Delta Skymiles Reserve AMEX Card (2020)
Review the benefits of the Delta Skymiles Reserve AMEX (2020), calculate how many Skymiles you can earn based on your spend, and compare against top cards.
The Delta Skymiles Reserve Card is Delta's premium credit card. I find this card to be for people who want to either spend their way to Delta Medallion Status or for those who want to enjoy at least one first class flight per year with the First Class Companion Pass. The card itself has a high pricing point of $550, but the benefits of the card can easily make up for that fee and more.
The Delta Skymiles Reserve AMEX Card features one bonus category which is Delta purchases. There is no limit to the amount of bonus miles you can earn using your card on Delta purchases and no limit to the amount of miles you can earn using the card overall.
3x Delta Purchases
The Delta Skymiles Reserve AMEX Card earns 3 Skymiles per $1 spent on Delta purchases. This will be purchases where Delta is the merchant of record, such as purchases via Delta.com, phone reservations, or ticket counters, upgrades, miles, seat selection, Delta Sky Club® membership or passes, pre-purchased meals, in-flight purchases of food, alcoholic beverages and audio headsets on Delta-operated flights. Do note that in-flight purchases (e.g. Gogo) will not count as Delta purchases.
Since the Delta Skymiles Platinum AMEX Card earns 3x Skymiles per $1 spent as well, there's nothing entirely special about this earning rate. You can earn more miles using the AMEX Platinum Card (5x) and also earn many of the same perks including complimentary Delta SkyClub access, complimentary Centurion Lounge access, and Global Entry/TSA PreCheck.
All non-Delta purchases on the Delta Skymiles Reserve AMEX Card will earn 1 Skymile per $1 spent. This is an extremely low return which can be put on a Membership Rewards Credit Card to earn a higher return. The two best cards for non-category spending with Delta is the AMEX Blue Business Plus (2x) and AMEX Everyday Preferred (Up To 1.5x).
Perks and Benefits
Sky Priority Security and Miles Boost will no longer be perks of the Delta Reserve AMEX as of January 30, 2020.
First Class Companion Certificate
The primary benefit offered on the Delta Skymiles Reserve AMEX is the annual First Class Companion Certificate. This certificate will allow a companion to fly first class with you for just the cost of taxes and fees. Flying First Class with Delta can easily cost you a pretty penny, but it can also be relatively cheap depending on how far or where you're flying to. I would say that you should easily be able to squeeze $400 to $600+ out of this benefit alone.
Delta SkyClub One-Time Guest Passes
When you open your account and each year upon renewal of your Delta Skymiles Reserve AMEX Card, you will receive two one-time guest passes for complimentary access to the Delta SkyClub. These passes, good for one year, will be added to the primary cardholders Wallet within the Fly Delta App and on Delta.com. The primary cardholder must be present and guests using the pass must be traveling on a same-day Delta-marketed or -operated flight.
Complimentary Delta SkyClub Access
The Delta Skymiles Reserve AMEX Card will grant you and additional card members complimentary access to Delta SkyClubs when traveling on a same-day Delta-marketed or -operated flight. If you or an additional card member is traveling on a Delta partner flight, a reduced cost of $39 per person, per location will be charged for SkyClub entry in which the Reserve card will be charged.
Centurion Lounge Access
Along with Delta SkyClub access, your Delta Skymiles Reserve AMEX will also grant you and additional card members access to Centurion Lounges when flying on a same-day Delta-marketed or -operated flight. In order to gain access, you must book your eligible flight on a U.S. issued American Express Card. You may bring up to two guests with you into a Centurion Lounge for $50 per guest, per location and each guest must also be traveling on a Delta-marketed or -operated flight.
If you're looking to earn status faster through spend, the Delta Skymiles Reserve AMEX Card is here for you. Every $30,000 you run across the card will earn you 15,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs). You can earn this status boost 4 times meaning with $120,000 in spend you will have earned a total of 60,000 MQMs. This will push you to Delta Gold Medallion Status.
