Picking a new credit card isn’t always easy, and that’s especially true when you’re trying to decide between airline credit cards and flexible travel credit cards. With co-branded airline cards, you may have the chance to score frequent flyer perks like free checked bags and priority boarding. However, flexible cards tend to come with more general benefits, and you can use your points in a multitude of ways.
One common card comparison is the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card versus the American Express® Gold Card. Both of these travel credit cards can be lucrative in their own right, but they both shine (and fall short) in different areas.
If you like the idea of both of these cards but can’t seem to decide, read on to learn more—including how each one could help you score free travel and other perks.
|Welcome bonus||Limited time offer: 70,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases within three months of account opening (offer expires Nov. 10, 2021)||60,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within six months of account opening|
|Rewards rate||2X miles on Delta purchases, spending at U.S. supermarkets and purchases at restaurants (including takeout and delivery); 1X miles on all other purchases||4X Membership Rewards points at restaurants (including takeout and delivery), Uber Eats purchases and on up to $25,000 at U.S. supermarkets each year (then 1X points); 3X points on directly booked airfare or airfare booked via amextravel.com; 2X points on rental cars booked through amextravel.com; 1X points on all other purchases|
|Annual fee||$0 the first year, then $99||$250|
Delta SkyMiles Gold vs. Amex Gold highlights
As you try to decide which one of these cards might work better for your needs, consider how each one stands out in the following categories:
Welcome bonus winner: Amex Gold
Even though the welcome offer on the American Express Gold Card is 10,000 points lower than that offered by the Delta SkyMiles Gold, the rewards you earn with this card are, in general, more valuable. In fact, our internal analysis shows that points in the American Express Membership Rewards program can be worth up to two cents each, making this card’s welcome offer worth up to $1,200.
By contrast, miles earned in the Delta SkyMiles frequent flyer program are worth approximately 1.2 cents each. That makes its 70,000-mile welcome offer (earned after spending $2,000 in the first three months) worth around $840.
Rewards rate winner: Amex Gold
The earning rate on the American Express Gold Card is also far superior considering this card gives you 4X Membership Rewards points at restaurants (worldwide) and on up to $25,000 spent at U.S. supermarkets each year (then 1X points), 3X points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com and 1X points on everything else.
The Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card offers a maximum of 2X miles in its bonus categories, which include Delta flights, spending at U.S. supermarkets and purchases at restaurants (including takeout and delivery).
Annual Fee winner: Delta SkyMiles Gold
While the categories above are important, keep in mind that you’ll spend a lot more to carry the Amex Gold Card. In fact, this card’s $250 annual fee isn’t even waived the first year.
The Delta SkyMiles Gold wins in this category, considering it charges a $99 annual fee with a $0 annual fee the first year.
Foreign transaction fee winner: Tie
Both cards tie in this category; neither one charges foreign transaction fees on purchases made outside the United States.
Which card earns the most?
The amount of rewards you can earn really depends on your spending habits and the way you use your card. However, the following spending example shows how much an average family might earn with either card.
Delta SkyMiles Gold vs. Amex Gold spending example
Imagine you’re the average family of four with two kids ages 12 and 13. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), you might spend an average of $14,272.80 per year ($1,189.40 per month) on food while following a moderate budget. Let’s also imagine you spend $4,800 per year ($400 per month) on dining out (including takeout and delivery), $4,000 on flights with Delta each year and $12,000 per year ($1,000 per month) on miscellaneous purchases.
With the Delta SkyMiles Gold, you would earn 58,145 miles—worth approximately $697.74 within a year—at a 1.2 cents per mile valuation:
- 28,545 miles on U.S. supermarket spending
- 9,600 miles on dining out
- 8,000 miles on Delta flights
- 12,000 miles on other spending
With the American Express Gold Card, you would earn 100,291 Membership Rewards points—worth up to $2,005.82 within a year:
- 57,091 points on U.S. supermarket spending
- 19,200 points on dining out
- 12,000 points on Delta flights
- 12,000 points on other spending
Why should you get the Delta SkyMiles Gold?
With the prior spending example set aside, there are other compelling reasons to pick up the Delta SkyMiles Gold. Consider the following benefits and how they might work in your favor.
Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card benefits include priority boarding, 20 percent back on in-flight purchases made with Delta and a free first checked bag. Considering checked bags with Delta normally cost $30 each (and that this benefit applies to up to nine people total on the same itinerary), the average family of four could save $240 per round-trip flight with this perk alone.
The Delta SkyMiles program lets you redeem your rewards for flights with Delta and SkyTeam partners to more than 1,000 destinations around the world. You can also redeem miles for seat upgrades, Delta Vacations, SkyClub membership fees and more.
Recommended credit score
Individuals need good or excellent credit to qualify for the Delta SkyMiles Gold. This typically entails a FICO credit score of 670 or higher, although individuals with scores of 700 or better may be more likely to qualify.
Why should you get the Amex Gold?
While it charges a $250 annual fee, there are plenty of reasons the Amex Gold is well worth it. Consider the following perks before you decide on either card.
Amex Gold benefits include an annual dining credit worth up to $120, a hotel credit worth up to $100 when you book at least two consecutive nights with The Hotel Collection, 12 months of Uber Eats Pass membership and up to $120 in annual Uber Cash (doled out as $10 per month). Cardholders also qualify for extended warranties on eligible items that come with a manufacturer’s warranty as well as purchase protection against damage or theft.
American Express Membership Rewards points are considerably more flexible than Delta SkyMiles. You can use these points for flights and other travel through amextravel.com, but you can also transfer your points to American Express transfer partners—a list which includes Delta as well as other frequent flyer and hotel loyalty programs.
Other redemption options include gift cards, merchandise, statement credits and more.
Recommended credit score
Individuals need good or excellent credit to qualify for the Amex Gold. This typically entails a FICO credit score of 670 or higher, although individuals with scores of 700 or better may be more likely to qualify.
The bottom line
There are plenty of reasons to consider either of these popular travel credit cards, but the right option for you boils down to the annual fee you’re comfortable with and the perks you want the most. Where the Delta SkyMiles Gold stands out in terms of the frequent flyer benefits you get, the Amex Gold offers a better earning rate on everyday purchases and more flexible rewards.
Note that if you haven’t had these cards already, you could potentially sign up for both and get the best of both worlds. There are also other American Express credit cards to check out as well as a handful of Delta Air Lines credit cards worth exploring.