Delta SkyMiles Platinum – Is it Worth the $195 Annual Fee?

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Until September 8, 2014, American Express has increased the sign-up bonus to 50,000 miles on the Platinum Delta SkyMiles card after you spend $1,000 in purchases with your new card in the 1st 3 months.  Normally, the sign-up bonus on this card is 30,000 miles.  But the annual fee of $195 is NOT waived for the 1st year.

The Sign-Up Bonus on the Platinum Delta SkyMiles Card Has Increased to 50,000 Miles for a Limited Time

Million Mile Secrets’ readers have asked if paying the $195 fee is worth it, especially beyond the 1st year of having the card.  So let’s look at some of the perks to help folks decide!

What Do You Get With This Card?

Link:   Platinum Delta SkyMiles Card

Link:   My Review of the Increased American Express Delta Card Sign-Up Bonuses 

1.   An Increased Sign-Up Bonus of 50,000 Miles

Link:   Delta SkyMiles Frequent Flyer Program

Normally, the sign-up bonus is 30,000 miles, so 50,000 miles is a good deal.   Although Delta miles can sometimes be hard to use, you could get:

  • 2 round-trip coach class tickets to anywhere in the continental US, Alaska, and Canada for 50,000 miles
  • A round-trip coach class ticket to Hawaii for 45,000 miles
  • A round-trip coach class ticket to the Caribbean, Mexico, or Central America for 35,000 miles
  • A round-trip Business Class or First Class ticket to anywhere in the continental US, Alaska, and Canada for 50,000 miles

And for award flights booked after January 1, 2015:

  • A 1-way coach class ticket to Africa for 40,000 miles
  • A 1-way coach class ticket to Middle East or South Asian Subcontinent for 42,500 miles
  • A 1-way coach class ticket to Southwest Pacific for 50,000 miles
  • A 1-way coach class ticket to Southeast Asia (such as Thailand or Malaysia) for 40,000 miles

And Delta miles can be used on their partners, like Alaska Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, and Virgin Atlantic, as well as SkyTeam alliance airlines like KLM, Air France, and Alitalia.

You Can Use Delta Miles to Fly Hawaiian Airlines

Here’s their award chart for travel from the Continental US, Alaska, and Canada.

2.   15,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles and Annual Miles Boost

Link:   Delta SkyMiles Medallion Elite Program

15,000 miles of the 50,000 mile sign-up bonus count as Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs).  These are miles that qualify towards elite status on Delta.

Earning elite status on Delta requires a combination of MQMs and spending on Delta-marketed flights (Medallion Qualifying Dollars, or MQDs).  So if you don’t buy paid tickets on Delta often, this perk might not be of interest to you.  But if you do, 15,000 MQMs is more than half of the miles requirement to get their lowest-tier status, Silver Medallion.

And if you’re a Big Spender, you’ll get 10,000 bonus miles and 10,000 MQMs each calendar year you spend more than $25,000 on the card.  And another 10,000 bonus miles and 10,000 MQMs if you spend more than $50,000 in a calendar year.

Elite Status on Delta Can Get You Complimentary Upgrades

To get elite status on Delta, you need:

  • Silver Medallion25,000 MQMs and $2,500 MQDs
  • Gold Medallion:   50,000 MQMs and $5,000 MQDs
  • Platinum Medallion:   75,000 MQMs and $7,500 MQDs
  • Diamond Medallion:   125,000 MQMs and $12,500 MQDs

So these perks will be of interest to those who:

  • Buy paid tickets on Delta, and
  • Are close to the miles and spending requirement to reach the next elite status level

Depending on the level of elite status, you could get complimentary upgrades when available, mileage bonuses on paid tickets, discounted or free lounge access, priority check-in and boarding, and free bags.  Here’s a comparison of what you get at different elite status levels.

If you’re not interested in getting elite status on Delta, the American Express Gold Delta SkyMiles card might be a better choice for you.  It also has an increased 50,000 mile sign-up bonus, but the annual fee of $95 is waived for the 1st year.

