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Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card Review

The Delta Reserve Card is not one of our top-rated airline credit cards. You can review our list of the best airline credit cards for what we think are better options.


Full Review of Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Card from American Express


Pros

  • Exceptional luxury travel benefits

  • Generous bonus offer

  • Opportunity for higher rewards

Cons

  • High annual fee

  • Lower rewards than other Delta cards in most categories


Pros Explained

  • Exceptional Travel Benefits: A key reason to get a luxury travel card is for its premium travel benefits, and the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Amex has plenty of those. The most valuable is a pass that allows you to bring a companion with you on one domestic round-trip itinerary, and pay only for applicable taxes and fees (which are capped at no more than $75). Cardholders also receive complimentary access to both Delta Sky Club lounges and Amex Centurion (when flying with Delta and used your Delta Reserve card to book the flight) lounges, two guest passes to SkyClub lounges, a credit for either TSA Precheck every 4.5 years or Global Entry security programs every 4 years (when charged to the Delta Skymiles Platinum American Express), a free checked bag per flight (for the cardholder and up to eight companions), baggage insurance, main-cabin priority boarding, and in-flight savings. 
  • Generous Bonus Offer: New cardholders have the opportunity to earn 50,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion(R) Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Also, earn up to 60,000 Medallion(R) Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost(R) per year. After you spend $30,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 15,000 MQMs four times per year, getting you closer to Medallion(R) Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion(R) Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights. We value the 100,000 bonus miles at $1,440 when redeemed for domestic Delta flights—alone a very substantial points bonus. But this offer is even more enticing for those trying to reach a Delta Medallion status, which gets you several additional perks when flying with the airline. If you receive a 10,000-MQM bonus, it would take you close to the 25,000 MQMs it takes annually to achieve Silver Medallion Status with Delta. 
  • Even Higher Spending, Even Higher Rewards: Heavy spenders can earn further reward miles. If in any calendar year eligible purchases on the card are $30,000 or more, the cardmember will be awarded 15,000 MQMs—a benefit that, along with the MQMs you received as a bonus offer, would get you most or all of the way to earning Silver Medallion Status. If in that same calendar year eligible purchases on the card are $60,000, $90,000, and $120,000 or more, an additional 15,000 MQMs will be awarded for each threshold.


Cons Explained

  • High Annual Fee: This card’s annual fee of $550 is quite high. While such fees aren’t uncommon for luxury travel cards, they obviously represent a heavy investment and a risk that the card’s benefits and rewards may not justify the cost—especially after the first year is over, and its bonus has been received.
  • Lower Rewards in Some Categories Than Other Delta Cards: Curiously, this most expensive of the four Delta Amex cards isn’t the most generous in its rewards. Its 3 points for every dollar spent with Delta matches the rate of the Delta SkyMiles Platinum Amex. But both that card, which has an annual fee $300 less than the Delta Skymiles Reserve, and the Delta SkyMiles Gold Amex, which is about $450 less (after its first year when the annual fee is waived), provide better rewards for restaurants and U.S. supermarkets than their exclusive sibling: 2 points per dollar spent, rather than the 1 point of the Delta SkyMiles Reserve Amex awards.


The Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express card is designed for very faithful Delta customers who fly regularly enough—say, several times a month—to earn sufficient miles to justify this card’s high annual fee.

Frequent flights are indeed required to justify the annual fee for this card. For example, if you charged $2,000 per month on Delta purchases, you’d earn 72,000 miles that we estimate would be worth $1,108.80 when redeemed for domestic Delta flights. 

Those rewards, then, would more than justify the $550 fee. The value of some card perks further boosts the card’s returns. The annual certificate that provides a free domestic round-trip for a companion could alone be worth hundreds of dollars, with further savings from access to free food and drink (not to mention a comfortable respite) at Delta SkyClub or Amex Centurion lounges.  

Once you spend more than about $2,500 per month on flights, this card becomes especially lucrative. You’d likely be well on your way to Silver status with Delta’s SkyMiles program, since your $30,000 in annual spending would earn you more than half of the 25,000 MQMs (medallion qualification miles) required to qualify annually. With that status, you would earn an additional 7 miles per dollar spent on flights, which would add to your account 210,000 extra miles that we estimate would be worth $3,234 when exchanged for flights.


Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Amex Bonus Offer 

Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion(R) Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. We determine the bonus miles are worth $1,440 when redeemed for Delta flights, while MQMs get you closer to earning elite status with the airline.

Also, earn up to 60,000 Medallion(R) Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost(R) per year. After you spend $30,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 15,000 MQMs four times per year, getting you closer to Medallion(R) Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion(R) Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.

Those looking for a cheaper alternative to this card can get nearly the same bonus offer out of the less expensive Delta SkyMiles Platinum Amex card. It has an annual fee of $250 and a bonus offer of 50,000 bonus miles and 10,000 MQMs for spending $3,000 within the first three months of membership.


Rewards Earning Details

This card earns you an unlimited 3 miles per dollar spent on purchases made directly with Delta. That includes flights booked on Delta.com, Sky Club memberships or passes, Delta Vacations packages, seat upgrades, and in-flight purchases. You earn 1 mile per dollar spent on all other purchases, and miles never expire. 

Along with the miles you earn for spending on this credit card, you also earn miles for being a member of the SkyMiles reward program. General SkyMiles members earn 5 miles per dollar spent on Delta flights. Those rewards increase once you reach Medallion status. Silver Medallion status, for example, earns you 7 miles per dollar spent on flights, unlimited rollover MQMs, unlimited complimentary upgrades to first class and Delta Comfort, and priority check-in and boarding. 


