Delta Amex cards adding major new benefits, changing others in 2020
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For loyal Delta flyers, the carrier’s suite of cobranded American Express cards have long provided options for both earning SkyMiles and enjoying travel benefits at the airport and in flight, which is why Delta credit cards are often popular with both regular and frequent Delta flyers. Cobranded airline cards have been getting more features as of late, so it’s great to see that today, Amex is announcing a host of changes across the entire portfolio of Delta credit cards, adding new perks and adjusting or removing a handful of existing ones.
The folks at Amex and Delta tell us they spent over a year gathering feedback from customers to prepare for this revamp, and tried to design each card to fit a particular lifestyle. Overall, our impression is that people who already use a Delta card as their primary everyday credit card will be happy with the majority of the changes, as will those who use Delta credit cards to earn elite status on the airline. So if you’re one of those people, here’s what you need to know.
Let’s start with the timing of these updates. Even though they’re being announced today, the revised benefits don’t actually launch until January 30, 2020. So if you apply for any of the cards between now and then, you’ll be able to utilize the current slate of benefits until January 30 — including the annual fees as they exist now (more on that below). Once January 30 arrives, all of the changes will take effect for existing Delta cardholders, and any new cards opened on or after that date will get the new perks from day one. The new annual fees listed below will take effect on a rolling basis starting with your first renewal on or after Jan. 30, 2020.
Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express
The Gold Delta Amex will have a new name come Jan. 30, 2020: the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card. It will retain most of its existing benefits but undergo a series of updates.
- Enhanced earning rates: 2x miles at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets. Terms apply.
- Up to $100 Delta flight credit after $10k spend in a calendar year
- The Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQD) waiver won’t be available on this card after 2019
- Discounted Sky Club access will be discontinued (currently $29 per person)
- $99 annual fee upon renewal or new account opening on or after Jan. 30 (see rates & fees)
The changes on the Delta Gold card are clearly designed for people who want to use a Delta card as their everyday spending card — they’ll enjoy an extra 1.2% return on dining and U.S. supermarkets along with a $100 Delta flight credit after making $10,000 in purchases in a calendar year (an extra 1% return on exactly $10k in spending). That $10,000 should be a relatively easy threshold to hit in a year, as it only comes down to spending $833 a month. With the array of perks like the first checked bag free, priority boarding and the new $100 credit, the card will pay for itself for many travelers. The annual fee increase of $4 is also nominal, representing just a 4.2% change.
While the loss of discounted Sky Club access may be a negative to those who regularly use it, that appears to be a fairly limited population. The folks at Amex and Delta tell us that the majority of people who have the Delta Gold card only travel a few times a year — not enough to use the lounge often or go for Medallion status. However, if you’re a low- or mid-tier Medallion who struggles to spend enough with Delta to reach its elite spending thresholds and qualify for elite status, the Platinum Delta Amex will be a better option starting in January, as you’ll not only enjoy the MQD waiver but also earn 10k bonus MQMs by reaching $25k in spending in a calendar year.
Sandeep Dube, who runs Delta SkyMiles, and Eva Reda from American Express swing by the TPG office in NYC to sit down with Brian Kelly to discuss the latest details on their announcement to relaunch their cards portfolio on our Talking Points podcast.
Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express
The next card in Delta’s cobranded card portfolio — the Platinum Delta Amex — is also going through a set of changes. Like the Gold card, the name is being updated, as it will be known as the Delta SkyMiles Platinum American Express card. While the vast majority of perks are staying the same, there are a few enhancements and removals that went into effect on Jan. 30, 2020.
