Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card review
By: Kelly Dilworth
Updated: May 12, 2021
Annual Percentage Rate:
Issuer Customer Experience
4.0 / 5
In a Nutshell:
The Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card helps frequent fliers climb the Delta Medallion ladder more quickly and make flying more comfortable and convenient; but aside from a companion pass every year, it doesn’t offer nearly as many perks as its competitors.
Learn more about this card
- 3 miles per dollar on eligible Delta purchases
- 1 mile per dollar on general purchases
- Terms apply
- Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in first 3 months
- Earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants with your card within the first 3 months of membership
- Terms apply
- 15,000 Medallion Qualification Miles when you spend $30,000 in a calendar year, up to four times per year
- One companion ticket
Average Yearly Rewards Value ($1,325 monthly spend)
- Miles don’t expire if your account is active every 12 months
- Redeem miles for airfare, upgrades, hotel stays, car rentals, limited merchandise and experiences (every 5,000 miles
- No blackout dates on Delta flights (may apply on partner flights)
- One-way flights allowed
- Large number of airline partners
- No limits on miles
- Miles + cash option available for some rewards flights
- Fuel surcharges may apply to partner flights and Delta one-way flights from Europe and the Middle East
- Direct fees for tickets issued in some European countries ($25 for phone bookings, $35 for Ticket Office bookings)
- No stopovers or open-jaw
- 75,000-mile limit per reservation
- Minimum 12,500 points required
American Express Customer Service Ratings
- J. D. Power 2020 customer satisfaction rating: 838 (no issuers in this category ranked higher)
- Online chat available?: Yes
- Google Play Store mobile app rating: 4.3/5
- Apple Store mobile app rating: 4.9/5
Other Notable Features: No foreign transaction fees (See rates and fees), one companion ticket each year, Delta SkyClub access for cardholder and two guests, concierge services, free checked bag on Delta flights, priority boarding, in-flight promotions, premium travel insurance, trip cancellation/interruption insurance, trip delay insurance, extended warranty, return protection, purchase protection, exclusive events and presales
If you’re a frequent Delta flyer, the upscale Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card will help you climb the Delta Medallion ladder more quickly and claim exclusive benefits, such as unlimited complimentary seat upgrades, free checked baggage on Delta flights and priority boarding. However, if you’re willing to spend three figures on an annual fee, you may be able to get more value from a super-premium card that offers stronger perks, such as the The Platinum Card® from American Express or the Chase Sapphire Reserve card. You could also enjoy some of the same benefits as the Delta Reserve card – such as priority boarding and waived baggage fees — with a smaller price tag by opting for a lower-tier Delta card such as the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card.
The Delta Reserve card’s benefits are relatively limited for a card of its caliber and its rewards rate is anemic. But it does offer some exclusive air-travel-related benefits – including a companion seat every year and special treatment for frequent fliers — that could make the card’s $550 upfront fee worth it for certain travelers. The Delta Reserve card’s value also skyrockets the more you spend thanks to its tiered bonus program. So, if you fly Delta often enough and expect to charge at least $2,500 a month, the premier Delta Reserve could be a good fit. Here’s what to consider if you’re thinking about applying for a Delta Reserve card:
A shortcut to earning more Medallion Qualification Miles
The biggest selling point for the Delta Reserve card is its ability to make your Delta flights more comfortable and convenient – as well as more rewarding. In addition to the flat welcome bonus of 50,000 miles, you’ll earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) if you spend $3,000 in the first three months. Add to this the ability to earn another 15,000 Medallion miles for every $30,000 you spend in a calendar year (up to four times per year) and you’ll be well on your way to Delta elite status.
If you’re an especially heavy spender and use your Delta Reserve card for all or most of your purchases, you could potentially earn a ton of MQMs.
A good way to upgrade the quality of your flights
Additional Medallion miles may not appeal to everyone. But if you’re a frequent Delta flier, you know just how valuable those Medallion miles (known in Delta lingo as MQMs) can be. If you’re just beginning your frequent flier status with Delta, a 10,000-mile boost could help you reach Silver status and qualify for a larger miles bonus each time you fly.
You’ll also receive unlimited free seat upgrades for yourself and one traveling companion, a free checked bag for yourself and up to eight other traveling companions (which is a nice perk for big families), priority check-in and more. The higher the Medallion ladder you climb, the better the benefits will be. For example, Platinum Medallion members get a free voucher for Global Entry status so they can zip through security lines more quickly, a $200 Delta gift card and a $200 gift card for the luxury jeweler Tiffany & Co.
Just a handful of high-value perks
The Delta Reserve card doesn’t offer a ton of high-value perks on its own, though, which can make it tough for this card to compete with similar cards with equally high annual fees. The Reserve card’s most valuable benefit is its round-trip companion certificate that cardholders receive each year. Depending on where in the United States you fly (the ticket must be domestic) that perk alone could be worth several hundred dollars, wiping out the cost of the annual fee.
If you’re a frequent Delta traveler who’s just looking for a card to help you upgrade your Medallion status, the card’s companion certificate could make the card’s high annual fee worth it since you’ll essentially be earning that money back each time you renew your card. In addition, Delta cardholders get free access to Delta SkyClubs and a lower entry rate of $39 for up to two traveling companions.
The Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card offers a fee credit for Global Entry of TSA PreCheck, as well as complimentary Delta SkyClub when traveling on a Delta flight and complimentary Centurion Lounge access when you book your Delta flight with your Reserve card.
While not quite as impressive as the Chase Sapphire Reserve card — which offers a $300 annual travel credit every year that you can also use for airplane tickets, up to a $100 fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Precheck and doesn’t charge your traveling companions for lounge access –these perks are quite respectable and help justify the high annual fee.
Other cards to consider include the The Platinum Card® from American Express, which offers comparably lush perks, plus access to a wider selection of airport lounges, up to $200 worth of Uber credits and a $100 resort credit, and the Citi Prestige® Card, which offers a fourth night free hotel benefit that can add up to thousands of dollars’ worth of savings for heavy travelers.
The Delta Reserve card’s rewards program is also fairly limited. Cardholders earn three miles for every dollar spent on Delta purchases and one mile for every dollar spent on general purchases. The American Express Platinum card, by contrast, awards 5 points for every dollar spent on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel (starting January 1, 2021, earn 5 points per dollar on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year) and 5 points for every dollar spent on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
With such a low rewards rate, it could be tough for you to rack up enough miles to earn a significant number of free flights. As you climb the Delta Medallion ladder, you’ll earn more miles for Delta purchases. But you may have a hard time justifying using this card for everyday purchases – particularly since there are so many other cards available that award significantly more points for popular purchases, such as gas, restaurants and groceries. You don’t even have to pay an annual fee, for example, to earn 1.5 miles on every purchase, or 2 percent cash back, depending on the card.
Best for heavy spenders
Not wanting to use this card for everyday spending could also limit the value of your Delta Reserve card since it heavily favors big spenders. American Express has set up a tiered rewards system that provides the most value for cardholders who charge at least $30,000 to their cards, thus raking extra Medallion Qualification miles. If you only use your card to pay for flights, you may not be able to meet that relatively high threshold – unless you fly several times a month and regularly charge more than two thousand dollars a month on travel.
To get the most out of this card, you need to be a loyal Delta flier who strongly values the extra perks that being a Delta Medallion member can provide.
Delta Reserve vs. Amex Platinum
Even if you’re a Delta loyalist, the Delta Reserve may not be the best fit for you. Depending on your priorities, The Platinum Card from American Express could offer more flexibility and long-term value. Here’s how the two compare.
To start, the Amex Platinum offers a higher rewards rate not only on Delta purchases, but on all airline and hotel purchases: You’ll earn 5 points per dollar on purchases made directly with the airline or with American Express Travel, 5 points per dollar on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel, and 1 point per dollar on everything else. As a reminder, the Delta Reserve only offers 3 points per dollar on Delta purchases and 1 point per dollar on other purchases.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the value of each card, based on the average cardholder’s spending and our valuations of Membership Rewards and Delta SkyMiles:
Average rewards earned
(minus annual fee)
50,000 miles (after spending $3,000 in first 3 months) * 1.61 cents / mile = $805
$15,900 * 1.04 miles / dollar * 1.61 cents / mile = $266
75,000 points (after spending $5,000 in first 6 months) * 1.19 cents / mile = $892
$15,900 * 1.24 miles / dollar * 1.19 cents / mile = $394
Based on its current welcome bonus, the Platinum card will offer the most value in the first year and may offer cardholders more value long-term thanks to its ongoing rewards rate. Not only that, Amex Membership Rewards are much more flexible than Delta SkyMiles. While you can only use Delta SkyMiles with Delta or one of its SkyTeam partner airlines, you can transfer Membership Rewards to a number of Amex transfer partners and, in some cases, squeeze extra value out of your points. You can even transfer to Delta at a 1:1 ratio if that’s your focus.
That said, the Delta Reserve stands out with its Delta-specific perks. While the Amex Platinum gets you access to Delta Sky Club lounges when you fly with the airline, the card is otherwise thin on Delta-specific benefits. The Delta Reserve, on the other hand, offers free checked bag benefits, priority boarding, a companion certificate on your account anniversary, in-flight discounts, and MQMs to get you closer to elite status.
Our verdict: If you want to maximize your rewards and enjoy more flexible redemption, you should definitely consider the Amex Platinum. You can always transfer points to Delta if needed and will still enjoy generous lounge access and other luxury travel perks. If you want to both maximize first-year value and see more long-term value in Delta perks (especially the annual companion certificate) and you’re willing to keep your rewards locked to Delta and its partner airlines, the Delta Reserve may be a better fit.
Why get the Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card?
- You frequently fly Delta and want to boost your Medallion status.
- You care more about flight-specific benefits – such as priority boarding and free seat upgrades – than other travel perks.
- You plan to fly at least once round-trip per year with a companion and so would benefit from the card’s annual companion certificate.
How to use the Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card:
- Maximize your savings by using your card for all your Delta purchases as well as for general purchases that don’t earn a higher bonus on other cards.
- If you regularly charge more than $2,500 a month to your credit card, consider using Delta Reserve card so you can receive the MQM bonus.
- Charge at least $3,000 in the card’s first three months in order to capture the card’s introductory bonus.
For rates and fees of the Delta Reserve card, please click here.For rates and fees of the Platinum Card from American Express, please click here. Our reviews and best card recommendations are based on an objective rating process and are not driven by advertising dollars. However, we do receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners. Learn more about our advertising policy
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