Credit Card Showdown: Delta SkyMiles Reserve vs. Delta SkyMiles Reserve Business

Feb 28, 2020

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

It’s an exciting time to apply for an airline credit card. Not only are there more and better choices than ever, but also historically high introductory bonuses on cards from Southwest and United. Not to be outdone, long-time partners Delta and American Express recently announced major overhauls to their portfolio of credit cards, including all-new perks and some eye-popping welcome offers of up to 100,000 bonus miles.

The two Delta cards that underwent the most major changes were the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card (see rates and fees) and its business counterpart, the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card (see rates and fees). Both of these premium cards now have higher annual fees, but also more comprehensive perks packages, including expanded lounge access, better earning rates and the ability to accrue more Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) toward elite status with Delta.

Below is a quick look at how the two cards compare. Take a look at the chart and then read on for analysis of their relative benefits.

  Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card
Annual fee $550 (see rates and fees) $550 (see rates and fees)
Welcome offer 80,000 bonus miles plus 20,000 MQMs after $5,000 in three months + 20,000 bonus miles at first anniversary 80,000 bonus miles plus 20,000 MQMs after $5,000 in three months + 20,000 bonus miles at first anniversary
Earning 3x on Delta

1x everything else

3x on Delta

1.5x on everything after $150,000 per calendar year

1x everything else

Delta benefits Delta Sky Club access

Amex Centurion Lounge access

Annual companion ticket

Free checked bags

Priority boarding

Spending-based MQM boost

Spending-based MQD waivers

Delta Sky Club access

Amex Centurion Lounge access

Annual companion ticket

Free checked bags

Priority boarding

Spending-based MQM boost

Spending-based MQD waivers

Other benefits Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit (up to $100)

No foreign transaction fees (see rates and fees)

Trip delay coverage

Lost baggage coverage

Secondary car rental insurance

ShopRunner membership

Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit (up to $100)

No foreign transaction fees (see rates and fees)

Trip delay coverage

Lost baggage coverage

Secondary car rental insurance

 

Let’s get into the details.

In This Post

Annual fee

One of the most significant changes Delta and American Express made to their cobranded card lineup was to increase the annual fees on some cards, including these two. Both the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card and the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card now cost $550 per year (see rates and fees) and (see rates and fees), respectively, an increase of $100 on each card’s annual fee.

Related reading: Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card Review

Welcome offer

Both cards now offer some of the highest introductory bonuses we have ever seen on these products.

The Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card is currently offering new applicants up to 100,000 bonus miles and 20,000 MQMs. Earn 80,000 bonus miles and 20,000 MQMs after you spend $5,000 in purchases on your card within the first three months of card membership, and an additional 20,000 bonus miles after your first anniversary. Although they’re not worth what they used to be, TPG values Delta SkyMiles at around 1.2 cents apiece, so the welcome offer is like getting $1,200 toward free travel.

The Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card is also offering new applicants up to 100,000 bonus miles and 20,000 MQMs. Earn 80,000 bonus miles and 20,000 MQMs after you spend $5,000 in purchases on your card within the first three months of cardmembership, and an additional 20,000 bonus miles after your first anniversary.

Related reading: Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card Review

As a quick comparison, both the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card and the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card are also offering welcome packages of 100,000 bonus Delta SkyMiles. You earn 80,000 after spending $3,000 on purchases using your card in the first three months of account opening, and an additional 20,000 bonus miles after your first anniversary. So the spending requirement is lower, but there are no MQMs to be had, so the Reserve versions are better for higher-spending folks seeking Medallion status.

All of these offers are available through April 1, 2020.

Related reading: Choosing the best credit card for Delta flyers

You might get enough miles from the welcome offers to score a seat in Delta One. (Photo by Nick Ellis/The Points Guy)
You might get enough miles from the welcome offers to score a seat in Delta One. (Photo by Nick Ellis/The Points Guy)

Earning

Another major change is in the card’s earning structure. The Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card now earns 3x miles on Delta purchases, instead of the previous 2x rate. Unfortunately, it offers no other bonus categories, but if you’re a frequent Delta flyer and spend a lot on the airline – including tickets, upgrades and seat assignments – you could be raking in the miles.

The Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card features a potentially even more lucrative earning formula. Like the personal version, it accrues 3x miles on Delta purchases. However, once you make $150,000 or more in purchases on your card in a calendar year, you start earning 1.5x miles per dollar. So if you have a large cash outlay each year on business purchases, this card’s earning structure could shoot you through the stratosphere.

For comparison’s sake, the United Club Card and United Club Business Card both only earn 2x miles per dollar on United purchases, but 1.5x on everything else with no minimum spending requirement, so the Business Reserve might not turn out to be as great a deal as it looked from the start.

The information for the United Club Card and United Business Club 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.

Delta benefits

Because the cards are geared toward frequent and premium Delta flyers, you can expect both cards to offer members a comprehensive package of benefits when traveling with the airline.

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

The main benefit of the two cards is access to Delta Sky Clubs when traveling on Delta-marketed or operated flights, and cardholders can bring up to two guests for $39 each. What’s more, they now get access to Amex Centurion Lounges when flying Delta and using their card to pay for their ticket, and can bring up to two guests for $50 each. Cardholders also receive two Delta Sky Club one-time guest passes upon account opening and each year at renewal.

Like Delta’s other cardholders, those with either Reserve card enjoy a free checked bag and priority boarding, along with up to eight companions on the same reservation, even when traveling in basic economy. Folks with either version can also take advantage of 20% statement-credit refunds on inflight purchases of food, beverages and audio headsets, but not Wi-Fi.

