This is it: The showdown between two of the top-tier American Express cards for travelers. And two top contenders for frequent Delta flyers.
If you fly Delta often, you’ve likely considered picking up either the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card or the Platinum Card® from American Express. Both of these cards can vastly improve your Delta travel experience – that’s why we’ve named both to our list of the 7 best credit cards for Delta flyers. Both are also a great option for earning Delta SkyMiles.
But which card is best? Does it make sense to carry both of them? We’ll answer these questions and many others in our head-to-head comparison of the Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card and the Platinum Card from American Express.
Click Here to learn more about the Platinum Card from American Express.
Click Here to learn more about the Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card.
Card Welcome Bonus Offers
The Platinum Card from American Express offers a standard welcome bonus offer of 100,000 American Express Membership Rewards points after spending $6,000 in the first six months of card membership. And it can potentially get much better. Check to see if you are targeted for the 150,000 point welcome bonus offer for the same $6,000 spending requirement through the creditcards.com Cardmatch tool.
If you have never held an American Express card before, your odds of being targeted for the increased offer are higher. But even if you have, there is no reason not to check if you are eligible.
In addition to the welcome bonus offer points, new cardholders can also earn 10x points per dollar spent at both restaurants worldwide and when you shop small in the U.S. on up to $25,000 spent in the first six months. Maxing this out would allow you to earn another 250,000 points.
The Delta SkyMiles Reserve Card is currently offering a welcome bonus offer of 80,000 SkyMiles and 20,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs), one of the main ingredients for building status with Delta, after spending $5,000 in the first three months of card membership.
But here’s the thing: Delta SkyMiles and American Express Membership Rewards points are different. Each Delta SkyMile is worth a different amount than each Amex point – and it’s easy to make the case that Delta SkyMiles are worth much less.
So if you are comparing 50,000 of each, for example, it’s not a true, apples-to-apples comparison. Just like world currencies, points and miles have different values, and that’s a big reason we think it is critical to diversify your balances of credit card points and frequent flyer miles. We will cover this in more detail in a later section.
Both the Delta Reserve and Amex Platinum cards are considered premium credit cards. And that comes with a high annual fee.
The annual fee on the Platinum Card from American Express is $695 (see rates & fees) while the annual fee on the Delta Reserve Card is $550 (see rates & fees). Because of that, they certainly aren’t for everybody. But high annual fees come with lots of big travel perks – that’s why we encourage readers to do the math before ruling out a credit card just because of its price tag.
But just looking at the out of pocket cost, there is a clear winner.
Delta Reserve vs Amex Platinum Bonus Categories
If you hold the Platinum Card from American Express, you’ll earn 5x Membership Rewards points for every dollar you spend on airfare booked directly through the airline or through the Amex Travel portal. It’s a big part of the reason we’ve named the card the best option for booking flights.
In addition to 5x per dollar spent on flights, new cardholders can also earn 10x points per dollar spent at both restaurants worldwide and when you shop small in the U.S. on up to $25,000 spent in the first six months. Maxing this out would allow you to earn another 250,000 points. It is the best return on your spending in either of these categories. All other spending will only earn 1x point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
The Amex Delta Reserve card will earn 3x Delta SkyMiles per dollar spent on purchases with Delta, and you’ll earn 1x Delta SkyMiles per dollar spent on all other purchases.
But here’s the thing: you can transfer Amex Membership Rewards points directly into your Delta SkyMiles account. You can also transfer them to nearly a dozen other airlines or hotel chains, which is why we refer to these as a flexible points currency.
So if you were going to book a $500 flight on Delta Air Lines, paying with your Amex Platinum Card would net you 2,500 Membership Rewards points (which can be transferred into your Delta SkyMiles account). Paying with your Amex Delta Reserve Card would net you only 1,500 Delta SkyMiles. And with the Platinum Card, the same would be true regardless of which airline you booked. The Reserve Card would only earn 3x SkyMiles on Delta flights.
