Upgrade Your Delta Credit Card? Maybe You Shouldn't

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You Can Upgrade Your Delta Amex Card … But You Probably Shouldn’t

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Every time banks like American Express or airlines like Delta come out with bigger welcome offer bonuses on credit cards, the same question piles up: Should I upgrade my card? Or apply for a new one?

Upgrade offers on travel credit cards are a dime a dozen. Delta, in particular, tries to get cardholders to upgrade from a Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card to the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card, for example. But with a big SkyMiles welcome bonus up for grabs by applying for a new Delta card, does it make sense?

Not always. In fact, it may not make much sense at all. But to make the right decision, you should understand the rules and restrictions around upgrades and new credit card applications.

Here's what you need to know to make the right choice when considering a Delta card upgrade – or not.


The Basics of American Express Credit Card Applications Rules

Let's go back to basics.

Every bank sets its own rules and restrictions around credit card applications. Chase has the dreaded 5/24 rule, which bars you from getting approved for a new Chase credit card if you've opened five or more cards in a 24-month period from any bank – not just Chase.

American Express doesn't have that same rule, so you don't need to worry about it when it comes to Delta's co-branded credit cards. Rather, per the terms of Amex's card applications:

Welcome offer not available to applicants who have or have had this or previous versions of this Card. We may also consider the number of American Express Cards you have opened and closed as well as other factors in making a decision on your welcome offer eligibility.”

That means if you have had a specific American Express card in the past, you will not be eligible to earn the bonus on that same card. In practice, this “lifetime” restriction doesn't last all that long: Data suggests Amex will allow you to apply and earn the bonus on a card seven years after you've previously closed it.

So while Amex isn't looking at your credit card history with other banks, they will factor in which Amex cards you have had previously … regardless of whether or not you earned the welcome offer bonus on them.

But here's the key point: The Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card and Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card are not the same cards, nor is the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card. They're all different cards, which means you're eligible to open (and earn the bonus) on each of them separately.

You'll need to keep that in mind when it comes time to decide on a possible upgrade.

Related reading: Master Guide to Credit Card Applications & All the Rules You Need to Know, Bank by Bank


Why You Shouldn't Upgrade a Delta Card

When Delta and American Express increase the welcome offer bonuses on the cards, they are clearly looking to get new cardholders in the door. But they're also shelling existing cardholders with offers to upgrade to a higher-tier card, too.

Should you take them up on an offer? It's almost always a bad idea. Taking that upgrade will make you ineligible for earning a big welcome bonus offer on the same card later on.

Let's say you've got the Delta Gold SkyMiles American Express Card and get an offer via email or snail mail to upgrade that card to the Delta Platinum SkyMiles American Express Card. More often than not, these upgrade offers pale in comparison to the elevated bonuses we often see on the suite of co-branded Delta credit cards.


Delta pay with miles


Because of the way Amex's application rules work, even if you have the Delta Gold Card, you would still be eligible to apply for the Delta Platinum card outright, and earn the full welcome offer bonus after meeting the minimum spending requirement – at least so long as you haven't earned the bonus on that card previously.

Upgrade instead, and you'll make yourself ineligible to earn a big welcome bonus on that card. 

Or maybe you're tempted by the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card. You could upgrade your existing Delta card … but any upgrade offer would give you only a few bonus SkyMiles, if any. Or you could apply for the Reserve Card outright and earn the full welcome offer bonus.

It's an easy choice if you ask us. So while Amex will often present you with an offer to upgrade to a superior card, that offer will almost never be as good as the offer to apply for the card as a new account.

That said, Amex and Delta have started to turn this on its head over the last few years with some very strong upgrade offers – stronger than we've ever seen, in fact. But generally, applying for a new card rather than upgrading is the more lucrative route.


What About Downgrading Your Card?

This same logic applies when you are downgrading an American Express credit card, including from Delta.

Have a Platinum SkyMiles Card? By downgrading to the Gold Card, for example, you wouldn't be able to earn the bonus SkyMiles that card is currently offering.

Again, you could just apply for the Gold card outright, and then close your Platinum card if you'd like. This would accomplish your goal of moving to a cheaper card fee while also allowing you to earn points or miles in the process.

Read more: What Happens to Your Points When You Cancel a Credit Card?


Consider Your Credit Score

One thing that you will need to consider when going this route is that applying for a new credit card outright (as opposed to upgrading or downgrading an existing account) will result in a hard credit pull.

And that's not necessarily a bad thing. While your credit might take a temporary 5-10 point hit, your score will ultimately go up if you use that new line of credit responsibly.

Read More: 4 Credit Card Myths You Should Stop Believing.

When you upgrade or downgrade an account, it's different. Banks call it a product conversion. Essentially, you are just moving an existing line of credit to a different credit card product from that bank. From the bank's perspective, it isn't a new line of credit at all – and thus they do not need to pull your credit score again.

Of course, the trade-off here is that you either won't earn any points or miles, or much fewer than you could by just applying for the card outright as a new account.


Which Delta Cards Are Best?

From Gold to Reserve, here's a look at what each one brings to the table.

Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card

  • bonus_miles_full
  • Check your first bag free on every Delta flight – savings of at least $60 on each round-trip flight, per person.
  • Priority boarding (even with a basic economy ticket)
  • Earn 2x SkyMiles per dollar spent at both restaurants and U.S. supermarkets
  • Earn 2x SkyMiles per dollar on eligible Delta purchases and 1x mile for all other eligible spending.
  • Earn a $100 Delta flight credit if you spend $10,000 on the card in a calendar year.
  • Get 20% off in-flight purchases such as food & drinks in the form of a statement credit
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year (then $99 per year). See rates & fees.


Delta Credit Card Offers


Learn more about the card_name


Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

  • bonus_miles_full
  • Check your first bag free on every Delta flight, savings of at least $60 on each round-trip flight, per person.
  • Priority boarding (even with a basic economy ticket)
  • Get a domestic main cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon card renewal – one of this card's best benefits!
  • Earn 2x SkyMiles per dollar spent at both restaurants and U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 3x SkyMiles per dollar spent on eligible Delta purchases, and at hotels.
  • Receive up to a $100 credit to cover the cost for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck once every four years for Global Entry and 4.5 years for TSA PreCheck.
  • Get 20% off in-flight purchases such as food & drinks in the form of a statement credit
  • Get into the Delta Sky Club when you're flying Delta by paying $50 (and bring up to two guests for $50 each)
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $250 annual fee. See rates & fees.


delta skymiles platinum american express card


Learn more about the card_name


Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card

  • bonus_miles_full
  • Check your first bag free on every Delta flight – savings of at least $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 purchased with your Reserve card. You can also bring up to two guests in with you for a fee of $50 each.
  • Get 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.
  • Receive up to a $100 credit to cover the cost for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck once every four years for Global Entry and 4.5 years for TSA PreCheck.
  • 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. See rates & fees.


delta skymiles reserve american express card


Learn more about the card_name


Bottom Line

It depends on what bonuses are available and your own personal situation. But nine times out of 10, you'll be better off applying for a new Delta card rather than upgrading (or downgrading) your current Delta card.

You'll earn more miles that way. And remember, by upgrading or downgrading, you make yourself ineligible to earn a big welcome bonus on that card down the line.


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.

53 Responses

  • So interesting! I had the Delta Amex Gold card a few years ago, less than 4 years. I then downgraded to the Delta Skymiles Blue card (the non fee Delta card). Recently, I received an offer to upgrade to the Delta Gold card for 40k miles after spending $2000 in 6 months. I have left the email in my mailbox. Still unsure of what to do. Any advice? I love delta airlines but I’m not sure if I’ll come ahead of the annual fee this year.

    • Hi Vivi, my advice would be to apply for the Delta Gold card outright. The current offer is almost twice the upgrade offer for the same spending requirement. The annual fee is also waived in the first year.

    • Vivi,
      My situation nearly identical to yours. I had Amex Gold in the past but decided to downgrade. Earlier this year I got the same offer as you received (40k for $2000 spend). I jumped at the opportunity and quickly earned the bonus and referred my wife for the Gold card to receive another 15k.
      Skip ahead a month or two later when one day I logged into my Delta account and got an another offer for 50k after $3000 spend and a $200 statement credit to upgrade to Platinum. I couldn’t believe it! I had been eyeing the Platinum card for a long time but was hesitant because of the initial $250 annual fee and no companion pass until paying the annual fee a second time.
      After it is all said and done between the two upgrades and the referral bonus I hauled in a total in excess of 120k points and only had to cough up $50 out of pocket after getting the statement credit. Best of all no credit check!

  • Nick, when I start to read all the terms of the offers and the bonuses and such, my eyes just glaze over. I have an Amex Platinum Card and I have an Amex Platinum Skymiles card. My wife and I use it for travel. We try to funnel purchases through both the cards to get miles on Delta Airlines. I am eligible for an “upgrade” from my Platinum Skymiles card to the Reserve Card. I dont mind spending the extra $$ on the annual fee if it helps me get more miles and gain entrance into Delta Sky Clubs around the US and Europe. Would you suggest upgrading to the Reserve card or would you stay with the Platinum Skymiles card?

    • Hello. If you already have the regular Amex Platinum Card (non-Delta version), that card will provide the same Delta Sky Club access as the Reserve. If that is the biggest reason for your upgrade I would say it wouldn’t be worth it.

      • What about the annual first-class companion ticket with the reserve? The Platinum only gives a main cabin. Wouldn’t that be a fairly big factor in upgrading to the Reserve?

        • It shouldn’t be, because you can apply outright for the Reserve and get the same benefit. That is usually a better path than upgrading your card.

  • Hello,
    I’m wondering, if, it’s possible to switch from a co-branded Amex Gold, like Delta Gold to the regular Amex Gold Card ?
    Not a lot about it on the internet. Thanks 🙂

    • Hello. Generally, Amex will make you stay within the same card family. So if you wanted to make a change to your Delta card, you would need to upgrade (or downgrade) to one of the other co-branded Delta credit cards.

  • mmmm you shouldnt talk about upgrades being always bad, you might lead less experienced readers down the wrong path. In fact, upgrades can be very good if you have already used the initial sign up bonus. For example, if you have already received the gold card, then downgraded, chances are you will receive an upgrade offer back to the Gold, in which case you are receiving a both the SUB and the Upgrade Bonus.

    AskSebby covers how to open/downgrade/upgrade to get all the SUBs and upgrade bonuses on the hilton cards, which can also be applied on the deltas.

  • I have a question. Just a few hours ago I applied for my first Amex which was the delta gold. I had a pre approval on all three delta products. After considering options I feel like I made a mistake and should have went the platinum route out of the gate. Work has me travel a lot, and I didn’t take the plunge because of other cards I have with benefits. Being it is a new account, if I immediately upgrade will I pass up on the 70k welcome bonus miles that the gold had to offer?

    • Hey Chris. Not a mistake. You can earn the bonus on all of them over time. You can eventually get the platinum and close out your gold. Upgrading won’t make you eligible for the big bonus

      • thanks for the feedback. I am going to spend the 2k real quick on the account and upgrade after I achieve the minimum for the bonus. im due for a tsa renewal in two months so it’ll be perfect. thanks for the help

  • Hi Nick,
    I was looking to upgrade my Delta Gold to the Platinum and realized the current offer of 20k pales in comparison to the new card offer of 90k bonus miles! We have a huge trip coming up next year and I’m leaning towards opening the new platinum for the miles, along with continuing to use it for all of the increased work travel I recently began. My only issue is that I have had the Gold card since 2007 and I hesitate to close it out because of the great credit history I have there. Should I keep both open? Anything I am missing, in your opinion, as far as how to cash in on these bonuses?

    • Hey Stephanie.

      Length of credit history is not a huge part of your credit score (only 15%). If you did close it, you would likely experience a small, temporary drop that would rebound pretty quickly. Especially if you opened the Platinum version.