Among the cards’ more interesting Delta-specific benefits are a shot at complimentary upgrades for non-Medallion members. Their most extraordinary benefit, however, is the chance to earn a jaw-dropping number of MQMs simply through spending. Those with either the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card or the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card earn 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 (potentially a total of 60,000 MQMs). That’s more than enough for Gold Medallion status without even setting foot on a plane. The downside is that cardholders no longer receive bonus SkyMiles for hitting these thresholds, as they did before the card changes went into effect in January 2020.

The Centurion Lounge at LaGuardia Airport. (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)
The Centurion Lounge at LaGuardia Airport in New York. (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

These cards also include spending-based waivers for the airline’s MQM requirements. Instead of having to spend a certain amount on airfare, cardholders can waive the requirements for Silver, Gold and Platinum by hitting $25,000 in purchases in a calendar year, and a whopping $250,000 for top-tier Diamond status.

Finally, the two cards offer one of the best airline credit card companion-ticket benefits out there. Each year upon renewal, cardholders receive a companion certificate good for one round-trip itinerary within the 48 contiguous United States (or from Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, or the U.S. Virgin Islands for members who live in those places) in Main Cabin, Delta Comfort+, or first class (in fare classes L, U, T, X, V, I or Z). They just have to pay taxes and fees on the second ticket, up to $75. Both passengers are also eligible for Medallion upgrades, though only the primary passenger earns SkyMiles and MQMs.

One of the cards' best benefits is an annual companion ticket that can be used in first class. (Photo courtesy of Delta)
One of the best benefits of the two cards is an annual companion ticket that can be used in first class. (Photo courtesy of Delta)

Other benefits

Aside from Delta-specific perks, the two cards now also include a few other travel benefits. The most exciting is that cardholders can get a refund for either a Global Entry application (once every four years) or TSA PreCheck application (once every 4.5 years) worth up to $100, bringing it into line with other premium cards such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve and The Platinum Card® from American Express.

Both cards waive foreign transaction fees. They are also two of the Amex cards that now offer trip delay insurance, which starts at six hours and is capped at $500 per claim up to two times per 12-month period. Both cover lost luggage up to $1,250 for carry-ons and $500 for checked bags, offer secondary car rental insurance, and extend purchase protection 90 days out on up to $10,000 per claim and $50,000 per calendar year. They will also extend warranties of under five years for up to one additional year.

Finally, the personal card will get you a complimentary ShopRunner membership, with two-day shipping from hundreds of online merchants.

Business or personal

Given how similar the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card and the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card are, you might still be on the fence about which to apply for. The deciding factor might be whether you would prefer a business credit card or personal one.

Although you might be inclined to simply apply for the personal version, you could also be eligible for the business one, and there are a lot of great reasons why you might want a business credit card instead of a personal one.

First, it’s a way to keep your business and personal expenses separate. Doing so might help improve your personal credit score over time by lessening the debt-to-credit utilization ratio on your personal report. Business accounts generally do not count toward credit card issuers’ restrictions on the number of cards you can apply for or carry, either, so it could be a way to get around Chase’s obscure 5/24 rule or Bank of America’s limitations. Plus, if you’ve had the personal version in the past, you might be ineligible for its welcome offer, whereas you’d still be able to score the one available on the business card.

Other options

With premium perks such as lounge access, MQM earning potential and annual companion tickets, the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card and the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card are two of the best options available from Delta and American Express. However, they’re not for everyone, because of their high annual fees and spending-based benefits that require the expenditure of tens of thousands of dollars.

If you’re not ready to commit to Delta in such a big way, consider the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card and the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card instead. Both charge $250 a year (see Delta Platinum consumer rates and fees) (see Delta Platinum Business rates and fees), respectively, instead of the Reserve and Reserve Business versions’ $550, respectively. Through April 1, 2020, both Platinum cards are also extending welcome offers of up to 100,000 bonus miles: 80,000 after spending $3,000 on purchases using your card in the first three months of account opening, and an additional 20,000 bonus miles after your first anniversary.

The Platinum versions are both also lucrative earners. The personal version accrues 3x miles per dollar on Delta purchases and hotel purchases charged directly with hotels worldwide, plus 2x miles per dollar at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets. Everywhere else, it earns a flat 1 mile per dollar spent. The business version earns 3x miles on hotel and Delta purchases, and 1.5x miles on single eligible purchases of more than $5,000 each up to 50,000 bonus miles per year.

Platinum cardholders can enjoy many of the same day-of-travel benefits on Delta as Reserve cardholders, such as free checked bags and priority boarding, purchase $39 one-time Delta Sky Club passes, and earn up to 20,000 MQMs by spending $50,000 in a calendar year. Plus, they get an annual companion certificate good for coach (but not premium seats) travel.

Related reading: Why the Amex Platinum might just be the best card for Delta flyers

Bottom line

After a major overhaul, the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card and the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card both boast exciting new benefits like expanded lounge access and elite-status boosts, Global Entry/TSA PreCheck fee refunds and ongoing perks like companion tickets and day-of-travel add-ons. Before applying, make sure you can meet the minimum spending requirements, take advantage of spending-based benefits like bonus points and MQMs, and use the lounge-access benefits enough to justify paying $550 each year for the Reserve and Reserve Business cards (see rates and fees) (see rates and fees), respectively.

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

Featured photo by Wyatt Smith/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.

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