Whether you’re a frequent Delta flyer or you only fly Delta a few times a year, you can benefit from holding a credit card with Delta Air Lines perks.
These cards can get you free checked luggage, priority boarding, lounge access, the ability to earn Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) towards elite status, bonus SkyMiles on your everyday spending, or all of the above. Every card is a bit different, so there are plenty of options that can fit your needs.
Read on for our full list of the seven best Delta credit cards for travelers in 2021.
The Best Overall Card for Delta Flyers
It might seem counterintuitive, but in our opinion, the best card for Delta flyers isn’t even a Delta credit card.
American Express has its own suite of independent credit cards that earn Membership Rewards points. And here’s the thing: You can transfer these points from American Express directly to your Delta SkyMiles account on a 1:1 basis (1 point = 1 Delta SkyMile). And thanks to some lucrative bonuses and excellent bonus categories for spending, you can earn even more SkyMiles than you would by using one of Delta’s co-branded cards in certain spending categories.
The one small downside is that these transfers to Delta (and other U.S. airlines) incur a fee of 0.06 cents per point – up to a maximum of $99. So a transfer of 100,000 points, for example, would incur a $60 fee when you turn them into 100,000 SkyMiles. It’s not earth-shattering, but it is slightly annoying and something to be aware of when making Membership Rewards points transfers to Delta.
Our favorite Membership Rewards earning card is the Platinum Card from American Express. It starts with a standard, 60,000-point welcome bonus offer after spending $5,000 in three months. But be sure to check and see if you qualify for a 100,000-point bonus.
One of the best features of this card is that it earns an unbeatable 5x points per dollar spent on all airfare purchased directly through airlines or at amextravel.com. It also offers some of the best travel insurance protection of any card out there. For these reasons, we’ve named it the best card for booking flights.
So if you buy a $500 ticket at Delta.com, you’d earn 2,500 Membership Rewards that you could transfer to your Delta account. You earn just 2x SkyMiles on Delta purchases with the Delta SkyMiles Gold Card from American Express, so the same flight would earn you just 1,000 SkyMiles. That’s part of the reason why we recommend the Platinum card to Delta flyers.
On top of that, you’ll get an incredible suite of perks like $200 in travel credits for things like checked bags, up to $200 toward free Uber rides, up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or PreCheck, and the best airport lounge access offered from any card – including both complimentary access to the Delta Sky Club, and Amex’s own Centurion Lounges.
And while the card has a $550 annual fee, the suite of perks can easily outweigh the annual fee. It’s one of the big reasons we always encourage readers to do the math before ruling out cards with a big annual fee.
Click Here to learn more about the Platinum Card from American Express.
The Best Card for Big Spenders & Delta Road Warriors
We often question whether status on Delta (or any airline) is worth it. But there is no question that if you spend a lot of time on airplanes, nothing will improve that experience more than airline elite status.
And the Delta Reserve American Express Card is all about gaining elite status on Delta. It has good benefits like complimentary access to Delta Sky Clubs (including two complimentary one-time guest passes annually), and an annual companion certificate on Delta, including first-class fares.
It also has all the usual card perks you get from other Delta products, like free checked baggage, priority boarding and more. And you can earn 80,000 SkyMiles after spending $5,000 within three months.
You will get complimentary access to the American Express Centurion Lounges when you are flying Delta on a ticket that was purchased with the card, and up to a $100 credit to cover the cost for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck once every four years.
However, the real value of the Delta Reserve Card is in the chase for Delta medallion status, and you need to spend a lot of money to make that happen.
With status boost, 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. That’s almost enough to automatically get Delta Silver Medallion Status without taking a single flight. This will be replicated for spending $60,000, $90,000 and $120,000 in a calendar year as well. That’s enough to spend your way to Gold Medallion Status without taking a single flight.
If this is all making your head spin and you don’t understand or care about status with Delta, move along. There is a better Delta credit card for you.
If you don’t value status, or can’t spend that much money to unlock it, this card isn’t really worth the annual fee of $550. If lounge access is what you’re after, you’d be much better off with the non-Delta affiliated American Express Platinum card discussed above which has the same annual fee.
Click Here to learn more about the Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card.
The Best Delta Card for Traveling Companions
If you are often traveling with another person, give the Delta SkyMiles Platinum American Express Card a serious look. You’ll get 40,000 SkyMiles with the current welcome offer after spending $2,000 in the first three months. You will also get 5,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs), an essential building block for Delta status.
You’ll earn 2x SkyMiles per dollar spent at both restaurants and U.S. supermarkets, and 3x SkyMiles per dollar spent on eligible Delta purchases, and at hotels.
But the biggest value add for the Delta SkyMiles Platinum card is the companion certificate you get every year you renew it, starting your second year with the card. This is good for one domestic round-trip fare in economy. That’s a great perk for a relatively inexpensive rewards card.