      But you could also just downgrade it to the no annual fee Delta SkyMiles Blue card. That would keep the credit line in tact and avoid that altogether.

  • Hi Nick,

    Great forum and discussion going on here! I’ve had the Delta Gold card since 2017 and the annual fee is worth every penny for the free checked bag. In January I had an offer to upgrade to Delta Platinum for 50k miles and $200 statement credit but being a 26-year old dental student (in Kentucky) I thought it wouldn’t be smart to have an annual credit card fee of $250. My current offer is 20k miles and $150 statement credit. When I got thinking about it, I travel a lot going back home (Salt Lake City and always on Delta) for the breaks and holidays and could easily “split” the fare with a friend using the companion certificate to pay for the annual fee. But now you’ve got me thinking about applying outright for the current 90k mile platinum offer. Would that be a smart idea considering my age and credit score? My current FICO score is 770. How big of a hit would it be canceling the gold and applying for platinum?

    Open to all suggestions!


    • Hey Jared. With a score of 770, you’ll have no issue with approval. Any credit hit you take should be temporary (as long as you are using the new line of credit responsibly). But remember, you can also just downgrade Gold to Blue which keeps the credit line in tact.

  • Nick,

    I’m considering upgrading to the Delta Reserve card from the Platinum. I’m close to the card spend waiver and boost, does the card spend roll over or would I start back at zero?

      • I am in the same boat as David. Thinking about canceling my Delta Platinum and applying for the Reserve. Am close to reaching my $25K MQD waiver. Wondering if my MQD spend would rollover from Plat to Reserve, or if I would have to start at $0 again.

        As well, when do you recommend cancelling the Delta Platinum card? Before or after the annual fee is due?

        Thanks in advance.

  • I recently received an offer in the mail for a 70,000-mile welcome bonus with a $2,000 spend in the first 3 months. I have had this card in the past. The language “Welcome offer not available to applicants who have or have had this or previous versions of this Card” does not appear in the terms and conditions. Do you think I’ll be able to get the welcome bonus again?

    • Hey Josh. It’s likely yes. Go through the application process and if you’re not eligible, you’ll get a pop up letting you know that before submitting the application

  • Hello, I’ve had the delta gold for several years. I’m considering applying for the platinum for the current sign up bonus, then downgrading my gold to the blue. My questions is: if I decided to, after a couple of years could I close the platinum card all together and still use my miles, assuming I haven’t used them by then?

  • I had been contemplating upgrading from the Delta Amex Platinum to the Delta Amex Reserve for quite some time. I opened up a new card for the Reserve and now I’m kind of kicking myself because I’m about $6k away from the 10k MQM boost and waiver on the Platinum card, but my card spend starts over on the new Reserve card. I chose to open the new Reserve to take advantage of the 100k miles welcome bonus, but now I have to spend $5k on the Reserve to receive that in addition to the $6k spend on the Platinum for the boost. It might be a stretch to spend $11k across both cards now. My plan was to downgrade the Platinum to the Blue eventually. Should I upgrade my Platinum to the Reserve and cancel the new Reserve card and forfeit any welcome bonus. Thanks for your advice!

    • Generally, I would not recommend that, but you may want to reach out to Amex to see if they can give you credit for the spending you already did on your Platinum card.

  • Hi Nick,

    Thank you for this article! It helped me make the decision to get a new platinum, rather than upgrade my gold, since it was a difference of 75K in miles!
    I have a question about the MQM waiver: Suppose I’ve spent $20K on the gold already (before getting the platinum). Would those $20K count towards the waiver if I get the platinum now? (It seems so from the terms, since it counts expenses from other cards Jan-Dec, and that’s what the people at Amex said; but my tracker in Delta still shows it as $0 after a couple of days of getting the card).

    • Hey Juan! Glad it was helpful. You should be able to combine spending across cards as it relates to hitting the $25k MQD waiver. If the Delta app doesn’t reflect this soon, I would reach out to Amex to get it corrected.

