/>
X
Why you can trust ZDNet ZDNet independently tests and researches products to bring you our best recommendations and advice. When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission. Our process | Ad Disclosure

'ZDNet Recommends': What exactly does it mean?

ZDNet's recommendations are based on many hours of testing, research, and comparison shopping. We gather data from the best available sources, including vendor and retailer listings as well as other relevant and independent reviews sites. And we pore over customer reviews to find out what matters to real people who already own and use the products and services we’re assessing.

When you click through from our site to a retailer and buy a product or service, we may earn affiliate commissions. This helps support our work, but does not affect what we cover or how, and it does not affect the price you pay. Neither ZDNet nor the author are compensated for these independent reviews. Indeed, we follow strict guidelines that ensure our editorial content is never influenced by advertisers.

ZDNet's editorial team writes on behalf of you, our reader. Our goal is to deliver the most accurate information and the most knowledgeable advice possible in order to help you make smarter buying decisions on tech gear and a wide array of products and services. Our editors thoroughly review and fact-check every article to ensure that our content meets the highest standards. If we have made an error or published misleading information, we will correct or clarify the article. If you see inaccuracies in our content, please report the mistake via this form.

Close

Ad Disclosure

This site is part of an affiliate sales network and receives compensation for sending traffic to partner sites, such as CreditCards.com This compensation may impact how and where links appear. This site does not include all financial companies or all available financial offers.
Close

Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card review: Delta's top-tier travel card

As the highest-tiered co-branded Delta card, it offers cardholders Delta-centric rewards and luxury travel perks for a high annual fee.
walrak-2.jpg
evanzimmer3.jpg
Written by Jessica Walrack and  Evan Zimmer, Staff Writer on

The Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card looks to reward Delta enthusiasts with strong perks and rewards. It provides cardholders with time-and-money saving perks and offers extra comfort to travelers with its coveted airport lounge access. 

Additionally, the card offers a number of other travel benefits, including access to Delta Sky Clubs, an annual companion ticket, a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit, and a myriad of travel protections.

But because of its high annual fee ($550), it should only be considered by consumers who find themselves on a Delta flight often enough to get the most from the card's benefits.

Card Highlights
Intro BonusEarn 50,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
APR17.99%-26.99% Variable
Recommended CreditExcellent/Good
Reward Rates
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases.
  • Earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases.
Annual Fee$550
Intro Purchase APRN/A
Rewards & Redemption Details

While the Delta SkyMiles Reserve card offers cardholders plenty of value, it does have its limitations. The rewards, at least at first glance, are relatively low, and only focus on airfare purchased through Delta. It's not the card for everyday spending or the card for people who don't travel often.

However, you can earn more miles by advancing through the ranks of the Delta membership tiers, which the card helps to speed up. The basic SkyMiles membership that comes with the card offers an additional 5x miles per dollar for Delta airfare in addition to what the card earns.
Reach Medallion Status by earning Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) to earn even more miles. Diamond, the highest Medallion Status tier, earns 11x miles per dollar for Delta airfare in addition to the 3x miles the Reserve earns. That would bring the total miles cardholders earn to 14x per dollar for Delta flights.

If you do fly Delta often, you'll find plenty of use from the card's strong travel benefits. Be sure to take advantage of all of them in order to justify the $550 annual fee. A few of the most valuable are Centurion Lounge and Delta Sky Club access, a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit, and an annual companion ticket. 

Global Entry and airport lounge access are especially valuable to constant travelers, as they cut down on TSA time and provide a break from the hustle and bustle of an airport.

However, the card doesn't come with any travel credits like other high-end travel cards do to help mitigate the high annual fee. (See The Platinum Card® from American Express, the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, or the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card).

Pros

  • Centurion Lounge access
  • Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credit
  • Annual companion ticket
  • Faster path to Medallion Status
  • Lucrative welcome bonus
  • No foreign transaction fee

Cons

  • Low card rewards
  • High annual fee
  • No travel credits
Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Enrollment may be required for select American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more.

Things to consider

  • Rewards rate: This card offers 3x miles per dollar, but only on Delta purchases and 1x miles on all other eligible purchases. If you don't fly often, you won't earn much. However, you can earn up to 14x miles for Delta airfare by reaching Medallion Status and progressing through the membership tiers: Silver, Gold, Platinum, and Diamond.
  • High annual fee: The annual fee is $550, so be sure to take advantage of all of its perks to get the most value for your money.
  • Global Entry/TSA Application fee credit: Sign up for Global Entry ($100) or TSA PreCheck ($85) every four years. It'll get you through TSA faster, and if you opt for Global Entry, it'll expedite the customs process when returning to or leaving the country. Plus, the $100 or $85 fee credit will help lessen the blow of the annual fee for the year you apply.

Delta SkyMiles Reserve card benefits

While the annual fee might be intimating, cardholders get a wide array of benefits that offer plenty of value.