One important note: Amex Membership Rewards charges a fee of 0.06 cents per point up to a maximum of $99 when you transfer from American Express Membership Rewards points to a U.S. airline. So a transfer of 100,000 points would incur a $60 fee when you transfer to Delta. It’s not earth-shattering, but it is slightly annoying and something to be aware of when making Membership Rewards points transfers to Delta.
Still, I think the earning rates on the Amex Platinum Card are enough to offset the small transfer fee. The winner in this category is an easy choice – before we even factor in how to redeem the points.
Redeeming Points Earned by Both Cards
There are literally hundreds of ways to redeem your Membership Rewards points earned from the American Express Platinum Card. These points are insanely flexible.
In addition to Delta, you can transfer these points to 18 other airline partners and three hotel partners. Most of these transfers are at a 1:1 ratio (1 Amex point = 1 airline mile or hotel point) and will appear instantly once you make the transfer.
You can see the full list of American Express Membership Rewards transfer partners below. And see our guide on how to transfer your Membership Rewards points to partner airlines and hotels.
American Express Transfer Partners
|Program||Type||Transfer Ratio||Transfer Time|
|Air Canada Aeroplan||Airline||1:1||Instant|
|Cathay Pacific||Airline||1:1||1-7 days|
In addition to the transfer partners, you can also use the points to book flights on almost any airline or hotel through Amex’s travel portal at amextravel.com. When you do this, each Membership Reward point will be worth one cent. That means a $500 flight would cost you 50,000 points.
With the Amex Delta SkyMiles Reserve Card, you will earn Delta SkyMiles. And while others question their value, SkyMiles can be very lucrative if you know how to use them. Make sure to read our guide on How Delta SkyMiles Work and How to Make Them Work for You. And make sure to check out our post on the 9 Best Delta SkyMiles Redemptions.
But if you’re choosing one card to earn and redeem points, the average traveler shouldn’t be using an airline credit card. While it may seem smart to keep adding to your balance of SkyMiles, earning Membership Rewards points will have more value in the long run.
If you focus on the Delta Reserve card, you’re only earning Delta SkyMiles. And that can be great … until you need to fly a different airline. That’s the point at which you realize your miles don’t have as much value.
It’s the biggest reason why we urge readers to quit putting all of their spending on an airline-specific credit card. The additional flexibility makes for a clear winner in this category.
Airport Lounge Access
Both cards will vastly improve your airport experience by way of lounge access. However, again we think there is a clear winner in this category.
Just for holding the Platinum Card, you’ll have access to the Delta Sky Club when flying Delta. And while you won’t be able to bring in guests for free, you will be able to bring up to two additional guests into the Sky Club with you for $39 each.
See our full review of Delta’s Sky Club at Seattle (SEA). One of the best in their portfolio.
And as far as domestic airport lounges go, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better option than the Centurion Lounges. As an added bonus, you’ll be able to bring up to two guests into all these lounge networks with you at no additional cost.
With the Delta Reserve Card, you will also get complimentary access to the Delta Sky Club. On top of that, you will receive two, one-time guest passes to the Delta Sky Club each year you hold the card.
You will also get into the American Express Centurion Lounges when you are flying Delta on a ticket that was purchased with your Reserve card. However, you won’t receive any complimentary guests – you can bring up to two guests in with you for a fee of $50 each.
The Delta SkyMiles Reserve card also doesn’t offer complimentary Priority Pass Select membership and doesn’t offer access to the Escape Lounges – making the winner in this category a slam dunk.
This is where it starts to get interesting. Since the Platinum Card from American Express isn’t technically a Delta credit card, the Delta specific benefits on the Delta SkyMiles Reserve card are much stronger.
To start with, just for holding the Delta Reserve card, you’ll get a free checked bag and priority Zone 1 boarding on every Delta flight. You don’t even have to pay for the flight with your Reserve card to get the free luggage benefit.
That benefit isn’t unique to the Reserve card – all of Delta’s co-branded cards offer these benefits with the exception of the no annual fee Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card. But there are plenty of other Delta perks with this card.
The card will also offer an annual domestic main cabin or first-class round-trip companion certificate each year upon card renewal. If you are able to take advantage of this benefit, that alone could justify the $550 annual fee.
