Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express Review
The Delta Reserve Credit Card and is a premium airline rewards card whose benefits include priority boarding, a yearly companion pass as well as complimentary Delta Sky Club access at participating airports.
The card’s defining characteristic is that it offers a full suite of luxury perks that enhance your flight experience, from free entrance to Delta airport lounges to priority boarding and baggage insurance.
In this review, we’ll take a thorough look at how the Delta Reserve card’s rewards work, what its benefits are like, what its rates and fees are and how it compares to other luxury travel cards. This comparison is important, as there may or may not be other non-airline credit cards that offer better overall rewards and perks.
We’ll wrap up our review with our thoughts about the card’s overall pros and cons.
Pros: Provides a free companion ticket each year, access to Delta’s Sky Club airport lounges and expedited security check-ins. Strong sign-up bonus.
Cons: Yearly rewards are low.
Estimated Yearly Travel Rewards: 36,500 miles
|Sign-Up Bonus||Annual Fee||Regular APR|
|75,000 miles||$450||17.9% to 26.99%|
|Rewards Rate: 2x on Delta purchases, 1x on everything else|
Among luxury credit cards, you’ll often find that cards offer points. The Delta Reserve, however, offers miles. There isn’t much difference between the two, as you can redeem both of them for travel purchases.
The key with the Delta Reserve, though, you’ll redeem the miles you earn for flights, whereas luxury cards not linked to an airline allow you to redeem points for a variety of travel-related purchases.
You can earn miles one of two ways with this card. First, if you can spend $5,000 in the first three months of owning the card, American Express will give you 75,000 bonus miles. The fine print says that it will take between eight to 12 weeks for those miles to arrive in your account.
This is an important reminder for those who are planning trips based on the bonus miles they get via the sign-up offer. Don’t get caught into thinking you can plan a trip a month after you hit your spending requirement, as it will most likely take your miles longer than that to arrive.
In addition to those miles, you’ll also get 5,000 Medallion Qualification Miles if you hit the spending requirement. Known as “MQM’s,” these miles are what you use to move up tiers in the SkyMiles frequent flyer program.
Delta’s tiers are Silver, Gold, Platinum, and Diamond. Each tier gives you free upgrades to first class when available, with Silver allowing you to upgrade to first class, Delta One or Delta+ seats before the flight. We’ll talk about these tiers more when we analyze the Delta Reserve’s MQM bonuses in a few minutes.
Now, in addition to the sign-up bonus you get for spending $5,000 in the first three months, you also earn rewards through your daily spending.
American Express will reward you with two miles for every dollar you spend on Delta purchases. Those purchases include the following:
- Flights booked on Delta.com
- Baggage fees
- Upgrade fees
- Vacations booked through Delta
- In-flight purchases
You need to use your Delta Reserve card to get the bonus. Also, keep in mind that you won’t get the 2x points bonus if you buy Delta tickets anywhere else besides Delta.com.
Assuming you spend about $1,500 a year on airfare and $33,500 per year on all other purchases, we see this card earning you about 36,500 miles every year.
What those miles are worth is an important assessment to make, as miles and points tend to be the biggest selling point for rewards cards, especially travel-related rewards cards.
To give you an idea of how far your points can go, we did a quick search of the cost of the three most popular flights in the United States. Here are the miles required to book a Friday to Saturday flight about six weeks before the departure day:
- New York (JFK) to Los Angeles: 41,000 miles ($580.60)
- Los Angeles to San Francisco: 12,000 miles ($207.60)
- New York (LGA) to Chicago: 30,000 miles ($397.60)
Each of these flights is in the “Main” ticket category. This category allows carry-ons, seat selection and the ability to upgrade. Delta’s “Basic” fares are cheaper but they don’t allow you to upgrade and you can’t pick your seat. Neither of these fare classes includes a checked bag but, because of benefits we’ll talk about momentarily, that’s not a worry for you.
Where you fly most often will dictate how much value 36,500 miles a year is worth to you. If you often make short trips between cities, then your yearly points will be enough to earn you at least one flight. However, if you tend to travel cross-country, you won’t earn enough points each year to pay for a flight from, for example, New York to Los Angeles.
In addition to the ability to earn miles through a sign-up bonus and everyday spending, this card entitles you to the following travel-related perks:
- Free entrance into Delta Sky Club airport lounges
- 15,000 MQM’s when you spend $30,000 in one year
- Additional 15,000 MQM’s when you spend $60,000 in one year
- Yearly free companion ticket
- First checked bag free
- Baggage insurance
- Priority boarding
- 20% statement credit on in-flight purchases
- Free priority security check-in
As you can see, the Delta Reserve’s benefits focus on flight-related perks.