  • Status Boost to Medallion Status: For every $30,000 you spend on your card, you'll earn 15,000 Medallion Qualification Miles up to four times in a calendar year (up to 60,000 MQMs).
  • Medallion Qualification Dollar Waiver: Make $25,000 worth of purchases on the card to waive the MQD requirement for Medallion Status' Silver, Gold, or Platinum tier.
  • The Centurion Lounge Access: Book with your Delta card to gain access to any of the 14 luxury Centurion Lounges around the world.
  • Delta Sky Club access: Access Delta's Sky Club airport lounges, plus get two Delta Sky Club One-Time guest passes per year.
  • Delta Annual Companion Certificate: Every year you renew your card, you'll receive a companion certificate for any domestic first class, Delta comfort+, or main cabin round-trip.
  • Upgrade priority: Get upgrade priority over other Medallion Status members who aren't Reserve cardholders.
  • Complimentary upgrades: If you aren't yet a Medallion Status member, you'll still have priority access to upgrades behind Medallion Members.
  • Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credit: Every four years get an application fee credit for either Global Entry ($100) or TSA PreCheck ($85).
  • Free first checked bag: Save up to $60 on a round-trip flight by having the fee for your first checked bag waived.
  • 20% in-flight purchase discount: Save 20% on in-flight purchases like food, drink, or headsets.
  • Premium Global Assist Hotline: 24/7 access to medical, legal, financial, or other help when traveling 100 miles or more from home.
  • Baggage Insurance Plan: If your luggage is damaged, stolen, or lost on a common carrier, you're covered by up to $1,250 for carry-on luggage and $500 for checked baggage. Be sure to charge the airfare to your card to get covered.
  • Trip Delay Insurance: If your trip is delayed for six hours or more for a covered reason, you could be reimbursed by up to $500 for necessary purchases like food and toiletries. Maximum of two claims per year.
  • Trip Cancelation Insurance: If your trip is canceled or delayed for a covered reason, you could be reimbursed by up to $10,000 per trip, with a maximum of $20,000 in a year.
  • Rental car insurance: Decline the rental car providers insurance offer and charge the full amount to your card. Your rental will be covered against damage and theft.
  • Return Protection: If the merchant won't take back a purchase within 90 days of buying it, AmEx may refund you the cost. Up to $300 per item, with a maximum of $1,000 per calendar year.
  • Purchase Protection: Your new purchases are protected against damage and theft for 90 days. Up to $10,000 per claim, with a maximum of $50,000 per calendar year.
  • Extended Warranty: Get up to one extra year under a manufacture's warranty if it's five years or less.

Enrollment required for select benefits; terms and limitations apply. Eligibility and Benefit level varies by Card. Terms, Conditions and Limitations Apply. Please visit americanexpress.com/benefitsguide for more details. Underwritten by Amex Assurance Company.

Travel rewards and Medallion Status

Although the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card allows you to earn a high reward rate on flights, it's not the best choice for everyday spending. 

You'll earn 3x miles on eligible Delta purchases, including flights and trips booked through Delta Vacations, but you'll only earn 1x miles on everything else. Combine it with another card, like the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express for your grocery and gas purchases, or get a flat-rate card like the Citi® Double Cash Card that earns rewards for everything.

Additionally, this card earns Medallion Qualification Miles (MQM), which helps you reach Delta Medallion Status. Medallion Members get perks like priority boarding, complimentary upgrades, and waived baggage fees, among others. For every $30,000 you spend on your card, you'll earn 15,000 Medallion Qualification Miles up to four times a year (up to 60,000 MQMs). Silver Status starts at 25,000 Medallion Qualification Miles, however, so you may not be able to reach it unless you spend a lot of money on the card each year.

But if you can reach Medallion Status, the card will become even more rewarding. Each Medallion Membership tier offers additional miles for Delta flights. Silver tier offers 7x miles per dollar, Gold offers 8x miles, Platinum offers 9x, and Diamond offers 11x miles.

By reaching Diamond tier of Medallion Status, cardholders would earn a total of 14x miles per dollar for Delta flights. 3x miles from the card, and 11x miles from Medallion Status. But that would take a fair bit of spending to reach. 

To reach Diamond tier, cardholders need to earn 125,000 MQMs or 140 Medallion Qualification Segments (MQS; the number of flights you take excluding basic economy) and $15,000 Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQD; money spent on Delta tickets) in a calendar year. However, the MQD requirement can be waived for Diamond by spending $250,000 or more in a calendar year with your Reserve card.

Fee details

The biggest fee the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card has is the $550 annual fee. But it also offers unique travel benefits to help make up for it, such as free access to the exclusive Centurion Lounges and Delta Sky Club, the latter of which costs $39 per person per visit with other American Express Delta cards. The annual companion certificate for a round-trip domestic flight, worth hundreds of dollars or more, can also justify the cost. If you plan on taking full advantage of these benefits, then the card may be worth it for you.

How does it compare to other travel rewards cards?

The Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card is ideal for frequent flyers who want to earn miles on Delta flights and get complimentary access to airport lounges. Travelers who prefer to earn rewards on both flights and hotels may want to go with the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card. 

Looking for a card with a lower annual fee but still want to fly Delta? The Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card has $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $99 (see rates and fees). This card also allows you to earn a high rewards rate on everyday spending at restaurants worldwide and U.S. supermarkets.

If you don't prefer flying with just one airline, consider a general travel card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred. Or, if you're looking for a high-tier card, consider the Chase Sapphire Reserve. Both cards offer good benefits and lucrative point transfer deals to Chase's travel partners. 

The Platinum Card from American Express is also a popular choice. It has an incredible selection of benefits including the largest airport lounge access of any card and a slew of travel credits to help mitigate its high annual fee.

[This article was first published on The Simple Dollar in 2020. It was updated in March 2022.]

Related

American Express relaunches the Blue Cash Everyday card, expands rewards
american-express.jpg

American Express relaunches the Blue Cash Everyday card, expands rewards

Credit Cards
Raspberry Pi: This 'much requested' feature just took a big step forwards
raspberry-pi-sales-jump-heres-why-the-ti-5ed5fa71a07d36782c1e10b3-1-jun-02-2020-7-10-50-poster.jpg

Raspberry Pi: This 'much requested' feature just took a big step forwards

Developer
How to recover deleted files in Windows 10 or 11
sample-image-16-9-red.jpg

How to recover deleted files in Windows 10 or 11

Windows