Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card review: A golden first Delta card
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Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card Overview
Less frequent Delta travelers looking to stockpile miles from their day-to-day expenses will likely wring the most value out of the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card.
Even at $99 each year ($0 the first year), the Delta Gold card’s unlimited rewards, sizable welcome offer and travel benefits outweigh its no annual fee sibling, the Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card. Considering the free first checked bag or the annual flight credit perks easily cover the annual fee anyway, it’s worth considering the SkyMiles Gold as a starter Delta card.
Travelers chasing immediate savings over prestige status benefits could easily find that this is the best Delta credit card for their occasional flights. However, the branded SkyMiles Gold isn’t as flexible as a general-purpose travel credit card, which may be worth considering if you’re an infrequent traveler or you aren’t as eager for Delta-specific perks.
What are the advantages and disadvantages?
- Reward value is restricted by lackluster redemption options and no definite award redemption value
- Worthwhile benefits for the price, but scaled back compared to bigger sibling cards
- Doesn’t offer Status Boost or a Medallion Qualification Dollar Waiver, so it’s harder to earn Medallion Status
A deeper look into the current card offer
- Rewards rate: 2X miles on restaurant (plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.), U.S. supermarkets and Delta purchases; 1X miles on all other purchases
- Welcome Offer: Earn 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 in purchases in your first three months
- Annual fee: $99 ($0 intro annual fee for the first year)
- Purchase intro APR: N/A
- Balance transfer intro APR: N/A
- Regular APR: 16.49 percent to 25.49 percent (variable)
- Terms Apply
Current welcome offer
You can earn a decent welcome bonus of 40,000 bonus miles after spending only $1,000 in purchases within your first three months. This can be worth up to $564 based on The Points Guy’s latest 1.41-cent mile valuation, or $400 when redeemed through Delta, which is a relatively good payday considering welcome offers with the same spending requirement may only offer a $200 value.
However, this is a good bit weaker than the previous 70,000 bonus miles after spending $2,000 in purchases within the first three months. In the grand scheme of Delta’s card portfolio, the Delta Gold card’s welcome offer also doesn’t carry Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) toward elite Medallion Status like the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card does. Although you’re not getting a leg up on your next elite status tier and it isn’t the strongest offer Delta has brought to the table, this value isn’t anything to sneeze at.
The Delta SkyMiles frequent flyer miles you earn with your Delta Gold American Express card are intended to cover airfare like other airline card rewards. Delta Gold also allows you to earn “Medallion Qualification” currency, but achieving top Delta perks and rewards rates this way is harder without the premier Delta cards’ Status Boost feature.
How you earn
The Delta SkyMiles Gold’s rewards structure is the best choice of any Delta credit card for budgets outside air travel. Outside the Delta Gold card’s 2 miles per dollar on Delta purchases and partner airline travel, its 2X miles at restaurants (including U.S. delivery and takeout) and U.S. gas stations and 1X miles on all other purchases are perfect categories for road trips and everyday expenses.
The SkyMiles loyalty program provides two additional ways to earn bonus miles on top of your spending. Qualifying for Medallion Status can earn another whopping 7 to 11 miles per dollar on Delta flights, but this isn’t the most feasible way to earn bonus miles since the Delta Gold doesn’t offer Status Boost or other features to obtain elite status faster like the top-tier Delta cards do.
Luckily, the Delta SkyMiles Dining program perfectly suits the Delta Gold card’s reward categories. By aligning your restaurant spending, you can work your way to VIP status and earn up to 5 extra miles per dollar.
How to redeem
This might not be a concern if you’re in the market for a Delta rewards card, but your redemption options are pretty limited compared to non-branded travel cards. “Pay with Miles” and “Pay with Miles + Cash” only let you book travel or upgrade seats with Delta, including when you fly with their SkyTeam partner airlines. This means that your reward value is tethered to Delta and you can’t transfer miles to other loyalty programs for a better deal.
The options outside travel aren’t particularly appealing either. You can gift miles to other accounts or charity or spend them on travel experiences, merchandise or magazine subscriptions. Fortunately, you can now knock $50 off the cost of your flight for each 5,000 miles you redeem when booking entirely with miles.
How much are miles worth?
In actuality, the value of your miles varies from flight to flight since Delta doesn’t use a defined awards chart. On paper though, your miles can only be redeemed for airfare at a 5,000 mile to $50 ratio—making them worth 1 cent apiece when you redeem them through Delta.
Compared to other rewards cards on the market, The Points Guy gives Delta SkyMiles an overall value of 1.41 cents each. That makes your rewards a bit less valuable than some other airline cards and travel cards’ currencies depending on the booking, but you’ll typically hover around the mid-range market value. In fact, skipping the co-branded card for one directly from American Express will net you much more valuable Membership Rewards points—worth 2 cents each, according to The Points Guy’s estimations—which can be transferred to your Delta SkyMiles account.
