Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card Review [2022]: Top-Shelf Rewards for Premium Customers

The Delta SkyMiles Reserve Card rewards loyal flyers who spend with Delta regularly.
Last updated Nov. 17, 2022 | By Robin Kavanagh

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The Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card offers the most rewards and benefits of available Delta cards, and it could be a good fit for Delta loyalists. The welcome offer is generous, plus you can get perks such as free annual companion fares, free access to Sky Club lounges around the world, bonus points for purchases with Delta, and one free checked bag per flight. Its low earnings rate compared to other travel cards may not make it the best choice, however. 

Take a closer look at what you get in this Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card review and whether it’s worth the $550 annual fee.

Access to Delta Sky Club Lounges

Current Offer

Earn 50,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 in the first 6 months (and 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs))

Annual Fee

$550

Rewards Rate

3X miles per dollar spent on purchases made directly with Delta and 1X miles for all other eligible purchases

Benefits and Drawbacks

Benefits

  • Earn 50,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 in the first 6 months (and 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs))
  • Generous rewards rate for Delta flyers
  • Complimentary Sky Club and Centurion Lounge access
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • $550 annual fee. Terms apply.

Drawbacks

  • High annual fee
  • Best for frequent Delta travelers
Card Details
  • Earn 50,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 in the first 6 months (and 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs))
  • 3X miles per dollar spent on purchases made directly with Delta and 1X miles for all other eligible purchases
  • Terms apply

In this Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card review

Who should get the Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card?

The Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card is likely best for people who fly Delta regularly — think monthly or more frequently. The best rewards come with purchases made through Delta, and with a $550 annual fee you’ll want to make sure you get those rewards as often as possible.

Very frequent travelers who plan to spend between $30,000 and $60,000 on their card in a year will get even more with Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) awarded at those spending levels.

If you’re looking for a Delta card that offers a free companion fare, priority boarding, or free checked bags, this one delivers. However, there are other Delta cards that offer these benefits as well — and at a lower annual fee.

Card basics

Card type Travel
Credit card issuer American Express
Annual fee $550 (Terms apply)
Intro bonus Earn 50,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 in the first 6 months (and 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs))
Reward rate 3X miles per dollar spent on purchases made directly with Delta and 1X miles for all other eligible purchases
Recommended credit score Excellent, Good
Foreign transaction fee None

Delta SkyMiles Reserve benefits and perks

  • Generous welcome offer: Earn 50,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 in the first 6 months (and 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs)). Depending on where you’re flying and what class, those miles could amount to one or more free fares. 
  • Bonus miles when you fly with Delta: Eligible purchases made directly with Delta will get you 3X miles, including tickets through Delta.com, upgrades, in-flight purchases, Sky Club membership, Delta vacations, and more.
  • Annual companion fare: Get an annual companion certificate — good for a round-trip Domestic First Class, Delta Comfort+, or Domestic Main Cabin ticket — every year your card renews. You are required to pay taxes and fees of no more than $80 for roundtrip domestic flights. 
  • Complimentary Delta Sky Club access: Enjoy the perks of Delta’s Sky Clubs at any airport for free. You'll also receive two one-time guest passes. You also have complimentary Centurion Lounge access when you book your flight with your Reserve Card. 
  • Priority boarding: Enjoy Main Cabin 1 priority boarding for you and up to eight companions on the same reservation, even when you're flying on a Delta basic economy ticket.
  • Twenty percent back on in-flight purchases: Card members also get 20% back on in-flight purchases in the form of a statement credit with this card. Qualifying in-flight purchases include eligible food, beverages, and audio headsets purchased on Delta flights.
  • Additional miles bonuses: If you spend $30,000 in purchases on your card in one year, you can earn a Status Boost of additional 15,000 MQMs. If you spend $60,000 in purchases, you can earn an additional 15,000 MQMs. You can also earn again at $90,000 and $120,000 in purchases.
  • Medallion Qualification Dollar (MQD) waiver: You can waive the MQD requirement toward Platinum, Gold, or Silver Medallion Status if you make at least $25,000 in purchases. 
  • Cell phone protection: If you pay your cell phone bill in full with this card, you receive cell phone protection. This includes up to $800 per claim for stolen or damaged cell phones and up to two claims per card account per 12-month period. A $50 deductible per claim may apply.
  • Trip cancellation and interruption insurance: If your flight is canceled because of sudden illness, inclement weather, jury duty, or even terrorist activities, you’re entitled to up to $10,000 of reimbursement.
  • Trip delay insurance: If your flight is delayed more than 6 hours, you can also be reimbursed for up to $500 in unexpected expenses per trip.
  • Even more benefits: You also get a statement credit for your Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee and your first checked bag free.

