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American Express Delta Reserve vs. AmEx Platinum: Benefits Showdown

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The Platinum Card® from American Express and the American Express Delta credit 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 American Express Delta cards come in three forms: the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express, the Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card, and the high-brow Delta Reserve Credit Card, all which differ in perks and fees. But given that the Delta Reserve Credit 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 Reserve Credit 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 Reserve Credit Card’s? Both have the same annual fee—$550—and 1% base rewards rate. But past that, the cards’ paths diverge.

The Delta Reserve Credit Card 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 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 AmEx; and 1 point per dollar on everything else.

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

American Express Platinum American Express Delta Winner
Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months. Terms Apply. 10,000 Delta Miles Bonus The Platinum Card® from American Express
Priority Pass and Centurion lounges, as well as select Airspace and Delta Sky Club lounges 50% off access to Delta Sky Club ($25 off) The Platinum Card® from American Express
$200 airline incidentals credit 1 free checked bag for up to 9 people Delta Reserve Credit Card
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 The Platinum Card® from American Express
First/business class companion ticket for $78 1 free companion ticket/year Depends
Membership Rewards points advance No points advance The Platinum Card® from American Express

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 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 Reserve Credit 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 $550 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 Reserve Credit Card by sheer number of shiny perks.