Free Sky Club Entrance
For example, you get free entrance into Delta Sky Club airport lounges as well as 250 non-Delta lounges. There are more than 50 Sky Club lounges around the world, a number that pales in comparison to Priority Pass, which has more than 1,200 lounges and is available to those who have the leading non-airline luxury cards.
Bonus MQM Miles
The next perk of owning the Delta Reserve is that you get a15,000 bonus MQM miles when you spend $30,000 in a year and then another 15,000 when you hit $60,000. We see the average cardholder getting to $30,000, which means you’ll be 5,000 miles away from Silver status.
Delta gives you MQM miles when you book flights with them, and those points are based on the fare class you book as well as the distance of the flight. We believe you can earn Silver status the first year if you fly at least two round-trip cross-country flights.
Once you have silver status, you’ll earn seven MQM’s for every dollar you spend to buy Delta flights. This supercharged bonus should be enough to keep your Silver status active throughout the year, as long as you spend at least $1,250 a year on Delta flights.
Free Yearly Companion Ticket
The next benefit, your yearly companion ticket, provides you a free ticket for a traveling companion that you can use whenever you book a flight with your Delta Reserve card. Your companion has to travel on the same flight on the same day and time. The ticket is eligible for any complimentary upgrades for which you’re eligible, which includes First Class and Comfort+.
The first checked bag is free for your companion and the second checked bag for domestic flights will cost $40.
Free Baggage and Other Perks
The first bag you check will be free, which can save you at least $50 per round trip flights. You’ll also get baggage insurance when you pay for your bags with your Delta Reserve card. This insurance covers you for up to $1,250 each trip in the event that the airline loses your checked or carry-on bags.
When you’re in the air, any in-flight purchases you make with your card will earn a 20% statement credit. So, if you spend $100 on in-flight items, a $20 credit will show up on your statement in six to eight weeks, the fine print says.
Also, you get free priority security check-in via the Delta Sky Priority check-in.
While this card has a wealth of travel benefits that provide cheaper, more luxurious airline travel experience, it carries with it a set of rates and fees that could prove costly if you carry a balance or often pay late.
Here’s a quick list of those rates and fees, followed by our observations:
- Interest rate for purchases and balance transfers: 17.99% to 26.99%
- Interest rate for cash advances: 27.49%
- Penalty interest rate: 29.99%
- Balance transfer fee: $5 or 3%, whichever is greater
- Cash advance fee: $5 or 3%, whichever is greater
- Foreign transaction fee: None
- Late/returned payment fee: Up to $38
- Annual fee: $450
- Authorized user fee: N/A
What we see here is a card with a reasonable low-end APR but a high APR that exceeds what you’ll find with other luxury travel cards.
Also, the card has a penalty APR. AmEx will institute this interest rate after you make your first late payment or any payment you make is returned. If you get the penalty APR, it will only apply to future balances you accrue and not the balance you have at the time when AmEx applies the new APR.
The following chart shows you how much you’ll pay in interest over the course of a year according to five different average daily balances:
|17.99% APR for one year||26.99% APR for one year||29.99% APR for one year|
|$1,000 daily balance||$179.90||$269.90||$299.90|
|$2,000 daily balance||$359.80||$539.80||$599.80|
|$3,000 daily balance||$539.70||$809.70||$899.70|
|$4,000 daily balance||$719.60||$1,079.60||$1,199.60|
|$5,000 daily balance||$899.50||$1,349.50||$1,499.50|
What makes these interest payments dangerous is that your Delta Reserve card doesn’t provide enough yearly rewards to pay for one cross country flight. In addition to that drawback, you also have to pay a $450 annual fee.
So, in most cases, your annual fee alone may exceed the money you save booking one rewards flight may or may not exceed the $450 you’ll pay for the card’s annual fee. If you add any one of the yearly interest payments listed in the chart above, the card loses even more overall value.
