The Delta SkyMiles Reserve Credit Card (Review)


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American Express issues three personal co-branded Delta credit cards that all have their own merits, but each card is very clearly geared to a different type of flyer and for frequent Delta flyers there’s really only one personal Delta card that should be in their wallet – the Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express card.

Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card

Annual Fee:

  • $550

Welcome Bonus:

  • Receive 40,000 bonus SkyMiles miles and 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Delta SkyMiles Reserve card in the first three months after opening your account (click here for more details).

Note: This welcome offer is not available to applicants who currently have this card or who have had this or previous versions of this card in the past.

Earnings:

  • 3 miles/dollar for spending made directly with Delta
  • 1 mile/dollar on all other spending

Key Benefits:

  • Earn up to 60,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQM) per year via Status Boost
  • Earn a Medallion Qualification Dollar waiver
  • Free access to Delta Sky Clubs
  • 2 Sky Club passes per year
  • Free access to Amex Centurion lounges worldwide
  • Upgrade priority
  • Access to complimentary upgrades
  • Annual domestic companion certificate (valid across all cabins)
  • Global Entry or TSA Precheck credit
  • Get 20% back on select in-flight purchases
  • First checked bag free
  • Priority boarding
  • Trip delay insurance
  • No foreign transaction fees

Why This Is A Great Card

The first thing to point out is that this is a credit card that you hold for the great benefits that it offers and not the points that you’ll earn when you use it. If you simply want to maximize the number of miles you earn when booking Delta flights you’ll be better off with the Platinum Card from American Express or the Business Platinum Card…but here’s why the Delta SkyMiles Reserve Card is so attractive:

Earn Delta Status More Easily

The Delta SkyMiles Reserve Card offers a number of key benefits that can make it a lot easier to earn Delta elite status:

  • The welcome bonus gives cardholders the opportunity to earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQM)
  • The Delta Sky Miles Reserve card offers cardholders 15,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQM) for every $30,000 they spend on the card in a year (up to a maximum of 60,000 MQM)
  • By spending $25,000 in a year on the Delta SkyMiles Reserve card, cardholders will receive a waiver for the Medallion Qualification Dollar (MQD) requirements for Silver, Gold, and Platinum Medallion Status.
  • By spending $250,000 in a year on the Delta SkyMiles Reserve card, cardholders will receive a waiver for the Medallion Qualification Dollar (MQD) requirements Diamond Medallion Status.

Ignoring the large spend requirement for a Diamond status MQD waiver (because very few people will put that amount of spending on this card)…

In year 1 of card membership, a cardholder can earn up to 70,000 MQM and an MQD waiver for all statuses up to and including Platinum status.

In all subsequent years, a cardholder can earn up to 60,000 MQM and an MQD waiver for all statuses up to and including Platinum status.

With the current thresholds for Delta Medallion status looking like this…

…the Delta SkyMiles Reserve Card can be used as a vehicle to earning:

  • 100% of the MQM needed for Silver and Gold status
  • 80% of the MQM need for Platinum status
  • 48% of the MQM needed for top-tier Diamond status

And that’s all without the need to set foot in an aircraft.

When you add in the fact that the card offers an easy path to an MQD waiver for all but the top status tier, you can see just how powerful a tool the Delta SkyMiles Reserve card can be for a frequent Delta flyer.

Great Companion Certificate

The Delta SkyMiles Reserve card offers a companion certificate when the card is renewed each year and this is the most valuable of all Delta certificates offered by a co-branded credit card.

The certificate issued by the Reserve card will pay for a round-trip companion fare (in select fare buckets excluding taxes and fees) in all domestic classes of service within the 48 contiguous United States.

On its own, this benefit could easily cover the full annual fee.

Delta Sky Club Access

Delta Sky Club at JFK
  • Delta SkyMiles Reserve cardholders receive complimentary access to Delta Sky Clubs when traveling on a same-day Delta-marketed or Delta-operated flight.
  • Cardholders traveling on a Delta partner airline flight that is not marketed or operated by Delta can pay to access Sky Clubs at a cost of $39 per person.
  • Cardholders may bring up to two guests or immediate family (spouse or domestic partner and children under 21 years of age) into Delta Sky Clubs at a cost of $39 per person*
  • Upon account opening and upon account renewal each year, Delta SkyMiles Reserve cardholders receive two complimentary Sky Club passes which each grant the bearer one-time access to Sky Clubs systemwide.