3.   $100 Statement Credit

You’ll get a $100 statement credit when you make a Delta purchase on the card in the 1st 3 months.  This could be airline tickets (purchased directly from Delta), baggage fees, change fees, or in-flight purchases.

You’ll Get Up to $100 in Statement Credit for Delta Purchases in the 1st 3 Months

So if you’re planning on flying Delta or booking paid tickets within 3 months of getting the card, the $100 statement credit could offset more than half the annual fee of $195.  But you’ll only get the statement credit once!

4.   First Checked Bag Free

Link:   First Checked Bag Free

If you’re flying domestic coach class, Delta normally charges $25 for your 1st checked bag.  With the Platinum Delta SkyMiles card, you and up to 8 traveling companions (on the same reservation) get your 1st checked bag free.

Free Bags Can Save You Lots of Money!

You don’t have to use the card to pay for your ticket.  You’ll get the free bag as long as the primary cardholder’s Delta frequent flyer number is on the reservation.

This could be a very good deal if you’re traveling as a family or a large group.  For example, a family of 4 could save $200 (4 people x $50 in checked bag fees each) on a round-trip ticket.  And a large group of 9 passengers could save $450 (9 people x $50 in checked bag fees each).

5.   Annual Companion Certificate

Link:   Delta Companion Certificate

Each year when you renew your card, you’ll get 1 domestic coach-class companion certificate.  This can be used to take a companion with you for free (you’ll pay taxes and fees between ~$28 and ~$69 depending on itinerary) when you buy a paid coach class round-trip ticket within the continental US.

Let a Friend Tag Along on Your Delta Paid Ticket for (Almost) Free With the Annual Companion Certificate

Only certain fares (L, U, and T class) are eligible.  If you’re a resident of Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Alaska, or the US Virgin Islands, you can use the companion certificate from your home only to the continental US and back.

This could be a very good deal if you use the companion certificate on pricier routes or more expensive, last minute bookings.

Again, if this perk doesn’t interest you, you’re probably better off with the American Express Gold Delta SkyMiles card, because you’ll get the same sign-up bonus and won’t pay the $95 annual fee for the 1st year.

6.   Double Miles on Delta Purchases

You’ll earn 2 miles for every $1 you spend on Delta Airlines and Delta Vacations purchases.  This includes airline tickets, fees, inflight purchases, lounge entrance, and vacation packages.

Folks Planning a Big Vacation Could Earn Lots of Extra Miles

So if you fly Delta often, or are planning on buying a vacation package for your family, you could earn a lot of extra miles.

That said, if you primarily fly on Delta award tickets, this perk probably isn’t a big deal for you.

7.   20% Discount on In-Flight Purchases

Coach class meals, drinks, in-flight entertainment, and headsets can cost a lot of money, especially for families.  With the card, you’ll get a 20% discount on in-flight purchases.  This doesn’t include duty free items, SkyMall, or in-flight Wi-Fi.

The Cost of Food, Drink, and Entertainment in Coach Class Can Really Add Up

Here’s an example.  Suppose Mom, Dad, and 2 kids are flying transcontinental coach class on Delta, and they’re hungry (here’s the menu!).  If Mom and Dad each get a glass of wine and a sandwich, and the kids each get a snack box, they’d pay:

  • ~$20 for the sandwiches (2 people x ~$10 each)
  • $16 for the wine (2 people x $8 each), and
  • ~$16 for the snack boxes (2 people x ~$8 each)

That’s ~$52 just for a light meal for a family of 4 in coach class.  So with the Platinum Delta SkyMiles card, you’d save ~$10 just on food and beverages.  Add some headsets, an in-flight movie, or video games, and the 20% discount becomes even more valuable.

That said, I’m a fan of packing my own food in coach class! 

