers some interesting perks that aren't replicated by many other cards.

There's a $125 annual statement credit against United purchases each year, which is pretty easy to value at $125 for United travelers. It also awards two 5,000-mile bonuses — one for each time you redeem miles per cardmember anniversary year, up to 10,000 total miles in a year. Based on TPG valuations, that's a potential $130 in value each year.

On top of those unique offerings, the card also provides a free first and second checked bag for the cardholder and one other on the reservation, along with priority boarding and a 25% statement credit toward inflight purchases on United. Having this card also makes the cardmember eligible for upgrades on award flights if they have United elite status.

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

The Delta Platinum Amex's marquee ongoing benefit is the anniversary companion ticket awarded each year you renew the card. This ticket is only valid in Main Cabin (economy) and the first ticket must be charged to your Delta card. There are also some fare class restrictions which make the benefit unavailable on certain dates and routes. On the positive side, the benefit can be used even if the cardholder is not on the flight, making it shareable with friends or family.

Both cards offer elite-like benefits such as a certain amount of included checked bags when flying that airline (and using the card to purchase the tickets), priority boarding and a 20%-25% rebate on eligible inflight spending on snacks, drinks, etc.

Which is better?

While there is the potential for greater value out of the annual Delta companion ticket than the United $125 statement credit and two 5,000-mile award bonuses, more strings are attached to its use. There is also a reasonable chance the companion ticket benefit could go wholly unused in a given year if there isn't a trip that lines up with availability or the need to bring along a traveling companion.

Given all that, we're calling this one a draw as both cards have similar base-level perks and either set of unique perks could be more valuable in different scenarios.

Tie: United Quest and Delta Platinum Amex

Earning miles

The United Quest Card provides 3x miles on United purchases (immediately after earning $125 United purchase credit), 2x on other travel charges (including other airlines, hotels, car rentals, etc.), 2x on dining and select streaming and 1x miles on other purchases.

The Delta SkyMiles Platinum Amex has a similar 3-2-1 earning structure to the United Quest Card. In the case of the Delta mid-tier card, you'll earn 3x miles on eligible purchases with Delta and hotels (made directly with the hotels), 2x miles at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets and 1x on other purchases.

(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)

Which is better?

While getting 3x miles for charges with their respective airlines isn't bad, the truth is neither of these mid-tier airline cards is truly great when it comes to spending bonus categories.

That said, keep in mind the different TPG valuations for the miles. For example, earning 2x United miles per dollar is a 2.6% return on spending if you use TPG valuations, while 2x Delta miles is just a 2.2% return given the lower valuation per mile.

However, if you want to earn United miles, you're really better served with the Chase Sapphire Reserve's 3x points awarded on dining and travel since you can transfer those Chase Ultimate Rewards points to United at a 1:1 ratio.

If it is Delta SkyMiles you seek, you can earn 5x Membership Rewards points on airfare booked directly with the airlines via The Platinum Card® from American Express (up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year) and/or 4x points per dollar spent at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets with the American Express Gold Card. You could then transfer those Amex Membership Rewards points at a 1:1 ratio to Delta SkyMiles.

In short, neither is great when it comes to spending bonuses, but both are respectable.

Tie: United Quest and Delta Platinum Amex

Elite benefits

The United Quest and Delta SkyMiles Platinum cards both make it easier to inch to the next elite status level with spending put on the cards. However, both require a lot of spending to move the needle up the status chain very far.

The United Quest Card awards 500 Premier qualifying points for every $12,000 charged to the card, with a max of 3,000 points with $72,000 in annual spending.

For context, in 2021 United will require 3,000 PQPs and eight flight segments or 3,500 PQPs and four flight credits for the entry-level Silver status tier. The next tier, Gold, would require 6,000 PQPs and 16 flight segments or 7,000 PQPs with four required flight segments on United or United Express. In other words, assuming you had at least four segments on United-operated flights in the year, you could charge your way to United Silver status with $72,000 in spending on the card.

Related: Guide to United elite status

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

With the Delta SkyMiles Platinum Amex, you earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles after spending $25,000 in a calendar year on the card. You can then unlock an additional 10,000 MQMs after spending a total of $50,000 in a calendar year.

Delta requires 25,000 MQMs and $3,000 Medallion Qualification Dollars (essentially dollars spent with the airline) for entry-level Silver status and 50,000 MQMs and $6,000 MQDs for Gold status. This means you normally could not spend your way to Silver status with Delta the way you could with United, assuming you met the flight segment requirement.

With Delta, if you don't meet the Medallion Qualification Dollar thresholds in a calendar year, you can still qualify for Platinum, Gold and Silver Medallion status if you have earned the required Medallion Qualification Miles or Medallion Qualification Segments and make at least $25,000 in eligible purchases on your card that year. If you want top-tier Diamond status and didn't meet the MQD threshold, you must make at least $250,000 in eligible purchases on your card that year to unlock that status level.

Related: Guide to Delta elite status

Which is better?

The reality is these benefits are very similar, though each program works a bit differently. Frankly, I don't like how the benefit works on either card very much as I'd rather see it possible to make incremental progress with everyday spending than have to hit a five-figure amount of annual spending before you make any progress at all.

However, I'm giving the edge to United because you can charge your way to enough PQDs for Silver status, assuming you hit the flight segment requirements.

With Delta, you can actually also do that this year with a 2021-only opportunity for an additional 2,500 MQMs each time you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Platinum Card up to two times, but it's not a normal offering. If that becomes a permanent addition, it could likely sway me to ranking Delta as the victor in this category.

