Earn 20,000 MQMs the easy way: Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card review

Mar 8, 2021

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Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card

The Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card provides complimentary Sky Club access when flying on Delta, as well as the ability to earn Medallion® Qualifying Miles (MQMs) and a Medallion® Qualifying Dollars (MQD) waiver through spending on the card. The Delta Reserve Amex is best suited for frequent Delta flyers who want Delta-specific perks, including lounge access, a boost toward elite status and a domestic companion certificate after each account anniversary. Card Rating*:⭐⭐⭐½

*Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG’s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.

Editor’s note: This post has been updated with the current card information. 

Whether I’m traveling for work or leisure, I enjoy having airport lounge access. Lounge access allows me to be more productive while traveling. But, lounge access can also be useful for grabbing a quick drink or snack before a flight.

There are many types of airport lounges. But if you mainly fly with Delta, you’ll want access to Delta Sky Club lounges. Luckily, one of the Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card’s primary benefits is complimentary access to Delta Sky Clubs when flying Delta. So, if you’re thinking about paying for a Delta Sky Club membership, you’ll likely be better off paying the Delta Reserve’s $550 annual fee (see rates and fees).

The Delta Reserve Amex also offers many other perks that may be useful to frequent Delta travelers. For example, Delta Reserve cardmembers can snag Delta Medallion elite status a bit easier by spending on their Delta card. Today I’ll take a closer look at the Delta Reserve Amex and its benefits so you can decide whether it’s the right card for you.

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In This Post

Who is this card for?

(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)

Amex designed the Delta Reserve Amex for frequent Delta flyers. In particular, Delta flyers who want to qualify for a specific Delta elite status tier will enjoy the opportunity to earn bonus MQMs and an MQD waiver from spending on the Delta Reserve Amex. And Delta loyalists who are considering purchasing a Delta Sky Club membership may find that applying for the Delta Reserve Amex is a better use of their money.

However, it’s essential to realize that the Delta Reserve Amex isn’t the fastest way to rack up rewards, even when frequently flying on the carrier. Instead, the Delta Reserve Amex is best suited for travelers who can get significant value from the card’s perks.

Related: Choosing the best credit cards for Delta flyers

Current welcome offer

The Delta Reserve Amex currently offers a new member card offer of 80,000 bonus miles and 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after spending $5,000 in purchases within the first three months of card membership. Plus, earn a $200 statement credit after your first Delta purchase within the first three months. Offer ends 7/28/21.

TPG’s valuations peg the value of Delta SkyMiles at 1.1 cents each, making 80,000 bonus miles worth about $880 (plus the statement credit that’s up to $1,080). And the value of the bonus MQMs depends entirely on what tier of Delta status they help you unlock, with middle- or top-tier elites getting a greater return.

However, note that some applicants won’t be eligible for this welcome offer. Specifically, due to Amex’s one-bonus-per-lifetime rule, you typically won’t qualify if you have or have had this or previous versions of this card. And Amex may also consider the number of American Express cards you’ve opened and closed as well as other factors when determining whether to offer you a welcome bonus.

Thankfully, Amex will tell you if you aren’t eligible for the welcome offer after you submit your application but before Amex pulls your credit. So if you’re hoping to snag the welcome bonus, don’t ignore any messages or warnings that show up after you apply.

Related: What credit score do you need to get Delta SkyMiles cards?

Main benefits and perks

The Delta Reserve Amex offers several useful perks for frequent Delta flyers. But, Delta loyalists who want lounge access when flying Delta will benefit the most. Let’s take a closer look at all of the Delta Platinum Amex’s perks and benefits.

Lounge access

The Delta SkyClub at JFK’s Terminal 4 (Photo by Alberto Riva/The Points Guy)

Frankly, lounge access is the main reason to have the Delta Reserve Amex instead of another Delta credit card. With the Delta Reserve Amex, primary and additional cardmembers get complimentary access to Delta Sky Club lounges when traveling on a same-day Delta-marketed or Delta-operated flight. Cardmembers can also pay a per-visit fee of $39 per person per location for Sky Club access when traveling on a Delta partner airline flight not marketed or operated by Delta.

