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My Thoughts on the New Delta American Express Benefits, Fees, and More!

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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


I’ve had several hours to examine and digest the changes Delta and American Express announced today for their co-branded credit cards.

Below are my thoughts about the major changes, as well as some alternatives if you’re fed up with the Delta Amexes.

Remember, most changes go into effect January 30, 2020 (one day before the 2020 Medallion year begins). The only one that doesn’t is the Delta Gold MQD Waiver (I’ll explain).

UPDATE: Limited Time Offers on the Delta Cards are NOW LIVE!

Annual Fees

The Delta Gold cards traditionally waived their annual fees during the first year of card membership — but that perk will be 86ed as of January 30, 2020.

The Delta Platinum cards jump from $195 to $250.

The Delta Reserve cards go from $450 to $550.

MQD Waiver (Updated)

Spend across all Delta Amex credit cards has combined toward your annual $25,000 MQD spend waiver.

That feature seems to be limited now to just the Platinum and Reserve cards.

Sorry, Delta Gold Amex members. As of January 1, 2020, your spend on Gold cards won’t count toward the MQD Waiverunless you also have a Delta Platinum or Delta Reserve card (personal or business.) (This is the same predicament people who have the lowly Blue card have dealt with.)

Free First Checked Bag and Main Cabin 1 “Priority” Boarding

These benefits are staying across the Gold, Platinum, and Reserve cards.

20% Statement Credit for Purchases Made on Board Delta Purchases

This perk will continue to be offered!

Jack Daniel's, Woodford Reserve, Finlandia vodka, Coca-Cola, fruit and cheese platters, and assorted other snacks are seen onboard a Delta flight from New York (JFK) to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). ©RenesPoints.com
That day we earned a lot of 20% rebates and bonus SkyMiles by using our Delta Amex for onboard snack and beverage purchases…

 

Plus, Platinum and Reserve cardholders will enjoy 3X on Delta onboard purchases, too!

Companion Certificate (Platinum and Reserve Cards)

Also remaining are the respective companion certificates for the Platinum cards and Reserve cards. The Delta Platinum cards’ companion certificates are good for select coach fares and the Reserves’ for select Delta One & first class fares, as well as some coach fares.

(Check out our Delta Companion Certificate FAQ).

Delta Sky Club Access (Gold Card)

Delta Gold and Platinum Amex cardholders could purchase Sky Club access for $29 a visit.

Delta Gold members will no longer have Sky Club privileges with their card. Delta Platinum cardholders will now pay $39 per visit (and may bring in guests for $39 each).

Delta Sky Club One-Time Guest Passes (Reserve Cards)

Reserve cardholders already enjoy complimentary Delta Sky Club access when traveling on a Delta itinerary.

Now, two one-time guest passes will be deposited into Delta Reserve cardholders’ wallets on the Fly Delta app.

If you’re like me and occasionally travel with colleagues who don’t have Sky Club access, this perk will allow you to share the fun.

American Express Centurion Lounge Access for Delta Reserve Cardholders

Delta Reserve personal (learn more) and business (learn more) cardholders will receive access to American Express Centurion Lounges when flying a same-day Delta-marketed or Delta-operated flight. Plus, cardholders may bring up to two guests for $50 a pop.

This is a great perk for people who don’t have either a Platinum Card from American Express (learn how to apply) or Business Platinum Card from American Express OPEN (learn how to apply).

“The eligible (same-day Delta) flight must be booked on a U.S. issued American Express charge or credit Card,” the terms say.

But I have no idea how the Centurion Lounge desk reps will verify/enforce that.

I’m guessing you can buy your Delta ticket with a Chase Sapphire Reserve, Chase Sapphire Preferred, or other credit card and still get into the Centurion Lounge.

American Express Centurion Lounge at DFW Airport.
American Express Centurion Lounge at DFW Airport.

The terms state, “The Card Member must present The Centurion Lounge agent with the following upon each visit: his or her valid Delta SkyMiles Reserve Card, a boarding pass showing a confirmed reservation for eligible Delta Air Lines flight, and a government-issued I.D.”

Nowhere does it mention anything about producing a receipt proving you used an American Express card to pay for your Delta flight.

But here’s where this adding this perk rubs me the wrong way.

Amex has drastically limited Centurion Lounge access for Platinum Card from American Express (learn how to apply) and Business Platinum Card from American Express OPEN (learn how to apply).

