Delta SkyMiles Credit Card Program Gets Quality Refresh

Changes include higher rewards earning rates and annual fees

Delta 747
••• Delta Airlines

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The seven Delta Air Lines-branded credit cards issued by American Express have been significantly refreshed, and most of the offer changes are good news for current and future cardholders. 

Here’s the low-down on the most notable sweeping program changes, and why these airline cards are now more competitive for travelers. 

Positive Changes
  • Higher SkyMiles earning rates

  • More purchases earn extra SkyMiles

  • Some cards offer travel statement credits

Negative Changes
  • Higher annual fees

  • Airport lounge access limitations on some cards

  • Some cards reduced or eliminated benefits designed to help you earn elite status faster

What’s Changed: Higher Earning Rates & Annual Fees, Plus New Benefits

Whether you’re a new or long-time cardholder, these changes automatically went into effect Jan. 30, 2020: 

Better Earning Rates & More Ways to Earn SkyMiles 

This is the most significant change across the Delta credit card program. Prior to Jan. 30, all the Delta-branded American Express cards offered 2 miles per $1 spent on Delta purchases, and only one card offered double points at U.S. restaurants. Today, several cards offer 3 points per $1 spent with Delta, and most cards offer extra points on other types of purchases such as restaurants, groceries, and hotel stays. 

Higher Annual Fees

It’s now more expensive to carry six of the seven Delta-branded cards year after year, as annual fees are $4 to $100 more than they were, depending on the card. The Delta SkyMiles Blue Card remains a no-annual-fee card.

The Delta SkyMiles Reserve Card and the Delta SkyMiles Reserve Business Card saw the biggest annual-fee hikes, each jumping from $450 per year to $550. These premium Delta cards now share the $550 annual fee spotlight with The Platinum Card from American Express and the Chase Sapphire Reserve, following its annual fee spike in January 2020

Existing cardholders will be charged the now-higher annual fees on their cards’ next renewal date, and new cardholders will pay the fee right away. 

Airport Lounge Access 

Even though these are Delta-branded airline cards, some cardholders now have more limited access to the Delta Sky Club airport lounges. If you have the Delta SkyMiles Gold Card or the Delta SkyMiles Gold Business Card, you can no longer visit the Delta Sky Club lounge for a $29 fee. On a similar note, the per-visit fee for Delta SkyMiles Platinum Card and Delta SkyMiles Platinum Business Card cardholders has been raised to $39 (up from $29). 

The Delta SkyMiles Reserve cards are the only ones that have been given better airport lounge access perks. If you have one of the Reserve cards, you still have complimentary Delta Sky Club access, but you now also get two one-time guest passes for the Sky Club each year and complimentary access to The Centurion Lounges when you have a Delta flight on the same day. You may bring up to two guests with you to The Centurion Lounges for $50 per guest.

New Travel Statement Credits 

If you spend $10,000 in a calendar year (so about $834 each month) with either the Delta SkyMiles Gold Card or the Delta SkyMiles Gold Business Card you’ll earn a $100 credit to use on a future Delta flight. Platinum and Reserve cardholders can now get reimbursed for either the Global Entry or TSA Precheck application fee once every four years, too.

Business Cards Reward High Spending & Expenses

The three Delta-branded business cards mirror the equivalent consumer cards in terms of earning rates and travel benefits, but the business cards also now reward types of expenses that typically come with owning a small business. Two of the cards also have new miles-earning structures that reward the higher spending levels business owners may have.

For example, the Delta SkyMiles Gold Business Card now offers higher rewards earning rates in two categories: 2 miles per $1 spent on U.S. shipping and some U.S. advertising expenses, along with restaurant and Delta purchases. With the Delta SkyMiles Platinum Business Card, purchases more than $5,000 earn 1.5 miles per $1 instead of just 1 mile per $1 spent for purchases under that threshold. Similarly, the Delta SkyMiles Reserve Business Card offers 1.5 miles per $1 spent after cardholders spend $150,000 in a calendar year.

Other Delta SkyMiles Credit Card Changes

  • Cardholders no longer have Sky Priority Security Access, which essentially sped up security checkpoint processes at participating airports when traveling with Delta Air Lines 
  • Delta Reserve cardholders can now receive complimentary flight upgrades, even without Medallion status
  • Delta Gold cardholders no longer get a boost towards elite Medallion Member status by earning a Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQDs) waiver, which means it’ll take more spending to reach elite status than it would have before
  • Delta Platinum and Reserve cardholders can still earn extra Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) by spending a lot each year, which can help travelers reach elite status faster, but Delta no longer awards big spenders extra SkyMiles on top of the Medallion qualification boosts each year. 

How Do Delta Air Lines Cards Compare to Other Airline Cards?

Overall, the Delta-branded American Express cards are now more competitive. There’s nothing groundbreaking about the refreshed offers, but frequent Delta flyers now have more well-rounded airline cards to choose from.

Better Miles Earning Options & Rates 
It’s pretty typical for airline credit cards to offer at least 2 miles per $1 spent on flights and related expenses, and the best airline cards offer more ways to earn extra miles. The Delta credit card lineup now has one of the better airline card earning rates and several ways to earn SkyMiles on everyday purchases (depending on the card), which it seriously lacked before. 

Competitive Airline & Travel Perks
Despite little tweaks here and there, the Delta credit cards still offer a good number of airline benefits, such as free checked bags, boosts toward elite status program membership, and airport lounge access, which are important for loyal flyers and typical offerings among airline cards. 

No, the Delta Sky Club airport lounge access limitations aren’t great, but the premium Delta-branded cards still offer the best lounge access, which is typical among airline cards. However, the limited access to The Centurion Lounge perk now on the Delta Reserve cards isn’t something offered by other top-tier airline cards right now. They only offer access to their own lounges.  

The Global Entry/TSA Precheck benefit is a great addition to several of the Delta-branded American Express cards. That can not only make airport security experiences easier, it helps make up for the premium annual fee costs. Note, however, that it’s already offered by other airline cards, including some from American Airlines and United Airlines. 

Higher Annual Fees
The now-higher annual fees associated with most of the Delta American Express cards are the biggest downside to the program refresh. Not only do the Delta Reserve cards carry the highest annual fees among airline credit cards, but even the Delta Platinum card annual fees are much higher than comparable cards from other major airlines. 

What These Changes Mean for Delta Cardholders

Your SkyMiles earning power is now much better. Previously, you may have paired a Delta American Express card with another rewards card to earn more miles on everyday spending, but now you can now get more from each card on non-travel purchases, too. 

If you have a card with a high annual fee, take advantage of the travel benefits (such as the new Global Entry/TSA Precheck application fee credit and airport lounge access) to help counter the now-steeper cost. If the new annual fee still doesn’t seem worth it based on how you use the card, downgrading to a lower-fee Delta card can still offer good SkyMiles earning potential and airline loyalty perks. 

Article Sources

  1. Delta SkyMiles. "Frequently Asked Questions."