Perfect for infrequent Delta flyers: Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card review

Mar 6, 2021

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Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card overview

The Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card provides valuable elite-like benefits for causal Delta flyers. These benefits, which include a first checked bag free and priority boarding for you and up to eight travel companions on your reservation when flying Delta, can easily justify getting and keeping this card. 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 the current card information. 

Although I typically fly with American Airlines and its Oneworld partners, I’ve been a cardmember of the Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card since 2015. After all, the Delta Gold Amex provides me and up to eight travelers on my reservation with a first checked bag free and priority boarding on Delta flights, even when traveling on a Delta basic economy fare.

As long as I fly with Delta a few times each year, the Delta Gold Amex provides enough value for me to justify paying its $99 annual fee (waived the first year, see rates and fees). So, today I’ll discuss the Delta Gold Amex in detail so you can determine whether it deserves a place in your wallet.

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In This Post

Who is this card for?

Delta Gold Amex card
(Photo courtesy of Delta)

In short, if you pay more than $99 in first checked bag fees to Delta each year, the Delta Gold Amex is likely a good fit for you. After all, standard checked bag fees on Delta start at $30 each way. So, you’d only need to avoid four of these first checked bag fees per year to come out ahead with the Delta Gold Amex. Best of all, the card’s first checked bag free benefit extends to up to eight companions on your reservation. So, this perk works well whether you travel solo, travel as a couple or travel with your extended family.

Even if you always travel with only a carry-on, you may still benefit from having the Delta Gold Amex. After all, 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 Delta Medallion elite status that already provides your first checked bag free and priority boarding, you likely won’t get much benefit from the Delta Gold Amex. And if you pay less than $99 in first checked baggage fees to Delta most years, you may not get enough out of the card’s other benefits to justify the annual fee. Finally, if you want Delta SkyClub access or need a slight elite status boost, you should consider one of the more-premium Delta cards.

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

Welcome bonus: As much as $490 in value

The Delta Gold Amex currently offers a new member offer of 40,000 bonus miles after spending $1,000 in purchases on and up to $50 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants within your first 3 months of account opening. TPG’s valuations peg the value of Delta SkyMiles at 1.1 cents each, making this welcome bonus worth about $490.

However, due to Amex’s once-per-lifetime restriction on welcome bonuses, you won’t be eligible for this offer if you have or have had a current or previous version of this card. Amex may also consider other factors, including the number of American Express cards you have opened and closed when determining your welcome offer eligibility.

Luckily, Amex will notify you if you aren’t eligible for the welcome offer. If you aren’t eligible, Amex will give you the option to withdraw your application before doing a hard pull on your credit. So, don’t ignore any messages that appear after you submit your application.

Related: Here’s a tip to prevent your Amex welcome bonus from being taken back

Main benefits and perks

Baggage arrives from Delta Air Lines Inc. flights at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on Friday, March 29, 2019 in Los Angeles, Calif.
With the Delta Gold Amex, you and up to eight travel companions on your reservation get a first checked bag free when flying with Delta. (Photo by Patrick T. Fallon/The Points Guy)

The Delta Gold Amex offers two primary benefits: a first checked bag free and Main Cabin 1 priority boarding. In particular, you’ll get a first checked bag free when you check-in with Delta for flights that are both Delta-marketed and Delta-operated.

Best of all, both of these perks are available for you and up to eight other passengers traveling on the same reservation as you. And unlike some other airline credit cards, Delta ties these benefits to your Delta SkyMiles account. So, you don’t need to book your Delta flights with your Delta Gold Amex to access these perks. Instead, you can use one of the top cards for airfare purchases, which may allow you to earn more rewards on your flights or access credit card travel protections.

On top of these two primary perks, Delta Gold Amex cardholders also get the following benefits:

Related: Choosing the best credit cards for Delta flyers

How to earn miles

Woman entering a card number on her laptop
(Photo by filadendron/Getty Images)

With the Delta Gold Amex, you’ll earn Delta SkyMiles on your purchases. In particular, you’ll earn Delta SkyMiles on eligible purchases charged to your card as follows:

  • 2x miles on purchases made with Delta, at restaurants worldwide and at U.S. supermarkets
  • 1x miles on other purchases

Based on TPG’s valuation of Delta miles at 1.1 cents each, this means you’ll get an effective 2.2% return on purchases in 2x categories and an effective 1.1% return on other purchases. These are relatively low rates of return, though.

As such, you can do much better if you’re looking to maximize your earning. For example, The Platinum Card® from American Express, American Express® Gold Card and American Express® Green Card all are better options for booking Delta flights since they’d earn as follows:

  • Amex Platinum: Earns 5x points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com (on up to $500,000 in purchases per calendar year)
  • Amex Gold: Earns 3x on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com
  • Amex Green: Earns 3x points on travel, including airfare

The information for the Amex Green Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Of course, other top travel rewards cards also earn bonus points on airfare. But I mention American Express Membership Rewards cards in this section since you can transfer Membership Rewards points to Delta at a 1:1 ratio. And you also have the added ability to transfer Membership Rewards points to various other valuable programs like Air Canada Aeroplan and Avianca LifeMiles.

Unless you are looking to earn more Delta SkyMiles for an upcoming redemption, you may not want to put much spending on your card. After all, other cards offer a much better return. For this reason, I only put a little bit of spending on my Delta Gold Amex several times a year to keep my card account active.

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)

The most obvious way to redeem Delta SkyMiles is to book award flights. However, note that Delta uses a dynamic award pricing system. So, redemption rates fluctuate and you can’t rely on needing a set amount of miles to book a specific award.

