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Points of View: Which credit card should you use for Delta Air Lines flights?

Dec. 04, 2022
12 min read
Delta A350 Suite
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Before you reach for your wallet to pay for a Delta Air Lines flight, you might pause to wonder which credit card to use. Should you use the one that says "Delta" on the front, or should you pay with something else?

In many credit card decisions, you may have to sacrifice benefits to earn additional points and miles. Does that hold true here? Let's look at which credit cards you might use to pay for a Delta flight and the benefits associated with your options.

Related: 16 easy ways to earn more Delta SkyMiles

Comparing credit cards for Delta Air Lines flights

In addition to using a Delta Air Lines cobranded credit card, you also could pay with a travel rewards card that earns transferable points on travel purchases, such as your next flight reservation with Delta. Here are some cards you might pay with and what you could get when using these cards:

Card nameEarning rate on Delta Air Lines flightsValue of the rewards earned*Delta-related benefits from the cardAnnual fee
Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card3 miles per dollar.4.23 cents.Earn 15,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) boost after spending $30,000 on the card in a calendar year — available up to four times.

Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQDs) waiver up to Platinum status after spending $25,000 on Delta Amex credit cards in a calendar year.

Complimentary Delta SkyClub access when flying on a same-day Delta flight, plus two one-time guest passes each year.

Complimentary access to American Express Centurion Lounges when flying on a same-day Delta flight.

Annual round-trip companion certificate awarded on each account anniversary.

Complimentary upgrade requests are available on Delta flights, with priority over others with the same status and fare class but who don't have a Reserve card.

Free first checked bag for you and up to eight companions on the same reservation.

Main Cabin 1 priority boarding benefit on Delta flights.

20% back on inflight purchases of food, beverages and headsets.

$550 (see rates and fees).
Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card3 miles per dollar.4.23 cents.Earn 15,000 MQMs boost after spending $30,000 on the card in a calendar year — available up to four times.

MQDs waiver up to Platinum status after spending $25,000 on Delta Amex credit cards in a calendar year.

Complimentary Delta SkyClub access when flying on a same-day Delta flight, plus two one-time guest passes each year.

Complimentary access to American Express Centurion Lounges and Escape Lounges when flying on a same-day Delta flight.

Annual round-trip companion certificate awarded on each account anniversary.

Complimentary upgrade requests are available on Delta flights, with priority over others with the same status and fare class but who don't have a Reserve card.

Free first checked bag for you and up to eight companions on the same reservation.

Main Cabin 1 priority boarding benefit on Delta flights.

20% back on inflight purchases of food, beverages and headsets.

$550 (see rates and fees).
Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card3 miles per dollar.4.23 cents.Earn 10,000 MQMs boost after spending $25,000 on the card in a calendar year — available up to two times.

MQDs waiver up to Platinum status after spending $25,000 on Delta Amex credit cards in a calendar year.

Annual round-trip companion certificate awarded on each account anniversary.

Free first checked bag for you and up to eight companions on the same reservation.

Main Cabin 1 priority boarding benefit on Delta flights.

20% back on inflight purchases of food, beverages and headsets.

$250 (see rates and fees).
Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card3 miles per dollar.4.23 cents.Earn 10,000 MQMs boost after spending $25,000 on the card in a calendar year — available up to two times.

MQDs waiver up to Platinum status after spending $25,000 on Delta Amex credit cards in a calendar year.

Annual round-trip companion certificate awarded on each account anniversary.

Free first checked bag for you and up to eight companions on the same reservation.

Main Cabin 1 priority boarding benefit on Delta flights.

20% back on inflight purchases of food, beverages and headsets.

$250 (see rates and fees).
Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card2 miles per dollar.2.82 cents.Free first checked bag for you and up to eight companions on the same reservation.

Main Cabin 1 priority boarding benefit on Delta flights.

20% back on inflight purchases of food, beverages and headsets.

$100 Delta flight credit after spending $10,000 or more on your card within a calendar year.

$0 introductory annual fee, then $99 (see rates and fees).
Delta SkyMiles® Gold Business American Express Card2 miles per dollar.2.82 cents.Free first checked bag for you and up to eight companions on the same reservation.

Main Cabin 1 priority boarding benefit on Delta flights.

20% back on inflight purchases of food, beverages and headsets.

$100 Delta flight credit after spending $10,000 or more on your card within a calendar year.