You’ll get two one-time Sky Club guest passes upon account opening as well as each year upon account renewal. These guest passes will appear in your Wallet in the Fly Delta app. You can also pay $39 per person, per location, to bring up to two guests or immediate family (spouse or domestic partner and children under 21 years of age) with you into the Sky Club.

Note that the Delta Reserve Amex doesn’t only get you access to Delta Sky Clubs when flying Delta. You’ll also get complimentary access to American Express Centurion Lounges when flying Delta with a ticket purchased on a U.S.-issued American Express card. You can bring up to two guests into the Centurion Lounge with you for a per-visit fee of $50 per person, per location.

Related: Which airline lounges in the U.S. are currently open?

Annual companion certificate

(Photo by Chris Dong/The Points Guy)

Another benefit of the Delta Reserve Amex is the companion certificate provided each year after your account anniversary. The companion certificate is valid for one round-trip first class, Delta Comfort+ or main cabin companion ticket when you pay taxes and fees on the award ticket and purchase an adult round-trip.

Travel typically must be within the 48 contiguous United States unless you live in Hawaii, Alaska, Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands. And you must book a ticket in a specific fare class. Here are the particular requirements based on your level of service:

  • First class: I and Z
  • Main cabin: L, U, T, X and V
  • Delta Comfort+ travel: W and S, but only when L, U, T, X or V classes of service are available in the main cabin

Related: What happens if you’ve used your companion certificate for a canceled flight?

Earn MQMs and an MQD waiver

Delta Reserve Amex cardmembers can spend to earn MQMs and even an MQD waiver. Typically, you can earn 15,000 MQMs after spending $30,000 on your card in a calendar year. And you can typically earn an additional 15,000 bonus MQMs after spending $60,000, $90,000 and $120,000 in a calendar year. As such, you can normally take home up to 60,000 MQMs each calendar year by spending on your card.

However, cardmembers can earn 25% more MQMs by spending on their cards in 2021. As such, you’ll earn 18,750 MQMs for every $30,000 you spend in purchases on your card this year, up to four times. So you can earn a total of 75,000 MQMs after spending $120,000 on your Delta Reserve Amex in 2021. Offer ends 12/31/21.

Delta Reserve Amex cardmembers can also spend on their card to earn an MQD waiver. This waiver means that if you don’t meet the MQD thresholds for a qualification year, you can still qualify for Platinum, Gold or Silver Medallion Status if you’ve earned the required MQMs or MQSs and make at least $25,000 in eligible purchases within that qualification year on your card. And you can qualify for Diamond Medallion Status if you’ve earned the required MQMs or MQSs and make at least $250,000 in eligible purchases on your card within that qualification year.

The combination of an MQD waiver and bonus MQMs makes the Delta Reserve Amex especially attractive for current or aspiring Delta elites.

Related: How to earn Delta Medallion elite status without flying in 2021

Other perks

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

The Delta Reserve Amex has many other perks, including:

Related: March roundup: The latest credit card benefit changes you need to know

How to earn miles

(Photo by My Agency/Shutterstock)

As you might assume from its name, the Delta Reserve Amex earns Delta SkyMiles. In particular, you’ll earn Delta SkyMiles as follows when you make eligible purchases with the Delta Reserve Amex:

  • 3x miles on eligible Delta purchases made directly with Delta
  • 1x miles on all other eligible purchases

But even with 3x miles on airfare, you may not want to spend much on the Delta Reserve Amex after you’ve earned the welcome bonus (unless you’re trying to hit an MQM-earning threshold or an MQD waiver threshold). After all, based on TPG’s valuation of Delta miles at 1.1 cents each, you’ll get about a 3.3% return on Delta purchases and a 1.1% return on everything else.

In short, the Delta Reserve Amex is not a card that you get for its earning potential. Even if you’re a frequent Delta flyer, you’ll come out ahead charging your airfare to one of the best cards for airfare purchases, such as The Platinum Card® from American Express. After all, the Amex Platinum offers 5x Amex Membership Rewards points on airfare purchases when you book directly with an airline or through Amex Travel (on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year). Plus, you can transfer Amex Membership Rewards points to Delta at a 1:1 ratio.

