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

2d ago

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Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card overview

The Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card provides valuable elite-like benefits at an affordable price point (see rates and fees) for casual 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 opening 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 Delta and American Express field more-premium cobranded credit cards, including the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card (see rates and fees) and the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card (see rates and fees), the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card is still probably the best option for the occasional Delta flyer. It packs in quite a few perks at a price point that won’t break the bank — its annual fee is waived the first year and $99 after that (see rates and fees).

Here’s everything you need to know about the card and why it might be worth getting.

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In This Post

Who is this card for?

Delta Gold Amex card
(Photo courtesy of Delta)

As with any travel credit card, the main question you need to ask yourself is: Will I get more value from the card’s benefits than the cost of its annual fee?

In terms of the Delta Gold Amex, specifically, you’ll want to ensure that you are maximizing perks such as free checked bags and inflight purchase discounts to add up to $99 or more each year.

Even if you only fly the airline a few times a year, that shouldn’t be hard to do, though.

Assuming you typically fly coach and don’t have Medallion elite status with the airline, Delta charges $30 for the first checked bag on domestic flights each way. If you take two round-trips per year, your work is done. This card’s checked bag benefit extends to as many as 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’s priority boarding perk so you can secure some overhead space for your bag. That holds true when traveling on a basic economy ticket, too.

That said, if you tend to travel alone or with a partner and already have Delta Medallion elite status that provides your first checked bag free and priority boarding, you likely won’t get much benefit from the Delta Gold Amex. Otherwise, if you want Delta Sky Club access or need a slight elite status boost, you should probably focus on one of the higher-end Delta cards instead.

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

Welcome bonus: As much as $770 in value

The Delta Gold Amex currently offers new members up to 70,000 bonus miles after spending $2,000 in purchases in the first three months of account opening. TPG’s valuations peg the worth of Delta SkyMiles at 1.1 cents each, making this welcome bonus worth around $770 total. Plus, earn a $200 statement credit after your first Delta purchase within the first three months.

Due to Amex’s once-per-lifetime restriction on welcome bonuses, you won’t be eligible for this offer if you already have this card or had a previous version in the past. 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 and 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 exemplary 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.

As for boarding, Main Cabin 1 is actually the seventh out of 10 boarding groups, behind premium flyers and most elite-status tiers, but still ahead of the pack at the back of the plane.

What you might not realize, though, is that both of these perks are available for you and up to eight other passengers traveling on the same reservation as you — that’s a total of nine possible baggage fee waivers and priority boarding places.

What’s more, unlike some other airline credit cards, Delta ties these benefits to your Delta SkyMiles account rather than your card. So, you don’t need to pay for 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 secure more comprehensive credit card travel protections for your trip.

On top of bags and boarding privileges, Delta Gold Amex cardholders also get the following benefits:

Enrollment is required for select 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 charged to your card as follows:

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 around a 1.1% return on other purchases. That’s not bad, but not great, either.

You might do much better with another Amex card. 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 in terms of earning rewards, since they rack up points at the following rates:

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

Other top travel rewards cards also earn bonus points on airfare. However, the American Express Membership Rewards cards are particularly compelling. They compare more directly to the Delta Gold Amex since you can transfer Membership Rewards points to Delta at a 1:1 ratio. You can also 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, specifically for an upcoming redemption, you may not want to spend much on the Delta Gold Amex since other cards offer a much better return.

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 on Delta and its partners. Since Delta uses a dynamic award pricing system though, redemption rates fluctuate widely. That means you can’t really aim for a set amount of miles to book a specific award.

That said, there are still some sweet spots in the Delta SkyMiles program.

For example, one of the best ways to redeem Delta SkyMiles is to book a SkyMiles deal. Delta frequently has mileage flash sales with significantly discounted 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, Colombia, from 12,000 SkyMiles one-way.

You can also redeem Delta SkyMiles to fly on Delta partner airlines, including SkyTeam alliance partners like 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. Most 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.

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 main concerns, the Delta Gold Amex is probably going to be 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 you’ll see, depending on your goals, 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 significant reasons you may want to choose a different consumer card than the Delta Gold Amex.

First, if you want a Delta card that confers complimentary Delta Sky Club 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. Just remember, it does charge a substantial $550 annual fee (see rates and fees). But that may be worth it if you frequently travel with Delta and want Sky Club access.

See our Delta Reserve Amex review for more details.

Alternatively, if you’re looking for a boost toward earning Delta Medallion elite status, the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card with a $250 annual fee (see rates and fees) may be a better choice. Spend $25,000 or more on purchases in a calendar year, and you get a Medallion Qualification Dollar waiver toward tiers up to Platinum Medallion (a Diamond MQD waiver requires a whopping $250,000 in calendar-year spending). Cardholders earn 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles after spending $25,000 in purchases on their card in a calendar year, up to $50,000 and 20,000 MQMs (for 2021, you actually earn a 25% bonus, so 12,500 MQMs instead of the normal 10,000).

For more information, check out our Delta Platinum Amex review.

The Delta Reserve Amex also offers an MQD waiver and bonus MQMs when you hit specific spending thresholds.

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)

Don’t forget, you can transfer American Express Membership Rewards points to Delta at a 1:1 ratio. So if earning Delta miles is your first intention rather than day-of-travel perks, 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 thanks to dining and Uber statement credits (enrollment required, terms apply). The Amex Gold Card earns 3x points on all flights purchased directly from the airline or Amex Travel, but also 4x points on dining purchases at restaurants 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 lucrative 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 would otherwise 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 70,000-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, Benji Stawski, and Eric Rosen.

Featured photo 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
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 70,000 Bonus Miles after spending $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months and a $200 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months. Offer expires 7/28/2021.
  • Limited Time Offer: Plus, get a 0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months from the date of account opening, then a variable 15.74%-24.74%. Offer expires 7/28/2021.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Earn 2X Miles on Delta purchases, at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • $100 Delta Flight Credit: After you spend $10,000 in purchases on your card in a calendar year, receive a Credit to use toward future travel.
  • Enjoy a $0 introductory Annual Fee for the first year, then $99.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
0% on purchases for 12 months
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.