American Express and Delta have had a close relationship for many years, and as part of that, they issue seven co-branded Delta Amex cards, including the Blue, Gold, Platinum, and Reserve cards (with the exception of the Blue product, all the others have both a personal and business version).
There’s a lot to know about these cards, especially as big changes were made to all Delta Amex cards in early 2020.
Delta Reserve American Express Card Basics For January 2021
In this post, I wanted to take a look at the Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card. This is the most premium of Amex’s four co-branded personal Delta cards, and it comes with some fantastic benefits.
The Delta Reserve Card saw some major changes in January 2020, both for better and worse. Below I wanted to take a look at everything you need to know about this card, including what benefits were recently changed.
Delta Reserve Amex 40K Miles + 10K MQMs Welcome Bonus
The Delta Reserve Card is offering an increased welcome bonus of 40K SkyMiles and 10K MQMs, after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of card membership.
Redeem your SkyMiles for Virgin Atlantic business class
The welcome bonus on the card is “once in a lifetime,” so it’s not available to you if you currently have the card, or if you’ve had the card in the past.
However, note that you can get each version of the Delta Amex, so you are eligible for the Reserve if you’ve only had the Gold or Platinum before, or if you’ve had any of the business versions of the cards.
Delta Reserve Credit Card Annual Fee
The Delta Reserve Card has a $550 annual fee (Rates & Fees).
Earning Miles With Delta Reserve Card
The Delta Reserve Card has fairly limited bonus categories for spending. You can earn:
- 3x SkyMiles for purchases directly with Delta (including for flights and Delta Vacations)
- 1x SkyMiles on all other purchases
Ironically other Delta cards with lower annual fees have more robust bonus categories. The logic is probably that there’s another huge incentive to spend on this card (which I’ll get into below), so they don’t feel they have to offer great bonuses to get people to spend on the card.
The Delta Reserve Amex is the best card for earning MQMs and getting an MQD waiver, which is important for earning status.
No Foreign Transaction Fees
If you are going to put spending on the Delta Reserve Card, the good news is that there are no foreign transaction fees, so you can efficiently use the card abroad.
Earning Status With The Delta Reserve Card
What makes the Delta Reserve Credit Card most worthwhile for many is how easy it is to earn elite status with the card. If you put enough spending on the card:
- You can earn up to 60,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs) per year
- You can also get a full waiver on the Medallion Qualifying Dollars (MQDs) requirement, which ordinarily requires you to spend anywhere from $3,000 to $15,000 per year with Delta to earn status
Note that all of this is in addition to the 10,000 MQMs currently being offered as part of the welcome bonus.
How does this work?
The Delta Reserve Card can help you earn status
Earn Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs)
Delta is one of the airlines that makes it easiest to earn status through credit card spending. The Delta Reserve Card is the best Delta credit card for earning status. With the Delta Reserve Card you:
- Earn 15,000 bonus MQMs after spending $30,000 in a calendar year
- Earn an additional 15,000 bonus MQMs after spending $60,000 in a calendar year
- Earn an additional 15,000 bonus MQMs after spending $90,000 in a calendar year
- Earn an additional 15,000 bonus MQMs after spending $120,000 in a calendar year
In other words, cumulatively if you spend $120,000 on the card you’d earn 60,000 MQMs, which is pretty awesome. That’s more than enough for Gold Medallion status, and gets you well on your way to Platinum Medallion status.
Delta Medallion Qualifying Dollars (MQDs) Waiver
In order to earn status with Delta, you need to earn a certain number of elite miles (MQMs) or elite segments (MQSs), and you also need to earn a certain number of elite qualifying dollars (MQDs).
With the Delta Reserve American Express you can receive a waiver of the MQD requirement for qualifying spending:
- Spend $25,000 on the card within the qualification year to get an MQD waiver for Silver, Gold, or Platinum status
- Spend $250,000 on the card within the qualification year to get an MQD waiver for Diamond status
Spending on this card can help you earn status
Lounge Access With The Delta Reserve Card
One of the primary things that set the Delta Reserve Credit Card apart from other Delta Amex cards is the lounge access perks that it offers. The card offers SkyClub access, Centurion Lounge access, and even a couple of SkyClub passes.
How does that work?
Complimentary Delta SkyClub Access
Just for having the Delta Reserve Card you receive complimentary Delta SkyClub access when flying Delta the same day. You can buy discounted access for guests at a rate of $39 per guest.
Getting complimentary Delta SkyClub access with this card is a great perk.
Get SkyClub access with the Delta Reserve Card
Two Delta SkyClub Guest Passes Annually
In addition to the primary cardmember getting SkyClub access when flying Delta same day, they also receive two SkyClub guest passes annually.
These can be used by the primary cardmember to guest others into the lounge, allowing you to skip the $39 guesting fee twice.
Complimentary Centurion Lounge Access
New as of 2020, the Delta Reserve Card now offers complimentary Centurion Lounge access when traveling on Delta same day. This is a nice feature for them to add to the card.
