Credit card showdown: Delta SkyMiles Reserve Business vs. Delta SkyMiles Platinum Business

Mar 5, 2020

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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card

Delta and American Express comprehensively overhauled their co-branded credit card lineup in January. Several of the cards now feature all-new benefits like more bonus earning categories, expanded airport lounge access and Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee refunds. On the downside, many of their annual fees also went up.

Until April 1, 2020, Delta’s cards are also fielding some of their highest-ever welcome offers, including up to 100,000 bonus miles in some cases. If that has you thinking about applying, your next question might be: Which of these credit cards is right for you?

While elements like welcome offers, everyday earning and annual fees will likely be the deciding factors, you might also be trying to choose between one of the personal cards and one of the business credit cards.

We have recently taken deep dives into the differences between each personal Delta credit card and its business counterpart. Today, we are going to stick to two business cards for folks who have decided to apply for one of those but might still be on the fence about which one best suits their needs.

Given their similar welcome offers and Delta-specific travel benefits, we thought it might be useful to compare the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card (see rates and fees) and the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card (see rates and fees). These are the two most premium Delta business credit cards and offer some outsized perks. Here’s a summary of how the two stack up against one another.

  Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card
Annual fee $250 (see rates and fees) $550 (see rates and fees)
Welcome offer 45,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in the first 3 months. Plus, earn a $100 Statement Credit after your first Delta purchase on your new Card in the first 3 months. 45,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $4,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of account opening.
Earning 3x on Delta

3x at hotels

1.5x on purchases over $5K, up to 50K miles

1x everywhere else

3x on Delta

1.5x on everything after $150K per calendar year

1x everywhere else

Delta benefits Free checked bag

Priority boarding

Annual coach companion ticket

$39 Delta Sky Club access

20% off in-flight purchases

10K MQMs at $25K and $50K

MQD spending waiver

Delta Sky Club access

Amex Centurion Lounge access

Annual coach, Comfort+ or first class companion ticket

Free checked bags

Priority boarding

15K MQMs at $30K, $60K, $90K, $120K

MQD spending waiver

Other benefits Global Entry/TSA PreCheck refund

Trip delay coverage

Lost baggage coverage

Secondary car rental insurance

No foreign transaction fees

Global Entry/TSA PreCheck refund

Trip delay coverage

Lost baggage coverage

Secondary car rental insurance

No foreign transaction fees

Now, let’s get into the details to determine which card might be better for whom.

Welcome offer

(Photo by The Points Guy)
(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)

The Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card is currently offering new cardholders 45,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in the first 3 months. Plus, earn a $100 Statement Credit after your first Delta purchase on your new Card in the first 3 months. Based on our current valuations, bonus is worth $640.

The Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card features an introductory offer that looks nearly the same on the surface. You can earn 45,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $4,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of account opening.

While the spending requirement is $1,000 higher, you also get a shot at 10,000 MQMs. Since we’re still so early in 2020, it could play a major part in your elite strategy for the coming year.

Annual fee

This is probably the starkest difference between the two cards, though the reasons behind the disparity in their annual fees becomes apparent when you look at their respective benefits.

The Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card now costs $550 per year (see rates and fees). The Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card is a full $300 less, at $250 per year (see rates and fees).

Neither card is cheap, but neither is really exorbitant either when you consider the benefits cardholders receive.

Earning rates

Interestingly enough, the lower-priced Platinum version might be a more lucrative prospect for a majority of Delta flyers than the more expensive Reserve version. Here’s how the two cards’ earning structures work.

The Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card earns 3x miles per dollar on Delta purchases like tickets and Delta Vacation Packages as well as Sky Club memberships, and on charges made directly with hotels. Rather than other category bonuses, like dining or supermarkets, the card earns 1.5x miles on single eligible purchases of over $5,000 each. This benefit is capped at 50,000 bonus miles, though. In other words, you can count on it for up to $100,000 in purchases of $5,000 or more each.

One thing to note: If your purchase qualifies for this earning bonus plus one of the card’s other ones, like the 3x on Delta or hotel purchases, only the higher accelerator will apply. So if you bought a $6,000 Delta business-class ticket, you’d earn 18,000 bonus SkyMiles through the 3x category bonus rather than 9,000 bonus miles with the 1.5x large-purchase bonus.

A guest room at The Ben, Autograph Collection. (Photo courtesy of the hotel)
The Platinum version earns more at hotels. (Photo courtesy of The Ben, Autograph Collection)

If large purchases are a part of your work spending and hotels are not, you might be better off with the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card. It also earns 3x miles per dollar on Delta expenditures, and after you make $150,000 or more in purchases on your card in a calendar year, you start earning 1.5x miles per dollar.

To sum it up, the Platinum version is better for folks with frequent work travel that involves Delta and hotel bookings plus a smattering of big-ticket items throughout the year. The Reserve version will be better for folks buying a lot of Delta tickets (or upgrades and other airline expenses) and who put hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of spending on their card each year so they can earn that 1.5x accelerator after the $150,000 mark.

Delta benefits

When it comes to day-of-travel perks, the two cards offer a similar set of incentives, though the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card pulls ahead with some truly premium elements.

