Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Credit Card Review

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The Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card is a luxury co-branded airline credit card designed for travelers who fly with Delta often and want to upgrade their travel experience. As you spend on the card, you will earn Delta SkyMiles that are redeemable for free flights on Delta and its partners. In addition, the card gives benefits like free checked bags and complimentary access to Delta SkyClub and Amex Centurion airport lounges.

Select reviews the Delta Reserve card, analyzing its welcome bonus and other benefits to help you decide if it deserves a spot in your wallet.

Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card review

Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card

On the American Express secure site

  • Rewards

    Earn 3X Miles on every dollar spent on eligible purchases made directly with Delta.

  • Welcome bonus

    Limited Time Offer: Earn 80,000 Bonus Miles and 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $5,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021.

  • Annual fee

  • Intro APR

  • Regular APR

    15.74% to 24.74% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

  • Foreign transaction fees

  • Credit needed

Welcome bonus

Once you are approved for the card, you will be able to earn a valuable welcome offer.

You can earn 80,000 bonus miles and 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $5,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first three months of card membership.

This means that you’ll have at least have 85,000 miles after you meet the minimum spending requirements for the bonus. And, even at a modest 1 cent per point valuation, that is $850 worth of Delta SkyMiles within the first few months of having the card. However, you can likely get more value from SkyMiles than that, meaning this bonus could easily be worth over $1,000 in travel.

If you regularly fly with Delta the bonus MQMs will get you to your next level of elite status even faster.

Benefits and perks

The Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card comes with a wide variety of benefits and perks for Delta flyers. When you have the card, you will have access to the following benefits:

  • Spending categories: You can earn 3X miles for every dollar spent directly with Delta and 1X mile for every dollar spent on all other eligible purchases.
  • Status Boost: You can earn 15,000 MQMs after spending $30,000 on the card in a calendar year (up to four times). And in 2021, you’ll earn another 3,750 MQMs each time you spend another $30,000 per calendar year (up to four times). Typically, you only earn MQMs through flying, but these MQMs earned through spending will help you gain Delta elite status faster.
  • MQD waiver: Waive the Medallion Qualifying Dollar (MQD) requirement towards Delta elite status (up to Platinum status) that year if you make at least $25,000 in purchases with the Delta Reserve card.
  • First checked bag fee on Delta flights: When you pay with your Delta Reserve card, up to nine people on the same flight itinerary will get one free checked bag. This perk can save cardholders up to $240 on a round-trip flight for a family of four.
  • Annual companion certificate: Think of this as a buy-one-get-one free ticket. When you book a Main Cabin, Comfort+ or First Class seat on Delta, you can bring a friend or family member, and all you need to do is pay the taxes for the second person. However, this certificate is restricted to the flights within continental U.S.
  • TSA PreCheck/Global Entry credit: The Delta Reserve card gives you can get a $100 statement credit to pay for either program. Global Entry is $100 for a five-year membership, and includes the benefits of TSA PreCheck.
  • Complimentary Delta SkyClub and Centurion Lounge access: With the Delta Reserve, you will receive complimentary access to both the Delta SkyClub and American Express Centurion Lounges. However, the Centurion Lounge is only available when you use your Reserve card to book the flight. As for the Delta SkyClub, you’ll also receive two guest passes each year to use when your traveling with friends or family.
  • Complimentary seat upgrades: When you fly Delta, you will receive upgrade priority over other Medallion members in the same status level.
  • Travel coverages: The Delta Reserve card offers travel insurance coverage, including trip cancellation, trip delay, rental car insurance and luggage insurance.

Of all the benefits, the most unique one is the widespread access to Delta SkyClub and American Express Centurion lounges. You’ll have dozens of lounges to choose from across the U.S., and even a few abroad. You’ll be able to enjoy a long list of amenities, including: food, drinks, Wi-Fi, showers and most importantly — a relaxing atmosphere away from a busy airport terminal.

Select calculated how many points the average American can earn in a year when using their Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card. We worked with the location intelligence firm Esri, who provided us with a sample annual spending budget of $22,126.

The budget includes six main categories: groceries ($5,174), gas ($2,218), dining out ($3,675), travel ($2,244), utilities ($4,862) and general purchases ($3,953). Here’s what the average consumer would earn using this card:

  • Groceries: 5,174 Delta SkyMiles
  • Gas: 2,218 Delta SkyMiles
  • Dining out: 3,675 Delta SkyMiles
  • Travel: 6,732 Delta SkyMiles (Assuming purchases are made directly with Delta)
  • Utilities: 4,862 Delta SkyMiles
  • General purchases: 3,953 Delta SkyMiles

With all spending considered, this would give a cardholder 26,614 SkyMiles in the first year including the welcome bonus. Over a five year period, cardholders could earn 133,070 Delta SkyMiles. Cardholders could earn more (or less) airline miles depending on their annual spending habits.

Overall, the earnings from this card are sub-par on daily expenses, so it may be worth pairing with another rewards credit card. However, the benefits of the card can quickly outweigh the hefty annual fee.