The primary cardmember is entitled to access, and bringing additional guests costs $50 each.
Centurion Lounges for the most part offer a significantly improved food and beverage offering compared to most domestic US airline lounges, so this is a nice option to have.
The Delta Reserve will start to offer Centurion Lounge access
Delta Reserve Card Perks & Benefits
The Delta Reserve Credit Card has a nice bonus, though if I were just looking for the best welcome bonus I would go for the Gold or Platinum version of the card, since the cards have significantly lower annual fees.
The reason you want to get this version of the card is because of the valuable long term perks that it offers. Above I’ve talked about how the Reserve Card can help you earn status and can help you access lounges, though there are lots of perks beyond that.
Let’s take a look at some of those perks.
Annual Companion Certificate
Every year upon renewal of your card you receive a domestic roundtrip companion certificate. This can be used for fares ranging from first class to economy, so the flexibility offered by that is pretty awesome, and for many will more than justify the annual fee.
You just have to pay the government-imposed taxes and fees for the companion. If redeeming the certificate there are some things to be aware of, including:
- It’s valid for roundtrip travel within the 48 contiguous United States
- Residents of Hawaii, Alaska, Puerto Rico, or the USVI with SkyMiles accounts registered in those regions can use the certificate for travel from their home territory to the 48 contiguous United States
- You have to pay the government taxes for the second traveler on the reservation
- Companion certificates are only valid for travel in the I and Z fare classes in first class, the W fare class in Comfort+, and the L, U, T, X, and V fare classes in economy
- Travel has to be completed by the expiration date of the certificate
First Checked Bag Free
Just for having the Delta Reserve Card you get a first checked bag free, which would otherwise cost $30 one-way per person:
- This benefit is limited to the primary cardmember and anyone traveling on the same reservation with them (up to nine people)
- You don’t have to pay for your flight with your Delta Amex, though you do need to have your SkyMiles number in the reservation
This is a great value, given that you’ll usually pay $60 per person roundtrip for a checked bag. So if you’re traveling with someone then you’re looking at $120 roundtrip in fees.
Save on checked bag fees with the Delta Platinum Amex
Just for having the card you receive Main Cabin 1 priority boarding. This helps maximize your odds of finding space for your carry-on and getting to your seat sooner. Just make sure the primary cardmember’s SkyMiles number is linked to the reservation.
20% Delta Inflight Savings
If you have the Reserve Delta Amex then you can save 20% in the form of a statement credit for eligible pre-purchased meals, and in-flight purchases of food, alcoholic beverages, and audio headsets, on Delta flights. Allow 8-12 weeks for the statement credit to post.
Save on inflight purchases with the card
Pay With Miles
Delta has a Pay With Miles feature, where if you have a Delta co-branded credit card you can redeem miles for one cent each towards a Delta flight purchase (in increments of 5,000 miles per $50). That’s not the best deal in the world, though this is a feature that’s exclusively available to those with an eligible card.
Some people find this to be useful since they can redeem their miles towards flights, and then they still earn elite miles for taking those flights.
For example, the welcome bonus on this card includes up to 40,000 SkyMiles, so those can potentially be redeemed for $400 towards travel on Delta.
Pay With Points is a feature that many SkyMiles members value
Having the Delta Reserve Card gets you priority for complimentary upgrades, assuming you have Medallion status. That’s because the card acts as a tiebreaker.
If you have the Reserve Card you get upgrade priority over other Medallion members within the same Medallion level and fare class. Given how competitive upgrades are, this can make a material difference in terms of whether you clear or not.
Upgrades To First Class & Comfort+ For Non-Elite Members
New as of 2020, the Reserve Card offers complimentary first-class and Comfort+ upgrades on eligible flights for non-elite members. You will be towards the bottom of the upgrade list, but there are lots of situations where this could help you score a good Comfort+ seat, or in some cases even a first class seat.
Complimentary TSA Pre-Check & Global Entry
New as of 2020, cardholders receive a Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check credit once every four years. This can save you big time both at security and immigration, and is something I highly recommend signing up for if eligible.
The Delta Reserve now offers a TSA Pre-Check credit
Travel Delay & Cancelation Coverage
New as of 2020, American Express now offers reimbursement for trip cancelation and interruption:
- Valid for roundtrip tickets paid for entirely with your card (this would include paying taxes on an award ticket with your card)
- This will apply to covered reasons, which include things ranging from bad weather to illness
- You’ll be able to be reimbursed for up to $10,000 in non-refundable travel expenses per trip, up to $20,000 per 12 consecutive month period
Additionally, Amex provides reimbursement for trip delays, as follows:
- Valid for roundtrip tickets paid for entirely with your card
- This will apply if you’re delayed by at least six hours, in which case you can be reimbursed up to $500 per covered trip for necessary expenses, like hotels, meals, and other essentials; you’re eligible to make two claims per 12 consecutive month period
Of course, you’ll want to check your cardmember agreement for full details.
