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?
- Spend $30,000 in a calendar year and receive 15,000 bonus MQM and 15,000 bonus Delta SkyMiles. This perk can be used twice in a calendar year (i.e. spend $60,000 and earn bonus 30,000 MQM and 30,000 bonus Delta SkyMiles)
- The Delta Reserve cards’ $15,000 spend MQM bonuses can be gifted to other SkyMiles members, whereas the Delta Platinum Amexes’ cannot.
- Complimentary access to Delta Sky Clubs when the cardholder flies Delta. Guests may be admitted for $29/each person.
- Free one-time, companion airfare/Buy-One-Get-One-Free (or “BOGOF) for select coach or first class fares.
- Tie-breaker (after status level and fare class) for complimentary upgrades on Delta Air Lines. So if you have a personal (learn how to apply) or business (learn how to apply) Delta Reserve card, that could score you an upgrade over a fellow Medallion who holds just a Platinum or Gold Delta Amex (or no Delta Amex at all).
- First checked bag free for the cardholder and up to eight others on the same PNR/confirmation number. This perk is also offered for Platinum or Gold Delta Amex cardholders.
- Main Cabin 1 “priority boarding” when flying anything below Comfort+
- 20% statement credit for onboard purchases made during Delta flights.
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?
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?
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.
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:
- Chase Sapphire Reserve
- Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card (learn how to apply)
- Capital One Spark Miles for Business Card (learn how to apply)
- United Explorer Card
- IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card
- The Business Platinum Card from American Express OPEN (learn more)
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!