Among the suite of Delta co-branded credit cards, the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card takes the cake as the top dog in terms of benefits. With a big bonus, companion certificate, and lounge access, it has more perks than any other Delta card.
But that doesn’t mean the Delta SkyMiles Reserve Card is right for you – even if you’re on the hunt for a top-of-the-line card.
Believe it or not, we think most travelers should skip the Delta SkyMiles Reserve card altogether. While it will make sense for some diehard Delta flyers, there are better options out there.
Related reading: The 7 Best Delta Credit Cards for Travelers in 2021
Full Benefits of the Delta SkyMiles Reserve Card
Before we dive into the mechanics of why most travelers should skip the Delta SkyMiles Reserve Card, let’s take a look at the full list of benefits on the card.
- Earn 80,000 SkyMiles and 20,000 MQMs after spending $5,000 in the first three months of card membership. You’ll also get a $200 statement credit after your first Delta purchase within the first three months. This limited-time offer expires on July 28, 2021.
- Check your first bag free on every Delta flight – savings of up to $60 on each round-trip flight per person.
- Priority Boarding (even with a basic economy ticket)
- Complimentary Delta Sky Club access when you are flying Delta. You’ll also get two, one-time guest passes each year to the Delta Sky Club.
- Complimentary access to the American Express Centurion Lounges when you are flying Delta on a ticket that was purchased with the card. You can also bring up to two guests in with you for a fee of $50 each.
- Receive a domestic main cabin or first-class round-trip companion certificate each year upon card renewal.
- Earn 3x SkyMiles per dollar spent on Delta purchases. Though you can get an Amex offer to earn 5x miles per dollar.
- Receive up to a $100 credit to cover the cost for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck once every four years.
- Complimentary space-available upgrades, even for non-Medallion members. A great way to improve your upgrade chances.
- Enjoy 20% off in-flight purchases such as food & drinks in the form of a statement credit.
- No foreign transaction fees
- $550 annual fee (not waived for the first year of card membership). See rates & fees.
Click Here to learn more about the Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card.
Who Should Get the Delta SkyMiles Reserve Card?
We think most travelers are better off being elite status free agents. Chasing elite status is rarely worth it unless if you spend a ton of time on planes – preferably on your employer’s dime. And it only really pays off as you climb to top-tier status levels.
Flying enough to earn status naturally? The real value of the Delta Reserve Card is to level up in that chase for Delta Medallion status. But it’s not enough to fly a lot – you’ll have to spend a lot, too.
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 earn 18,750 MQMs (up from the norm of 15,000) after spending $30,000 on their card.
You can boost your MQMs up to four times by spending $60,000, $90,000, and $120,000 in a calendar year as well. Combined with the 20,000-MQM bonus, that’s enough to spend your way to Platinum Medallion Status in 2021 without taking a single flight – so long as you spend $90,000 on the card. That would get you Platinum Status all the way through January 2023.
There’s no question that Delta Platinum Medallion Status is quite nice. You’ll get more frequent upgrades plus immediate access to Comfort Plus, your pick of one Delta choice benefit, and other perks.
But do you really fly enough to make use of those perks? Is it worth spending $90,000 on one single card, foregoing bigger (and better) bonuses on other travel credit cards? Unless if you’re a true Delta road warrior spending tens of thousands of dollars a month, the answer is probably no.
And that means you should look past the Delta SkyMiles Reserve Card – especially if you’re primarily looking to get into the Delta Sky Club and other airport lounges.
Grab the Platinum Card from American Express Instead
Nine out of the 10 travelers we talk to who think they need a Delta SkyMiles Reserve Card would be better off with a different travel card. And Delta’s name isn’t on it.
It’s The Platinum Card® from American Express, the top-tier travel card in the American Express portfolio – not to be confused with Delta’s SkyMiles Platinum Card. And while it isn’t affiliated Delta, this card can get you major benefits when you flying with Delta – and SkyMiles too.
Let’s compare the two cards to show you why one is the clear winner.
Last year, Delta and American Express added new benefits to the Delta SkyMiles Reserve card while also increasing the annual fee to $550 each year. Those changes included access to the American Express Centurion Lounge, adding up to a $100 credit to pay for either Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, and a few more.
But with that annual fee increase, it now costs just $155 less out of pocket as the Platinum Card® from American Express which has an annual fee of $695 (see rates & fees)…and comes with even more travel perks, whether you’re flying Delta or another airline. So unless you’re chasing the highest levels of Delta elite status and the Reserve card can help you get there, the non-Delta Platinum Card is a much wiser choice.
When it comes to lounge access, no card can match what the Platinum Card offers. You’ll get the same complimentary Delta Sky Club access, getting you in for free and up to two guests at $39 each. You can get into the American Express Centurion Lounge no matter which airline you’re flying – plus bring two guests free. And you’ll also get a complimentary membership to Priority Pass – opening the doors to thousands of additional lounges across the globe for you and up to two guests.
You’ll also get a ton of additional credits like up to $100 each year to spend at Sak’s Fifth Avenue, and up to $200 each year to use at Uber or on Uber Eats Food Delivery, up to $200 in Amex airline fee credits, an up to $179 annual CLEAR® credit, up to a $240 digital entertainment credit, up to a $300 Equinox gym credit, and more.
Simply put: Other than building towards Delta status, you’ll get much more out of the Platinum Card for a similar annual fee.
And here’s the kicker: The card earns American Express Membership Rewards points, which can be transferred directly into your Delta SkyMiles account. They can also be transferred to 20 other airlines and used for other redemptions, making them even more valuable than SkyMiles.
If it is just free luggage you’re after, you’d be much better holding both the Platinum Card and the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card.
Make sure to read our full comparison of the Delta Reserve vs Amex Platinum Card.
Click Here to learn more about the Platinum Card from American Express.
If you don’t fly or spend enough to get a meaningful level of Delta Medallion elite status, skip the Reserve card. You’ll be better served by a lower-tier Delta card. And if you are willing to pay a $550 annual fee, consider the Platinum Card from American Express which costs $695, but provides way more in terms of benefits.