Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card review

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Best for Delta Medallion members

Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card

Rewards rate

1X–3X

Annual fee

$550

Intro bonus

50,000 miles

Regular APR

15.74%-24.74% Variable

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent  (670 - 850)

Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card Overview

The Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card offers the best opportunity of any Delta Air Lines 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 value and travel benefits better-suited to casual flyers.

What are the advantages and disadvantages?

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

A deeper look into the current card offer

Quick highlights

  • Rewards rate: 3X miles per dollar on eligible Delta flights and Delta Vacations® with 1X miles on all other purchases
  • Welcome offer: 50,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after spending $3,000 in purchases in the first three months. Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants within the first three months as well.
  • Annual fee: $550
  • Purchase intro APR: N/A
  • Balance transfer intro APR: N/A
  • Regular APR: 15.74 percent to 24.74 percent variable

Current welcome offer

New Delta SkyMiles Reserve cardmembers can earn 50,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after spending $3,000 in purchases in their first three months, plus another up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants within that same timeframe.

According to The Points Guy’s valuation, Delta miles are worth around 1.1 cents apiece, giving this bonus a value of about $650 if you factor in the statement credit. This means that without the bonus MQMs, the Delta Reserve card’s intro offer could rival that of similar luxury cards—but not if you plan on using transfer partners for max value. For instance,  The Platinum Card® from American Express offers a 100,000-point welcome bonus (after spending $6,000 within the first six months) worth $1,000 through Amex ($2,000 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).

That said, you’ll need to spend at least $1,000 each month for your first three months to secure the bonus. This isn’t implausible if you’re a frequent flyer with this level of premium airline credit card, but you can get a similar bonus on a lower-cost Delta card if you aren’t gunning for fast elite status. For example, the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card (with a $250 annual fee) is offering the same bonus miles and statement credit, but half of the MQMs, for a lower $2,000 spending requirement in the same timeframe.

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, but the intro bonus isn’t the most interesting part of this card otherwise. Several other elite travel cards at this price level can deliver a better intro bonus value thanks to their rewards’ value, and the SkyMiles Reserve has even provided a stronger offer quite recently. The previous limited-time offer allowed you to earn 80,000 miles and 20,000 MQMs for spending $5,000 in the first three months, so it’s worth keeping watch for a better welcome offer if you’re not in a big rush to apply.

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?

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, etc. However, Delta doesn’t have a fixed redemption value for airfare. Instead, they use 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.

The Points Guy values Delta SkyMiles at 1.1 cents apiece, 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 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 for a total of 60,000 MQMS (until Dec. 31, 2021). 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. You’d need to spend about $1,389 per month 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.

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 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 eligible  purchases
  • Earn 50,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases in your first 3 months. Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants with your card within the first three months of membership.
  • 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 $695
  • 5X Membership Rewards points on eligible flights and hotels booked through American Express (on up to $500,000 per year)
  • 1X Membership Rewards points on all other purchases
  • Earn 10X points on eligible purchases at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the U.S. during your first six months of card membership (up to $25,000 in combined purchases)
  • 100,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $6,000 within the first six months
  • Luxury benefits and annual credits for hotels in the American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts and The Hotel Collection programs
  • Annual Saks Fifth Avenue credits (enrollment required)
  • Access to The Centurion Lounge, The International American Express lounges, the Delta Sky Club and the Priority Pass Select lounges (enrollment required)
  • 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 (after earning $300 travel credit)
  • 10X Chase Ultimate Rewards points on Chase Dining purchases and Lyft purchases (Lyft offer through Mar. 31, 2022)
  • 5X Chase Ultimate Rewards points on airfare through Chase (after earning the $300 travel credit)
  • 1X Chase Ultimate Rewards points on all other purchases
  • 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 within the 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 make it a worthwhile investment only 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.

For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Reserve card, please click here.