The Best Credit Cards for Delta Flyers [Lounge Access, Priority Boarding, Upgrades & More]

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If you fly Delta even a few times a year, chances are you’ll benefit from having a Delta-branded credit card. Lounge access, priority boarding, free checked bag, earning Delta SkyMiles, and improving your chances for an upgrade are all great reasons to be a cardholder.

In addition to Delta-branded credit cards, however, there are other credit cards that can help you earn free flights and even provide you with complimentary SkyClub lounge access. Today we’re going to explore credit card options that provide benefits specifically for Delta flyers.

If you’ve made Delta your airline of choice but haven’t pursued the additional benefits of a Delta credit card, you’re in luck. All the information you need to select the right card for you is here.

Let’s take a look at the best credit cards for Delta flyers.

Best Credit Cards for Delta Flight Purchases and Benefits

No one enjoys paying for checked bags or priority services. Having a Delta-branded credit card can eliminate some of that expense and deliver additional benefits.

General Flight Benefits

Having one of the following Delta-branded credit cards qualifies you for a free checked bag, priority boarding, and a 20% inflight food/beverage purchase statement credit.

Delta Pay with Miles
The Delta Pay with Miles benefit can be used when booking a qualifying flight. Image courtesy of Delta.com.

The Pay with Miles Benefit

All cardholders for the above Delta credit cards qualify for Delta’s Pay with Miles benefit. This benefit allows cardholders with at least 5,000 SkyMiles in their frequent flyer account to use those miles toward the purchase of flights.

Each 5,000 miles is worth $50 toward the flight purchase. For example, you could use 20,000 miles to reduce the cost of a ticket by $200.

If a selected flight qualifies, you will see the Pay with Miles option on your screen. You’ll have the option to pay for the entire ticket with miles, use a combination of both miles and money, or pay with your credit card.

Earning SkyMiles for Delta Purchases

All Delta-branded credit cards earn 2 SkyMiles per dollar spent on Delta purchases.

Bottom Line: Six Delta credit cards come with a free checked bag, priority boarding, 2 miles per dollar earnings on Delta purchases, 20% inflight food/beverage credit, and Pay with Miles benefits. The Blue Delta SkyMiles Credit Card (which is not included in those 6), offers 2 miles per dollar on Delta purchases and the discounted inflight food/beverage purchase credit. 

Delta Air Lines Economy
Share your travel experience with others using a Delta Companion ticket. Image courtesy of delta.com.

Best Credit Cards for Delta Companion Tickets

A valuable benefit of certain Delta-branded credit cards is the option to purchase a ticket and receive a companion ticket for just the cost of the taxes/fees. This companion certificate is offered each card anniversary year.

There are 4 Delta credit cards that offer the companion pass:

  • Delta Reserve® Credit Card: Purchase a first class, Comfort +, or Main Cabin ticket and receive a companion ticket for the price of taxes/fees only
  • Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card: Purchase a Main Cabin ticket and receive a companion ticket for the price of taxes/fees only

The business versions of these credit cards also offer the same corresponding companion pass benefits.

Not all fare classes or destinations are available. The certificate is good for 1 year from the date earned and valid for travel within the 48 contiguous states.

Cardholder must pay the applicable taxes and fees on the companion ticket (not to exceed $75).

Delta Air Lines First Class
Some Delta credit cards can increase your chances for an upgraded seat. Image courtesy of delta.com.

Best Credit Cards for Delta Elite Status and Upgrades

For those Delta flyers who strive for Delta Medallion Elite status, having a credit card that accelerates the process can be valuable.

Let’s look at what it takes to achieve Delta Medallion Elite status and how a Delta-branded credit card can help you get there.

Medallion Elite Status Qualification Requirements

To reach Medallion Elite status, you must earn Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs) or fly the required number of segments. You must also reach certain levels of required Elite Qualifying Dollars derived from flight purchases (MQDs).

Requirements must be met each calendar year.

  • Silver: 25,000 MQMs or 30 segments + $3,000 MQDs or meet the MQD waiver
  • Gold: 50,000 MQMs or 60 segments + $6,000 MQDs or meet the MQD waiver
  • Platinum: 75,000 MQMs or 100 segments + $9,000 MQDs or meet the MQD waiver
  • Diamond: 125,000 MQMs or 140 segments + $15,000 MQDs or meet the MQD waiver

For more information, see our in-depth article on Delta’s Loyalty Program which goes into detail on their Elite Status levels.

How Delta Credit Cards Help You Qualify

All Medallion MQD requirements, with the except of Diamond level, can be waived when you spend $25,000 on a Delta-branded credit card in a calendar year.

For Diamond level, the waiver requires $250,000 in spending on a Delta-branded credit card.

You can also earn Medallion Qualifying Miles when reaching certain spending levels each year on your Delta-branded credit card.