Rates and fees

Card comparison

Select analyzed two other travel credit cards with the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card to see how they match up with one another.

Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card vs. Delta SkyMiles Platinum American Express Card

These cards both serve a similar type of traveler: someone who flies with Delta regularly and is on track to earn elite status with the airline.

However, each card serves a different purpose.

The Delta SkyMiles Platinum Amex comes with excellent benefits, including:

  • Excellent welcome offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
  • Status Boost: Earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times. Plus, in 2021 earn an additional 2,500 MQMs on top of the 10,000 MQMs you can already earn each time you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Platinum Card (for a total of 12,500 MQMs per purchase threshold), up to 2 times. MQMs are used to determine Medallion status and are different from the miles you earn toward flights.
  • Main cabin priority boarding
  • Annual companion pass for economy Main Cabin seat
  • $39 entry fee for Delta Sky Club lounge access for you and up to two guests when traveling on Delta flights
  • 20% back as statement credit on in-flight purchases
  • Check your first bag for free on Delta flights
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck enrollment
  • Terms apply

If you are deciding between the two cards, consider that the major differences are: discounted or complimentary lounge access, spending categories, being considered for upgrades when flying on Delta, and most notably — the annual fee difference of $250 and $550.

If you want the more luxurious experience and don’t mind the premium annual fee, go with the Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card. If you only occasionally visit Delta SkyClubs and care less about upgrades, the Delta Platinum Amex may be the better choice of the two.

Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card vs. Chase Sapphire Preferred

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® is a well-known travel credit card that’s popular thanks to its valuable rewards and modest $95 annual fee.

The card is currently offering a very lucrative welcome offer: you can earn 100,000 points after spending $4,000 on eligible purchases in the first three months of account opening.

While you can’t book Delta flights by transferring Chase rewards to the Delta SkyMiles program, you can book Delta flights through the Chase travel portal, or when transferring points to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, which is partners with Delta Air Lines.

The two cards in question are extremely different, and fit two very different types of cardholders. If you want flexibility with how you can spend your travel rewards, consider the Sapphire Preferred. If you only fly Delta and want to experience comfort during your travels, the Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card is a solid choice.

Who the Delta Reserve Amex Card is best for

The Delta Reserve Amex is best for avid Delta flyers who want a luxurious experience when they fly. Additionally, consider that if you fly to and from a few select airports, it will be in your best interest to see if they have a Delta SkyClub or Amex Centurion lounge location. If the airports you frequent don’t, you may not be able to use to benefits to the fullest potential.

If you currently have (or would consider having) multiple rewards credit cards, the Delta Reserve Amex would be a great fit for you. Because the card only rewards Delta purchases higher than one point per dollar, it is best to pair this card with another rewards credit card. The Reserve could be worth keeping for the travel benefits alone while you put most of your spend on another card to maximize your points earning.

Bottom line

The Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card is a great fit for Delta loyalists who want to upgrade their travel experience. Between access to the Delta SkyClub lounges, Centurion lounges, automatic consideration for upgraded seats when flying on Delta and the annual companion pass, the card is full of benefits to make flying more comfortable.

However, the card’s $550 annual fee must be considered. It’s important to remember that while earning miles for your next flight and having lounge access are enjoyable benefits, that stretching yourself financially in the process is not a good idea. But if you can stomach the annual fee and use the benefits of the card, the Delta Reserve Amex may be worth a spot in your wallet.

FAQs

Is the Delta Reserve worth it?

If you travel enough on Delta Air Lines and are able to utilize the benefits, especially the lounge access, the card can definitely be worth the $550 annual fee.

Is the Delta Reserve card metal?

Yes, the Delta Reserve card is metal.

Our methodology

To determine which credit cards offer the best value, Select analyzed 234 of the most popular credit cards available in the U.S. We compared each card on a range of features, including rewards, welcome bonus, introductory and standard APR, balance transfer fee and foreign transaction fees, as well as factors such as required credit and customer reviews when available. We also considered additional perks, the application process and how easy it is for the consumer to redeem points.

CNBC Select teamed up with location intelligence firm Esri. The company’s data development team provided the most up-to-date and comprehensive consumer spending data based on the 2019 Consumer Expenditure Surveys from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. You can read more about their methodology here.

Esri’s data team created a sample annual budget of approximately $22,126 in retail spending. The budget includes six main categories: groceries ($5,174), gas ($2,218), dining out ($3,675), travel ($2,244), utilities ($4,862) and general purchases ($3,953). General purchases include items such as housekeeping supplies, clothing, personal care products, prescription drugs and vitamins, and other vehicle expenses.

Select used this budget to estimate how much the average consumer would save over the course of a year, two years and five years, assuming they would attempt to maximize their rewards potential by earning all welcome bonuses offered and using the card for all applicable purchases. All rewards total estimations are net the annual fee.

While the five-year estimates we’ve included are derived from a budget similar to the average American’s spending, you may earn a higher or lower return depending on your shopping habits.

For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card, click here.

For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card, click here.

For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card, click here.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.

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