While the Delta SkyMiles program isn’t what it once was, it still deserves a place in any frequent flyer’s life. Despite devaluations and the removal of published award charts, there are some bargains to be had. More than that, Delta’s elaborate network of routes and extensive list of airline partners makes it nearly unavoidable.
But does that mean you should get a co-branded Delta credit card? The carrier certainly offers enough options (four personal and two
Free checked bags, companion passes and the ability to earn elite status through spending can definitely make these cards worthwhile, depending on your travel habits and goals.
What We’ll Cover in This Article:
- The Value of Delta Credit Cards to the Delta Frequent Traveler
- Earning Delta SkyMiles via Other American Express Credit Cards
- How to Earn 99,000 Delta SkyMiles in 3 Months With Minimal Spending
- Other Ways to Earn Delta SkyMiles
- Where Your Delta SkyMiles Can Take You
Top 3 Reasons to Consider Delta Credit Cards
1. Annual Companion Pass
Some Delta credit cards come with companion passes so you can take someone with you for just the cost of taxes and fees. That can save you hundreds of dollars a year.
2. Elite Status Through Card Spending
With the Delta Platinum and Reserve cards, you can earn Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) that count toward elite status. In fact, you can earn Silver status with the Reserve card without ever flying (and get pretty darn close with the Platinum card).
3. Free Checked Bags
If Delta is a carrier you use at least a few times a year, you can save a ton of money with their cards’ checked bag benefit. At $25 each way to check a bag, you’ll save a double amount per roundtrip.
Credit Cards That Earn Delta Miles
Delta’s six co-branded cards range from a basic no-fee card, all the way up to an ultra-premium card with a $450 annual fee. As you might imagine, the benefits vary quite a bit among these cards. At the top, you’ll get free lounge access, a companion ticket, checked bags, the ability to earn Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) toward elite status and more. At the bottom, you’ll get a small intro bonus and in-flight savings, but not much else.
The Best Deal in Delta Cards
The best Delta deal is the Platinum Delta SkyMiles card. You can get a lot out of this card if you use Delta at least a couple times a year.
This card’s annual companion pass is the reason it tops my list. With the pass, you can take someone with you on a domestic flight in economy for just the cost of taxes and fees. This can easily cover the $195 annual fee and a lot more.
You’ll also get a solid 50,000-mile intro bonus worth roughly $500, assuming a value of a little over one cent per mile. With that bonus also comes a $100 statement credit toward any Delta purchase.
The standard perks, particularly free checked bags, can be valuable too, saving you $25 a bag each way. That assumes, of course, that you regularly check bags.
Get Up to 20,000 Bonus Miles Every Year
You can earn a bonus every year you have to card too, which is an unusual perk. You’ll get 10,000 miles after spending $25,000 in a year, or a total of 20,000 miles if you spend $50,000.
Those yearly bonuses include Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) that count toward elite status. Also an unusual card perk. You can earn up to 20,000 MQMs a year without flying, which is just 5,000 MQMs shy of Silver Medallion status. Not bad.
The Top of the Line: Is It Worth It?
The Delta Reserve card’s big annual fee of $450 will probably prevent most people from considering the card. Frankly, that might not be such a bad thing. If you’re looking for a premium card with lots of benefits, there are other options that are a lot more flexible.
Take, for example, what you’d assume is the Delta Reserve’s top benefit: free lounge access. With this perk, you’ll get into Delta Sky Clubs for free. Unfortunately, there are a couple of catches. First, you have to be flying on Delta to get in, and second, you have to pay an additional fee to bring a guest with you.
A More Flexible and Better Credit Card That Earns Delta Miles
With the Amex Platinum card, on the other hand, you can access the Swanky Centurion Lounges and you get a Priority Pass Select membership. While you’ll have to pay for a guest to accompany you to a Centurion Lounge, you can get up two guests in for free at Priority Pass lounges. On top of that, the Platinum card also include Delta lounge access when you’re flying on Delta.
It’s true that the Platinum card costs a bit more a year, but you’ll also get an annual valuable airline credit (which can cover checked bags) and 60,000 points that can be transferred to a wide variety of airlines, including Delta.
