Are you someone who frequently flies on Delta airlines and is looking for the best credit cards to maximize your travel rewards? This analysis will tell you the best cards to get and explain some tricks for squeezing all the benefits out of them.
The best credit card combo for Delta fliers is the Delta Platinum card and Delta Reserve card, both of which are issued by American Express. Don’t confuse the Delta Platinum card with The Platinum Card from American Express, which is a totally separate card with its own unique set of benefits.
Summary of Benefits
Before we get into strategies and tricks, we will present a high level summary of benefits.
|Category||Platinum Card||Reserve Card|
|Sign-up Bonus||35K Redeemable Miles|
$100 Statement Credit
|10K Redeemable Miles
|Annual Companion Certificate||Eligible for economy class only||Eligible for first class or economy|
|Annual spending bonuses||$25K spend|
10K Redeemable miles
20K Redeemable miles
15K Redeemable miles
30K Redeemable miles
|Delta Sky Club Access||Discounted rate||Complimentary access for cardholder, discounted access for guests|
|Higher Upgrade Priority||N/A||Prioritized over those with same elite status and fare class|
The Platinum card comes with a bigger sign up bonus which includes a $100 statement credit if you make a Delta purchase in the first 3 months. This effectively reduces the first year annual fee to $95. The Reserve card has a much higher annual fee but also comes with significantly better benefits.
The Reserve card allows complimentary access to Delta Sky Clubs which is a huge benefit if don’t have access via another card or elite status. Only Delta Diamond elites receive a Sky Club membership, so at any lower tier of elite status you will need to get access via a credit card or premium cabin ticket.
Both cards come with an annual companion certificate for domestic travel, essentially a buy one get one free deal. If you have both cards you can use this benefit twice, though on the Platinum card only economy class tickets are eligible. On the Reserve card first class tickets are eligible (including discounted first class), so if you put this to good use on a trans-con ticket or other expensive fare you can realize hundreds and potentially over a thousand dollars of savings.
The Reserve card also comes with a lesser known benefit that can be very valuable for elites competing for upgrades. Reserve card members are prioritized for upgrades over those with the same elite status and fare class. If you live near a Delta hub, odds are you are competing with a bunch of people for upgrades on many flights. If you can earn Platinum or Diamond status and hold the Reserve card, your odds of successfully clearing for an upgrade improve significantly.
Both cards come with all of the following benefits:
- First checked bag free: You can apply this to up to 9 people on the same reservation, so for those traveling with large families or groups this can add up to tons of savings.
- Mileage Earnings: Both cards also earn 2 miles per dollar on Delta purchases and 1 mile per dollar on all other purchases.
- 20% discount on in-flight purchases
- No foreign transaction fees
- Priority boarding (Zone 1)
Qualifying for Elite Status
In order to qualify for any level of Medallion status with Delta, you must hit a threshold of Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs) or Medallion Qualifying Segments (MQSs) and hit a Medallion Qualifying Dollar (MQD) threshold. What makes Delta unique among airlines is that you can qualify all the way up to top tier Diamond status through credit card spend alone, with no actual flying. The elite status you ultimately earn will depend on how much you are willing and able to spend, but if you are inclined to engage in a good deal of manufactured spending it is very feasible to spend your way all the way to Diamond status.
Medallion Qualifying Dollar Waiver
If you spending $25K in a year on your Delta credit cards, Delta waives the MQD requirement. This benefit combines across cards, so don’t worry about putting the entire amount on one particular card. You can see your cumulative progress toward the MQD requirement when you log into your SkyMiles account.
Spending Your Way to Elite Status with MQM Bonuses
This section will reveal the biggest trick to earning elite status with Delta. The table below is a reference for the elite status qualification MQM thresholds:
|Elite Status||MQM Requirement|
As noted in the table at the beginning, both cards come with MQMs as part of the sign-up bonus. If you get both cards, you will earn 15K MQMs right off bat. You can earn the rest of the MQMs required for elite status via the following steps:
- Spend $50K on the Platinum card to max out the annual 20K MQM spending bonus
- Spend $60K on the Reserve card to max out the annual 30K MQM spending bonus
- Contact Amex and do product changes for both cards (change your Platinum card to a Reserve card and your Reserve card to a Platinum card)
- After completing step 3, the new cards you receive are regarded as new products; therefore, you can earn the annual spending bonuses on each yet again
- Repeat steps 1 & 2
At this point you will have earned 100K MQMs from the annual spending bonuses in addition to the 15K MQMs from the sign-up bonus. There is a good chance that when you ask to upgrade your Platinum card to a Reserve card you will be offered an upgrade bonus, and assuming this is 10K MQMs you will have the 125K MQMs needed to earn Diamond status. If you want to earn this status beyond the first year when sign-up bonus MQMs are no longer available, note that MQMs earned on Reserve cards are “giftable,” so you can earn the extra necessary miles by opening up a business Reserve card, or a card for your spouse, and gift the MQMs earned on that card to yourself.
If you are a frequent Delta flyer (by choice or necessity) the combined benefits of these two cards should enable you to save hundreds if not thousands of dollars in free flights, free checked bags, lounge access, and elite status benefits.