$0 introductory annual fee, then $99 (see rates and fees).
Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card2 miles per dollar.2.82 cents.20% back on inflight purchases of food, beverages and headsets.$0 (see rates and fees).
The Platinum Card® from American Express5 points per dollar (on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year).10 cents.None, but you can choose Delta Air Lines as your preferred airline to cover up to $200 per year in airline incidental credits for things like checked baggage or preferred seat fees.$695 (see rates and fees).
Chase Sapphire Reserve3 points per dollar (or 5 points per dollar if booked via the Chase travel portal).6 cents (or 10 cents).None, but some purchases can be offset by the $300 annual travel credits offered on the card.$550.
American Express® Green Card3 points per dollar.6 cents.None.$150 (see rates and fees).
Citi Premier® Card3 points per dollar.5.4 cents.None.$95.
Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card2 miles per dollar (or 5 miles per dollar if booked in the Capital One Travel portal).3.7 cents (or 9.25 cents).None, but some purchases can be offset by the $300 in annual travel credits available when booking with Capital One Travel.$395.

* Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer.

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.

Which card should you use for Delta Air Lines flights?

Unlike the dilemmas when booking United Airlines flights, there are no real trade-offs you must consider with Delta when it comes to enjoying benefits and earning as many points and miles as possible.

Related: Delta baggage fees and how to avoid paying them

Benefits like free checked bags and priority boarding are attached to your Delta SkyMiles number, not the credit card you pay with. That means you could theoretically pay for your Delta flight with the Amex Platinum Card to enjoy its insurance benefits and its unparalleled earning rates on flight purchases. However, you would still enjoy checked bag benefits and early boarding benefits that come from having the Amex Delta Reserve card, for example — even though you didn't pay for your flight with that card.

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Related: The best credit cards for paying taxes and fees on award tickets

Inside a Delta A220-300 aircraft. ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

The only situation in which you must use your card is when you make an onboard purchase with Delta. To enjoy your 20% discount (in the form of a statement credit), make inflight food and beverage purchases with your eligible Delta card; if you pay with another card, you won't receive this benefit. You may also be asked to show your Delta Reserve or Delta Reserve Business card when visiting lounges before your flight.

Related: Delta overhauls Sky Club access policy, makes big cuts to reduce overcrowding

Outside of flights, use your Delta card to enjoy perks like MQD waivers and MQM boosts from making purchases on the Delta Reserve and Delta Platinum cards. But this may not impact which card you use to pay for your Delta flight, assuming you're meeting those spending thresholds through other purchases.

Related: Delta makes it harder to earn Medallion status in 2024, adds new Choice Benefit options

If you're interested in knowing more about these credit card-related benefits that help you achieve Delta elite status, read how to earn Delta Medallion elite status without flying.

It's also worth noting that purchasing inflight Wi-Fi is not covered by the 20% discount on inflight purchases mentioned in the table above. However, Delta has promised a move toward complimentary internet on its flights.

Delta's A321neo seats. DAVID SLOTNICK/THE POINTS GUY

Bottom line

Options abound; there are many different credit cards you could use when paying for a flight — whether that's buying a cash ticket at a great price or paying the taxes and fees when redeeming your miles. If you're making a reservation with Delta Air Lines, there are many benefits you may be able to enjoy on your flight simply by having a Delta credit card in your wallet.

The good news is that you can enjoy many of these benefits regardless of which credit card you use to pay for your flight. This leaves you free to use whichever card you want to enjoy the insurance protections or bonus points offered on other cards in your wallet.

Editor’s note: “Points of View” is a series evaluating decisions on which credit card to use. If you’re facing a dilemma about which card is best for an upcoming payment, email us at tips@thepointsguy.com.

Also in this series:

For rates and fees of the Amex Delta Reserve card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Delta Reserve Business card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Delta Platinum card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Delta Platinum Business card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Delta Gold card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Delta Gold Business card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Delta Blue card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Green card, click here.

Featured image by ZACH HONIG/THE POINTS GUY
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
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TPG featured card

Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review
Apply for American Express® Gold Card
at American Express's secure site

Rewards

3 - 4X points
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3XEarn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.

Intro offer

60,000 bonus points
Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

Annual Fee

$250

Recommended Credit

670-850
Excellent/Good
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Apply for American Express® Gold Card
at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3XEarn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

    60,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $250
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees