Delta Reserve Business AmEx: Lounge and Luxury for Delta Loyalists

The card’s lounge access, annual companion certificate, rewards and perks make life easier for road warriors who avidly fly Delta Air Lines.

Gregory KarpNovember 5, 2020
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Our Take

4.9

NerdWallet rating 

The bottom line: If you travel often for business and fly Delta, the perks on this card — including lounge membership and a boost toward elite status — could easily make up for the hefty annual fee. But if you frequently fly airlines other than Delta, you might look elsewhere.

American Express Delta Reserve for Business Credit Card

on American Express's website

Rates & Fees
Annual Fee

$550

Regular APR

15.74% - 24.74% Variable APR

Intro APR

N/A

Recommended Credit Score

Quick FactsView rates and fees

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • High rewards rate

  • No foreign transaction fee

Cons

  • Has annual fee

Compare to Other Cards

NerdWallet rating 
NerdWallet rating 
NerdWallet rating 
Annual Fee

$550

Annual Fee

$295

Annual Fee

$595

Regular APR

15.74% - 24.74% Variable APR

Rates & Fees

Regular APR

14.24% - 22.24% Variable APR

Rates & Fees

Regular APR

14.24% - 22.24% Variable APR

Rates & Fees

Intro APR

N/A

Intro APR

N/A

Intro APR

N/A

Recommended Credit Score
Recommended Credit Score
Recommended Credit Score

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Full Review

Business operators who want a new credit card and continually fly out of Atlanta, Boston, Cincinnati or other strongholds of Delta Air Lines should shortlist the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card.

Its marquee feature is a Delta Sky Club airport lounge membership, but it also offers an annual companion certificate, progress toward elite status and other perks that can justify its lofty annual fee of $550. Terms apply. And you don’t need to have a hardcore business — an S-corp or employees — to qualify. A side hustle could get you approved.

The card might not be worth it for business owners who spread around their airfare dollars. They would be better off with a general travel card, even a luxury one that also offers lounge access.

But for entrepreneurs who avidly fly Delta and enjoy comfort and productivity benefits while traveling, the decision to choose this Delta card is as easy as alpha, beta, gamma.

Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card: Basics and benefits

To view rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card, please visit this page.

Card type: Small business and airline.

Annual fee: $550

Welcome bonus: Earn 45,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in the first 3 months. Terms Apply.

Rewards:

  • 3 miles per dollar spent on purchases made directly with Delta.

  • 1.5x miles on all purchases after spending $150,000 in a calendar year.

  • 1 mile per dollar spent on other purchases.

  • Terms apply.

NerdWallet values Delta miles at 0.9 cent 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 0.9 cent or more in value from your Delta miles.

Lounge membership: Membership to Delta Sky Clubs and AmEx Centurion Lounges when flying Delta. Terms apply.

Companion certificate: Covers airfare for a traveling partner. Terms apply.

Progress toward elite status: Qualifying miles and a dollars waiver can get you to Medallion elite status quicker. Terms apply.

Foreign transaction fee: None.

APR: The ongoing APR is 15.74% - 24.74% Variable APR.

Other benefits:

  • First checked bag free for you and up to eight others on your reservation.

  • Priority boarding allows you to get on the plane early.

  • Access to complimentary seat upgrades. Even without elite status, your card could add you to the complimentary upgrade list, depending on the fare you booked.​

  • Credit for the application fee for TSA Precheck and Global Entry. You're eligible for the credit once every four years for the application fee for Global Entry (currently $100) or every 4.5 years for TSA Precheck ($85) when you charge the fee to this card.

  • 20% discount on in-flight purchases. You must use your card, and the discount comes in the form of a statement credit.

  • Terms apply.

Highlights of the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card

Lounges, lounges, lounges

Excellent premium travel cards abound. The reason to get this one is that it includes full membership to Delta Sky Clubs, the airline’s airport lounges. There, you'll have access when flying Delta to a slew of amenities, including complimentary drinks, Wi-Fi, showers and more. Every year, you'll also get two one-time guest passes to the lounges. After that, you can buy additional guest passes for $39 each (which must be charged to the card). Terms apply.