- Higher earning rates: 3x miles on Delta purchases and at hotels (currently 1x mile); 2x miles at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (currently 1x)
- A Global Entry/TSA PreCheck fee credit (every 4 years for Global Entry, every 4.5 years for TSA PreCheck) (up to $100)
- You’ll still receive 10k MQMs at $25,000 and $50,000 in calendar-year spending, but the bonus redeemable miles are being removed
- $39 Delta Sky Club access
- $250 annual fee (see rates & fees)
Those who use the Platinum Delta Amex as their primary payment method will be thrilled with the added bonus categories, which make the card competitive with other cobranded airline credit cards (though advanced credit card users who carry multiple cards will still keep multiple options in their purses or wallets for hotels, restaurants and supermarkets). In exchange for the new bonus categories, customers will forego the 10,000 bonus miles they currently get at both $25k and $50k in spending. If you’re using the card for everyday spend, this will likely be a net positive, as the enhanced earning rates on purchases should offset the loss of the tiered bonus miles. However, if you only use the card for big non-bonus purchases to hit the high spend thresholds, this change won’t work in your favor.
The Global Entry/TSA PreCheck perk is a nice addition, though it’s only once roughly every four years. Better news is that the annual companion certificate is still part of the card, though the annual fee is climbing by $55, an increase of 28.2%. You should be able to cover the cost of the annual fee with the companion certificate, but if you find yourself struggling to maximize it, you’ll probably be better off downgrading to the Delta Gold going forward.
Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express
Delta’s premium card option is the Delta Reserve Amex. As of January 30, 2020, this card will be rebranded as the Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card and will retain most of its existing benefits, including an annual companion certificate (valid for main cabin, Comfort+ or first class), a first checked bag for free and priority boarding. However, there are a number of new benefits being added to the card and a handful of existing benefits being changed or removed as of Jan. 30, 2020.
- Enhanced earning rate: 3x miles on Delta purchases
- Additional 15,000 bonus Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after spending both $90,000 and $120,000 in a calendar year
- Two, one-time guest passes for the Delta Sky Club (to complement the existing individual Sky Club membership)
- Complimentary access to American Express Centurion Lounges when flying Delta with a ticket purchased on the card (up to two guests may also enter for a fee of $50 each)
- A Global Entry/TSA PreCheck fee credit (every 4 years for Global Entry, every 4.5 years for TSA PreCheck) (up to $100)
- Access to complimentary upgrades (non-Medallions)
- You’ll still receive 15k MQMs for reaching $30,000 and $60,000 in calendar-year spending, but the bonus redeemable miles at those spending tiers are being eliminated
- Sky Priority security access is being eliminated
- $550 annual fee (see rates & fees)
There are a lot of additions to this high-end card that Amex and Delta tell us is popular with Delta fanatics who fly on the airline all the time. So logically, the changes are generally geared toward them. Big spenders now have access to potentially a higher level of elite status through the card alone. If you surpass $120,000 in spending on the card in a calendar year, you’ll automatically enjoy Gold Medallion status and all the perks it confers — and that’s without any paid Delta flights. This card could also be more rewarding now if a decent amount of that spending is on Delta purchases, as the higher earning rate boosts your return from 2.4% to 3.6% (based on TPG’s most recent valuations). An interesting note is that the new $90k threshold was sometimes offered in the past to targeted Delta Reserve cardmembers — now it will be a permanent benefit available to anyone with the card.
The fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck is also a nice — albeit overdue — addition to the card, as is access to the popular Centurion Lounges and the one-time guest passes to Delta Sky Clubs. That being said, you now need to pay an additional $100 per year with the higher annual fee — an increase of over 20%. That’s likely worth the extra dough to those who’ll utilize Centurion Lounges regularly, but if you aren’t traveling enough to do so, you’ll likely want to downgrade to Delta Platinum or Delta Gold.
While complimentary upgrades seem great in theory, you’ll appear behind all other Medallion members on the priority list, and many people who have this card are already Delta elite members anyway. You’re also losing out on up to 30,000 bonus miles (worth $360) by hitting spending thresholds. However, the folks at Amex and Delta tell us that from speaking with customers, Delta loyalists were more interested in benefits that could accelerate their Medallion qualification, hence the tradeoff. All in all, big spenders who are after Medallion status will be pleased with the added MQM bonuses, while those who typically spend just over $30k or $60k in a year will probably do better off with a Delta Platinum card in the future.
