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Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express – Review

By Christina Majaski

delta skymiles reserve card american expressDelta SkyMiles credit cards range from Gold, the most basic tier with the lowest annual fee, through Platinum, which offers more flight benefits for a higher yearly fee, all the way up to the Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express. This final incarnation is considered to be the most elite of all the Amex cards carrying the Delta brand – it features the most card and flight benefits in exchange for the highest annual fee.

If you’re in the market for a credit card that awards SkyMiles, helps you earn elite statuses, and provides flight benefits and extra perks, you may want to consider the Delta Reserve.

Key Features

  • Sign-up Bonus. Earn 10,000 bonus SkyMiles – which count as Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) toward your next Medallion Status – after you make your first purchase with your card. These bonus miles can be used for seat upgrades, available at 5,000 SkyMiles, or they can be saved for an award flight. Award flights can be redeemed for as few as 12,500 SkyMiles.
  • Fees. The annual fee for the Delta Reserve card is $450. Balance transfers are the greater of $5 or 3%. There is no foreign transaction fee.
  • APR. The APR for purchases and balance transfers requested within the first 30 days is based on your creditworthiness and is 15.24%, 17.24%, or 19.24%. The APR also varies with the prime rate.
  • Rewards Program. Earn 2 SkyMiles for each dollar spent on Delta Connection Carrier, Delta Shuttle, and Delta flights, and 1 mile for every dollar spent on other purchases. There is no cap on the number of SkyMiles that can be earned and they do not expire.
  • Redemption of Rewards. Starting at 12,500, you can redeem your SkyMiles for domestic Saver flights with Delta airlines, or for seat class upgrades at 5,000 SkyMiles. You can also use your SkyMiles to buy merchandise through SkyMiles Marketplace, or redeem them through SkyWish for donations to such charities as American Red Cross or the Make-A-Wish Foundation, starting at 1,000 SkyMiles.
  • Medallion Elite Statuses. The Delta SkyMiles program also allows flyers to earn Medallion Statuses through a combination of Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs), based on miles flown; Medallion Qualification Segments (MQSs), based on segments flown; and, Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQDs), based on the dollar amount of the ticket. These statuses include Silver, Gold, Platinum, and Diamond, and each provide additional flight benefits. For example, Silver, the lowest tier, requires either 25,000 MQMs, or 30 MQSs and $2,500 MQDs, and includes benefits such as unlimited upgrades and discounted Economy Comfort seats for U.S. travel. The top tier, Diamond, requires 125,000 MQMs, or 140 MQSs and $12,500 MQDs, and includes all benefits of the bottom tiers plus completely complimentary Economy Comfort seats for U.S. travel and a 125% medallion mileage bonus. The MQD requirement is waived if you spend at least $25,000 with your card within a calendar year.
  • Sky Club Access. As a Delta Reserve cardholder, you receive complementary access to Delta Sky Club lounges, and a discounted rate of $29 for up to two guests. Sky Club membership typically costs $450 per year or up to $45 per person for one-day passes. Amenities such as fully stocked bars, snacks, Wi-Fi, and satellite TV are provided.
  • Concierge Service. You are also provided access to concierge staff who can assist you with selecting restaurants, arranging upcoming events, and shopping for gifts. This service is complimentary to Delta Reserve cardholders. There may be fees for meetings and event planning, however, and you are responsible for purchases and shipping charges made through the service.
  • Free Checked Bag. Your first checked bag, and the first checked bags of companions on the same reservation, are free – up to a total of 9 waivers. This is a value of $50 per person on a round-trip flight.
  • Priority Boarding. As a cardholder, you receive Zone 1 Priority Boarding, which allows you to board the plane before other passengers.
  • Savings on In-Flight Purchases. Receive a 20% discount on in-flight purchases of items such as beverages, television shows, and audio headsets. The discount is applied as a statement credit on your account.
  • Annual Companion Certificate. Each year you renew your card, you receive a certificate for a complimentary domestic, first class, or economy class flight for one companion, subject to government taxes and fees ranging from $28.20 to $69.20.
  • Annual Miles Bonus. Each calendar year that you spend $30,000 with the Delta Reserve card, you receive a bonus of 15,000 SkyMiles and 15,000 MQMs. If you spend another $30,000 in that calendar year, you receive an additional 15,000 SkyMiles and 15,000 MQMs.

Advantages

  1. Companion Certificate. The Platinum Delta card offers an annual companion certificate, just as the Reserve card does, but Reserve cardholders can use these on first class seats if they wish, rather than just economy class.
  2. No Foreign Transaction Fee. Foreign transaction fees generally range up to 3%. If you travel abroad frequently, it’s best to use a card with no foreign transaction fee, such as the Delta Reserve, in order to maximize your rewards potential.

Disadvantages

  1. Low Sign-up Bonus. The bonus of 10,000 SkyMiles and 10,000 MQMs is lower than the Gold Delta card’s offer of 30,000 SkyMiles. The 10,000-SkyMile bonus is worth approximately $100, which is a standard amount for cards without annual fees, and is not enough for even one free flight.
  2. High Annual Fee. The annual fee for the Delta Reserve card is $450, the highest out there. Other American Express cards, such as the American Express Platinum Card, carry the same annual fee, but in many cases the card benefits, sign-up bonuses, and extra perks justify it. In the case of the Delta Reserve card, however, the sign-up bonus is actually lower than that offered by lower-annual fee Delta cards – and, the Reserve does not feature many more benefits than the Platinum, which carries an annual fee of $195.
  3. Uncompetitive Benefits. Except for the annual bonus and the opportunity to use your annual companion certificate for first class tickets, complimentary Delta SkyClub access for yourself, and concierge service, the Delta Reserve is almost identical to the Platinum Delta card. The SkyMiles you earn and redeem are the same, as are flight benefits such as a free first checked bag and priority boarding.

Final Word

The Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express offers a number of flight perks and charges no foreign transaction fee, which is great if you fly Delta frequently, especially abroad. However, the annual fee can’t be justified by these benefits alone, especially considering the Platinum Delta card offers almost the exact same perks for a much lower annual fee.

Verdict

Unless you need a first-class option for your companion certificate, complimentary access into Delta SkyClubs, enjoy concierge service for planning and purchasing, or can appreciate the additional annual bonus of 5,000 SkyMiles, the Platinum Delta card with the lower annual fee is a better option than the Reserve.

Score

3.7 out of 5 stars: The Delta Reserve card includes flight benefits and bonuses that frequent Delta flyers, including those who travel abroad, can take advantage of, but not many more than the Platinum version – and not enough to justify an annual fee of $450.

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of the bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Christina Majaski
Christina Majaski has written for online and print publications since 2003 on topics related to personal finance, legal matters, parenting, and careers. She lives in the Minnesota tundra, where in her free time she enjoys reading, writing, interacting via social media, and hanging out with her daughter.

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  • Austin

    I think you meant the Platinum card is the only other card which allows MQMs. Great article though!

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