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The Best Card for Delta Fans is…Not a Delta Amex Card?!

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Whether the airline walks back some painful changes to earning status and getting into Sky Clubs … or not, many Delta flyers are suddenly rethinking their cards like the *delta skymiles gold card*, the *delta skymiles platinum card*, or even the *delta reserve card*. They won't have to look far for a better alternative.

To be clear, those Delta cards still offer plenty of value through benefits like free checked bags, priority boarding, and maybe even a companion ticket for a buy one get one free flight once a year. And nothing has changed with earning and redeeming SkyMiles: Deeply discounted SkyMiles flash sales are still out there. But even if you keep one of these cards, the average traveler shouldn't be swiping one of these Delta Amex cards for each and every purchase.

That'd be like putting all your eggs in one basket. Instead, branch out and use a (non-Delta) American Express Membership Rewards card like the *amex gold card*, which will allow you to rack up points even faster. Delta is an Amex transfer partner, which means you can send your points to Delta if an amazing SkyMiles deal pops up … or send them to nearly 20 other airlines, if not.

Plus, first-timers might be able to get a whopping 90,000-point welcome bonus after spending $6,000 in six months on the Gold Card. And some recent changes from Amex mean you'll want to give this card a hard look before, say, *amex platinum*.

Even diehard Delta flyers who previously swiped their go-to airline card daily to fast-track Delta Medallion Status might now be better off shifting their focus toward earning more points. And few are better for that than the non-Delta Gold Card.

Read more: Want to Fly Delta? Skip SkyMiles, Use This Workaround for Huge Savings


Amex Membership Rewards Points vs Delta SkyMiles

Points and miles are not interchangeable – and they're not created equally.

Before we dive into why the American Express Gold Card is a great option for Delta travelers, you first need to understand the difference in the points it earns versus the Delta SkyMiles credit cards.


Membership Rewards Points

The American Express Gold Card earns American Express Membership Rewards points. These are credit card points issued directly from American Express … and they can be used in hundreds of different ways. One of the big reasons we think they are so valuable is because of their flexibility and versatility.

Most relevant for ultra-loyal Delta fans, you can transfer them on a 1:1 basis directly to your SkyMiles account. That means 10,000 Membership Rewards points could become 10,000 Delta SkyMiles.

But Delta is just one option on a long list of Amex transfer partners. Here's the full roster.


ProgramTypeTransfer RatioTransfer Time
Aer LingusAirline1:1Instant
AeroMexicoAirline1:1.63-5 days
Air Canada AeroplanAirline1:1Instant
Air France/KLMAirline1:1Instant
ANAAirline1:11-2 days
British AirwaysAirline1:1Instant
Cathay PacificAirline1:1Instant
IberiaAirline1:1Up to 24 hours
Qatar AirwaysAirline1:1Instant
Virgin AtlanticAirline1:1Instant


Just remember, transfers to any of the Amex airline or hotel transfer partners are a one-way street. That means once you send them to Delta, you won't be able to get them back into your Membership Rewards account. Make sure you are ready to use them before you transfer, as the transfer should hit your Delta SkyMiles account instantly.

The one downside of transferring Amex points to Delta – or any U.S. airline – is that American Express tacks on a small fee of .06 cents per point, up to a maximum of $99. A transfer of 20,000 Membership Rewards points will cost you $12. That's annoying, but it's a small price to pay.

Read more: The 10 Best Ways to Redeem Membership Rewards Points


Delta SkyMiles

Delta SkyMiles, on the other hand, can only be used to book travel through Delta. When you earn SkyMiles, they are stuck in that account with the airline you use them.

You can't transfer Delta SkyMiles to another carrier, even to partner airlines like Air France, KLM, or Virgin Atlantic. Even transferring SkyMiles to a friend or family members' account is exorbitantly expensive.

So in that sense, they provide much less flexibility than Membership Rewards points. And considering how much easier it is to earn those points with American Express, it's a no-brainer to go that route instead.

Related reading: How Delta SkyMiles Work and How to Make Them Work for You


Earning Delta SkyMiles with the Amex Gold Card

Let's get this out of the way: The American Express Gold Card has an annual fee of $250 (see rates & fees).

While that might sound steep to some of you, you should easily be able to come out way ahead on that fee by taking advantage of all its benefits – and there are many. It's why we always encourage readers to do the math before ruling out credit cards with higher annual fees. Rewire your brain to think about those fees as investments in your future travels.

And when it comes to the American Express Gold Card, one of the easiest ways to recoup that annual fee is simply by earning points. You can earn a lot of them – many more than a Delta card, in fact.

