5 reasons I signed up for a Delta credit card even though the SkyMiles program no longer publishes an award chart

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19400447_1631669570185552_5545653708630282521_oDelta Air Lines

  • The Delta SkyMiles program stopped offering an award chart a few years ago, much to the chagrin of loyalty members. This means that, when you use Delta SkyMiles, you never really know how many miles a flight will cost until you're ready to book.
  • Still, the program can offer outsized value if you know where to look. Delta really does offer some great deals on award flights and they also have monthly specials that can help you stretch your miles further.
  • Consider the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express if you can score a huge sign-up bonus. Also note that you'll get priority boarding, a free checked bag, discounted Delta Sky Club entry, and other perks.

Most frequent flyers have a love-hate relationship with airline loyalty programs. They love them when they're able to cash in their miles for flights on their own terms, but they hate it when airline programs announce a big devaluation, they can't find the award availability they want, or burdensome program rules make it harder to get the most from their miles.

Still, some airlines catch more flack than others. Delta SkyMiles is one loyalty program that probably gets more than their share of ire from rewards enthusiasts, mainly because they no longer publish an award chart. It's insanely difficult to plan a rewards strategy when you have no idea how much a flight will cost when you're ready to book, let alone whether the price will change from one day to the next.

Many rewards enthusiasts also complain incessantly about the high cost of Delta One flights in points, particularly on international routes. And of course it went over like a lead fart last year when Delta began offering award tickets in Basic Economy.

Every reason I signed up for the Delta Gold AmEx

But, despite these changes, I still signed up for the Delta Gold AmEx a few weeks ago! Call me crazy, but I truly believe I can get excellent value out of Delta SkyMiles if I am patient and flexible enough. Here's every reason I signed up, and why you may want to consider doing the same.

1. I scored a huge sign-up bonus

Because American Express credit cards come with a restrictive "once per lifetime rule," it always makes sense to sign up for one of their credit cards when the sign-up bonus is the highest available. While I have considered the Delta Gold AmEx before, I was tempted into signing up this time by a targeted offer I received in the mail.

Instead of the 35,000 to 50,000-mile bonus offered most of the time, my targeted offer came with 75,000 Delta SkyMiles - 50,000 miles after spending $2,000 on purchases within three months and another 25,000 miles after spending an additional $1,000 within the first six months of account opening. I also received a $200 statement credit for spending $1,000 on flights within the airline within the first six months, which I was able to take advantage of right away.

2. Free checked bags

In addition to a sign-up bonus, the Delta Gold AmEx comes with another perk I can take advantage of quite often. Cardholders receive a free checked bag on Delta flights, which typically means a savings of at least $30 for each leg you fly.

While I'm not huge on checking baggage and prefer to pack carry-on luggage instead, I have several long trips this year where I will probably need to pack more than usual. I anticipate this perk saving me at least $240 on eight separate Delta one-ways I have planned this year.

3. Priority boarding

Another perk the Delta Gold AmEx offers is Priority Boarding. I'm usually slumming it back in economy, so for me it's not about where I sit. I do prefer boarding the plane as early as possible for a few reasons. Not only do I like getting on early so the plane doesn't run out of room for carry-on luggage, but I prefer to claim the luggage bin directly above my seat (versus having my carry-on stored somewhere else on the plane).

It's also nice to get acclimated to my surroundings and to prepare myself with noise-cancelling headphones before herds of other people settle into their seats.

4. Discount entry to Delta Sky Clubs

While I already have a Priority Pass Select Membership that grants access to over 1,000 airport lounges worldwide thanks to my Chase Sapphire Reserve card, I do have a penchant for Delta Sky Clubs. I used to get access for free when I flew Delta when I had the Platinum Card® from American Express, but I no longer carry that card. The lounges are usually spacious, and they almost always offer a selection of food broad enough to avoid a pricey meal.

The Delta Gold AmEx comes with discounted Sky Club access to the tune of $29 per person for the cardholder and up to two traveling companions. I wouldn't feel comfortable paying $29 if I only needed to kill an hour between flights, but I think this perk offers tremendous value if you have a long layover like I sometimes do.

5. Delta has plenty of deals

Finally, Delta SkyMiles really does offer some decent award fares for both domestic and international travel despite their lack of an award chart. I've found round-trip flights to Europe in the main cabin for as little as 32,000 miles (plus taxes and fees) and domestic flights for less than 20,000 miles round-trip in economy during recent searches. Heck, an open-jaw flight I'm considering for late winter out of Indianapolis to Paris (CDG) and home from London (LHR) is currently 38,000 miles!

Delta's SkyMiles deals program also rolls out an array of sale fares that change every month. If your dates are flexible, you can frequently find round-trip economy flights to Europe for as little as 32,000 miles and round-trip flights for as little as 16,000 miles. You do have to act quickly on these deals, but they can work well if your dates are flexible and you are ready to book when one you like comes along.

The bottom line

Delta may no longer offer an award chart, but the SkyMiles program still offers enormous value - at least for some flights. That's part of the reason I signed up for the Delta Gold AmEx. With my sign-up bonus of 75,000 miles, I should have at least enough miles for two-round trip flights to Europe or three to four domestic flights. The fact that this airline credit card offers free checked bags, priority boarding, and discounted Sky Club admission was just icing on the cake.

Click here to learn more about the Delta Gold AmEx from Insider Picks' partner: The Points Guy.

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