Best Cards For Delta Frequent Fliers

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One of our readers asks:

I travel around 150K miles a year with Delta. I am trying to decide between the delta reserve and the platinum amex. The choice of clubs helps with the amex Plat – but the MQM and companion tickets are better on the reserve?

Rick

With it’s acquisition of Northwest, Delta has become the world’s largest airline.   Many of it’s most frequent fliers, like Rick, have been wondering which of American Express’s premium offerings are right for them.    We here at AskMrCreditCard have posted reviews of both The Delta Reserve Card and the Amex Platinum card here in the past.

Which Card Is Best For Rick?

Mileage Accrual

In his case, he travels so much, 150k miles a year, that he will easily be making their highest tier, Platinum Medallion.      In his case, all of the medallion qualifying miles that make the Delta Reserve card so attractive are really superfluous.   On the other hand, if Rick is able to purchase tickets on his own card, either because he works for himself, owns his company, or is reimbursed by his company, the Delta Reserve card would be a major advantage.   It would give him double miles on all his Delta purchases, which must be considerable if he is traveling the equivalent of around the world six times a year.

On the Platinum side, Rick would accrue Membership Rewards points, which are more flexible and can be redeemed through a variety of loyalty programs, including Delta.    One down side is that you can loose your Membership Rewards points if your account is not in good standing with Amex, while your Delta points are strictly between you and Delta.

Perks

The Delta Reserve card has a few, generous perks, but it seems almost spartan in comparison to the Platinum card.    The Delta card will give you access to Delta’s lounges immediately, and a domestic companion ticket after one year with the card.    One of the most interesting perks is that you get standby and upgrade priority within your membership tier. If there is one seat left in first, and there are two Platinum Medallions waiting for it, the one with this card gets it.   With Rick’s Platinum Medallion status, he will always be the first in line for any list, if he has this card.

The perk list for the Platinum card is long and distinguished.   It’s highlights include complimentary premiere membership with Hertz, Avis and National Car Rental as well as Starwood Gold membership.   In addition, you get lounge access to variety of airline business lounges, even if you are flying in coach.

Annual Fee

If it wasn’t for the annual fees, I would say just go ahead and get both cards.  Unfortunately, they each have a substantial fee.   The Delta Reserve card is $450, while the Platinum card is a mere $395.

The Verdict

It all depends on how much you really like the SkyMiles program.   Personally, as an “Atlanta refugee”, I have had my share of experiences with Delta and it’s SkyMiles program.   I also know many people who are current Platinum Medallions.   If collecting the most SkyMiles is your goal, the Reserve Card might be for you.    Unfortunately, you will not really take advantage of the MQMs, since you are getting as many as you need anyways.     The lounge access  is worth $300 to you, and the value of the companion ticket should easily make up the difference in the annual fee, going forward.     Finally, that standby and upgrade priority can be very important. When you are trying to get out of a major business center on an earlier flight on a Friday afternoon, that may be the difference between having dinner at home with your wife instead of at the Cinnabon in LaGuardia.

As nice as the Platinum card is, I just don’t see it earning it’s annual fee for you, unless you are really going to be flying coach on a variety of airlines, other than Delta.   In that case, the lounge access will be nice.    There are also so many other perks, but I have the feeling that most card holders struggle to take advantage of a small fraction of them (private yacht service?).

If the lounge access and the perks of the Platinum are that important to you, there is one final option that I could recommend.     Get the Platinum card, but also get one of the more basic Delta cards such as the Gold card.    You can still get double miles on your Delta purchases, although you will miss out on the priority waitlist perk.   On the other hand, you can take advantage of all of the Platinum card perks, as well as a slightly lower annual fee.

Bon Voyage!

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