In addition to Delta Sky Clubs, your card will also get you into the highly regarded American Express Centurion Lounges when you're flying Delta. You can bring up to two guests at a per-visit rate of $50 per person, per location.

The card’s annual fee of $550 might seem high, but it makes sense considering a comparable Sky Club membership costs $545 per year. Terms apply.

Companion certificate

The Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card is among the few airline cards with an annual companion certificate, which covers a travel partner's airfare. This perk alone can make up for the card's annual fee. Aside from paying taxes and fees on the ticket (which are capped at $75), you can essentially get a two-person business trip for half-price.

You can redeem the companion benefit for a round-trip ticket in domestic First Class, Delta Comfort+ or the regular Main Cabin. Terms apply. This is a distinction, because many companion certificates apply only to economy class, including the companion certificate on this card’s little brother, the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card.

Nerd tip: Regarding the companion certificate benefit: You must depart and arrive in the 48 contiguous United States. There are exceptions to this rule for cardholders who live in Hawaii, Alaska, Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands. You must book the same flights with your companion with the same times and dates, and make the purchase using the card. You'll get this benefit annually each year your card is renewed. Terms apply.

Path toward elite status

Not all airline credit cards allow you to spend on your credit cards as a way to progress toward coveted elite status — which Delta calls Medallion levels. But the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card does.

For every $30,000 you put on the card in a calendar year, you earn 15,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles, or MQMs, up to a limit of four times per year (meaning a maximum of $120,000 in spending per year to earn 60,000 MQMs). Terms apply.

MQMs are different from the frequent-flyer miles you can redeem for flights. You earn elite status by spending money with Delta as well as flying on the airline. MQMs earned on the card essentially give you credit toward the "flying" part of the equation. The lowest tier of elite status, Silver, requires 25,000 MQMs.

The card also helps with the other requirement for elite status, dollars spent on flights (MQDs). If you have enough MQMs but didn't spend enough on Delta flights to get elite status, Delta will waive that requirement as long as you spent $25,000 on the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card. That can satisfy the MQD requirement for Platinum, Gold and Silver Medallion status. However, for Diamond status, you must spend $250,000 on the card to get the MQD waiver. Terms apply.

Welcome bonus

New-cardholder bonuses can change periodically, but the card typically gives you enough miles to earn a domestic award flight, assuming you can meet the required spending. The current bonus: Earn 45,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in the first 3 months. Terms Apply.

Note that if you've had this American Express credit card in the past, you’re unlikely to qualify for the bonus. And you might be rejected for the bonus because of other account history with American Express.

  • Access to complimentary seat upgrades. Even without elite status, your card could add you to the complimentary upgrade list, after Medallion members.​ But that’s only if you bought a Delta Comfort+ seat or higher. Basic economy fares are ineligible for upgrades.

  • Free checked bags. The checked-bag benefit is especially generous with this card. You’ll get a first checked bag free for you and up to eight others on your reservation. Terms apply. You might rarely have that many traveling companions, but fully used, that’s a savings of up to $540 on a round-trip flight ($30 per person each way). You would break even on the annual fee with just a few traveling partners, assuming you would have otherwise paid to check bags.

  • Priority boarding. If you don’t typically check bags, then priority boarding can be important because getting on the plane earlier means you’re more likely to find overhead bin space for your roll-aboard.

  • Credit for TSA Precheck or Global Entry application fee. The credit is good once every four years for Global Entry (current fee: $100) or every 4.5 years for TSA Precheck ($85).

  • In-flight discount. Get 20% savings in the form of a statement credit on such purchases as food, alcoholic beverages and audio headsets onboard. Note that in-flight wireless Internet access does not count.

  • No foreign transaction fees. Good travel cards generally don’t charge this fee — 3% is common — for making purchases abroad. This Delta card doesn’t, either. However, this card operates on the American Express network, which isn’t as widely accepted abroad as, say, Visa and Mastercard.

  • Terms apply.

Business-friendly features

Like all of AmEx’s business credit cards, the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card features a suite of benefits designed for business owners, including:

  • The American Express Business App. This feature allows you to add receipts and notes to your transactions on desktop or mobile.

