Delta Reserve vs. AmEx Platinum: Benefits Showdown

Anisha SekarMay 31, 2019
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Use these links to find current information on The Platinum Card® from American Express and the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card or see NerdWallet's best travel credit cards.

The Platinum Card® from American Express and the American Express Delta credit cards are known for their status: these are premium 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 American Express Delta cards come in three forms: the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card, the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card, and the high-brow Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card, all which differ in perks and fees. But given that the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card has the same annual fee as The Platinum Card® from American Express, which card deserves our respect?

Credit or charge?

The first vital difference between the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card and The Platinum Card® from American Express 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 Platinum Card® from American Express’s much-lauded benefits stand up against the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card’s? Both have the same annual fee—$695—and 1% base rewards rate. But past that, the cards’ paths diverge.

The Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card offers double miles when you spend at the airline itself, and also has a signup bonus of 5,000 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 Platinum Card® from American Express 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. It offers 5 points per dollar spent on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel; 2 points per dollar spent on other trips booked through American Express Travel; and 1 point per dollar on everything else.

The Platinum Card® from American Express 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 Card® from American Express’s unlimited companion tickets. If you don’t, the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card is more flexible about its companion tickets, though you only get one a year.

However, we tend to err on the side of The Platinum Card® from American Express. If you’re springing for a $695 annual fee, you probably prefer the finer things in life. And when it comes to small (and some not so small) luxuries, The Platinum Card® from American Express beats out the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card by sheer number of shiny perks.

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