Choosing the best credit card for Delta flyers

Oct 2, 2019

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If you’re serious about award travel, you need to choose the best credit cards to keep in your wallet and create a credit card strategy that earns you extra miles through welcome bonuses and bonus spending categories.

For Delta flyers, this may not be as straightforward as you think. Because of its cobranding, the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express may seem like the obvious choice. But when you break it down, the Platinum Card® from American Express is a better option for return on spending. It earns 5x Membership Rewards points on airfare purchases booked directly with the airline or through American Express Travel (which can be transferred to Delta at a 1:1 ratio) compared with 2x SkyMiles for Delta purchases on the Gold Delta card.

Two other cards, the Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express and the Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express, each have unique perks and features. Whether or not a Delta card is even the best option for Delta flyers is an important consideration, but so is choosing the right Delta card to help you meet your goals. Let’s take a look at the details of all three Delta Amex cards.

Welcome bonuses

If you’re a Delta flyer looking for a credit card to improve your travel experience, check out the cards below:

The best Delta credit cards of 2019

Delta American Express credit cards

Delta partners solely with American Express for its cobranded airline credit cards and these options offer nice-to-have but not essential benefits. The Gold Delta SkyMiles Amex, the Platinum Delta SkyMiles Amex and the Delta Reserve Amex all offer priority boarding and a first checked bag free for you and your companions (for a total of up to nine travelers on the same reservation).

There are also business versions of all three cobranded Delta credit cards: the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card from American Express, the Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card from American Express and the Delta Reserve for Business Credit Card from American Express.

These have largely the same benefits as their personal credit card counterparts, but if you have a small business and want to separate expenses, a business credit card can be a strong option. Plus, if you’re trying to stay under 5/24 (Chase’s rule that limits credit card approvals), it’s helpful that Amex business credit cards don’t count toward your 5/24 standing.

Comparing value and perks

Gold Delta SkyMiles Amex

Bonus offer Bonus value** Perks Annual fee Total value
Earn 30,000 miles after spending $1,000 in the first three months, plus a $50 statement credit after making a Delta purchase in the first three months. Terms apply. $410 First bag checked free

2x miles on Delta purchases

20% inflight savings

$95* (see rates & fees) $410

Platinum Delta SkyMiles Amex

Bonus offer Bonus value** Perks Annual fee Total value
Earn 35,000 miles and 5,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after spending $1,000 in the first three months, plus a $100 statement credit after making a Delta purchase in the first three months. Terms apply. $520 Annual companion certificate for main-cabin travel

Earn 10,000 MQMs and 10,000 miles after spending $25,000 in a calendar year, and another 10,000 of each after spending $50,000 in a year

First bag checked free

Main Cabin 1 Priority Boarding

2x miles on Delta purchases

$195 ($250 if application is received on or after 1/30/2020)

(see rates & fees)

$325

Delta Reserve Amex

Bonus offer Bonus value** Perks Annual fee Total value
Earn 40,000 miles and 10,000 MQMs after spending $3,000 in the first three months. Terms apply. $480 Complimentary Delta Sky Club access when you fly Delta, and discounted rates for up to two guests ($545)

Annual companion certificate for first class, Comfort+ or main cabin

Earn 15,000 MQMs and 15,000 miles after spending $30,000 in a calendar year, and another 15,000 of each after spending $60,000 in a year

2x miles on Delta purchases

$450 ($550 if application is received on or after 1/30/2020) (see rates & fees) $30

Gold Delta SkyMiles Business Amex

Bonus offer Bonus value** Perks Annual fee Total value
Earn 30,000 bonus miles after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in purchases within your first 3 months and a $50 Statement Credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months. Terms apply. $410 First bag checked free

2x miles on Delta purchases

20% inflight savings

Main Cabin 1 Priority Boarding

$95* (see rates & fees) $410

Platinum Delta Business Amex

Bonus offer Bonus value** Perks Annual fee Total value
Earn 35,000 miles and 5,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after spending $1,000 in the first three months, plus a $100 statement credit after making a Delta purchase in the first three months. $520 Annual companion certificate for main-cabin travel

