Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Review [2021]: Top-Shelf Rewards for Premium Customers

The Delta Reserve Card rewards loyal flyers who spend with Delta regularly.
Last updated Sep 16, 2021 | By Robin Kavanagh

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The Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card is the best airline credit card for Delta, offering the most rewards and benefits of available Delta cards. Both SkyMiles and Medallion Qualification Miles are included in the welcome offer, plus you can get perks like 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.

Take a closer look at what you get in this Delta Reserve credit card review and whether it’s worth the $550 (See rates and fees) annual fee.

Access to Delta Sky Club Lounges

Intro Offer

80,000 bonus miles (and 20,000 MQMs)

Annual Fee

$550

Rewards Rate

up to 3X miles

Benefits and Drawbacks

Benefits

  • Earn 80,000 bonus miles and 20,000 MQMs after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months
  • 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 80,000 bonus miles and 20,000 MQMs after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
  • 3X miles per dollar spent on purchases made directly with Delta and 1X miles for all other eligible purchases
  • Terms apply

Who should get this card?

The Delta Reserve card from American Express is likely best for people who fly Delta regularly — think monthly or more frequently — or plan to spend a lot using the card. 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 will benefit from the Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) that come with the welcome offer, and those who plan to spend between $30,000 and $60,000 on their card in a year will get even more with MQMs awarded at those 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
Card Issuer American Express
Annual Fee $550 (Terms apply)
Welcome Bonus Earn 80,000 bonus miles and 20,000 MQMs after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
Recommended Credit Score Excellent, Good
Foreign Transaction Fee None (See rates and fees)

Top card benefits

  • Generous welcome offer: Earn 80,000 bonus miles and 20,000 MQMs after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Depending on where you’re flying and what class, those miles could amount to one or more free fares. You’ll also be nearly halfway to Silver Medallion Status.
  • Bonus miles when you fly with Delta: Purchases made directly with Delta will get you 3X miles, including tickets through Delta.com, upgrades, inflight purchases, Sky Club membership, Delta vacations, and more.
  • Annual companion fare: Get a companion certificate — good for a round-trip Domestic First Class, Delta Comfort+, or Domestic Main Cabin ticket — every year your card renews.
  • Complimentary Delta Sky Club: Enjoy the perks of Delta’s Sky Clubs at any airport for free. Beginning Jan. 20, 2020, you'll also receive two one-time passes for guests. 
  • Additional miles bonuses: If you spend $30,000 in purchases on your card in one year, you can earn an 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.
  • Cellphone protection: If you pay your cellphone bill in full with this card, you receive cellphone protection. This includes up to $800 per claim for stolen or damaged cellphones 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 new benefits: You also get a statement credit for your Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee and you get complimentary access to American Express Centurion Lounges and Escape Lounges.

Earning & redeeming

Best ways to earn

Earning SkyMiles with the Delta Reserve 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
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.

You can get a bunch of MQMs with your welcome bonus, but 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. SkyMiles can be redeemed 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 each year, 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.

Common questions

Is the Delta Reserve Credit 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 (See rates and fees), or the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card, which has an annual fee of  $99 (waived first year) (See rates and fees) .

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

Do you get priority boarding with the Delta Reserve Credit Card?

All of the higher-tier Delta cards — Gold Delta SkyMiles, Platinum Delta SkyMiles, and Delta Reserve — offer Main Cabin 1 boarding. This group boards after Delta One, First Class, Delta Premium Select, Delta Comfort+, and Sky Priority customers but before main cabin passenger groups.

Does the Delta Reserve Credit 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 Reserve 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 Reserve Credit Card offer airport lounge access?

Yes! The cardholder gets complimentary access to Delta Sky Club lounges worldwide. Beginning Jan. 30, 2020, cardholders will also receive two one-time passes to Delta Sky Club lounges for guests and also 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 loyal Delta fans who fly the airline regularly and are looking for the maximum amount of benefit from being such a frequent flyer. 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 can be used for a wide variety of purposes. Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $6,000 in the first 6 months, plus 10x points on eligible purchases at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the U.S. (up to $25,000 in combined purchases during your 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 American Express airport lounges. The annual fee for this card is $695 (See rates and fees).

The Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card is another option to consider, as it offers many of the same perks as the Delta Reserve card. You’ll enjoy Main Cabin 1 priority boarding, free first checked bag, a discounted rate for Sky Club access, no foreign transaction fees, and discounts on inflight purchases, all for a $99 (waived first year) annual fee.

Access to Delta Sky Club Lounges

Special Offer

Earn 80,000 bonus miles and 20,000 MQMs after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months

See rates and fees

See how these cards compare:

The Platinum Card® from American Express
The Platinum Card® from American Express
  • Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $6,000 in the first 6 months
  • 10X points at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the U.S. (up to $25,000 in combined purchases, during your first 6 months)
  • 5X points on eligible flights and hotels
  • $200 hotel credit, $240 digital entertainment credit, $200 in Uber Cash, $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
Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card
Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card
  • Earn 70,000 bonus miles after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months
  • 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
  • $99 annual fee. Terms apply.
  • See rates and fees

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.