Delta and American Express have detailed sweeping changes to the American Express x Delta Airlines co-branded card portfolio, and in short, the changes are attractive. Nope, not all, some are terrible, but there is actually a lot here that broadens their appeal.
Major companies love to say that they’ve listened to customer feedback and rarely is it ever a positive case, but today’s changes bring more points for the things you do every day, and a few perks for things that make travel special, albeit with higher annual fees…
In the most fundamental nutshell, these cards are for Delta loyalists, who fly Delta whenever possible. The Delta SkyMiles® Gold, Platinum and Reserve American Express credit cards each retain the key value proposition which means: a complimentary checked bag on all Delta flights, Zone 1 boarding, in flight savings up to 20%, no foreign transaction fees on purchases abroad and the ability to pay with miles to bring down the price of Delta flights.
For those that go for the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum and Reserve American Express cards, the annual companion voucher remains in tact, which can be a terrific value for any trips which would otherwise be costly, particularly during holiday travel.
For more info on the overall positive and negative changes with each card, keep on reading, ya nerd’!
The idea with airline credit cards has simply been to offer better earn rates when spending with the airline in question, and only the airline in question. With the Delta Amex Credit Cards, that meant a better earning rate on Delta purchases.
But consumers – like you – are now savvy to the point of looking for the card which rewards each category of spend at a high level, and the first major change is that the Delta Amex cards now offer bonuses on restaurants, hotels and more. Here’s what you can expect from each card…
- 2X Miles On Delta Purchases – Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card.
- 2X Miles On Restaurants (Worldwide) – Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card, Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card, Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card and Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card.
- 2X Miles at U.S. Supermarkets – Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card, Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card and Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card.
- 3x Miles On Hotels (Direct Booking) – Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card.
- 3X Miles On Delta Purchases – Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card and Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card.
Higher Annual Fees Starting In 2020
Unfortunately, the improved card earning and more flexible benefit schemes come at the cost of an increased annual fee on each Delta Skymiles American Express Credit Card. In some cases, it’s a difference of $5, while in others, it’s a sharp $100 climb, and the justification is borderline. The new annual fee structure for the Amex Delta portfolio, beginning for signups starting January 30th, 2020. All applications prior to this date will lock in the lower annual fees for the first year…
To be ultimately clear: you’ll receive the new benefits starting January 30th, but won’t pay the new higher annual fee until your renewal in late 2020, if you were to apply now or anytime before that date. Basically, you’d get in on the lower annual fees now, and get the benefits in just a few months…
- Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card – No Annual Fee.
- Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card – $99 Per Year ($4 Jump).
- Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card – $250 Per Year ($55 Jump).
- Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card – $550 Per Year ($100 Jump).
It’s always tough to justify annual fee raises, but Delta and American Express have introduced a few new card features which can drive at least $50 per card in additional value.
A Delta Sky Club is a nice place to relax before a flight, but they’re not everywhere, and sometimes they’re not quite as nice as American Express’ own collection of Centurion Lounges, which have been available exclusively to American Express Platinum and Centurion cardholders. There’s a handful of changes with each card, so let’s look at them one by one.
In general – Blue (free) gets better, Gold gets much worse, Platinum depends how you look at it and Reserve becomes more compelling for status chasers…
Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card
- Centurion Lounge Access For Delta Amex Reserve – For the first time ever, the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve will feature SkyClub access, but also Centurion Lounge access, with the addition of two guest passes for SkyClub guests to join you on a visit, or just give to a friend. The only catch? You need to be on a Delta flight to use this benefit…
- Up To 60,000 MQM From Delta Amex Reserve Spend – At each $30,000 in annual spend, you earn 15,000 MQM, up to 4x for a total of 60,000 MQM from spending alone. This puts you just 15,000 MQM’s of actual flying away from Delta Platinum, and gets you nearly half way to Diamond just from your purchase habits. This is a way to go from barely scraping Gold to hitting Diamond, if you can make it work for you.
- No More Bonus Skymiles On Delta Amex Reserve Spend – Upon hitting certain spending thresholds, both cards previously rewarded cardholders with MQM’s which count toward elite status, but also with redeemable Delta Skymiles, which could be used toward flights. From January 30th, the benefit will only award MQM elite qualify miles, and won’t include redeemable Skymiles.
