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Best credit cards for flying via the SkyTeam airline alliance

Most partners in the SkyTeam network are foreign airlines — that’s why Delta credit cards can be your best bet for maximizing miles on SkyTeam flights

Summary

Whether you’re a frequent flyer or are in the sky only a couple of times a year, these are the best credit cards for earning and maximizing miles and perks on SkyTeam alliance flights.

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It’s fairly simple to select a rewards credit card that gives you the best perks from your favorite airline. But what do you do when that “favorite” is actually a group of airlines? Welcome to the world of airline alliances.

These global networks are one more factor smart credit card users are considering when they look for their perfect travel credit card. They’re also one more way to travel for points or miles and enjoy perks with a host of other airlines.

If you’re based in the U.S., chances are you know about the SkyTeam alliance by flying Delta Air Lines (or the 17 other SkyTeam alliance members). Here are some of the best credit cards to consider in order to get the most in rewards and perks from flying within this program.

Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card: Best for occasional SkyTeam travelers

Why we picked it: The Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card is a smart choice for occasional SkyTeam travelers. It provides a wide variety of benefits and rewards options, and with an easy-to-offset annual fee of $99 ($0 introductory annual fee for the first year). With this card, you’ll earn 2X miles on Delta purchases, at restaurants worldwide and at U.S. supermarkets, as well as 1X miles on all other eligible purchases. In terms of a welcome bonus, you’ll have the chance to earn 40,000 bonus miles after spending $2,000 in the first six months — plus a $100 annual Delta flight credit each year you spend $10,000 or more.

Since you can earn points by making purchases outside of airline purchases, this Delta SkyMiles card is best for those who don’t travel with the SkyTeam super frequently but still want to rack up miles and save on future vacations.

Pros

  • First checked bag free on Delta flights for you and up to eight companions
  • Priority boarding
  • 20 percent discount on eligible in-flight purchases
  • No foreign transaction fees

Cons

  • $99 annual fee after the first year
  • $25 fee for phone bookings and $35 for Ticket Office bookings
  • Doesn’t offer a way to more quickly reach Medallion status, unlike its sister cards
  • No stopovers

Who should apply: You should apply if you only travel with SkyTeam sometimes but still want an easy way to earn rewards — so that you can save for when you eventually do take a trip. For occasional travelers who prefer Delta Air Lines, this card can be well worth its annual fee. You’ll easily offset the cost through the savings you’ll earn on checked bags or the miles earned by making purchases with the card.

Who should skip: Those spending a lot on airfare could receive more value from a card with a higher rewards rate. For example, the Delta SkyMiles Gold’s sister card, Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card (highlighted below), offers 3X points on Delta flights — though for a $250 annual fee.

Delta SkyMiles Platinum American Express Card: Best for frequent Delta travelers

Why we picked it: The Delta SkyMiles Platinum American Express Card is best for frequent Delta travelers, as you’ll earn 3X miles on Delta airfare and purchases made directly with hotels. Additionally, you’ll earn 2X miles at restaurants and on U.S. supermarket purchases and 1X miles on all other eligible purchases.

The card comes with a high annual fee of $250, but it can be easily offset by the yearly companion certificate offered with the card. Each year you’re a cardholder, you and a travel partner can take a round-trip, Main Cabin domestic flight with your partner’s ticket costing you only taxes and fees. Further, you can earn 50,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after spending $3,000 in purchases on your new card in your first six months.

Pros

  • Earn up to 20,000 MQMs after spending $25,000 in a calendar year
  • Up to $100 in credits toward TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application fees
  • First checked bag free on Delta flights for you and up to eight companions
  • Discounted Delta Sky Club access for you and two companions ($39 each) when flying Delta

Cons

  • $250 annual fee may be too costly for the casual Delta traveler
  • $25 fee for phone bookings and $35 for Ticket Office bookings
  • No stopovers

Who should apply: If you frequently fly with Delta Air Lines and care about elite status, you should certainly consider the Delta SkyMiles Platinum. Not only will you earn 3X miles on Delta purchases, but you’ll be able to save a large sum on checked baggage fees, TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application fees, Sky Club access and much more — while earning Medallion Qualification Miles each year with required spending. This card is also a good option for couples, considering its yearly companion certificate. Whether you’re planning a honeymoon or vacation with your partner, odds are the annual fee will still be cheaper than their airfare.

