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After snagging the welcome offer a few years ago on the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card, Ben Komenkul had sandy shores and palm trees in his future.
The 45-year-old California resident used a portion of the 70,000 miles earned to jet-set to the Dominican Republic with his wife and daughter to celebrate their birthdays. Massages by the pool and seafood were a few of the memorable perks from his time there. (Current bonus: Earn 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Terms Apply.)
“Best part of going to Santo Domingo is to see the local culture and music scene,” says Komenkul, a travel rewards consultant with the social media name Ben’s Big Deal. “Lots of merengue and bachata dancing.”
The Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card, named NerdWallet's Best Airline Credit Card of 2022, is one of several travel credit cards in Komenkul's wallet. Here’s how he uses the card to save money and offset the annual fee ($0 intro for the first year, then $99).
Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card benefits
The Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card earns 2 miles per dollar spent on Delta purchases, at restaurants worldwide and at U.S. supermarkets. All other eligible purchases earn 1 mile per dollar spent. Terms apply. Those are decent rates, but general purpose travel credit cards may offer more value in these categories.
For Komenkul, some of the card’s perks make it worth keeping, including:
A free first checked bag for you and up to eight other passengers traveling on the same reservation.
20% savings on eligible in-flight purchases.
A $100 Delta flight credit toward future travel after spending $10,000 in eligible purchases in a calendar year.
Terms apply, see rates and fees.
Making the most of the card for a family of 3
Whenever you’re paying an annual fee to hold a card, it’s important that the perks match your lifestyle. If you’re not likely to use them, you’ll have a harder time getting enough value to defray the cost. Komenkul uses the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card to save money on checked bags, flights and more.
For most, big savings will lie in the checked bag benefit offered by the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card. Komenkul uses it every time his family flies with Delta, and it covers bags for his wife, child and himself.
“For a round trip, the free first checked bag benefit offers a minimum value of $60 for one person and a maximum value of $540 for nine travelers.”
“When I go somewhere, I like to have my stuff,” Komenkul says. “We even bring our pillows, it helps us feel like we are more at home.”
Considering that Delta charges $30 for a checked bag, that’s a value of $180 for a round trip for Komenkul's family. The savings are even greater if you typically travel with more people.
Delta has a 20-minute baggage guarantee that could make checking a bag even more appealing. If your checked bags don’t arrive at the carousel within that time, you're eligible for 2,500 miles. Terms apply, and a form submission is required to get the miles.
Clear membership discounts
Komenkul also saves money with Delta’s partnership with Clear, an airport service that expedites security screenings. Clear charges Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card holders $109 per person, as opposed to the standard $179 price (as of May 2022, Clear costs $189). Komenkul put these savings toward adding his wife to his Clear family plan. The service allows Clear members to add family at a reduced rate and kids under 18 to tag along for free, so his daughter uses it at no extra charge.
Komenkul typically likes to wait until Delta has a flash sale to book travel. Occasionally, the carrier holds these offers that discount rates on fares.
“They’re pretty often, and I find the great usage is on the short-haul flights domestically,” he says.
When those offers aren’t available, ongoing SkyMiles Deals can also provide a way to book fares with less miles. While flash sales aren't exclusive to Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card holders, the card can help pad your Delta SkyMiles account so you'll have miles at the ready when you want to book.
By combining all of the perks and putting them to good use, Komenkul estimates that he saves up to about $350 per year with the card. He's used it to fly his family to different destinations twice per year. “Once you fly twice, it pays for itself,” he says.
To view rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card, see this page.
Photo by Ben Komenkul