Delta and American Express recently announced significant changes to their SkyMiles Amex card suite (except for the participation ribbon Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card).
Annual fee hikes were naturally part of the “enhancements.” There also were several changes across the cards.
As I constantly stress: everyone’s travel budgets and goals are unique. I know some people who hate the changes. I initially reacted emotionally and cursed the annual fee jumps. But when I looked at the new features and how they might be beneficial, I changed my tune.
So, for better or worse, here’s my take on the changes to the Delta Amex Cards. Once you’ve read the post, please share your thoughts in the below Comments section.
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- The Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card and Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card carry annual fees of $650 annual fee each.
- Annual fees for the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card and Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card are $350 each.
- The Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card and Delta SkyMiles® Gold Business American Express Card both offer a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year and then $150 starting the second year.
Four cards now feature statement credit opportunities for the restaurant reservation platform Resy. The Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card and Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card each earn up to $240 each year in statement credits for purchases made with Resy. (Up to $20 each month.) The Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card and Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card can earn up to $10 back for Resy purchases each month, up to $120 annually.
We rarely go out to eat and I’ve never used Resy. This credit doesn’t (yet) move the needle for us. But maybe it’s a reason for us to venture out more.
A knock against Resy is that its footprint is so small. For example, I enjoy treating my parents to dinner or lunch when we visit them in Fargo, North Dakota. But no restaurants in Fargo participate in Resy.
Granted, Fargo isn’t a major metropolis. But it’s far from a one-street-with-five-bars-and-two-churches-small-town.
Even here in Los Angeles, the Resy participants are somewhat scattered (although L.A. is huge from a size perspective).
I imagine the Resy benefit is a non-starter with a few others. However, it might be helpful when traveling to a major destination.
Another point that’s rather annoying is that the credits are divvied up in monthly allotments, thus making them harder to use. And that’s the point. Delta, Amex, and Resy know there’s going to be a ton of breakage.
Much-Improved Companion Certificates
Four Delta Amex cards entitle cardholders to annual Companion Certificates each year upon card membership renewal (beginning the second year). Basically, one person pays for a roundtrip ticket and someone else can travel on the same reservation for “free” — they just need to pay any applicable taxes and fees.
The Reserve Cards (both the personal and business flavors) may be redeemed for flights to certain destinations — more on that in a minute — in First Class, Delta Premium Select, Delta Comfort+, or Main Cabin.
Not all flights are available for Companion Certificate redemptions.
There’s nothing new there (and Companion Certificates are still not eligible for Delta One purchases).
But here’s where things got juicy. Until last week’s changes, the Companion Certificates were valid only to destinations in the U.S. 48.
“I can’t use my Companion Certificate to go to Hawaii!” was a complaint I often heard. In fact, I had the same beef myself.
That’s no longer a problem, though. The Companion Certificates for all four cards now offer a lot more flexibility. Not just to Hawaii (and Alaska!) but to some destinations in the Caribbean and South America.
- United States
- Dominican Republic
- Puerto Rico
- Grand Cayman
- Turks and Caicos
- Saint Kitts
- St. Maarten
- St. Lucia
- Costa Rica
- El Salvador
That gives us more impetus to use the Companion Certificate for more exotic locations than we usually do (Boise, Fargo, Minneapolis…).
More Guest Passes for Reserve Cards
The Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card and Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card members now receive four (4) complimentary guest passes for Delta Sky Clubs each year. This is a welcome change from the two that previously came with the card. Heck, this alone makes up for the $100 annual fee hike — at least, for people who use them. I know some folks who travel alone or whose companions also have Sky Club access through their own cards or other means. Guest passes are meaningless to them.
My wife holds a Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card and I have a Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card. We usually spend our passes on our daughter’s admissions to Sky Clubs. My parents travel with us about once a year and will not renew their authorized user cards on my The Platinum Card® from American Express because of some big changes there. So, we’ll probably use a few on them, too.
1.5X SkyMiles on Select Business Reserve Purchases
The Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card got wild and crazy and added a whole half-point to Transit, eligible U.S. shipping purchases, and eligible U.S. office supply store purchases.
Most of us know that the Ink Business Cash is the way to go for most U.S. office supply store purchases. And its annual fee is $650 lower than the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Cards’. (Hint: it’s $0.)
Many of us can do better than 1.5X on transit, too; most of those purchases fall under “Travel.”
I’m delighted for you if this positively impacts your business. But it does nothing for me.
Delta Stay Credit
This one is very intriguing.
- Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card: up to $200 each year
- Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card: up to $250 each year
- Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card: up to $150 each year
- Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card: up to $200 each year
- Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card: up to $100 each year
- Delta SkyMiles® Gold Business American Express Card: up to $150 each year
I initially rolled my eyes at this addition. I prefer booking hotels directly through the chains themselves. I can use free night certificates from various credit cards or book with points. I am also eligible for any elite status benefits.
But then I thought about it, big picture-wise. The Delta Stay credit packs a ton of potential value — especially for Reserve cardholders and even the Platinum members, too.
Delta Stays uses Expedia’s interface and is thus an online travel agency (OTA). That means elite status holders generally aren’t entitled to elite status benefits or points earnings. (If you’re a regular at a property or get an exceptionally lovely staff member, you might be able to sweet-talk your way into a nicer room.)
I can 100% live without that if it means I save $250 on a Delta Stays night booked as a perk of my Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card. Tack on the $200 from my wife’s Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card card and we can stay two nights somewhere at a $450 discount. And that’s if we max out the credit in one fell swoop. (Not to mention, I rarely receive any significant room upgrades with most of my hotel statuses — all of which were obtained through various travel rewards cards.)
Or we can try boutiquey property or a chain we never where we’ve never stayed (like I did when I used a promotional night on my Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card for a night at New York City’s Stay Pineapple).
Even the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card card’s credit opportunity ($100) saves a substantial amount on the annual fee (an introductory $0 annual fee for the first year, then $150 starting the second year of card membership).
Here’s an example. I searched for a mid-July, mid-week rate at Bellagio in Las Vegas. The going rate is $248 for a night. After taxes and fees, you’re on the hook for $57 for a night at Bellagio. That’s a fine deal right there.
Keep in mind the Terms and Conditions state that outside costs, such as resort fees, aren’t covered.
No-Status Upgrades for Delta Platinum Amex Cardholders
For several years, Delta Reserve cardholders have been eligible to receive upgrades to Delta One, First Class, and Comfort+ — even if they don’t have Medallion status.
That card perk is now extended to Delta Platinum Amex cardholders.
This might be worth the squeeze for cardholders living in areas where there aren’t many Medallions. But if you regularly fly Delta and live in such a destination, you probably already hold at least Silver status.
Plus, you have to assume that gate agents will abide by Delta’s upgrade rules and not upgrade Basic Economy passengers — or even let First Class seats fly empty.
This is great for people who regularly use rideshare services Uber, Lyft, Curb, Revel, and Alto.
Of course, this is available in monthly installments of $10. However, this is not the same benefit as the Uber Cash deposits enjoyed by The Platinum Card® from American Express and American Express® Gold Card members.
There are months when I don’t use ridesharing services, so I won’t get the full $120 benefit here. Again, I’m contributing to the anticipated breakage factor.
Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card and Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card members may receive complimentary Hertz President’s Circle Status.
Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card, and Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card holders can take advantage of complimentary Hertz Five Star Status.
I rarely need to rent cars when I travel. When I do, I usually opt for the best price that suits whatever size car I need. Spoiler alert: it’s hardly ever Hertz — and that takes into account my purchasing a smaller car and knowing I can upgrade for free to something bigger in the President’s Circle aisles.
A Kick to the You-Know-What for Delta Platinum Amex Cardholders?
Overcrowding still plagues some Delta Sky Clubs. That’s (assumedly) one reason Delta yanked Sky Club access for Delta Platinum Amex cardholders — who needed to pay $50 for the privilege to enter the clubs.
Yet, Delta gives Reserve cardholders two more guest passes per year?
Then again, for people who held a Delta Platinum Amex and bought their way into Sky Clubs more than a few times a year, the joke was on them. Thcould’ve’ve held a Reserve card and gotten better benefits — except for points earnings, which are decidedly better on the Platinum cards — and more Sky Club privileges and pretty much offset the annual fee.
What Do You Think?
Do you agree with some, all, or none of my assessments? How do you feel about the changes? How many will you be able to use? Please share your thoughts in the below Comments section!
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card, please visit this link.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card, please visit this link.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card, please visit this link.
For rates and fees of Delta SkyMiles® Business Platinum American Express Card, please visit this link.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card, please visit this link.
For rates and fees of Delta SkyMiles® Gold Business American Express Card, please visit this link.
For rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, please visit this link.
For rates and fees of The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, please visit this link.
For rates and fees of the American Express® Gold Card, please visit this link.
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