  • Employee cards. There’s no fee for adding employee cards to your account. You can set individual spending limits on these cards and set up various alerts to monitor spending.

  • Year-end summary. This report, typically available in January, will show purchases made on your account during the previous calendar year.

  • Terms apply.

These features make it easy to track your company’s spending and can come in handy at tax time.

How it compares with other Delta business credit cards

If you definitely want a Delta Air Lines business credit card, you have three options. Examining basic card features side by side helps when choosing.

Annual fee

$0 intro for the first year, then $99

$250

$550

Rewards on Delta purchases

2x

3x

3x

Rewards besides bonus miles on Delta purchases and 1x on everything else

2x on restaurants, U.S. shipping purchases and U.S. advertising in select media. Terms apply.

3x on hotels, 1.5x on purchases of $5,000 or more. Terms apply.

1.5x on all purchases after spending $150,000. Terms apply.

Companion certificate

No

Yes (main cabin)

Yes (main cabin, Delta Comfort+ or first class)

Sky Club airport lounge access

No

Discounted

Yes, plus Centurion Lounge

Global Entry or TSA Precheck credit

No

Yes

Yes

Free first checked bag?

Yes

Yes

Yes

Early boarding?

Yes

Yes

Yes

Elite status boost?

No

Yes

Yes

Terms apply.

» MORE: Want a consumer card instead? Read NerdWallet's comparison of consumer Delta credit cards.

Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card: Drawbacks and alternatives

Annual fee

The annual fee of $550 isn’t unusual for an airline card that comes with an airport lounge membership. Still, it’s not a small number. The key is to be sure you can extract more value from the card than you’re paying to hold it.

If you can’t stomach the annual fee, a cheaper travel business credit card might be in order. A good example is the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card. It earns 3 points per dollar on the first $150,000 spent on travel and select business categories each year, and 1 point per dollar on everything else. Points are worth 1.25 cents apiece when redeemed for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal.

Limited spending rewards

True, if you spend a lot on the card, you can earn some perks, like progress toward elite status. But the straight-up spending rewards are a bit lackluster, especially for smaller business spenders.

You earn 3 miles per dollar spent on eligible purchases made directly with Delta and 1 mile per dollar on everything else. The non-Delta rewards rate rises to 1.5 miles per dollar after you put $150,000 on the card in a calendar year, which is nice for high spenders. Terms apply.

Other business credit cards will have either higher flat-rate rewards for all purchases, or for certain spending categories — such as advertising and office supply stores — that earn bonus rewards and are relevant to small-business owners. And some business airline cards have started adding useful bonus categories, like restaurants and hotels.

A business credit card that offers higher spending rewards is another one by AmEx, the American Express® Business Gold Card. You'll earn 4 Membership Rewards points per dollar spent in two bonus categories from a list of six where you spend the most each billing cycle (up to the first $150,000 in combined purchases per year; then 1 point back). The card gives back 25% of your points after you use them for all or part of an eligible flight booked with Amex Travel (up to 250,000 points back per calendar year). Terms apply. The annual fee is $295.

Reward redemptions

The best redemption choices for Delta SkyMiles are award flights and seat upgrades on Delta and its SkyTeam partners. That’s limiting compared with general travel business credit cards, which allow you to apply rewards to a wide range of travel-related expenses.

If you mix your flying with airlines other than Delta, a general travel card might be a better fit. Maybe the ideal fit for Delta flyers is The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, with an annual fee of $595. The card also gets you into Delta Sky Clubs and features a hefty bonus offer for new cardholders; earns 5X points on eligible travel purchases; provides hundreds of dollars a year in travel credits; and carries lots of perks. Terms apply.

Is the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card right for you?

If you can handle the annual fee, the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card can be the ideal credit card for the frequent Delta flyer. Its lounge access, companion certificate and progress toward elite status can make life on the road more palatable. But if you’re flying many different airlines and don’t necessarily want lounge access, you have other good choices.

To view rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card, please visit this page.

To view rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Gold Business American Express Card, please visit this page.

To view rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card, please visit this page.

To view rates and fees of The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, please visit this page.

To view rates and fees of the American Express® Business Gold Card, please visit this page.

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