Edited by: Keri Stooksbury
& Juan Ruiz
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Have you ever found yourself comparing the various different Delta credit cards only to get overwhelmed by the sheer number of differences among them all?
Well, the truth is that Delta and Amex, in partnership, offer a dizzying number of credit cards that earn Delta SkyMiles, which is Delta’s frequent flyer mileage currency.
Each of the cards appeal to unique customer bases, and 2 of the most popular are the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card and the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card.
In this article, we’ll walk you through the various perks and features of these 2 cards — and we’ll also show you why you shouldn’t necessarily count out either card based on their annual fee.
Without further ado, let’s get right to it!
If you’re short on time, check out this chart detailing the main features of these 2 credit cards:
|Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card
|Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card
|Earn 100,000 bonus miles after you spend $6,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months.
|Earn 70,000 miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases in your first 6 months.
|Delta Air Lines Benefits
|Up to $100 Global Entry or up to $85 TSA PreCheck application fee statement credit
|Travel Benefits and Protections
|Shopping Benefits and Protections
|$650 (rates & fees)
|$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $150. (rates & fees)
|Authorized User Fees
|$175 per additional cardholder (rates & fees)
*Effective 2/1/25, Reserve Card Members will receive 15 Visits per year to the Delta Sky Club; to earn an unlimited number of Visits each year starting on 2/1/25, the total eligible purchases on the Card must equal $75,000 or more between 1/1/24 and 12/31/24, and each calendar year thereafter.
**Effective 1/1/24, this benefit will no longer be available.
The Delta Reserve card and Delta Gold card both earn Delta SkyMiles, which can be used to book flights on Delta, as well as with partner airlines like Virgin Atlantic and Korean Air.
However, Delta SkyMiles as a frequent flyer program has become significantly less useful due to a handful of devaluations over the past few years.
That’s not to say that you can’t get outsized value from your SkyMiles, but you’ll generally get a lot less value from your redemptions than in the past.
Your primary motivation for getting a Delta co-branded credit card should probably be to pursue benefits when flying on Delta.
There are plenty of other credit cards that are better from a rewards-earning standpoint, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or the American Express® Gold Card, though these cards aren’t Delta-centric from a benefits perspective.
As a general rule of thumb, the Delta Reserve card’s welcome bonus usually matches, or is higher than, the Delta Gold card’s welcome bonus:
Delta loyalists will love the fast track to Delta elite status, lounge access, baggage benefits, and upgrade priority with the Delta Reserve card.
The Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card is a stellar option for frequent travelers who always fly with Delta thanks to its MQD Headstart towards status boost, lounge access, annual companion certificate, and many other great benefits.
Here is a full look at everything the Delta Reserve card can offer to you to help you decide whether the card deserves a place in your wallet.
This card provides bonus SkyMiles on all purchases, along with a free checked bag, priority boarding, and discounted award flights.
Frequent Delta flyers will love the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card. The card offers great benefits that will help save you money, effectively mimics low-level elite status with Delta SkyMiles, and helps you earn miles even faster, all for a low annual fee. Let’s dive into the benefits to see if the Delta Gold card is a good fit for your needs.
The Delta Reserve card and Delta Gold card both earn Delta SkyMiles.
And even though Delta SkyMiles are a lot less valuable now than they were in the past, you can still use them to book business class flights on major airlines such as Delta, KLM, and Vietnam Airlines.
Let’s take a look at how fast you can rack up points with either the Delta Reserve card or the Delta Gold card:
|Delta Reserve Card
|Delta Gold Card
Even though the Delta Reserve card is considered to be a premium credit card, the Delta Gold card actually out-earns the Delta Reserve card on purchases at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets.
These 2 cards both earn 1x SkyMiles on other purchases, and the Delta Reserve card earns an enhanced 3x SkyMiles on purchases with Delta.
Since we value Delta SkyMiles at 1.2 cents per mile, we’re looking at a return on spending of 1.2% (1x SkyMiles), 2.4% (2x SkyMiles), or 3.6% (3x SkyMiles) depending on your purchase category and card you use.
As mentioned above, Delta SkyMiles are more flexible than some give Delta credit for. Most people think that Delta SkyMiles can only be used for flights on Delta, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Delta has a ton of airline partners, including SkyTeam partners such as Air France and KLM, as well as non-alliance partners like WestJet and Virgin Atlantic.
The best value you’ll get from Delta SkyMiles is for luxury award travel on competitive business class products.
For example, let’s take a look at a run-of-the-mill Delta SkyMiles redemption for economy seats on a flight from Detroit (DTW) to Boston (BOS), where paid tickets may sell for around $150 and award tickets might cost around 12,000 SkyMiles. In this example, you’d be getting a redemption value of around 1.2 cents per mile.
