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Reviewed: Delta Reserve by American Express

The Verdict

The Delta Reserve credit card from American Express is not for frugal and infrequent Delta travelers

Let's cut right to the chase: If you're a frugal traveler who's willing to sacrifice a little luxury to score a fabulous bargain, this card might not be the perfect match for you.

The Delta Reserve is considered an elite rewards credit card, and unless you have deep pockets, its $450 annual fee may be a deal-breaker.

But if you're a frequent Delta flyer and traveling in style is a priority for you, Delta Reserve's perks—like Delta Sky Club access at the airport, one free checked bag, and priority-boarding privileges—may be worth the steep annual fee.

Cardholders can also earn Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs), which can boost your frequent flyer miles to help you qualify for a higher-tier status in Delta's Medallion loyalty program.

But that means Delta brand loyalty is key to making the most of this card.

Spending money with Delta—either through direct booking, Sky Club passes, or money spent in-flight—is the only way to earn bonus miles.

Likewise, miles can only be redeemed toward travel on Delta or one of its partner airlines.

If you rarely fly Delta, it likely won't be worth splurging for those perks.

How frequently do americans fly

The Competition

The Platinum Card from American Express offers more flexibility and faster earnings

Before you apply for a Delta Reserve credit card from American Express, it's worth exploring whether another card will be more beneficial for the way you travel.

One major competitor among elite rewards credit cards is the Platinum Card from American Express.

The Platinum Card is a charge card—not a credit card—meaning you're required to pay your bill in full each month rather than maintain a balance.

If you can swing that, the Platinum Card offers a bigger sign-up bonus and more flexible rewards.

The Platinum Card has an annual fee of $550—even higher than the Delta Reserve—but in return, cardholders earn 5x points on any flight booked directly through the carrier or through American Express Travel.

"If you book flights with the Platinum card to earn 5x points, you'd have enough points for a one-way domestic Delta flight in economy after spending just $2,500," writes The Points Guy.

That means even on a Delta flight, the Platinum Card will earn more rewards than the Delta Reserve Card.

So practically, that means if you book a $500 flight directly through Delta, you'll earn 1,000 miles (2x) with the Delta Reserve.

With the Platinum Card, however, you'd earn 2,500 points.

Unless Sky Club lounge access and priority boarding are important to you, you'll likely rack up rewards faster with the Platinum Card.

How Delta Reserve compares to the Platinum Card from American Express

Delta Reserve Platinum Card
How high of credit score do you need? >650 >650
Annual fee $450 $550
Average APR? 16.74% None—your balance is due in full each month.
How big of sign-up bonus do you get? 40,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQM), which are valid toward upgraded Medallion status 60,000 bonus points
How much do you need to spend to get the bonus? $3,000 within 3 months $5,000 within 3 months
How many points do you get for every dollar?

2 miles for every dollar spent at Delta

1 mile per dollar on all other purchases

5 points per dollar when booking directly through an airline or on Amextravel.com

5 points per dollar at prepaid hotels booked through AmexTravel.com

1 point per dollar on all other purchases

Any restrictions?

Miles are only valid for travel on Delta or its partner airlines

The free companion ticket is limited to the continental U.S.

There's a cap on how many MQMs you can earn in a year, so you can't max out your MQMs by having more than one Delta card

The card offers a $200 airline fee credit, but it's limited to one airline of your choice and only valid on incidental purchases (like baggage fees and in-flight snacks), not airfare
How much is a point worth in real dollars? A domestic flight typically requires 25,000 miles; based on the average domestic flight price of $222 according to Hopper.com, that comes to just under 0.01 cents per mile Points are typically worth 0.5 cents to 1 cent each when redeemed for merchandise, and 2.5 to 3 cents per point when redeemed for travel

The Question Everyone Is Asking Now

Is it worth upgrading from a Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card to the Delta Reserve Credit Card?

While the Platinum Card from American Express may be the major competitor among elite credit cards, loyal Delta customers who already hold a Gold Delta SkyMiles Card may be wondering whether it's worth upgrading to the more "elite" version of the card.

  • baggage fee revenue by airline

    The answer? It depends on how often you fly Delta and how much you care about Medallion status and Sky Club access.

    The annual fee on the Gold Delta SkyMiles credit card is waived the first year, and only $95 per year after that—a significant savings over the Delta Reserve card.

    You'll still earn 2 miles per dollar spent at Delta, and 1 mile per dollar on all other purchases, along with priority boarding and a free checked bag.

    The main difference is status.

    Gold Delta SkyMiles cardholders have to pay $29 each time they enter a Sky Club lounge, rather than receiving free access.

    Furthermore, only Delta Reserve offers bonus Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs).

    The Gold card is worth it only if you don't care about lounge access or Medallion status, and fly Delta more than any other airline.

The Strengths

The Delta Reserve credit card gives loyal customers the luxury treatment

There are plenty of travel rewards cards to choose from—not to mention the Gold Delta SkyMiles card with a much lower annual fee—so how can you decide if the Delta Reserve is the best travel card for you?

Before you apply, ask yourself if you will you be able to take full advantage of the following benefits:

Earn bonus points for flying Delta. For every dollar spent with Delta—including in-flight snacks and seat upgrades—you'll earn 2 miles per dollar.

Redeem points for Delta tickets. Use your miles to book a flight on Delta or any of its SkyMiles partner airlines (including ExpressJet, Air France, and Virgin Atlantic).

Get Sky Club lounge access. Delta Reserve cardholders get a membership to the Delta Sky Club, which includes lounge access for the year (normally $59 per visit, or $495 per year), along with discounted access for guests.

Free companion certificate. When you renew your card each year, you'll receive a free round-trip companion certificate so you can bring a guest on your next trip, free of charge.

Depending on the value of the free flight, this can be a quick way to recoup your $450 annual fee.

Enjoy travel perks during your trip. Delta Reserve cardholders get priority boarding, one free checked bag per flight, and discounts on in-flight snacks and beverages.

how much U.S. airlines spend on in-flight meals

Earn Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs). MQMs are miles that can help you qualify for a higher tier of Medallion benefits.

When you spend $30,000 in a calendar year, you'll get a "Miles Boost" of 15,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles.

Combined with the 10,000 MQMs you receive at signup, this is enough to automatically qualify for Silver status.

You'll earn an additional 15,000 MQMs after you spend $60,000 in a calendar year.

The Weaknesses

The Delta Reserve credit card is expensive and its reward options are limited

The annual fee is steep. Even the most jet-set customer might balk at spending $450 a year for the privilege of using the card.

Miles accumulate slowly. Even when you spend with Delta—the only opportunity to earn bonus miles—you're only earning 2 miles per dollar.

To accrue the 25,000 you need for a free domestic flight, you'd need to spend $12,500 with Delta, or $25,000 elsewhere.

domestic U.S. passengers

The lounge is the main benefit. If a Sky Club membership is something you'd spring for anyway, then you may find it easy to justify paying a $450 annual fee to get a $495 membership for free.

But if you tend to sprint to the gate a few minutes before boarding, and won't make use of the Sky Club lounge, it'll be much harder to recoup that annual fee.

Who It's Made For

Get the Delta Reserve for the status and the bragging rights

There are plenty of other frequent flier travel rewards cards that offer fast rewards, more flexibility, and no annual fee.

The main draw for the Delta Reserve is status—it's an elite card with elite perks to match.

If you want the simplicity of earning and redeeming your points on one airline—and being treated like a VIP when you fly—then the Delta Reserve card might be a good match for you.

If you aren't loyal to any particular airline and don't need to wait for your flight in a swanky airport lounge, then you likely won't appreciate the main benefits of the Delta Reserve card—at least, not $450 worth.

Also, if you have a so-so credit history, you'll probably want to keep shopping around.

The Delta Reserve card is a premium credit card, and you'll need a good-to-excellent credit score to get approved.

According to AskMrCreditCard.com, the average qualifying credit score for a Delta Reserve card was 690.

The Card and the Company's History

Delta was founded in 1924 as a crop-dusting operation, making it the oldest airline still operating in the United States.

Since then, it's grown into one of the biggest airlines in the world.