Earn 10,000 MQMs and 10,000 miles after spending $25,000 in a calendar year, and another 10,000 of each after spending $50,000 in a year

First bag checked free

Main Cabin 1 Priority Boarding

2x miles on Delta purchases

$195 ($250 if application is received on or after 1/30/2020)

(see rates & fees)

$325

Delta Reserve for Business Amex

Bonus offer Bonus value** Perks Annual fee Total value
Earn 40,000 miles and 10,000 MQMs after spending $3,000 in the first three months. $480 Complimentary Delta Sky Club access when you fly Delta, discounted rates for up to two guests ($545)

Annual companion certificate for first class, Comfort+ or main cabin

Earn 15,000 MQMs and 15,000 miles after spending $30,000 in a calendar year, and another 15,000 of each after spending $60,000 in a year

2x miles on Delta purchases

$450 ($550 if application is received on or after 1/30/2020) (see rates & fees) $30

*Annual fee waived the first year.
**Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer.

The best Delta Credit Cards

Gold Delta SkyMiles Card from American Express

Benefits

  • First bag checked for free on Delta flights
  • Priority boarding
  • 20% off inflight purchases
  • 2x miles on Delta purchases, and 1 mile per dollar on everything else
  • Terms apply

Annual Fee: $95, waived the first year (see rates & fees)

Bonus: 30,000 miles after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months, plus earn a $50 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase on your card in the first three months

Further Reading:

APPLY HERE: Gold Delta SkyMiles Card from American Express

Platinum Delta SkyMiles Card from American Express

Benefits

  • Annual companion certificate each year upon card renewal for main-cabin, round-trip travel
  • 10,000 MQMs toward status and 10,000 redeemable miles when you spend $25,000 on the card in a calendar year, plus an additional 10,000 MQMs and 10,000 redeemable miles when you spend $50,000 in a calendar year
  • Earn 2x miles on Delta purchases and 1 mile per dollar on everything else
  • Get a first bag checked for free on Delta flights
  • Priority boarding
  • 20% off inflight purchases
  • Terms apply

Annual Fee: $195 ($250 if application is received on or after 1/30/2020) (see rates & fees)

Bonus: 35,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion Qualification Miles after you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first three months, plus earn a $100 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase on your card in the first three months

Further Reading:

APPLY HERE: Platinum Delta SkyMiles Card from American Express

Delta Reserve Card from American Express

Benefits

  • Annual companion certificate each year upon card renewal for round-trip travel in first class, Comfort+ or main cabin
  • Complimentary Delta Sky Club access when you fly Delta, plus discounted rates of $29 per person for up to two people
  • 15,000 MQMs toward status and 15,000 redeemable miles when you spend $30,000 on the card in a calendar year, plus an additional 15,000 MQMs and 15,000 redeemable miles when you spend $60,000 in a calendar year
  • Earn 2x miles on Delta purchases, and 1 mile per dollar on everything else
  • Get a first bag checked for free on Delta flights
  • Priority boarding
  • 20% off inflight purchases
  • Terms apply

Annual Fee: $450 ($550 if application is received on or after 1/30/2020) (see rates & fees)

Bonus: 40,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases in the first three months

APPLY HERE: Delta Reserve Card from American Express

Gold Delta SkyMiles Business Card from American Express

(Photo by Eric Helgas/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Eric Helgas/The Points Guy.)

Benefits

  • First bag checked for free on Delta flights
  • Priority boarding
  • 20% off inflight purchases
  • 2x miles on Delta purchases, and 1 mile per dollar on everything else
  • Terms apply

Annual Fee: $95, waived the first year (see rates & fees)

Bonus: 30,000 miles after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months. Plus, a $50 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase in the first three months.

