Credit card showdown: Delta Platinum vs. Delta Reserve

Feb 10, 2020

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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with current information and offers. It was originally published on Oct. 16, 2019.

Delta Air Lines offers one of the most comprehensive credit card portfolios of any major airline, with entry-level, mid-tier and premium cards for both consumers and businesses.

Delta Tail Planes Salt Lake City Airport SLC
Delta jets awaiting passengers in Salt Lake City. (Photo by Darren Murph / The Points Guy)

Although the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card is a great choice for anyone looking for benefits such as a free checked bag and priority boarding when flying Delta, more frequent Delta fliers should do look further to figure out whether the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card or the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card offers enough elevated benefits to justify paying a higher annual fee.

Today we’re going to take a look at how the mid-tier Delta Platinum card stacks up against the premium Delta Reserve.

Related reading: Choosing the best credit card for Delta flyers

In This Post

Card comparison

Before we dive into the details, let’s start with a high-level comparison of these two Delta credit cards.

Feature Delta Platinum Delta Reserve
Welcome bonus 40,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Plus, earn a $100 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months. Terms apply. 40,000 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. Terms apply.
Annual fee $250 (see rates & fees) $550 (see rates & fees)
Earning rates 3x miles on eligible Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels

2x miles on restaurants and U.S. supermarkets

1x miles everywhere else

3x miles on eligible Delta purchases

1x miles everywhere else

Baggage First checked bag free on Delta flights (including up to eight companions) First checked bag free on Delta flights (including up to eight companions)
Travel perks Discounted Sky Club access; priority boarding; 20% off inflight purchases

Global Entry/TSA PreCheck fee credit (up to $100 every four years for Global Entry and every 4.5 years for TSA PreCheck)

Trip delay insurance

Delta SkyClub membership, priority boarding; 20% off inflight purchases

Global Entry/TSA PreCheck fee credit (up to $100 every four years for Global Entry and every 4.5 years for TSA PreCheck)

Two one-time SkyClub guest passes, access to Amex Centurion lounges when flying on Delta tickets purchased with your Delta Reserve, access to complimentary upgrades for non-elite members

Trip delay insurance and trip cancellation/interruption insurance

Companion ticket Domestic main-cabin, round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your card Domestic first class, Delta Comfort+® or main cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your card
Status Boost Earn 10,000 MQMs after spending $25,000 in a calendar year and again after spending $50,000 Earn 15,000 MQMs after spending $30,000 in a calendar year and again after spending $60,000, $90,000 and $120,000 in a calendar year

As you can see, these two cards overlap on a lot of benefits. Specifically, both cards include a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application-fee credit (up to $100), the first checked bag free for you and up to eight companions on your reservation, priority boarding and 20% off inflight purchases.

Both cards also offer a Medallion Qualifying Dollar (MQD) waiver toward elite status. Customers who spend $25,000 a year will receive an MQD waiver all the way up to Delta Medallion Platinum elite status. Earning a waiver for Diamond requires a whopping $250,000 in annual spend.

But, there are some differences between the cards — with the biggest ones involving the welcome bonuses, lounge access, accelerator categories and help toward elite qualification. We’ll consider these in the following sections.

Related reading: Best credit cards for airport lounge access

Welcome bonus

(Photo by Alberto Riva/The Points Guy)
Delta flyers will be able to put these welcome bonus points to good use. (Photo by Alberto Riva/The Points Guy)

Since Amex only allows you to earn the bonus on each of its credit cards once per lifetime, you want to apply when the bonus is high. Luckily, the offers we’re currently seeing on both the Delta SkyMiles Platinum and Delta SkyMiles Reserve are compelling:

  • Delta SkyMiles Platinum: 40,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Plus, earn a $100 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months. Terms apply.
  • Delta SkyMiles Reserve: 40,000 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. Terms apply.

There are a few different components to parse here, but the most important one for the average person is the bonus Delta miles. In that area, these cards are tied. TPG values Delta SkyMiles at 1.2 cents each, making the 40,000 bonus Delta miles that you can earn through this welcome bonus worth $480.

