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In theory, it should be very easy to choose which airline credit card to sign up for — the one corresponding to the airline you fly with the most. However, the process isn’t always that straightforward, as most airlines offer multiple cobranded card options. One of those airlines is Delta.
The go-to card for most casual Delta flyers is the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express. The card has a $95 annual fee that’s waived the first year (see rates & fees) and offers card holders several elite-like perks, including a first bag checked free on Delta flights and priority boarding. Even better, new card holders can currently get an elevated welcome bonus that we value at over $700. Let’s take a closer look at everything this card has to offer and find out whether it’s a good pick for you.
Who Is This Card For?
Perks like free checked bags and priority boarding make the Gold Delta Amex ideal for those whose airline of choice is Delta, but don’t fly enough to get these benefits through elite status. If you do fly enough to meet some elite status qualifications, but are short Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQDs), the card could give you the boost you need by waiving the MQD requirement after meeting a spending threshold on the card.
With an elevated welcome bonus and a waived annual fee in year one, this card is also great for those looking to diversify their loyalty portfolio. Despite the lack of transparency when it comes to award travel costs, there’s still some good value in Delta SkyMiles — especially for those with non-flexible travel schedules. Plus, unlike most loyalty program currencies, Delta SkyMiles never expire so you won’t need to worry about keeping your account active.
Now through Apr. 3, 2019, the Gold Delta Amex is offering new card holders an elevated welcome bonus of 60,000 SkyMiles after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months, plus a $50 statement credit after making a Delta purchase in the first 3 months.
Based on TPG’s valuations, 60,000 SkyMiles are worth $720. Even if you don’t have any upcoming travel to book, you can trigger the $50 statement credit by purchasing a gift card from Delta’s desktop site (the mobile site will not trigger the statement credit).
With the Gold Delta Amex, you’ll earn 2 miles per dollar on Delta purchases and 1 mile per dollar on everything else. There’s no cap on how many miles you can earn in a year.
When you break it down, the Platinum Card® from American Express and American Express® Gold Card are better options for booking flights with Delta — and other airlines. The cards earn 5x and 3x Membership Rewards points, respectively, on airfare purchases, and those points can be transferred to Delta instantly at a 1:1 ratio.
The most obvious use of SkyMiles is redeeming them for flights. Delta utilizes a dynamic award pricing system in which redemption rates fluctuate based on the current revenue prices of tickets. As a result, points maintain a fairly constant value and there are no blackout dates, which means as long as there’s a seat for sale on a flight, you can book it using miles.
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 sales that can provide major discounts on economy and Delta One award flights. In the past, we’ve seen transcontinental awards from 10,000 SkyMiles round-trip and flights to Europe from 32,000 SkyMiles round-trip in economy or 128,000 SkyMiles round-trip in business class. There are also many fantastic 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 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.
The Gold Delta Amex doesn’t offer as extensive of a list of perks as some other cards on the market, but the perks it does have can save Delta flyers some serious cash.
- First Checked Bag Free — Get a first checked bag free on Delta flights for you and up to eight companions traveling on the same reservation. Ordinarily, a first checked bag costs $30 each way.
- Priority Boarding — Get Zone 1 priority boarding for you and up to eight companions traveling on the same reservation.
- MQD Waiver — If you’re considering going for Silver, Gold or Platinum status, you can get the MQD requirement waived by spending $25,000 during the calendar year. The waiver requirement for Diamond status is $250,000.
- 20% Inflight Savings — Receive 20% back in the form of a statement credit after you use your card on Delta inflight purchases (not including Wi-Fi).
- Ability to Purchase Sky Club Access — Although Delta eliminated single visit passes, card holders and up to two companions can still get club access on a $29 per-visit basis.
Unlike with some cobranded airline cards, benefits like the checked baggage allowance and priority boarding are tied to your Delta SkyMiles account, so you don’t need to book your flights with the card to utilize them.
In addition to the Delta-specific benefits, the card carries travel protections like secondary collision damage waiver, lost baggage reimbursement and travel accident insurance, as well as purchase protection benefits like extended warranty and return protection. The card also doesn’t have any foreign transaction fees (see rates & fees), so you can safely make purchases overseas without accumulating extra charges.
Which Cards Compete With the Gold Delta Amex?
As previously mentioned, American Express Membership Rewards points can be transferred to Delta, so the card has some competition beyond just the airline’s other cobranded cards.
Benefits like Sky Club access when flying Delta and an unbeatable return on airfare purchases might just make the Platinum Card from American Express the best card for Delta flyers. However, it carries a significantly higher annual fee than the Gold Delta Amex — $550 a year (see rates & fees).
A much closer comparison is the non-Delta-branded American Express Gold Card. At $250 a year (see rates & fees), the card too has a higher annual fee than the Gold Delta Amex, but its perks make it easy to recoup that. The card comes with a $100 annual airline fee credit that you can use toward incidental airline fees such as baggage fees, as well a $120 annual dining credit (allotted in $10 increments each month) that can be used at various dining partners. Maxing out both 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 and spending bonus categories of 4x points at US restaurants and supermarkets (on the first $25,000 spent each year at supermarkets).
Although it might not have the most compelling earning rates, the Gold Delta Amex can still be worth picking up for its large welcome bonus and money-saving perks. As long as you check a bag for two round-trips a year, you’re going to come out ahead with this card.
We don’t know what bonus will replace the current elevated offer when it ends on Apr. 3, so if you’re considering applying, you’ll want to do so sooner rather than later. Remember, the annual fee is waived for the first year, so you can get the bonus and essentially test-drive the card to see how much you utilize its perks before having to fork over $95.
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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.
- Limited Time Offer: Earn 60,000 Bonus Miles after spending $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in 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 for every dollar spent on eligible 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 per round trip for a family of four.
- Settle into your seat sooner with Main Cabin 1 Priority Boarding.
- Enjoy a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees