Who Is This Credit Card Best For?
Flies regularly and likes finding ways to score even more travel—for free See more cards
Diligently searches for the best products and delights in a good bargain See more cards
Loves to explore places and experience new things See more cards
Frequently shops with a particular merchant and wants to be rewarded for their loyalty See more cards
The Delta SkyMiles Reserve Card is best for Delta loyalists who want upscale travel perks like airport lounge access and priority boarding. This card will give you a leg up toward earning elite status with the airline’s loyalty program—and even more perks. If you have good or excellent credit and fly Delta often enough to take advantage of this card’s benefits, the steep annual fee can be well worth it.
Complimentary airport lounge access
Elite status earning potential
Plenty of frequent flyer perks
Steep annual fee
Lounge access limitations
- Complimentary airport lounge access: The Delta SkyMiles Reserve Card comes with Delta Sky Club membership as well as access to American Express Centurion Lounges in destinations like Houston, Las Vegas, and Hong Kong.
- Elite status earning potential: This card offers a headstart on status with 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) when you reach the welcome offer’s spending threshold. You can also earn 15,000 more MQMs after spending $30,000 up to four times per calendar year.
- Plenty of frequent flyer perks: This card gives frequent Delta flyers upgrade priority, complimentary upgrades, priority boarding, first checked bag free for you and up to eight companions on the same itinerary, a fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Precheck, and a companion flight certificate, among other perks.
- Steep annual fee: At $550, this card's annual fee may be higher than some frequent flyers can justify. Also, note that comparable airline credit cards that include airport lounge access with other airlines come with lower annual fees.
- Lounge access limitations: While access to Delta Sky Clubs and Centurion Lounges is a big bonus, you can only visit the lounge when you fly a same-day Delta operated or Delta marketed flight. You can enter Delta Sky Clubs when you’re flying on a Delta partner flight that isn’t marketed by Delta, but you’ll have to pay a $39 fee per visit. Also, guests aren’t free—you’ll pay a $39 per guest rate for up to two guests in Delta Sky Clubs and a $50 per guest rate for up to two guests in a Centurion Lounge.
Bonus for New Cardholders
Spend $3,000 on your card in the first three months following account opening, and you’ll earn 40,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) toward elite status.
To offer a bit of flexibility during the pandemic, you may have more time to earn your new cardholder bonus, if you haven’t already earned it. For more information, see “Credit Card Deals Help You Earn and Use Travel Benefits During COVID-19”.
The Balance values Delta SkyMiles at 1.54 cents each, so the bonus miles are worth about $616 when you use them for award flights.
Overall, this is a pretty underwhelming offer for a high annual fee airline card. You can get the same number of bonus miles (40,000) and 5,000 MQMs for a lower spend requirement with the Delta SkyMiles Platinum Credit Card, too.
Earning Points & Rewards
The Delta SkyMiles Reserve Card lets you earn 3 miles per $1 on all your Delta purchases, but you’ll also earn 1 mile per $1 on everything else you buy. While the earning rate on regular purchases is lackluster, earning 1 mile per $1 is also common among airline credit cards. On the upside, Delta Sky Miles never expire.
The real value in this card’s earning structure is the ability to use it to earn elite status just by spending. Besides the initial 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) that come with the welcome offer, you can earn 15,000 more MQMs each time you reach one of four tiered spending thresholds: $30,000, $60,000, $90,000, and $120,000.
If you’re a big spender who can use your card for $120,000 in purchases within a calendar year, you’ll almost reach Platinum Medallion Status without ever getting on a plane.
Miles earned with this card can be used on flights with Delta and more than 20 partners including Virgin Atlantic, Alitalia, and Korean Air (although you must book partner flights through Delta). Unfortunately, Delta’s lack of an award chart means you may have no idea how many miles you’ll need for a flight until you go to redeem.
Round-trip domestic flights will normally set you back an estimated 30,000 miles in economy, although it’s possible to find better deals. Round-trip international flights typically start at an estimated 60,000 miles, on the other hand, though it depends on your destination and dates. If you want to redeem miles for a seat in the most luxurious class, Delta One, you’ll typically need to fork over a few hundred thousand miles for the privilege. Also, note that all award flights require you to pay government-mandated taxes and fees.
