Perfect for infrequent Delta flyers: Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card review
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.
The Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card provides elite-like benefits to even casual Delta flyers. These benefits, which include the first checked bag free and priority boarding for you and up to eight travel companions on your reservation when flying Delta, can easily justify the card’s sub-$100 annual fee. Card Rating*:⭐⭐⭐⭐
*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 current information and offers. It was originally published on March 5, 2019.
Although I fly mostly with American Airlines and its Oneworld partners, I’ve kept the Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card in my wallet for a couple of years now. I do so for two reasons: a free checked bag and priority boarding on Delta flights, even when traveling on a basic economy fare.
Taking just two round-trip flights on Delta each year, I’ve found that I get enough value from the card to justify paying the $99 annual fee (waived the first year, see rates and fees). The Delta Gold has been useful for me, so let’s consider whether it deserves a place in your wallet.
Who is this card for?
In short, if you pay more than $99 in bag fees to Delta each year, the Delta Gold Amex card may be a good fit for you. Checked bag fees on Delta start at $30 each way, so you only need to pay to check four bags throughout a year to come out ahead with this card — and this perk extends to up to eight companions on the same reservation, making this a terrific option for families traveling together with multiple bags.
If you always travel with only a carry-on, you can still benefit from the priority boarding that comes with this card. Priority boarding means there will be overhead bin space available, so you won’t be asked to gate-check your bag — even when traveling on a basic economy ticket.
That said, if you have elite status that already provides your first checked bag free and priority boarding, you likely won’t get much benefit from this card. And if you pay less than $99 in baggage fees to Delta each year, you may not get enough out of the card’s other benefits (which we’ll discuss below). Likewise, if you fly more frequently with Delta, you may want to consider one of the premium cobranded Delta cards, such as the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card or Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card.
Further reading: Choosing the best credit card for Delta flyers
Welcome bonus: As much as $840 in value
The Delta Gold Amex is currently offering new cardholders a welcome bonus of up to 70,000 bonus miles: 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new card in your first three months and an additional 10,000 bonus miles after your first anniversary of card membership. This offer expires on April 1, 2020. TPG’s most recent valuations peg the value of Delta SkyMiles at 1.2 cents each, so the welcome bonus miles are worth about $840.
Just note that this new offer isn’t available if you currently hold (or have held) the old version of the Gold Delta Amex thanks to the issuer’s once-per-lifetime restriction on welcome bonuses. In addition, even if you’ve never held any cobranded Delta card before, you still may not be eligible for the welcome bonus. Luckily, Amex will notify you during the application process if you aren’t eligible — so make sure not to ignore any messages or warnings that appear while applying.
Further reading: Choosing the best American Express card for you
Main benefits and perks
Casual Delta flyers will find that the most useful benefits of having the Delta Gold Amex are a first checked bag free and priority boarding. You’ll get a first checked bag free on Delta-marketed and -operated flights for you and Main Cabin 1 priority boarding. Both of these perks are extended to you and up to eight travel companions on the same reservation. Regardless of whether you plan to carry-on your bag or check it, the Delta Gold will provide benefits — even when you’re flying basic economy.
Unlike some cobranded airline credit cards, those benefits are tied to your Delta SkyMiles account, so you don’t need to book your flights with the Delta Gold Amex to utilize them. You’ll also receive 20% back in the form of a statement credit after you use your card on eligible pre-purchased meals and inflight purchases of food, alcoholic beverages and audio headsets.
The Delta Gold Amex also offers the following benefits:
- $100 Delta flight credit after you spend $10,000 or more on your card in a calendar year
- Secondary collision damage waiver for rental cars rented with the card
- Extended warranty protection and purchase protection for purchases made with your card
- ShopRunner complimentary membership
- No foreign transaction fees
Further reading: How to use credit cards to defeat basic economy
How to earn miles
With the Delta Gold Amex, you earn two miles per dollar spent on purchases made with Delta, at restaurants around the world and at U.S. supermarkets. Based on TPG’s valuation of Delta miles at 1.2 cents each, this means you’ll get an effective 2.4% return on these 2x purchases. You’ll also earn one mile per dollar spent on everything else, which equates to a 1.2% return. There’s no cap on how many miles you can earn in a year.
However, there are better options for these categories. The Platinum Card® from American Express, American Express® Gold Card and American Express® Green Card all are better options for booking flights with Delta and other airlines. Those cards earn either 5x points on flights when booked directly with the airline or through American Express Travel (Amex Platinum) or 3x (Amex Gold and Amex Green) Membership Rewards points on select airfare purchases. You can transfer those Membership Rewards points to Delta but have the added flexibility of transferring them other valuable programs like Air Canada Aeroplan or Avianca LifeMiles.
