Delta Air Lines jets at New York Kennedy JFK Airport

Delta American Express cards offer cardholders decent-ish benefits. But points earnings and other areas leave something to be desired.

Where are some areas Delta and American Express can improve its premium Reserve cards?

The Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express.

Learn how to apply for this card!

Quick Overview

Both the personal (learn how to apply) and business versions (learn how to apply) of the Delta Reserve offer the same major perks and points earning structure:

A decent set of benefits, to be sure — especially if you find a qualifying fare for the companion certificate and can spend at least $30,000 a year on the card.

To be honest, though, I can’t wait to meet whatever my yearly Amex Delta Reserve cards — so I can stop using them. The second I cross $30,000 or $60,000, whichever Reserve card I’m using stays in my wallet until the next year. After that, the only time I use it is when purchasing a cocktail or premium snack onboard, so I can enjoy the 20% savings.

But now that American Express longer credits airline gift card purchases toward incidental credit, I may as well use my Personal Amex Platinum, Business Platinum Card from American Express (read why I enjoy this card), or American Express Gold Card (learn how to apply).

So how could the Delta Reserve cards be improved? These are my ideas — and I’m eager to hear yours, as well.

Cancel Fare Restrictions on the BOGOF

Limiting the fares for which cardholders can redeem the BOGOF makes it seem as though apparent that Delta and American Express don’t want you using the benefit. If people don’t use the perk because available fares are hard to find, what’s the point in keeping the card?

Point Bonuses

This is my main gripe with almost every Delta Amex — but especially the Reserve.

The Reserve cards’ point bonuses are very low — especially for a card with a hefty $450 annual fee.

Ironically, Delta Amex cards are pretty much the last cards most people should use to buy Delta Air Lines tickets! (The only exception is during an Amex Offer for Delta Purchases or welcome bonus minimum spend requirement).

Purchases made directly with Delta earn 2X per dollar. All other purchases are worth 1X.

The Amex personal Platinum (learn how to apply) rewards 5X points per dollar spent directly with airlines. The Chase Sapphire Reserve gives 3X for travel (after the $300 annual travel credit is used) and restaurants.

Heck, the no annual fee Blue Delta SkyMiles card (learn how to apply) awards 2X on both purchases made with Delta and at restaurants.

Repeat: the no annual fee Delta card earns more SkyMiles on everyday purchases than those with annual fees. (To be fair, the Blue Delta SkyMiles card does not have the first-free-checked-bag or Main Cabin 1 boarding perks the other Delta Amexes do)

Once I reach my Reserve spend goal for MQM, I switch to something else or try a new card — like I recently did with the no annual fee Chase Ink Business Unlimited card.

Delta and Amex should want people to use their cards for everyday purchases — right?

Delta Reserve Business Card from American Express.Learn how to apply for this card!

Guest Passes for Delta Sky Club Visits

It would be great promotion for the Reserve card if it came with, say, four complimentary one-time Sky Club admissions. I’m fine restricting that to only people traveling with the cardholder (so the passes can’t be sold on ebay, etc).

Not only would cardholders love this but it would  likely entice people to get American Express cards of their own.

Have-One-On-Us (HOOU) Coupons

A pair or two of Have-One-On-Us (HOOU) coupons for cocktails or premium snacks (Flight Fuel) would also be a nice perk for cardholders — and pique the interest of others onboard as to how they, too, can get free snacks or drinks.

Stack of Delta Air Lines Have One on Us (or HOOU) drink coupons.

Global Entry Credit

So many travel credit cards offer Global Entry credit; it’s almost a requisite perk at this point. Some of them are:

So why don’t the Delta Reserve cards — which carry the same or higher annual fee as the cards listed above — have the benefit?

Personally, I signed up for Global Entry and renewed it with my Platinum Card from American Express (learn more). But I enjoy gifting the benefit to others — especially business colleagues for whom I’d normally have to wait post-security because they don’t have it in the first place.

Adding the Global Entry credit would be a good-faith benefit that pretty much anyone can use. It doesn’t require minimum spend, Medallion status, fare classes, or even using the Sky Clubs.

What Are Your Ideas?

I won’t be at all surprised if — or when — Amex and Delta raise the Delta Reserve cards’ annual fees.

Are the benefits fine as is? Or should Delta Reserve cardholders get more? (Within reason, of course. Free private jet flights, automatic first class upgrades, etc, are too much to ask — but we can always dream 🙂 )

Please share your thoughts in the Comments section below!

—Chris

17 Comments

  1. A third tier MQM offering of 15,000 MQMs after spending $90,000 in one calendar year. They did this a few years ago with a targeted offer yet made cardholders jump through many hoops to get the additional 15,000 MQMs they were promised. Another one would be an MQD amount higher than $25,000 but lower than $250,000 for DM status.

  2. Given Delta’s strategic partnership with CLEAR it would be nice to see CLEAR membership as a perk of the card instead of yet another card with a Global Entry Credit (I have three such cards and am not unusual in this regard).

  3. The ONLY reason to EVER use this card is for Delta junkies to reach $60K spend and reap both the SM and MQM(for status) bonuses. Period. The “tiebreaker” thing you mention is really nebulous. The card pretty much useless otherwise and Delta/AMEX likely know it. Once I barely cross that threshold the card vanishes until January.

  4. There is no incentive to continue spending past the $60K threshold for earning the second 15K MQM bonus. Last year they offered a third tier but only for the personal card not the business card. It would increase loyalty significantly if they (1) reinstated the third tier bonus and (2) confirmed that it would apply to both personal and business cards. {One of their reps last year confirmed the latter specifically but AmEx did not honor that commitment. That is completely irritating: the failure to honor a specific commitment.

  5. Matt Frankel

    As the benefits are structured now, I’m having a tough time making the value case for the Reserve cards over the Amex Platinum. Better lounge access, and what you give up in MQM earning potential, you get back in the form of Uber, airline incidental, and Saks credit.
    The only thing that could motivate me to get one of the Reserve cards is if it gave holders a certain baseline Delta status, like automatic Silver Elite even before any purchases. I just don’t see the value as it is.

  6. When I had this was a reach the threshold and put in a drawer until the next year. They have to see that trend amount users. It would be nice to have Clear and a free guest to the Sky Club as well. Again, dropped due to limited benefits.

  7. Barry Graham

    Reduce the Diamond spending waiver to 125K. I understand that 25K was too low but 250K is unreachable for most.

    Introduce a boost for every 30K, not just one more for 90K.

    Give additional benefits for those of us that already get a card benefit through our status. Free bags and priority boarding are pointless for me as I already have them.

    Use BOGO for international flights and for one way domestic.

  8. HuntingtonGuy

    Ditto most of the above comments. I am not always the most strategic card/points user and as a result occasionally miss an optimized benefit. With the DM spend threshold at $250K I will unlikely reach that level in the foreseeable future, unfortunately.
    Across my 3 Amex (DL Reserve, DL Plat and conventional Plat) I spend $100K+. Maybe not a Black Card candidate but still a respectable spend level. Clear, a complimentary lounge guest or another pathway to DM would help improve my disposition towards DL branded Amex accounts.
    Last year I was ok with the $90,000 spend on Reserve for an additional 15,000 MQM’s and would probably do that annually if the benefit were offered. That said, it was pulling teeth to get the MQM’s applied to my acct.
    As a seemingly perpetual Plat I’d have to seriously consider whether to stay with the Reserve if the fee were increased. At its present price point it is marginally worth the cost, especially considering that I, like most, put it on a shelf at $60K unless a specific incentive is offered.

    DL and Amex should occasionally pretend our business is valued beyond grabbing fees from us.

  9. FWIW, I received the third tier offer for this year. But, it is not a motivator for me vs Plat 5x points, IAP and 35% MR discounts. DL just doesn’t get it. Most of us are now chasing MQD’s through MR-based spend on Partner airlines. #HOOPS over Loyalty.

  10. But do you have the personal or the Business card?

  11. Chris: thank you! But was intending to follow pu to Edw3rd’s comment that he had received the third tier offer this year (for 90k spend). Query on whether it is being offered for the Business or only for the Personal Delta Reserve card??? Do we have evidence that it is offered for the Business??

  12. @Bernard: Ah! FWIW, @Edw3rd is the only person I remember hearing about who received that offer.

  13. It’s a personal card. I also was targeted with third tier on personal Plat SkyMiles card.

    FWIW, I spent exactly 30k and 60k last year and made MQD through actual flight spend. Have exactly 30/60 again this tear and shifting cards. But this year am 6k short on MQDs. No way to get to $250k total…so a bit frustrated.

  14. Barry Graham

    Edw3rd are you sure it was this year and not last year? If so, did you get it last year?

  15. gift passes for club access would be a never able to use the companion tix too hard not many benefits for this card

  16. Permanent Third tier at $90k (which they refused to give me last year)
    $1,500 MQD credit for 30/60/90 thresholds

    So hit both 30/60 and you only need $12k flight spending.

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