Is it worth getting the Delta Amex Reserve Card(s) and Spending $30,000 or $60,000 on them in 2019?

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I do get real value from this card

RenesPoints twitter follower Alex Cannon the other day asked me an interesting question that is basically is it worth spending money on your Delta Amex Reserve card <-LINK this year for the MQM bonus points. It is a hard question to simply answer yes or no because of a number of factors. I see them this way:

  • Value of points (Skypennies)
  • Value of status level gained
  • Value of more upgrades
  • Value of the card itself (perks)

You see why this is not a simple yes or no answer? Let’s start with the simple one. Delta, from the CEO to the VPs, all “feel” that a SkyMile is worth 1 cent, that is, SkyPennies. If they feel that way then we really should as well. So consider your SkyMiles card as a 1% cash back card (yes, you can get more value out of your SkyMiles with work but this is the base line to keep in your head). If you have never had the Delta Amex Reserve personal or business card you can get 40,000 SkyMiles (after minimum spend). Thus year one the value of the Skypennies does just about offset the fee for the card (not waived $450). On to the next point.

Should you go for FO, GM, PM or DM?

If you do spend $30,000 on the card, and that spend posts before 31DEC each year, you get 15,000 bonus MQMs (as well as 15,000 bonus SkyMiles). Do this again i.e. $60,000 spend you get another 15k+15k bonus. 30,000 MQMs could be enough to push you to a much higher elite level and each of these levels has real value even adjusting for all the devaluations in 2019. Here is the thing on this point – it is subjective. To some the perks of whatever Delta Medallion level are nearly priceless – to others, not so much. This value is a personal valuation not a hard cash value! Let’s hit point three.

Get me out of THIS!

Coach tickets are usually cheap. First class tickets are normally expensive. Delta wants to “giveaway” fewer and fewer complimentary upgrades each year. I like free upgrades and the fact is simply holding either the personal or business Delta Amex Reserve card (despite the large yearly fee) it will mean more upgrades for you. If you also pair this with at least $25,000 in spend each year you will see even more upgrades. These are the facts in print from Delta and Amex and I have benefited from this for years. When I consider the value of dozens of free 1st class upgrades a year it cements my feeling about this card as part of my travel mix (i.e. wow there is real value here). On to the last point.

This is NICE!

Most of us who hold travel cards do so for the perks (or we would all just get no fee cards – right?)! If you notice the shot from at the top of this post Delta is telling me I am getting real value from the card. I just the past week spent a number of days in Florida to get away from the snow here up north. I used my Amex Bogo cert and booked cheap coach tickets. All the upgrades cleared for my wife and I a few days before flight. I enjoyed a salad for lunch in the Sky Club as the Reserve card is every bit as good as real individual club membership in 2019. Bottom line is even discounting all of the above – yes – I do get real cost value from holding my Delta Amex Reserve card (even if I do not spend anything on it).

So there you are. If you fly Delta on any kind of a regular basis at all, the card you should hold is the Delta Amex Reserve card <-LINK (personal or business does not matter). While the $450 fee is nasty the value of the card does far outweigh or negate the fee for me year after year after year. – René



  1. Unless you’re going for big spend/ status there is no real value to this card considering you can get Skyclub access and much, much more with the (non Delta) Amex Platinum card. In 2019, I will use my Chase Sapphire Reserve for primary spend and pay the Amex Plat fee for lounge access, travel credit, hotel status and all the other fringe benefits. The Delta cards are becoming more and more worthless. The Delta Plat card does easily pay for itself with the companion cert, however. It’s all pretty subjective depending on your goals.

  2. @Nick – Clearly if you are NOT chasing status with Delta there are better choices as you point out. This is for those of us who care about status and elite points the card offers each year via spend. But also as you point out the BOGO by itself can often offset the cost for holding the card.

  3. You did a coach BOGO instead of first… I guess you are such high status you knew you’d get upgraded anyway?

  4. Just got the reserve card (bus) and my sister got the non delta platinum card. Won’t renew skyclub this year and when we travel as a group can offset getting everyone in the club. Been GM for the longest time so got the card so I can do a nice run to get PM. As GM only get upgraded on the weekends so I hope to get one on Thursdays.

  5. I’ve been debating whether and when to get the Delta Reserve for a couple of years. I’m DM (qualified for 2019). I value my status – esp for perks like lounge access and bumps to D1 cabin. I fly mostly transcon so even w/DM status, getting bumped up to D1 can be uncertain – as there are many DMs on my routes. I’ve wondered whether holding the Reserve (vs the Delta Plat I have) would give me a slight edge. Hoping after 1/31 – there will be fewer DMs to compete with.

  6. @Catherine – Most who get the card notice an instant jump in upgrade percentage. Do note: DO NOT upgrade your platinum card. Apply new then close your old card if you want to so as to no miss the new card bonus offer.

  7. Also with it becoming harder to get to Diamond even with 125K miles, the advantage of the Reserve card is that it gets you one of the perks you could get for free by being Diamond – entry into SkyClub although for me SkyClub would be much more valuable if I could eat there (I only eat kosher). It’s also an easier way of qualifying for Platinum or Gold if you don’t make MQD.

  8. Rene,
    One quick question and some comments.
    I have changed job, now being told to take Southwest (yes drive to MDW sucks). So don’t need AMEX RES. Do they give bonus points for getting AMEX Plat (5yrs ago I had this card).
    Comments: I didn’t complain too much about SW as I don’t need to be Delta DM anymore. Reason: I had heck of a time getting KLM to honor GUCerts… They didn’t even know at ORD…. had to call someone. In my mind that was the best perk of being DM (worth $4-5K).
    I’d still like to have Delta Plat
    1) to qualify for GM, so lounges in Europe are free.
    2) I like BOGO, easily worth annual fee.
    3) Golf clubs travel free

  9. @Nikesh – If you still fly Skyteam yes go for GM. Well worth it. Then again Reserve card and 60k spend gets you 30k of your needed 50k and are MQD exempt. Humm…

  10. I have the Reserve Biz card, and I have noticed more upgrades. For me, I know I’ll get around 105K-110K MQMs thru usual business travel throughout the year. My goal is only to spend 30K on the Reserve card to trigger the MQM bonus to ensure I will requalify for Diamond in 2019. After 30K in spend, it goes in the drawer.

    With the exception of the MQM bonus and more upgrades (which is not easy to measure because you don’t really know the reason you’re upgraded each time) the reserve card doesn’t give you much incentive to put any spend on it. I don’t buy Delta flights with it. I use my Amex Platinum for that and get 5x MR points. I use the Reserve card for non-bonus spend. Paying medical bills, paying my power bill, paying my taxes, etc. I don’t have the quarterly tax bill that Rene has, so I can’t knock it out in the first month of the year, but I’ll get there eventually. The no annual fee Amex Blue Business card is a better card for earning SkyMiles in general than the Reserve card.

    As Rene always points out, if you don’t care about Delta status, then there are many ways to get a better return for your spend over the Reserve card.

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