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Delta Reserve credit card from American Express review

Delta Reserve credit card from American Express review

Published: November 15, 2018
Published: November 15, 2018
Ratings Policy
Luxury Rating:
3.9 rating
3.9 rating
3.9 / 5
Rewards Value: 3.9
Annual Percentage Rate: 1.8
Rewards Flexibility: 4.4
Features: 2.0

In a Nutshell:

The Delta Reserve card helps frequent fliers climb the Delta Medallion ladder more quickly and make flying more comfortable and convenient; but aside from a free companion pass every year, it doesn’t offer nearly as many perks as its competitors.  

Rewards Rate

  • 2 miles per dollar on Delta purchases
  • 1 mile per dollar on general purchases
  • Terms apply

Sign-up Bonus

  • 40,000 miles and 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles if you spend $3,000 in first 3 months
  • 15,000 miles and 15,000 Medallion Qualification Miles each year you spend $30,000
  • Terms apply

Annual Fee
$450

Average Yearly Rewards Value ($75,000 monthly spend)
$1,749

APR
16.99-25.99%  (variable) 

Rewards Redemption
Pros

  • Miles don’t expire if your account is active every 12 months
  • Redeem miles for airfare, upgrades, hotel stays, car rentals, limited merchandise and experiences (every 5,000 miles redeemed = $50 off the cost of Delta tickets)
  • No blackout dates on Delta flights (may apply on partner flights)
  • One-way flights allowed
  • Large number of airline partners
  • Miles + cash option available for some rewards flights
  • No limits on miles

Cons

  • Fuel surcharges may apply to partner flights and Delta one-way flights from Europe and the Middle East
  • Direct fees for tickets issued in some European countries ($25 for phone bookings, $35 for Ticket Office bookings)
  • No stopovers or open-jaw
  • 75,000-mile limit per reservation
  • Minimum 12,500 points required

Other Notable Features: No foreign transaction fees, one free companion ticket each year, Delta SkyClub access for cardholder and two guests, concierge services, free checked bag, priority boarding, in-flight promotions, premium travel insurance, extended warranty, return protection, purchase protection, exclusive events and presales

Rewards Rating:
4.4 rating
4.4 rating
4.4 / 5
Rewards Value: 4.8
Annual Percentage Rate: 1.1
Rewards Flexibility: 4.4
Features: 4.0

In a Nutshell:

The Delta Reserve card offers a great rewards value thanks to its free annual companion pass; but you can get the same benefit with the Platinum Delta card, for a lower annual fee.

Rewards Rate

  • 2 miles per dollar on Delta purchases
  • 1 mile per dollar on general purchases
  • Terms apply

Sign-up Bonus

  • 40,000 miles and 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles if you spend $3,000 in first 3 months
  • 15,000 miles and 15,000 Medallion Qualification Miles each year you spend $30,000
  • Terms apply

Annual Bonus

  • 15,000 miles and 15,000 Medallion Qualification Miles each year you spend $30,000
  • One free companion ticket

Annual Fee
$450

Average Yearly Rewards Value ($1,325 monthly spend)
$591

APR
16.99-25.99%  (variable) 

Rewards Redemption
Pros

  • Miles don’t expire if your account is active every 12 months
  • Redeem miles for airfare, upgrades, hotel stays, car rentals, limited merchandise and experiences (every 5,000 miles redeemed = $50 off the cost of Delta tickets)
  • No blackout dates on Delta flights (may apply on partner flights)
  • One-way flights allowed
  • Large number of airline partners
  • Miles + cash option available for some rewards flights
  • No limits on miles

Cons

  • Fuel surcharges may apply to partner flights and Delta one-way flights from Europe and the Middle East
  • Direct fees for tickets issued in some European countries ($25 for phone bookings, $35 for Ticket Office bookings)
  • No stopovers or open-jaw
  • 75,000-mile limit per reservation
  • Minimum 12,500 points required

Other Notable Features: No foreign transaction fees, one free companion ticket each year, Delta SkyClub access for cardholder and two guests, concierge services, free checked bag, priority boarding, in-flight promotions, premium travel insurance, extended warranty, return protection, purchase protection, exclusive events and presales

If you’re a frequent Delta flyer, the upscale Delta Reserve card will help you climb the Delta Medallion ladder more quickly and claim exclusive benefits, such as unlimited complimentary seat upgrades, free checked baggage and priority boarding. However, if you’re willing to spend three figures on an annual fee, you may be able to get more value from a super-premium card that offers stronger perks, such as the American Express Platinum card or the Chase Sapphire Reserve card. You could also enjoy some of the same benefits as the Delta Reserve card – such as priority boarding and waived baggage fees — with a smaller price tag by opting for a lower tier Delta card such as the Gold Delta SkyMiles card.