Who should skip: If you don’t travel with Delta or its partner airlines frequently and could care less about elite status, you may want to pass on this card and opt for a less costly option.

The Platinum Card from American Express: Best for luxury travel benefits

Why we picked it: The Platinum Card® from American Express is a great choice for frequent, luxury-inclined travelers looking for a top-notch travel card with an extensive list of benefits. With the Amex Platinum, you’ll earn 5X points on flights booked directly with airlines using Amex Travel (on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year), as well as 5X points on eligible prepaid hotels booked through the same portal. All other eligible purchases will earn you 1X points. The card also offers an impressive welcome bonus: If you spend $6,000 in the first six months, you’ll earn 80,000 Membership Rewards points.

Other notable benefits of this card include a Priority Pass Select membership, luxury hotel discounts and elite statuses and various credits toward rideshare services, entertainment, hotels and more.

Pros

  • Up to a $200 airline fee credit for incidental travel fees (with a select airline)
  • Up to $200 in credits for prepaid hotel bookings at Fine Hotels + Resorts or The Hotel Collection properties via Amex Travel
  • Access to a large list of American Express transfer partners
  • Complimentary access to the Global Lounge Collection, including the Centurion Lounge and Delta Sky Clubs

Cons

  • Very high annual fee of $695
  • Compared to other premium travel cards (with lower annual fees), the Amex Platinum’s rewards rates are fairly low

Who should apply: If you prefer luxury travel, plan on utilizing a good chunk of the card’s extensive benefits and can handle its high annual fee, the Amex Platinum is definitely worth it. In fact, we didn’t even mention the full list of perks this card has to offer, so be sure to read through our Amex Platinum benefits guide. Overall, this card is a great choice for travelers who prioritize comfort, luxury and ease to take the stress out of frequent flying.

Who should skip: If you don’t plan on maximizing the card’s potential by utilizing its lengthy list of luxury benefits, it may be a good idea to skip applying for the Amex Platinum. The annual fee associated with the card is steep, and it may be difficult to offset if the majority of its perks aren’t useful to you. Plus, if you’re more interested in the rewards earning potential over luxury travel benefits, you may want to look elsewhere.

Delta SkyMiles Blue American Express Card: Best for no annual fee

Why we picked it: The Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card is a solid option for consumers looking to earn travel rewards while avoiding an annual fee. With this card, you’ll earn 2X miles on eligible Delta purchases and at restaurants worldwide and 1X points on all other purchases. Additionally, you can earn a modest welcome bonus of 10,000 miles after spending just $1,000 in your first six months.

Pros

  • No annual fee
  • 20 percent discount on eligible in-flight purchases
  • Basic travel protections, like car rental insurance and access to Amex’s Global Assist Hotline (also offered by the other cards on this list)
  • Doesn’t offer a way to more quickly reach Medallion status, unlike its sister cards

Cons

  • Welcome bonus is not as generous as other travel cards on the market
  • $25 fee for phone bookings and $35 for Ticket Office bookings
  • No stopovers
  • No savings on checked baggage or priority boarding

Who should apply: If you’re an occasional traveler looking for an easy way to earn miles without having to incur any yearly cost, you might consider the Delta SkyMiles Blue. It’s a good way for infrequent travelers (who won’t utilize many travel benefits) to earn rewards on purchases made outside of Delta, saving them money for when they do take their next trip.

Who should skip: If you’re looking for a card that offers more travel benefits and discounts, definitely skip the Delta SkyMiles Blue. In fact, you may be better off with a general no-annual-fee travel credit card.

Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card: Best for heavy spenders

Why we picked it: The Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card is almost on par with the Amex Platinum in terms of an annual fee, but with more Delta-focused perks. A good choice for those spending a lot each year on travel and who’re interested in climbing the Delta Medallion ladder to access exclusive perks, the Delta SkyMiles Reserve earns you 3X miles on eligible Delta purchases and 1X points on everything else.

It offers a generous welcome bonus: Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after spending $5,000 in your first six months. Further, as an annual bonus, you’ll earn 15,000 MQMs when you spend $30,000 in a calendar year (for up to four times per year) — helping you qualify for Delta’s Silver Medallion status.