  • Hello nick . I am also contemplating applying for the reserve card bonus miles which ends Aug 3 and replacing it with my platinum card . One reason is that I have several trips booked this year and beginning of next year which I would love to get an upgrade on my seating .
    However in the benefit language it says that the flight must be purchased with the reserve card. Does that mean all my original flights booked with my platinum card would not be eligible for a seat upgrade? Along with access to the centurion lounge on my trip to Europe booked on my previous card ? Thanks for your help

  • This was a super timely and helpful post. Currently rollover platinum and i really need to have the MQD waiver to keep it. Was contemplating the upgrade offer but it was only 15k so just applied with the 90k bonus (which ends tomorrow!). I’ll take you advice and eventually downgrade my gold to blue so i don’t have 2 annual fees but i can keep my credit history (and credit line!).

    I really hope all my spend on the gold will count to the MQD for this year though.


  • I currently have Amex delta platinum card. If I apply for a new reserve card and later cancel my platinum card do I lose my companion certificates.

  • Hi, I’m a delta silver medallion member and I have platinum delta Amex. Is it worth to upgrade to reserve? or do you suggest to wait till the end of the renewal period, cancel this card and re-apply for reserve?

    • Upgrading will make you ineligible for the big bonus that is currently available on the Reserve. Applying outright is almost always the better option.

  • My husband is the primary card holder for AM EX Gold. I travel more than he does and want the free baggage check. I am the additional card holder. I want to have the Am Ex Platinum card. So it’s best I apply for my own card? Correct???

  • Hey Nick! Thanks for this awesome information it’s like you’re a wizard with Delta Amex haha. I currently have the Delta Gold Amex, and now wishing I would’ve went for the Platinum. I’ve had the Gold card for just over 1 year but thinking the Platinum is the best option for how much I travel. I’ve already paid for Global Entry/TSA Pre a few months ago (shame) but am I correct in saying everything i’ve earned on my Gold card will rollover to the Platinum even if I open that as a new card instead of upgrading? That overall I will get the most benefits if I keep my Gold card, open a Delta Platinum, then eventually downgrade my Delta Gold card to the Blue to keep my credit in check? Or even get rid of the Gold(eventually Blue) for a quick credit drop which will rebound? Hope this makes sense! Thank you!

  • I currently have a gold card and tried to apply for a platinum card but got a message stating I’m not eligible for the welcome offer. I wonder if they changed the rules since this article was originally written.

  • Hi Nick! I had an Amex Delta Gold and was convinced to upgrade to a Delta Platinum at the check in counter at ATL airport. The guy at the check in counter told me about the benefits and the 90K bonus if I spent $3K in the first 3 months. After hitting the minimum spending requirement, I never received my bonus. I called Amex and they said that I was “invalid” for the bonus without giving me more details. So based on your article, there’s no way around this? I basically got 0 miles for the change. Thanks!

    • Hi Syl. unfortunately, there is no way around this. You need to open a new account (and not upgrade) to be eligible for the welcome offer bonus.

  • Hi Nick
    I have been going through a tough time and very frustrated. I have a gold card, and opened the platinum card last year, after making the spendings, AMEX refuse to credit the miles to my account by saying I have the gold card, and won’t be eligible for platinum bonus offers as the bonus offer is only offered to first time card holder. that sounds wrong, because when I opened the account, I confirmed with them that I would be eligible. very dissapointed with AMEX, as I complained and called multiple times.

  • Hey Nick. I realize this is an older post but hoping it’s still active. I’ve had the Skymiles Platinum card since 2019 and have been enjoying the benefits of it, but recently I moved to an area where Delta doesn’t fly much so it’s harder to benefit much from it and I’m paying $250 a year for maybe one flight a year(if that). I also have the Green card (since 2007) and an added member to the Green card who uses it quite a lot so points add up quickly. I’m thinking of upgrading (applying) for the Gold Card and downgrading the Skymiles card to Gold. I travel a lot and I could use the miles from Amex Gold, I just can’t use Delta that much. My score is 820 if that helps. Any thoughts on what would be the best way to go about this? Thanks.

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