Extended Warranty & Purchase Protection
If you’re spending money on the Reserve Card, there are some perks that may make you feel more secure in your purchases, including:
- Purchase protection, so you’re covered for up to 90 days from the date of purchase when you charge your eligible purchased item to your card
- Extended warranty, so you can get an extra year added to the original manufacturer’s warranty, on warranties of five years or less
In both cases, you’ll want to check your cardmember agreement for all of the terms.
One of the great features of Amex cards is access to Amex Offers, which offers savings or bonus points on purchases with all kinds of retailers. There’s huge value to be had in getting as many Amex cards as possible, so that you can get these offers on multiple cards.
Amex Offers could save you hundreds of dollars per year. You can access these offers by logging into your account and scrolling down to the bottom of your account summary page.
For having the Delta Reserve Amex you get a ShopRunner membership, which gets you free two-day shipping on eligible items at a network of 100+ online stores. You just have to enroll in your complimentary membership and can then start taking advantage of it.
What Changed About The Delta Reserve Amex In 2020?
Major changes were made to the Reserve Card as of 2020. I reflected all of the changes about, though specifically wanted to note the things that were taken away or devalued compared to 2019:
- While the card now offers the increased potential to earn MQMs, you no longer earn bonus redeemable miles when passing $30,000 or $60,000 of spending (previously you’d earn 15,000 bonus MQMs and 15,000 bonus redeemable miles at each threshold)
- SkyPriority security access has been cut
- The annual fee was raised
Is The Delta Reserve Amex Worth It?
The Delta Reserve Credit Card has a steep annual fee, but the card also offers great benefits for Delta flyers. With this card you can earn up to 60K MQMs per year, and that’s not even factoring in the 20K MQMs currently being offered as part of the welcome bonus.
The card becomes a no brainer if you’re someone who wants to earn Delta status through credit card spending, as you’re able to earn up to 60,000 MQMs through spending on the card.
Then there are all of the other perks, ranging from lounge access, to a first checked bag free, to inflight savings, to priority boarding, to improved upgrade priority. This is a really perks rich card.
This card isn’t for the casual Delta flyer, but for someone who flies Delta moderately or often, I’d say this card is well worth considering.
Looking For A Business Credit Card Instead?
If the Delta Reserve Amex sounds interesting to you but you are instead looking for a card for your small business, consider the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card.
Most of the benefits of the card are the same. The only significant difference is that the business card earns 1.5x miles on all purchases after spending $150,000 annually, which could be useful for big spenders.
Amex Platinum Vs. Delta Reserve Card
Many people might be trying to decide between The Platinum Card® from American Express and the Delta Reserve Card. The cards have some overlapping benefits:
- Both give you access to Delta SkyClubs when flying Delta same day
- The Amex Platinum gives you Centurion Lounge access no matter what airline you’re flying, and the Delta Reserve will give you access to Centurion Lounges when flying Delta same day
But that’s largely where the similarities end:
- While the Amex Platinum Card has a $550 annual fee (Rates & Fees), it offers lots of perks that help offset it, including a $200 annual Uber credit, $200 annual airline fee credit, $100 annual Saks credit, Priority Pass membership, and much more; this is one of the best cards out there for lounge access
- The Delta Reserve Card is worth getting specifically if you’re a Delta flyer, since having the card can help you earn status with Delta, and it also offers lots of Delta specific perks that you don’t get with other cards
The Amex Platinum offers Centurion Lounge access regardless of what airline you fly
Delta Reserve Card Vs. Delta Platinum Amex
The Delta Reserve Credit Card is Delta’s most premium credit card, though is it worth it compared to the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card (review), which has a $250 annual fee (Rates & Fees)?
- The cards are similar in that they both offer a first checked bag free, 20% savings on inflight purchases, priority boarding, and more
- While both cards allow you to earn elite status with spending, you can earn a lot more elite miles with the Reserve than the Platinum
- While both cards offer a companion certificate, the Platinum one is only valid for economy, while the Reserve one is even valid for first-class
- The Reserve offers complimentary lounge access, while the Platinum doesn’t
With the Reserve Card the companion certificate is valid for first-class as well
Delta Reserve Amex Card Summary
At the moment the Delta Reserve Credit Card has a nice welcome bonus that includes redeemable miles and elite miles. At a minimum, the 40,000 miles can get you $400 worth of travel on Delta, and then the elite miles can help you achieve Medallion status.
This card isn’t for everyone, though if you’re a frequent Delta flyer who could benefit from the lounge access, companion ticket, improved upgrade priority, and the ability to earn status through credit card spending, then this is the card to get.
To the Delta loyalists around here, do you have the Reserve Card? Why or why not?
The following links will direct you to the rates and fees for mentioned American Express Cards. These include: The Platinum Card® from American Express (Rates & Fees), Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card (Rates & Fees), and Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card (Rates & Fees).