To start with, you'll earn 4x Membership Rewards points for every dollar you spend at restaurants. You'll also earn 4x points per dollar spent at U.S. supermarkets on up to $25,000 of spending each calendar year (then 1x point). Both the Delta SkyMiles Gold and Platinum Cards earn only 2x Delta SkyMiles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets. Heck, the top-dollar SkyMiles Reserve card only earns 1x point per dollar spent in this category.


amex gold cards with a passport


So just by using the Amex Gold Card for these purchases instead of your co-branded Delta American Express Card, you'll earn at least twice as many points for the same amount of spending. Compared to the Delta Reserve Card, you'll earn quadruple the points.

Next, the American Express Gold Card earns 3x Membership Rewards points on all flights booked directly with any airline or through amextravel.com. The Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card earns 2x SkyMiles per dollar spent on Delta flights, while the Delta SkyMiles Platinum and Reserve Cards earn 3x SkyMiles per dollar spent on Delta flights.

Plus, you'll only earn a bonus if you are booking travel with Delta on these cards. So if you wind up flying with other carriers, a Gold Card is even more valuable.


Full Benefits of the American Express Gold Card

  • bonus_miles_full
  • Better yet, see if you can find a 90,000-point bonus (This offer is no longer available) or maybe qualify for a 75,000- point offer via CardMatch with the same spending requirement.
  • Earn 3x points for flights booked directly with airlines and at amextravel.com.
  • Earn 4x points at restaurants on an unlimited amount of spending.
  • Earn 4x points at U.S. supermarkets on up to $25,000 of spending per calendar year. 1x points per dollar spent after that
  • Earn 1x points on other purchases
  • Up to a $120 annual dining credit split up monthly in $10 increments for charges at GrubHub, The Cheesecake Factory, Milk Bar, Wine.com, Goldbelly & Participating Shake Shack locations
  • Up to $120 in Annual Uber Cash split up into $10 monthly amounts after adding your Amex Gold Card to your Uber account. These can be used for Uber rides or for Uber Eats food delivery in the U.S.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees
  • $250 annual fee (see rates & fees)


*amex gold card*


Learn more about the *amex gold*


Spending in Action

Here's a quick example of just how many more points you can earn by using the *amex gold card* for your everyday spending as opposed to that co-branded Delta SkyMiles Card.

Let's say you average spending $150 a week total at both U.S. supermarkets and at restaurants – a reasonable, maybe even conservative, estimate. Because you'll earn 4x points for every dollar you spend in both categories with the Amex Gold Card, you'd earn 600 Membership Rewards points each week ($150 x 4 points).

That means you would earn 2,400 Membership Rewards points every month just from those two categories (600 x 4 weeks in a month). Over the course of a year, spending $150 a week on groceries and at restaurants would net you 28,800 Membership Rewards points annually from just dining and supermarkets (2,400 x 12 months).


american express gold card with passport


American Express Gold Card by the Numbers:

  • Weekly restaurant & grocery spending: $150
  • X 4x Membership Rewards Points = 600 points
  • X 4 Weeks in a month =  2,400 points
  • X 12 Months in a year = 28,800 points


Now let's compare that same amount of spending to the co-branded Delta American Express Cards. Since both the Gold and Platinum Delta Cards earn 2x SkyMiles per dollar spent in both categories, we would earn 300 Delta SkyMiles each week ($150 x 2 SkyMiles) spending that same $150 a week.

That means you would earn 1,200 SkyMiles every month just from those two categories (300 x 4 weeks in a month). Over the course of a year, spending $150 a week on groceries and at restaurants would net you 14,400 SkyMiles from the two different spending categories.


Delta SkyMiles® Cards by the Numbers:

  • Weekly restaurant & grocery spending: $150
  • X 2x Delta SkyMiles = 300 miles
  • X 4 Weeks in a month =  1,200 miles
  • X 12 Months in a year = 14,400 miles


That's twice as many points on the exact same spending – and given their versatility, those Amex Membership Rewards are more valuable than the Delta SkyMiles would be. You're earning more of them and they're more valuable, to boot.


What About Earning Delta Status?

For years, Delta flyers have been constantly swiping their top SkyMiles credit cards for one major reason: Getting a Medallion Qualifying Dollar (MQD) waiver to ease the path toward status for the airline.

But for all but the absolute biggest spenders, that calculus is changing.

While there are still pieces in flux as Delta considers how to tweak proposed changes to its Medallion Status program, Delta is moving toward a spending-only model for earning status. Starting next year, it's bound to require a lot more spending each year to reach or requalify for status.