Related: 4 reasons why the Amex Platinum might be the ideal credit card for Delta flyers

How to redeem miles

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Delta’s decision to pull its award chart a few years back and switch to variable pricing can make it frustrating to redeem Delta SkyMiles. At 1.1 cents each, Delta SkyMiles are the lowest-valued of the three U.S. legacy carrier program currencies according to TPG’s valuations.

The effects of variable pricing can be mild in some cases, like this week of flights between Chicago (ORD) and New York (JFK). Delta highlights the lowest main cabin fare of 7,500 miles in this example. But on one day this week, you’ll end up paying more than two times that.

Delta award pricing from ORD to JFK
(Screenshot courtesy of Delta)

The price fluctuation gets a little more intense when you start to look at holiday travel, such as these one-way main cabin economy awards between Los Angeles (LAX) and Cancun (CUN) before Thanksgiving.

Delta award pricing from LAX to CUN
(Screenshot courtesy of Delta)

And when you start talking about premium-cabin awards, prices can skyrocket. You can certainly do better than these one-way awards between LAX and LHR when booking with other programs.

Premium cabin Delta pricing between LAX and LHR
(Screenshot courtesy of Delta)

If you have the flexibility to do so, you’d be best off saving your Delta miles for one of the carrier’s frequent flash award sales. Recently we’ve seen deals for domestic awards from 2,000 SkyMiles one-way and New York to Bogota in Delta One from 12,000 SkyMiles one-way. You can also use your Sky Miles to fly on international Sky Team partner airlines such as Air France and Korean Air, as well as select non-alliance partners like Virgin Atlantic and WestJet.

You can redeem Delta SkyMiles for many things other than flights. For example, TPG editor Nick Ellis recently redeemed Delta SkyMiles for a bottle of champagne. Delta also occasionally offers compelling redemptions options through its SkyMiles Experiences program, although this program is paused for now. However, note that some redemption options may provide relatively low value. Based on TPG’s valuations, you’ll typically want to aim for a redemption rate of 1.1 cents per Delta mile or higher.

Related: 8 Delta SkyMiles sweet spots worth saving up for

Which cards compete with the Delta Reserve Amex?

Most Delta Reserve Amex cardmembers have the card for one of two reasons: Delta SkyClub access or an extra boost toward earning Delta elite status. When it comes to these perks, the Delta Reserve Amex has three primary competitors: The Platinum Card from American ExpressDelta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card and Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card. In this section, I’ll discuss each of these three cards so you can ensure you get the right card for you.

Amex Platinum

(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)

Some frequent Delta flyers might be better off applying for The Platinum Card from American Express instead of getting a Delta credit card. After all, the Amex Platinum offers 5x Membership Rewards points on airfare purchased directly with the airline (a 10% return based on TPG’s valuations) compared to the Delta Reserve Amex’s 3x Delta SkyMiles (3.3% return) on eligible Delta purchases. And you can transfer Membership Rewards points to Delta SkyMiles at a 1:1 ratio.

The Amex Platinum offers Sky Club access when flying Delta, in addition to a Priority Pass Select membership, access to Amex’s growing collection of Centurion lounges and access to the entire American Express Global Lounge Collection. Enrollment required for select benefits. 

Although the Amex Platinum has a $550 annual fee (see rates and fees), it comes with many luxury travel perks, including complimentary Hilton and Marriott Gold elite status and access to the Fine Hotels and Resorts program. Plus, the Amex Platinum provides an up to $200 annual Uber credit (for U.S. services), an up to $200 annual airline fee credit, an up to $100 annual Saks Fifth Avenue credit and an up to a $100 credit every 4.5 years to cover a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck enrollment fee. Enrollment required for select benefits. 

You won’t get Delta-specific perks such as a first checked bag free, priority boarding, MQD waiver or MQM status boost with the Amex Platinum. But you can select Delta as your airline for the annual airline fee credit and then use this credit to cover up to $200 in fees (including baggage fees) each year.