Get Up to 30,000 Bonus Miles Every Year
However, there are still some compelling reasons to get the Delta Reserve card. It’s welcome bonus is only 40,000 miles, but you can earn a 30,000-mile bonus every year you spend $60,000. If you’re a big spender, getting a yearly bonus is a great perk.
Earn Silver Medallion Elite Status Without Flying
Like the Platinum card, you can earn MQMs toward elite status with the Reserve card. One big difference, though, is that you can get Silver Medallion elite status just through spending.
When you reach $30,000 in spending each year, you’ll receive 15,000 MQMs that count toward elite status and waive any MQD (Medallion Qualification Dollars) requirements for Silver, Gold and Platinum status. Spend a total of $60,000 in a year and earn an additional 15,000 MQMs for a total of 30,000 MQMs, which is enough for Silver status.
First/Business Class Companion Pass
And finally, probably the most valuable perk for the Reserve card: the ability to take a family or friend with you in first or business class for just the cost of taxes and fees. While this pass is restricted to domestic flights in the lower 48, it renews annually and can be worth thousands of dollars, particularly for those long transcontinental flights.
Is It Worth Getting Delta Elite Status?
While I think the annual companion passes that come with the Reserve and Platinum Delta cards can justify their annual fees, you’re probably wondering if it’s even worth trying to earn status with these cards. After all, Delta isn’t the airline it once was.
In the past, the best reason to have Delta status was to get free upgrades. This happened a lot, but then Delta started offering passengers cheap upgrades to fill those seats. Now, sadly, it’s gotten harder and harder to get those upgrades to first, but you may still get into Comfort+ with some regularity.
There are a few other benefits, but none as good as the upgrade. Some of your MQMs will rollover, and you’ll get free checked bags (which comes with the cards anyways), priority boarding and some hotel and car rental perks, among other things. Honestly, though, I’m not so sure it’s worth putting too much effort into earning Delta status anymore.
If you’re not ready to shell out that much money in annual fees, or if you’re not sure you’ll use an annual companion pass or be able to earn elite status, the Gold Delta SkyMiles card is a reasonable alternative. The Delta Gold credit card has a relatively low annual fee of $0 intro fee, then $95 and includes free checked bags.
If you check a bag on two round-trip flights a year, you’ll cover the annual fee. If you don’t use that benefit, you won’t get much out of this card beyond the 30,000-mile welcome bonus (worth about $350) and the $50 Delta credit.
While the Blue Delta SkyMiles credit card has $0 annual fee, it also lacks some fundamental perks I’d expect from any airline card. Most disappointingly, you won’t get free checked bags and the card’s intro bonus is just 10,000 miles.
If you really want to avoid an annual fee, you’d probably be better with
For Small Business Owners
Delta also offers business versions of the Gold and Platinum cards. Their benefits and perks are nearly identical to the personal cards. If you qualify for these cards, they do offer more options for earning welcome bonuses and few extra business discounts through the Amex Open program.
Earning Delta SkyMiles Without a Delta Card
Technically, you can’t earn Delta SkyMiles on non-Delta cards, but you can transfer points from American Express Membership Rewards cards and the SPG card to the Delta rewards program.
While the American Express and SPG cards aren’t known for their
The Starwood Preferred Guest Amex earns the most flexible points. You can transfer them to over 30 airline and hotel partners, including Delta.
If you want the flexibility of the Amex Membership Rewards program but don’t want to shell out the big annual fee, the Everyday Preferred card costs just $95 a year, comes with a 15,000-point intro bonus and earns triple points at supermarkets and double points for gas. There’s a no-fee version of this card too, that’s a solid alternative.
Last but not least, the Amex Premier Rewards Gold card is a good alternative for someone who’s willing to spend a little more to get a little more. For the $250 annual fee (waived the first year) you’ll get a 35,000-point bonus, an annual valuable airline fee credit, hotel privileges, plus a variety of travel protections. You’ll also earn points quickly thanks to triple points for airfare and double points at restaurants, gas stations and supermarkets.
How to Earn 99,000 Delta SkyMiles in 3 Months
I never encourage accumulating miles without an objective in mind. Holding on to a large stash of frequent flyer miles for any extended period of time can result in a devaluation of those miles due to changes in rewards programs. The good news is that Delta SkyMiles never expire.