Further Reading:

APPLY HERE: Gold Delta SkyMiles Business Amex

Platinum Delta SkyMiles Business Card from American Express

Benefits

  • Annual companion certificate each year upon card renewal for main-cabin, round-trip travel
  • 10,000 MQMs toward status and 10,000 redeemable miles when you spend $25,000 on the card in a calendar year, plus an additional 10,000 MQMs and 10,000 redeemable miles when you spend $50,000 in a calendar year
  • 2x miles on Delta purchases, and 1 mile per dollar on everything else
  • First bag checked for free on Delta flights
  • Priority boarding
  • 20% off inflight purchases

Annual Fee: $195 ($250 if application is received on or after 1/30/2020) (see rates & fees)

Bonus: 35,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion Qualification Miles after you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first three months, plus a $100 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase on your card in the first three months

Further reading:

APPLY HERE: Platinum Delta SkyMiles Business Amex

Delta Reserve for Business Credit Card

Benefits

  • Annual companion certificate each year upon card renewal for round-trip travel in first class, Comfort+ or main cabin
  • Complimentary Delta Sky Club access when you fly Delta, plus discounted rates of $29 per person for up to two people
  • 15,000 MQMs toward status and 15,000 redeemable miles when you spend $30,000 on the card in a calendar year, plus an additional 15,000 MQMs and 15,000 redeemable miles when you spend $60,000 in a calendar year
  • 2x miles on Delta purchases, and 1 mile per dollar on everything else
  • First bag checked for free on Delta flights
  • Priority boarding
  • 20% off inflight purchases

Annual Fee: $450 ($550 if application is received on or after 1/30/2020) (see rates & fees)

Bonus: 40,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases in the first three months

APPLY HERE: Delta Reserve for Business Card

When Delta Amex cards make sense

There’s also a recently introduced no-annual-fee card (see rates & fees), the Blue Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express. With this card, you get 2x miles on Delta purchases, as well as on spending at U.S. restaurants, 1 mile per dollar on everything else and 20% off eligible inflight purchases when you travel with Delta. It’s currently offering a bonus of 10,000 SkyMiles after you spend $500 in the first three months. Unlike the other Delta Amex cards, it charges a 2.7% fee on foreign transactions (see rates & fees).

Overall, I think the Delta credit cards offer a fair value based on their respective annual fees. The ability to earn MQMs on the Delta Platinum and Reserve cards may make them worth the annual fees for some Delta loyalists, especially if they’re big credit card spenders and fall short on paid flights for the year.

A big plus with Platinum and Reserve cards is the offer of a companion certificate for travel on Delta each year after your account anniversary. With the Platinum, you get a domestic companion certificate good for the main cabin, but with the Reserve it’s good for first class, Delta Comfort+ or the main cabin (also with a maximum of $75 in taxes and fees). Keep in mind the restrictions, which limit travel within the 48 contiguous United States (though those who live in Hawaii, Alaska, Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands can originate from their home to a destination in the 48 contiguous United States).

Additionally, you can use Delta credit cards to waive the Medallion Qualification Dollar (MQD) requirement for Delta elite status. If you spend $25,000 on Delta SkyMiles Amex cards in a calendar year, you’ll get an MQD waiver for status levels up to Platinum, but to get the MQD requirement waived for Diamond Medallion status, you now have to spend an outrageous $250,000 on Delta credit cards in a calendar year. Needless to say, we don’t recommend going this route, especially because you can meet the MQD requirement for Diamond status by spending a much lower amount on Delta and partner flights in a calendar year.

When it comes to the Delta Reserve, I don’t think Delta Sky Club access justifies the $450 annual fee ($550 if application is received on or after 1/30/2020). In my experience, the lounges are always packed and offer little in the way of complimentary refreshments. However, the airline continues to charge higher prices to enter its lounges, so if you fly Delta frequently and don’t have any lounge access through another card like The Platinum Card® from American Express, this benefit could appeal to you. My recommendation is to go after the Reserve card only if you can put $60,000 on the card annually to capture 40,000 MQMs, including the introductory bonus.

