Choosing an airline credit card isn’t always easy, and it’s not always easy for someone with a preferred frequent flyer program. Finally, most major airlines have co-branded cards for different types of travelers, including premium cards with lounge access and basic airline cards with only a few privileges.
If you’re a Delta loyalist, you’ve probably noticed the wide variety of Delta credit cards, each with different benefits and fees. Two of the most popular Delta cards are also two of the most different: the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card and the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card.
If you’re looking to fly Delta more often and earn miles while earning frequent flyer benefits, read on to learn how these two airline credit cards compare.
|Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card||Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card|
|Welcome bonus||70,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 within 3 months of account opening. Offer expires 11/10/2021.||80,000 bonus miles and 20,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $5,000 within 3 months of account opening. Offer expires 11/10/2021.|
|Annual fee||$0 the first year, then $99||$550|
|Frequent flyer benefits||
Delta SkyMiles Gold and Delta SkyMiles Highlights
If you compare the credit cards of these two airlines, you will find some similarities as well as some notable differences. Each card stands out in the following main categories:
Welcome Bonus Winner: Delta SkyMiles Reserve
If your goal is to start with as many Delta SkyMiles as possible, the Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card offers a better welcome bonus overall. Spend $5,000 within three months of account opening and you’ll not only earn 80,000 bonus miles, but you’ll also earn 20,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) for Delta Elite status.
The 80,000 award miles you earn are enough to travel on multiple round-trip domestic flights or one round-trip international flight. However, MQM can put you on the path to Delta Medallion membership, or advance you through this frequent flyer program as you progress through the ranks.
Winner: Delta SkyMiles Gold Card
The Delta SkyMiles American Express Gold Card excels at accrual rates because it earns you 2x miles on everyday purchases in categories like restaurants and U.S. supermarkets. This accrual rate makes it easier to earn miles when you use your card for everyday purchases.
In contrast, the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card has no award tiers beyond airline spending.
Annual Fee Winner: Delta SkyMiles Gold
The Delta SkyMiles American Express Gold Card wins in this category because it has a $0 annual fee for its first year, and the card is only reimbursed for $99 a year after the first year.
The annual fee for the Delta SkyMiles American Express Card is $550, which can be hard to justify if you don’t fly Delta regularly or use the lounge frequently.
Foreign Equity Fee Winner: Tie
None of these travel credit cards charge foreign transaction fees for purchases made abroad, which is common in this niche. So, if you’re traveling internationally and want a card that doesn’t incur extra charges, the Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card and Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card are both good options.
Which card is the most profitable?
If you spend a lot of money on Delta flights each year, the Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card lets you earn 3x miles for every $1 you spend on airfare. However, if you plan to use your card more frequently for everyday purchases, the Delta SkyMiles American Express Gold Card can give you more miles at the end of the year.
The spending example below shows how many miles an average household can earn with two cards.
Example of spending: Delta SkyMiles Gold Card and Delta SkyMiles Reserve Fund
Let’s say you are a family of four with parents under the age of 50 and two children aged 12 and 13. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), you spend an average of $14,272.80 per year ($1,189.40 per month). On “moderate” budget groceries. For example, let’s say you spend $4,800 per year ($400 per month) on restaurants (including takeout and delivery), $5,000 per year on Delta flights, and $12,000 per year ($1,000 per month) on various purchases.
Earn 60,145 miles in 12 months with the Delta SkyMiles American Express Gold Card:
- US supermarket version 28,545 miles
- 9,600 miles of dining out
- Delta flights 10,000 miles
- 12,000 miles for other expenses
On the other hand, reserve an American Express card with Delta SkyMiles and you’ll earn 46,072 Delta miles in one year:
- Supermarket spending 14,272 miles
- 4,800 miles to eat out
- 15,000 miles on Delta flights
- 12,000 miles on other spending
Why buy the Delta SkyMiles American Express Gold Card?
The Delta SkyMiles American Express Gold Card is aimed at Delta enthusiasts who want some basic perks but don’t want to pay extra for lounge access. Here are some of the most important factors to consider when looking at what this card has to offer.
The Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card does not provide lounge access or help you gain elite status with the airline, but you will get Delta Card perks such as discounts on in-flight purchases, priority boarding in Main Cabin 1 And you fly Delta with free checked bags.
Since the primary cardholder can bring up to 8 additional guests on the itinerary with free checked bags, and since Delta checked bags typically cost $30 per piece, this offer can add to the per- $240 value round trip.
You can redeem miles for flights to more than 1,000 destinations around the world with Delta or its SkyTeam partners. You can also use your miles for seat upgrades, Delta gift cards, Delta vacation packages, magazine subscriptions, and more.
Recommended credit rating
Like most travel credit cards, the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card is designed for consumers with good or very good credit. This usually means your FICO score is 670 or higher, but if you have a credit score of 700+ you have a better chance of being approved.
Why buy a Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card?
While the annual fee for the Delta SkyMiles American Express card is $550, there are many reasons why frequent flyers sign up in droves. Before you sign up for this premium airline credit card, consider the following factors.
The Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express card offers more perks in general, including free membership to Delta Sky Clubs and Centurion Lounges. Considering that at least $545 can buy a Delta Sky Club membership, it’s easy to see where this card’s annual fee makes sense.
Also note how this card makes it easier for you to earn Delta Elite status. The first is that you receive 20,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQM) as a welcome bonus, which helps you meet the 80% MQM requirement for Delta Silver Status.
Another benefit called “Status Boost” lets you earn 15,000 MQM every time you spend $30,000 on the card for a year, up to 4 times per year. This level of spending also helps you get a Medallion Qualification Dollar (MQD) waiver, which means you can earn elite status in Delta with just your credit card spending.
This is how it works. Assuming you spend enough money to get the welcome bonus on this card, it comes with 20,000 MQMs. However, you end up spending $60,000 on the Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card in the first calendar year.
In this case, you’ll get 20,000 MQM in the welcome bonus and an additional 30,000 MQM through status boosts, but you’ll also get an MQD waiver because you spent $25,000 on the card. This will allow you to earn Delta Gold status without flying a mile.
Also keep in mind that this card includes all the benefits of Delta Gold, such as free checked bags, priority boarding and discounts on in-flight purchases. Cardholders also receive a Companion Certificate upon renewal each year, priority upgrades to their elite status, and two complimentary Delta Sky Club guest passes.
If you can’t decide between these two airline credit cards, keep in mind that you could theoretically have both over time. That’s because American Express has a “once in a lifetime” rule that allows you to earn a bonus once with each of their card products.
First, however, you must decide which of these two cards is best for you. In the meantime, consider using other travel credit cards, including other airline credit cards that work with various frequent flyer programs like AAdvantage in the US and United MileagePlus.
Delta Skymiles® Reserve American Express Card Review – See more.
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