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Delta Air Lines flyers can choose among four consumer co-branded airline credit cards, which can accommodate newbies, leisure flyers and seasoned road warriors alike.
Delta cards aren’t your only choice for earning rewards toward flights, of course. General travel cards also have an allure.
But if you’re considering Delta-branded cards, which have some specific benefits, choosing the right one comes down to the perks you want and the annual fee you’re willing to pay.
The basics at a glance
Examining basic card features side by side helps when choosing.
Like most mega-airline credit card lineups, Delta’s offerings go from low annual fee — in this case $0 — to a luxury card, in this case with airport lounge access, for $550. Terms apply.
The more you pay, the more rewards and perks you get. The key is evaluating whether you’ll use those extras and whether they’re worth paying the higher annual fee.
Checked bags and early boarding
Checked-bag-fee waivers can be a huge money saver when a single checked bag can cost $60 round trip. And Delta cards that offer it are generous, with the cardholder and up to eight others on the travel itinerary qualifying for a free first checked bag. Early boarding is also a perk many travelers enjoy. Terms apply.
The biggest difference here is the Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card offers no free checked bags or early boarding. The other cards do.
The Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card and Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card come with annual companion certificates, rare and valuable perks that cover the cost of a round-trip domestic ticket for someone flying with you once each year. That alone could make up for the annual fee. Terms apply.
While all of these cards offer bonus rewards for Delta purchases, the three least expensive cards all offer additional bonus categories as well. Terms apply.
Delta SkyClub access
The Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card comes with full access to the Delta-branded airport lounges and Centurion lounges. You’ll get two one-time guest passes to Delta Sky Clubs annually. The Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card comes with discounted daily access — $39 per day, as of this writing. The two lowest-tier cards come with no lounge benefit. Terms apply.
What’s the same?
All cards issue rewards and bonuses in Delta SkyMiles.
20% in-flight savings
All cards offer the same 20% statement credit for such in-flight purchases as food, alcoholic beverages and audio headsets on Delta-operated flights. In-flight wireless internet access is excluded. Terms apply.
All cards come from the same issuer. American Express is widely accepted in the United States, but you may run into vendors abroad that won’t accept it.
An airline card is not your only choice. General travel credit cards offer rewards that can be used on a variety of travel spending, not just a single airline. Redeeming rewards for credit against a Delta Air Lines purchase or other travel spending essentially “erases” it from your balance. That makes these cards a good choice for people who spread their business around.
Also keep in mind that some credit card rewards can be converted into Delta SkyMiles. Examples are Membership Rewards from American Express and points from loyalty programs of such hotels as Marriott Bonvoy, Hilton, IHG and Radisson.
How to decide
All but the most casual flyers might rule out the Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card. It’s so short on perks, including no free checked bags, it might not be worth bothering with unless you really want SkyMiles and insist on an annual fee of $0. A simpler cash-back card might yield more value.
Maybe the closest call for most Delta flyers is between the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card and Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card. If you’ll use the companion pass, step up to the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card.
Airport lounge membership and a first-class domestic companion pass are differentiators for the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card.
Ultimately, choosing the right card means picking your perks and deciding whether the annual fee — or lack of one — is right for you.