If you're a really heavy spender, you can pick up the Delta Skymiles Reserve Business AMEX Card and run an additional $120,000 through that to earn 60,000 more MQMs which will push you to the MQMs requirement for Delta Diamond Medallion Status. You can then run an additional $10,000 through either card to hit the $250,000 MQD Waiver requirement for Diamond and be on your way. This method basically allows you to "buy" Diamond status.
Complimentary Upgrades & Upgrade Priority
Holding the Delta Skymiles Reserve AMEX Card will give you a better chance to receive complimentary upgrades. Those without Medallion Status will be eligible for complimentary upgrades and will be added to the upgrade standby list prior to flight. While you'll still be behind those with Medallion Status making it harder for a First Class upgrade, there are chances in which you can at least score a Delta Comfort+ seat if you're not flying from a super busy airport and/or flying at a peak time of day.
Those with Medallion Status will have upgrade priority over non-Reserve cardholders who have the same level of Medallion Status. So if you and a non-Reserve cardholder both have Gold Medallion Status, you'll receive priority over the non-Reserve cardholder when it comes to getting a seat upgrade. This is another way to help increase your chances of receiving an upgrade.
Global Entry / TSA PreCheck
As standard with most premium cards, you'll receive up to a $100 credit towards Global Entry or TSA PreCheck when you use your Delta Skymiles Reserve AMEX Card to pay for the application fee. Both of these programs are very useful for those who want to fly (at least most of the time) through TSA Checkpoints and customs. I highly recommend going for Global Entry since it comes with TSA PreCheck. Both of these program memberships last for four years.
If you already have Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, you can gift this benefit to another person by using your Delta Skymiles Reserve AMEX Card to pay for their application fee. The credit for this benefit is triggered by the fee itself and is not specific to the cardholder.
This benefit is only available to the primary cardholder.
The MQD Waiver is a unique benefit that allows you bypass the Medallion Qualification Dollars requirement to quality for Delta Medallion Status as long as you have met the Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) or Medallion Qualification Segments (MQSs) requirements. You'll need to spend $25,000 across your card to waive the MQD requirement for Silver, Gold, and Platinum status and spend $250,000 to waive the requirement for Diamond status.
In order to be eligible for this benefit you must have at least one of the four following cards:
- Delta Skymiles Platinum AMEX
- Delta Skymiles Platinum Business AMEX
- Delta Skymiles Reserve AMEX (this card)
- Delta Skymiles Reserve Business AMEX
As long as you have at least one of the cards listed above, eligible spend across all Delta AMEX Cards will count towards the MQD Waiver including:
For example, you can run $15,000 in spend through the Delta Skymiles Reserve AMEX, $8,000 through the Delta Skymiles Platinum Business AMEX, and $2,000 through the Delta Skymiles Blue AMEX to hit the $25,000 spend requirement for the Silver/Gold/Platinum Medallion Status waiver.
20% Off In-Flight
When you use your Delta Skymiles Reserve AMEX to pay for in-flight purchases, you will receive 20% off those purchases in the form of a statement credit. Eligible purchases include pre-purchased meals, and in-flight purchases of food, alcoholic beverages and audio headsets, on Delta-operated flights. This is a useful benefit that can help those who find themselves making purchases in-flight often.
This benefit is available on all Delta AMEX credit cards.
Pay with Miles
Owning the Delta Skymiles Reserve AMEX will give you the ability to Pay with Miles during checkout when purchasing a ticket from the Delta website. When using Pay with Miles, your Delta Skymiles will have a value of 1 cent each which is lower than the average redemption value of 1.2 cents. The plus to using the Pay with Miles option is that you will receive MQMs, MQSs, and the MQDs of the portion paid in cash. Using the normal method of Miles+Cash will give your points an average value of 1.2 cents, but you will not receive MQMs, MQSs, or MQDs. It really comes down to if you're willing to sacrifice the 0.2 cents in extra value for credit towards Delta Medallion Status.
This benefit is available on all Delta AMEX credit cards.
Free Checked Bag
You and up to 8 other traveling on the same reservation as you will receive the first checked bag free of charge. Delta charges $25 per direction for checked bags, so this benefit can save you and those traveling with you hundreds of dollars if no one has Delta Medallion Status. This benefit (along with the First Class Companion Pass) can help chop down the fee if it's consistently saving you money for checked bags.
Standard AMEX Benefits
With the Delta Reserve AMEX Card comes a list of standard American Express perks that can be of use when using the Reserve to make purchases. This includes, but is not limited to:
- AMEX Offers
- Car Rental Loss and Damage Insurance
- Baggage Insurance Plan
- ShopRunner Membership
- Return Protection (90 Days)
Benefits such as AMEX Offers can also help towards the fee of the card if you don't have other AMEX cards that give you access to the benefit.
Sign Up Bonus
The standard sign up bonus for the Delta Skymiles Reserve AMEX Card is 30,000 Skymiles and 10,000 MQMs. While the 10,000 MQMs can be a great push towards obtaining Medallion Status, this is a relatively low sign up bonus as you will not typically get too far with 30,000 Skymiles.
I've seen promotion bonuses for the Delta Skymiles Reserve AMEX Card as high as 70,000 Skymiles though it has been rare. I wouldn't recommend that you hold your breath waiting for that type of sign up bonus, but you should at least wait for some kind of elevated bonus (even if only 40k-50k miles) if you're in no rush to apply for the card.
Credit Card Fees
|Authorized User Fee|
|Foreign Transaction Fee|
The annual fee for the Delta Skymiles Reserve AMEX is $550. This falls in line with other premium travel cards such as the AMEX Platinum and Chase Sapphire Reserve. The card itself doesn't offer any credits like the two aforementioned cards, so how much you value the benefits of the Delta Skymiles Reserve AMEX is what it will come down to.
In my opinion, the First Class Companion Pass can easily cover most of not the entire fee of the card if used right. If you don't find much value in the companion pass, the other Reserve card specific benefits such as Delta SkyClub access, Centurion Lounge access, status boost, and upgrade priority can also have help add easy value to the card.
Authorized User Fee
The authorized user fee to add additional cardholders is $0 while the authorized user fee to add additional Reserve Cards is $175 per user. Regular additional cardholders will not gain any real benefits outside of helping you build up your Delta Skymiles when they use the card to make purchases. When you add an authorized user as a Reserve Card member, they will gain access to the Delta SkyClub. If a friend or family member is consistently paying $39 to enter the SkyClub, you might want to start considering adding them as an additional Reserve cardholder.
Foreign Transaction Fee
There is no foreign transaction fee for using the Delta Skymiles Reserve AMEX Card which means you will not be charged a fee when using the card for international shopping and travel. The card doesn't really feature anything that can be useful for international purchases, so while it is nice to not be charged a foreign transaction fee, this isn't the best card to use for non-category spend.
Upgrading & Downgrading Delta Cards
If at any time you feel the Delta Skymiles Reserve AMEX Card is not worth it, you can always downgrade to another Delta AMEX card. This will require you to contact AMEX either by chat or by phone.
Remember that AMEX sign up bonuses are once per card, per lifetime. So downgrading to another AMEX Card in which you have never received a sign up bonus for will forfeit your chance to earn a sign up bonus for that card. This is one of the main drawbacks to downgrading (or upgrading in some cases) your card.
Delta AMEX Order
The order of the Delta AMEX Cards from lowest to highest tier are:
- Delta Skymiles Blue AMEX Card
- Delta Skymiles Gold AMEX Card
- Delta Skymiles Platinum AMEX Card
- Delta Skymiles Reserve AMEX Card (this card)
The Delta Skymiles Blue AMEX Card (no annual fee) is the lowest tier card in the Delta family and the Delta Skymiles Reserve AMEX Card is the highest tier card in the Delta family.
You can use this rewards calculator to calculate how many points, miles, or cash back you can earn based on your spend per category. This calculator will also give you the dollar value of the card based on rewards earned and how much each benefit is worth to you minus the fees. You can click the Compare A Card button to compare this card against another card in the same calculator.
All category spend entered in the primary card's column will carry over to all credit card pages on the site so you don't have to re-enter the same information over again.
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