  • Delta Reserve Credit Card: Spend $30,000 and receive 15,000 MQMs, spend a total of $60,000 and receive another 15,000 MQMs for a total of 30,000 MQMs towards Medallion Elite status.
  • Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card: Spend $25,000 and receive 10,000 MQMs, spend a total of $50,000 and receive another 10,000 MQMs for a total of 20,000 MQMs towards Medallion Elite status.

The business versions of these cards offer the same corresponding MQM-earning benefits.

Delta Medallion Seat Upgrades

Delta Reserve® Credit Card cardholders receive higher priority for complimentary upgrades over travelers with the same status.

If you do not have Medallion Elite status but have the Delta Reserve® card, you will receive upgrade priority over those in the group without elite status.

The ranking of who gets the upgrade first begins with the group of travelers who have Elite status, but Delta Reserve® cardholders have an edge over others within each group.

Additionally, those who have a Delta card other than the reserve can receive an edge on upgrade priority after spending the required $25,000 or $250,000 to waive elite MQD requirements.

The ranking of priority for upgrades is based on the following:

  • Medallion Elite status
  • Fare class
  • Delta Reserve® Credit Card holders
  • Delta corporate travelers
  • Delta SkyMiles® cardholders who have met the Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQD) Waiver in the current calendar year
  • Date and time of upgrade request (the tiebreaker)

Bottom Line: You can earn MQMs and expedite your progress toward Medallion Elite status by using your Delta credit card. The Delta Reserve® Credit Card increases your chances for upgrades, as does (to a lesser extent) meeting the $25,000 spending required on the Gold Delta SkyMiles® and Platinum Delta SkyMiles® credit cards to waive the MQD requirement ($250,000 spending waiver for Diamond). 

Seattle SkyClub
Relax between flights at a Delta Sky Club lounge. Seattle Sky Club image courtesy of news.delta.com.

Best Credit Cards for Delta Sky Club Lounge Access

If you travel frequently on Delta Air Lines, you’re going to want access to the Delta Sky Club lounges. To gain access to the Delta Sky Club lounges, you can either purchase a membership or use your Delta Reserve® Credit Card, which offers complimentary access to the Club. If you purchase a membership, a single annual membership currently costs $545 annually.

Having a credit card that provides complimentary or discounted lounge access can save you hundreds of dollars. Let’s take a look at the credit cards that provide access to Delta SkyClubs.

Even having to pay an annual fee on a credit card that offers complimentary access could result in net savings versus purchasing an annual lounge membership.

The Platinum Card® from American Express is a great choice for Delta travelers who value complimentary lounge access, since it offers additional access to several lounge network properties, not just Delta Sky Clubs.

This can be an extremely valuable feature when Sky Clubs are unavailable or you’re traveling with others. Amex Centurion, Priority Pass, and Plaza Premium lounges usually allow 2 guests and have a far greater footprint worldwide.

Hot Tip: If worldwide lounge access is important to you, the Platinum Card® from American Express should be at the top of your consideration list. The card offers complimentary access to over 1,200 global lounges for you and 2 additional guests, and it offers a long list of additional luxury travel benefits. 

Best Credit Cards for Delta Flyers — Summary

Now that you have a good idea of the overall benefits provided for Delta flyers on each of the featured credit cards, let’s recap with a summary for each specific card.

The Platinum Card® from American Express & The Business Platinum Card®

Best for:

  • Delta Sky Club access for cardholder, and access for cardholder and 2 guests to over 1,200 additional worldwide lounges
  • Earning 5 Membership Rewards Points per dollar spent on Delta flights purchased directly from Delta and on American Express Travel.

Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express

Best for:

  • Sky Club lounge access for cardholder
  • Discounted Sky Club access for guests
  • First class, Main Cabin, or Comfort Plus companion ticket
  • Medallion upgrade priority
  • Waiving MQD requirements for Medallion Elite status after spending $25,000 or $250,000 (for Diamond Medallion) per year on the card
  • Faster path to elite status (earning MQMs for spending on the card)
  • Flight benefits
  • Pay with Miles

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Card from American Express

Best for:

  • Discounted Sky Club Access
  • Main Cabin companion ticket
  • Waiving MQD requirements for Medallion Elite status after spending $25,000 or $250,000 (for Diamond Medallion) per year on the card
  • Increased upgrade priority after meeting MQD waiver requirement
  • Faster path to elite status (earning MQMs for spending on the card)
  • Flight benefits
  • Pay with Miles

Delta Gold SkyMiles® Card from American Express

Best for:

  • Discounted Sky Club Access
  • Waiving MQD requirements for Medallion Elite status after spending $25,000 or $250,000 (for Diamond Medallion) per year on the card
  • Increased upgrade priority after meeting MQD waiver requirement
  • Flight benefits
  • Pay with Miles

The business version of each of these credit cards offers the same Delta benefits as listed above for the personal version.