Drawbacks to the Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card

  • Annual fee: While the $550 is comparable to other luxury travel cards, some may still find it a bit steep. 
  • Relatively low earnings rate: While you earn 3X SkyMiles with eligible purchases made directly with Delta, you only earn 1X SkyMiles with all other eligible purchases.  

Earning & redeeming Delta SkyMiles

Potential earnings in years one and two

Here's a look at how your miles can add up with the Delta SkyMiles Reserve Amex Card. To calculate these values, we used a point valuation of 1.41 cents per point.

Remember, this is an estimation. The actual value will be determined by how much you spend and in which categories you spend.

Year one earnings: $627.35

Year two earnings: -$77.65

These values are based on the FinanceBuzz Credit Card Rewards Valuation Model which takes a look at points earned via spending, the sign-up bonus, and the annual fee. 

The value for year two is negative because based on average spending, the low earnings rate, and the relatively high annual fee, you would earn less than the cost of the annual fee. The values above only account for general travel spending, not Delta purchases, which have a higher earnings rate. 

You'll earn bonus miles with this card when you spend with Delta, and the value you'll get may increase significantly. The value will also be potentially increased by hundreds of dollars per year if you take advantage of the various perks this card comes with.

Best ways to earn

Earning SkyMiles with the Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card is pretty straightforward: You get 3X miles per dollar spent on purchases made directly with Delta and 1X miles for all other eligible purchases. You can purchase tickets through the Delta website, but paying for fares, bags, upgrades, entrance to the Sky Club for companions, food and drinks onboard a flight, and even audio headsets also count toward bonus miles.

Categories Rewards rate
Eligible purchases made directly with Delta 3X
All other eligible purchases 1X

Earning MQMs is a little different. These are earned based on the distance and fare class you fly and are only used to qualify you for Medallion Status, which offers an elevated level of service and benefits as you fly.

The lowest tier of Medallion Status requires 25,000 MQM miles and having spent at least $3,000 on Delta flights in one year. Your MQM earnings reset annually (though they can roll over to the next year in some cases), whereas SkyMiles don’t. You can redeem SkyMiles for fares, upgrades, baggage fees, and even products through the SkyMiles Marketplace, vacations, and gift cards.

Maximizing your redemptions

Make sure to take advantage of the annual companion fare, checking one bag per ticket for free, and spending time in the designated lounges while you’re waiting at the airport. Those alone can make up for the $550 annual fee. 

Shop the Delta website for fares you can use your miles on to get added savings. Smart shopping can help your miles amount to several free flights, depending on your destination and what class you want to fly.

Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card transfer partners

Delta is a member of the SkyTeam Alliance, a network of airline partners. You can use your miles to book award flights with the following airlines:

  • Aerolineas Argentinas
  • Aeromexico
  • Air Europa
  • Air France
  • China Airlines
  • China Eastern
  • Czech Airlines
  • Garuda Indonesia
  • ITA Airways
  • Kenya Airways
  • KLM
  • Korean Air
  • Middle East Airlines
  • Saudia
  • TAROM
  • Vietnam Airlines
  • XiamenAir

Virgin Atlantic will join SkyTeam in early 2023. 

