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Credit card showdown: Delta Platinum vs. Delta Reserve


Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information and offers.

Delta Air Lines offers one of the most comprehensive credit card portfolios of any major airline, with entry-level, mid-tier and premium cards for consumers and businesses.

Delta jets awaiting passengers in Salt Lake City. DARREN MURPH/THE POINTS GUY

The Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card is a great choice for anyone looking for benefits such as a free checked bag and priority boarding when flying Delta. However, more frequent Delta flyers are better off deciding whether the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card or the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card offers enough elevated benefits and value to justify paying a higher annual fee.

Today we’re going to look at how the mid-tier Delta Platinum card stacks up against the ultra-premium Delta Reserve.

Related: Choosing the best credit card for Delta flyers

Delta Platinum vs. Delta Reserve card comparison

Before we dive into the details, let’s start with a high-level comparison of these two Delta credit cards.

Feature Delta Platinum Delta Reserve
Welcome offer Earn 85,000 miles after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new card in your first three months of card membership. Offer ends Aug. 2. Earn 85,000 bonus miles after spending $6,000 in purchases on your new card in your first six months of card membership. Offer ends Aug. 2.
Annual fee $250 (see rates & fees) $550 (see rates & fees)
Earning rates 3 miles per dollar on eligible Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels

2 miles per dollar on dining and at U.S. supermarkets

1 mile per dollar on all other purchases

3 miles per dollar on eligible Delta purchases

1 mile per dollar on all other purchases

Baggage First checked bag free on Delta flights (including up to eight companions) First checked bag free on Delta flights (including up to eight companions)
Travel perks 15% off award redemptions for Delta flights (when paying taxes and fees with this card); discounted Sky Club access; priority boarding; 20% off inflight purchases

Global Entry/TSA PreCheck fee credit (up to $100 every four years for Global Entry and every 4.5 years for TSA PreCheck)

Trip delay insurance*

15% off award redemptions for Delta flights (when paying taxes and fees with this card); complimentary Delta Sky Club access; priority boarding; 20% off inflight purchases

Global Entry/TSA PreCheck fee credit (up to $100 every four years for Global Entry and every 4.5 years for TSA PreCheck)

Two one-time Sky Club guest passes; access to Amex Centurion lounges when flying on Delta tickets purchased with your Delta Reserve; access to complimentary upgrades for non-elite members

Trip delay insurance and trip cancellation/interruption insurance*

Companion ticket Domestic main-cabin, round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your card Domestic first class, Delta Comfort+ or main cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your card
Status Boost Earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles after spending $25,000 in a calendar year and again after spending $50,000. Earn 15,000 MQMs after spending $30,000 in a calendar year and again after spending $60,000, $90,000 and $120,000 in a calendar year.

*Eligibility and benefit level varies by card. Terms, conditions and limitations apply. Visit americanexpress.com/benefitsguide for details. Policies are underwritten by New Hampshire Insurance Company, an AIG Company.

As you can see, the two cards have several overlapping benefits. However, the cards have some significant differences — the biggest ones involving lounge access, accelerator categories and help toward elite qualification. Which card is better for you will come down to whether you’ll get enough value from the Delta Reserve’s benefits to justify paying its higher annual fee.

Related: Best credit cards for airport lounge access

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Delta Platinum vs. Delta Reserve welcome offer

Since Amex only allows you to earn a welcome offer on each of its credit cards once per lifetime, you want to apply when the bonus is high. Luckily, the current offers on both the Delta SkyMiles Platinum and Delta SkyMiles Reserve are compelling:

  • Delta SkyMiles Platinum: 85,000 miles after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new card in your first six months of card membership. This offer expires Aug. 2.
  • Delta SkyMiles Reserve: 85,000 bonus miles after spending $6,000 in purchases on your new card in your first six months of card membership. This offer expires Aug 2.

TPG values Delta SkyMiles at 1.1 cents each, putting both welcome offers at a value of $935.

Related: The best time to apply for these Amex cards according to offer history

Delta Platinum vs. Delta Reserve benefits

As you can see in the chart, these two cards overlap on many benefits. Specifically, both cards include a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credit (up to $100), discounted Delta award redemptions when you book with your card, the first checked bag free for you and up to eight companions on your reservation, priority boarding and 20% off inflight purchases.

Both cards also offer a Medallion Qualifying Dollar waiver toward elite status. Cardmembers who spend $25,000 a year will receive an MQD waiver all the way up to Delta Medallion Platinum elite status. Earning a waiver for Diamond requires a massive $250,000 in annual spending.

