Be warned: The Delta Reserve Card, offered by American Express, a CreditCardForum advertising partner, charges a very steep cover charge. Don't apply for it until you read my in-depth review. The truth is that it may not make sense for every frequent flier.

American Express Delta Reserve Card Review: Things To Consider

In addition to its reputation for prestige, this card has an enhanced airline miles program that makes sense for elite for Delta fliers. It can be particularly advantageous if you fully utilize the benefits (which can also benefit even the occasional Delta flier). This is especially true with this bonus offer Amex is running (terms and restrictions apply, as always). Below are some of the perks the card can offer:

Delta Reserve card
#1. Up to 30,000 bonus SkyMiles every year
The Delta Reserve offers an annual SkyMiles bonus when you meet the spending levels noted below:
  • If you spend $30,000 or more on eligible purchases in a calendar year, you will be awarded 15,000 bonus miles.
  • If you spend $60,000 or more on eligible purchases in a calendar year, you will be awarded an additional 15,000 bonus miles (so 30,000 total).
As with Delta's other SkyMiles cards, you're also earning 2 SkyMiles per dollar spent on Delta purchases and 1 SkyMile per dollar on all other eligible purchases. When combined with the annual bonus miles, there's a lot of opportunity to rack up miles quickly.

#2. Up to 30,000 bonus Delta Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) every year
Medallion Qualification Miles (MQM) are points that determine your SkyMiles Medallion status. Accumulating more MQMs leads to a higher Medallion status (which can get you complimentary upgrades, among other perks). The American Express Delta Reserve card is the ultimate way to fast track your level:
  • In any calendar year your eligible spending on your card is $30,000 or more, you will be awarded 15,000 bonus MQMs.
  • If you have spending of $60,000 or more in a calendar year, you will be awarded an additional 15,000 bonus MQMs (so 30,000 total).
Those 30,000 MQMs get you Silver status (which requires 25,000 MQMs). In addition to upgrades on certain fares, you'll get discounts on Economy Comfort seats for U.S. and international travel. A unique benefit with the Reserve card is that you can also gift your MQMs to family and friends to help them reach their Medallion upgrade faster.

Medallion status can also help you earn more miles. Through Dec. 31, 2014, you'll get a bonus on miles flown that increases with your status. Starting in 2015, that changes a bit; you'll get extra miles per dollar spent on fares. But one thing doesn't change – the higher your Medallion status, the bigger your bonus will be.

#3. An [almost] free coach or first-class companion airfare every year
Every year, you receive one domestic companion certificate that can be redeemed for an economy-class or first-class ticket.

The reason I say "almost" free is because you will still have to pay out of pocket for the government taxes and fees ranging from $22 to $68 for itineraries with two to four flight segments (those are the amounts as of the time of this review). Yet that's a small price to pay for a second economy or first-class ticket. Just this benefit alone can easily justify the annual fee.

#4. Complimentary Delta Sky Club Lounge access
Without the card, access normally costs you several hundred dollars per year, but this card gives you complimentary access whenever you fly Delta. Up to two guests can enter with you at a discounted day rate of $29. Other guests will have to pay $50 each for a day pass. The Delta Sky Club is a great place to unwind during your travels. Amenities (which vary by location) include complimentary alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, snacks, Wi-Fi, clean private restrooms (some even have showers), and satellite TVs. A few even have putting greens!

#5. Free first checked bag
Your first checked bag will always be free on Delta flights -- that saves you $50 per round-trip flight. Not only do you get this perk, but up to eight additional passengers under your same reservation do as well.

#6. Priority Boarding
You get Zone 1 priority boarding, along with anyone else under your reservation (up to eight additional passengers). The value of this perk is hard to quantify, but once you've experienced it you never want to go back to boarding with the masses.

#7. Discount of 20 percent on eligible in-flight purchases
You automatically score a 20 percent discount on food, alcoholic beverages, and movies/TV that are purchased in-flight. The discount is given in the form of a statement credit on your account. I don't see this benefit discussed much on the application but I asked through AmEx's chat:chat window on AmEx website
Please note that in-flight Internet does NOT qualify for the 20 percent discount because that comes through a third party, not Delta airlines (it's through Gogo). This is surprising and not in a good way. However, there are plenty of other Delta purchases that qualify for the discount.

#8. Complimentary concierge service
American Express gives Reserve cardmembers complimentary concierge service. Whether it's hunting down hard-to-get dinner reservations, finding the perfect gift, making travel arrangements, or planning entertainment, this credit card comes with the premium American Express concierge service to help you out.

#9. Cancel your AAA membership... wait, what?!
Through American Express, you get roadside assistance up to four times per year at no additional cost for services including towing for up to 10 miles, winching, jump starts, flat tire changes (assuming you have a spare), lockout service and delivery of up to two gallons of fuel. Coverage is available in the U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

#10. No foreign transaction fees
The card used to charge a 2.7 percent foreign transaction fee (a nuisance, considering the high annual fee). But American Express started waiving foreign transaction fees on all the Reserve card (as well as on the Delta Gold and Platinum cards) on May 1, 2014.

#11. EMV chip
Strangely, not all travel cards can be used abroad, where EMV technology is the standard. But now you can request a version of the Delta Reserve that has an EMV chip as well as a magnetic stripe. Just call the number on the back of the card and ask.

Now for the catch...
The annual fee of $450 can be a drawback if you aren't actually using the benefits.

However if you (1) use the annual companion ticket, (2) take advantage of the Sky Club access, and (3) spend enough to earn the yearly 15,000 or 30,000 bonus miles, the card could very well be worth the price of admission. If you don't think you'll be taking advantage of those benefits, it probably would make more sense to look at the lower-cost Gold Delta SkyMiles card. It has many of the same perks (including free checked bags and priority boarding) and only a $95 annual fee (waived the first year).

So what's the best offer right now? (as of September 2014)
Over the past 5+ years it has been rare for American Express to offer any enticing sign-up sweeteners on this prestigious card. But that changed recently. At the moment, there is this Delta Reserve promotion for those who qualify. So if you've been thinking about applying, now would be the time to do it, as all good things tend to come to an end.


Editorial Disclosure: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are authorís alone, not those of the bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.