Be careful. The Delta Reserve is not cheap. Don’t apply for it until you read my honest review. The truth is that it won't make sense for every frequent flyer, but for many it actually will. Here's how to determine if it makes sense for you…
American Express Delta Reserve Card Review: 10 Things To Consider
You probably already know the 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, 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).
#1. Up to 30,000 bonus SkyMiles every year
The Delta Reserve offers an unbeatable SkyMiles bonus each and every year on your spending:
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 rake up miles fast.
- For spending of $30k or more on eligible purchases in a calendar year, you will be awarded 15,000 bonus miles.
- For spending of $60k 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 a point system to 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 $30k or more, you will be awarded 15,000 bonus Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs).
- If you have spending of $60k or more in a calendar year, you will be awarded an additional 15,000 bonus MQMs (so 30,000 total).
#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 on the second companion ticket, you will still have to pay out of pocket for the government taxes and fees ranging from $21.80 to $67.40 for itineraries with two to four flight segments (those are the amounts as of the time of this review). Obviously though, that's a small price to pay for a second Economy or First Class ticket! Just this one 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 with showers), satellite TVs, and 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 8 additional passengers under your same reservation. (So hey, this card would be perfect for Octomom and her 8 kids, right?)
#6. Priority Boarding
You get Zone 1 priority boarding, along with anyone else under your same reservation (up to 8 additional passengers).
#7. No award redemption fees
Normally redemption fees 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.
#8. Discount of 20% on eligible in-flight purchases
You automatically score a 20% 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 thru AmEx's chat what was included and here was the answer as of December 1, 2013:
Please note that in-flight internet does NOT qualify for the 20% because that comes thru a 3rd party, not Delta airlines (it's thru Gogo).
#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, 4x per year (so that means up to a $200 value annually). Coverage is nationwide, Hawaii and Alaska excluded.
Now for the catch...
Being the highest tier card, as you can guess it doesn't come cheap... 450 smackeroos 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 15k or 30k bonus miles... it's clearly the card to go with. But if you don't, then it probably won't make sense.
So what's the best offer right now? (as of December 2013)
During the past 5+ years of running this site, rarely have I seen American Express offer any enticing signup sweeteners whatsoever on this one. But that changed very 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. Terms and Restrictions apply.