Consider this:

  • The airline would eliminate its MQD waiver, which allowed cardholders to bypass the previous annual spending requirements with Delta to earn Silver, Gold, or Platinum status by spending $25,000 (or $250,000 for top Delta Diamond status) on select Delta co-branded credit cards
  • In its place, select credit cardholders would earn Medallion Qualifying Dollars on their everyday spending on select Delta cards … but you'd only earn 1 MQD for every $10 you spend on a *delta reserve card* and just 1 MQD for every $20 spent on a *delta skymiles platinum card*
  • At the same time, Delta would drastically increase the spending requirements to earn each rung of Medallion status, from a 100% hike at the lowest Silver tier to a 75% hike for top-tier Diamonds


Medallion Tiers 2023 MQD Thresholds2024 MQD Thresholds
Silver3,000 MQDs5,000 MQDs
Gold8,000 MQDs10,000 MQDs
Platinum12,000 MQDs15,000 MQDs
Diamond20,000 MQDs28,000 MQDs


Unless if you've been easily spending as much as $120,000 or more on a Delta Reserve Card each year in the pursuit of even lower tiers of Delta status, you're much, much better off shifting your focus to earning more points. Yes, even if that means saying “sayonara” to Medallion Status altogether.

How to Rethink Your Card Strategy

As you can see, the Delta co-branded credit cards are far from the best everyday spending credit cards for earning Delta SkyMiles. But that doesn't mean Delta SkyMiles cards don't serve a purpose.

In fact, pairing the American Express Gold Card with one of the Delta cards can make a ton of sense. While the American Express Gold Card is really lucrative for everyday spending, it won't provide you with free checked luggage or other inflight perks when flying Delta. Think of it this way: You could keep a Delta credit card open to get those benefits … but actually use a non-Delta Amex Gold Card to earn points – and more of them.

If you often check a bag when you fly with Delta, it might make sense to pair the *amex gold* with the *delta skymiles gold card*. You'll get free baggage (even if you pay for the flight with a non-Delta card). If you want those same benefits plus an annual companion ticket, pairing the Gold Card with the *delta skymiles platinum card* might make the most sense for you.

No matter which airline you're flying, it's important to diversify your points and miles. But with Delta, it's critical.


delta one suite a330900
Photo courtesy of Delta


Business class redemption rates seem to soar higher and higher every month, and basic economy awards have spread worldwide. That all means your SkyMiles don't go nearly as far as they once did, so putting all your eggs into Delta's basket isn't a wise move.

Fortunately, we've seen a resurgence of great SkyMiles flash sales recently like an unbelievable 37,400 SkyMiles to New Zealand and back, a deal to Santiago (SCL) in Chile for 44,000 SkyMiles, Hawaii for 13,600 SkyMiles roundtrip, and more.


new zealand premium deal


Earning Membership Rewards (and more of them) is a great way to hedge your bets instead of focusing only on earning SkyMiles outright. That way, if another great Delta deal pops up, you can transfer some points to your SkyMiles account and book! And if it doesn't, you've got plenty of other Amex transfer partners to make better use of those points.


skymiles sale santiago


Just remember to do the math and make sure you understand what exactly you are getting for the fees you are paying. Play it right and the Amex Gold and Delta co-branded cards can be a great 1-2 punch.

Related reading: The 7 Best Delta Credit Cards for Travelers in 2023


Bottom Line

If you are a frequent Delta Air Lines flyer, the non-Delta American Express Gold Card is a fantastic option to maximize your everyday spending. You can earn far more points than you would with the Delta cards alone.

Rethinking your diehard loyalty but not ready to give up on Delta just yet? Earning these points that you can transfer to Delta (or more than a dozen different airlines) is a great way to hedge your bets.


*amex gold card*


Learn more about the *amex gold*


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.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

6 Responses

  • I just did an incognito search and got an offer of 90k MR points for the Gold card. Don’t sign up for a 60k offer.

  • Nice article. I have the platinum delta Amex card and I’m thinking about combining the 2 because of the points you mentioned above

  • Hi Nick,
    Enjoyed your thorough comparison of Delta Reserve Card vs American Express Gold card.
    I must tell you we have had a Delta Reserve Card for 1 1/2 years and we have been upgraded on every trip we have flown. I am Platinum Medallion. We flew roundtrip to Sydney and were upgraded to Economy Comfort. I just returned from Paris and was upgraded from Economy comfort which I had purchased with miles to Premium. I am not sure this would have happened with the AMX gold card.
    For me, this perk has been very valuable. Just a thought!

  • I think you made a mistake in the first part of your article when talking about transferring MR points to delta. You said: “ The one downside of transferring Amex points to Delta – or any U.S. airline – is that American Express tacks on a small fee of .06 cents per point, up to a maximum of $99. A transfer of 20,000 Membership Rewards points will cost you $12.”

    According to my calculations, .06×20000= $1200 which would trigger the $99 max fee.

    How did you arrive at $12?

    • .06 x 20,000 would be 6 cents, not .06 cents. You need to do 20,000 x .0006 in order to accurately calculate the .06 cent figure.

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