Review: The Delta Reserve card is best for loyalists who take full advantage of the lounge, or for Delta flyers who have another Amex

Delta Reserve 4x3

  • The Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card is currently offering 80,000 bonus miles and 20,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $5,000 within the first three months. You can also earn 20,000 additional bonus miles after you renew your card after the first year.
  • This welcome bonus is only available until April 1.
  • One big benefit of this card is the Delta Sky Club access you receive. However, you'll only be able to access Delta airport lounges when you're flying with the airline.
  • The Delta Reserve is really for people who fly regularly with Delta and take advantage of its Sky Clubs. If that's not you, make sure to consider other co-branded Delta credit cards before you consider this one.
  • Also consider American Express Membership Rewards cards like the American Express® Gold Card or the Platinum Card® from American Express that might offer bigger welcome bonuses or more lucrative earning categories.
  • See Business Insider's picks for the best rewards credit cards »

The Delta SkyMiles program remains popular with consumers, and that's especially true for those who live near airports where Delta dominates all others, such as Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Georgia or the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport in Minnesota.

No matter where you live, Delta and its partner airlines can probably get you where you want to go; they fly to over 1,000 around the globe. Delta also offers a dynamic airline loyalty program that can help you score free flights nearly worldwide, either by flying with the airline or earning rewards with a travel credit card.Advertisement

The Delta Reserve card is one such card that lets you earn miles in this program based on your spending. The annual fee is high, but you'll get access to Delta Sky Clubs and Amex Centurion lounges worldwide any time you fly with the airline.

If you fly with Delta more than others, it may be worth considering the Delta Reserve. Keep reading to learn more about this card's benefits, how it works, and other cards to consider:

Delta Reserve card details

Welcome offer: Earn 80,000 bonus miles and 20,000 MQMs toward elite status after you spend $5,000 within three months of account opening. You'll also earn 20,000 more bonus miles when you renew your credit card after the first year. This offer is available until April 1.
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Earning structure: Earn 3 miles per dollar spent on eligible Delta purchases and 1 mile per dollar spent on everything else

Lounge benefit: Get free access to Delta Sky Clubs and Amex Centurion lounges when you fly Delta Air Lines Free bag benefit: Get your first checked bag for free and Main Cabin 1 priority boardingAdvertisement

Annual fee: $550

The Delta Reserve is best when you pair it with another Amex Membership Rewards card

Earning 3 miles per dollar on eligible Delta purchases and 1 mile per dollar spent on other purchases isn't a show-stopping payout, and especially when you consider this card's high annual fee of $550 a year.

With that in mind, there's a way to get more from the Delta Reserve: by pairing it with another. You may want to sign up for the Delta Reserve and pair it with an American Express Membership Rewards card that lets you transfer points to Delta, such as the Amex Gold card or the Amex Platinum card.Advertisement

With the Amex Gold card, for example, you earn 4x points on dining worldwide and on up to $25,000 spent at US supermarkets each year (then 1x). You also earn 3x points on airfare booked directly through the airline or through AmexTravel.com. You could use the Amex Gold Card to earn bonus points in these categories all year long, then transfer them to your Delta SkyMiles account once you were ready.

The welcome offer includes both bonus miles and MQMs

At the moment, the Delta Reserve card gives you 80,000 bonus miles when you spend $5,000 on your new credit card within three months. You also earn 20,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) toward elite status for reaching this threshold, which can help if you're pursuing elite status already or just need a "push" to get over the edge. As an added bonus, you'll get 20,000 more bonus miles when you renew your card after the first year.

Here's the bad news: Delta SkyMiles doesn't offer a rewards chart and, quite frankly, award prices are all over the board. You can frequently find round-trip domestic flights for as little as 25,000 miles, but this can vary by the dates you want to fly. Also note that booking Delta premium cabins, including Delta One international flights, can set you back hundreds of thousands of miles round-trip.Advertisement

If you want to stretch your miles, however, make sure to keep your eye out for Delta SkyMiles Deals. These deals change all the time, but they always let you book select itineraries on select dates for a lot fewer miles than you would normally pay.

Delta does offer a few additional ways to redeem miles other than for flights as well. You can cash them in for vacation packages, experiences, shopping, and magazines, for example.