In fact, in 2013, Delta carried more scheduled passengers than any other airline.

The Delta Reserve credit card will work best if you live near a Delta hub

It's going to be a lot easier to earn and redeem Delta SkyMiles—and take full advantage of the airport lounge access—if you live in a city with easy access to Delta flights.

In the U.S. those hubs are:

  • Cincinnati
  • Detroit
  • Atlanta
  • New York City
  • Boston
  • Los Angeles
  • Minneapolis
  • Salt Lake City
  • Seattle

There are also international hubs in:

  • Amsterdam
  • Paris
  • London
  • Tokyo

How the Card Works

Here's what you need to know about using your Delta Reserve credit card

Ready to sign up for the Delta Reserve and start sipping bubbly in the Sky Club lounge?

Here's what you need to know about using your Delta Reserve card.

Benefits

With the Delta Reserve card, you get rewarded with posh perks for your loyalty to Delta.

Delta Reserve cardholders enjoy the following benefits:

Get Sky Club access. Enjoy complimentary access to the Delta Sky Club lounge and a discounted rate of $29 per person for your guests.

This is a $495 value, so if it's something you'd use anyway, it can offset the card's $450 annual fee.

Climb the ranks. Improve your status in the Medallion loyalty program by earning 15,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles every time you spend $30,000 in a calendar year.

Take a friend. Delta Reserve cardholdersreceive a free companion certificate each year, valid for a free domestic flight.

Worry less when you travel. The Delta Reserve credit card includes Travel Accident Insurance, Car Rental Loss and Damage Insurance, and Baggage Insurance.

Which U.S. airlines are most likely to lose your luggage

Rewards

Swipe for more points. With the Delta Reserve credit card, you'll earn 2 miles per dollar on all purchases at Delta, and 1 mile per dollar on all other purchases.

Use miles flexibly. Miles can be redeemed for future flights on Delta or one of its partner airlines.

Noncompetitive bonuses. However, it's worth noting that other cards typically offer better opportunities to earn bonus points.

Interest rates and APR

So how do the Delta Reserve credit card's rates stack up to other travel rewards cards? Here's what you can expect:

Beware the interest rates. The APR ranges from 16.74-25.74% based on your creditworthiness—and because it's a variable rate, it could potentially go even higher.

At the high end, it'll be hard to chip away at debt if you leave a balance on your card.

Cash advances come at a price. Need speedy funds? You might want to reconsider tapping your Delta Reserve card for a cash advance as they are subject to a 26.24% APR.

Don't pay late. Missed a payment? You may face a penalty APR of 29.99%.

Fees

There are also a few fees associated with using your Delta Reserve credit card:

Cash advances come at a price. Expect to pay either $5 or 3% (whichever is greater) for cash advances.

No fee for overseas purchases. Good news: The Delta Reserve credit card does not charge a transaction fee when used outside the U.S.

There's that annual fee. Again, whether the Delta Reserve credit card is worth the $450 annual fee will depend on whether you travel with Delta often enough to take full advantage of the Sky Club membership, free companion certificate, priority boarding, and in-flight discounts.

What People Love About It

People love the Delta Reserve because they get VIP treatment

Are there cards with stronger opportunities for earning rewards?

Absolutely.

But if you're a loyal Delta customer, carrying a Delta Reserve card certainly has its perks—if you're a high roller.

"The best fit for this card is someone who will spend at least $60,000 on their card every year and who flies Delta frequently," writes J.R. Duren at highya.com.

Enjoy Sky Club access. For a certain type of traveler, the option to relax in an exclusive lounge before their flight, rather than jockeying for space in the waiting area by the gate, could be worth the annual fee alone.

Improve your Medallion status. After you spend $30,000 in your first year, you'll have enough Medallion Qualifying Miles to qualify for Silver status, which includes even better perks like preferred seating and space-available upgrades.

Get on the plane first. Jump the line, get on the plane early, and nab your spot in the overhead compartment. What's not to love?

Biggest Consumer Complaints

The biggest consumer complaints about Delta Reserve are the lackluster rewards

Bottom line, there are plenty of travel rewards cards that let you redeem points for airfare.