Amex Platinum cardholders may now access Centurion Lounges only three hours or sooner before their flight’s departure time. Plus, entry isn’t permitted upon arrival at your ultimate destination. Breakfast or shower before going to work after your red-eye? Nope. Sorry.

These rules were put into place because of overcrowding issues — and now Centurion Lounge access is being added to more cards?

Granted, not all Centurion Lounges are near Delta gates. At DFW, for example, you have to take the Skylink to the D concourse. The new LAX location is slated for the Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT) — a shuttle bus ride from Delta’s domestic (and some international) flights at Terminals 2 & 3.

So perhaps the Centurion Lounge benefit won’t drastically contribute to overcrowding — but it’s sort of a slap in the face to loyal personal Platinum and business Platinum cardholders who already can’t enjoy the lounge as much as before. Platinum cardholders are, however, permitted two guests for free, whereas Reserve cardmembers must pay for guests.

3X on Delta Purchases (Platinum and Reserve Cards)

Certainly better than the two SkyMiles per dollar we receive now for using our Delta cards on Delta purchases.

Los Angeles, California - April 18, 2014: A Delta Air Lines Boeing 757-200 with the registration N655DL takes off from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in California. Delta Air Lines is the world's largest airline with 733 planes and some 160 million passengers in 2012. It is headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia.
(©iStock.com/Boarding1Now)

But it still isn’t as good — in my opinion — compared to the:

  • 5X on The Platinum Card from American Express (learn how to apply)
  • 5X on The Business Platinum Card from American Express OPEN (learn how to apply) on airfare purchased through Amex Travel
  • 4X on the American Express Business Gold Card (learn how to apply) if airfare is one of two categories on which you spend the most each billing cycle.
  • 3X on the Chase Sapphire Reserve, whose points be redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards at a rate of 1.5X. So each dollar spent on airfare and other travel purchases can essentially net you up to 4.5 points per dollar.
  • 3X on the American Express Gold Card (learn more and compare)
  • 3X on the Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card (up to $150,000 in combined travel, shipping, internet, and advertising spend annually)

I don’t think I’m in the minority by saying Membership Rewards and Ultimate Rewards points are more valuable than SkyMiles.

2X at Restaurants and US Supermarkets (Gold and Personal Platinum Cards)

Nothing amazing but, hey, certainly better than before. The only time I ever used a Delta credit card at supermarkets or restaurants was during minimum spend periods, because I received points bonuses.

Will I take out my personal Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express (learn how to apply) next time I’m at a restaurant?

Well, no. I enjoy 4X with my American Express Gold Card (learn more and compare) which carries the same (new) annual fee as the Delta personal Platinum.

Pork Benedict breakfast at the US Grant hotel restaurant in downtown San Diego, California.

Worth noting: the terms and conditions mention, “purchases made at a restaurant located within a hotel may be recognized as a purchase at a hotel, not a restaurant.  You will not earn additional miles for purchases at bars, nightclubs, cafeterias, and convenience stores.” We should know to charge everything to our room when staying at hotels, but just another reminder. 🙂

For US supermarkets, you can do worse than 2X. Again, it’s certainly better than the 1X, which is in effect for the next four months.

3X on Hotel Purchases (Platinum Cards)

For those who don’t hold hotel co-branded credit cards or the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card, 3X is certainly a nice bonus.

2X on US Shipping and Advertising (Gold Business Card)

Meh.

You can do better.

The Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card rewards 3X Ultimate Rewards for those purchases (up to $150,000 in combined spend with a few other categories).

The American Express Business Gold Card (learn how to apply) gives you 4X on either (or both). Read more about this benefit.

1.5X on Purchases of $5,000 or More (Business Platinum)

Better than 1X, for sure.

This is similar to the 1.5X for $5k purchases offered on The Business Platinum Card from American Express OPEN (learn how to apply).

1.5X on Purchases After Spending $150K During a Calendar Year (Business Reserve)

If you love SkyMiles and spending $150,000 on your Delta Business Reserve (learn how to apply), hey, it’s better than nothing.

A stack of money. Heap of one hundred dollar bills on money background. Fake money. Shallow depth of field. Selective focus. (Photo credit: ©iStock.com/Maximusnd)
(Photo credit: ©iStock.com/Maximusnd)

But a whole extra half SkyMile? Um…

Status Boosts (Platinum and Reserve Cards)

Bonus MQM have always been a big selling point for the Platinum and Reserve cards.

Don’t worry! They’re staying — and then some with the Reserve cards.

“Status Boosts” is the fancy new term for “bonus MQM.” For the Platinum cards, it will remain the same: 10,000 bonus MQM when you spend $25,000. And other 10,000 bonus MQM after you spend another $25,000. Basically, spend $50,000, get 20,000 bonus MQM.

Here’s where it gets interesting.

Both flavors of the Reserve card will give you four bonus MQM opportunities. You’ll receive 15,000 bonus MQM each time you spend $30,000, up to $120,000 during a calendar year. (Several cardholders were targeted for extra spending bonuses in the past. Now everyone can enjoy this benefit!)

So each Reserve card, essentially, can earn you 60,000 MQM — which qualifies you for Gold Medallion Status.

Remember, each card is considered a separate product. (And you don’t need a separate EIN to get a business credit card, either.) So if you want to (or rather, can) spend $340,000 across all four of the MQM-earning cards, you’ll score 160,000 bonus MQM. That’s Diamond Medallion without stepping on an airplane.

The “Faux Diamond” and “Thin the Herd!” crowds must be apoplectic.

As an aside, I don’t like the title “Status Boosts” because it sounds like you jump an entire status tier just for reaching a certain spend threshold — regardless of how many MQM you already banked.

No Bonus Redeemable SkyMiles at Spend Thresholds (Platinum and Reserve)

Gone are the bonus 10,000 SkyMiles one receives when spending $25,000 & $50,000 on the Delta Platinum cards, and 15,000 SkyMiles after dropping $30,000 & $60,000 on the Reserves.

For many non-bonused categories (cell phone, online, cable-satellite-streaming, big box stores, etc) this kind of stings. This rings especially true for the Reserve cards — whose only bonus category is Delta spend. The cheaper cards (Gold and Platinum) have better bonus categories.

But Delta Platinum card users spending a lot at restaurants, supermarkets, and hotels may actually come out ahead without the 10,000 SkyMiles bonus.

$100 Delta Flight Credit After Spending $10,000 in a Year (Gold Cards)

This essentially makes each dollar spent — up to $10,000 yearly — worth at least two cents or two SkyMiles. After $10,000 in spend, though, I wouldn’t dream of putting another penny on this credit card, unless it were the only one in my wallet.

Delta One, First Class, and Comfort Plus Upgrades (Reserve Cards)

Now you don’t even have to be a Delta SkyMiles Medallion member to be eligible for complimentary upgrades in the US 50! All you have to do is hold one of the Delta Reserve cards!

Let’s everyone calm down.

Medallions: don’t get your knickers in a bunch.

Non-Medallions: don’t get your hopes up for lie-flat seats and pre-departure beverages.

Call me crazy but I think this is more an honorary, “that’s-a-nice-thought” perk than one that’ll actually materialize.

Delta is hell-bent on first class monetization. They’ve sold paid upgrades for a buck each.

After Delta decides to release seats for complimentary upgrades, they are given to (in order):

  • Diamond Medallions (and a companion, if applicable)
  • Platinum Medallions (and a companion, if applicable)
  • Gold Medallions (and a companion, if applicable)
  • Silver Medallions (and a companion, if applicable)

So, sure, assuming unsold seats in Delta One, first class, and C+ are doled out to every eligible Medallion (and his/her companion) on a flight and there somehow are seats still open, then non-Medallions holding the Reserve card will have an upgrade shot.

But given some upgrade lists — especially at hubs like ATL, MSP, DTW, etc — are longer than the Bible, I don’t see lots of non-Medallion upgrades.

Plus, this assumes gate agents won’t upgrade people flying non-upgradeable Basic Economy, participate in “shena,” and/or make up their own rules about who’s eligible for upgrades and who isn’t.

Details are shown on Delta Air Lines first A220 in Atlanta, Georgia at Hartsfield Jackson International airport on Sunday October 28 ,2018. (Chris Rank/Rank Studios 2018)

Global Entry / TSA PreCheck Credit

It didn’t surprise me this perk was added to the Reserve cards.