Blue Delta SkyMiles® Card from American Express

Best for:

  • No large annual fee
  • 20% credit for inflight food/beverage purchases
  • Earn 2 miles per dollar spent at U.S. restaurants in addition to 2 miles per dollar spent on Delta purchases

Best Credit Card Rewards for Transferring to Delta

If you’re a Delta flyer and have credit cards that earn Membership Rewards points, Ultimate Rewards points, or Marriott Bonvoy points, you can utilize these transfer programs to book flights on Delta.

Membership Rewards Points

If you hold an American Express credit card that earns Membership Rewards points, you can transfer those points at a 1:1 ratio to Delta.

Chase Ultimate Rewards Points

While Ultimate Rewards points do not transfer to Delta, you can transfer points to Sky Team Alliance partners Air France (Flying Blue) or Virgin Atlantic and use those miles to book on Delta.

You can also use Ultimate Rewards to book Delta flights via the Ultimate Rewards travel portal and earn miles on those flights.

Marriott Bonvoy Points

If you have an excess of Marriott Bonvoy points and need to top off your Delta frequent flyer account for an award redemption, you can transfer Marriott points at the rate of 3 Marriott points to 1 Delta SkyMile.

You also receive a 5,000 mile bonus when transferring 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy Points.

Our complete guides tell you how to earn lots of Marriott Bonvoy points and how to receive maximum value when redeeming Marriott Bonvoy points for flights.

Additionally, you can transfer points from these hotel and car rental loyalty programs to Delta:

  • Hertz Gold Plus Rewards: 600 points = 500 miles
  • Radisson Rewards: 2000 points = 200 miles
  • Hilton Honors: 10,000 points = 1,000 miles
  • IHG Rewards Club: 10,000 points = 2,000 miles
  • Le Club AccorHotels: 4000 points = 2,000 miles

Bottom Line: Earning credit card rewards that can be transferred to Delta or Delta’s SkyTeam alliance partners is another option for booking Delta award flights. However, it’s important to ensure you’re receiving good value; in many cases the transfer ratios are poor. 

Additional Benefits

All of the credit cards we’ve mentioned in this article offer additional American Express member benefits that vary by specific card.

These benefits can include:

To view the benefits and protections that come with each of the American Express cards we’ve mentioned, you can access the benefits policies.

Final Thoughts

If you’re a Delta frequent flyer and you can utilize the benefits that come with any of these credit cards, it makes sense to be a cardholder. Gaining complimentary lounge access, earning Elite Qualifying Miles, receiving upgrade priority, and saving on a companion ticket each year are all benefits that deliver value.

And while welcome bonuses vary, you can usually count on thousands of bonus SkyMiles when you’re approved for a Delta-branded card and meet the initial minimum spending requirements. Welcome bonuses can easily offset any first-year annual fee.

The Delta Reserve® Credit Card is the best Delta-branded credit card for Delta flyers. It comes with a higher annual fee, but there are plenty of benefits that make it at good choice: Delta Sky Club access, an annual first class companion certificate, and upgrade priority, for example.

If you travel frequently, fly on several different airlines, and value global lounges access, you may fare better with a premium travel rewards credit card like the Platinum Card® from American Express, another good choice for Delta frequent flyers.


*Featured Image: Courtesy of delta.com

FAQ

Is a Delta credit card worth it?

Yes, a Delta credit card is worth it if you frequently travel on Delta Air Lines.

The welcome bonuses alone bring enough value in the first year to make the card worthwhile. Beyond the first year, just a few flights receiving a free checked bag or lounge access can bring value beyond that of any annual fee.

You’ll also be earning Delta SkyMiles that can be redeemed for free flights or applied towards paid tickets with the Pay with Miles benefit.

Can I transfer SkyMiles to other airlines?

Unfortunately, you cannot transfer SkyMiles to other airlines.

Delta SkyMiles can be redeemed for award flights which can be operated by Sky Team partner airlines. You can also use SkyMiles to pay for qualifying flights on Delta.com with the Pay with Miles feature.

Do Delta SkyMiles expire?

Delta SkyMiles do not expire. When you earn SkyMiles, they are deposited into your SkyMiles account and are safe as long as that account is open, even if you close your Delta credit card.

Many airline frequent flyer programs set your miles to expire so this is a great benefit of having a SkyMiles account.

How does the Delta companion pass work?

Each anniversary card year on the Delta Reserve® Card and the Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Card (and business versions of these cards), you receive a certificate good for a companion ticket.

When you purchase 1 ticket, you receive the second ticket for just the cost of the taxes and fees, which cannot exceed $75.

The certificate is good for flights within the contiguous 48 United States and is good for one year from the date it is earned.

Christine Krzyszton

About Christine Krzyszton

Christine, who lives in Northern Michigan, travels about 300,000 miles a year despite her remote location. Her expertise is traveling the world on a weekend with no pre-determined destination in mind, letting the cost of the airfare determine where she will go. She has over four million flown miles and elite status on all three major domestic carriers.

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