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If you’re looking for the best benefits a credit card can provide to travelers who frequently fly Delta, you may assume the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card will be best, since it is the premier cobranded Delta consumer card. However, some readers and TPG staff believe The Platinum Card® from American Express is the best card for Delta flyers. Today we’ll dive in to see which of these two cards is the best card for you.

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In This Post

Comparing Amex Platinum vs Delta Reserve

  The Platinum Card from American Express Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card
Welcome bonus 60,000 points after you spend $5,000 in purchases in your first three months. Terms apply. 80,000 miles and 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $5,000 in purchases in your first three months

An additional 20,000 bonus miles after your first card membership anniversary. Terms apply.

Earning rates 5x on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel

5x on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com

1x on everything else

3x on eligible purchases with Delta

1x on everything else

TPG’s valuation of points/miles 2 cents each 1.2 cents each
Annual fee $550  $550 
Foreign transaction fees None  None
Lounge access Access to many lounges through the American Express Global Lounge Collection including: Access to Delta Sky Club lounges (when flying Delta)

Two, one-time guest passes for the Delta Sky Club (when flying Delta)

Access to Centurion Lounges (when flying Delta)

Other standout benefits Up to $200 in Uber credits each year

Up to $200 airline fee credit

Up to $100 in Saks Fifth Avenue credit each year

Marriott Gold and Hilton Gold status

Access to Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts

Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit every 4-4.5 years

Domestic First Class, Delta Comfort+ or Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your card

Status Boost, which allows you to earn MQMs through spending on your card

First checked bag free, priority boarding, inflight savings and access to complimentary upgrades on Delta

Medallion qualification dollar waiver

Welcome bonus

Delta Amex Skymiles / Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy

The Platinum Card from American Express

The Amex Platinum currently offers a welcome bonus of 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you use your new card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first three months. Based on TPG’s valuation of Membership Rewards points at two cents each, this welcome bonus is worth about $1,200.

Related reading: Amex Platinum 100k, Amex Gold 50k offers available via CardMatch

Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card

The Delta Reserve currently offers an elevated welcome bonus of up to 100,000 Delta miles and 20,000 MQMs. Specifically, you’ll earn 80,000 bonus miles and 20,000 MQMs after you spend $5,000 in purchases on your new card in your first three months, and an additional 20,000 bonus miles after your first anniversary of card membership. This elevated offer expires on April 1, 2020. TPG’s valuations peg the value of Delta miles at 1.2 cents each, so this welcome bonus is worth about $1,200.

Related reading: Choosing the best credit card for Delta flyers

Comparing the welcome bonuses

Both welcome bonuses require that you spend $5,000 during your first three months, and based on TPG’s valuations, both welcome bonuses are worth $1,200. Although the final 20,000 miles of the Delta Reserve‘s welcome bonus isn’t provided until after your first anniversary of card membership, it does provide 20,000 MQMs if you meet the spending requirements in your first three months. So, the Delta Reserve will edge out the Amex Platinum in this category.

Related reading: The most lucrative credit card bonuses we’ve ever seen

Earning

Eric Helgas/The Points Guy

The Platinum Card from American Express

The Amex Platinum earns five Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on flights booked directly with airlines, flights booked with American Express Travel and prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com. Based on TPG’s valuations, this means you’ll get an impressive 10% return on this spending.

You’ll also earn one Membership Rewards point per dollar spent on everything else, which equates to a 2% return.

Related reading: Know when you’ll get 5x points for airfare on Amex Platinum cards

Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card

The Delta Reserve earns 3 Delta miles per dollar spent on Delta purchases, which equates to a 3.6% return based on TPG’s valuations. You’ll earn one mile per dollar spent on all other purchases, which provides only a 1.2% return.

Related reading: The best credit cards for everyday spending

Comparing earning

The Delta Reserve‘s rate of return isn’t competitive even on Delta purchases. The Amex Platinum beats the Delta Reserve on both Delta purchases (10% vs 3.6% return) and everyday purchases (2% vs 1.2% return). So, although the Amex Platinum’s bonus categories are somewhat limited when compared to other premium travel rewards cards, the Amex Platinum wins this category.

Related reading: The best credit cards for airfare purchases

Redeeming

Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy

The Platinum Card from American Express

The Amex Platinum earns American Express Membership Rewards points. You’ll get the best value from your Membership Rewards points when you transfer them to one of 22 travel partners and then redeem through the partner for flights or hotel nights. There are other redemption options, but they all provide less than TPG’s valuation of Membership Rewards points at two cents apiece.

Related reading: Redeeming American Express Membership Rewards for maximum value

Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card

The Delta Reserve earns Delta miles, which can be frustrating to use due to dynamic award pricing. But there are still some great ways to get value from Delta miles. For example, Delta offers relatively frequent flash sales. Recently, we’ve seen deals like domestic awards from 5,000 SkyMiles round-trip, flights to Europe from 16,000 SkyMiles round-trip and flights to Japan from 30,000 SkyMiles round-trip.

You can also use Delta miles to upgrade to the next class of service. And, there are also great sweet spots for flying international partner airlines with SkyMiles. All SkyTeam partners, such as Air France and Korean Air, are available for award redemptions, as well as some non-alliance partners like Virgin Australia and Air Tahiti Nui.