WASHINGTON, DC JULY 3, 2018: TSA Precheck and Global Entry line at security checkpoint at Reagan National Airport
The TSA PreCheck security checkpoint at Reagan National Airport (DCA). (Photo: ©iStock.com/David Tran)

As we recently discussed, it’s almost become a requisite feature for travel credit cards at this point. Heck, even the no annual fee Penfed Pathfinder Rewards Amex offers Global Entry / TSA PreCheck credit (and annual $100 airline incidental credit).

But I wasn’t expecting both the personal and business Delta Amex Platinum cards would receive the benefit. Definitely a nice addition for those products.

My Plan

I currently hold:

  • Gold Delta SkyMiles Business Credit Card from American Express (learn more)
  • Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express (learn more)
  • Platinum Delta SkyMiles Business Credit Card from American Express (learn more)
  • Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express (learn more)
  • Delta Reserve for Business Credit Card (learn more)

My Gold Delta business card is going adios when its annual fee hits next June.

I have two Reserve cards because of the MQM bonuses. Now that I can hit four MQM bonuses — er, “Status Boosts,” excuse me — with just one Reserve card, the other becomes superfluous.

Plus, I already have most of the Reserve benefits (Global Entry/PreCheck, Sky Club and Centurion Lounge access, upgrades through my Medallion status) and more (Uber credit, Priority Pass, Escape Lounge, Saks credit, Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts) through my Platinum Card from American Express (learn how to apply).

I really, really hate that the Reserve cards didn’t get the bonus categories the Platinum and Gold cards will.  I’ll likely downgrade my personal Reserve to a no-fee card and keep the business flavor.

For Delta flight purchases, I might put some of that spend on the Reserve card just to help reach a Status Boost. But most of my flight spend will be on my Chase Sapphire Reserve or Platinum Card from American Express (learn how to apply).

As for the Delta Platinum cards, I’ll probably keep both — only because of the companion certificates. Traveling to the Midwest — as I do a few times a year — is very expensive. So paying $250 for airfares that are a little more expensive than that — is a good deal.

Final Thoughts on Each Card

Frankly, my take on the Delta Gold Amexs remains the same as before: they’re good for leisure travelers who fly with their families once or twice a year. You can save money with the free baggage perk. Plus, you’ll get to board a little sooner than non-Medallions who don’t hold a Delta Amex.

I’m pretty impressed with the Delta Platinum cards — especially the personal Delta Platinum, which has bonus spend at restaurants worldwide and US supermarkets. Plus, the Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit is nice. Is all that worth an additional $55 a year? Maybe, depending on your spending habits.

Heavy spenders and people who don’t hold American Express Platinum cards will really like the Delta Reserve cards. The $100 annual fee jump is certainly rough — especially given the lack of bonus categories. But the four Status Boosts are a great option. Again, I have no problem jettisoning one of my Reserves, given the benefits I enjoy from the non-Delta Amex cards.

What Are Your Plans? Will You Keep, Cancel, or Apply? What Changes Do You Like? Which Do You Not Like?

Several of you commented in today’s earlier post. If you didn’t yet — or want to add something — tell your thoughts!

Will you keep your Delta Amex cards? Cancel one (or more)? Keep them? Apply for new ones when the limited time offers hit tomorrow?

Which changes have you excited? Which ones got you down?

–Chris

Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

20 Comments

  1. Hey Chris:

    Great honest review on these changes and I agree that the reserve getting no extra RDM bonuses on groceries, restaurants, etc is dumb, but I’m sure that DL has some “logical” reason behind this. It’s hard to believe that the no free DL Blue AMEX gets 2x points on select purchases, but the premium card gets shafted in earning rates. However a question that I still have is one of my Authorized users under my Reserve account has the free DL platinum card (I didn’t pay the $175 for an additional reserve so they give you a DL Plat instead) so will purchases on that card earn under the plat earning rates, or will all non DL purchases only get 1x?

  2. Frankie Morgan

    I currently hold 2 Reserve cards for 4 boosts. Now I only need to hold one. This will save me $350 per year. Thanks Amex! Also for Centurion lounge access what if I am traveling on a DL award ticket. Do I have to put the $5.60 taxes on my Reserve card? How will they know? Will award tickets gain Centurion lounge access?

  3. @Bryce: Thank you! I didn’t see anything in the Terms and Conditions but would bet dollars to SkyPennies that your AU will earn under the Reserve card.

  4. @Frankie Morgan: I’m guessing it’ll work. The Centurion Lounge reps will probably be on the hunt for Delta printed boarding passes and the 006- ticket numbers.