So if airport lounges aren't your scene, you're probably not going to get too excited about the perks of the Delta Reserve card.

If you don't care about those premium perks, you'll likely be happier with a more flexible travel rewards card that accrues points more quickly.

Key Digital Services

The Fly Delta app can make it easier to redeem rewards

There's no dedicated app for the Delta Reserve credit card, but cardholders can download the Fly Delta app (iPhone | Android) and use it to check their SkyMiles balance, book flights, reserve preferred seats, and locate Sky Club lounges.

However, while the app receives overall decent reviews, several users have complained about glitches and technical issues.

"App never works when you need it…in fact, it is basically useless because it won't let you check in or download a boarding pass," one user complained on Google Play.

However, another user raves, "This is by far the most useful app I use.

"No more paper boarding passes. I can choose my seat and even change it when a better one opens right up till boarding."

How to Sign up for the Card

Visit the American Express website to fill out an online application for the Delta Reserve card and get access to the signup bonus.

You'll need your social security number and date of birth to apply.

Also, keep in mind that you'll receive your bonus miles after you receive the card and spend $3,000 — so if you're planning on booking a trip in the near future, make sure you allow yourself enough time to hit the spending limit and wait for the bonus miles to post to your account.

How to Close Your Account

You can close your Delta Reserve card at any time by calling American Express customer service at 1-800-528-4800.

But before you do, consider this: downgrade instead of cancel, according to CreditCardForum.com.

For example, if you drop to the Gold Delta SkyMiles card, you'll still collect SkyMiles, your credit-to-debt ratio will stay intact, and the annual fee will remain $95.

FAQ

Here are the answers to the most frequently asked questions (FAQ) about the Delta Reserve credit card

  • How can I cancel my card?

    The easiest way to close your account is by calling the customer service number printed on the back of your card.

  • What can I use my credit card for?

    The miles you earn can be redeemed for future flights on Delta or one of its partner airlines.

    SkyMiles can also be donated to charity or used to purchase gifts or magazine subscriptions through the Shop With Miles program.

  • Where and what stores can I use my credit card?

    You can use your Delta Reserve credit card anywhere American Express is accepted.

  • How long does it take American Express to refund my credit card?

    For most purchases, refunds will be posted to your account within a few business days.

  • Which airlines can I use my miles with?

    Your miles can be used on Delta or any of its partner airlines.

  • What is the difference between Medallion Qualifying Miles and regular miles?

    Any miles you earn can be redeemed for future air travel and other rewards. But only Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs)—the miles you earn by actually flying—can help you qualify for an upgraded Medallion status.

    That means you can't simply spend $25,000 to earn the 25,000 MQMs you need to qualify for Silver status. You'll need to earn those MQMs through miles flown, your signup bonus, or a "Miles Boost."

  • Can I check my first bag for free on every flight with Delta or is it just a one-time thing?

    Your first checked bag is free every time you fly.

  • Does priority boarding mean I can select seats in first class and/or business class?

    If you haven't purchased a first class or business class ticket, you can't use priority boarding to snag one of those seats. In fact, you'll board after first class and business class passengers.

    But you will get to board the plane ahead of other passengers in the economy section.

  • How can I get the companion certificate? Is it a once-in-a-lifetime offer?

    You'll receive a free companion certificate every year when you renew the card (and pay that steep annual fee).

  • What is the complimentary travel insurance that comes with this card?

    The Delta Reserve credit card includes Travel Accident Insurance, Car Rental Loss and Damage Insurance, and Baggage Insurance.

    A full description of these insurance benefits can be found here.

  • Can I redeem my SkyMiles before I get the credit card?

    No. You'll receive your 40,000 bonus points and 10,000 MQMs approximately 6-8 weeks after you hit your $3,000 spending threshold—so you'll need to get the card and start using it before you can cash in those miles.

  • How is Delta Reserve card different from the Delta Gold or the Platinum card?

    There are a few key differences:

    All three cards offer 2 miles per dollar on every Delta purchase and 1 mile per dollar on all other purchases.

