Which Delta Air Lines credit card should you choose?

It depends on how frequently you travel with Delta, but personal and business card options abound

Which Delta Airlines credit card should you choose?

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If you fly an airline regularly, it can make sense to carry its credit card. 

With Delta Air Lines, which offers seven branded, tiered cards through American Express, the decision should be fairly simple. Annual fees on the cards range from none to $450.

“It really depends on how into Delta you are with the annual fees these cards are charging,” says Lee Huffman, travel blogger and founder of travel blog BaldThoughts.

So how do you select the best card, or at least the best one for you?

We spoke with travel veterans about their favorite Delta cards for both frequent and occasional flyers, as well as the best all-around travel card. Here’s the roundup:

See related: Delta SkyMiles Dining program guide

Best Delta credit cards

Guide to Delta Airlines credit cards

Compare fees, rewards, perks and extras:  

Blue Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express

Anual fee
  • $0.
Sign-up bonus
  • 10,000 bonus miles for spending $500 in first 3 months.
In-flight discount
  • 20%.
No foreign transaction fees
  • No.
Extra bonus on certain categories
  • 2 miles per dollar spent on Delta Airlines purchases.
  • 2 miles per dollar spent on restaurant purchases.
  • 1 mile per dollar spent on everything else.
Limit on miles earned
  • No.
First checked bag free
  • No.
Priority boarding
  • No.
Reduced mileage awards
  • No.
Redeem miles rebate
  • No.
Benefits
  • Car rental damage insurance.
  • Global assist hotline when you are more than 100 miles from home.
Global Entry/TSA Precheck credit
  • No.
Card network
  • American Express.

Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express

Anual fee
  • $95, waived the first year.
Sign-up bonus
  • 30,000 bonus miles after spending $1,000 in first 3 months.
  • $50 credit after making a Delta purchase in first 3 months.
In-flight discount
  • 20%.
No foreign transaction fees
  • Yes.
Extra bonus on certain categories
  • 2 miles per dollar spent on Delta Airlines purchases.
  • 1 mile per dollar spent on everything else.
Limit on miles earned
  • No.
First checked bag free
  • Yes.
Priority boarding
  • Yes, for up to 8 companions.
Reduced mileage awards
  • No.
Redeem miles rebate
  • No.
Benefits
  • Discounted Sky Club access.
  • Car rental damage insurance.
  • Global assist hotline if you are more than 100 miles from home.
Global Entry/TSA Precheck credit
  • No.
Card network
  • American Express.

Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express

Anual fee
  • $195.
Sign-up bonus
  • 35,000 bonus miles plus 5,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQM) after spending $1,000 in first 3 months.
  • $100 credit after making a Delta purchase in first 3 months.
In-flight discount
  • 20%.
No foreign transaction fees
  • Yes.
Extra bonus on certain categories
  • 2 miles per dollar spent on Delta purchases.
  • 1 mile per dollar spent on every purchase.
Limit on miles earned
  • No.
First checked bag free
  • Yes.
Priority boarding
  • Yes, for up to 8 companions.
Reduced mileage awards
  • No.
Redeem miles rebate
  • No.
Benefits
  • Free companion ticket.
  • Discounted Sky Club access.
  • 10,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQM) and 10,000 bonus miles after spending $25,000 a year – up to $50,000.
  • Baggage and car rental damage insurance.
  • Global assist hotline if you are more than 100 miles from home.
Global Entry/TSA Precheck credit
  • No.
Card network
  • American Express.

Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express

Anual fee
  • $450.
Sign-up bonus
  • 40,000 bonus miles plus 15,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQM) after spending $3,000 in first 3 months.
In-flight discount
  • 20%.
No foreign transaction fees
  • Yes.
Extra bonus on certain categories
  • 2 miles per dollar spent on Delta Airlines purchases.
  • 1 mile per dollar spent on everything else.
Limit on miles earned
  • No.
First checked bag free
  • Yes.
Priority boarding
  • Yes, for up to 8 companions.
Reduced mileage awards
  • No.
Redeem miles rebate
  • No.
Benefits
  • Free Sky Club access.
  • Free companion pass.
  • Priority security line.
  • 15,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQM) and 15,000 bonus miles after spending $30,000 annually.
  • Concierge service.
  • Car rental damage.
  • Travel accident and baggage insurance.
  • Global assist hotline when you are more than 100 miles from home.
Global Entry/TSA Precheck credit
  • No.
Card network
  • American Express.

