Best for Delta Sky Club fans
Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card
Recommended Credit Score
The annual fee may be worth it if you’re a frequent Delta flyer looking for elite loyalty perks that can make your travel experience more pleasant
At Bankrate we strive to help you make smarter financial decisions. While we adhere to strict , this post may contain references to products from our partners. Here's an explanation for . The content on this page is accurate as of the posting date; however, some of the offers mentioned may have expired. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.
If you want to fly in style and comfort, this card expedites your path to elite loyalty status perks and boosted rewards — all while upscaling your experience with higher-class annual companion certificate seats, airport lounge perks and more. However, only the most loyal Delta flyers may be able to justify these advantages in exchange for the card’s high annual fee and low rewards rates.
Recommended Credit Score
The Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card is the top-of-the-line Delta Air Lines card, explicitly made for frequent Delta flyers who want a first-class travel experience — complete with elevated travel perks and the fastest route to loyalty status privileges.
The card’s hefty $550 annual fee narrows down potential cardholders to those who spend significant time and money with the airline and plan to hold a high-tier Delta Medallion loyalty program status. You’ll receive the best perks that Delta has to offer, including an annual round-trip companion certificate, complimentary Delta Sky Club access (plus two annual guest passes), complimentary upgrades and much more.
Benefits like these and other discounts can make the price tag worth it, but only 3X miles on Delta purchases and top-strength Medallion program-oriented perks show that the SkyMiles Reserve leans heavily on the cardholder’s loyalty status perks and luxury travel preferences to justify the annual fee. In fact, the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card carries remarkably similar features (just at a slightly lower caliber) and additional reward categories for a $250 annual fee.
Ultimately, the SkyMiles Reserve delivers Delta’s flagship experience to loyal passengers, but other Delta cards and general-purpose travel credit cards could easily carry more value for a lower annual fee if you don’t care about flying first class or climbing the Medallion status ladder.
Cardmembers can reach elite Medallion Status as soon as possible thanks to the max-strength Status Boost and Medallion Qualification Dollars (MDQ) waiver.
It carries Delta’s strongest benefit roster for luxury travel, including complimentary Delta Sky Club and Centurion Lounge access, two annual Sky Club guest passes and priority for complimentary upgrades.
Valuable perks like the annual companion certificate and first free checked bag can help make up for the annual fee.
Its extensive travel protections include heavy-hitters like trip cancellation and interruption insurance, trip delay insurance and baggage insurance, plus rarities like cellphone protection.
The $550 annual fee can be too steep without obtaining Medallion Status or maximizing the annual airport lounge and companion certificate perks.
It doesn’t offer a few luxury travel card staples like annual credits for airfare, rideshares or CLEAR membership.
There’s a high annual spending threshold to meet for the Status Boost and MQD waiver.
This card offers limited lounge access compared to other premium travel cards.
Limited reward-earning categories compared to less-premium SkyMiles cards
New Delta SkyMiles Reserve cardholders can earn 90,000 bonus miles after spending $6,000 in their first six months of card membership. According to our latest point valuations, Delta miles are worth around 1.3 cents apiece on average, so this intro offer would be worth around $1,170 — a terrific value, especially for a co-branded airline rewards card.
Although the current offer doesn’t include Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs), it’s a step up from the card’s previous offer of 50,000 miles and 10,000 MQMs after spending $5,000 in the first six months.
This 90,000-mile offer should help seal the deal if you’ve been weighing whether to apply for some time, but it’s not the end of the world if you decide to wait. Delta occasionally adds a similar limited-time welcome offer to the SkyMiles Reserve, and this card offered 100,000 miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months in 2022.
Premium, general-purpose travel cards may even provide a stronger welcome offer value if you don’t mind seeking out high-value transfer partners. For example, Bankrate’s same point valuations show that the Chase Sapphire Reserve® card’s 60,000-point intro bonus (after spending $4,000 in the first three months) can be worth around $1,200 if you find the right transfer partner.
Still, there’s no guarantee whether the next bonus will be as high, or when a similar offer may appear again, so this current intro bonus is well worth considering.
The Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card only earns its 3X miles rate on Delta flight and vacation purchases, so it isn’t very rewarding outside the airport. Although this base rate isn’t eye-catching, Delta SkyMiles are relatively valuable among airline rewards so the SkyMiles Reserve can help you greatly boost your rewards rate through Medallion loyalty status.