Other cardholder perks
Value-savvy flyers will find a healthy supply of premium benefits that will cover their annual fee with savings throughout their Delta journey.
These perks are definitely worth the card’s price tag, but keep in mind that Delta’s finest benefits are exclusive to their top-tier cards and Medallion Status members.
Travel benefits and other savings
The Delta Gold card carries a host of benefits that save you time and money throughout your travels:
- $100 annual Delta flight credit after spending $10,000 in one year
- First checked bag is free on Delta flights
- Main Cabin 1 priority boarding
- 20 percent statement credit back on select in-flight purchases
- Travel protections, including baggage insurance and car rental loss and damage insurance
- Shopping protections, including extended warranty coverage and purchase protection
These features can justify the Delta Skymiles Gold card’s annual fee and will certainly come in handy, but a few competing cards do offer a bit more in the way of travel insurance and credits. For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred offers trip cancellation and interruption insurance, one of the most coveted travel protections, plus anniversary bonus points and other annual credits. Its anniversary bonus bestows 10 percent points on your total spending for the previous year, which can really add up.
Complimentary ShopRunner membership
All U.S. consumer American Express cards are eligible to receive a complimentary ShopRunner membership. ShopRunner provides free two-day shipping on online purchases from over 100 participating retailers, which can be useful when you’re buying travel accessories and gifts.
Pay It Plan It
As an Amex card, Delta Gold also has access to the Pay It Plan It purchase management program. Pay It lets you immediately take care of small purchases under $100 with the American Express app. This makes it less of a hassle to earn rewards with your credit card, since you can treat it almost like you would a debit card.
The Plan It feature is a bit more helpful if you’re in a pinch. If you’re trying to whittle down interest payments, you can move a qualifying larger purchase over $100 into a payment plan within your credit card instead of adding it directly to your balance. Remember to use Amex’s pre-purchase calculator to make sure your plan fees won’t exceed what the initial interest would have cost.
Rates and Fees
The Delta Gold is a low-maintenance card, since there aren’t many fees to worry about. There are no foreign transaction fees when you fly abroad, and the annual fee is $0 introductory the first year. Even then, the rewards and benefits easily make up for the $99 fee afterward.
Other than that, the only ongoing cost might be the 16.49 percent to 25.49 percent variable APR, which can be slightly below the average current credit card interest rate if you happen to carry a balance. Also, remember to check the rates and fees carefully before booking travel with your reward miles so you’re wary of any award and service fees.
First-year vs. ongoing value
Whether you get enough value from your Delta SkyMiles Gold essentially depends on how often you fly with Delta and if this is your primary rewards card. The two recurring benefits that carry a monetary value are the $100 annual Delta flight credit and the first free checked bag you’ll get on Delta flights, which saves you about $60 per round-trip flight. Simply taking two round-trip flights per year essentially covers your annual fee, or you can completely offset it by spending $10,000 per year for the flight credit.
Based on Bureau of Labor Statistics spending data*, the credit’s spending requirement is easily within reach of the average person’s dining, grocery and travel budget, but you can easily recoup the annual fee by spending $375 in your bonus categories each month if you’re not sure you’ll take full advantage of your benefits. If that’s the case, you might want to consider the no-annual-fee Delta SkyMiles Blue card instead.
You won’t receive a gold medal first-year value since the welcome offer is a bit weak compared to other premium travel cards at the Delta Gold’s price tag, but the total value can cover the annual fee over five times over. Getting your annual fee waived for the first year sweetens the pot and is helpful for gauging your rewards potential before a sizable chunk is bitten from your bonus miles. With that in mind, the Delta Gold could be a good trial to see whether you may need to upgrade or downgrade your Delta card if it turns out the annual fee or absent Status Boost are dealbreakers.
|Benefits and Costs||First-year value||Ongoing value (no welcome offers)|
|Welcome offers||+$564 value (40,000 bonus miles after spending $1,000 during the first three months, at a 1.41-cent point value)||—|
|Perks (of monetary value)||
*Based on our formula used to calculate each card’s average rewards rates and average ongoing rewards value, using Bureau of Labor Statistics spending data and an assumed $15,900 yearly spend over three years ($1,325 per month).
How the Delta Gold card compares to other airline cards
Delta SkyMiles Gold vs. Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card
The Delta SkyMiles Gold is a solid pick if you’re a less frequent traveler but you travel with Delta enough to take advantage of a handful of airline-specific perks. Still, its light feature list makes it lean closer to the no annual fee Delta SkyMiles Blue rather than the next tier up from the base Delta card. The Delta SkyMiles Platinum American Express Card is a better option if you often travel with Delta since it bumps the airline purchase rewards to 3X miles and offers a much richer suite of Delta-specific perks.
