Whether you're a frequent Delta flyer or you only fly the Atlanta-based airline a few times a year, you can benefit from holding a credit card with Delta Air Lines perks. But believe it or not, some of the best credit cards for Delta flyers aren't Delta credit cards at all.
Delta's suite of co-branded credit cards can get you free checked luggage, priority boarding, lounge access, more Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) to earn elite status, more SkyMiles, or all of the above.
But Delta fans have more cards to consider than just those Delta-branded credit cards, as some other top travel credit cards are arguably even better.
Read on for our full list of the seven best Delta credit cards for travelers in 2021.
- The Best Overall Card for Delta Flyers
- The Best Card for Big Spenders & Delta Road Warriors
- The Best Delta Card for Traveling with a Companion
- The Best Delta Card for Restaurant and Grocery Spending
- The Best Delta Card for the Frequent Bag Checker
- The Best One Size Fits All Delta Credit Card
- The Best Card for Beginners
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).
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.
Our favorite Membership Rewards earning card is The Platinum Card® from American Express. It starts with a standard, 80,000-point welcome bonus offer after spending $6,000 in six months. But be sure to check and see if you qualify for a 150,000-point bonus via CardMatch.
One of the best features of this card for travelers is that it earns an unbeatable 5x points per dollar spent on all airfare purchased directly through airlines or at amextravel.com on up to $500,000 spent in this category each year. It also offers some of the best travel insurance protection of any card out there. That's why we consider it the best card for booking flights.
That means 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 American Express Card, 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.
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.
On top of the bonus points, you'll get an incredible suite of perks like $200 in Amex airline 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 $695 annual fee (see rates & fees), those 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, earning elite status with your primary airline can pay dividends.
The Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card is all about earning Delta status. 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.
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.
But 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. In 2021, Reserve cardholders will now earn 18,750 MQMs (up from the norm of 15,000) after spending $30,000 on their card.
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 your status with Delta, move along. There is a better Delta credit card for you.
If you don't value status, don't fly enough, or can't spend that much money to unlock it, this card isn't really worth the annual fee of $550 (see rates & fees). 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.
Click Here to learn more about the Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card.
The Best Delta Card for Traveling with a Companion
If you are often traveling with another person, give the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card a serious look.
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, easily worth more than the card's $250 annual fee (see rates & fees)
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 further help offset the annual fee.
As of 2020, it's also the only Delta card that allows you to buy single access Sky Club passes for $39. That's a strong option if you only want Sky Club access a few times each year.
And similar to the Delta 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.
But in 2021, Platinum cardholders will now earn 12,500 MQMs (up from the norm of 10,000) after spending $20,000 on their card. That means you can earn 25,000 MQMs after spending a total of $40,000.
While a $250 annual fee (see rates & fees) 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
Don't confuse this one with a Delta card, despite the name.
The American Express® Gold Card is another strong option for Delta flyers who spend a lot at both restaurants and U.S. supermarkets. That's because you'll earn an unlimited 4x Membership Rewards points per dollar spent at restaurants, and 4x points per dollar spent at U.S. supermarkets on up to $25,000 each calendar year (then 1x after that).
That's 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 a $10 credit each month to use at Uber or Uber Eats, and another $10 credit each month to use at Grub Hub, Shake Shack, and many other locations.
You will also earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $4,000 in the first six months of card membership. But be sure to check and see if you qualify for a 75,000-point bonus via CardMatch.
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).
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. So 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.
Like Delta's other credit cards, 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 (see rates & fees). Better yet, the card has an introductory annual fee of $0. You'll pay $99 each year after that.
In fact, you don't even need to pay for the flight with your card to get the free luggage benefit. That perk is simply attached to your SkyMiles account so long as you keep the card open.
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 American Express® Green Card, which Amex refreshed in October 2019 with a handful of new perks including a welcome offer bonus of 50,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $2,000 in the first six 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 $189 credit to cover the cost of a 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.
Since 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 an elite status free agent and chase the best deal.
All information about The American Express® Green Card has been collected independently by Thrifty Traveler. The American Express® Green Card is no longer available through Thrifty Traveler.
The Best Card for Beginners
You won't get free checked bags, lounge access, or priority boarding, or a massive welcome bonus. You will earn 2x SkyMiles on Delta purchases and have foreign transaction fees waived (see rates & fees).
If you check a bag even two times a year, you'll be better off with the Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card. 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, one of the cards on the list of best Delta credit cards can suit your needs.
Lead Photo (CC BY 2.0): Delta News Hub via Flickr