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American Express Delta Reserve vs. AmEx Platinum: Benefits Showdown

The American Express Platinum and the Delta American Express cards are known for their status: these are premium credit cards, carried less for their rewards rate (and certainly not for saving on annual fees) than for the luxury benefits that they deliver. In fact, the AmEx Delta comes in three forms: the Gold, the Platinum, and the high-brow Reserve, which differ in perks and fees. But given that the Delta Reserve has the same annual fee as the AmEx Platinum, which card deserves our respect?

Please note: the American Express Platinum card is currently unavailable.

Credit or charge?

The first vital difference between the American Express Delta Reserve and the AmEx Platinum is that the former is a credit card, while the latter is a charge card. Credit cards allow you to have some debt outstanding at the end of the billing period, and pay it back over time with interest. They come with credit limits, prohibiting you from borrowing more than a certain amount. And they impact your credit score, for better or for worse. Charge cards, on the other hand, have no pre-set spending limit but require you to pay your balance in full each month or face severe penalties. Charge cards do not impact your credit score, since you aren’t extended a line of credit.

The showdown

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, we’ll move on to the main event: can the AmEx Platinum’s much-lauded benefits stand up against the Delta Reserve’s? Both have the same annual fee—$450—and 1% base rewards rate. But past that, the cards’ paths diverge.

The Delta offers double miles when you spend at the airline itself, and also has a signup bonus of 10,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles to move you closer towards elite status. You can earn an additional MQM boost of up to 30k miles if you spend in excess of $60,000 a year.

The AmEx Platinum pays out not in Delta miles but in Membership Rewards points, one of the best rewards programs out there. You can transfer points 1:1 to most airlines and hotels, or redeem for gift cards and the occasional travel option, all at full value. As a Platinum cardholder, you can also get an advance on your points of up to 60,000 points.

Here’s a breakdown of each card’s benefits:

American Express Platinum American Express Delta Winner
Earn 40,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. 10,000 Delta Miles Bonus Platinum
Priority Pass and Centurion lounges, as well as select Airspace and Delta Sky Club lounges 50% off access to Delta Sky Club ($25 off) Platinum
$200 airline incidentals credit 1 free checked bag for up to 9 people Delta
Lost bag and travel insurance; return, purchase and warranty protection; Global Assist; concierge Tie
Pay with Points Pay with Miles Tie
  • Partner hotel benefits
  • Ticket return protection
  • Global Entry
None Platinum
First/business class companion ticket for $78 1 free companion ticket/year Depends
Membership Rewards points advance No points advance Platinum

In the end, it’s going to be a subjective decision. Delta’s free checked bag benefit is extremely lucrative, saving to $50 per person roundtrip. That’s far better than the Platinum’s $200 incidentals credit.

The Platinum has better lounge access: Priority Pass gets you into about 600 lounges worldwide, while Delta lounges don’t have that coverage. You also get much better fringe benefits, like benefits at AmEx’s partner hotels and a credit to the Global Entry program, which lets you skip customs lines.

Past that, you need to make a decision about what you prefer. If you often fly business or first class, you’ll prefer the Platinum’s unlimited companion tickets. If you don’t, Delta’s more flexible about their companion tickets, though you only get one a year.

However, we tend to err on the side of Platinum. If you’re springing for a $450 annual fee, you probably prefer the finer things in life. And when it comes to small (and some not so small) luxuries, the Platinum beats out the Delta card by sheer number of shiny perks.

  • Guest

    You forgot one critically important benefit of the Reseve card. If you are a cardholder, it gives you upgrade priority over other medallion members at your level. For frequent Delta traveler, this is HUGE.

  • Platinum Fan

    Responding to the previous comment – I had a Delta Reserve card for years and although they say you have upgrade priority, I sat on many flights in the Economy cabin, with empty seats in Business/First class. When I asked the flight attendants why I was not upgraded, the response was always “they had to take care of that at the gate.” Delta advertises lots of perks, but you rarely experience them. I closed my Reserve card and got the Platinum, which I love!

    • Guest

      You need to be a Medallion to be eligible for upgrades. The Reserve card only gives you a boost over others in your same Medallion tier and booked in the same fare class. If you’re not a Medallion to begin with, the Reserve card won’t help you with upgrades.

  • Cash back

    Your article is very much effective and informative.

  • daveinatl

    There is no Delta SkyClub access with the Amex Delta Platinum card–only with the standard Platinum card.

    • http://www.nerdwallet.com/ NerdWallet

      Thanks for the heads-up! While you don’t get free SkyClub access, you do get discounted access with the Amex Delta Gold and Platinum ($25 per visit vs $50 for a regularly priced day pass)

      • Guest

        The Amex Platinum charge card lets you transfer membership rewards points to your Delta Skymiles account, and other partner rewards programs. However, they charge a transfer fee of .60 per 1,000 points. They claim it`s a federal excise tax they are required to pay. What puzzles me is the Chase Sapphire Preferred card does not charge a fee to transfer points to Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards, United Mileage Plus, or any other partner rewards program. Why would one company claim they have to charge it when another company does not?

  • Guest

    Does the Delta Reserve Card have foreign transaction fees?

    • John Riley

      Yes. 2.7%

    • Mark P

      Yes it does.

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  • Alistair

    I am trying to decide whether to switch from the Amex Platinum to the Delta Reserve Amex card. I fly a lot on Delta and will soon be Gold so I think it the right decision. However, I cannot tell if on the Delta Reserve card I will be a member of Amex Membership rewards or not at all? I love membership rewards so not sure if I am ready to give up ont hat.

  • Stephen Resch

    No one mentioned medallion qualifying miles offered with reserve card?

  • jenmbs

    It said under a benefit description and they said over the phone that Delta express Platinum received skyclub access, if not you may as well stay with Delta’s express gold since you get samr benefits like first bag checked free. The Platunum charges $ 150 per yr but why spend that if they dont include the Skyclub when you want it?

    • Karl Gerner

      Because the companion ticket on the gold card is $100 but free on the platinum

  • disqus_qjyftwk1Sz

    Priority Select Pass is misleading. At IAD, Priority Select admission is limited to 7 am-2 PM; at CDG-Paris, you have to go out of the terminal/Immigration, walk for 30 minutes and then go to a Boarding area where you will not be admitted because your boarding area is in another terminal.

    • GV Iyer

      The Emirates Lounge accepts Priority Pass at CDG.