The bottom line:
It's a luxury card for those who fly frequently with Delta and can maximize the card's rich benefits. Those seeking a lower annual fee and more flexibility have other options.
Quick FactsView rates and fees
Pros & Cons
High rewards rate
Free checked bag
Has annual fee
Requires good/excellent credit
Compare to Other Cards
$0 intro for the first year, then $99
Recommended Credit Score
Recommended Credit Score
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For those who enjoy visiting Delta Sky Club lounges and flying first class, the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card might pay for itself — even with its steep annual fee. That’s thanks to two valuable benefits it features: complimentary access to Delta Sky Clubs, and an annual companion certificate that can be redeemed for a round-trip domestic first-class ticket.
These perks make the question of “should you get this card?” fairly clear-cut. If you’re sure you can make good use of these benefits, that alone could justify the cost. And if you can’t? This card probably isn’t an ideal choice for you.
Key features of the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card
To view rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card, see this page.
Card type: Airline.
Annual fee: $550.
Welcome offer: Earn 50,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants with your card within the first 3 months of membership. Terms Apply.
Earn 3X miles per dollar on eligible purchases made directly with Delta.
Earn 1X mile on all other eligible purchases.
NerdWallet values Delta miles at 1.3 cents each. This is a baseline value, drawn from real-world data on hundreds of economy routes, not a maximized value. In other words, you should aim for award redemptions that offer 1.3 cents or more in value from your Delta miles.
Complimentary access to Delta Sky Club and American Express's Centurion Lounge and two one-time guest passes to Delta Sky Clubs each year.
Annual companion certificate upon renewal (good for one round-trip domestic flight in first class, Delta Comfort+ or main cabin for someone traveling with you, less some taxes and fees).
Credit of up to $100 for the application fee for either Global Entry or TSA Precheck.
First checked bag is free for you and up to eight other passengers traveling on the same reservation.
20% savings on eligible in-flight purchases.
Status Boost bonuses: Earn 15,000 Medallion Qualification Miles after spending $30,000 or more in eligible purchases on your card in a calendar year, and another 15,000 MQMs after spending $60,000. Terms Apply.
APR: The ongoing APR is 15.74%-24.74% Variable APR
Foreign transaction fees: None.
Why you might want the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card
Delta Sky Club access
Normally, you’d have to pay $545 for one year of individual access to the Delta Sky Club lounges — but with the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card, membership is included. If you’re frequently looking for a reprieve from long layovers, this perk could largely make up for the card’s steep annual fee. And if you're planning to have an authorized user on your account, it could be doubly valuable: Additional cardholders will have the same level of access to the Delta Sky Club as the primary cardholder, American Express confirms. Plus, every year you'll get two one-time guest passes to Delta's lounges. Your card will also get you into American Express Centurion Lounges when you're flying Delta. Terms apply.
These lounges generally offer complimentary refreshments, booze, Wi-Fi, showers and comfortable seats. And they’re not as easy to access as they once were; in late 2018, the airline stopped selling single-day passes to its lounges. Terms apply.
One of the most valuable features on the Delta Reserve® Credit Card is its annual companion certificate. Unlike most companion certificates, it’s not limited to coach tickets; you can also use it for Delta Comfort+ or first-class tickets. That makes it potentially lucrative — that is, if you regularly buy Delta tickets in these fare classes.
To be sure, the certificate comes with some limitations. It can generally be used only to purchase round-trip fares within the contiguous 48 states (although cardholders living in Hawaii, Alaska, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands can take advantage if they meet certain requirements). Terms apply. Also, to redeem it, you and your companion must be flying in the same fare class; you can’t dispatch your traveling partner to first class while you fly coach.
A way to work toward elite status
Most of the time, an airline credit card welcome offer will help you rack up miles quickly, but won’t get you any closer to elite status. The Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card is different. It comes with a generous welcome bonus: Earn 50,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants with your card within the first 3 months of membership. Terms Apply.
That gets you significantly closer to Silver status, which you can earn after hitting 25,000 MQMs in a calendar year. That snags you certain benefits when flying with airline partners, savings on Delta Vacations packages (including those booked with miles) and more. (The Delta SkyMiles program has four elite status tiers, ranging from Silver to Diamond.)
Aside from that initial bonus, you can also earn more MQMs on this card if you’re a big spender. You’ll get 15,000 MQMs after spending $30,000 or more in eligible purchases on your card in a calendar year, up to four times in a calendar year. Terms apply.
How it compares with other Delta cards
In the pantheon of Delta credit cards, the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card stands out as the most premium. Out of all Delta cards, it comes with the richest benefits — and the highest annual fee. If you're looking to earn miles with Delta but want to pay a lower annual fee, consider going with one of the other cards. For more analysis, read NerdWallet's comparison of Delta credit cards.
Here's how the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card stacks up with the rest on key benefits. (Table shows current earning rates. See this article for changes taking effect in January 2020.)
Why you might want a different card
High annual fee
The annual fee isn't cheap: It's $550. If that's a dealbreaker for you, there are other, more affordable options — and yes, they can also get you into airport lounges.
Consider the Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card, which has a much lower annual fee and comes with up to $200 in travel statement credits, including one $100 credit toward a TSA Precheck or Global Entry application fee, and a $100 credit for airline incidentals, for purchases such seat upgrades, checked baggage fees and day passes to lounges. That won't help you get into the Delta Sky Club, which no longer sells single-day passes to the general public. But if you're just looking for a card that helps you cover the cost of getting into another airport lounge, this could be a good pick. The sign-up bonus is also generous.
Lounge access is limited to Delta and Centurion lounges
Delta Sky Club lounges offer excellent amenities — but they aren't available everywhere. While the Delta Sky Club program notes that it has a broad network of partner locations, you can't gain entry to these with the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card. The card only gets you into Delta Sky Club locations. And as of this writing, there are just over 50 of those. And while the card also gets you into American Express's own Centurion Lounges when you're flying Delta and use your card to book the flight, there are only nine of these lounges in the U.S., as of this writing.
If you want Delta Sky Club, Centurion lounge access and additional airport lounge options, consider The Platinum Card® from American Express. This card, which has a similarly hefty annual fee, offers access not just to Delta Sky Club, but also to a network of over 1,300 lounges in 130 countries, as of this writing. It also comes with a great welcome offer (see rates and fees).
Weak ongoing rewards
The Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card offers outstanding value in terms of side benefits, but its lackluster ongoing rewards make it a poor choice for everyday spending. It earns a piddling 1 mile per dollar for eligible purchases made outside of Delta. Many cards — even those with no annual fee — offer richer rewards.
For more options, check out NerdWallet's list of best credit card offers.
Is the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card right for you?
This card isn’t a cost-effective choice for travelers who can’t make good use of the companion certificate consistently. But for those who can — namely, Delta loyalists who travel in style — it’s a top-shelf pick.
on American Express's website
NerdWallet reviews credit cards with an eye toward both the quantitative and qualitative features of a card. Quantitative features are those that boil down to dollars and cents, such as fees, interest rates, rewards (including earning rates and redemption values) and the cash value of benefits and perks. Qualitative factors are those that affect how easy or difficult it is for a typical cardholder to get good value from the card. They include such things as the ease of application, simplicity of the rewards structure, the likelihood of using certain features, and whether a card is well-suited to everyday use or is best reserved for specific purchases. Our star ratings serve as a general gauge of how each card compares with others in its class, but star ratings are intended to be just one consideration when a consumer is choosing a credit card. Learn how NerdWallet rates credit cards.