But if you instead redeemed your Delta SkyMiles for a long-haul business class flight from Paris (CDG) to Johannesburg (JNB) for 85,000 SkyMiles, which goes for roughly $4,000 if paid in cash, you’d be getting an excellent value of 4.7 cents per mile. That’s nearly quadruple the standard value of a Delta SkyMiles redemption.
The top reason why you should have a Delta co-branded credit card is to get better benefits when flying Delta.
So in this section, we’ll show you all of our favorite ways you can enjoy better treatment on Delta with either the Delta Reserve card or Delta Gold card.
One of the most important elements of a frequent traveler’s lifestyle is access to airport lounges — and the Delta Sky Club constitutes some of the best airport lounges you can access with a credit card.
The Delta Reserve card boasts complimentary access to the Delta Sky Club when you’re traveling on a same-day Delta flight. You can also bring up to 2 guests or immediate family members at an exclusive per-visit rate of $50 per person. Children under 2 years old may accompany the primary cardmember for free.
Lastly, you’ll get 2 complimentary Delta Sky Club one-time guest passes per year for your friends and family.
The Delta Gold card doesn’t offer any airport lounge access perks at all.
Another lovely benefit of the Delta Reserve card is the Delta Reserve Annual Companion Certificate, which is essentially a “buy one, get one free” ticket valid for specific domestic round-trip tickets.
You’ll get one of these every year you renew your Delta Reserve card — and it covers First Class, Delta Comfort+, or Main Cabin domestic, Caribbean, or Central American roundtrip flights to select destinations each year after renewal.
The Delta Gold card doesn’t have an annual companion certificate benefit.
The Delta Gold card happens to offer a $200 Delta flight credit after you spend $10,000 in purchases in a calendar year. You can use these credits toward future travel, which is great!
The Delta Reserve card doesn’t have this perk.
The Delta Reserve card and Delta Gold card both offer the first checked bag for free on Delta flights, covering yourself and up to 8 traveling companions on the same reservation (up to 9 travelers total).
Both the Delta Reserve card and Delta Gold card have Main Cabin 1 Priority Boarding as a complimentary benefit.
This perk covers yourself and up to 8 traveling companions on the same reservation (up to 9 travelers in total).
One of the best ways to earn cash-back from your Delta Reserve card or Delta Gold card is through the 20% statement credit on Delta inflight purchases.
For instance, if you spend $15 on an alcoholic beverage on a Delta flight, you’ll get $3 back as a statement credit.
The last Delta-specific perk we’ll discuss is the Delta Reserve card’s upgrade priority when flying Delta.
You may think this is a fantastic benefit at first, but the truth is that the upgrade priority is after all other SkyMiles members, even those without any SkyMiles status. So for this reason, this card’s upgrade priority benefit isn’t too meaningful.
The Delta Gold card doesn’t have any upgrade priority benefits at all.
The Delta Gold card doesn’t offer this benefit. However, the Delta Gold card does offer the abovementioned Delta flight credit.
In this section, we’ll show you all of the travel-related benefits and protections outside of the cards’ Delta-specific perks.
Another amazing feature of the Delta Reserve card is the ability to access the exclusive American Express Centurion Lounges — you can get access when you book your Delta flight using your Delta Reserve card. Also, you can bring up to 2 additional guests for a rate of $50 per person, per visit.
This is on top of the Delta Sky Club access benefits that we discussed in the previous section.
The Delta Gold card doesn’t have any airport lounge perks.
Both the Delta Reserve card and Delta Gold card offer secondary rental car coverage. Simply decline the rental car company’s CDW/LDW (collision damage waiver/loss damage waiver), pay for your car rental using your card, and you’re good to go.
However, the Delta Reserve card covers up to $75,000 in damages per rental, while the Delta Gold card covers up to $50,000 per rental.
Just keep in mind that liability coverage is never offered with these credit cards.
Hot Tip: Amex allows you to purchase an additional primary rental car coverage policy as an add-on for $12.25 to $24.95 per rental through Amex Premium Car Rental Protection.
If your trip is interrupted or canceled due to a covered reason, like a death or serious injury, you’ll want to make sure your credit card offers trip interruption and cancellation coverage.
The Delta Reserve card covers up to $10,000 per trip in reimbursements with a maximum total coverage of $20,000 every rolling 12 months.
The Delta Gold card does not have trip interruption and cancellation insurance.
The Delta Reserve card can reimburse eligible purchases like toiletries and accommodation for covered delays.
It gets you up to $500 per trip in reimbursements on covered delays of more than 6 hours (up to 2 approved claims every rolling 12 months).
The Delta Gold card doesn’t currently offer trip relay reimbursement.
If your luggage is lost, both the Delta Reserve card and the Delta Gold card can reimburse you for up to $1,250 per bag. The $1,250 per bag maximum applies to carry-on bags.
There’s a limit of $500 per person for checked bags and a sub-limit of $250 per person for high-risk items.
While you’re traveling in faraway destinations, you might occasionally encounter emergency situations where you need help as soon as possible.