The biggest benefit of the Reserve is Delta Sky Club membership

The biggest benefit the Delta Reserve offers is membership for Delta Sky Clubs worldwide, but there's a catch. Where this card once let you enter Sky Clubs regardless of which airline you were flying with that day, you can now only use this benefit when you're flying Delta.Advertisement

This makes this perk a lot less attractive if you're someone who shops airfare to find the best deals and you're not necessarily loyal to Delta. At least Delta and Amex added access to Amex Centurion lounges along with Sky Clubs (also only when you're flying Delta).

Other cardholder benefits you'll receive include:
  • Your first checked bag free
  • Main Cabin 1 priority boarding
  • 20% off in-flight purchases made with your credit card
  • Baggage insurance coverage
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Car rental loss and damage insurance
You'll also qualify for a companion certificate good for a domestic first class, Delta Comfort+, or main cabin flight when you renew your card and pay government taxes and fees. To qualify for this certificate, however, you have to pay for the initial ticket with cash.Advertisement

While paying $550 for a credit card is a lot, keep in mind that a regular membership for Delta Sky Clubs starts at $545. If you're going to pay for Delta Sky Club access anyway, then this card's annual fee starts making a lot more sense. If you aren't going to fly regularly with Delta and take advantage of this perk, the Reserve might not be the card for you.

Leveraging MQMs and 'Status Boost' to earn elite status

If you're curious why you should care about Medallion Qualification Miles, or MQMs, the answer is simple. These "miles" are collected in order to reach elite status with Delta, which could help you score perks like free upgrades and free preferred seats. Further, MQMs are normally awarded to frequent flyers based on the number of miles they actually fly.

The current welcome bonus on this card comes with 20,000 MQMs, but you should also note that the Delta Reserve comes with a "Status Boost" feature that lets you earn even more MQMs for reaching spending thresholds with your credit card. Specifically, you can earn 15,000 more MQMs up to four times per year for each $30,000 you spend on your card, up to a limit of $120,000.Advertisement

Interestingly, you only need 25,000 MQMs and $3,000 Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQDs; dollars spent with the airline) in order to reach Silver status with Delta. You can also earn a MQD waiver (and skip over that requirement) if you make at least $25,000 in purchases on the Delta Reserve card within a calendar year.

What does this mean? Most importantly, this means you can earn elite status with Delta with the Reserve card without flying a single mile with the airline.

On top of the 20,000 MQMs you earn in your welcome bonus, you can earn another 15,000 MQMs for spending $30,000 on your card within a calendar year. This would afford you Silver Medallion status with the airline since you would also earn the MQD Waiver at this point.Advertisement

If you wanted to achieve Gold Medallion status with Delta through credit card spending alone during your first year as a cardholder, you would need to spend $60,000 on your card. At that point, you'd have earned 20,000 MQMs in your welcome bonus and 30,000 more MQMs through the first two tiers of Status Boost for a total of 50,000 MQMs. You would also earn the MQD waiver with that rate of spending, so you would reach all the requirements for Gold Medallion status.

Click here to learn more about the Delta Reserve card »

How the Delta Reserve compares to other Delta credit cards

The Delta Reserve isn't the only co-branded airline credit card that lets you earn miles in the Delta SkyMiles program. There are several others to consider, all of which come with a lower annual fee:

Here's how each of these cards compares to the Delta Reserve card:Advertisement

Gold, Platinum, or Reserve Delta Comparison Chart

As you can see, the welcome bonus on the Delta Reserve isn't much higher than the other cards that earn Delta SkyMiles. If you don't fly often enough to get a lot of value out of the Delta Sky Club membership, you may want to consider one of these lower-cost options.

Also consider American Express Membership Rewards cards

As we mentioned already, you should also consider whether you might be better off with a credit card that earns rewards in the American Express Membership Rewards program. This could be the Platinum Card from American Express, the Amex Gold card, or even the Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express.Advertisement

With a credit card that earns American Express Membership Rewards points, you could rack up points and transfer them to the Delta SkyMiles program later on, once you were ready. Also note that American Express Membership Rewards credit cards tend to offer higher earning rates in popular categories, which could help you rack up points faster.

Delta Reserve Comparisson Chart

If you're interested in the Delta Reserve American Express card, now is an ideal time to apply, as it's offering an elevated welcome bonus that can score you up to 100,000 miles, plus 20,000 MQMs toward Delta elite status. Keep the April 1 offer-end date in mind - the standard welcome bonus is much lower, so you don't want to miss out.

Earn up to 100,000 miles: Click here to learn more about the Delta Reserve »

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Please note: While the offers mentioned above are accurate at the time of publication, they're subject to change at any time and may have changed, or may no longer be available.

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