Gold Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card from American Express

Anual fee
  • $95, $0 first year.
Sign-up bonus
  • 30,000 bonus miles after spending $1,000 in first 3 months.
  • $50 credit after making a Delta purchase in first 3 months.
In-flight discount
  • 20%.
No foreign transaction fees
  • Yes.
Extra bonus on certain categories
  • 2 miles per dollar spent on Delta Airlines purchases.
  • 1 mile per dollar spent on everything else.
Limit on miles earned
  • No.
First checked bag free
  • Yes.
Priority boarding
  • Yes, for up to 8 companions.
Reduced mileage awards
  • No.
Redeem miles rebate
  • No.
Benefits
  • Discounted Delta Sky Club Access.
  • No fee for employee cards.
  • Travel accident insurance.
  • Baggage insurance.
  • Car rental damage insurance.
Global Entry/TSA Precheck credit
  • No.
Card network
  • American Express.

Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card from American Express

Anual fee
  • $195.
Sign-up bonus
  • 35,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQM) after spending $1,000 in first 3 months.
  • $100 credit after making a Delta purchase in first 3 months.
In-flight discount
  • 20%.
No foreign transaction fees
  • Yes.
Extra bonus on certain categories
  • 2 miles per dollar spent on Delta Airlines purchases.
  • 1 mile per dollar spent on everything else.
Limit on miles earned
  • No.
First checked bag free
  • Yes.
Priority boarding
  • Yes, for up to 8 companions.
Reduced mileage awards
  • No.
Redeem miles rebate
  • No.
Benefits
  • 1 free round-trip companion ticket annually.
  • Earn 10,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQM) and 10,000 bonus miles after spending $25,000 annually – up to $50,000.
  • Discounted Delta Sky Club access.
  • No fee for employee cards.
  • Global assist hotline when you are more than 100 miles from home.
  • Travel accident, baggage and car rental damage insurance.
Global Entry/TSA Precheck credit
  • No.
Card network
  • American Express.

Delta Reserve® for Business Credit Card from American Express

Anual fee
  • $450.
Sign-up bonus
  • 40,000 miles and 10,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQM) after spending $3,000 in first 3 months.
In-flight discount
  • 20%.
No foreign transaction fees
  • Yes.
Extra bonus on certain categories
  • 2 miles per dollar spent on Delta Airlines purchases.
  • 1 mile per dollar spent on everything else.
Limit on miles earned
  • No.
First checked bag free
  • Yes.
Priority boarding
  • Yes, for up to 8 companions.
Reduced mileage awards
  • No.
Redeem miles rebate
  • No.
Benefits
  • Free Sky club access Free companion ticket annually.
  • Free companion ticket annually.
  • 15,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles and 15,000 bonus miles after spending $30,000 annually – up to $60,000.
  • No fee for employee cards.
  • Concierge service.
  • Global assist hotline when you are more than 100 miles from home.
  • Roadside assistance.
  • Travel accident, baggage and car rental damage insurance.
Global Entry/TSA Precheck credit
  • No.
Card network
  • American Express.

Best Delta credit card for frequent flyers

If you’re racking up Delta miles on constant business or personal trips, your pick should be the Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express.

This card gives you lounge access, plus a sign-up bonus of Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQM), which helps you climb the status ladder faster, says James Larounis, founder of the travel blog The Forward Cabin.

  • Spend $30,000 annually on the card and you get 15,000 MQMs.
  • If you put $60,000 on the card in a year, you can get 30,000 MQMs.

Huffman agrees. “If you travel a lot with Delta, skip over the Platinum [Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express], for the Reserve,” he says. You get a much better deal on those MQMs. By “spending 20 percent more, you’re getting 50 percent more miles.”