Delta flyers can put these welcome bonus points to good use. ALBERTO RIVA/THE POINTS GUY

The most notable difference between the card benefits is Delta Sky Club access. With the Reserve, you’ll receive unlimited access for yourself when traveling on Delta, and you’ll also get two one-time guest passes each year. With the Platinum, you’ll only get discounted Sky Club access, paying $50 per person per visit for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.

Both cards come with an annual companion ticket. The Platinum’s is for a domestic economy flight, while the Reserve’s can be used for a domestic first class, Delta Comfort+ or economy.

Similarly, both cards give cardmembers a status boost, but the Reserve offers a much higher MQM earning opportunity — up to 60,000 MQMs each calendar year.

Related: How to get upgraded on Delta

Earning miles with the Delta Platinum vs. Delta Reserve

The Delta Reserve has one bonus category: Delta purchases. As a cardmember, you’ll earn 3 miles per dollar on eligible Delta purchases and 1 mile per dollar on all other purchases.

WESTEND61/GETTY IMAGES

Delta Platinum, on the other hand, offers a much wider range of bonus opportunities. Cardmembers earn 3 miles per dollar on eligible Delta purchases and on direct hotel purchases as well as 2 miles per dollar on dining at restaurants (including takeout and delivery in the U.S.) and U.S. supermarkets. Additionally, cardmembers earn 1 mile per dollar on all other purchases.

Related: 16 ways to earn more Delta SkyMiles

Should I get the Delta Platinum or Delta Reserve?

When comparing a premium rewards card to a non-premium card, the biggest question is whether the increased annual fee is worth it for the extra benefits you receive. Going from the Delta Platinum ($250 annual fee, see rates and fees) to the Delta Reserve ($550 annual fee, see rates and fees) requires an additional $300. Is that extra cost worth it to you?

RGSTUDIO/GETTY IMAGES

If you’re willing to pay a higher annual fee for complimentary SkyClub access and a faster path to elite status, the Delta Reserve is the better choice for you.

If you want more bonus-earning categories and a lower annual fee, you’ll be happier with the Delta Platinum.

You should also consider the other cards already in your wallet, as that can make a difference in your choice. For example, if you have The Platinum Card® from American Express, you already enjoy Sky Club access when flying Delta — along with extensive access to other airport lounges. As a result, the Sky Club access you get on the Delta Reserve card may be redundant.

Related reading: Why the Amex Platinum might just be the best card for Delta flyers

Likewise, if you have the American Express® Gold Card, you’re already earning 4 Amex points per dollar spent at restaurants and on up to $25,000 in annual purchases at U.S. supermarkets (then 1 point per dollar). Since Amex points transfer to Delta SkyMiles at a 1:1 ratio, that’s like earning 4 Delta miles on these purchases — beating out the bonus rates on the Delta Platinum card.

For a more detailed breakdown of each card, check out our full review of the Delta Platinum and our full review of the Delta Reserve.

How to upgrade from the Delta Platinum to the Delta Reserve

Most card issuers allow upgrades within the same family of credit cards. This can be a great option for someone looking for additional perks without the hard inquiry that accompanies an application for a new product. To upgrade from the Delta Platinum to the Delta Reserve card, simply call the customer service number on the back of your card.

However, you should think very carefully before doing this. For starters, you’d be forgoing a welcome bonus on the Reserve. Amex will occasionally offer bonuses to upgrade from one card to another, but they’re almost always significantly lower than public offer for new applicants.

Additionally, American Express has a once-per-lifetime restriction on earning welcome bonuses on its cards, and this includes the following language:

You may not be eligible to receive a welcome offer if you have or have had this card or previous versions of this card. You also may not be eligible to receive a welcome offer based on various factors, such as your history with credit card balance transfers, your history as an American Express cardmember, the number of credit cards that you have opened and closed and other factors.

If you upgrade from the Platinum to the Reserve, you may not be eligible for a future welcome offer on the Reserve card.

Just keep these things in mind before you jump on the chance to upgrade your Delta credit card.

Read more: The ultimate guide to credit card upgrades

Bottom line

The premium credit card competition continues to heat up, and issuers like Amex are updating their cards to keep them attractive. Frequent Delta flyers might be willing to shell out $550 (see rates and fees) a year for the Delta Reserve, thanks to its Sky Club and Centurion Lounge access. Still, many travelers and even those pursuing Delta elite status might find the mid-tier Delta Platinum to be a much better value.

Related: Battle of the premium travel rewards cards: Which is the best?

Apply here: Delta SkyMiles Platinum Card

Apply here: Delta SkyMiles Reserve Card

For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Platinum card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Reserve card, click here.

Additional reporting by Katie Genter, Stella Shon and Ethan Steinberg.

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