There are still some sweet spots in the Delta SkyMiles program, though. For example, one of the best ways to redeem Delta SkyMiles is to book a SkyMiles deal. Delta frequently has mileage flash sales that can significantly discount economy and even Delta One award flights. Recently, we’ve seen domestic awards from 2,000 SkyMiles one-way and Delta One from New York City to Bogota from 12,000 SkyMiles one-way.

You can also redeem Delta SkyMiles to fly on international partner airlines. Delta partner airlines include SkyTeam alliance partners such as Air France and Korean Air and non-alliance partners like Virgin Atlantic and WestJet. You can book most partner awards on Delta’s website, but you’ll need to call Delta Reservations to book awards on Air Europa, Air Tahiti Nui, Czech Airlines and Kenya Airways. For these airlines, you’ll want to search for award availability on another SkyTeam partner‘s website or use ExpertFlyer (owned by TPG’s parent company, Red Ventures) to check award availability.

You can also redeem SkyMiles for many things other than flights. Many of these redemptions yield a lower return than when redeeming for flights. However, some redemptions may be worth it. For example, TPG editor Nick Ellis recently redeemed SkyMiles for a bottle of Champagne with no regrets. And there have been some compelling SkyMiles Experiences offered over the years, although Delta is currently making updates to this program.

Related: Everything you need to know about maximizing Delta SkyMiles award tickets

Which cards compete with the Delta Gold Amex?

If getting your first checked bag free and priority boarding when flying Delta are your primary concerns, the Delta Gold Amex is likely your best bet. However, if you’re more concerned about earning Delta SkyMiles, getting lounge access when flying Delta or snagging elite status with Delta, other cards may be a better fit. As I discuss in this section, you may be better off with a different Delta credit card or an American Express Membership Rewards card.

Delta cards

(Photo by Orli Friedman/The Points Guy)

If you want a Delta card, there are two primary reasons you may want to choose a different consumer card than the Delta Gold Amex. First off, if you want a Delta card that offers complimentary Delta SkyClub access when traveling on a same-day Delta-marketed or Delta-operated flight, the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card is a better choice for you. This card has a massive $550 annual fee (see rates and fees) but can be worth it if you frequently travel with Delta and want Delta SkyClub access. See our Delta Reserve Amex review for more details.

Alternatively, if you’re looking for a helping hand toward earning Delta Medallion elite status, the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card may be a better choice. After all, you can spend on your card within a calendar year to earn a Medallion Qualification Dollar (MQD) waiver and bonus Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs). The Delta Reserve Amex also offers an MQD waiver and bonus MQMs when you hit specific spending thresholds, but the Delta Platinum Amex offers these perks at a lower $250 annual fee (see rates and fees). For more information, check out our Delta Platinum Amex review.

Related: Should you get the Delta Gold or Delta Platinum Amex card?

American Express Membership Rewards cards

Amex Platinum and Amex Gold
American Express Membership Rewards cards can also be a good choice for Delta flyers. (Photo by John Gribben/The Points Guy)

As previously mentioned, you can transfer American Express Membership Rewards points to Delta at a 1:1 ratio. So if earning Delta miles is your primary concern, the Delta Gold Amex has some competition beyond just the carrier’s other cobranded cards.

Benefits such as Sky Club access when flying Delta, access to a wide variety of lounges when flying any carrier and an unbeatable return on airfare purchases make The Platinum Card from American Express a compelling option for Delta flyers. However, the Amex Platinum carries a significantly higher $550 annual fee (see rates and fees). Check out our review of the Amex Platinum Card for more information.

A much closer comparison is the non-Delta-branded American Express Gold Card. Although the Amex Gold Card’s $250 annual fee (see rates and fees) is much higher than the Delta Gold Amex, some consumers find it easier to recoup the Amex Gold Card’s annual fee. The Amex Gold Card earns 3x points on all flights purchased directly from the airline or Amex Travel. And the Amex Gold Card earns 4x points on dining purchases at restaurants worldwide and on purchases at U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 spent each year; then 1x). See our review of the Amex Gold for more details.

Finally, another option for earning Membership Rewards points on travel (including flights) is the American Express Green Card. This card offers 3x points on travel purchases and purchases at restaurants in exchange for a $150 annual fee (see rates and fees). The Amex Green offers two up to $100 statement credits each year — one for lounge access purchased through LoungeBuddy and the other for a Clear membership — that may provide enough value to more than justify the $150 annual fee on their own.

Related: Amex Platinum vs. Amex Gold: Which one is right for you?

Bottom line

Although it might not have the most compelling earning rates, the Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card can still be worth picking up for its welcome bonus and Delta-specific perks. In particular, as long as you pay a first checked bag fee to Delta at least four times each year, you’re going to come out ahead with this card. Since Amex waives the $99 annual fee for the first year, you can even test-drive the card for a year to see how much you utilize its perks before needing to pay an annual fee.

Apply here for the Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card with a 40,000-mile bonus

For rates and fees of the Delta Gold Amex, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta Reserve Amex, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta Platinum Amex, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Gold Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Green Card, please click here.

Additional reporting by Benét J. Wilson and Benji Stawski.

Featured image by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy.

Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card

This card is best for those who want to earn a valuable welcome offer at the lowest possible out-of-pocket cost. Plus you can get some elite-like status and earn miles toward Medallion.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
  • Plus, earn up to $50 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants with your card within the first 3 months of membership.
  • Earn 2X Miles on Delta purchases, at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Earn now. Travel when you're ready. After you spend $10,000 in purchases in a calendar year, you will receive a $100 Delta Flight Credit to inspire your next travel.
  • Enjoy a $0 introductory Annual Fee for the first year, then $99.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $99.
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.

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.