American Express has the Global Assist Hotline and the Premium Global Assist Hotline. The former is offered by the Delta Gold card, while the latter is offered by the Delta Reserve card.
The Global Assist Hotline and Premium Global Assist Hotline both cover these referral and assistance services 24/7 as long as you’re traveling more than 100 miles from your home:
Also, the Premium Global Assist exclusively offers these extra benefits:
So, what happens when we use these credit cards for purchases outside of travel? Below, we’ll show you how your card can protect you on everyday purchases.
One of the most useful shopping benefits these cards offer is purchase protection, which essentially protects you if your item is damaged or stolen shortly after the purchase date.
To be specific, the Delta Reserve card gets you up to $10,000 in purchase protection per item and up to $50,000 per calendar year on eligible incidents that occur up to 90 days after the original purchase date.
The Delta Gold card’s coverage offers up to $1,000 in protection per item, up to $50,000 per calendar year, and up to 90 days of protection after the original purchase date.
You’ll have to pay for your item with the card in order for it to be covered by the purchase protection policy.
Both the Delta Reserve card and Delta Gold card offer extended warranty coverage of 1 additional year on eligible warranties of 5 years or less. You’ll have to pay for your item with the card in order for it to be covered by the extended warranty policy.
Return protection is a benefit that’s increasingly rare — but luckily, the Delta Reserve card offers it! This perk allows you to get reimbursed if you attempt to return an item within 90 days to the original merchant and the merchant doesn’t accept your return.
File a claim within 90 days from the date of purchase and get reimbursed for up to $300 per item and up to $1,000 calendar year.
At the moment, the Delta Gold card doesn’t offer return protection.
The Delta Reserve card has an awesome cell phone protection policy that covers theft or eligible damages, but you’ll only get this coverage if you pay your monthly cellular bill with the card.
You can get up to $800 in reimbursements for theft or damage to your cell phone, with a $50 deductible for each claim, up to 2 approved claims every rolling 12 months.
The Delta Gold card does have cell phone protection.
In our final section, we’ll be taking a look at how much each of these cards will cost you.
The Delta Reserve card has a $650 annual fee, while the Delta Gold card has a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $150. annual fee.
With the Delta Reserve card, you’ll pay an additional annual fee of $175 per authorized user you add.
The Delta Reserve card also affords its authorized users with many of the same perks as the primary cardholder, except for their own companion certificate, and the Delta Sky Club one-time guest passes.
Delta Reserve card authorized users will still get access to Delta Sky Clubs, Centurion Lounges, and so on.
There are no additional annual fees for authorized users on the Delta Gold card.
The Delta Gold card’s authorized user benefits are more or less the same as the benefits for the primary cardholder, minus the Delta flight credit.
If you’re the type of person who just wants maximum rewards and a free flight on Delta in economy from time to time, the Delta Gold card is the best for you.
But, if you like flying first class, enjoying elite status, and other benefits like airport lounge access, the Delta Reserve card will be a good addition to your wallet.
For the car rental collision damage coverage benefit of the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card, car rental loss and damage insurance can provide coverage up to $50,000 for theft of or damage to most rental vehicles when you use your eligible card to reserve and pay for the entire eligible vehicle rental and decline the collision damage waiver or similar option offered by the commercial car rental company. This product provides secondary coverage and does not include liability coverage. Not all vehicle types or rentals are covered. Geographic restrictions apply. Eligibility and benefit level varies by card. Terms, Conditions and Limitations Apply. Visit americanexpress.com/
For the car rental collision damage coverage benefit of the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card, car rental loss and damage insurance can provide coverage up to $50,000 for theft of or damage to most rental vehicles when you use your eligible card to reserve and pay for the entire eligible vehicle rental and decline the collision damage waiver or similar option offered by the commercial car rental company. This product provides secondary coverage and does not include liability coverage. Not all vehicle types or rentals are covered. Geographic restrictions apply. Eligibility and benefit level varies by card. Terms, conditions and limitations apply. Visit americanexpress.com/
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card, click here.
For rates and fees of Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the American Express® Gold Card, click here.
The Delta Gold card is inferior to the Delta Reserve card when it comes to the number of benefits each card offers. However, the annual fee of the Delta Reserve card is much higher than that of the Delta Gold card.
If you don’t need high-end Delta perks, but would like benefits such as a free checked bag and priority boarding, the Delta Gold card allows you to accomplish that at the lowest possible price.
Yes! You get Main Cabin Priority 1 boarding with the Delta Gold card.
You can upgrade the Delta Gold card to the Delta Reserve card. Just call the number on the back of your card to request the upgrade.
No, it is not! In fact, as long as you have a credit score of around 670 or above, you should have a solid chance at getting approved.
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UP's Bonus Valuation
This bonus value is an estimated valuation calculated by UP after analyzing redemption options, transfer partners, award availability and how much UP would pay to buy these points.