Delta Branded Credit Cards Are Not The Best For Flying Delta – Here’s Why!

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As I’ve talked about my affinity for Delta over the past several months, I’ve had several readers ask for suggestions for the best credit card for flying Delta.  Many flyers immediately assume the American Express Delta family of cards is best.  However, analyzing the benefits of these cards versus others prove the lack of strength of the Delta branded credit cards outside of their minimum spend bonuses.

But in my opinion, The Platinum Card® from American Express is far and away the best card for Delta flyers.

I will detail the Delta cards first, and then show you why the AMEX Platinum is the best card to get you in the sky with my all time favorite airline!

You Can Get In The Sky Even Faster When Not Using Delta Branded Credit Cards!

The Delta American Express Cards

While Delta is my favorite airline for many reasons, their credit cards just don’t seem to hit the mark.

1.   Blue Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express

2.   Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express

The AMEX Delta Gold could actually be argued as an even poorer card in some ways.

The card does come with a healthy bonus of 30,000 Delta miles after spending $1,000 in purchases within 3 months of account opening (plus a $50 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase within the first 3 months).  However, you will only earn:

  • 2 Delta miles per $1 with Delta
  • 1 Delta mile per $1 for everything else

Plus, you will have an annual fee of $95 (See Rates & Fees).

The largest draw of this card is getting your first checked bag free, which could potentially save hundreds per year.  I am currently a card member, however it sits and collects dust with the rest of my cards.

3.   Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express

The AMEX Delta Platinum personal and small business cards are decent for one reason only, and it’s not the welcome bonus.  For example, while the Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card from American Express comes with 35,000 Delta miles (and a $100 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase in the first 3 months) after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months, the best feature is the companion pass.  After holding the card for one year and paying the second annual fee (See Rates & Fees), you will earn a companion pass to anywhere within the Continental US.

In summary, pay $390 in annual fees, get 36,000 miles and a companion pass.  The 36,000 miles alone could easily be worth $430, so the companion pass is simply gravy!  However, this pass is only valid for main cabin flights.

This card also gives you one free checked bag.  I am currently a card member but have yet to use the companion pass just yet.  This one also collects dust.

4.   Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express

The AMEX Delta Reserve credit cards are good, but I’ll give you a much better option later.  For example, the Delta Reserve for Business Credit Card has a solid welcome bonus of 40,000 Delta miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months of account opening, but it comes at a steep annual fee of $450 (See Rates & Fees).  You will also get 10,000 MQMs (Medallion Qualifying Miles), but these are really only useful if you are flying a bunch and trying to earn Delta status.

With the AMEX Delta Reserve for Business, you will earn 2 miles per $1 on Delta purchases and 1 mile per $1 on everything else.

However, the large hook to this card is being able to access Delta SkyClubs for free when flying on Delta.  Along with this, you will receive an annual companion certificate for any domestic flight on Delta in any seat class upon renewal, meaning you will be $900 deep in annual fees before you receive it.

While all of these cards have perks, they really are poor earning for your spending, and you can receive even better earnings for your spending and better perks for your annual fees.

The Best Credit Card For Delta Flyers

The American Express Platinum Card is arguably the best credit card on the market.  Despite the shock of paying $550 per year for an annual fee (See Rates & Fees), there is an incredible amount of value to be extracted as a flyer of Delta.

First, you are able to earn 60,000 AMEX Membership Reward points after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of card membership.  These 65,000+ points you earn from the start alone can be worth $1,300+, as they can be transferred to numerous rewards programs, including Delta, at a 1:1 ratio.

Along with valuable points, the AMEX Platinum grants you access to all Delta SkyClubs when you are ticketed to fly with Delta.  And this is just one layer of all the incredible perks you will receive as a cardholder of the AMEX Platinum Card.

My wife and I are both AMEX Platinum cardholders, and with all of the additions they continue to roll out to please cardholders, I don’t anticipate us canceling anytime soon!

Final Thoughts

The end goal for many of us is to maximize our daily expenses to earn the most miles possible to get us on our next adventure.  I strongly encourage those loyal to one airline to make sure you are using the best credit card possible to complement your spending habits and travel goals.

Want to learn how to make the most out of your American Express Membership Rewards points?  Subscribe to our newsletter!
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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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1 year ago

Poorly written in the sense that all of the main benefits were not mentioned on some of the cards. So you don’t get an accurate picture for comparison.

I recently scheduled airfare on Delta for me and 2 others and was offered the Gold Delta card at checkout with 25,000 miles after spending $2k and also an immediate $250 credit. Plus the fact that I get free checked bags for 3 people, we save another $180. So at a minimum I’m saving $680 and will be much more because 25,000 miles will be worth more than .01 each to me since I fly out of smaller rural airports. It was a no brainer, but I agree that it will collect some dust once I hit the minimum.