The card will even offer up to a $100 credit for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry once every four years and membership in either program is good for five years. That’s a nice perk that can help offset the cost of the $250 annual fee.
And it is now the only Delta card that allows you to buy single access Sky Club passes for $39 – a good option if you only want Sky Club access a few times each year.
And similar to the Reserve card, you can earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) towards status after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year. That means if you spend $50,000 in a year, you’ll receive 20,000 bonus MQMs.
While a $250 annual fee may seem a bit steep at first blush, it’s pretty easy to squeeze more than that in savings out of the companion certificate alone. That makes Delta’s Platinum Card a solid choice for moderate Delta flyers, anyone looking to build on their SkyMiles account balance or achieve lower levels of Delta Medallion status.
Click Here to learn more about the Delta SkyMiles Platinum American Express Card.
The Best Delta Card for Restaurant and Grocery Spending
The American Express Gold Card is another strong option for Delta flyers who spend a lot at both restaurants and U.S. grocery stores.
That’s because you’ll earn an unlimited 4x Membership Rewards points per dollar spent at restaurants worldwide, and 4x points per dollar spent at U.S. grocery stores on up to $25,000 each calendar year.
This is the best return on both of these categories of any Delta credit card on this list.
You’ll also earn 3x points on airfare booked directly with airlines or through amextravel.com, and get an annual $100 airline credit which can be used to pay for checked luggage, change fees, and many other ancillary charges.
And remember, You can transfer these points from American Express directly to your Delta SkyMiles account on a 1:1 basis (1 point = 1 Delta SkyMile).
This card has an annual fee of $250, which we feel can be worth it. And be sure to check and see if you qualify for a 75,000-point bonus.
Click Here to learn more about the American Express Gold Card.
The Best Delta Card for the Frequent Bag Checker
We’re members of team carry-on, but we realize it isn’t for everybody. And if you often check a bag when you fly with Delta but don’t care about elite status, lounge access or companion tickets, then the Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card should be your choice.
It offers free checked luggage every time you fly with Delta for you and up to eight travel companions booked on your same reservation. And since Delta charges $30 each way for a checked bag, taking only two round trip flights each year with a checked bag is enough to cover the card’s $99 annual fee (which is even waived for the first year of card membership).
In fact, you don’t even need to pay for the flight with your card to get the free luggage benefit. It will just be attached to your SkyMiles account.
On top of free luggage, you’ll also get priority boarding which is one of our favorite ways to beat Delta basic economy fares. You’ll also get a $100 Delta flight credit if you spend $10,000 on the card in a calendar year. Again, enough to cover the card’s $99 annual fee.
You’ll also earn 2x SkyMiles per dollar spent on Delta purchases and at both restaurants and U.S. supermarkets.
Click Here to learn more about the Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card.
The Best One Size Fits All Delta Credit Card
And then there is the new American Express Green Card, which Amex refreshed in October 2019 with a handful of new perks including welcome offer bonus of 30,000 points after spending $2,000 in the first three months of card membership.
Once again, this card isn’t directly affiliated with Delta. But it still could make sense.
The card also offers a $100 credit to cover a portion of the cost of CLEAR membership, a $100 Lounge Buddy credit which can get you into a handful of lounges each year, and earns 3x points on every dollar you spend on both dining and travel. So whether that is a flight, hotel, car rental, or anything else that counts towards travel, you’ll earn 3x points for every dollar you spend.
And while you can transfer these points from American Express directly to your Delta SkyMiles account on a 1:1 basis (1 point = 1 Delta SkyMile), it is a great option for those who don’t exclusively fly with Delta. The flexibility offered by American Express Membership Rewards points is what makes them so valuable. Having flexible points allows you to be a status free agent and chase the best deal.
Click Here to learn more about the American Express Green Card.
The Best Card for Beginner Travelers
The Delta SkyMiles Blue American Express Card is the only card on this list that doesn’t have an annual fee. But with that comes a lack of benefits. You won’t get free checked bags, lounge access, or priority boarding, but you will earn 2x SkyMiles on Delta purchases and have foreign transaction fees waived.
If you check a bag even two times a year, you’ll be better off with the Delta SkyMiles Gold card mentioned above. But if you are just getting started with credit cards, or travel in general, this is a great introductory card.
And remember, American Express allows you to have each of their cards once per lifetime. So even if you get the Delta SkyMiles Blue card now, you can always get one of the other six cards on this list at a later date.
Click Here to learn more about the Delta SkyMiles Blue American Express Card.
No matter which card (or cards) you go with on this list, odds are they will improve your travel experience with Delta. And whether you are looking for lounge access, free checked luggage, or bonus SkyMiles on your everyday spending, there is a card to suit your needs.
Lead Photo (CC BY 2.0): Delta News Hub via Flickr