Blue Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express
Delta’s no-annual-fee credit card (see rates & fees) is also undergoing some changes, including a new name: the Delta SkyMiles Blue American Express Card. However, unlike the three above, there are no benefits being removed or devalued. It’s all good news here.
- Enhanced earning rate: 2x miles at restaurants worldwide
- Access to Pay with Miles
- No foreign transaction fees (foreign transaction fee is currently 2.7%) (see rates & fees)
The Blue Delta Amex is the most positive of all, with three new perks. The expansion of 2x miles on restaurants to worldwide plus the addition of waived foreign transaction fees makes this a great option if you’re traveling abroad. While Delta’s Pay with Miles redemption won’t get you outsized value for your SkyMiles, it’s still a good option to have if you want to offset some of the cost of a flight with SkyMiles. With no up-front expense of an annual fee, this card could be a great introduction to Delta’s suite of cobranded cards, especially for someone living in a Delta hub who wants to earn SkyMiles without paying an annual fee.
Delta’s business cards are undergoing an overhaul as well — including new bonus categories. (Photo courtesy of Delta)The four personal Delta Amex cards aren’t the only ones undergoing a refresh. The three cards for small businesses are also included. The majority of these are the same as the cards above, but here’s a quick breakdown of the differences (unique new benefits to the business cards are bolded):
Gold Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card from American Express
- New name: Delta SkyMiles® Gold Business American Express Card
- New perks: 2x miles at restaurants, on U.S. shipping and on U.S. advertising; $100 Delta flight credit after $10k spending
- Changing perks: No discounted Sky Club access; no MQD waiver; $99 annual fee upon renewal or new account opening on or after Jan. 30 (see rates & fees)
Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card from American Express
- New name: Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card
- New perks: 3x miles on Delta purchases and at hotels; 1.5x miles on purchases over $5,000 (up to 50k miles); Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit
- Changing perks: No bonus miles at spending thresholds; $39 Sky Club access; $250 annual fee upon renewal or new account opening on or after Jan. 30 (see rates & fees)
Delta Reserve for Business Credit Card
- New name: Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card
- New perks: 3x miles on Delta purchases; 1.5x miles on all purchases after $150k spending; additional 15k MQMs at $90k and $120k in spending; two Sky Club passes; Centurion Lounge access; complimentary upgrades (for non-Medallions)
- Changing perks: No bonus miles at spending thresholds; no more Sky Priority security access; $550 annual fee upon renewal or new account opening on or after Jan. 30 (see rates & fees)
In many ways, the changes to these cards mirror the personal versions. The main differences relate to how businesses typically spend their money. For the Reserve and Platinum, this is about large business expenses, allowing you to earn a higher return of 1.8% on certain non-bonus purchases. The Gold version’s addition of 2x miles on U.S. shipping and U.S. advertising is a solid new perk for businesses that spend a lot in those areas. Again, though, these enhancements are at least partially offset by the changing benefits, so be sure to crunch the numbers to make sure the card(s) you have will be optimized for your own small business.
Delta’s entire set of cobranded Amex cards — including four personal cards and three business ones — is undergoing a significant overhaul as of January 30, 2020. The changes make the cards much more competitive with other airline credit cards, though whether you like them or not will depend on which Delta card you have and what you primarily use your that card for. Folks who spend regularly on their cards to maximize their elite status and everyday Gold and Platinum Delta cardholders will find much to like in the increased MQM bonus thresholds and added bonus categories, while customers who enjoyed the redeemable bonus miles will be disappointed, as will everyone who’s noticed the trend of creeping annual fees across many credit cards in the market today.
This story has been paid for by American Express, but the opinions are those of the author and TPG.
Featured photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy.
For rates and fees of the Gold Delta Amex, click here.
For rates and fees of the Platinum Delta Amex, click here.
For rates and fees of the Blue Delta Amex, click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta Reserve card, click here.
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