But the real value of the Delta Reserve Card is in the chase for Delta Medallion status. If you don’t travel enough (or spend enough) with Delta to build some serious status, skip to the next section – this card’s not for you. But if you need a boost in your quest for status, keep reading.
With the Reserve Card, you can get 15,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs), one of the main ingredients to earning Delta status, by spending $30,000 throughout the year. And that has been boosted for 2021. Reserve cardholders will now earn 18,750 MQMs after spending $30,000 on their card.
That’s almost enough to automatically get Delta Silver Medallion Status without taking a single flight. And for every $30,000 you spend on the card ($60,000, $90,000, and $120,000) in a calendar year, you’ll earn an additional 15,000 MQM bonus. That’s enough to spend your way to Gold Medallion Status without taking a single flight.
While the Platinum Card from American Express does offer an annual $200 airline credit which is meant to pay for incidental fees like checked bags, change fees, guest lounge access, etc., it won’t help you board the plane earlier or allow you to earn MQMs towards Delta elite status.
There are plenty of other categories to consider with these cards. But for getting a boost with Delta, there’s a clear winner.
Global Entry & TSA PreCheck Benefits
Both cards offer up to a $100 credit to cover the cost of either Global Entry or TSA PreCheck membership – whether you are applying for the first time or renewing an existing membership. Membership in either program is good for five years and the $100 credit will be available every four years.
We’ve named both cards on our list of the best credit cards that cover Global Entry or TSA Precheck, and for that reason, this category is a tie.
Travel Insurance Protection
Starting on January 1, 2020, both cards now offer some of the best travel insurance offered from any card out there. If you pay for your round-trip flight with the Platinum or Reserve card – or put the taxes and fees on a round-trip award flight on it – you will be eligible for:
- Trip Cancellation Insurance: You can get reimbursed for up to $10,000 of nonrefundable expenses – and up to $20,000 a year total – if your flight is canceled due to weather, an injury or illness, and other “covered reasons.”
- Trip Delay Insurance: If your flight is delayed by more than six hours, you are eligible for up to $500 in reimbursement for lodging, food, personal use items, and other associated expenses.
Outside of the benefits already mentioned, the Platinum Card from American Express offers a number of other benefits to justify the annual fee. The first of which is an annual $200 credit for Uber. Each year you hold the Platinum Card, you will receive $200 toward Uber rides. You will be issued up to $15 each month, and up to $35 in the month of December ($200 total).
You must use the full credit each month or you will lose any remaining value. The credits do not carry over from month to month. And even if you don’t often take Uber rides, the credit can also be used on UberEats, Uber’s food delivery platform. If Uber eats is available in your area, it makes it relatively easy to maximize this benefit each and every year.
You’ll also get $100 to spend at Saks Fifth Avenue stores each year. One $50 credit will be available from January through June, with another available July through December. Like the other credits available on the Platinum card, you will lose any remaining balance you have after the expiration date.
The offer can be used both in-store and online, but per the terms and conditions of this offer, it will not work to purchase gift cards.
Saks Fifth Avenue isn’t the cheapest place to shop, but you should be able to find a few things each year to use your credit on. Read our post on 7 ways to use your Saks Fifth Avenue credit.
Out of nine categories, the Platinum Card takes four while the Delta Reserve Card takes two. Three categories split as a tie.
At the end of the day, every traveler will value each of these categories differently. If your main goal is trying to earn or maintain Delta Platinum or Diamond status, the Delta Reserve card is unbeatable. The value of the additional MQMs you can earn is undeniable.
But for someone who is less loyal to Delta – or simply doesn’t fly enough to build up status – the Platinum Card is likely a better option. It provides more benefits and gives you more flexibility for the same $550 annual fee.
You won’t be locked into just using miles with Delta, but Delta remains a strong option. The lounge access you’ll get with the Platinum card is vastly better. And if you don’t care about earning Delta Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs), it is a clear choice.
When comparing the Delta Reserve vs the Amex Platinum Cards, it is important to understand all the benefits. Delta’s Reserve Card should be held by Delta’s top-tier elite status flyers. If that isn’t you, you’ll likely be much better served by the Platinum Card from American Express.