- Global Entry/TSA PreCheck Credit For Delta Amex Reserve – If you travel enough, you’ll probably want to have TSA PreCheck, and or Global Entry. And yes, Global Entry is well worth the hassle, since it includes both. Both cards offer a fee credit which covers your application for either.
- No More Sky Priority For Delta Amex Reserve – With the ability to earn Gold Medallion status just from spending, this isn’t the biggest deal in the world, but losing SkyPriority benefits at airports is a shame to lose, since it can save time. At the same time, having Global Entry and therefore also TSA PreCheck means that you’ll probably enjoy a faster experience through that lane anyway, and the application fee is covered by the card.
- Complimentary Domestic Upgrades Without Status – Even if you’re not a medallion member, which you really should be as a Reserve cardholder, you are still eligible for complimentary upgrades. These process after all medallion upgrades, so if you happen to be on a flight where there are more empty seats than medallion members, it could be your lucky day.
Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card
- Global Entry/TSA PreCheck Credit For Delta Amex Platinum – If you travel enough, you’ll probably want to have TSA PreCheck, and or Global Entry. And yes, Global Entry is well worth the hassle, since it includes both. Both cards offer a fee credit which covers your application for either.
- Sky Club Access Jumps From $29 To $39 Per Visit – Delta and American Express have removed discounted Sky Club access altogether for Delta Amex Gold, and increased the per visit fee from $29 to $39 for Delta Amex Platinum cardholders.
- 3X Miles On Hotels And 2X On Dining And Supermarkets – This is an excellent new benefit which makes the card much more valuable in the wallet day to day, rather than just for Delta spending. To earn 3X on hotels, you’ll need to book direct with the chains.
Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card
- $100 Annual Delta Flight Credit For Delta Amex Gold – For even the most basic Delta loyalists, this is an excellent benefit. When you spend $10,000 or more in a year on your Delta Amex Gold, you’ll receive an annual $100 flight credit, which you can use to take money off a flight.
- No More MQD Waiver For Delta Amex Gold – In a slightly negative move, Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Cards will no longer be eligible for the MQD waiver, which allowed travellers to spend enough via the credit card that they were not subject to Delta’s minimum spend on Delta flight for each elite status tier.
- No More Reduced Price Sky Club Access For Delta Amex Gold – Delta Amex Gold cardholders will no longer be able to pay for reduced priced entry into Sky Clubs. Delta Amex Platinum cardholders will also see their lounge usage fee increased from $29 per visit to $39 per visit. In other words, if you plan to visit a Delta Sky Club, opt for Platinum, or go all the way to Reserve to have complimentary Sky Club membership, in addition to the new Centurion Lounge benefit.
Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card
- No Foreign Transaction Fees – This card now joins the ranks of those which don’t charge you a silly per transaction fee when you use your card abroad. This is a positive move which can save considerable money if you travel abroad.
If you’ve been considering a Delta American Express card, now isn’t a bad time to do so. You’ll be able to lock in the lower annual fee rates for the first, and your new cardmember benefits will kick in before you face your annual fee anniversary. With new, stronger earning rates on purchases you make every day, the cases for each card are worth considering, but all of these decisions are yours alone, and should be based on how you interact with each benefit, or lack thereof.
If you got both the Platinum and Reserve cards, you could earn Delta Platinum Medallion status from spending alone, which is pretty cool, albeit for quite a lot of spending. This could take someone who would only usually hit Silver or Gold n Medallion elite status all the way to Platinum or Diamond, when you consider that you could earn over 70,000 MQM from spending, which makes a huge difference for someone who would typically only earn around 25,000 – 50,000 MQM from their flying.
Delta and American Express have a dedicated landing page with all the benefit changes, and terms of each change, which you can review here.
Delta has launched unique initiatives in recent months for cardmembers from increased availability to use points to better rates when you plan to, in addition to a brief 2X value when you cashed them in for a holiday package. This co-branded card is clearly very valuable to both brands, so expect to see an increasing number of cardmember exclusives throughout the year. If you’re a Delta loyalist, or are looking to make a jump to a higher elite status tier – it’s not a bad look.