Delta Reserve Credit Card Review (2019)

Filed Under: American Express, Credit Card Reviews
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Update: These offers for the Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express and the Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express have expired. Learn more about the current offers here.


Delta and American Express have seven co-branded credit cards.

There’s a lot to know about these cards — some of the cards currently have increased welcome bonuses, and we’re also seeing big changes to these cards in 2020 — so I wanted to go through these cards one-by-one with detailed reviews.

In this post, I wanted to look at the card I’m personally most considering as I consider switching a lot of my flying to Delta (especially as the airline may be increasing their presence in Miami).

Delta Reserve American Express Card

In this post, I wanted to take a look at the Delta Reserve® Credit Card. This is Amex’s premium co-branded Delta card, and it comes with some fantastic benefits.

The Delta Reserve Card is undergoing some major changes as of January 2020. Below I’ll look at the current benefits, as well as the aspects of the benefits that are changing.

Welcome Bonus: 75K Miles + 10K MQMs

Through October 30, 2019, the Delta Reserve Card is offering an increased welcome bonus:

  • Earn 75,000 bonus SkyMiles after spending $5,000 within the first three months
  • Earn 10,000 bonus Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs) after spending $5,000 within the first three months

This is significantly better than the normal bonus, and is among the best offers we have ever seen on the card. 75,000 SkyMiles will get you a minimum of $750 worth of travel on Delta, and the 10,000 MQMs can really come in handy if you’re going for status with Delta.

Redeem your SkyMiles for Virgin Atlantic business class

Card Eligibility

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.

You can read more about Amex’s general application restrictions here.

Delta Reserve Credit Card Annual Fee

The Delta Reserve Card has a $450 Annual Fee ($550 if application is received on or after 1/30/2020) (Rates & Fees). As you can see, this is another reason to pick up the card now, before the annual fee increases as of next year.

Earning Miles With Delta Reserve Card

The Delta Reserve Card offers:

  • 2x SkyMiles for purchases directly with Delta
  • 1x SkyMiles on all other purchases

As of January 30, 2020, the card will offer 3x SkyMiles for purchases directly with Delta. Interestingly this card isn’t getting any other bonus categories, in contrast to the Gold and Platinum versions of the card, which will offer bonus miles at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets as of next year.

I guess the reason they didn’t make the bonus categories more compelling is that they think people will spend money on the Reserve Card because of the excellent opportunity it provides to earn status.

The Reserve 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 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

So, how does this work?

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 card for earning status, and this is something that potentially gets even better as of 2020.

As it stands, with the Delta Reserve Card you:

  • Earn 15,000 MQMs and 15,000 bonus redeemable miles after spending $30,000 or more in eligible purchases in a calendar year
  • Earn an additional 15,000 MQMs and 15,000 bonus redeemable miles after spending an additional $30,000 in eligible purchases in a calendar year (for a total of 30,000 MQMs and 30,000 redeemable miles)

Note that as of January 30, 2020, you’ll be able to earn significantly more MQMs, though you’ll no longer earn bonus redeemable miles. As of then you:

  • Earn 15,000 MQMs after spending $30,000 or more in eligible purchases in a calendar year
  • Earn an additional 15,000 MQMs after spending an additional $30,000 in eligible purchases in a calendar year (for a total of 30,000 MQMs)
  • Earn an additional 15,000 MQMs after spending an additional $30,000 in eligible purchases in a calendar year (for a total of 45,000 MQMs)
  • Earn an additional 15,000 MQMs after spending an additional $30,000 in eligible purchases in a calendar year (for a total of 60,000 MQMs)

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

Delta Reserve Card Perks & Benefits

The Delta Reserve Credit Card has a fantastic bonus, though if I were just looking for the best welcome bonus I would go for the Gold or Platinum version of the card.

The reason you want to get this version of the card is because of the valuable long term perks that it offers. Above I talked about how the Reserve Card can help you earn status with Delta, while in this section I want to look at the other perks, of which there are lots.