    That would be incredibly tacky of Delta and Amex to not allow award ticket travelers into the Centurion Lounges. I doubt that’ll happen. But one never knows.

  5. Eric Gunderson

    According to the FAQ’s, If you have an eligible Delta SkyMiles Card (Delta SkyMiles® Platinum, Delta SkyMiles® Reserve, Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business, or Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business) with the MQD waiver benefit in addition to an ineligible Delta SkyMiles Card (Delta SkyMiles® Blue, Delta SkyMiles® Gold, Delta SkyMiles Gold Business, Delta SkyMiles Business Credit Card from American Express), purchases made on each of your Delta SkyMiles Cards will continue to count towards the MQD waiver.

  6. At first glance I’m not impressed by the changes. I have the Delta Reserve AMEX and I’ve been a Diamond Medallion since Delta added the new level. I pay another $100 a year & I don’t get bonus miles with the $30K & $60K spend, this bothers me. I can already bring 2 guests into the Sky Club, I do use the companion certificate for 1st class seats. I have 3 other AMEX CC (Platinum Personal, Hilton & Marriott Bonvoy). My other cards also give me Global Entry/TSA Precheck which I do use. IMO these changes are a downgrade and I’ll have to think hard over the coming months to figure out if the Delta Reserve AMEX is still worth it to me.

  7. I’ll be downgrading my Reserve to Platinum. The loss of redeemable miles at the mileage boost levels is a huge devaluation, but I’ll make it up with the bonus categories available on the Platinum. Yes, my Amex Gold gives more raw points, but the combination of 2x miles + progress towards MQMs is more valuable to me. Also, the opportunity cost of the boosts on the Reserve simply aren’t worth it now that the redeemable mile boosts are gone. I can put the $60000 for the third and fourth boosts on a different card and get money to pay for a trip somewhere that will give me approximately the same number of MQMs.

  8. @Devin: Just want to make certain that when you say “downgrade” that you’ll knock the Reserve down to a no annual fee card — and then apply anew for the Platinum card so you can take advantage of the welcome bonus. (Unless you’ve already had the Platinum Delta Amex, of course.)

  9. Bruce B.

    I have held every Delta branded card except the business platinum. I’m with the Delta Reserve now. I was going to change to the Platinum this year, since the initial new card MQM bonus is my main purpose. Its probably obvious, but if I apply for the new card just BEFORE the 20th, will I escape that fee increase for a year? Another question, does the Reserve business card have some kind of Precheck or Global Entry benefit already, outside of these new changes?

  10. Great thoughts Chris.

    I would add that the new lowest upgrade medallion-lite status from the Reserve card is basically a replacement of the SPG Crossover Rewards status / perk. I agree the upgrades will be few but, as with all low level status levels, you can work it if you want to get a number of upgrades. Think #TeamBoardLast with Reserve card status for the win! 😉

  11. So if I have it right, as someone with a Reserve card it would make sense to knock off at least 60k of spend before the January closing? That should still net the extra redeemable miles correct?

    Also any word if the bonus MQM will continue to be giftable?

  12. @Gaurav: RDM: Yes. If you can plunk down $60k in a month, go for it.

    Giftable MQM: Yes.

  13. Chris,

    You said “15,000 bonus MQM” will cease to be offered. Don’t you mean 15,000 bonus SkyMiles? And actually that wasn’t what I was asking about. During the month of October, the sign up bonus of the Reserve cards is 10,000 MQMs. Are those MQMs transferable (maybe giftable is the correct term).

  14. @Bob: Whoops, yep. Deleting the comment so as not to confuse people. (That’ll teach me to multi-task. Thanks.)

    Welcome bonus MQM are not transferrable/giftable. Only the ones reached at 30/60 (and 90/120 starting next year)

  15. Thanks Chris. Do you know if all of January will count or only spend before the January closing? Since post closing spend bonuses won’t post until Feb I’m wondering if they will net the redeemable miles.

  16. Eric Gunderson

    Chris, have you seen any mention as to when the Reserve non-medallion upgrades would theoretically clear? Have they specified both comfort+ and first upgrades, and are we assuming that applies to domestic D1 as well? Do we know if the card will provide access to preferred seats?

  17. @Eric Gunderson: I haven’t yet. I’m guessing it’ll be at the gate.

    Delta One seats are included, yes.

    Preferred seats, no. I think there’d be a Medallion mutiny if that happened.

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