Perfect for infrequent Delta flyers: Gold Delta SkyMiles American Express credit card review
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The Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express 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.
Although I fly mostly with American Airlines and its Oneworld partners, I’ve kept the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express 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 $95 annual fee (waived the first year, see rates & fees). The annual fee will increase to $99 for renewals or new applications received on or after Jan. 30, 2020. The Gold Delta Amex 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 $95 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 the course of a year to come out ahead with this card. You could check one bag on two round-trip flights that you take alone or four travelers on your reservation could each check a bag on a one-way flight — either way, the baggage fees will be covered if you’re flying Delta and you’re a Delta Gold Amex cardholder.
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.
However, if you have elite status that 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 $95 in baggage fees to Delta each year, you may not get enough benefit from the card’s other benefits (which we’ll discuss below). Likewise, if you fly more frequently on Delta, you may want to consider one of the premium cobranded Delta cards, such as the Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express or Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express.
Further reading: Choosing the best credit card for Delta flyers
Welcome bonus: As much as $410 in value
The Gold Delta Amex is currently offering new cardholders a welcome bonus of 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.
TPG’s most recent valuations peg the value of Delta SkyMiles at 1.2 cents each, so the welcome bonus miles are worth about $360. This makes the overall welcome bonus worth about $410, which is impressive for a card that waives the annual fee for the first year.
Further reading: Earn up to 75,000 SkyMiles with new Delta Amex welcome offers
Main benefits and perks
Casual Delta flyers will find that the most useful benefits of having the Gold Delta 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 up to eight companions traveling on the same reservation. And, you’ll get Main Cabin 1 priority boarding for you and up to eight companions traveling on the same reservation. This means that regardless of whether you plan to carry-on your bag or check it, the Gold Delta Amex will provide benefits.
Unlike some cobranded airline credit cards, benefits such as 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. 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 Gold Delta Amex will get a new name — the Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card — on Jan. 30, 2020. With the new name, some benefits will change. On the positive side, a $100 Delta flight credit after you spend $10,000 or more in a calendar year will be added as a card benefit. But the following two currently available benefits will soon be discontinued on this card:
- Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQD) waiver won’t be available after 2019. However, if you’re trying to earn Silver, Gold or Platinum Delta elite status in 2019, you can get the MQD requirement waived by spending $25,000 on the card before the end of 2019. If you’re going for Diamond status in 2019, you’ll need to spend $250,000 on the card before the end of 2019.
- Ability to purchase Sky Club access will be discontinued as of Jan. 30, 2020. Until then, you cardholders and up to two companions can get club access on a $29 per-person, per-visit basis.
In addition to the Delta-specific benefits, the card offers a secondary collision damage waiver for rental cars rented with the card as well as shopping protection benefits such as extended warranty, purchase protection and return protection.
Plus, cardholders will soon have access to a new trip delay benefit that will cover travel purchases made on or after Jan. 1, 2020. The card also doesn’t have any foreign transaction fees, so you can safely make purchases overseas without accumulating extra charges.
Further reading: Delta Amex cards adding major new benefits, changing others in 2020
How to earn miles
With the Gold Delta Amex, you’ll currently earn 2 miles per dollar on purchases made with Delta and 1 mile per dollar on everything else. Based on TPG’s valuation of Delta miles at 1.2 cents each, this means you’ll get an effective 2.4% return on purchases with Delta and a 1.2% return on everything else. There’s no cap on how many miles you can earn in a year.
Plus, starting on Jan. 30, 2020 you’ll also earn 2 miles per dollar spent at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets, which equates to a 2.4% return.
However, 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. Those 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. And other cards provide better earning on restaurants, supermarkets and everyday spending. So the Gold Delta Amex card is really better 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 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 flash sales that can provide major discounts on economy and even Delta One award flights.
In the past, we’ve seen domestic awards from 9,000 SkyMiles round-trip and flights to Europe from 20,000 SkyMiles round-trip in economy or 128,000 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 Gold Delta Amex?
As previously mentioned, American Express Membership Rewards points can be transferred to Delta. So, even if earning Delta miles is one of your primary concerns, the card has some competition beyond just Delta’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 — especially once additional travel protections are added to the card in January. However, it 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 Gold Card’s $250 annual fee (see rates & fees) is much higher than the Gold Delta Amex, the Gold Card’s perks make it easier to recoup the annual fee. The card comes with a $100 annual airline-fee credit that you can use toward incidental charges 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 on dining worldwide and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 spent each year at supermarkets). See our full review of the Amex Gold Card for more details.
Further reading: Choosing the best American Express card for you
Although it might not have the most compelling earning rates, the Gold Delta SkyMiles Amex 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.
Remember, the annual fee is waived for the first year, so you can get the bonus and test-drive the card to see how much you utilize its perks before having to pay an annual fee.
Additional reporting by Benji Stawski.
Featured image by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy.
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.
- 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