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Why I'm keeping the Amex Delta Reserve even while I fly less

March 29, 2021
8 min read
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Let me start by saying I strongly considered cancelling my Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card this year. The $550 annual fee is steep (see rates and fees), and the truth is I haven't been flying as much as I normally do as COVID-19 has put a damper on my domestic flying and erased any international trips I would have taken.

I also already get into Delta lounges (when flying on Delta Air Lines) via The Platinum Card® from American Express. I haven't been able to use the companion pass that comes after a year of membership either. Still, there's lots of value still to be squeezed from the card.

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Here's the reasons I decided to keep it after all.

Status benefits

The main reason I'm keeping my Reserve card is the status benefits it gives — especially this year.

If you spend $25,000 in a calendar year on the card, Delta Air Lines waives the Medallion® Qualification Dollar (MQD) requirement for status at the Gold, Silver and Platinum levels. That means that I rolled into 2021 with the spend requirement waived to maintain my Platinum status.

And it's not just the Delta Reserve card that comes with that perk. If you spend $25,000 in a calendar year on the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card ($250 annual fee; see rates and fees), you can also get the spend waiver for Silver, Gold or Platinum status. (To get the waiver for Delta Diamond status you’d have to put $250,000 in spend in a calendar year on the card!)

On top of that, the Delta Medallion Platinum status I earned was automatically extended for the 2021 Medallion year because of COVID-19. That Platinum status came courtesy of a status challenge I successfully completed in 2019!

Carried-over MQMs

Clint Henderson 2022 status on Delta Air Lines. (Screenshot courtesy Delta Air Lines)

Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) earned during 2020 were carried over to 2021 to qualify for Medallion Status this year, including MQMs earned by spending on cobranded Delta credit cards.

Related: Delta makes it easier to earn elite status in 2021

That means I have a huge head start on my 2022 status. In fact, I've already hit the MQM requirements for Platinum status based on my 2020 and 2021 flying! In all, I rolled over more than 77,000 MQMs.

Now I just have to spend $25,000 on my Reserve card this year to earn the MQD waiver and finish requalifying — which would extend my Platinum status through all of 2022.

Note that Delta uses the future when referring to elite qualification, so your "2022 Status" is actually based on qualifying activity in the 2021 calendar year. If you can successfully meet the requirements for Delta elite status from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31 of this year, you'll lock in Medallion status for the rest of 2021 and all of 2022, ending on Jan. 31, 2023.

Spending bonuses

I opened the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card back in 2019, and I've managed to get a huge amount of bonus miles during the time I've held the card.

I got a big welcome offer back in 2019. In 2020, I earned a ton of SkyMiles, but Delta was also giving out spend bonuses left and right. In fact, I ended up earning about 10,000 SkyMiles for bonus spend on my Reserve card. Delta offered 4x miles on groceries at U.S. supermarkets in June and July (offer no longer available) which was a nice little boost too.

Related: The best travel credit cards of 2021

Status Boost

Delta makes it possible to qualify for Medallion status without flying thanks to the Status Boost perks on select cobranded cards. In 2020, I earned 15,000 MQMs after spending $30,000 on my Reserve card. Card holders can earn this bonus up to four times, giving you 60,000 MQMs a year by spending $120,000 — in addition to the MQD waiver. Last year, I was able to hit the first spend bonus and I ended up getting 15,000 extra MQMs.

However, this is even more lucrative this year.

In 2021, you can earn 25% more Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) with an elevated Status Boost perk. Earn 18,750 MQMs for every $30,000 you spend in purchases on the Delta Reserve card in the calendar year, up to four times. That’s an additional 3,750 MQMs on top of the 15,000 MQMs you already earn with Status Boost. Offer ends 12/31/21.

Choice benefits

A sample of some Delta Choice benefits. (Screenshot courtesy of Delta)

Every year of earned status gets Platinum or Diamond elites something called Choice Benefits.

This year, I decided to take the 20,000 bonus miles as my Platinum benefit. I wasn't sure I would be able to use the regional upgrades this year with my reduced Delta flying. Conservatively, those points are worth $200 — though TPG values them at $220. I'll take it.

Bonus points for Lyft rides

(Photo by ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images)

Every time I use Lyft for ride-shares, I get the cash price in Delta SkyMiles. You get double miles for airport rides. That means when I took a $21 dollar Lyft ride back in January, I got 42 Delta SkyMiles. It's not huge, but those miles do add up.

American Express offers

Holding the Delta Reserve has also given me access to the sometimes valuable American Express Offers. Right now, for example, you get an additional 2 miles per dollar spent on Delta Air Lines purchases.

More valuable to me are statement credits offered for purchases with certain brands (including Delta at times). Usually you'll need to spend a minimum amount (like $50) to get a statement credit of up to as much as $200 at times. I've saved $236 in Amex Offers while I've had the card. You can take advantage of these offers by logging in to you Amex account and scrolling down on the home page to “Amex Offers & Benefits.” You can also search on the app by looking for the “Offers” tab.

Related: These Amex Offers will help you save money and make life easier right now

Bottom line

I am keeping my Delta Reserve card this year despite the high annual fee. While it's not as strong a value proposition as my The Platinum Card® from American Express, with its $695 annual fee (see rates and fees), it's still a solid card in my opinion.

Related: Why I'm keeping my Amex Platinum card forever

I love the status boost I get from holding the Reserve card, and the Amex Offers and bonus miles almost cancel out the high annual fee. I didn't even scratch the surface of all that this card offers — including priority boarding, free checked bags and that companion certificate.

I'm also going to try to get a retention bonus for keeping the card this year.

For rates and fees of the Amex Delta SkyMiles Reserve card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Delta SkyMiles Platinum card, click here.

Featured image by WYATT SMITH/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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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
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Rewards

1 - 3X points
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Intro offer

Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points60,000 points
For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

Annual Fee

$95

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

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases
Best starter travel card
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

3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

    Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points
    60,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $95
  • 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

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases