About Blue Delta SkyMiles Credit Card
The Blue Delta SkyMiles card from American Express is the credit card issuer’s newest airline rewards card. It’s designed to be an introductory experience into airline rewards for those who aren’t too familiar with how airline rewards work.
Here’s the good news: American Express has received consistently high ratings for their customer service and their travel credit cards are always among the highest rated by credit card rewards experts.
So, the fact that you’re interested in the Blue Delta SkyMiles is a pretty good choice.
But here’s what you need to know. Credit cards are like tailored clothes; they’re shaped and structured for a particular type of consumer’s spending habits and budget.
A credit card that works great for one person may be an awful fit for another person and vice versa. That’s why research is important.
Throughout the course of this Blue Delta SkyMiles review, we’re going to give you the consumer’s perspective on how this card can benefit you. To do that, we’ll cover the following topics:
- Rates and fees
- Expert opinions
Once we figure all of that out, we’ll end our review with a few sections on the card’s pros, cons and who we think would benefit most from using this card.
The Blue Delta SkyMiles Card’s Rewards
A credit card’s rewards are those perks that you get for using the card to make purchases. Usually, those rewards coincide with the type of card you’re getting.
In this case, the Blue Delta SkyMiles is an airline rewards card, and, accordingly, the rewards you get when you use your card to make purchases come in the form of Delta SkyMiles.
“SkyMiles” refers to Delta’s frequent flyer program. Before airline rewards cards were a big deal, most travelers earned frequent flyer miles whenever they flew on Delta.
The airline awards miles for a flight based on how far you flew. The benefit of this is that you could earn thousands of frequent flyer miles on a ticket you purchased for $300 or $400.
The drawback was that it took a long time to build up enough miles to get a free flight because most people don’t fly enough to rack up miles.
And that’s where airline rewards cards like the Blue Delta SkyMiles come in. You never even have to book a flight to earn miles.
SkyMiles Bonuses on Purchases: 2x and 1x
American Express will give you 2 SkyMiles for every $1 you spend at restaurants and on purchases you make directly from Delta (tickets, upgrades, Sky Club passes, etc.).
All other purchases you make, aside from some money-based transactions (traveler’s checks, credit card fees, gambling deposits, etc.), will earn 1 SkyMile for every $1 you spend.
So, here’s the deal with these rewards rates … they’re actually really solid compared to other airline rewards credit cards.
You see, most airline cards work off of a two-tier structure. You get 2x miles on any purchases you make from the airline and 1x miles on everything else.
The Blue Delta SkyMiles is different because you get 2x SkyMiles on restaurant purchases. No other major airline rewards card does this. The Chase Sapphire Preferred offers double points on restaurants and travel, but those points you earn have to be transferred to an airline rewards program.
For some consumers, that’s just too much work, which is why the Blue Delta SkyMiles is a decent way for newcomers to earn miles on Delta flights.
If you’re wondering how many points you can earn per year based on your restaurant purchases, you’re thinking the right way. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American household spent $3,154 on eating out in 2016.
Based on the 2x bonus for those purchases, that’s 6,308 SkyMiles. That point total won’t get you a free one-way flight (more on that later), but it does give you a distinct advantage over the 3,154 miles/points you’d earn on the same purchases with the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier, the United MileagePlus Explorer or the United TravelBank.
And here’s the other thing to remember. Among the major traditional carriers (i.e. not low-cost like Southwest and JetBlue), Delta ranked second in the J.D. Power 2017 North America Airline Satisfaction Study.
10,000 Bonus SkyMiles
The second main reward you get with the Blue Delta SkyMiles card is 10,000 bonus SkyMiles when you spend $500 within the first three months of owning your card.
Just a reminder: That $500 doesn’t include any balance transfers or credit card fees you’ll pay. But, you should have no problem hitting that spending requirement because most consumers are able to spend $500 on their card in two or three weeks.
How Much Are Your First-Year Miles Worth?
Let’s do a quick rundown of how many miles you can earn in your first year of owning this card. Afterwards, we’ll figure out how many flights you can get with those points. Sound good?
Okay, so, we’ve already estimated that you can earn about 6,308 SkyMiles on your restaurant purchases.
Calculating how much you’d spend on Delta purchases is tricky, so we’ll assume that number is $0. What we’re left with is around, based on our calculations, about $19,000 in purchases that get the 1x SkyMiles bonus. Grand total for the year, all purchases and bonuses considered: 35,308 SkyMiles.
So, you’ve got around 35,000 SkyMiles to spend on a flight. Seems easy, right? Unfortunately, it’s not always as easy as it seems. Cashing in airline rewards miles can be a tricky proposition. Affordable seats aren’t always available for the times you need, and you may end up having to pay way more points than you thought.
In some cases, you may not have enough points to book a round-trip flight. For example, in 2016 my wife signed up for the United MileagePlus Explorer card. The intro bonus was 50,000 miles, which was great because United has rewards seats starting at 12,500 miles.
When we went to book our seats for a round-trip from Jacksonville to San Diego, the only 12,500-point seats available left early in the morning, as in, we-had-to-be-at-the-airport-at-5-a.m. early. And when you’ve got a toddler traveling with you, 5 a.m. is pretty much the worst possible time. Ever.
So, we ended up using all 50,000 points to book two one-way flights from San Diego to Jacksonville.
