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.
Status boost and MQD waiver
Big Delta spenders can expedite their journey to Medallion Status with Status Boost, which can earn you up to 60,000 Medallion Qualification Miles**. 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.
Complimentary Delta Sky Club and Centurion Lounge Access
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.
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. 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.
First checked bag free
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.
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.