The Amex Platinum currently offers a welcome bonus of 75,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $5,000 on purchases in your first six months of card membership. Plus, earn 10x points on eligible purchases on your new card at U.S. gas stations and U.S. supermarkets (on up to $15,000 in combined eligible purchases) during your first six months of card membership. For more details, check out our Amex Platinum card review.

Related: Credit card showdown: Amex Platinum vs. Delta Reserve

Delta Platinum Amex

(Photo courtesy of Delta)

Suppose you want a Delta SkyMiles card for the Delta-specific perks but don’t think you’d get enough value from the Delta Reserve Amex’s perks. In that case, you should consider the more moderately priced Delta SkyMiles Platinum American Express Card. The Delta Platinum Amex currently offers a welcome bonus of 90,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in purchases within the first three months of card membership. Plus, earn a $200 statement credit after your first Delta purchase within the first three months. Offer ends 7/28/21.

The Delta Platinum Amex offers the same MQD waiver options, first checked bag free and priority boarding as the Delta Reserve Amex. But, if you’re looking to earn MQMs through spending on your card, the Delta Platinum may be less appealing. After all, the Delta Platinum Amex’s welcome offer doesn’t include MQMs. And with the Delta Platinum Amex, you’ll only earn 10,000 MQMs after spending $25,000 in a calendar year and another 10,000 MQMs after spending $50,000.

You won’t get complimentary Delta SkyClub access with the Delta Platinum Amex, although you can pay for admission on a per-visit basis. But the Delta Platinum Amex has a lower annual fee of $250 (see rates and fees) that may be easier to justify for some consumers. For more information, see our card review of the Delta Platinum.

Related: Credit card showdown: Delta Platinum vs. Delta Reserve

Delta Reserve Business Amex

Amex Delta Skymiles Business Reserve_CCSL
(Photo by The Points Guy)

Finally, if you’re eligible for a business card, you might prefer the Delta SkyMiles Reserve Business American Express Card. This business card has a lot of similarities to the consumer version. In particular, the lounge access, companion certificate, MQD waiver, ability to earn MQMs by hitting spending thresholds, first checked bag free and priority boarding perks are all the same for the Delta Reserve Amex and Delta Reserve Business Amex.

However, the Delta Reserve Business Amex currently offers a slightly more valuable welcome bonus. In particular, the Delta Reserve Business Amex offers new cardmembers 85,000 bonus miles and 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs), after spending $6,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Plus, earn a $200 statement credit after your first Delta purchase within the first three months. Offer ends 7/28/21.

So, if you are looking for a business card with similar perks to the Delta Reserve Amex, you should consider the Delta Reserve Business Amex. The card has a $550 annual fee (see rates and fees). See our Delta Reserve Business Amex card review for more details.

Related: Credit card showdown: Delta SkyMiles Reserve vs. Delta SkyMiles Reserve Business

Bottom line

The Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card represents a strong commitment to Delta. In particular, this card is best for Delta loyalists who want complimentary Delta Sky Club access and a serious elite-qualification boost.

But, if you don’t need both of these Delta-specific perks, another card might be better for you. For example, the Amex Platinum is a better choice if you’re only interested in Delta SkyClub lounge access when flying Delta. And Delta credit cards with lower annual fees are a better fit if you need less of an elite-qualification boost or you’re primarily interested in getting your first checked bag free and priority boarding.

Apply here for the Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card

For rates and fees of the Delta Reserve Amex, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum, click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta Platinum Amex, click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta Reserve Business Amex, click here.

Additional reporting by Ethan Steinberg.

Featured image by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy.

Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card

 

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 80,000 Bonus Miles and 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $5,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months and a $200 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months. Offer expires 7/28/2021.
  • Accelerate your path to Medallion Status, with Status Boost®. Plus, in 2021 you can earn even more bonus Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) to help you reach Medallion Status.
  • Complimentary access into the Delta SkyClubs® for you when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • Enjoy complimentary access to The Centurion® Lounge when you book your Delta flight with your Reserve Card.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓® .
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases.
  • Earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $550 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
$550
Balance Transfer Fee
N/A
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.

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