Pros

  • Annual companion certificate
  • Medallion Qualification Dollar (MQD) waiver when you make at least $25,000 in purchases per year
  • First checked bag free on Delta flights for you and up to eight companions
  • Complimentary Centurion Lounge access

Cons

  • High annual fee of $550
  • When compared to other travel cards, the rewards program and lounge access is fairly limited
  • $25 fee for phone bookings and $35 for Ticket Office bookings
  • No stopovers

Who should apply: If you travel with Delta frequently and want to take advantage of the perks associated with being a Delta Medallion member, you should consider the Delta SkyMiles Reserve. You’ll need to be a heavy spender to get the most value out of this card, so keep that in mind as you’re shopping for a card to apply for. If you plan on utilizing its companion pass once per year (think: couples) and care about flight-specific benefits, this card could be right for you.

Who should skip: For those who don’t consider themselves heavy spenders (or spend less than $2,500 a month on those purchases, for example), it would be hard to earn enough miles to offset the annual fee.

Comparing the best credit cards for SkyTeam airline alliance

For the sake of an easy comparison, here’s a rundown of the above cards’ superlatives, rewards, annual fees and welcome bonuses.

CardBest forAnnual feeRewardsWelcome bonus
Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express CardOccasional SkyTeam travelers$99 ($0 intro annual fee the first year)
  • 2X miles on Delta purchases, at restaurants worldwide and on U.S. supermarket purchases
  • 1X miles on everything else
40,000 bonus miles after spending $2,000 in purchases in your first 6 months
Delta SkyMiles Platinum American Express CardFrequent Delta travelers$250
  • 3X miles on directly purchased Delta airfare and purchases made directly with hotels
  • 2X miles at restaurants and U.S. supermarket purchases
  • 1X miles on everything else
50,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after spending $3,000 in your first 6 months
The Platinum Card from American ExpressLuxury travel benefits$695
  • 5X points on flights booked directly with airlines using Amex Travel (on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year)
  • 5X points on eligible prepaid hotels booked with Amex Travel
  • 1X points on everything else
80,000 points after spending $6,000 in your first 6 months
Delta SkyMiles Blue American Express CardNo annual fee$0
  • 2X miles on eligible Delta purchases and at restaurants worldwide
  • 1X miles on everything else
10,000 miles after spending $1,000 in your first 6 months
Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express CardHeavy spenders$550
  • 3X miles on eligible Delta purchases
  • 1X miles on everything else
50,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after spending $5,000 in your first 6 months

How to choose a credit card for SkyTeam airline alliance

All of the best travel credit cards offer attractive features and benefits that can easily entice you — so before choosing, take careful note to compare the following details of each to determine which are most important to you:

  • Rewards rate: Four of the five cards we’ve highlighted offer rewards specifically on Delta purchases (and as you most likely already know, Delta miles can be earned and redeemed with other SkyTeam members). Considering this is a guide to flying with the SkyTeam airline alliance, take into consideration the level of rewards you’d prefer versus how much of an annual fee you can stomach.
  • Annual fee: Speaking of annual fees, as you can see, American Express offers Delta credit cards ranging from $0 to $550 — and up to $695 for the Delta-friendly Amex Platinum. Take into account the rewards structure offered and the dollar value of the various card benefits offered.
  • Airline-specific benefits: While all of the cards highlighted offer standard travel protections, some go as far to offer travel-easing statement credits, priority boarding, lounge access and more. Be sure to closely compare the benefits of each card to make sure you’d truly make use of what’s offered. The higher the annual fee, the more benefits for you to take advantage of.
  • Ability to earn Medallion Qualification Miles: If climbing the ladder of Delta Medallion status is important to you, cards like the SkyMiles Platinum and Reserve will help you do so faster thanks to their welcome offers and annual bonuses.

Bottom line

With so many travel and airline credit cards on the market, it can be tough to determine which one is best for you. If you’re looking to get the most out of your card in terms of rewards and perks while traveling via SkyTeam, it’s important to hone in on what benefits you’d like to prioritize and choose one that will provide the most value for your specific desires.

Editorial Disclaimer

The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

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