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

Apr 27, 2020

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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with current credit card information and offers.The team at The Points Guy loves to travel, but now is not the time for unnecessary trips. Health officials note that the fastest way to return to normalcy is to stop coming in contact with others. That includes ceasing travel. We continue to publish travel and credit card deals and content because we should all use this time to think about and plan what’s next. TPG doesn’t advise booking trips for travel until the late spring or early summer — and even then, be mindful of cancellation policies.

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.

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.

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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 check four bags  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.

(Photo courtesy of Delta)
(Photo courtesy of Delta)

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 Delta baggage feeseach 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.

Welcome bonus: As much as $420 in value

The Delta Gold Amex is currently offering new cardholders a welcome bonus of 35,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in 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 $420.

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.

Related reading: Choosing the best credit card for Delta flyers

Main benefits and perks

(Photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy)
If you’re looking for perks on Delta with a sub-$100 annual fee, the Delta Gold Amex card may be right for you. (Photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy)

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.

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.

Other benefits include the following:

Related reading: How to use credit cards to defeat basic economy

How to earn miles

You’ll only get a 2.4% return when you purchase Delta flights with the Delta Gold. (Photo by Darren Murph/The Points Guy.)

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 1 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. The Amex Platinum earns 5x points on flights when booked directly with the airline or through American Express Travel (starting Jan. 1, 2021, earn 5x points on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year). While the Amex Gold earns 3x points on airfare booked directly with the airline or American Express Travel and Amex Green earns 3x 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.

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.

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

(Photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy)
One option for redeeming your miles is to book a Delta flight, perhaps through a SkyMiles deal. (Photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy)

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. 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 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.

Related reading: How to redeem miles with the Delta Air Lines SkyMiles program 

Which cards compete with the Delta Gold?

If getting a complimentary checked bag and priority boarding when flying Delta is what you’re after,  the Delta Gold Amex may be a good fit. 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, 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.

(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)
The Amex Platinum has a much higher annual fee but provides significant benefits to cardholders. (Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)

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 $120 annual dining credit (allotted in $10 increments each month) that can be used at various dining partners.

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael)
The Amex Gold is compelling if you spend a lot on dining and groceries. (Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)

Maxing out both of the Amex Gold‘s credits brings your out-of-pocket cost down to $150 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; then 1x). See our full 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 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 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 reading: 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 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 $99 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.

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 Benét J. Wilson and Benji Stawski.

Featured image by Isabelle Raphael/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 35,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
  • Earn 2X Miles on Delta purchases, at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • 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 your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases.
  • 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
Recommended Credit
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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