8.   Priority Boarding

You (and up to 8 friends on the same reservation) can get priority Zone 1 boarding if you have the Platinum Delta SkyMiles card.  This gives you earlier access to overhead bin space and allows you more time to get settled in.

Priority Boarding Saves Aggravation and Possibly Money

Folks who don’t have the card can pay $10 extra to get priority boarding (for example, if you’re traveling with a large or valuable carry-on item and want to guarantee there’ll be space for it in the cabin).  I can’t see folks paying extra for this very often, but if you’re someone who does, you could save money (and some grief!) with this perk!

9.   Pay With Miles

Link:   Pay With Miles

American Express Platinum Delta SkyMiles cardholders can use Pay With Miles to reduce the cash cost of a paid ticket.  Each mile is worth 1 cent toward the price of a ticket.

Pay Less for Delta Tickets by Combining Miles and Cash

It’s not worth using Pay With Miles for tickets less than $100, because you have to redeem 25,000 miles to get $100 off.  That’s not a good value because you’re paying 4 cents per mile ($100 cost of Delta Airlines ticket / 25,000 Delta Airlines miles).

For tickets above $100, you can get $100 off your ticket price by redeeming 10,000 Delta Airlines miles.  You can also redeem 5,000 Delta Airlines miles to get $50 off once you’ve already redeemed 10,000 or more Delta Airlines miles (for tickets that cost up to $1,000).

For tickets above $1,000, you can redeem 10,000 miles to get $100 off your ticket price, then redeem in increments of 10,000 miles.

You Can Use Pay With Miles to Reduce or Eliminate the Cost of a Ticket

You have to use your card to pay for the fare to use Pay With Miles.

10.   Delta Sky Club Reduced Rate

Normally, a 1-day pass to a Delta Sky Club lounge costs $50, but Platinum Delta SkyMiles cardholders can get a reduced rate lounge pass for themselves and up to 2 guests for only $29 each.  That’s a $21 savings over the regular price.

Relax in a Delta SkyClub Lounge at a Discounted Price

I prefer when credit cards give you free lounge access outright (like the American Express Platinum or Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® cards), but those cards usually come with a much higher annual fee.

This could be a good perk for those who only use Delta SkyClub lounges occasionally, or folks who are on a long journey and really need a place to recharge before their next flight.

Bonus:   No Foreign Currency Fees

You won’t pay foreign currency fees when you use the Platinum Delta SkyMiles card outside the US.  Many cards charge an extra ~3% or more on foreign transactions, so if you travel internationally a lot, this could save you money.

Foreign Transaction Fees Can Cost You Lots of Money When Traveling Overseas

That said, other cards, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Ink Bold or Ink Plus, or Chase United Explorer don’t charge foreign transaction fees either.

Note:   There’s a better offer for the Chase Ink Plus of 70,000 points after meeting minimum spending requirements.  But you have to apply in a branch.

And some folks might be able to get a better deal on the Chase United Explorer card with a $50 statement credit.

Bottom Line

The Platinum Delta SkyMiles card comes with some great perks, including an increased 50,000 mile sign-up bonus until September 8, 2014.

The sign-up bonus alone could the $195 annual fee worth it for many folks, at least for the 1st year.  Remember, if you make a Delta purchase within 3 months of getting the card, you’ll get a $100 statement credit, which is like paying an annual fee of only $95 ($195 annual fee – $100 statement credit).

If you buy paid tickets on Delta frequently, the MQMs (which count toward elite status) could really be useful.  Other folks may save lots of money with the free checked bag and onboard purchase discount.  And if you use the annual companion certificate, you could save hundreds of dollars.

So depending on how often you fly Delta, this card could be worth keeping in the 2nd year and beyond.

If you’re not interested in earning elite-qualifying miles or getting a companion certificate, the Gold Delta SkyMiles card could be a better choice, because you’ll get the same number of sign-up bonus points, and the annual fee of $95 is waived for the 1st year.

Do you think the benefits on this card are worth the annual fee?  What’s the most important perk in your opinion?

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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