Which Is the Best Card for Earning Delta Miles?

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I’ve written about the increased sign-up bonus on the American Express Gold Delta SkyMiles cards (personal and business) and the Platinum Delta SkyMiles card.

Until September 8, 2014, you’ll get a bonus of 50,000 miles (normally it’s 30,000) after you spend $1,000 in the 1st 3 months.

But did you know there are better cards for earning Delta miles from your usual spending?

Best Card For Earning Delta Miles

The AMEX Delta Cards Have a Great Sign-Up Bonus, but There Are Better Cards for Earning Delta Miles

What’s the Deal?

Link:   American Express Gold Delta SkyMiles (Personal)

Link:   American Express Gold Delta SkyMiles (Business)

Link:   American Express Platinum Delta SkyMiles

The American Express Delta SkyMiles cards have an increased sign-up bonus of 50,000 miles until September 8, 2014.  That’s a great sign-up bonus, and for earning miles, you’ll get:

  • 2 points for every $1 you spend on Delta purchases
  • 1 point for every $1 you spend on everything else

But you can earn more Delta miles by spending on cards with points that transfer to Delta.  That’s because these cards have category or transfer bonuses, so you’ll get more than 1 Delta mile for every $1 you spend.  I’ll explain!

1.   American Express Starwood Preferred Guest

Link:   Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express

Link:   Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express

Did you know the American Express Starwood hotel card earns you more Delta miles from your regular spending (assuming you’re a Big Spender)?

That’s because for each 20,000 Starwood points you transfer to Delta, you get a bonus of 5,000 extra miles.  So you’re earning 1.25 Delta miles for every Starwood point you transfer!

Best Card For Earning Delta Miles

You’ll Get a 5,000 Mile Bonus When You Transfer 20,000 Starwood Points to Delta

The sign-up bonus on the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express cards is up to 25,000 points after you spend $5,000 in the 1st 6 months.  And Starwood points transfer at a 1:1 ratio to Delta.  This card gives you:

While there are no category bonuses for spending on this card (except for at Starwood hotels), each $1 you spend is worth 1.25 Delta miles because of the transfer bonus.  So for example, if you spend $20,000 on the card, you’d get 20,000 Starwood points.  Then you could transfer them to Delta and get 25,000 miles.

But if you spent $20,000 on 1 of the American Express Delta cards, you’d only get 20,000 Delta miles.  If you’re a big spender and collect Delta miles, the Starwood hotel card could be a better deal for you!

2.   American Express Premier Rewards Gold

Link:   American Express Premier Rewards Gold

The American Express Premier Rewards Gold card earns American Express Membership Rewards points, which can be transferred to Delta at a 1:1 ratio.

The sign-up bonus on this card is 25,000 points after you spend $2,000 in the 1st 3 months.  The annual fee of $195 is waived for the 1st year.

But what makes this card great for earning Delta miles are the category bonuses.  You get:

  • 3 points for every $1 you spend on flights booked directly with airlines
  • 2 points for every $1 you spend at US gas stations and supermarkets
  • 1 point for every $1 you spend on everything else
Best Card For Earning Delta Miles

The Category Bonuses on the AMEX Premier Rewards Gold Card Can Earn You Lots of Delta Miles

Many folks spend a lot of money on groceries and gas, so this card could earn you lots of points quickly.  But do the math after the 1st year to make sure it is worth the $195 annual fee!

And it’s a better card to use for airline tickets (even on Delta) than the Delta SkyMiles cards, because it earns 3 points per $1 you spend.  And you can transfer these points to Delta in a 1:1 ratio!  The Delta cards only earn 2 miles per $1, and only on Delta flights!

Note:   There’s an annual fee of $195 which is waived for the 1st year.  You’ll have to decide if you’ll spend enough on the card in subsequent years to make the annual fee worth it.

3.   American Express EveryDay

Link:   American Express EveryDay Preferred

Link:   American Express EveryDay

The American Express EveryDay Preferred and American Express EveryDay cards also earn American Express Membership Rewards points, which can be transferred to Delta at a 1:1 ratio.

While the sign-up bonuses aren’t a lot (10,000 points for the EveryDay and 15,000 points for the EveryDay Preferred card after you spend $1,000 in the 1st 90 days), the bonuses for spending in certain categories could make this a great card for earning Delta points!

With the American Express EveryDay Preferred card, you get:

  • 3 points per $1 you spend at US supermarkets, up to $6,000 a year
  • 2 points per $1 you spend at US gas stations
  • 1 point per $1 you spend on everything else

But if you use the card to make more than 30 purchases in a billing cycle, you’ll earn 50% extra points, less returns and credits.  There is no minimum transaction amount for any of those 30 purchases.

So you could effectively earn:

  • 4.5 points per $1 you spend at US supermarkets up to $6,000 a year
  • points per $1 you spend at US gas stations
  • 1.5 points per $1 you spend on everything else

This is a better deal than the American Express Premier Rewards Gold card for groceries and gas!  There’s an annual fee of $95, but it’s waived for the 1st year.