The Delta Reserve card’s benefits are relatively limited for a card of its caliber and its rewards rate is anemic. But it does offer some exclusive air-travel-related benefits – including a free companion seat every year and special treatment for frequent fliers — that could make the card’s $450 upfront fee worth it for certain travelers. The Delta Reserve card’s value also skyrockets the more you spend thanks to its tiered bonus program. So, if you fly Delta often enough and expect to charge at least $2,500 a month, the premier Delta Reserve could be a good fit. Here’s what to consider if you’re thinking about applying for a Delta Reserve card:

A shortcut to earning more Medallion Qualification Miles

The biggest selling point for the Delta Reserve card is its ability to make your Delta flights more comfortable and convenient – as well as more rewarding. In addition to a 40,000-mile sign-up bonus for cardholders who charge at least $3,000 in the card’s first three months, the Delta Reserve card also awards cardholders 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles.

If you spend at least $30,000 in a calendar year – roughly $2,500 a month – you’ll earn another 15,000 bonus miles and 15,000 Medallion miles. If you’re an especially heavy spender and use your Delta Reserve card for all or most of your purchases, you could potentially earn as much as 30,000 bonus miles and 30,000 Medallion miles.

A good way to upgrade the quality of your flights

Additional Medallion miles may not appeal to everyone. But if you’re a frequent Delta flier, you know just how valuable those Medallion miles (known in Delta lingo as MQMs) can be. If you’re just beginning your frequent flier status with Delta, a 10,000-mile boost could help you reach Silver status and qualify for a larger miles bonus each time you fly.

You’ll also receive unlimited free seat upgrades for yourself and one traveling companion, a free checked bag for yourself and up to eight other traveling companions (which is a nice perk for big families), priority check-in and more. The higher the Medallion ladder you climb, the better the benefits will be. For example, Platinum Medallion members get a free voucher for Global Entry status so they can zip through security lines more quickly, a $200 Delta gift card and a $200 gift card for the luxury jeweler Tiffany & Co.

Just a handful of high-value perks

The Delta Reserve card doesn’t offer a ton of high-value perks on its own, though, which can make it tough for this card to compete with similar cards with equally high annual fees. The Reserve card’s most valuable benefit is its free round-trip companion certificate that cardholders receive each year. Depending on where in the United States you fly (the ticket must be domestic) that perk alone could be worth several hundred dollars, wiping out the cost of the annual fee.

If you’re a frequent Delta traveler who’s just looking for a card to help you upgrade your Medallion status, the card’s free companion certificate could make the card’s high annual fee worth it since you’ll essentially be earning that money back each time you renew your card. In addition, Delta cardholders get free access to Delta SkyClubs and a lower entry rate of $29 for up to two traveling companions.

Not always competitive with similarly priced cards

Those are the only ancillary perks the Delta card offers, though, aside from travel insurance benefits, such as car rental coverage and baggage insurance. So you’ll want to compare this card’s benefits to other super premium cards to see how your savings stack up.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve card, for example, offers a $300 annual travel credit every year that you can also use for airplane tickets, a $100 fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck and doesn’t charge your traveling companions for lounge access.

Similarly, the American Express Platinum card offers comparably lush perks, plus access to a wider selection of airport lounges, up to $200 worth of Uber credits and a $100 resort credit. Meanwhile, the Citi Prestige card offers a fourth night free hotel benefit that can add up to thousands of dollars’ worth of savings for heavy travelers.

Limited rewards

The Delta Reserve card’s rewards program is also fairly limited. Cardholders earn just two miles for every dollar spent on Delta purchases and one mile for every dollar spent on general purchases. The American Express Platinum card, by contrast, awards 5 points for every dollar spent on airline and hotel purchases.

With such a low rewards rate, it could be tough for you to rack up enough miles to earn a significant number of free flights. As you climb the Delta Medallion ladder, you’ll earn more miles for Delta purchases. But you may have a hard time justifying using this card for everyday purchases – particularly since there are so many other cards available that award significantly more points for popular purchases, such as gas, restaurants and groceries. You don’t even have to pay an annual fee, for example, to earn 1.5 miles on every purchase, or 2 percent cash back, depending on the card.

Best for heavy spenders

Not wanting to use this card for everyday spending could also limit the value of your Delta Reserve card since it heavily favors big spenders. American Express has set up a tiered rewards system that provides the most value for cardholders who charge at least $30,000 to $60,000 to their cards, thus raking in bonus points and extra Medallion Qualification miles. If you only use your card to pay for flights, you may not be able to meet that relatively high threshold – unless you fly several times a month and regularly charge more than two thousand dollars a month on travel.

To get the most out of this card, you need to be a loyal Delta flier who strongly values the extra perks that being a Delta Medallion member can provide.

Why get the Delta Reserve card?

  • You frequently fly Delta and want to boost your Medallion status.
  • You care more about flight-specific benefits – such as priority boarding and free seat upgrades – than other travel perks.
  • You plan to fly at least once round-trip per year with a companion and so would benefit from the card’s annual companion certificate.

How to use the Delta Reserve card:

  • Maximize your savings by using your card for all your Delta purchases as well as for general purchases that don’t earn a higher bonus on other cards.
  • If you regularly charge more than $2,000 a month to your credit card, consider using Delta Reserve card so you can receive the 15,000-mile rewards bonus and MQM bonus.
  • Charge at least $1,000 a month in the card’s first nine months in order to capture the card’s sign-up bonus.

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