Which card is better for you

When comparing a premium rewards card to a non-premium card, the question is whether the increased annual fee is worth it for the extra benefits you receive. As of now, the difference in annual fees between the Delta SkyMiles Platinum and Delta SkyMiles Reserve is $300 ($550 (see rates and fees) and $250 (see rates and fees), respectively).

Related reading: Why the Amex Platinum might just be the best card for Delta flyers

Why the Delta Reserve is better

(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)
The Delta Reserve provides multiple types of lounge access when flying Delta. (Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)

So what does the Delta Reserve offer to justify its hefty price tag? The first and most obvious perk is lounge access, which can easily net you $300 or more in value depending on how frequently you fly with Delta. In particular, you get:

Although Amex doesn’t currently have any Centurion lounges in Delta’s biggest hubs — Atlanta (ATL), Detroit (DET) and Minneapolis/St. Paul (MSP) — it’s slated to open one each in New York (JFK) and Los Angeles (LAX) in 2020, which will be great for Delta travelers passing through those airports. Of course, many Delta fliers might already have access to Amex Centurion Lounges, Delta SkyClubs (when flying Delta) and many other types of lounges through The Platinum Card® from American Express, so it’s important to make sure that the Delta Reserve wouldn’t be redundant in your wallet.

Related reading: Guide to lounge access with the Amex Platinum and Business Platinum

The Delta Reserve also comes out ahead with its annual companion certificate, which is valid for round-trip travel in domestic first class or Comfort+ and not limited to coach like the Delta Platinum. And you’ll earn 15,000 MQMs after spending $30,000 in a calendar year and again after spending $60,000, $90,000 and $120,000 in a calendar year. This means you can earn 60,000 MQMs in your first calendar year if you spend $120,000 on your card, and 60,000 MQMs each subsequent calendar year that you spend $120,000 on your card. That can give you a huge boost toward your desired elite status level with Delta.

Still, at the end of the day, $550 is a lot to spend on a card and the Delta Reserve is one of the only premium cards in this price range that doesn’t offer any type of annual statement credit to offset the annual fee.

Further reading: Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card review

Why the Delta Platinum is better

(Photo courtesy of Delta)
The Delta Platinum with its lower annual fee may provide all the benefits you need. (Photo courtesy of Delta)

If you’re looking for a cheaper option, the mid-tier Delta Platinum is a great choice for a few reasons. Although both cards earn 3x on Delta purchases, the Delta Platinum has some sweet bonus categories that the Delta Reserve doesn’t. In particular, the Delta Platinum earns 3x miles on purchases made directly with hotels and 2x miles at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets.

Like the Delta Reserve, you can also earn MQMs when you reach particular spending thresholds on the Delta Platinum. The positive of the Delta Platinum is that it offers better bonus categories if you’re using the card for most of your spending. With the Delta Platinum you can earn 10,000 MQMs after spending $25,000 in a calendar year and another 10,000 MQMs after spending $50,000, for a total of 20,000 MQMs each calendar year that you spend at least $50,000 on your card.

So, if you don’t need to earn a lot of extra MQMs each year and won’t benefit from the Delta Reserve‘s lounge access or premium-cabin companion certificate, the Delta Platinum might be a better option.

Related reading: Delta SkyMiles Platinum American Express Card review

Bottom line

The premium credit card competition continues to heat up and issuers like Amex are updating their cards to keep them attractive to customers. Frequent Delta fliers might be willing to shell out $550 a year for the Delta Reserve and its SkyClub membership and Centurion Lounge access, but many travelers and even those pursuing Delta elite status might find the mid-tier Delta Platinum to be a much better value.

Related reading: Battle of the premium travel rewards cards: Which is the best?

Apply here for the Delta Reserve or the Delta Platinum

For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Platinum card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Reserve card, click here.

Additional reporting by Katie Genter.

Featured image by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

NEW! 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
  • Earn 40,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Plus, earn a $100 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months.
  • New! With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 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. MQMs are used to determine Medallion Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • New! Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free and Main Cabin 1 Priority Boarding on Delta flights.
  • New! Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • New! Earn 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • 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.
  • Receive a 20% savings in the form of a statement credit after you use your Card on eligible Delta in-flight purchases of food, beverages, and audio headsets.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
$250
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.