Best Delta credit cards for 2021
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Delta Air Lines has been a popular choice for travelers in recent years. The carrier led the way in blocking middle seats to ensure social distancing at the start of the pandemic, and has been widely revered for its best-in-class seatback entertainment screens (with free content for all), ample power ports on most jets and Wi-Fi on the majority of its flights.
So if you’re a longtime Delta loyalist or you’re considering flying the airline more often as travel returns, it’s worth understanding which Delta credit cards will serve you best as you fly, especially since there are seven Delta credit cards available. Here’s our list of the best Delta credit cards of 2021.
Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card: Best Delta credit card with no annual fee
Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card: Best for occasional Delta flyers
Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card: Best for regular Delta flyers
Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card: Best Delta companion certificate
The Platinum Card® from American Express: Best for Delta lounge access
Delta SkyMiles® Gold Business American Express Card: Best for business owners who fly Delta
Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card: Best for Delta business travelers
Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card: Best for Delta road warriors
How do these Delta credit cards compare with each other, and why is the Amex Platinum on our list? Let’s break down the pros and cons of each, while also exploring this alternative card that includes Delta lounge access.
If you normally don’t fly Delta that often — even when travel isn’t disrupted — and just want to earn Delta SkyMiles without paying an annual fee, the Delta Blue Amex is a basic, no-frills Delta credit card. With 2 miles earned for every dollar you spend at restaurants worldwide, access to Delta’s Pay with Miles program, and no foreign transaction fees, this card actually has a decent number of features for an airline credit card in the no-annual-fee camp (see rates and fees).
People who check bags on Delta for at least two trips each year will want a more powerful Delta credit card, since the Delta Blue Amex doesn’t have a checked bag fee waiver. But for the once-in-a-while traveler, Delta’s no-annual-fee credit card may be worth considering, especially right now while it has a limited-time welcome offer.
You can also earn 10,000 bonus miles after you spend $500 in purchases on your new Delta Blue Amex card in your first three months after opening your account. Based on the points valuations of frequent flyer website The Points Guy, Delta SkyMiles are worth 1.1 cents apiece, meaning these 10,000 bonus miles are worth $110.
The Delta Gold Amex credit card offers a first checked bag free on all Delta flights.
The Delta Gold Amex credit card has an introductory annual fee of $0 for the first year, and then a $99 annual fee starting at your first renewal (see rates and fees), so you can try out the card for a year to see if it’s right for you.
Right now, new Delta Gold Amex card members can earn 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first three months after opening the account. That’s worth $440 based on The Points Guy’s valuations. Plus, you can also earn up to $50 back in statement credits for eligible purchases with your card at U.S. restaurants within the first three months of card membership.
With the Delta Gold Amex, you’ll receive 2 miles per dollar at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets, plus up to $100 in Delta flight credit after spending $10,000 in a calendar year. In other words, even after the annual fee kicks in for the second year and beyond, people who can put $834 per month in purchases on this card can essentially offset the entire annual fee with the flight credit.
You’ll also get your first checked bag free on all Delta flights with this card, which further whittles down the net cost of carrying it, and 20% inflight savings on purchases made while flying Delta. However, it’s worth noting that this card lacks the Delta Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQD) elite status waiver found on other higher-end Delta credit cards, and it won’t grant you discounted access to Delta Sky Club lounges.
If you’ve been thinking about getting a Delta Platinum Amex credit card, the card currently features a welcome bonus of 50,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases in the first three months after opening the account, plus up to $100 in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants in the first three months of membership.
That’s not the highest welcome bonus we’ve ever seen on this card, but it’s still a decent value. To put it in context, those 50,000 miles are worth $550 based on The Points Guy’s valuations, and potentially even more with some simple planning and strategy. Even with the card’s $250 annual fee (see rates and fees), you’ll easily come out ahead in the first year with just the bonus.
You won’t receive complimentary lounge access with the Delta Platinum Amex, but you’ll still earn 2 miles per dollar spent on eligible Delta purchases, 2 miles per dollar at restaurants worldwide and at U.S. supermarkets, and 1 mile per dollar on all other purchases.
Delta Platinum Amex card members also get Main Cabin 1 priority boarding, a domestic main cabin round-trip companion certificate each time you renew the card starting at the beginning of your second year, your first checked bag free on Delta flights, a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee credit worth up to $100, and the ability to purchase Delta Sky Club access at a daily rate of $39 per person for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
Those who tend to fly a lot on cheap tickets will also appreciate the MQD waiver that comes with this card. If you spend at least $25,000 on the card in a calendar year, you won’t have to meet the MQD requirement for any Delta elite status level up through Platinum (though you’ll still need to meet either the mileage or segment requirements).
And if you’re chasing Delta elite status, you may also like the Status Boost feature of the Delta Platinum Amex, which has been enhanced for 2021. The card normally earns 10,000 MQMs for spending $25,000 in purchases on the card, but for this year only, card members earn an extra 2,500 MQMs with that same amount of spending for a total of 12,500 MQMs. The bonus MQMs also apply to a second Status Boost earned in the same calendar year.
