Delta SkyMiles credit card review

There are a few versions of the Delta SkyMiles credit card from American Express (a CreditCardForum advertising partner), and this review will show you an objective head-to-head comparison:

  • We encourage you to make an informed decision after comparing the costs and benefits of the various Delta SkyMiles cards. We extend the offers and promotions for each version, when available.
  • We don’t try to convince you there is a one-size-fits-all card; the best SkyMiles credit card will depend upon your specific needs.

Now let’s look at each Delta SkyMiles card…

The Gold, Platinum and Reserve SkyMiles credit cards all have the following in common

  • Earning Miles: You will earn 2 SkyMiles per dollar on Delta purchases and 1 SkyMile per dollar on all other eligible purchases. There’s no cap on how many you can earn. The points you earn will go into your Delta SkyMiles account and, as per the Delta SkyMiles program terms and conditions, those miles do not expire (a rarity among U.S. carriers).
  • Pay With Miles: In addition to saving up for Award Tickets (the typical way people use frequent flier miles), this unique Delta SkyMiles cardholder benefit allows you to redeem miles toward all or part of the ticket price, at 1 cent each. For example, if you have only 10,000 miles in your account, you can redeem them for $100 off the cash price of a ticket. This is a rare perk among airline cards and can be useful when you don’t have enough miles for a full Award Ticket. Pay With Miles redemptions start at 5,000 for $50 off.
  • Free First Checked Bag: For yourself and up to eight other people under your reservation. Since this benefit can save you $50 round trip per person who has a checked bag, it can help justify the annual fee if you fly Delta at least once or twice per year, or if you commonly travel with a group.
  • No foreign transaction fees: American Express waives the foreign transaction fees on the Gold Delta SkyMiles, Platinum Delta SkyMiles and Delta Reserve credit cards.
  • 20 percent Savings on Eligible In-Flight Purchases: Airlines charge for even the smallest comforts these days. At least you don’t have to pay full price if you pay with your Delta SkyMiles card:amex-chat-window-delta
  • Terms and restrictions apply.

So now you know what the cards have in common. Here’s how they differ:

Gold Delta SkyMiles

Annual Fee: Enjoy a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.

Priority Boarding: Zone 1 priority boarding

Miles Boost: n/a

Other Perks: Access to the Delta Sky Club for you and two traveling companions at a reduced rate of $29 per person per visit. Without the card, each day pass would be $50. Delta lounges offer a nice selection of complimentary alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, snacks and hors d’oeuvres, Wi-Fi access, satellite TV, various newspapers and magazines clean and private restrooms. A few locations even have private showers! Lounges (and their amenities) vary by location, of course, but $29 may be worth it to get away from the noise and crowds, especially if you have a long layover.

Current bonus: Earn 30,000 Bonus Miles after spending $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months and a $50 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months.

Honest Advice: Not only is this card a lower-cost option, compared to the Platinum and Reserve cards, it’s probably the best choice for most travelers. Why? If you strategically spread your spending across multiple reward cards, you don’t want to overpay for a “part-time” card. The Gold Delta SkyMiles credit card has a lower annual fee, yet it still gives free checked bags and priority boarding privileges and some of the most important traveling perks. Think about it… even if you and your significant other fly Delta only once per year, the $100 round-trip savings for both of your checked bags will more than offset the annual fee. Also it’s worth noting that if you are newer to credit, you will probably have the best chance of getting approved with this card, as it’s rumored to be the easiest American Express credit card to obtain in terms of qualification requirements.

Platinum Delta SkyMiles

Annual Fee: $195. The fee is not waived the first year.

Priority Boarding: Zone 1 priority boarding

Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs): These aren’t miles you can redeem for tickets, but rather “miles” that are used to determine your Delta Elite frequent flier status (for perks like seat upgrades, priority wait list, etc.). If you’re a frequent flier you already know all about these.

Medallion status can also help you earn more miles with each flight you take. For each dollar you spend on a ticket, you get a certain number of bonus SkyMiles, depending on your Medallion level. The higher your status, the bigger the bonus.

To get those bonuses (and the other perks that come with higher Medallion status), you have to earn enough MQMs each year to get or maintain your Medallion status. The Platinum Delta SkyMiles credit card can help you do that through the Miles Boost benefit.

Here’s how Miles Boost works: Each calendar year you make $25,000 in purchases, you earn 10,000 bonus miles and 10,000 MQMs. If you make $50,000 in purchases, you earn an additional 10,000 bonus miles and 10,000 MQMs. So that means with Miles Boost, you can earn up to 20,000 bonus miles and 20,000 MQMs each calendar year. Those 20,000 MQMs leave you just 5,000 MQMs away from Silver status.

Companion Ticket: Every year upon card renewal, receive a domestic economy-class companion certificate, which can be used within the 48 contiguous states. Please note that technically this is not a free companion ticket certificate because you will still have to pay the required government taxes and fees out of pocket (up to $75 for round-trip domestic flights of up to four segments). Baggage charges and other restrictions apply.

Other Perks: Access to the Delta Sky Club for you and up to two traveling companions at a reduced rate of $29 each per visit.

Honest Advice: This is the best SkyMiles card for the moderate traveler who can spend at least $25,000 per year on the card (so they qualify for the Miles Boost). That said, this credit card could still make sense for a couple even if they travel infrequently since you get an almost free companion ticket every year. Even with those taxes and fees on the second ticket, that can still be a good deal, especially if you’re using the companion fare for a pricey ticket. The drawback is that you will have to pay the annual fee the first year with the Platinum.

Delta Reserve

Annual Fee: $450. This fee is not waived the first year.

Priority Boarding: Zone 1 priority boarding. Plus at airports that have them, you get to go through the Sky Priority expedited security lines.

Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs): With qualifying spending, you can earn bonus MQMs each calendar year through Miles Boost as follows: Each calendar year you make $30,000 in purchases, you earn 15,000 bonus miles and 15,000 bonus MQMs. If you make $60,000 in purchases, you earn an additional 15,000 bonus miles and 15,000 MQMs. So that means Miles Boost can earn you up to 30,000 bonus miles and 30,000 MQMs each calendar year. That guarantees you Silver status and puts you 5,000 MQMs closer to Gold.

Companion Ticket: You receive a domestic companion ticket each year upon renewal. With the Reserve, it can be used for either economy OR first class. As with the Platinum discussed above, you will still have to pay any applicable government taxes and fees out of pocket on this second ticket – but remember, you’re getting the bulk of the cost covered on a (probably pricey) first-class flight.

Other Perks: Complimentary Delta Sky Club access for yourself if you are traveling on a Delta coded- or –operated flight. Your immediate family, or up to two guests can get in with you at a discounted day rate ($29).

Honest Advice: Consider this card if you are an avid traveler (perhaps a business traveler) who frequently flies Delta (and likely lives in a Delta hub city), if you travel first class, if you can take advantage of the lounge access, or if you’re a big spender (because you need to spend $60,000 on the card each year to score the 30,000 bonus miles and MQMs). Using the companion ticket for first class will probably help justify the annual fee.

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 author’s 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.