First I’ll take a look at the current perks, and then I’ll highlight some of the things changing as of 2020.

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 up to two guests at the rate of $29 per guest. However, note that as of January 30, 2020, the cost per guest will be increased to $39.

Getting complimentary Delta SkyClub access with this card is a great perk.

Get SkyClub access with the Delta Reserve Card

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.

Delta 737Save on checked bag fees with the Delta Platinum Amex

Priority Boarding

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 75,000 SkyMiles, so those can potentially be redeemed for $750 towards travel on Delta.

Pay With Points is a feature that many SkyMiles members value

Upgrade Priority

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.

Amex Offers

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.

ShopRunner Membership

For having the Delta Platinum 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.

Coming In 2020: Complimentary Centurion Lounge Access

Starting in 2020, the Delta Reserve Card will offer 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 will be entitled to access, and bringing additional guests costs $50 each.

The Delta Reserve will start to offer Centurion Lounge access

Coming In 2020: Two Delta SkyClub Passes Annually

Starting in 2020 you’ll receive two Delta SkyClub passes annually. Of course, the primary cardmember always gets complimentary SkyClub access when flying Delta the same day, though this will be useful if you want to bring in any guests.

Coming In 2020: Upgrades For Non-Elite Members

Starting in 2020 the card will offer complimentary first-class upgrades on eligible flights for non-elite members. While that sounds nice, the catch is that you’ll be towards the bottom of the list for upgrades, since you’ll be behind all those with status. Still, there are situations where this may score you an upgrade.

Coming In 2020: Complimentary TSA Pre-Check & Global Entry

Starting in 2020 the card will offer 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.

TSA PreCheckThe Delta Reserve will start to offer a TSA Pre-Check credit

Coming In 2020: Travel Delay & Cancelation Coverage

As of January 1, 2020, American Express is adding travel coverage to many of their premium credit cards, including the Delta Reserve Card.

Amex will offer 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 year

Amex will also introduce 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 trip for necessary expenses, like hotels, meals, and other essentials

2020 Delta Reserve American Express Changes

Significant changes are being made to the Delta American Express cards. I hit on most of them above, though just to recap them, here’s what’s changing for the Delta Reserve Credit Card as of 2020.

The positive changes to the Reserve Card include:

  • The card will earn 3x SkyMiles on Delta purchases (currently it offers 2x miles)
  • You’ll earn 15,000 bonus MQMs after spending $90,000 and $120,000 in a calendar year (this is in addition to the current thresholds of $30,000 and $60,000, meaning you can earn up to 60,000 MQMs per year at a total of four different thresholds)
  • You’ll receive two complimentary Delta SkyClub passes annually (in addition to the membership offered with the card)
  • The card will offer complimentary Centurion Lounge access when flying Delta same day, though guests will cost $50 each
  • The card will offer a Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check credit once every four years
  • The card will offer complimentary upgrades for non-elite members, though with very low priority

The negative changes to the Reserve Card include:

  • The card will offer the increased potential to earn MQMs, but you won’t 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 is being cut
  • As of January 30, 2020, the card’s annual fee will be increased to $550 from $450

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. I’m seriously considering picking up this card myself, as I think there’s a lot of value to be had with it.

On the most basic level, I think the companion certificate that’s even valid for a first-class ticket could more than justify the card’s annual fee.

The card becomes a no brainer if you’re someone who wants to earn Delta status through credit card spending, and that improves next year, as you’ll be able to earn up to 60,000 MQMs through spending on the card.

Then there are all of the other perks, ranging from 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.

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 as of 2020 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 Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card (review), which has a $195 Annual Fee ($250 if application is received on or after 1/30/2020) (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 an exceptional welcome bonus that includes redeemable miles and elite miles. At a minimum, the 75,000 miles can get you $750 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 fly Delta moderately or frequently, picking up this card could make a lot of sense. This is the best Delta credit card for earning elite status, and on top of that, it offers perks like lounge access, improved upgrade priority, and more.