Delta Air Lines
Access Delta Sky Clubs like this one in Atlanta with the Delta Reserve Amex credit card.
If you’re a Delta fanatic and want to maximize your Delta experience, you’ll ideally want a credit card that adds a layer of luxury to your trip by granting Delta Sky Club lounge access, as well as enhancing the journey in other ways. With a $550 annual fee (see rates and fees), the Delta Reserve Amex packs an impressive set of Delta-focused perks.
The Delta Reserve Amex currently comes with 50,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on the card in the first three months after you open the account. You’ll also earn up to $100 in statement credits for eligible purchases made with your card at U.S. restaurants within the first three months of card membership.
Since the the bonus miles are worth $550 in travel according to The Points Guy, you’re looking at $650 in total value from the welcome bonus, and the bonus MQMs will also help if you’re aiming for Delta elite status.
After your first renewal of the card, you’ll gain access to a lucrative annual companion certificate. This is essentially a buy-one-get-one for any domestic first class, Comfort+ or Main Cabin ticket to anywhere in the lower 48 US states. If you use this benefit on what would otherwise be an expensive round-trip ticket, you can get enough value from this perk alone to make the annual cost of the card worth it.
But the top reason to hold the Delta Reserve Amex is lounge access. This credit card includes an Individual membership to Delta’s global network of Sky Club lounge locations, which serve as an oasis with food, seating, fast Wi-Fi and cleaner restrooms than what you’ll find in the general terminal area.
Outright membership to the Sky Club normally costs $545 annually, so those planning to pay up for access anyway should give strong consideration to getting this card instead, as the outlay is essentially equal in both scenarios.
But with this card in your purse or wallet, you’re entitled to even more value. Delta Reserve Amex card members receive complimentary access to American Express’ network of Centurion Lounge locations when you’re flying Delta and use your card to book the flight. Plus, you’ll get two one-time Delta Sky Club guest passes (valued at $39 apiece), and those who don’t have elite status in Delta’s frequent flyer program will be eligible for complimentary upgrades on Delta flights when available.
You’ll also earn 3 miles per dollar on all eligible Delta purchases, and there’s a Status Boost feature that’s more generous than the one on the Delta Platinum Amex (and also improved for 2021). When you hit $30,000 in annual spending on the Delta Reserve Amex, you normally earn 15,000 MQMs for every $30,000 in purchases, up to four times in a calendar year. But each Status Boost on the Delta Reserve card in 2021 will earn an additional 3,750 Medallion miles for a total of 18,750 MQMs.
Toss in a first checked bag free on Delta flights, Main Cabin 1 priority boarding, no foreign transaction fees (see rates and fees), 20% back on Delta inflight purchases, MQM gifting, the same MQD waiver as the Delta Platinum Amex, and a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee credit worth up to $100, and you’ve got a compelling value proposition.
Though it’s not a Delta credit card, the Amex Platinum can be a Delta flyer’s best friend. You can earn 100,000 Membership Rewards bonus points after you use your new card to make $6,000 in purchases in the first six months after opening the account, and those points are transferable to Delta at a 1-to-1 ratio or to 20 other airline and hotel partners. Plus, flashing this card at any Delta Sky Club location will grant you access, so long as you have a same-day boarding pass for a Delta flight.
The Amex Platinum also opens the door to Amex’s own Centurion Lounges, international American Express lounges, a collection of partner lounges, and Priority Pass Select lounges. In total, it unlocks access to more than 1,200 airport lounges across 130 countries (and counting). In other words, the Amex Platinum provides more lounge access, but charges a higher $695 annual fee as the Delta Reserve Amex (see rates and fees).
A unique perk of this card is the ability to unlock elite status in a variety of programs. Just by holding the Amex Platinum, you’re granted Gold status in Hilton’s Honors and Marriott’s Bonvoy programs. And on the car rental front, you’ll get complimentary memberships in Hertz Gold Plus Rewards, Avis Preferred and National Car Rental Emerald Club Executive.
For those who rely on ride-sharing to get around, you’ll appreciate Uber VIP status. That perk sits alongside up to $200 in annual statement credits for Uber rides, split into monthly $15 credits for US rides plus a bonus $20 each December.
You’ll also get a credit of up to $100 to cover the fee for applying for either Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, up to $100 in annual Saks Fifth Avenue credits, and up to $200 in annual airline fee credits to cover incidental fees — such as checked bags and inflight refreshments — on an airline of your choice.
Did we mention that the Amex Platinum earns 5 points for every dollar you spend on airfare purchases made directly with any airline (Delta included), as well as on airfare and prepaid hotels booked through amextravel.com? It does. And right now new card members also earn a whopping 10 points for every dollar spent on eligible purchases at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the U.S., on up to $25,000 in combined purchases during the first six months after opening the account.
Businesses can earn up to a $100 Delta flight credit after spending $10,000 in a year on the Delta Gold Business Amex credit card.