Winner: United Quest Card

Related: How to spend your way to Delta elite status

Additional benefits

Auto collision waiver when using the card to rent vehicles

United Quest

Rental car coverage is primary and provides reimbursement up to the vehicle's actual cash value for theft and collision damage for most rental cars in the U.S. and abroad.

Delta Platinum Amex

This card provides some protections for damage and theft of a rental car with exclusions and restrictions. Coverage is secondary and does not include liability coverage.

Trip protection when using a card to book

United Quest

  • If you use the card for your ticket purchase, it provides coverage up to $1,500 per person and $6,000 per trip for prepaid, nonrefundable passenger fares if your trip is canceled or cut short by sickness, severe weather and other covered situations.
  • Reimburses you for essential purchases like toiletries and clothing for baggage delays over six hours by passenger carrier up to $100 a day for three days.
  • Covers damage and loss to luggage for cardholder and immediate family members up to $3,000 per passenger.
  • If common carrier travel is delayed more than 12 hours or requires an overnight stay, you and your family are covered for reimbursed expenses (such as meals and lodging), up to $500 per ticket.

Related: How to make a Chase trip interruption claim

Delta Platinum Amex

  • If a round-trip is paid entirely with your card and a covered issue causes a delay for at least 12 hours, trip delay coverage can reimburse certain expenses made on the card up to $300 per trip. This benefit is valid on a maximum of two claims per 12 months.
  • Lost, stolen or damaged bags may be covered up to $1,250 for a carry-on and $500 for a checked bag if you use the card to purchase the entire fare on your plane, train, ship or bus.
(Photo by Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images)

Purchase protection

United Quest

Using this card for eligible purchases provides 120 days of coverage against damage or theft up to $10,000 per claim and $50,000 per year.

Delta Platinum Amex

This card provides purchase protections for 90 days, up to $1,000 per occurrence and $50,000 per calendar year.

Related: Guide to Amex purchase protection

Cellphone protection

United Quest

This card does not offer cellphone protection on an ongoing basis.

Delta Platinum Amex

The Delta Platinum Amex now provides cellphone coverage for stolen or damaged phones when you use it to pay your monthly cell phone bill. Coverage is valid up to $800 per claim, with each claim coming with a $50 deductible and a maximum of two claims per 12-month period.

Club access

United Quest

Unlike the United Club Infinite Card — and even the United Explorer Card that provides two annual one-time passes — the United Quest card does not provide any United Club access benefits.

Delta Platinum Amex

With this card, you and up to two guests can purchase Delta Sky Club access for $39 per person when traveling on a Delta flight.

Delta Sky Club. (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

TSA/Global Entry

United Quest

The card offers a statement credit of $100 every four years against application fees for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck when charged to your card.

Delta Platinum Amex

You can receive a statement credit every four years after applying for Global Entry ($100) or a statement credit every 4 1/2 years after applying for TSA PreCheck (up to $85).

Which card should you get?

If you fly a couple of times per year with either of these airlines, both are cards worth considering.

Personally, I have the Delta SkyMiles Platinum Amex primarily for the annual companion certificate, but also so that I have some elite-like perks when it comes to waived bag fees and priority boarding. When combined with other limited-time offerings that come and go (such as the current $15 monthly statement credit at U.S. restaurants), I easily cover the $250 fee per year in value.

I also very much want the United Quest Card. The $125 annual statement credit on United purchases and two 5,000-mile credits when you redeem miles each anniversary year are enticing to me as a regular United flyer. Trying the card out while it has a bonus of up to 100,000 miles is likely going to be enough to get me to apply before that bonus ends.

Between the two cards, which is best for you likely comes down to which airline you reliably fly at least a few times per year.

In the case of the Delta SkyMiles Platinum Card, its best ongoing perk (the companion certificate) requires that you fly at least once a year with a companion on a paid ticket. If you don't fall into that category, I'd skip this card in favor of one of the other Delta options, such as the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card that comes with an introductory annual fee of $0 for the first year, then $99 (see rates and fees).

With the United Quest Card, while it may be worth trying out during the introductory 100,000-mile bonus period regardless of your exact travel patterns, on an ongoing basis, this card will be best for those who fly on a mix of paid and United award flights every year. Otherwise, the $95-per-year (waived the first year) United Explorer Card may be a better match for less frequent United flyers.

It's entirely possible that both the United Quest and Delta SkyMiles Platinum cards deserve a spot in your wallet — I hope to end up with both of them in mine.

Related: How to pick the best United credit card

Bottom line

It's fun to rank two similar competitors against each other and see where one shines the brightest.

The United Quest card currently has the stronger introductory welcome bonus, better built-in travel protections and a slight edge when it comes to elite status earnings.

However, the Delta SkyMiles Platinum Amex is the heavyweight champion if you travel on paid domestic flights with a companion, if you want ongoing cellphone protection or if you want to check bags for more than two people on your reservation. Personally speaking, I'm about to move my own cellphone bill over there to help offset the cost of future unfortunate drops.

These mid-tier cards both make compelling cases to join your credit card lineup. If you only want to choose one, the best one for you will likely be the one that aligns with the airline you fly most consistently.

Application link: United Quest Card available with up to 100,000 bonus miles.

Application link: Delta SkyMiles Platinum American Express Card available with up to 90,000 bonus miles for a limited time.

For rates and fees of the Amex Gold card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Platinum Amex card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Gold Amex card, please click here.

Featured image by (Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)
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.

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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.
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