In addition to flights, you can also cash in Delta SkyMiles for Delta Sky Club membership, seat upgrades, Delta vacation packages, private jet travel, Delta gift cards, or purchases in the SkyMiles marketplace.
We recommend using your miles to book award flights, as each mile is worth 1.54 cents, according to our analysis. That value is slightly above average compared to other airline cards. To see how the Delta SkyMiles Reserve Credit Card’s miles stack up against the competition, check out our in-depth analysis of what credit card points are worth.
For more tips about earning and redeeming miles, check out our complete guide to the Delta SkyMiles program.
How to Get the Most Out of This Card
Because this card doesn’t reward you with extra miles for popular spending categories like restaurants or supermarkets, you can’t really stack up miles by focusing your spending in those areas. Do use the card for all of your Delta purchases, of course, to scoop up the 3 miles per $1 spent. And you should use it everywhere else, even though it only returns 1 mile per $1 spent. That’s because this card is all about gaining Delta SkyMiles status, and spending with the card gets you there faster.
If you normally spend at least $30,000 in a calendar year on credit cards, we recommend putting those purchases on this card in order to earn 15,000 MQMs and Silver Medallion status with Delta SkyMiles. This level of status would help you earn a base rate of 7 miles per $1 on Delta flights plus 3 miles per $1 when you pay with the credit card, and you would also get perks like unlimited complimentary upgrades on day of departure, complimentary preferred seats, and priority waitlisting.
In terms of stretching your miles as far as they can go, you should strive to be as flexible as you can with your travel plans when it comes to award flights. Delta doesn’t have an award chart, but you can find great deals if you’re willing to consider multiple dates and even destinations for your trip.
Delta’s SkyMiles Deals page collects all of the airline’s best award flight deals in one place. It’s updated irregularly, so check in frequently just in case a flight that matches your travel plans shows up.
This airline credit card features several card perks we consider “excellent”:
- Airline companion pass: Receive a companion certificate good for a round-trip first-class, Delta comfort+ or main cabin ticket, upon renewal of your account. You’ll still have to cover taxes and fees, though.
- Airport lounge access: Complimentary access to Delta Sky Clubs and American Express Centurion Lounges when you fly on Delta-marketed or Delta-operated flights.
- Free checked bag: This benefit is good for a free first checked bag for the cardholder and up to eight companions on the same itinerary.
- Global Entry/TSA Precheck application fee reimbursement: Receive up to $100 for Global Entry or TSA Precheck membership. This credit is available every four years for Global Entry membership or every 4.5 years for TSA Precheck.
- Priority boarding: Board the plane early with Main Cabin 1 Priority Boarding for you and up to eight companions on your flight itinerary.
- Insurance coverage for lost or damaged luggage: You’re covered for the cost to replace lost luggage on a trip paid for with the card for up to $2,000 for checked bags and $3,000 for carry-on.
- Insurance coverage for trip cancellation, interruption, or delay: If your entire trip is paid for with your card and unexpected weather or injury cancels your plans or cuts your vacation short, you’ll be reimbursed up to $10,000 per trip and a maximum of $20,000 per year. The benefit for a delay is up to $500 per trip, twice a year.
Delta SkyMiles Reserve Card's Other Features
- Discounts on in-flight purchases
- Rental car collision insurance (secondary to your own policy)
- Extended warranties
- Insurance for stolen or damaged purchases
- Refund when merchant won’t accept returned item
- Travel and emergency hotline
American Express placed first out of 11 credit card issuers in J.D. Power’s 2020 Credit Card Satisfaction Study. This study considered the user experiences of more than 29,000 credit card customers nationwide.
J.D. Power ranked American Express's app first out of 11 competitors. The Amex app allows you to track your spending and pay your bill from any mobile device. If you fly with Delta often, however, you should download the Delta app since it lets you track your rewards, search for award space, and access all your Delta reservations in one place.
American Express offers standard security features like encryption technology, automatic login time-outs, and email confirmation and password recovery on its credit cards. The American Express mobile app also lets you set up alerts that notify you when a purchase is made, your bill is due, and more.
Delta SkyMiles Reserve Card's Fees
While the annual fee on this card is high, other fees are typical for the industry. This includes not having to pay foreign transaction fees on purchases made abroad, which is standard among premier travel credit cards.