Additional options for Delta flyers

If you mostly fly Delta using points and miles instead of paying cash for tickets, there are other non-Delta cards to consider. As previously mentioned, Membership Rewards transfer to Delta at a 1:1 ratio, opening up another avenue in your SkyMiles-earning strategy. However, cards that earn Membership Rewards aren’t the only Amex options for racking up significant SkyMiles and you can actually get a much higher return on spending with some non-Delta-branded options from Amex.

Let’s take a look at other cards from Amex that can be very beneficial to the Delta flyer.

The Platinum Card from American Express

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

Benefits

  • 5x points on all airfare booked directly with airlines
  • Transfer points to more than 20 travel partners
  • Up to a $200 annual air travel credit
  • Up to $200 in annual Uber credits
  • Up to $100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application-fee credit
  • Terms apply

Annual Fee: $550 annual fee (see rates & fees)

Bonus: 60,000 points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months

Further Reading:

APPLY HERE: Platinum Card from American Express

American Express® Gold Card

Benefits

  • 3x points on all airfare purchased directly from the airline
  • 4x points at restaurants worldwide
  • 4x points at U.S. supermarkets up to $25,000 per year
  • $120 dining credit ($10 monthly when you pay with the Gold card at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Boxed and participating Shake Shacks)
  • Up to $100 annual airline fee credit
  • Terms apply

Annual Fee: $250 (see rates & fees)

Bonus: 35,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months

Further Reading:

APPLY HERE: American Express Gold Card

The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express

Benefits

  • For every billing period in which you use the card for 30 or more transactions, you’ll earn 50% extra Membership Rewards on your purchases.
  • 3x points on the first $6,000 of annual spending at supermarkets
  • 2x points on gas

Annual Fee: $95

Bonus: 15,000 points after you spend $1,000 in the first three months of account opening

(The information for the Amex EveryDay Preferred Credit Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.)

Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card

(Photo by Eric Helgas/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Eric Helgas/The Points Guy.)

Benefits

  • 5,000-mile bonus for every 60,000 Marriott points you transfer to any of its airline partners. (Marriott points transfer to Delta at a 3:1 ratio)
  • 6x points on Marriott stays
  • 4x points at U.S. restaurants, U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping
  • 2x points on all other purchases
  • Free-night award every year for properties that cost up to 35,000 points starting with your first account anniversary
  • Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Silver Elite status
  • Terms apply

Annual Fee: $125 (see rates & fees)

Bonus: 75,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy points after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.

APPLY HERE: Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express

Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard

Benefits

  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles can be used to book Delta flights via the Virgin website
  • 3x miles on direct Virgin Atlantic purchases
  • 1.5x miles on all other purchases
  • A companion award in the same cabin class when you redeem Flying Club miles for a Virgin Atlantic award ticket if you spend $25,000 in purchases annually
  • 25 tier points toward Virgin Atlantic elite status for every $2,500 in purchases (maximum 50 tier points per month)

Annual Fee: $90

Bonus: 60,000 Virgin Atlantic miles after spending $2,000 in purchases within the first 90 days of account opening, 5,000 bonus miles when you add additional authorized users, and 15,000 bonus miles at your card anniversary after spending $25,000 in purchases in 12 months

APPLY HERE: Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard

How much are Delta miles worth?

Delta miles, which are called SkyMiles, are issued by Delta Air Lines and are the primary currency of the airline’s loyalty program. According to The Points Guy’s point valuations, Delta SkyMiles are worth 1.2 cents each, though you might get more or less depending on what type of award redemption you choose to make with your miles.

To calculate how much value you’re getting for your miles, find the cash price of the ticket you’re redeeming for and divide it by the number of miles that ticket costs. For instance, if a flight from New York to Chicago costs $100 in cash, but you can redeem 8,000 SkyMiles to get it for free, you’d be getting 1.25 cents per mile for that redemption. That’s because $100 divided by 8,000 equals 1.25 cents. For more information, read The Points Guy’s guide on How to Decide Whether to Use Cash or Miles for Airline Tickets.

