At a glance
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As gas prices rise, one of the few business strategies keeping airlines afloat is selling their frequent flyer miles to banks. This way, the banks can offer them as rewards to their credit card customers.
Of all the airlines, Delta is in a class by itself because of its relationship with American Express. There are five distinct Delta-Amex products that you can use to earn SkyMiles.
While very frequent flyers may benefit from the perks offered by the Delta Gold, Delta Platinum, and Delta Reserve cards, Delta doesn’t ignore the occasional travelers who want to get in on the rewards and miles. For their entry-level market segment, they offer two of their least expensive credit cards: the SkyMiles Options card and the classic Delta SkyMiles card.
- Earn SkyMiles. These two cards earn miles at a rate of 1 mile per dollar spent, with 2 miles for each dollar spent on any Delta purchase.
- Bonus Miles. When you make your first purchase with the classic card, you will receive a modest bonus of 5,000 SkyMiles. With the SkyMiles Options card, you’ll get a mere 1,000.
- Annual Fee. The standard Delta SkyMiles card has a low annual fee of $55, but unlike other Delta rewards cards, they don’t waive the fee for your first year. The SkyMiles Options card, on the other hand, has no annual fee.
- Low or No Annual Fees. Other Delta SkyMiles cards have annual fees ranging from $95 for the Gold Card to a whopping $450 for the Reserve card. At $55 for the classic card and no fee for the SkyMiles Options card, these are the best choices for lower spenders who want the rewards but can’t justify a card with a high (or any) annual fee.
- American Express Benefits. One way to look at these entry-level offerings is that they are an inexpensive and easy way to receive the basic benefits of an American Express card and start earning Delta SkyMiles. American Express is well regarded for their responsive customer service and for the generous card benefits that are available to all cardholders. These benefits include several purchase protections and travel insurance policies for no additional cost.
- A Good Starting Point for Mileage Earners. If you have never had an airline affiliated credit card, this might be a low-risk way to dip your toes in the water. While these cards lack many of the features of their higher-end counterparts, they still earn their standard miles at the exact same rate.
- Low Sign-up Bonuses. Almost every travel rewards card on the market boasts a sign-up bonus that’s enough for a domestic award ticket as soon as you make your first purchase. The 5,000 SkyMile bonus for the classic card is one-fifth of their lowest domestic award level (25,000 SkyMiles). Those 5,000 miles might put you over the top for an award you were already closing in on, but the 1,000 mile bonus for the Options card is so insignificant that it’s practically patronizing. Other Delta partners frequently offer 1,000-mile bonuses just for getting an insurance quote or for filling out surveys online.
- No Perks. The other Delta cards offer non-mileage perks like baggage fee waivers, companion certificates, and complimentary or discounted access to their SkyClub airport lounges. These cards offer no such benefits with Delta beyond mileage earned through spending. Unlike those with the Gold, Platinum, or Reserve SkyMiles cards, users of these cards are not eligible for the priority boarding or discounts on in-flight food and entertainment.
- Poor SkyMiles Award Availability. Through capacity restrictions and poor online tools, Delta makes it tough to find and redeem the rewards you’ve earned, unless you’re looking for rewards at very high mileage rates. Elite members of the Delta Medallion program get better availability, but if you’re looking for one of these cards, you’re probably not an Elite member. At this level, you’ll be among the masses having trouble finding a convenient and comfortable opportunity to redeem your miles.
If you find yourself jetting off to various points on the globe on a regular basis, you shouldn’t bother with these entry-level airline rewards cards. If, however, you are not yet part of the jet set and you’re looking to earn your rewards over time through credit card spending, these American Express cards may be the best place for you to start.
Have you started out with one of these basic Delta SkyMiles cards? Did you earn enough rewards, or did you find yourself wanting to move to a higher-level card?