The American Express EveryDay card currently has no annual fee, so it could be a good card to keep for a long time to build credit history.  The category bonuses aren’t quite as good, but you’ll still earn:

  • 2 points per $1 you spend at US supermarkets up to $6,000 per year
  • 1 point per $1 you spend on everything else

And if you use the card to make more than 20 purchases in a billing cycle, you’ll earn 20% extra points, less returns and credits.  There is no minimum transaction amount for any of those 20 purchases.

Note:   American Express charges an excise fee of 0.06 per point, up to a maximum of $99, when you transfer Membership Rewards points to US airlines.

Bottom Line

The increased sign-up bonus on the American Express Delta SkyMiles cards can get you a lot of Big Travel with Small Money.  But there are better cards for earning Delta miles from your regular spending.

The American Express Starwood Preferred Guest, American Express Premier Rewards Gold, American Express EveryDay, and American Express EveryDay Preferred cards all earn points that transfer at a 1:1 ratio to Delta.

And because they have category or transfer bonuses, you can earn more miles per $1 you spend than on the American Express Delta cards.

Which of these cards is your favorite for earning extra miles and points?

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Editorial Disclaimer: Neither the responses below nor the editorial content on this page are provided or commissioned by the bank advertisers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertisers. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the bank advertisers. It is not the bank advertisers’ responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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11 responses to “Which Is the Best Card for Earning Delta Miles?

  1. Just applied and got instantly approved for my first Business card; the Delta Gold Business Card. Thanks for the walk through post on applying for AmEx business cards. Went through no problem! Cheers!

  2. I’m trying to wrap my head around the idea of transferring Starpoints to Delta at 1:1.25. To me that seems like an awful idea, losing nearly half the value of the Starpoints. I’m not being sarcastic right now. I’ll be sarcastic again soon enough. But right now I want to learn. Is there someone who thinks that’s a good thing to do and could explain under what circumstances you’d do it?

  3. DaveS: You’d do the transfer if you have a specific redemption in mind and there is availability for saver awards on Delta. In the rare (but not unheard of) situation where you can get a premium cabin seat overseas with skypesos, transferring SPG to Delta can be worthwhile. For example, you might do it to book business class from LAX to australia for 160,000 miles on Virgin Australia with your Delta miles. 128,000 spg points for direct business class flight (round trip) to Australia is a great value!

  4. you ignore spending bonuses on Platinum or Reserve card.
    Spend 30k on Reserve, get 15k bonus skymiles – 1.5 skymiles/dollar
    Spend 25k on Platinum, get 10k bonus skymiles – 1.4 skymiles/dollar
    both of which are better than SPG w/conversion, and they come with MQM bonuses too.

  5. Thanks, Jed. Your comments make sense.

  6. This blog is getting ridiculous. 3 out of every 4 posts are about credit card offers. No MS, no special promotions mentioned (except for ridiculously priced airline mileage), no trip reports, etc…

  7. CLP, maybe Darrius hasn’t been able to get away? Or maybe he isn’t writing about special promotions because there aren’t any?

    This is a blog giving you information for FREE. If you think you can write one better then by all means please do so. Make sure you let us all know the URL!

  8. If I have the Gold Delta Amex, what will happen if I apply for the Platinum Delta Amex? Will I get the sign up bonus for the Platinum?

    If my wife has the Platinum Delta Amex, and she applies for the Gold Business Delta Amex, will she get the sign up bonus? Can she also apply for the Platinum Business Delta Amex and receive the bonus for that too, even though she has the personal card?

  9. @Karen…totally agree with you. SO tired of the critical, annoying comments of those who fail to appreciate the helpful, free information on this blog. Thank you MMS!

    • @Al – Congrats and thanks for using our link!

      @CLP – I can get you some trip reports! But we’ve travelled much less this year.

      @Karen @RSV – Thanks!

      @Andrew – I’d check the specific terms when you click the application link, because American Express is using cookies to target offers, so it really depends on what offer you get when you click.

  10. Andrew,

    My wife had the Platinum card and applied for the Gold card for the bonus points. a couple of years ago. She was told that she would be eligible for the points when talking with a customer service rep over the phone only to find out later that she was not eligible for the bonus points for the new gold card. She pushed the issue with AMEX upper management on the grounds that they should honor what she was told over the phone. She had the person’s name who told her this. She received a call from a high official with AMEX and he would not allow the full bonus points that came with the gold card sign up but did credit her account with a 10,000 bonus to pacify her a little after she threatened to cancel her card which she had for many years. That softened the blow somewhat because he did not have to do that although I feel they should have honored what we were told by their representative. To answer your question you would not be eligible for the sign up bonus for applying for the Platinum if you already have the gold and vice versa unless AMEX has changed their policy but I doubt they have.