    The Delta Gold card has the lowest annual fee ($95) and the biggest signup bonus (30,000 bonus miles).

    Only the Platinum and Reserve cards offer the chance to earn MQMs.

    Only the Platinum and Reserve cards offer a free companion certificate each year.

    Only the Reserve card offers priority boarding and Sky Club access.

  • How can I check my credit card balance?

    You can check your card balance online at the American Express website or by calling the number on the back of your card.

  • How do I withdraw money or get a cash advance from my credit card?

    Cash advances can be made using your Delta Reserve card at an ATM, but beware of the fees and high-interest rates mentioned above.

  • Can I pay for the credit card with a gift, a different credit card, or PayPal?

    Not directly. However, you can transfer funds from your PayPal account into the bank account you use to pay your Delta Reserve Card.

  • Can I use my American Express credit card without the card?

    You can use your American Express card for online purchases as long as you know your account number. However, if your card is lost or stolen, call the customer service number to report it.

  • How can I add an authorized user to my American Express credit card?

    To add an authorized user, contact the customer service number on the back of your card.

  • Are there any upgrades on my American Express credit card?

    The Delta Reserve credit card is the highest level of Delta rewards cards available through American Express.

  • How soon can I use my credit card once I receive it?

    You can start using your Delta Reserve card as soon as you receive it.

  • How do I contact American Express credit card services?

    Call the number on the back of the card, or log-on to the American Express website to chat with a representative.

  • How do I report a stolen American Express credit card?

    If your card is lost or stolen, call customer service at 1-800-528-4800 to report it.

  • What credit score do I need to get approval for the card?

    The average credit score needed for card approval is 650 or higher.

  • What credit score do I have to maintain so my account is not closed?

    To avoid account closure, make monthly payments on time and make sure you occasionally use the card, even if it's not your primary credit card.

    Anytime a credit card account is closed by the issuer, it can cause a slight ding to your credit score. If the account is closed due to delinquency, it can have an even bigger impact.

  • Which credit bureaus does American Express credit card report to?

    American Express reports to all three major credit bureaus.

  • Can I build my credit with the American Express credit card?

    The Delta Reserve card is not an ideal card for building credit. It requires a strong credit score to qualify and the steep annual fee means you need to use the card and all its benefits in order to make it worth keeping it open.

  • Is there an expiry date on the card?

    Yes, there is an expiration date on the credit card. However, your miles won't expire as long as your account is active and in good standing.

  • Is there a credit insurance program and how will it cover me if I lose my job?

    American Express offers an optional credit protection program called AMEX Account Protector Ultimate that protects your balance in the event of job loss, illness, or death.

  • Can I have two credit cards from American Express at the same time?

    Yes.

  • Can I transfer money from my American Express credit card to another?

    If you open a new credit card, you can do a balance transfer from your American Express card to the new card. Beware of balance transfer rates and fees though.

  • Is it hard to get an American Express credit card?

    The Delta Reserve credit card from American Express typically requires that your credit history is in the "good" to "excellent" zone.

  • How long does it take to receive the card once I have been approved for it?

    After approval—which can happen in a matter of minutes—most American Express cards take 7-10 days for delivery.

  • How do I get more reward points?

    The best way to maximize your miles is by booking Delta any time you fly. Also, keep an eye out for promotions and bonuses that can help you earn extra points.

  • Does this American Express card cover rental car insurance?

    Yes, this card includes car rental insurance.

  • Is the Delta Reserve credit card worth the annual splurge?

    If you don't fly Delta often, skip it. If you do, it depends on whether you care about the perks the Delta Reserve card offers.

Other cards offer stronger rewards. Delta's rewards are modest at best and they can only be redeemed through Delta. There are plenty of cheaper, faster, more flexible rewards cards on the market.

It's all about the extras. The Delta Reserve card is really more about the perks than the rewards. If an airport lounge membership is on your wish list, the annual fee—slightly less than the cost of a Sky Club individual membership—may be well worth it to you.

Do you use the Delta Reserve credit card by American Express?

How has the card worked out for you?

Any great tips (or nightmares) to share with the rest of us?

Let us know in the comments below.


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