Which Credit Card Is Best for Delta Flyers?

The best credit card for Delta customers depends on each person’s travel habits, spending patterns, and preferences.
Last updated Sep 21, 2020 | By Ben Luthi
Airplane wing against the sky

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If you fly a few times a year and prefer Delta over other commercial airlines, it might be a good idea to have a Delta credit card. With some Delta credit cards, you’ll get special perks whenever you fly with the airline in addition to the opportunity to earn Delta SkyMiles every time you use your card.

Depending on how often you fly and your general preferences, however, one Delta credit card may be better for you than the others. Here’s what you need to know about each and how to pick the best airline credit card for you.

What Delta credit cards offer

There are four consumer Delta SkyMiles cards from which you can choose, each with varying annual fees and benefits:

Each of these cards is a little bit different in how you earn bonus miles, so be sure to investigate the details on each so that you can match the bonus rewards potential to your personal spending habits.

You’ll also get a chance to earn a sign-up bonus with each card, although the bonus amounts vary and some cards offer Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) in addition to standard rewards miles. Earning MQMs is one of the ways you can achieve elite status with Delta Airlines; silver elite status starts at 25,000 MQMs.

Most of these cards also offer extra perks like free checked bags, priority boarding, discounts on in-flight purchases, and complimentary or discounted Delta Sky Club access. Here’s a summary of features to compare:

Card Annual Fee Welcome Offer Reward Rates Free Checked Bag Priority Boarding MQM Bonus
Amex Delta SkyMiles Blue $0 10,000 Bonus Miles* 2X miles on eligible purchases made directly with Delta and at restaurants worldwide, and 1X miles on all other eligible purchases No No No
Amex Delta SkyMiles Gold $99 (waived first year) 50,000 Bonus Miles* 2X miles on purchases made directly with Delta, at restaurants, and at U.S supermarkets; and 1 mile per $1 spent on all other eligible purchases Yes Yes No
Amex Delta SkyMiles Platinum $250 60,000 Bonus Miles* 3X miles per dollar spent on purchases made directly with Delta and at hotels; 2X miles per dollar spent at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets; and 1X miles for every dollar spent on all other eligible purchases Yes Yes Yes
Amex Delta Reserve $550 40,000 Bonus Miles* 3X miles per dollar spent on purchases made directly with Delta and 1X miles for all other eligible purchases Yes Yes Yes

*Terms Apply

Some of the cards also provide some premier benefits. With the Amex Delta SkyMiles Platinum card, for example, you’ll receive one domestic main cabin round-trip companion certificate every year — you just have the pay the taxes and fees. Depending on how you redeem that certificate, it could be worth far more than the card’s $250 annual fee.

With the Amex Delta SkyMiles Reserve card, you’ll receive a companion certificate that’s good for a domestic first class, Delta Comfort+, or main cabin fare — and that’s in addition to complimentary access to the Delta Sky Club lounge whenever you fly with the airline.

Earn more Delta SkyMiles with general travel credit cards

The primary benefit of getting a Delta-branded credit card is the chance to get special perks every time you fly with the airline.

But if you’re looking for opportunities to earn more rewards on Delta flights, it may be worth getting a general travel credit card instead — specifically, a card that allows you to transfer your rewards to Delta or one of the airline’s partners.

With Delta partners, such as Virgin Atlantic, you can book Delta flights with miles you have with the partner airline. So even if you’re not transferring to Delta, you can still get on Delta flights.

These cards can also give you some extra flexibility with your rewards compared with Delta SkyMiles cards. Instead of forcing you to use your points or miles to book Delta flights, you can typically also book other types of travel or transfer your points to other airlines and even hotel brands.