If you own a business, large or small, Delta also has welcome offers on its line of business cards. Right now you can earn 50,000 bonus miles and a $50 statement credit after you spend $2,000 in purchases on the Delta Gold Business Amex in the first three months after you open the account. The card has a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $99 a year thereafter (see rates and fees).
Similar to the personal Delta Gold Amex, the Delta Gold Business Amex offers up to a $100 Delta flight credit after you spend $10,000 in purchases on your card in a calendar year, plus a free checked bag on Delta flights alongside Main Cabin 1 priority boarding, and no foreign transaction fees to sweat (see rates and fees).
However, with this business card, you’ll earn 2 miles per dollar on all purchases made directly with Delta as well as at restaurants worldwide, but also on U.S. purchases for advertising in select media and eligible U.S. shipping purchases.
The Delta Platinum Business Amex has a $250 annual fee (see rates and fees), but that outlay comes with a nice welcome offer of 60,000 bonus miles, 5,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) and a $100 statement credit after you spend $3,000 in purchases in the first three months after opening the account.
You’ll also rack up 3 miles for every dollar spent on eligible Delta purchases and on purchases made directly with hotels. For business owners who tend to make large purchases, you can earn 1.5 miles per dollar on single eligible purchases of $5,000 or more (that’s an extra half point per dollar), up to 50,000 additional miles per year.
Flight benefits on the Delta Platinum Business Amex include all the same perks as the personal Delta Platinum Amex card, like a first checked bag for free on Delta flights, Main Cabin 1 priority boarding, no foreign transaction fees, and the same Status Boost feature that’s been enhanced for 2021, which can effectively rocket you to Delta elite status just by using the card.
Access the American Express Centurion Lounge in Dallas with the Delta Reserve Business Amex credit card.
Business owners willing to pay the card’s $550 annual fee (see rates and fees) for the privilege of Delta Sky Club access should consider the Delta Reserve Business Amex. This card offers a 60,000-mile welcome bonus along with 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) and a $100 statement credit after you spend $4,000 in purchases in the first three months after account opening.
Like its personal counterpart, the most notable perk of the Delta Reserve Business Amex is complimentary Delta Sky Club and Amex Centurion Lounge access when flying on a same-day Delta flight. Outright membership to Delta’s network of Sky Club lounges is $545 annually, so if that’s of utmost importance to you as a businessperson, you’re better off holding this card than buying a membership.
You’ll earn 3 miles per dollar spent on Delta purchases with the Delta Reserve Business Amex, but the business version of the card also has another feature. After you spend $150,000 on your card in a calendar year, you’ll earn 1.5 miles per dollar on all your eligible purchases for the rest of the year, except eligible Delta purchases, which continue to earn 3 miles per dollar.
With the card’s enhanced Status Boost feature for 2021, you can earn 18,750 MQMs after you spend $30,000 in purchases on the card this year, up to four times in 2021. Finally, the Delta Reserve Business Amex provides complimentary upgrades for non-elites when available, an annual companion certificate that can be used for domestic first-class travel each year upon renewal of your card, and you won’t have to fret over foreign transaction fees.
All seven Delta credit cards top CNN Underscored’s benchmark credit card, the Citi® Double Cash Card, on several of our criteria. They offer welcome bonuses, bonus categories and travel benefits, and don’t charge foreign transaction fees. If you’re a regular Delta flyer, you’ll likely find value in at least one if not all of these areas.
However, all the Delta cards (except the Delta Blue Amex) either have annual fees immediately or after the first year, which our benchmark card doesn’t. And unless you’re really good at maximizing Delta SkyMiles, the Citi Double Cash card’s 2% return — 1% when you make a purchase, and another 1% when you pay it off — beats the Delta cards when it comes to everyday spending. You can read more about our benchmark credit card concept in our methodology.
The best Delta credit card for you depends on your flying and spending habits.
For people who don’t need a lot of Delta perks but who can utilize the free checked bag on Delta flights at least twice a year, either the personal Delta Gold Amex or Delta Gold Business Amex will make the most sense. Or, if you’re aiming for mid-tier Delta elite status, you might pick up a Delta Platinum Amex or a Delta Platinum Business Amex to take advantage of the MQM waiver and the Status Boost feature.
If you expect to be on the road regularly and want Delta Sky Club access, the American Express Platinum is a more well-rounded credit card than the Delta Reserve Amex. It offers broader lounge access, throws in elite status with a handful of top hotel and car rental companies, and offers a variety of annual credits that help offset the $695 annual fee.
However, the main reasons you might choose a personal Delta Reserve Amex or a Delta Reserve Business Amex over the Amex Platinum are the annual companion certificates or the MQD waivers or Status Boosts — all of which are exclusive to Delta credit cards.
And if you don’t plan to travel at all through the rest of 2021, you might want to skip all the Delta credit cards and instead choose a card that aligns better with your needs. In that case, check out our guide to the best credit cards of 2021 for other options.
Looking for a travel credit card? Find out which cards CNN Underscored chose as our best travel credit cards of 2021.