*The Delta SkyMiles Reserve Card must be used as the payment method to receive the $39/person per-visit rate and guests must be flying on a same-day Delta or Delta partner airline flight. Children under 2 years of age may accompany the Card Member for free. 

Individual Sky Club membership ordinarily costs $545 or 54,500 miles per year so if you’re someone who flys with Delta frequently and would ordinarily pay for Sky Club membership the Reserve Card is a no-brainer…especially as the two guest passes that the card offers every year are worth a further $78.

Centurion Lounge Access

Amex Centurion Lounge SFO

In recent years only holders of Amex Platinum and Centurion cards have been able to access Centurion Lounges in the US and in select worldwide locations but that has now changed with the release of the refreshed Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express card.

Reserve cardholders now get complimentary access to all Amex Centurion Lounges and, for a fee of $50 per person, they can also bring two guests with them into the lounge.

Upgrade Priority

This is a benefit that only the Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express card offers and it could be invaluable to frequent Delta flyers. Here’s how Amex describes the benefit:

Eligible Card Members who are SkyMiles Medallion Members have priority over other passengers within the same Medallion tier and fare class grouping.

Essentially, holders of the Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express card will be upgraded ahead of all other flyers who have the same (or lower) Medallion status and who have purchased the same (or cheaper) fare.

In a world where complimentary upgrades are getting harder and harder to get, any help is greatly appreciated so this is a benefit that shouldn’t be underestimated.

Access To Complimentary Upgrades

This is really only a benefit that is of any use to non-medallion cardholders…but it’s still worth mentioning.

If you’re only just embarking on your relationship with Delta there’s a strong chance that you don’t have status with the airline (unless you managed to status match from another airline’s loyalty program). If that the case then, as an entry-level member, you won’t have access to Delta’s complimentary upgrades…unless you have the Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express card.

Here’s how American Express describes the benefit:

Eligible Card Members will be eligible to receive complimentary upgrades for Delta One® (within the 50 United States), First Class, and Delta Comfort+® after Medallion Members.

Of course, you’ll still be behind all the Delta elite’s who are in line for complimentary upgrades…but at least you’ll be in the game.

Trip Delay & Trip Cancellation Insurance

Since 1 January 2020 American Express has started to offer trip delay and trip cancellation insurances on select credit card and no Amex card offers better protections than the Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express card.

  • The Delta SkyMiles Reserve card offers trip delay cover of up to $500/trip for delays of over 6 hours with up to 2 claims per 12-month consecutive period (more detailsAND it offers trip cancellation insurance of up to $10,000/covered trip and $20,000 per eligible card per 12-month consecutive period.

With fewer and fewer cards offering solid trip delay and cancellation insurance this is a key benefit of the Reserve Card and it’s a benefit that rapidly becomes invaluable once you’ve used it for the first time and seen how it eliminates the need to rely on airlines to find you somewhere to stay when your flight is delayed overnight.

Global Entry/TSA PreCheck Credit

Global Entry machines – Image courtesy of CBP

Global Entry and TSA Precheck are programs that can save travelers considerable amounts of time in immigration lines and security lines (respectively) and if you’re a frequent flyer these are programs you should almost certainly be a member of.

Global Entry membership comes with TSA Precheck bundled in and costs $100 for 5 years (this may soon be increasing to $120) while TSA Precheck costs $85 (for 5 years) and the Delta SkyMiles Reserve Card offers a full credit for one of these programs every 4/4.5 years respectively so Reserve cardholders need never pay for these programs ever again.

Bottom Line

The Delta SkyMiles Reserve Credit card is a card designed to be held by flyers who like to have an easy path to Medallion Status, complimentary access to Sky Clubs & Centurion Lounges, and a whole host of other benefits that make travel cheaper and more comfortable.

In the right hands, the benefits that the card offers will far outweigh the annual fee so if you’re a Delta frequent flyer, the Delta SkyMiles Reserve Card is a card you really shouldn’t be without.