Who is This Credit Card Best For?
Flies regularly and likes finding ways to score even more travel—for free
Diligently searches for the best products and delights in a good bargain
Loves to explore places and experience new things
Frequently shops with a particular merchant and wants to be rewarded for their loyalty
The Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express is best for Delta loyalists who want upscale travel perks like first-class seating and airport lounge access. If you’ve got good credit and charge at least $2,500 a month, this card’s rewards may be worth the hefty annual fee.
Airport lounge access
Earn elite travel status faster
Steep annual fee
Airport lounge isn't free for guests
- Airport lounge access: Considering a membership for Delta Sky Clubs would otherwise cost $545 a year, getting the Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express pays for itself if you regularly seek refuge during long layovers. And as of Jan. 30, 2020, you'll get access to American Express Centurion Lounges too.
- Earn elite travel status faster: This card’s welcome offer gets you well on your way to earning Delta’s elite Medallion flying status, even before you get on a plane. In fact, if you spend enough in your first year, you’ll reach the first Medallion tier and get all its perks, including complimentary first-class upgrades.
- Steep annual fee: At $450, the annual fee on this card is a serious investment, and it's going up to $550 on Jan. 30, 2020. If luxury travel isn’t crucial, you may be better off with a less expensive card.
- Airport lounge isn’t free for guests: While you’ll get into Delta Sky Clubs for free, your family is another story. Two guests (plus children under 21) are allowed in, but at a rate of $29 each. (It will go up to $39 after Jan. 30, 2020, though you'll get two one-time guest passes each year). This fee is relatively stingy, given many premium travel cards don’t charge for guests. (And once Centurion Lounge access is added, you'll pay $50 per guest there.)
American Express and Delta are relaunching the entire suite of SkyMiles cards effective Jan. 30, 2020. Besides the increased annual fee, some benefits (like the airport lounge access) and rewards rates will change on this card.
Delta Reserve Amex's Welcome Offer
If you spend $3,000 within three months of opening your account, you’ll get 40,000 bonus miles and 10,000 so-called Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs). We value the 40,000 miles at $640 when redeemed for flights, hundreds of dollars less than the value of signup bonuses on competing cards with the same annual fee. You can get nearly as many miles with a lower spending requirement and lower annual fee by opening the Delta SkyMiles Platinum card.
Earning Points & Rewards
Once you sign up for the Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express, you’ll earn 2 miles per $1 spent on Delta purchases and 1 mile per $1 spent on everything else. That’s not unusual for an airline credit card, though some competitors offer extra rewards for dining, groceries, gas or other spending categories. On the plus side, there are no limits to the number of miles you can earn with this card.
Beyond that, you’ll find more value from this card if you’ve got a big spending budget month in and month out. If you charge at least $30,000 on your card within a calendar year—$2,500 a month—you’ll earn 15,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (the ones that help you get Delta’s elite flying status.) If you spend at least $60,000 in a calendar year, you’ll get double that—30,000 MQMs. (There will be additional MQMs available for even higher spending thresholds beginning Jan. 30, 2020.)
Since MQMs are typically earned through flying, these awards help you reach elite Medallion status considerably faster, perhaps before even setting foot on a plane.
If you maximize the bonuses on this card during your first year, you’ll get as many as 40,000 MQMs, and the spending requirements for flights will be waived. That’s more than enough to qualify for silver Medallion status and almost enough to qualify for gold.
Miles earned with the Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express have a very respectable redemption value, according to our latest analysis of reward flights, though they’re still bested by some of Delta’s biggest competitors. We found that each mile is worth 1.60 cents, on average, when redeemed for flights. By comparison, miles for flights redeemed with American Airlines cards are worth 2.10 cents, and for United Airlines cards, 2.16 cents.
Miles earned with this card can be used on flights with Delta and more than 20 partners including Virgin Atlantic, Alitalia and Korean Air. (Delta doesn’t impose any blackout dates, but makes no guarantees about its partners.)
Round-trip domestic flights on Delta usually require at least 20,000 miles (plus taxes and fees), while round-trip international fares often require at least 40,000 miles. Since there is no fixed award chart, the number of award miles required can vary dramatically and can easily soar around peak travel dates.
Check the Delta site regularly for SkyMiles deals on select domestic and international flights. For example, a round-trip economy flight from Indianapolis to Paris that would normally cost $629 plus taxes and fees recently required as few as 38,000 miles. If you booked this flight normally, it could cost 50,000 miles or more.
You can also redeem Delta SkyMiles for seat upgrades, Delta vacation packages, private jet travel, Delta gift cards, or when you shop in the SkyMiles marketplace.
How to Get the Most Out of This Card
Beyond making sure you meet the spending requirements for the welcome offer and MQMs, don’t forget to avail yourself of the free Wi-Fi and complimentary cocktails in the Delta Sky Clubs.
If your budget allows, charge $5,000 on your card each month during your first year calendar year to receive 30,000 more MQMs. That will get you silver Medallion status and access to all its perks right out of the gate.
You already need to spend a lot, fly with Delta often, and value the VIP travel benefits to make this card worthwhile, but all of that will be even more important once the annual fee is $550.
Delta Reserve Amex's Excellent Perks
You’re likely to get this card for the perks, and there are a lot of them. Besides the free access to Delta Sky Clubs, here are some we think are particularly noteworthy:
- Companion certificate: Each year, when you renew your card, get a free companion ticket for a U.S. flight with a qualifying paid fare. This perk is even good for a first-class ticket, but keep in mind you can’t use miles for the paid fare and airline taxes and fees will still apply.
- Free checked baggage: Check one bag free on Delta flights. This is good for the cardholder and eight other people traveling under the same reservation.
- Coverage for lost luggage: Get up to $1,250 per carry-on bag and up to $500 per checked bag if your luggage is lost, stolen, or damaged on a trip paid for with your card. This applies to the cardholder as well as his or her spouse or children.
- Travel accident insurance: Receive up to $500,000 in the event you die or are dismembered in an accident while on a trip paid for with your card.
- Priority boarding and checkpoint: Board your plane earlier than most and use an expedited security line at select airports.
Delta Reserve Amex's Other Features
- Rental car collision insurance (secondary to your own policy)
- Roadside assistance hotline
- Refund when merchant won’t accept returned item
- Free shipping through ShopRunner membership
- Extended warranties
- Insurance for stolen or damaged purchases
- Discounts on in-flight purchases
J.D. Power ranked American Express second in its 2019 Credit Card Satisfaction Study, and the company is known for its responsiveness on social media and its handy online chat feature.
The Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express has pretty standard security features, like personalized account alerts. One exception is that if your credit card is lost or stolen, you can usually get an instant card number that lets you continue charging while your new card is being mailed.
Delta Reserve Amex's Fees
The Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express has fairly typical fees for travel cards. There are no foreign transaction fees, but just remember that the annual fee is increasing by $100 to $550 effective Jan. 30, 2020.