Although it poses a steeper $250 annual fee, the up to $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fees (both now available following Global Entry approval via an Authorized Enrollment Provider), Delta Sky Club access ($39 per-visit rate) and annual Main Cabin round-trip companion ticket (only valid for domestic flights) stacked on top of the SkyMiles Gold card’s benefits are incredibly valuable if you’re hankering for a smoother journey.
Perhaps even more importantly, the SkyMiles Platinum provides a faster means of achieving elite Medallion status with Delta, which can multiply your Delta rewards rate by up to nearly four times and net you incredible benefits like fee waivers, premium customer service and exclusive airport and airline privileges. It’s possible to reach medallion status with the SkyMiles Gold, but the SkyMiles Platinum greatly speeds up the process with its Status Boost (earns you 10,000 MQMs after spending $25,000, up to twice per year) and Medallion Qualification Dollar (MQD) Waiver (earned after spending $25,000 in a calendar year). This means that what would normally take spending at least $3,000 on qualifying Delta flights and traveling approximately 30 times or 25,000 miles minimum per year could be greatly reduced through credit card spending.
Delta SkyMiles Gold vs. American Express® Green Card
One of the main drawbacks of the SkyMiles Gold is how low-value its rewards can be, considering the dynamic pricing redemption model and how your miles are stuck with Delta. If you’re willing to front a similar annual fee but want a more flexible travel card, then the American Express® Green Card could be a worthy alternative. Not only does it earn 3X points in a generalized travel category (encompasses flights, hotels, transit, taxis, ride-share services and tours), 3X points at restaurants and 1X points on all other purchases, but Amex’s points are some of the most valuable on the market and can be transferred to Delta for potentially more value than the SkyMiles Gold’s airfare rewards.
The Amex Green does come with a higher $150 annual fee, but its additional features more than make up for it. It carries similar travel and purchase protections—except the Amex Green offers trip delay insurance—and it also offers two up to $100 annual credits for both a Clear airport security membership and Lounge Access through LoungeBuddy (lounge access being absent from the SkyMiles Gold card). It’s also worth noting that if you’re a big spender, the Green Card is one of Amex’s cards with a flexible spending limit. That means it grants the spending power of a charge card but allows you to carry over approved purchases of over $100 via Pay Over Time (at the current Pay Over Time APR: 16.24 percent to 23.24 percent, variable).
However, you may want to look into a flat-rate travel option like the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card if you spend more on everyday expenses than travel.
Best cards to pair with the Delta Gold
Other Membership Rewards-earning American Express cards can rack up points that are more valuable than Delta SkyMiles and can then be transferred to Delta at a 1:1 ratio. That means you can pair a card like the American Express Green Card with the Delta Gold card to earn 3X points on non-Delta travel and transfer them to Delta if you wish. However, the Amex Green may be a better alternative card than a partner since most of the American Express travel cards’ reward rates either overlap or outclass the Delta Gold. A flat-rate card that earns rewards and can redeem them for travel outside Delta may be helpful without treading on the SkyMiles Gold’s toes, like the Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card or Discover it® Miles.
If you care more about achieving Medallion Status and earning 3X miles on hotels and Delta flights, the higher-tier Delta Platinum card can provide key Status Boost, annual companion certificate and extra travel protection features to meet those elite criteria while the Delta Gold earns more rewards on purchases outside the airline. Just make sure your spending will justify the additional $250 annual fee.
Bankrate’s Take: Is the Delta Gold card worth it?
Despite the $99 annual fee after the first year, the Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express card proves itself to be a worthwhile starter card with Delta. Its premium benefits and rewards on everyday purchases at restaurants (including U.S. delivery and takeout) and U.S. supermarkets provide great reward opportunities to value-minded travelers that aren’t chasing elite status perks and rewards. Its free first checked bag and annual travel credit essentially cover the annual fee, which is enough to put it over the base Delta Blue SkyMiles card.
But unless you’re a loyal Delta traveler, it might be wiser to choose a non-branded card if you’re focused on flexible rewards for day-to-day expenses. The Delta SkyMiles Gold offers solid rewards and benefits, but the rewards value and features are a bit weak compared to other premium travel cards that don’t rely on a specific airline. If you are a frequent Delta flyer, then it may be worth considering a higher-caliber branded card since they come with more airline-exclusive perks and Status Boost in order to nab elite status faster.
Ultimately—like other mid-tier Amex cards—these factors combine to make the Delta SkyMiles Gold more of a half-measure than a middle-ground option if you’re in the market for a premium travel card.
All information about the American Express® Green Card has been collected independently by Bankrate and has not been reviewed or approved by the issuer.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Gold 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.