Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card review

Garrett Yarbrough  in  Excellent Credit How we rate our cards  |  Advertiser Disclosure
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Best for Delta Medallion members

Annual Fee:
$550
Purchase Intro APR:
N/A
Regular APR:
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Terms and Restrictions Apply | Rates and Fees

Bankrate Rating

Best for Delta Medallion members

  • Rewards Rate: 3X miles per dollar on eligible Delta flights and Delta Vacations® with 1X miles on all other purchases
  • Welcome Offer: 40,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after spending $3,000 within your first three months
  • Annual Fee: $550
  • Purchase Intro APR: N/A
  • Balance Transfer Intro APR: N/A
  • Regular APR: 15.74 percent to 24.74 percent variable

The Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card offers the best opportunity of any Delta Air Lines credit card for frequent flyers to elevate to Delta’s top-tier travel experience.

SkyMiles Loyalty Members and Delta business flyers that spend significant time and money with the airline may find the extensive travel perks and Medallion Qualification Mile (MQM) opportunities worth the intimidating $550 annual fee. However, other travel credit cards may deliver better-suited travel benefits and value for casual flyers.

Current welcome offer

The Delta SkyMiles Reserve card can earn cardholders 40,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after spending $3,000 in combined purchases in your first three months. According to The Points Guy’s valuation at 1.2 cents per Delta mile, The Delta Reserve’s bonus is worth about $480 in travel rewards.

Spending $1,000 each month for your first three months isn’t implausible if you’re a frequent flyer with this level of premium airline credit card, but you can still get similar mile bonuses from Delta if you typically spend less on travel. For example, the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card earns 40,000 bonus miles for spending $2,000 (with a $250 annual fee) in three months. The catch is that the SkyMiles® Platinum card bonus only offers 5,000 MQMs instead.

Since Medallion Status members receive boosted rewards and free upgrades, the extra MQMs could be valuable if you want a bigger head start on achieving Medallion status.

Rewards

The Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card earns unlimited 3 miles per dollar on Delta purchases and 1 mile per dollar on all other purchases, so it isn’t very rewarding outside the airport.

The Delta Reserve is clearly targeted to frequent flyers, so if your chances to travel are limited, it might not make sense for you. Other Delta SkyMiles cards, in contrast, earn miles on restaurant, supermarket and hotel purchases at a higher rate and come with a lower annual fee.

Earning rewards

You can earn 3X miles on eligible Delta purchases like travelincluding airfare, vacation packages and car rentals—a Delta Sky Club membership and in-flight products and services.

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 net another seven to 11 miles per dollar on a range of purchases.

Redeeming rewards

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 over 20 Delta partner airlines you can use miles with.

Outside this helpful flexibility, the other redemption options like merchandise, gift cards and cardholder experiences are par for the course in the travel card world.

How much are miles worth?

Miles are worth 1 cent when you use “Pay with Miles” toward airfare. 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, etc.

The Points Guy values Delta SkyMiles at 1.2 cents apiece. This means that without the bonus MQMs, the Delta Reserve card’s intro offer weighs in at $480 in value—a good bit lighter than the similar luxury cards. For instance,  The Platinum Card® from American Express offers a 75,000-point welcome bonus (after spending $5,000 within the first six months) worth $750 with Amex ($1,500 according to TPG) and the Chase Sapphire Reserve® offers a 50,000-point sign-up bonus (after spending $4,000 within three months) worth around $750 in travel with Chase ($1,000 according to TPG).

The true value of the Delta SkyMiles Reserve card’s rewards, when compared to other travel credit cards, lies in the eye of the beholder. Whether Delta’s fanciest benefits and Medallion Status upgrades are worth the weighty spending to achieve them is up to you, but you can easily find similar benefits and higher non-travel reward rates with other non-branded American Express credit cards.

Benefits

The Delta SkyMiles Reserve’s main draw is its catalog of valuable benefits, especially the boosts toward Delta elite status and luxury perks.

Status Boost and MQD waiver

Big Delta spenders can expedite their journey to Medallion Status with Status Boost, which can earn you 15,000 MQMs after spending $30,000 in a calendar year, up to four times per year. This makes reaching the lofty 25,000 MQM start at Silver Medallion Status more accessible.

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 in that year. These benefits mean that spending outside Delta flights can more easily qualify you for unlimited complimentary upgrades, priority boarding, waived fees and more.