So unless your top priority is getting free checked bags, priority boarding, and other Delta-specific benefits, a general travel credit card may be a better choice. Just be aware that you may end up paying a higher annual fee. But depending on how you earn rewards and use benefits, it’s possible to make up for that cost in value. Here are some to consider:

Card Annual Fee Bonus Rewards on Flights Transfer Ratio to Delta or Partner Other Notable Benefits
Amex Platinum Card $550 5 points per dollar on flights purchased directly from airlines or through Amex Travel 1:1 Complimentary access to Delta Sky Club lounges when flying Delta, plus other lounge networks; $200 annual airline fee credit
Chase Sapphire Reserve $550  3 points per dollar on all travel purchases 1:1 to Virgin Atlantic Complimentary access to Priority Pass lounges; $300 annual travel credit
American Express Gold Card $250 3 points per dollar on flights purchased directly from airlines or through Amex Travel 1:1 $100 airline fee credit

Points transfers work by moving your points from one credit card rewards program to another. Depending on the program, the transfer can be instant, or it can take a day or two. If you’re trying to plan a trip now, make sure to check the fine print to understand how long it will take for the transfer to complete.

Which card is right for you?

The best credit card for Delta miles depends on your spending habits, travel plans, and preferences about fees and features. Here are some questions to ask yourself before making this decision.

How often do I fly?

Frequent flyers would get a lot more benefit from a Delta credit card than people who fly just once or twice a year. The last thing you want is to rack up rewards and then rarely use them, so consider a card that offers perks you can actually use, such as a cashback credit card.

If you fly a lot, though, any Delta credit card or at least a general travel credit card is worth thinking about.

Am I loyal to Delta?

If you live near an airport that serves as a hub for Delta and like the idea of sticking with one airline, it might be worth it to have a Delta SkyMiles card. That way, you can ensure you’ll get special perks every time you fly.

If you’re not particularly loyal to Delta and want to just get the best deal every time, a general travel card that gives you more flexibility could be the best travel credit card choice.

Do I travel light?

One of the biggest benefits most Delta credit cards offer is a free checked bag. Your first checked bag with the airline costs $30 each way, which means you could save $60 every time you fly round trip. If you always check a bag and you prefer Delta, that benefit alone could save you quite a bit.

But if you like to travel light and usually stick with a carry-on bag, the feature won’t provide much benefit.

What perks do I want?

If you like the idea of having a companion certificate and airport lounge access, the Amex Delta SkyMiles Reserve is a solid choice — it offers a companion pass, plus lounge access benefits for both the cardholder and guests. But even the Amex Delta SkyMiles Platinum card can get you the companion certificate and discounted access to the airline’s lounges for you and two guests.

If you want even more perks, though, cards like the Amex Platinum Card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve go above and beyond what you can get with the top-tier Delta SkyMiles cards. Compare all of your options to find the one that works best for you.

How do I feel about fees?

Some of the best Delta credit cards offer some incredible benefits, but they come at a price. American Express credit cards often have annual fees in exchange for their perks. The Amex Delta SkyMiles Reserve, for instance, charges a $550 annual fee, and the Amex Platinum Card charges $550.

On the flip side, while the Amex Delta SkyMiles Blue card doesn’t charge an annual fee, you get what you pay for. The card doesn’t offer any perks when you fly Delta, other than a 20% discount on certain in-flight purchases.

Even if you’re generally fee-averse, it’s important to compare a card’s annual fee to the value of the benefits it offers.

Bottom line

There’s no single best Delta credit card out there, so it’s important to know what’s available and do your research to find the best one for you. As you do so, think about features and fees as well as the flexibility you’ll get with each card’s rewards programs. It can take some time to pick the right one, but it’s time well spent.

Great Welcome Offer and Continuing Rewards

Benefits

  • Earn up to 50,000 bonus miles (Offer ends Oct. 28)
  • Earn a $100 Delta Flight Credit to use toward future travel after you spend $10,000 in the first calendar year.
  • 2X miles on purchases with Delta, at restaurants, and at U.S. supermarkets
  • Check your first bag free on Delta flights
  • Annual fee is waived your first year
  • Terms apply