A Test Case: SkyMiles Prices for Three Flights
Personal stories aside, it’s our goal to give you a proper estimation of what those 35,000 SkyMiles are worth, so here’s a list of three round-trip flights (Monday-Thursday) and their rewards costs six weeks before departure:
- Los Angeles to Chicago: 18,000; good flight times
- New York to Seattle: 34,000; 7 a.m. flight time on return
- Orlando to Houston: 30,000; good flight times
As you can see, your first-year rewards points can get you at least one round-trip flight and, in the case of Los Angeles-Chicago, two flights if you can get 36,000 SkyMiles your first year.
As for flight times, the two non-New York flights had mid-morning or afternoon departure times. The New York to Seattle flight had a good departure time on the way to Seattle, but the best time on the way back was 7 a.m.
Another thing to note is that, in the case of the New York and Orlando flights, there were better rewards rates if you could change your travel dates by a day or two. We saw multiple round-trip flights for 18,000 or 19,000 SkyMiles.
Pro tip: Whenever you by in-flight meals, drink or headsets, American Express will calculate 20% of those purchases and add that as a credit to your credit card statement. A $10 purchase, for example, will result in a $2 statement credit.
The Blue Delta SkyMiles Card’s Benefits
While rewards are things like free SkyMiles based on purchases, benefits are those things that you get with your card even if you don’t spend a dime.
From what we read in the card’s fine print, the Blue Delta SkyMiles offers you a series of shopping benefits that you’ll find with comparable Visa Signature cards: purchase protection, theft/damage protection on purchased items, price protection, car rental insurance and extended warranties on certain things you buy.
All of these benefits apply to things you purchase with your Blue Delta SkyMiles card and they each have a specific set of restrictions and limitations. You can read about each of the programs in the benefits guide that American Express sends you in the same envelope your Blue Delta card comes in.
The Blue Delta SkyMiles Credit Card’s Rates and Fees
Up until this point, our review has covered all the stuff that you get from American Express. Consider the rates and fees section a dissertation on what you give American Express if you pay late or carry a balance on your card.
Seriously; don’t take this section lightly. If you carry a balance on your card, then pay close attention to the interest rates and fees listed below. There’s a really good chance that the interest payments you make on your balance will cancel out the cash value of the free flights you get.
If you pay your balance on time and in-full every month, then you really don’t have to worry about rates and fees:
- Purchase and balance transfer APR: 16.74-25.74%
- Cash advance APR: 26.24%
- Penalty APR: 29.99%
- Annual fee: None
- Foreign transaction fee: 2.7%
- Balance transfer/cash advance fee: $5 or 3%, whichever is greater
- Late/returned payment fee: Up to $38
There are two important things we need to point out here.
First, the penalty APR. Stay away from it. Despise it. Avoid it at all costs. How? By never paying late or having a returned payment. If one of those two things happen, your APR will shoot up to 29.99% and will stay that way until you can make six consecutive on-time payments.
Here’s a lesson in how much 180 days of penalty APR will cost you on an average balance of $3,000:
- 29.99% APR on $3K for 180 days: $443.69
- 15.74% APR on $3K for 180 days: $232.86
As you can see, your penalty APR will make you pay twice as much as you would if you had the Blue Delta SkyMiles’ lowest APR.
Moving to the annual fee, you’ll notice there isn’t one. This is an insanely rare quality among airline rewards cards. Most annual fees are in the $90 range aside from a few outliers like the Frontier Airlines World MasterCard ($69) and the Virgin America Visa Signature ($49).
Expert Opinions About the Blue Delta SkyMiles Card
Most of the sites we researched when this card launched said that there were better cards out there for those who fly Delta frequently – the AmEx Gold Delta SkyMiles is a good example.
Much of their opinion seemed to be based on what Delta and American Express representatives said about the card shortly before it launched.
“We purposefully built this Card with the new or casual traveler in mind,” Delta Vice President of Customer Engagement and Loyalty Sandeep Dube said in a press release. “This Card delivers incredible value to those who want to earn miles in an accelerated way while enjoying the peace of mind that their miles won’t expire – all without paying an annual fee.”
Pros of the Blue Delta SkyMiles Card
Based on our research, we believe the Blue Delta SkyMiles’ card’s strengths are that it has no annual fee, you can earn at least one free flight with your first-year rewards and you can earn double miles on restaurant purchases.
Cons of the Blue Delta SkyMIles Card
The downsides to this card are that it has a penalty APR; pay late one time and your interest rate will shoot up. The higher your balance at that time, the more interest you’ll pay and the quicker the Blue Delta SkyMiles’ value will diminish.
Who This Card Could Work For
We believe that all the marketing talk about this card being for consumers who are new to airline cards is a bunch of fluff.
Based on our research, we think the Blue Delta SkyMiles isn’t so much a beginner card as it is a low-fee Delta credit card that doesn’t offer all the perks (free baggage, priority boarding) that it’s gilded cousin, the Gold Delta SkyMiles, offers. But then again, the Gold Delta SkyMiles has a $95 annual fee.
Our belief is that this card works well for someone who plans to fly once a year and spends more than the average amount of money on restaurants. If that’s you, then we think you’ll enjoy this card.
However, if you’re the kind of traveler that wants an airline rewards credit card that will give you priority boarding, free bags and complimentary entrance into airport lounges, you’ll want to avoid this card.
Our analysis of the best airline rewards card of 2017 will help you make your decision because it covers all the areas that are most important to you. We offer expert insight into cards like the United MileagePlus Explorer and the Gold Delta SkyMiles based on each of the categories that matter most to air travelers.