Rewards Redemption Details

SkyMiles earned can be redeemed through Delta for flights, seat upgrades, gift cards, merchandise, and experiences.

In order to redeem miles, you must be enrolled in the Delta SkyMiles rewards program. Miles can be redeemed through Delta’s website, by phone, or at a Delta ticket counter.  


Transferring Points

While you can’t directly or easily transfer points from Delta to other loyalty programs, if you find yourself looking for more SkyMiles you may be able to transfer points from the loyalty programs of one of Delta’s partners, such as Marriott Bonvoy or American Express Membership Rewards. Such conversions can be costly though, with some requiring two or three partner points to earn one SkyMile, or charging a transfer fee.

Delta’s partners include:

  • American Express
  • Diners Club
  • Banco De Chile
  • JCB
  • Le Club Accor Hotels
  • Radisson Rewards
  • Marriott Bonvoy
  • Hilton Honors
  • IHG
  • Hertz
  • Points.com
  • FlyerTea


How to Maximize Your Rewards

You can make the most with this card first by ensuring you spend enough on the card to earn its one-time offer. That requires spending an average of $1,000 a month for the first three months you have the card, for a total of $3,000 in charges. In exchange, you receive 50,000 bonus miles. The bonus miles are worth $1,440 when redeemed for Delta flights, while the MQMs get you closer to earning elite status with the airline.

During that period and after, you can maximize your earnings in miles with this card by using it for every expense. That’s especially important when it comes to Delta purchases, which earn 2 miles per dollar spent. You can also reduce the cost of in-flight food and drink by charging them to the card, since you receive a 20% discount on such Delta purchases. All non-Delta purchases on the card earn 1 mile per dollar.

If you charge $30,000 to the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Amex within a year—a tall order for many cardholders, admittedly—you get a step closer to supercharging your returns on the card. That’s because you’re then awarded 15,000 MQMs. Those, combined with other MQMs you earned as a one-time offer or from flying with Delta, might allow you to reach the 25,000 annual MQMs that confers Silver SkyMiles status. And that status allows you to earn an additional 7 points per dollar spent on Delta purchases.  

Regardless of your spending, you can further optimize your return on this card by making the most of the card’s annual companion certificate, which entitles you to take someone along on a round trip if you pay only taxes and fees of up to $75 on their ticket. 

Even if you opt for a main-cabin flight at a typical price that’s a valuable perk: the average round-trip domestic ticket costs $343 plus government taxes and fees (of which you’d pay a maximum of $75). But the certificate allows you to choose a free first-class flight, which could easily add hundreds of dollars to that benefit. Granted, you do need to cover your own ticket to accompany your companion, but this still adds an alluring extra that could justify some of this card’s annual fee. 


Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Card’s Outstanding Benefits

  • Annual companion certificate
  • Complimentary Sky Club access
  • Primary car rental collision insurance and Accidental Death and Dismemberment Coverage*
  • Free checked bag per flight
  • Baggage insurance plan*
  • Main cabin priority boarding
  • Concierge service
  • 24/7 global assistance hotline*

*Eligibility and Benefit level varies by Card. Terms, Conditions and Limitations Apply. Please visit americanexpress.com/benefitsguide for more details. Underwritten by New Hampshire Insurance Company, an AIG Company.


Standard Benefits

  • Return purchase protection*
  • Fraud protection
  • Year-end summary of charges
  • In-flight purchase discounts 

*Eligibility and Benefit level varies by Card. Terms, Conditions and Limitations Apply. Please visit americanexpress.com/benefitsguide for more details. Underwritten by AMEX Assurance Company.


Cardholder Experience

American Express ranked first in J.D. Power’s 2021 Credit Card Satisfaction survey with a score of 838 out of 1,000. Customer service can be reached 24/7 at 800-528-4800. Cardholders can also log into their online account and chat with a representative, connect with Amex on Meta, or tweet questions and comments to @AskAmex. 


Security Features

You’ll find a number of security features with this card that come standard with American Express cards, including fraud protection and account alerts. It also offers instant card numbers in the case that your physical card is lost or stolen.  


Our Verdict

The Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Amex card offers outstanding luxury benefits and opportunities to earn bonus miles that justify its sky-high annual fees for those who travel constantly on Delta. For intermittent travelers, though, this card is a questionable choice. 

For example, let’s calculate the rewards such a traveler might earn by using this card to buy, say, four round-trip domestic tickets a year on Delta, each at the average fare for a such a trip of $343. The tickets would cost a total of $1,372 and earn 4,116 points. Those points, we estimate, would earn you only about $63 for use to buy future Delta tickets.

Let’s further assume that, when buying one of those tickets, you use an annual companion certificate to cover the round-trip ticket for a family member who accompanies you in a seat of the same average value. That would impart a benefit of $343. Adding the $63 points value to that companion round-trip value of $343 yields a total benefit of $406. That can only partially justify the annual fee in this scenario. Taking advantage of other perks for the card might help you further justify the cost, though.

Delta devotees who travel less frequently, then, yet still want to do so in style might be better off with the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Amex card. With a $250 annual fee, this card lacks some benefits of the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Amex, such as access to lounges. But it shares many benefits of its pricier sibling, including a companion pass (albeit economy only), a free first bag checked free, and main-cabin priority boarding.

If you’re not loyal to Delta, you could also consider a non-airline branded luxury card, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve or American Express Platinum. Both of those cards charge high annual fees—$550 and $695 respectively—but offer high rewards, big bonus offers, and premium benefits.

To see the rates and fees for Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Card, please see the following links: rates and fees.

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