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).
Delta Reserve American Express Card Basics For September 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.
Delta Reserve Amex Bonus: 80K Miles + 20K MQMs
Through November 10, 2021, the Delta Reserve Card is offering a limited time welcome bonus of 80,000 SkyMiles plus 20,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs) after spending $5,000 within the first three months. This is among the best bonuses we’ve seen on the card, especially as far as the elite status booster goes.
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, 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 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.
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 (Rates & Fees), so you can efficiently use the card abroad.
Earning Status With The Delta Reserve Card
- You can earn up to 60,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs) per year; in 2021 you can earn even more, as I’ll talk about below
- 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
All of this is in addition to the 20,000 MQMs currently being offered as part of the welcome bonus.
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 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
However, that’s the earnings situation under normal circumstances, while in 2021 you’ll earn 25% more MQMs at all of those thresholds. That means this card could earn you up to 75,000 MQMs this year.
In other words, cumulatively if you spend $120,000 on the card you’d earn 60,000 MQMs, which is pretty awesome. In 2021, you’ll earn an additional 25% (3,750) MQMs at each threshold, earning a total of 18,750 MQMs at every $30,000 threshold or up to 75,000 MQMs total — which would be enough for Platinum Medallion Status.
All MQMs earned with Delta credit cards even qualify towards lifetime status in the SkyMiles program.
Delta Medallion Qualifying Dollars (MQDs) Waiver
In order to earn status with Delta, you need to earn a certain number of Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs) or Medallion Qualifying Segments (MQSs), and you also need to earn a certain number of Medallion 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
Lounge Access With The Delta Reserve Card
One of the primary things that sets 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.
Two Delta SkyClub Guest Passes Annually
In addition to the primary cardmember getting SkyClub access when flying Delta the 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
The Delta Reserve Card also offers complimentary Centurion Lounge access when traveling on Delta the same day. 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 airline lounges in the United States, so this is a nice option to have.
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 the Reserve 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 benefits.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
Those with the Delta Reserve Card 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.
Travel Delay & Cancelation Coverage
American Express offers reimbursement for trip cancelation and interruption:
- This is valid for roundtrip tickets paid for entirely with your card (this would include paying taxes on an award ticket with your card)
- This applies to covered reasons, which includes things ranging from bad weather to illness
- You’re 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:
- This is valid for roundtrip tickets paid for entirely with your card
- This applies 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.
Cell Phone Protection
The Delta Reserve Card offers cell phone protection, which works as follows:
- If a cell phone is stolen or damaged, including a cracked screen, card members can be reimbursed for the repair or replacement costs
- This coverage is valid for up to two approved claims, for a maximum of $800 per claim, and $1,600 per 12-month period
- There’s a $50 deductible per claim
- The cell phone line needs to be listed on a wireless bill, and the prior month’s wireless bill needs to be paid with the eligible card
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.
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 (75K MQMs in 2021), and that’s not even factoring in the 20K MQMs currently being offered as part of the welcome bonus.
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, with the added bonus of an even better welcome bonus that includes a statement credit. 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
- Both give you access to the Delta SkyClub 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 $695 annual fee (Rates & Fees), it offers lots of perks that help offset it, including a $300 annual Equinox credit, $240 annual digital entertainment credit, $200 annual Uber credit, $200 annual airline fee credit, $179 annual CLEAR credit, $100 annual Saks credit, up to $179 back on a CLEAR membership every year, Priority Pass membership (registration required), 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
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 MQMs 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
Delta Reserve Amex Card Summary
The Delta Reserve 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 card is essential. Now is also the ideal time to pick up the card, given the improved welcome bonus.
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).