Eric Oppegaard
1 year ago

While I agree that for spending benefits the card is poor, however one thing that isn’t mentioned is the MQD waiver after minimum spend. This could help those that can’t qualify for the minimum MQD for airfare spend along.

1 year ago

I too am a frequent user of this airline for business trips. Flying out of Detroit they cannot be beat. I recently had the Delta Reserve Card. The main reason I got it was for the lounge access, and the MQM’s put me into the next medallion category. I was able to get the companion pass before renewing for the next year. The timing has to work just right however. The certificate actually posts to your account right at the renewal month. If you use it to book a trip right away (not travel… but book), you still have 30 days to cancel the card.

1 year ago

I dont see this benefit mentioned: The Amex Platinum includes a $200 per year credit for your designated airline, which can be DL. That negates a big chunk of the annual fee. You can purchase DL gift cards in increments of $50 (only from your desktop, not from mobil).

1 year ago

I agree the Platinum card from American Express is the best choice.

Your numbers are off for MQMs though. You get 15,000 with the reserve card up to at least twice a year and 10,000 with the Platinum card.

1 year ago

Does your $550/year Platinum Amex card give you a free bag for up to 9 people and priority boarding? My $95/year Delta Gold Amex does.

1 year ago

I’m not a fan of Delta’s Amex cards, and less of a fan of the Delta cry-clubs, which are over-crowded and under-catered (except SEA), but the DL Amex cards get you an extra point in the DL upgrade lottery.

may mak
1 year ago

if u r not using the cards wisely then how can u suggest with authority that the plain platinum amex is the best for delta flyers. I strongly disagree with very very much.

1 year ago

I suppose there are different intro rates at different times. After a short trip on Delta last year, I kept getting bombarded with offers for the 75,000 mile gold card with the $95 2nd year fee.

Then they offered a referral bonus of 12,500 miles. My wife signed up and received 50,000 miles.

Total combined miles including the afore mentioned trip is right around 140,000 miles.

My only concern will be after the 1st year if my travels will warrant the $190 fee……or concentrate on my 4% cash back Capital 1 card.(which had a $500 cash bonus after $3,000 spending)

It is a golden time for rewards type credit cards, IMHO.

Joe R
1 year ago

The only reason I keep my Amex Delta Plat is the MQM bonus and MQD spend waiver. It’s important to remember that when most of your travel is domestic and corporate fares are very cheap.

Thomas Visney
1 year ago

I will sign up for the American Express Platinum card when I am offered 100,000 points as they sometimes do.

1 year ago

Currently, i am a platinum delta card holder with a bunch of miles and i would like to get the platinum card. How does this affect my miles? Do i “transfer” my miles to the new card or transfer the platinum card miles earned to the platinum delta card?

1 year ago

The lack of companion pass on the non-delta card makes it a killer. I keep my platinum and reserve card for the companion pass. When you have kids it pays for itself. As for lounge access, when the used to allow family members it was worthwhile but if you have kids the priority pass with the chase reserve card is much better.

1 year ago

Originally, I had Delta Gold, upgrading to Delta Platinum 3-4 years ago. It was the Companion Certificate that attracted me. With the annual fee for gold at $95, and the platinum at $195, in my mind, the $100 difference is my cost for the companion certificate. The MQMs are not of value to me as I fly Delta only a few times a year. I prefer Delta flights, but because I fly out of an AA hub here in Charlotte, I usually have to grab a connecting flight through Atlanta, which is an extra pain.
The companion pass has not been the great saver I thought it would be, but has saved some on longer more expensive flights. One main challenge is that it is limited to certain fare codes and many times the fares it is valid for are not the least expensive fares available. 2 years ago, I was unable to use it to fly from CLT to SEA, because the CLT to ATL leg had no available fare codes the companion certificate required. I was able to find applicable codes out of Greensboro NC, so we ended up driving the 2 hours to that airport in order to be able to use the certificate. I still saved on that long trip, but we had to drive much further and stay overnight at a nearby hotel to catch an early morning flight. I was going to use the companion certificate this year for a flight to Boston, but the Jet Blue sale yesterday netted me 2 round trip nonstop flights to BOS, for a total of $233 for 2 people, round trip. What a deal, as I saved over $140 had I instead used the certificate to fly Delta that had a connection through ATL . Thus my companion cert will expire this year, unused. Before my Delta annual fee comes due in April, I have to do some debate to see if the Delta Platinum is going to stay in my credit card arsenal. The card and companion certificate can well be worth the extra $100, if one lives near a Dellta hub and can get a better choice of flights it may qualify for, but for others like myself who live near a AA hub, and use AA miles for reward flights quite frequently, my potential for the Delta card is a bit more limited.