Be warned: The Delta Reserve Card charges a very steep cover charge. Don't apply for it until you read my honest review. The truth is that it won't make sense for every frequent flyer. Here's how to determine if it makes sense for this card to take up residence in your wallet...
American Express Delta Reserve Card Review: 10 Things To Consider
As you probably know if you're considering this card, Delta SkyMiles Reserve is the most prestigious and elite airline credit card on the market. But did you also know it has the potential to be the most rewarding? Without a doubt this card has the most lucrative airline rewards program for Delta flyers, if you fully utilize the benefits (which can save even the occasional flyer a significant amount of money) – especially with this unusually generous offer they're running at the moment (terms and restrictions apply, as always).
#1. Up to 30,000 bonus SkyMiles every year
The Delta Reserve offers an incredible annual SkyMiles bonus when you meet the spending levels noted below:
Remember 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.
- 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).
#2. Up to 30,000 bonus Delta Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) every year
If you're not already familiar, the Medallion Qualification Miles (MQM) are points that determine your SkyMiles Medallion status. Accumulating more MQMs leads to a higher Medallion status. The American Express Delta Reserve card is the ultimate way to fast track your level:
A unique benefit on the Reserve card tier is that while you can use these MQMs to upgrade your own Medallion status, you can also gift them to your family and friends to help them reach their Medallion upgrade faster.
- In any calendar year your eligible spending on your card is $30,000 or more, you will be awarded 15,000 bonus Medallion Qualification Miles (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).
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, you'll get extra miles per dollar spent on fares. 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 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
You get complimentary access for yourself and up to two guests with the Reserve. Without the card, access normally costs you a boatload. The Delta Sky Club is a great place to unwind and de-stress during your travels. Amenities 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
As you've probably heard, one of the Delta Reserve card benefits is that your first checked bag will always be free on their flights - that saves you $50 per round-trip flight. Not only do you get this perk, but also up to eight additional passengers under your same reservation.
#6. Priority Boarding
You get Zone 1 priority boarding, along with anyone else under your same 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. No award redemption fees
Delta's SkyMiles redemption fees normally run as high as $150 per award ticket. Plus when your flight (or just a leg of your flight) is on a partner airline, it's not unusual to be charged a $25 fee per ticket. However these fees are waived for card holders. As airlines have sought out every trick in the book to devalue frequent flyer miles, perks like this become more and more valuable. This card goes a long way to offsetting the annual fee on its own if you are a heavy spender and earn several free flights per year.
#8. 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:
Please note that in-flight internet does NOT qualify for the 20 percent 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.
#9. Complimentary concierge service
American Express gives Reserve cardmembers complimentary concierge service. Whether it's hunting down hard-to-get dinner reservations, help with gift giving, travel arrangements, entertainment planning, or something else... this credit card comes with the premium American Express concierge service to help you out.
#10. Cancel your AAA membership... wait, what?!
It's surprising how many current cardholders aren't even aware of this benefit. Through American Express, you get roadside assistance up to $50 each service call, 4 times per year (so that means up to a $200 value annually). Coverage is nationwide, Hawaii and Alaska excluded. So, this is another perk that helps justify that hefty annual fee if you're paying for this type of coverage elsewhere.
Now for the catch...
Being the highest tier card, as you can guess it doesn't come cheap... an eye-popping $450 per year. This is obviously a drawback if you aren't actually using the benefits.
However if you use the (1) annual companion ticket, (2) Sky Club access, and (3) spend enough to earn the yearly 15,000 or 30,000 bonus miles... it is clearly worth the price of admission. But if you don't, then it probably would make more sense to look at the Gold level Delta SkyMiles Card with many of the same perks and only a $95 annual fee (waived in year one).
So what's the best offer right now? (as of March 2014)
During the past 5+ years it has been very rare for American Express to offer any enticing sign-up sweeteners whatsoever on this prestigious card. But that changed recently. Right now, at least for the moment, there is this surprisingly enticing 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.