With that said, earning a large number of miles in a short period of time for a specific travel goal can be a good decision. Suppose you want to take your significant other on a vacation to Northern South America in Delta Comfort+ class. I found a roundtrip from LAX to Bogota for 42,000 miles per person. Let’s look at how you could get there after just three months.
First Month: Apply for the Amex Premier Rewards Gold card and spend $2,000 in the first month to earn 37,000 miles (35,000-mile welcome bonus plus 2,000 miles for your spending).
Second Month: Apply for the Gold Delta SkyMiles Business credit card and spend $1,000 in the first month to earn 31,000 miles (30,000 intro bonus plus 1,000 for your spending).
Third Month: Apply for the Gold Delta SkyMiles credit card and spend $1,000 in the first month to earn 31,000 miles (30,000 intro bonus plus 1,000 for your spending).
Transfer the 37,000 Membership Rewards points from your Amex Premier Rewards Gold card to your Delta SkyMiles account. You should now have a total of 99,000 SkyMiles in your account, which is more than what you’ll need to take that trip.
While there are other Delta and American Express credit cards that have higher intro bonuses, you’ll need to spend a lot more each month than the cards mentioned in this example to earn the bonuses.
For example, if you’re willing to spend $450 in annual fees on the Business Platinum card from Amex and you can spend $25,000 on the card in three months, you could earn 100,000 Membership Rewards points. That’s a lot of points, but that’s also a lot of spending. I didn’t include it here because most people won’t be able to meet that spend.
Other Ways to Earn Delta SkyMiles
If you’re serious about earning a maximum amount of SkyMiles fast, consider these alternatives to supplement your Delta credit card earning:
- Rental car/Lyft purchases on your Delta credit card
- Hotel/Airbnb purchases on your Delta credit card
- Shopping through Delta’s online shopping portal
- Flying on Delta and partner airlines
- Purchasing tickets on Delta Air Lines
Where Your 99,000 Miles Can Take You
With no published award charts to guide you, finding good Delta redemptions through the SkyMiles program is a hit or miss experience. However, by utilizing the five-week search option, which shows you the price of award tickets for a period of five weeks out, you can find one-way flights for as little as 5,500 miles in some markets. Occasionally Delta even has flash sales where you can pick up a one-way award ticket for as little as 5,000 miles.
Although 5,500-mile award tickets are a great find, my favorite Delta SkyMiles redemption is the 12,500-mile one-way awards to Alaska, even in the peak summer months.
It can be a challenge to find several award seats together on a flight, but even if you have to purchase one seat and use miles for the others, you’ll still be saving significantly.
For more information on making the most of the Delta frequent flyer program, our experts have put together this guide with everything you need to know.
Fly on Delta’s Partner Airlines for Great Value
Delta Air Lines is a member of the SkyTeam Alliance with 20 partner airlines and additional codeshare relationships with airlines such as Virgin Australia. What this means is that you have many options for redeeming your Delta rewards.
Examples of good redemption values include China Airlines in business class to China from the U.S. or Air France in business class to France from the U.S.
You can search for most partner award tickets on Delta.com. Checking the SkyMiles Deals weekly can also turn up some bargain redemptions, such as the recent deal from JFK to Cancun, Mexico, for 12,000 miles roundtrip in the main cabin.
When Only a Premium Cabin Will Do
Delta’s Delta One product is a premium business class product that has become very popular with Delta fans as an experiential goal. When you purchase a Delta One ticket you receive Sky Club access plus priority check in, security, baggage handling and boarding. Best of all, Delta One offers flat-bed seating.
You can experience this product internationally to Europe for as little as 55,000 miles each way during a flash sale. However, you’re more likely to find it for 70,000 miles each way.
You can also experience Delta One domestically coast to coast, typically for 35,000 miles one way.
Fly Delta for Free
If you fly Delta, having one of the Delta-branded credit cards makes perfect sense as the perks and benefits you receive can far outweigh the annual fees. Pairing a Delta American Express credit card with another Amex card that has partner transfer options can maximize the benefits you receive and add flexible earning and redemption opportunities to your credit card portfolio. It’s a win-win.