We’ve gathered up the important data from other premium credit cards with similar annual fees. We’ve placed the Delta Reserve next to the United MileagePlus Club card to give you a sense of how it compares to another airline luxury card:
|Delta Reserve Credit Card||United MileagePlus Club Card||Platinum Card from American Express||Mastercard Black Card||Chase Sapphire Reserve||Citi Prestige Card||U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite Card|
|Sign-up bonus||75K miles/5K MQM’s||50,000 miles||60,000 points||None||50,000 points||50,000||50,000|
|Rewards rates||2x/1x||2x/1.5x||5x/5x/1x||1x on all purchases||3x/3x/1x||5x/5x/3x/3x/1x||3x/3x/1x|
|Yearly points on $35K annual spending||36,500 miles||53,250 miles||47,000 points||70,000 for airfare, 52,500 for cash||47,730 points||60,136 points||41,000 points|
|TSA/ Global Entry reimbursement||Free Sky Priority expedited security||Free Premier Access expedited security||$100||$100||$100||$100||$100|
|Airline/ Travel credit||Free companion pass, priority boarding, first bag free, 20% in-flight purchase savings||Priority boarding, first and second bag free||$200||$100||$300||$250||$325|
|Travel partners||1||1||21 (15 int’l, 3 domestic, 3 hotels)||None||12 (6 int’l airlines, 3 domestic, 3 hotel)||15 (14 int'l, 1 domestic)||None|
|Lounge access||Delta Sky Club and 250 other lounges||United Club||AmEx Centurion, Delta SkyClub, Priority Pass Select, three others||Priority Pass Select||Priority Pass Select||Priority Pass Select||Priority Pass Select|
|APR||17.99% to 26.99%||18.24% to 25.24%||N/A||17.24%||19.24% to 26.24%||17.99% to 25.99%||17.99%|
|Annual fee/ Authorized user fee||$450/NA||$450/NA||$550/NA||$495/$195||$450/$75||$495/$75||$400/$75|
This chart shows the clear differences between the Delta Reserve and the United MileagePlus Club. The side-by-side comparison allows you to see how the Delta card’s yearly rewards are significantly lower than the MileagePlus Club.
However, what the chart doesn’t show is that the MileagePlus Club card doesn’t offer a companion pass each year as the Delta card does.
Basically, the United MileagePlus Club gives you enough points to get two free round-trip tickets for yourself and, in some cases, the Delta Reserve gives you enough points to get one free round-trip ticket for yourself, plus a companion ticket for your traveling partner.
The two cards force you to make a decision: Do you want more miles for yourself or do you want a companion pass for someone else.
Now, airline cards aside, we think that the Delta Reserve doesn’t really measure up to the level of points and perks you get with other cards.
For example, the Mastercard Black Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve, Citi Prestige Card and U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite all give you access to Priority Pass Select. This membership gives you free entrance to more than 1,200 airport lounges worldwide. Each card offers more points than the Delta Reserve, too.
The Platinum Card from American Express not only provides more points per year but also gives you access to its own network of lounges in addition to Delta and Priority Pass lounges.
Also, another thing to keep in mind is that the American Express, Citi and Chase cards provide numerous transfer partners to which you can send your points. In the case of the American Express and Chase cards, you can transfer your points to three different domestic airline frequent flyer programs.
This variety provides you with more options for finding the cheapest rewards flights in lieu of your card limiting you to one airline.
In general, we think that general luxury cards offer better value and yearly perks than the Delta Reserve. However, they lack the day-of flight benefits like priority boarding and free bags. You’ll need to weight the value of those perks for yourself to determine if you want to stick with a premium airline card as opposed to a general luxury travel card.
Based on our research, we believe the Delta Reserve Credit Card is very strong when it comes to its ability to earn you MQM miles you can use to get, at the very least, Silver status. Doing so provides you with multiple complimentary upgrade opportunities, which can save you hundreds of dollars a year.
We also believe the card’s free companion pass is a strength, as it’s something that you won’t get with alternative premium airline cards like the United MileagePlus Club.
Also, we like how the card gets you expedited security check-in through the Sky Priority program. This is a great feature because other non-airline luxury cards provide reimbursement for the fees you’d pay to join the Global Entry or TSA PreCheck programs. The Delta Reserve doesn’t provide reimbursement because it doesn’t need to.
The card’s main drawback is that it doesn’t produce many yearly points. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a cross-country flight for less than 40,000 points, especially tickets in the Main class that allow you to utilize the complimentary upgrades you get if you can achieve at least Silver MQM status.
However, we’d say that the card’s sign-up bonus of 75,000 offsets the lack of yearly rewards at least for the first year you own the card because, in that first year, you could earn more than 100,000 points between your daily spending and the bonus.
With all this in mind, we think the Delta Reserve is an excellent fit for someone who doesn’t pay late (avoids penalty APR), is loyal to the Delta brand and wants a way to earn MQM miles in a more expedient fashion.
If you want to learn more about premium rewards cards, take a few minutes to read through our rankings of the best luxury credit cards of 2019. We do a deep dive of the cards we highlighted in our chart, providing you extensive advice on which card may be best for you.
Leave it at home
How terribly disappointing that AMEX wants to jerk you around for up to 90 days in awarding you the bonus MQM's. Sad commentary considering what you pay for the card, especially considering that they can delay you long enough to cause you not to achieve the higher Medallion status from the extra MQM'S.
I don't think they really want my business and they probably won't get it again.
Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend
Customer service at its optimal best.
If I were to choose and carry just one card, it must be American Express! I'm yet to see another credit card that gives the personal and professional services as Amex. A massive amount of love, you guys absolutely rock. Our 12-year relationship has been joyful.
Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this to a friend