To the Delta loyalists around here, do you have the Reserve Card? Why or why not?

If you want to learn more about the Delta Reserve Amex Card or apply, follow this link.

Apply Now

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 Reserve® Credit Card from American Express (Rates & Fees), and Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express (Rates & Fees).

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Comments
  1. I cannot say this enough — this card has been MASSIVELY downgraded. It is not suddenly some great card just because bloggers are pushing it harder.

  2. I thought one of the new 2020 changes was complimentary upgrades (granted, at the lowest level possible) without having to have status?

    As opposed to the current “tiebreaker” option?

  3. The card has a lot of perks – the problem is that it earns less RDM than the Delta Platinum and Gold now after the removal of of the RDM boost and the lack of bonus categories. If you only need 10,000 extra MQM a year, the Delta Platinum may be a better option. I have both cards end remain undecided…

  4. Ben or Tiffany: Why is it “OK” for them to exclude Alaska and Hawaii? It just seems really cheap of them to do this. I have the card and live in Maine in an expensive market so I’ll get good value out of it either way (I’m flying to GEG next weekend at a cost of $1500+ in F, for example), but it sure would be nice to use it for a winter companion trip to Hawaii. Thoughts?

  5. Isn’t this a change as well? Additional cardholders get lounge access beginning in Jan 2020:

    Delta Sky Club Access
    Effective January 30, 2020:
    The Delta Reserve Credit Card Basic and Additional Card Members receive complimentary access to the Delta Sky Club when traveling on a same-day Delta-marketed or Delta-operated flight.

    I haven’t seen any of the bloggers talking about this as they hawk the card, so just want to make sure I’m not missing anything.

  6. Ben, I left you a message yesterday about this card. Were you, or anyone reading this, aware of a September offer for this card of 70k bonus miles after 3k/3 months spend and 10k MQM’s? American Express is denying that offer ever existed but it is the one I used from Delta’s website in applying for this card. They are asking for proof to honor it and I did not take a screen shot of it WHICH IS A CAUTIONARY TALE FOR EVERYONE READING THIS. If anyone has proof of this offer (Delta does not keep track of their website offers), please let me know as AmEx is trying to change it to 75k bonus miles and only 5k MQM’s. Thank you.

  7. Added card holders have always gotten lounge access but it’s another $175/YR –

    Will current card holders have to pay $550 instead of $450 and do all of the new benefits roll over if the annual fee does not increase ?

  8. Yes, I think Ben missed the complimentary upgrades section, or at least it’s mis-stated in his post.
    Per the https:/NewDeltaAmex.com:

    Access to Complimentary Upgrades You’re on the upgrade list — even if you don’t have Medallion Status.

    Ben says “Having the Delta Reserve Card gets you priority for complimentary upgrades, assuming you have Medallion status.”

    I think the “tie breaker” option may still be true/correct, but it seems that Amex/Delta have also specifically laid out complimentary upgrades even if you *don’t* have status.

  9. I’m switching to another Amex w/Similar fee, better benefits and dropping the Delta Reserve. The big con for me is last year’s increase in spending to qualify for status, from $25K to $250K. If the limit were $50K it would be worth this year’s fee increase, but $250K is ridiculous.

  10. I’ve got the Reserve Card and love the Priority Checkpoint option…whoops…okay let’s move on! The key to this card is not lounge access, you get better access with the Amex Plat and can get into Centurion regardless of the airline. The real key to this card is the comp companion ticket that includes 1st class. Use it once a year for first (or at least Comfort+) and you’ve pretty much got your fee back. Then, the SKy CLub, the rare upgrade, etc. becomes gravy. Also the TSA credit was way overdue. I don’t have TSA because honestly the Priority Checkpoint entrance always saved me so much time but like I said it’s gone as of January. Anyone out there have an opinion as the why they cut that?

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