FAQs

Is the Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card worth it?

Though the rewards of this card are the highest among all of Delta’s credit cards, you also have to either fly or spend a lot to earn them. The annual companion fare, one free checked bag per ticket, free access to lounges, and priority boarding are all great perks. 

However, you can get a lot of that with the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card, which has an annual fee of $250, or the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card, which has an annual fee of  $99 (waived first year) .

Compare all of Delta’s credit cards before deciding which is best for your travel habits.

Does the Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card help with seat upgrades?

When it comes to upgrade priority on Delta flights, it’s more about your Medallion Status than your credit card. Delta SkyMiles Reserve Amex cardholders can receive upgrade priority, but they have to be a Medallion member and will only have priority over members within the same level and fare class.

Does the Delta SkyMiles Reserve Amex offer airport lounge access?

Yes! The cardholder gets complimentary access to Delta Sky Club lounges worldwide and access to American Express Centurion Lounges and Escape Lounges for themselves.


Other cards to consider

The Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card is a great choice for frequent Delta flyers looking for the maximum benefit from being such a frequent flyer. Of course, there are other airline credit cards to consider, which you can find on our list of the best airline credit cards

But before deciding to apply for this card, take a look at these other options that may fit your needs better.

The Platinum Card® from American Express offers extensive travel benefits that you can use for a wide variety of purposes. Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $6,000 in the first 6 months. From there, you earn 5X points per dollar spent on eligible airfare (on up to $500,000 per calendar year, after that 1X) and eligible hotel purchases, and 1X points per dollar on all other eligible purchases. You also get free Uber credits monthly and unlimited access to the Centurion Lounges. The annual fee for this card is $695.

Find out more in our Amex Platinum Card review

The Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card is a luxury card with a lower annual fee of $395 compared to the Delta SkyMiles Reserve. It also has a higher earnings rate of 2X miles per dollar on every purchase, every day; 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, 10X miles per dollar when you book on Turo through May 16, 2023; and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.  It includes access to Priority Pass lounges as well as Capital One and Plaza Premium Lounges. You can also typically bring two complimentary guests per visit.

Check out our Capital One Venture X review to learn more. 

Access to Delta Sky Club Lounges

Why We Like It

Earn 50,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 in the first 6 months (and 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs))

See rates and fees

See how these cards compare:

The Platinum Card® from American Express
The Platinum Card® from American Express
  • Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $6,000 in the first 6 months
  • Select your metal card design: classic Platinum Card, Platinum x Kehinde Wiley, or Platinum x Julie Mehretu
  • 5X points on flights booked directly with airlines or on Amextravel.com (on up to $500,000 per calendar year, after that 1X) and prepaid hotels booked on Amextravel.com
  • $200 hotel credit (minimum two-night stay required), $240 digital entertainment credit, $200 in Uber Cash, up to $300 Equinox credit, $200 airline fee credit
  • Access to Centurion and Priority Pass airport lounges
  • Select benefits require enrollment.
  • $695 annual fee. Terms apply.
  • See rates and fees
Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card
Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card
  • Welcome bonus: Earn 75,000 miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
  • Up to $300 in annual statement credits when booking through Capital One Travel
  • 10,000-mile annual anniversary bonus
  • Up to 10X miles per dollar spent
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck® application fee credit
  • Access to Capital One and Priority Pass lounges
  • 19.99% - 26.99% (variable) purchase APR

Author Details

Robin Kavanagh Robin is a freelance writer who lives on the South Carolina beach. She has spent the last 20 years writing about all kinds of topics for publications such as The New York Times, Yes! Magazine, Next Tribe, Parenting, and various trade magazines. On FinanceBuzz.com, you’ll find her mostly writing about smart ways to use credit cards, navigating personal loans, how to save when traveling, and ways to improve your financial health.