Other great features Huffman likes about the Reserve include:

  • Annual free companion pass – also included in the Platinum card. All you have to pay is taxes and fees.
  • Comfort Plus seats, especially for long-haul flights. 
  • These seats offer extra leg room and dedicated overhead bins, and you can select them when you book. Other card levels have to wait until closer to the flight to request them.

“The longer you fly, the more you want the nicer seats,” says Huffman.

The Delta Reserve also gives you the edge for upgrades, says Gary Leff, travel blogger and founder of View from the Wing.

With a $450 annual fee, the card’s not cheap. However, an annual membership to Sky Club costs $495 alone.

“You’re going to save $45 by getting the card,” says Huffman. “You get the membership cheaper and all the other perks.”

See related: Premium card perk: Access to airport lounges

"If you travel a lot with Delta, skip over the Platinum for the Reserve. [By] spending 20 percent more, you're getting 50 percent more miles."

Best Delta credit card for occasional flyers

If you fly occasionally, your best bet is probably the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Card from American Express. The fee is $95, waived the first year.

You’ll get some of the same perks as the Reserve at a fraction of the cost, says Larounis.

Leff agrees. “Gold is good for people who are regular Delta flyers, but who don’t have elite status.”

  • You don’t get free access to Delta’s Sky Club lounges, but you can get in for $29 per person. The going rate is $59.
  • Preferred boarding, first checked bag free and 2 miles per dollar spent on Delta purchases.
  • Also, 20 percent discount on in-flight buys, such as food and drinks.

See related: American Express Rewards guide

“For the average person, the Gold card probably makes the most sense,” says Huffman. “And you’re going to offset your annual fee by not having to pay for a checked bag.”

Alternative Delta credit cards for occasional and business travelers

If you’re traveling for business (rather than fun), American Express issues a business card version of its Gold, Platinum and Reserve cards. “And the business and personal cards are pretty much on par with each other,” says Huffman.

  • If you put in a few more miles every year, but the price tag of the Reserve is a but too much for you, consider the Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express, says Larounis.
  • It offers those MQMs that escalate your status – which is the key to getting upgrades, more comfortable seats and other perks.

But you might want to keep this one just for Delta tickets and travel perks, says Leff.

“It’s a good card to have, but that doesn’t mean you want to put non-travel spending on the card,” he says. “There are [other, non-Delta] American Express cards [such as The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express or the American Express Everyday Preferred] that earn Delta miles faster.”

See related: How to earn more points booking business travel

"For the average person, the Gold card probably makes the most sense. You're going to offset your annual fee by not having to pay for a checked bag."

Which is the best all-around Delta credit card?

That depends on who you ask and what kind of traveler you are.

  • For Larounis, the Reserve gets the edge, “even with the $450 annual fee.”
  • In addition to lounge access, it “has a tie-breaker for upgrades,” he says.
  • If you and another passenger both qualify for an upgrade (but you have the card and they don’t), “all else being equal, the Reserve card will get the upgrade,” Larounis explains.

For Huffman, if you’re the average person leaving a lot of those vacation days on the table, the Gold card is a practical choice.

Getting airline status “for the average person is tough,” he says. “By getting the credit card, you’re essentially buying the lowest levels of status with the airline” – and that can get you access to travel perks and upgrades.

See related: What is the best rewards card to pair with Delta SkyMiles airline card?

Want to rack up more points for Delta flights? Go Platinum

On the other hand, while the Reserve may be the best card for Delta travel and perks, it’s not necessarily the best card if you want to rack up Delta miles, says Larounis.

That distinction belongs to The Platinum Card® from American Express.

  • For a $550 annual fee, you get 5 American Express Membership Rewards points per dollar spent with Delta (and any other flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel).
  • Plus, when transferred to Delta SkyMiles, Membership Rewards points have an estimated value of 1.29 cents.
  • By contrast, all Delta SkyMiles cards offer 2 miles per dollar spent on Delta purchases.

But you’re trading points for travel perks. The Platinum card doesn't offer Delta benefits such as early boarding, free checked bags, in-flight discounts, priority on upgrades and free or discounted lounge access.

“It depends on what you value,” says Larounis.

 


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Updated: 10-22-2018