Related reading: How to redeem miles with the Delta SkyMiles program

Comparing redemptions

Not only are Amex Membership Rewards valued higher than Delta miles based on TPG’s valuations, but Membership Rewards can be transferred to 19 airline partners and three hotel partners, so you have a lot more flexibility when using your rewards. You can even transfer Membership Rewards points to Delta at a 1:1 ratio. So even if you only want Delta SkyMiles, you may find having the Amex Platinum more useful. The Amex Platinum is the clear winner in this category.

Further reading: A guide to earning transferable points

Delta-specific benefits

The Platinum Card from American Express

The only Delta-specific benefit you’ll get with the Amex Platinum is access to Delta SkyClub lounges. Access is complimentary for Amex Platinum cardholders when traveling on a same-day Delta-marketed or Delta-operated flight. Cardholders may also bring up to two guests at an exclusive per-visit rate of $39 per person, per location.

Related reading: Why the Amex Platinum might just be the best card for Delta flyers

Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card

The Delta Reserve offers many Delta-specific perks. Cardholders get complimentary access to Delta Sky Club lounges when traveling on a same-day Delta-marketed or Delta-operated flight. And cardholders can pay a per-visit fee of $39 per person, per location for Sky Club access when traveling on a Delta partner airline flight that is not marketed or operated by Delta. Plus, you’ll get two one-time Sky Club guest passes upon account opening as well as each year upon account renewal. You can also pay $39 per person, per location to bring up to two guests with you into the Sky Club.

You’ll also get complimentary access to American Express Centurion Lounges when flying Delta with a ticket purchased on the Delta Reserve. You can bring up to two guests into the Centurion Lounge with you for a fee of $50 each.

Other Delta-specific benefits include:

  • First checked bag free: First checked bag free on Delta flights for you and up to eight companions traveling with you on your reservation
  • Priority boarding: Main Cabin 1 priority boarding for you and up to eight companions traveling with you on your reservation
  • Companion certificate each year after your account anniversary: Valid for one round-trip first class, Delta Comfort+ or main cabin companion ticket when you pay taxes and fees on the award ticket and purchase an adult round-trip at an I, Z, W, L, U, T, X or V fare
  • Discount on in-flight purchases: 20% savings in the form of a statement credit for eligible pre-purchased meals and inflight purchases of food, alcoholic beverages and audio headsets on Delta-operated flights
  • Spend to earn MQMs through Status Boost: Earn 15,000 MQMs after you spend $30,000 on your card in a calendar year, and an additional 15,000 bonus MQMs after spending $60,000, $90,000 and $120,000 in a calendar year.
  • Spend to earn an MQD waiver: Even if you don’t meet the MQD thresholds for a qualification year, you can still qualify for Platinum, Gold or Silver Medallion Status if you’ve earned the required MQMs or MQSs and make at least $25,000 in eligible purchases within that qualification year on your card (and for Diamond Medallion Status if you make at least $250,000 in eligible purchases)
  • Access to complimentary upgrades for non-Medallions

Related reading: Credit cards that can help you earn airline elite status

Comparing Delta-specific benefits

As might be indicated by its cobranded status, the Delta Reserve offers many more Delta-specific benefits than the Amex Platinum. Take a serious look through the benefits offered by the Delta Reserve and decide how much value these benefits will provide to you personally when deciding between the two cards. (Also note that versions of some of the Delta Reserve’s benefits are also available on the lower-annual-fee Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card.) The clear winner in this category is the Delta Reserve.

Related reading: How to use credit cards to defeat basic economy

Other benefits

Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy

The Platinum Card from American Express

The Amex Platinum is kept by many cardholders primarily due to its benefits. These valuable benefits include:

Related reading: Maximizing benefits with the Amex Platinum Card

Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card

Most of the Delta Reserve‘s benefits are understandably related to Delta. However, there are a few other benefits that aren’t Delta-specific:

Related reading: Loaded with perks for Delta loyalists: Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card review

Comparing other benefits

The Amex Platinum offers many benefits that aren’t specific to Delta and effectively decrease its annual fee, so it easily wins this category.

Related reading: Best credit cards for airport lounge access

Which one should you choose?

 In general, the Amex Platinum will be the best choice for most travelers due to its statement credits that can bring the effective annual fee down to just $50 if used for purchases you’d normally make. Even if you don’t utilize the Amex Platinum extensively for spending, it’s likely the card’s benefits will provide value if you travel at least semi-frequently.

But, the Delta Reserve will be a better choice for select Delta flyers. You should consider the Delta Reserve if you’ll benefit significantly from the companion certificate each year after your account anniversary and other Delta-specific benefits. However, if you’re mostly interested in the MQD waiver and/or MQM Status Boost — and don’t need lounge access — you may want to consider the Delta SkyMiles Platinum American Express Card instead. And, if you’re mostly looking for a card that will provide the first checked bag free on Delta flights and priority boarding for you and up to eight companions traveling with you on your reservation, you may want to consider the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card.

Apply here for The Platinum Card from American Express or the Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. 
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