Folks with either card get a free checked bag and priority boarding for themselves and up to eight companions on the same reservation, even in basic economy. That is one the most generous benefits of this type offered by any airline credit card. They also receive a 20% statement credit refund on in-flight purchases of food, beverages and audio headsets, but unfortunately not Wi-Fi.

Both cards confer day-of-travel perks like in-flight purchase discounts. (Photo courtesy of Delta)
Both cards confer day-of-travel perks like in-flight purchase discounts. (Photo courtesy of Delta)

Both cards will help you waive the Medallion Qualification Dollar (MQD) requirements toward elite status. Spend $25,000 in a calendar year, and you get a waiver for Silver, Gold, or Platinum Medallion status. For Diamond, you’ll need to hit $250,000 in a calendar year.

Now for the differences. With the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card, cardholders can purchase one-time Delta Sky Club passes for $39 each, which are not available to the general public. Cardholders who spend $25,000 on purchases in a calendar year receive 10,000 MQMs, plus another 10,000 MQMs for hitting $50,000, for a total potential of 20,000 MQMs each calendar year.

The card’s final major Delta-specific benefit is an annual companion certificate that members receive each year upon renewal. It can be redeemed for one round-trip Main Cabin itinerary within the 48 contiguous United States (or from Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico or the US Virgin Islands to the 48 states). Among the restrictions are that this ticket is only valid on airfares purchased in the L, U, T, X, or V classes of service (so no Basic Economy “E” fares), and only the primary traveler will accrue miles. Taxes and fees on the companion ticket top out at $75.

By contrast, Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card members get access to Delta Sky Clubs when traveling on Delta-marketed or operated flights, and can bring up to two guests for $39 each. They also now get into Amex Centurion Lounges when flying Delta and using their card to pay for their ticket, and can bring in up to two guests for $50 each. Cardholders receive two Delta Sky Club one-time guest passes upon account opening and each year at renewal.

LAX Terminal 3 - Delta Sky Club Art
The Delta SkyMiles Reserve Business American Express Card will get you into Delta Sky Clubs like this one at LAX Terminal 3. (Photo by Darren Murph / The Points Guy)

With this card, the annual companion certificate is good for travel not only in Main Cabin, but also in Comfort+ and First Class, with the same geographical restrictions as the one offered by the Platinum version.

Finally, the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card is now probably the best airline credit card out there to offer its holders a shot at earning elite status simply through spending. Cardholders can reap 15,000 MQMs after spending $30,000 on purchases with their card in a calendar year. They get an additional 15,000 MQMs at $60,000, $90,000 and $120,000, for a total potential of 60,000 MQMs. That alone is more than enough MQMs for Gold Medallion status without even having to fly.

Other benefits

Apart from enjoying privileges when flying Delta itself, folks with either the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card or the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card can count on a variety of other benefits, both travel-related and otherwise.

The two cards waive foreign transaction fees and now offer a refund worth up to $100 toward the Global Entry application fee (once every four years) or TSA PreCheck application fee (once every 4.5 years).

Either card will refund you for a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application. (Photo by Katherine Frey / The Washington Post / Getty Images)
Either card will refund you for a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application. (Photo by Katherine Frey / The Washington Post / Getty Images)

These are also two of the Amex cards that now offer trip delay insurance. With the Platinum version, coverage starts at 12 hours and is capped at $300 per claim and two claims per 12-month period. With the Reserve version, the clock starts at six hours and maxes out at $500 per claim, with up to two claims per 12-month period.

Both cover lost luggage at up to $500 for checked bags and $1,250 for carry-ons and offer secondary car rental insurance. The purchase protection on the Platinum version is good up to 90 days out for claims as high as $1,000 per item and $50,000 per calendar year. With the Reserve version, the per-claim max is $10,000, so it’s a better option for those large purchases. Both cards will extend warranties of under five years up to one additional year.

Which card is right for you?

If all you’re looking for is a high-end Delta business card that earns you bonus miles on Delta purchases and day-of-travel benefits like free checked bags and a statement credit toward Global Entry, then your choice will probably be a little difficult. However, the two cards’ very different benefits packages do lend themselves toward distinct traveler types.

Thanks to its Delta and hotel category bonuses and limited large-purchase bonus, the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card will probably be better for small business owners and professionals who travel frequently for work and want some incentives toward using the card for big purchases, especially if it helps them with a modest boost toward elite status.

On the other hand, the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card is a better fit for premium flyers who are willing to foot a higher annual fee in return for lounge access, as well as those who put a lot of purchases on their card each year and value the potentially massive elite mileage boost and the post-$150,000 spending bonus.

Bottom line

When deciding between these two cards, think about where and how much your work expenditures tend to be so that you can figure out which card will earn you more miles on your normal financial activity. You should also consider whether you will actually use the Reserve version’s lounge access benefits and its spending-based elite boost, or whether you can better leverage the Platinum version’s more modest perks package.

For more information, read our Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card Review and our Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card Review.

For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Reserve Business Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Platinum Business Card, please click here.

Featured image by Ethan Steinberg/The Points Guy.

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.