But if your chances to travel are limited, there are other Delta SkyMiles cards that earn miles on non-Delta purchases like restaurants, supermarkets and hotels at a higher rate and come with a lower annual fee. Several general-purpose travel cards in the same class typically offer higher rewards rates on travel and other purchases as well. Occasional travelers who are loyal to Delta will likely get better value out of one of these cards.
You can earn 3X miles on eligible Delta purchases like travel — including airfare, vacation packages and car rentals — a Delta Sky Club membership and in-flight products and services. All other purchases earn 1X miles.
Meanwhile, the Delta Reserve’s Status Boost and the Medallion Qualification Dollar (MQD) waiver benefits could open up opportunities for you to earn loads of extra Delta miles. Depending on your Medallion Status, you can get another 7X to 11X miles on various purchases.
Besides covering airfare with no blackout dates, you can redeem your miles to book hotels, rental cars and vacations with Delta. There is also a fairly robust list of more than 20 Delta partner airlines you can use miles with.
Outside flexible travel redemptions and transfers, the list of other redemption options is pretty diverse for an airline rewards program:
Thanks to the SkyMiles Reserve’s perks, you probably won’t need to use your miles toward seat upgrades, Delta Sky Club membership or checked bags. With that in mind, using your miles to book travel is probably your best redemption option, especially if you can use the “TakeOff 15” feature to get a 15 percent discount on the miles needed for your travel booking.
On paper, your miles are worth 1 cent when you use “Pay with Miles” toward airfare since Delta allows you to redeem rewards in 5,000-mile intervals: 5,000 miles for a $50 flight discount, 10,000 miles for a $100 discount and so on. However, Delta doesn’t have a fixed redemption value for airfare. Instead, it uses a dynamic pricing model that accounts for the destination, airfare class, time of year and other factors to determine how far your miles will get you.
Bankrate’s latest point valuation estimates Delta SkyMiles are worth about 1.3 cents each on average, which is a bit on the low side compared to other travel cards’ rewards. But when it comes to pricey, co-branded cards like the Delta SkyMiles Reserve, the true value lies with the card’s additional benefits like Medallion Status upgrades and lounge access. Whether these benefits recoup the annual fee is entirely up to you, but you can easily find similar benefits and higher non-travel reward rates with other non-branded American Express credit cards.
The Delta SkyMiles Reserve’s main draw is its catalog of valuable benefits, especially the boosts it provides toward Delta elite status and luxury perks. Like other co-branded airline cards at the luxury level, most of the perks are confined to the specific airline. The SkyMiles Reserve’s loyalty program, airport lounge, experience upgrade and companion perks are stellar for an airline card in its class. The only airline perk that’s a bit weaker than several competitors’ is the 20 percent back on in-flight purchases since rival cards offer 25 percent back.
Even the SkyMiles Reserve card’s purchase and travel protections are strong compared to the competition. You’ll receive tentpole coverage like trip cancellation and interruption insurance, trip delay insurance and baggage insurance, plus rarer perks like cellphone protection and return protection. However, rival airline cards do offer more generalized benefits that may be easier to use, like annual airfare and rideshare credits.
Big Delta spenders can expedite their journey to Medallion Status with Status Boost, which can earn you up to 60,000 MQMs. After you spend $30,000 in purchases on your card in a calendar year, you can earn 15,000 MQMs up to four times per year, getting you closer to your next Medallion® Status. Plus, the Medallion Qualification Dollar (MQD) requirement toward your elite status is waived if you make at least $25,000 in purchases with your card that year.
This improved MQM opportunity and MQD waiver are the major features that separate the Delta SkyMiles from the other Delta cards. These benefits mean that your spending outside Delta flights can more easily qualify you for much better rewards rates, unlimited complimentary upgrades, priority boarding, waived fees and more. However, this means you’ll likely need to obtain and maintain your Medallion Status to help justify this card since it sacrifices reward opportunities and affordability in favor of an easier road to Medallion Status.
If you prefer avoiding the crowded terminals, the Delta SkyMiles Reserve Card offers complimentary access to Delta Sky Club lounges for the primary cardholder and two free Delta Sky Club one-time guest passes annually.
An individual membership to the Delta Sky Club would normally cost at least $695 annually (or 69,500 miles), and guest passes typically run for $50 per visit. This complimentary benefit alone helps to justify the annual fee for Delta loyalists who prefer the peace and quiet of a lounge over the hustle and bustle commonly found in the airport terminal.
The card also comes with complimentary access to The Centurion Lounges when booking a Delta flight with the SkyMiles Reserve. If you seek luxury and regularly fly in or out of an airport with one of The Centurion Lounges, you’ll gain access to exclusive and one-of-a-kind experiences. The Delta SkyMiles Reserve card is one of only a handful of cards that grant access to these lounges, which come with signature cocktails, concierge services and other unique features depending on the location. This may even include spa services.
The one downside to all this is the limited number of lounges that come with the SkyMiles Reserve. When combined, the card only gives access to just under 100 lounges. This is only a drop in the bucket compared to our top picks for credit cards that provide airport lounge access.
General-purpose travel cards like the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve come with complimentary Priority Pass Select membership. These cards give you access to over 1,300 lounges worldwide, which may be a better deal for travelers who don’t have regular access to locations with The Centurion Lounge and who want more options when they travel.
Delta flyers with the SkyMiles Reserve card receive one companion certificate worth one round-trip domestic flight each year upon their renewal month. The certificate doesn’t cover the ticket’s taxes and fees and can only be used for adult companions. It’s worth noting that the certificate only covers flights within the 48 contiguous states — you can’t use it to cover vacation tickets to Hawaii, Alaska, Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands unless your flight originates there and your account lists a matching home address from that location.
This is a long-term perk that requires a little patience, as it doesn’t kick in until your first anniversary. Once you’ve paid the annual fee, it will automatically be issued to your SkyMiles account. And compared to Delta’s basic and mid-level SkyMiles cards, Reserve cardholders get enhanced features that will let them use the companion certificate for premium seats since the pass also covers First Class and Delta Comfort+ along with Main Cabin.
This outstanding value makes the companion certificate one of the best perks to help recoup the annual fee. For example, using your certificate to cover a first-class companion ticket from Los Angeles to New York City round trip that costs $1,736* would make up for your annual fee more than three times over.
*Round trip from LAX to LGA at the lowest refundable fare exactly three months from the time of writing, with both flights a week apart.
One of the nice features of any top airline credit card is the ability to get your first checked bag for free. The SkyMiles Reserve offers this for the primary cardholder and up to eight additional passengers per reservation.
Not all airline cards offer this perk for so many passengers on one reservation. In fact, cards with smaller annual fees may only give the first checked bag free to the primary cardholder and up to four passengers. Only the first checked bag free may not seem like much of a discount, but $30 savings per flight can add up if you fly often. This perk could make up for the annual fee after 19 flights, after five flights with a group of four or just about two flights with a full group of nine.
Since the Delta SkyMiles card family is co-branded with the American Express network, you’ll also receive a few Amex benefits like the Pay It Plan It program. You can settle smaller qualifying purchases under $100 immediately with Pay It or contribute fixed monthly payments for larger purchases of $100 or more over a set period with Plan It. It’s worth noting that if you’re considering a plan, you’ll be charged a monthly plan fee (determined by factors including the APR that would otherwise apply) instead of interest charges.
One of the Delta Reserve card’s biggest drawbacks is its $550 annual fee. It makes the card a hard sell for casual flyers and others who want to earn bonus miles on categories other than Delta purchases. You’ll need to spend about $14,103 per year on Delta purchases to recoup the annual fee in rewards spending alone, so achieving elite status and taking advantage of your travel benefits is key.
Another drawback is that Delta charges an annual fee of $175 for each additional card it issues. For that price, authorized users have lounge access, and their purchases count toward gaining elite status for the primary cardholder.
There are a few other premium rewards cards that also charge high annual fees for additional users, but there are also plenty of more cost-effective options, especially if you look at general travel rewards credit cards. For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with a $550 annual fee but only charges $75 for each additional cardholder and the Capital One Venture X lets you add up to four authorized users for free.
On the other side of the coin, the Delta Reserve’s rates and fees are pretty standard for a travel card of its caliber. There are no foreign transaction fees, and the ongoing APR is slightly below the average interest rate if you qualify for the low end of its 20.49 percent to 29.49 percent variable range.
Despite its decent intro bonus and potential rewards, the Delta Reserve’s equally sizable annual fee means it isn’t a very approachable card for more frugal spenders.
Plus, the dynamic award pricing and large travel budget required to make the most of the Delta SkyMiles Reserve Card’s elite status benefits aren’t the easiest systems for casual flyers — especially since the rewards are limited to one airline. Here is how a few similarly priced premium travel cards compete.
Recommended Credit Score
Recommended Credit Score
Recommended Credit Score
The showdown between Delta’s premium Reserve card and midlevel Delta SkyMiles Platinum card comes down to the level of benefits that matter most to you. Both cards boast generous welcome offers, 3X miles on Delta purchases and chances to earn a companion certificate and reach elite status faster. But the SkyMiles Reserve adds some enhanced features to help justify its supersized annual fee.
Unlike the SkyMiles Reserve, the SkyMiles Platinum doesn’t grant access to The Centurion Lounges, and cardmembers will have to pay a discounted rate of $50 to get into the Delta SkyClub. With the SkyMiles Reserve, cardmembers will have an easier time reaching elite status. Big spenders can also earn up to 60,000 MQMs per calendar year. On the other hand, the SkyMiles Platinum gives you a chance to earn up to 20,000 MQMs per year.
Plus, MQMs require slightly more spending through Medallion Status Boost with the Platinum card. You’ll essentially need to spend $2.50 to earn one MQM (10,000 MQMs per $25,000 in purchases) compared to the SkyMiles Reserve card, which essentially earns an MQM per $2 spent (15,000 MQMs per $30,000 in purchases).
The SkyMiles Platinum has a smaller annual fee ($250) and the chance to earn rewards in everyday bonus categories like U.S. supermarkets and restaurants. This will get the job done for Delta loyalists with a smaller budget whose spending fits those additional categories. But you’ll have to be content with the limited perks, which also include a slightly smaller welcome offer and a companion certificate that can only be used for coach.
Users who are loyal to Delta will get the greatest value out of the SkyMiles Reserve. But if you prefer having more options with how you fly and where you can redeem your points, a general travel card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve may be a better fit.
The Sapphire Reserve also has a $550 annual fee but it packs plenty of features that make the price tag worth it for far more travelers. You can earn up to $300 in statement credits toward a variety of travel purchases each year, plus an up to $100 application fee credit every four years toward Global Entry, TSA PreCheck or NEXUS. Its other major benefits include similarly comprehensive travel and shopping protections plus complimentary Priority Pass Select lounge access, which can be much handier considering there are more than 1,300 lounges across the globe.
If you’re not committed to one airline, the Sapphire Reserve provides more opportunities to earn flexible points — which can be more valuable than Delta SkyMiles. You can rack up 3X points on general travel and dining, plus 5X to 10X points on select travel and dining purchases through Chase Ultimate Rewards (3X travel rewards begin after receiving your $300 of annual travel credits).
These rewards can be redeemed for a variety of non-travel options, including for cash back at an even 1-cent value per point. However, your points are worth 1.5 cents apiece toward Chase Ultimate Rewards travel. You can even net up to 2 cents per point on average with the right transfer partner based on Bankrate’s latest point valuations.
The elite status boost spending requirements mean the Delta Reserve card should be your primary credit card. But pairing it with cards in the same SkyMiles family and other American Express travel cards can extend its reach to earn more rewards outside Delta purchases.
The Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card, for instance, provides a great dining companion for unlimited 2X miles on restaurant purchases at no annual fee. Thanks to the SkyMiles cards’ American Express network, you can also transfer Amex Membership points to your Delta rewards account in a pinch if you have a point-earning Amex card.
The Delta SkyMiles Reserve Card’s heavy focus on premier travel benefits like lounge access and reliance on elite status rewards make it a worthwhile investment for fans of Delta Airlines who have big travel budgets and a taste for luxurious accommodations. However, these specialized features and its limited rewards could make the annual fee too steep for many travelers — especially those who mostly fly solo.
But if you don’t spend much with Delta or you want more flexibility from a luxury-level card’s rewards and perks, you might be better off with a general-purpose travel credit card or one of Delta SkyMiles’ lower-cost cards.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Reserve card, please click here.
Eligibility and Benefit level varies by Card. Terms, Conditions and Limitations Apply. Please visit americanexpress.com/benefitsguide for more details. Underwritten by Amex Assurance Company.
* See the online application for details about terms and conditions for these offers. Every reasonable effort has been made to maintain accurate information. However all credit card information is presented without warranty. After you click on the offer you desire you will be directed to the credit card issuer's web site where you can review the terms and conditions for your selected offer.
Editorial Disclosure: Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including card rates and fees, is accurate as of the publish date. All products or services are presented without warranty. Check the bank’s website for the most current information.