How do I earn Delta miles?

Delta SkyMiles can be earned in several ways, only one of which is from flying on Delta. You can also earn Delta miles by spending money on Delta’s credit cards, by transferring points from American Express’ separate Membership Rewards program, by shopping through Delta’s SkyMiles shopping portal, by attaching any credit card to Delta’s SkyMiles dining program and through various other promotions offered from time to time by the airline.

How do I redeem Delta miles?

Although Delta SkyMiles can be redeemed in various ways, you’ll generally get the most value for your miles by redeeming them for flights. However, just because you have Delta miles doesn’t mean you have to use them to fly on Delta. That’s because the airline is a member of the SkyTeam alliance, made up of 19 international airlines, all of which you can book by using each partner’s miles. You can’t transfer miles between the different airlines, but you can use Delta’s website to find flights on partner airlines that can be booked using Delta miles. Check out The Points Guy’s guide on How to redeem miles with the Delta Air Lines SkyMiles Program.

How many Delta miles does it take to get a free flight?

Delta no longer has an award chart, so the only way to know how many miles it will take to get a particular flight is to look up that flight on Delta’s website, or by calling Delta and asking an agent. Keep in mind that the number of miles it takes to get a flight with Delta miles can fluctuate by the day, or sometimes by the hour. So if you find a flight at a price in miles that you’re comfortable with, don’t wait to redeem for it because it might get more expensive later. You can also score deals with Delta Sky Miles flash deals.

Bottom line

With the seemingly nonstop devaluations and a lack of transparency when it comes to award travel costs, many award travelers have avoided Delta’s SkyMiles program for the past several years. Still, you can find some good value in SkyMiles, such as short-haul flights for just 10,000 miles per ticket and other steals with the flash award sales the airline regularly offers, including flights to Europe for 22,000 miles round-trip or flights to Tokyo for 30,000 miles round-trip.

However, unless you’re the most die-hard Delta flyer alive and refuse to fly other airlines, I don’t see the cobranded Delta credit cards as your best option unless you want the introductory bonus, pay to check a bag on Delta more than three times a year or are in need of some MQMs. The ancillary benefits the cobranded Delta cards offer are nice, but they’re not game-changers. The flexibility offered by the other American Express cards, along with bonus categories that earn you more SkyMiles, may make more sense for the average Delta flyer.

Related guides

Featured photo by @TonyTheTigersSon via Twenty20


This is The Points Guy’s permanent page with the best current cards for Delta flyers, so you can bookmark it and check back regularly for updates. Keep in mind you may see some reader comments referring to older offers below.

For rates and fees of the Amex Gold Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Gold Delta SkyMiles Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Gold Delta SkyMiles Business Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta Reserve Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta Reserve Business Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Blue Delta SkyMiles Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Platinum Delta SkyMiles Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Platinum Delta SkyMiles Business Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Business Amex Card, please click here.

Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express

If you are a Delta flyer who is looking to bank some extra miles this card is a great addition for your wallet. While you'll earn 2 miles per dollar on Delta purchases and 1 mile per dollar on everything else, you'll also have access to other perks like priority boarding, a first bag checked free and discounted Delta  Sky Club access.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 30,000 bonus miles after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in purchases within your first 3 months and a $50 Statement Credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months.
  • Earn 2 miles on every eligible dollar spent on purchases made directly with Delta.
  • Earn 1 mile for every eligible dollar spent on purchases.
  • Check your first bag free on Delta flights – that’s a savings of up to $240 for a family of 4 roundtrip.
  • Receive Main Cabin 1 Priority Boarding on Delta flights, stow your carry-on bag and settle in sooner.
  • Enjoy a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
17.24%-26.24% Variable
Annual Fee
$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
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.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.