Complimentary Delta Sky Club and Centurion Lounge access

If you prefer avoiding the crowded terminals, the Delta SkyMiles Reserve Card is one of our top picks for airport lounge access.

Cardholders receive complimentary access to both Delta Sky Club and The Centurion Lounge when booking a flight with the SkyMiles Reserve. You’ll also receive two free Delta Sky Club one-time guest passes annually, normally $39 per visit.

Annual companion certificate

Delta flyers with the SkyMiles Reserve card receive one companion certificate worth one round-trip domestic flight each year upon their renewal month. (Note it doesn’t cover the cost of taxes and fees.)

This is especially valuable if you’re saving for premium seats since the pass also covers First Class and Delta Comfort+ along with Main Cabin.

Amex Pay It Plan It®

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.

Rates and fees

The Delta Reserve card’s biggest drawback is its $550 annual fee. It makes the card a hard sell for casual flyers and others that want to earn bonus miles on categories other than Delta purchases.

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 below the average interest rate if you qualify for the low end of its 15.74 percent to 24.74 percent variable range.

How the Delta Reserve Card compares to other travel cards

Despite its sizable 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 stuck with one airline. Here is how a few similarly priced premium travel cards compete:

Card Annual fee Rewards rate Welcome bonus Other details
Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card $250
  • 3X miles on eligible hotel and Delta purchases
  • 2X miles at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets
  • 1X miles on all other purchases
  • 40,000 bonus miles (worth $400) and 5,000 MQMs after spending $2,000 within first three months.
  • Up to $100 fee credit for Global Entry every four years, or $85 fee credit for TSA Precheck every 4.5 years
  • Status Boost and MQD waiver
  • $39 Delta Sky Club access
  • Annual companion certificate
The Platinum Card® from American Express $550
  • Earn 10x points on eligible purchases on your new Card at U.S. Gas Stations and U.S. Supermarkets, on up to $15,000 in combined purchases, during your first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • 5X Membership Rewards points on eligible flights and hotels booked through American Express.
  • 1X Membership Rewards points on all other purchases
  • 75,000 Membership Rewards points (worth up to $750 with Amex) after spending $5,000 within first six months
  • Luxury benefits and annual credits for hotels in the American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts and The Hotel Collection programs.
  • Monthly Uber and annual Saks Fifth Avenue credits
  • Access to The Centurion Lounge, The International American Express lounges, the Delta Sky Club and the Priority Pass Select lounges
  • Up to $200 annual airline fee statement credit (upon incidental fee charge to card)
Chase Sapphire Reserve® $550
  • 3X Chase Ultimate Rewards points on eligible dining and travel worldwide
  • 1X Chase Ultimate Rewards points on all other purchases
  • 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points (worth $750 in travel with Chase) after spending $4,000 within first three months
  • Special benefits at top locations in Chase’s Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection
  • 50 percent boosted rewards value when redeemed through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.
  • Access to the Priority Pass Select lounges
  • Up to $300 in annual statement credit travel reimbursements

Best cards to pair Delta SkyMiles Reserve with

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, transferring Amex Membership points to a Delta rewards account remains a popular way to earn SkyMiles. Pairing a lower-cost Amex card with the Delta Reserve could earn you tons of miles.

Bankrate’s Take—Is Delta Reserve worth it?

The Delta SkyMiles Reserve Card’s heavy focus on premier travel benefits like lounge access and reliance on elite status rewards don’t make the Delta Reserve a worthwhile investment for cardholders without big travel budgets. If you don’t spend so much with Delta, you might be better off with a general-purpose travel credit card or one of Delta SkyMiles’ lower-cost cards like the Delta Platinum or Delta Gold.

At the end of the day, the Delta Reserve is filled to the brim with luxury perks and reward opportunities for Delta loyalists, especially those who value elite benefits or travel with Delta for business.

Pros

  • Status Boost and the MQD waiver jump-start earning elite Medallion Status
  • Delta Sky Club and The Centurion Lounge access
  • Annual companion certificate covers premium seats
  • Flight savings: 20 percent in-flight discounts and Global Entry or TSA Precheck fee credit
  • Solid collection of premium boarding perks and travel protections

Cons

  • $550 annual fee
  • Must spend $30,000+ per year for the Status Boost and MQD waiver
  • Missing access to the Priority Pass Lounge despite price and Amex branding
  • Reward-earning categories are limited compared to less-premium SkyMiles cards