In addition, other cards provide better earning on restaurants, supermarkets and everyday spending, so the Delta Gold Amex is more useful for the travel benefits it offers Delta flyers than for earning Delta SkyMiles.
Further reading: How to earn miles in the Delta Air Lines SkyMiles program
How to redeem miles
The most obvious use of SkyMiles is redeeming them for flights. Delta uses a dynamic award pricing system where redemption rates fluctuate based on the current cash prices of tickets. As a result, the miles maintain a fairly constant value. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any sweet spots, however. One of the best ways to redeem SkyMiles is by booking a SkyMiles deal. Delta frequently has mileage flash sales that can provide major discounts on economy and even Delta One award flights.
Recently, we’ve seen domestic awards from 5,000 SkyMiles round-trip, flights to Europe from 16,000 SkyMiles round-trip in economy and flights to Japan from 30,000 SkyMiles round-trip in economy. We’ve also seen flights to Europe from 98,000 SkyMiles round-trip in business class. There are also opportunities for flying international partner airlines with SkyMiles, including SkyTeam partners such as Air France and Korean Air, as well as some non-alliance partners like Virgin Atlantic and WestJet.
SkyMiles can also be redeemed for many things other than flights, including gift cards, merchandise, cruises, car rentals and hotel rooms. Although these redemptions typically yield a lower return than when redeeming for flights, SkyMiles Experiences have become more compelling over the years. Experiences up for auction have included exclusive aviation facility tours, distillery tours and tickets to the Grammy Awards.
Which cards compete with the Delta Gold?
If getting a complimentary checked bag and priority boarding when flying Delta is your primary concern, you’ll likely want the Delta Gold Amex or another Delta cobranded card. However, as previously mentioned, American Express Membership Rewards points can be transferred to Delta at a 1:1 ratio, so if earning Delta miles is your primary concern, the Delta Gold has some competition beyond just the carrier’s other cobranded cards.
Benefits such as Sky Club access when flying Delta, other types of lounge access and an unbeatable return on airfare purchases might just make The Platinum Card from American Express the best card for Delta flyers. However, the Amex Platinum carries a significantly higher $550 annual fee (see rates and fees). Check out our full review of The Platinum Card for more information.
A much closer comparison is the non-Delta-branded American Express Gold Card. Although the Amex Gold’s $250 annual fee (see rates and fees) is much higher than the Delta Gold, the Amex Gold’s perks make it easier to recoup the annual fee. The card comes with an up to $100 annual airline-fee credit that you can use toward incidental charges such as baggage fees, as well as up to $120 annual dining credit (allotted in $10 increments each month) that can be used at various dining partners.
Maxing out both of the Amex Gold‘s credits brings your out-of-pocket cost down to $30 a year. On the earning side, the Amex Gold earns 3x points on all flights purchased directly from the airline or Amex Travel. And the card is well-suited for foodies, as it earns 4x points on dining worldwide and at U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 spent each year at supermarkets). See our full review of the Amex Gold for more details.
Further reading: Amex Platinum vs. Amex Gold: Which one is right for you?
Finally, another option for earning Membership Rewards points on travel (including flights) is the American Express Green Card. This card is a good choice for modern travelers, as it offers 3x points at restaurants and all travel including transit for just a $150 annual fee (see rates and fees). The Amex Green offers two $100 statement credits each year — one for lounge access purchased through LoungeBuddy and the other for CLEAR membership — that may provide enough value to more than justify the $150 annual fee (see rates and fees) on their own. See our full review of the Amex Green for more details.
Although it might not have the most compelling earning rates, the Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card credit card can still be worth picking up for its welcome bonus and money-saving perks. As long as you check a bag with Delta at least four times each year, you’re going to come out ahead with this card. Since the annual fee is waived for the first year, you can even get the bonus and test-drive the card to see how much you utilize its perks before having to pay an annual fee.
Sign up here for the Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card with a 70,000-mile bonus
For rates and fees of the Delta Gold, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Gold, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Green, please click here.
Additional reporting by Benji Stawski.
Featured image by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy.
- Earn up to 70,000 bonus miles. Earn 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Plus, earn an additional 10,000 bonus miles after your first anniversary of Card Membership. Offer Expires 4/1/2020.
- Enjoy your first checked bag free and Main Cabin 1 Priority Boarding on Delta flights.
- New! Get ready for your next trip - spend $10,000 in purchases on your card in a calendar year and receive a $100 Delta Flight Credit to get you there sooner.
- Earn 2X Miles on Delta purchases, at restaurants worldwide and at U.S. supermarkets.
- Earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases.
- 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.
- Enjoy a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $99.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees