Gold, Platinum, or Reserve: We break down which Delta Amex credit card gets flyers the most value

The best Delta Amex card for you depends on how often you fly the airline.

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The best Delta Amex card for you depends on how often you fly the airline.
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Delta

For anyone who flies Delta Air Lines – even occasionally – right now is an ideal time to open a new card.

Delta and Amex just announced a slew of changes to their lineup of Delta co-branded credit cards, from additional opportunities to earn bonus miles to additional airport lounge access options for premium cardholders. While the new card perks won’t go into effect until January 30, 2020, to celebrate Delta and Amex are offering elevated welcome bonuses on three of its consumer credit cards until October 30.

Plus, the three cards each offer a ton of ongoing value, whether you’re a casual flyer or a hard-core Delta loyalist.

Read on to learn more about the three cards, and see which one is best for you.

Keep in mind that we’re focusing on the rewards and perks that make these credit cards great options, not things like interest rates and late fees, which can far outweigh the value of any rewards.

When you’re working to earn credit card rewards, it’s important to practice financial discipline, like paying your balances off in full each month, making payments on time, and not spending more than you can afford to pay back. Basically, treat your credit card like a debit card.

Best for the casual Delta flyer: The Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express

Delta Skymiles Inline

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Business Insider

Welcome offer: 60,000 Delta SkyMiles when you spend $2,000 in the first three months. Plus, receive a $50 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase in the first three months in the first three months.

Annual fee: $95 (waived the first year); $99 if received on or after January 30, 2020

The Gold Delta SkyMiles card is the best of the three for the casual Delta flyer, someone who finds themself on the airline a couple of times a year, but doesn’t fly regularly enough to use the heftier cards’ perks (more on that later).

One of the biggest perks: The card offers a free first checked bag for the cardholder and up to eight people on the same reservation. Delta charges $30 each way for a checked bag, so this can save up to $60 per person on a round-trip itinerary.

Cardholders and travel companions also get Zone 1 priority boarding. This means you can board the plane sooner, giving you plenty of time to settle into your seat or find overhead space for any carry-on luggage. Zone 1 is after most Delta elite frequent flyers and extra-legroom passengers, but is usually within the first half of passengers to board.

Other perks include a 20% discount on in-flight purchases (in the form of a statement credit), such as food or drinks, and no foreign transaction fees.

Like the other Delta cards, the Gold SkyMiles card earns 2x Delta SkyMiles on eligible Delta purchases, and 1 mile per dollar on everything else. Starting in 2020, the card will also earn 2x miles at US supermarkets and at restaurants. At that time, it will also add the ability to earn a $100 Delta flight credit after you spend $10,000 on the card in a year.

Click here to learn more about the Gold Delta Amex.

Best for more regular flyers: The Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express

Platinum Delta Amex Inline

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Alyssa Powell/Business Insider

Welcome offer: 75,000 Delta SkyMiles and 5,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) when you spend $3,000 in the first three months. Plus, receive a $100 statement credit when you make a Delta purchase in the first three months.

Annual fee: $195 ($250 if application is received on or after January 30, 2020)

If you fly somewhat regularly, the Platinum Delta SkyMiles card is a better option, thanks to an often-overlooked benefit that can completely cover the annual fee each year.

The Platinum Delta card has most of the same perks as the Gold version, like priority boarding, free checked bags, and 2x SkyMiles on Delta purchases.

However, the Platinum Delta comes with a huge perk – it’s so useful that I’m planning on keeping my card indefinitely.

After your first year with the card, you’ll get an annual domestic companion pass each year at your card-member anniversary. A Delta companion pass is essentially a buy-one-get-one-free coupon. When you book an economy-class flight for yourself anywhere within the continental US, you can get a second ticket for free, other than minimal taxes and fees.

The companion pass completely blows away the annual fee for me. My wife and I fly domestically at least a few times a year, whether it’s to visit family or friends, or to go on vacation. So I save my companion pass until we’re taking a flight together that costs more than $195 each (and starting in 2020, more than $250).

Plus, each year that you spend $25,000 or more on the card, you earn a bonus 10,000 SkyMiles, 10,000 MQMs, and have the Medallion Qualifying Dollar (MQD) requirement for most elite status levels waived. Starting in 2020, you’ll no longer earn the bonus SkyMiles for meeting that spending requirement, but you’ll still get the 10,000 MQMs and MQD waiver.

When you have Medallion status, you can enjoy things like free upgrades to first class or extra-legroom seats whenever you fly, subject to availability.

Other benefits coming in 2020 include 3x miles on Delta (up from 2x), 2x miles at restaurants and US supermarkets, and a Global Entry application fee credit of up to $100. If you want to use this card to earn Delta miles on everyday spending, these new bonus categories are great news.

Click here to learn more about the Platinum Delta Amex.

Best for Delta Medallion frequent flyers: The Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express

Welcome offer: 75,000 Delta SkyMiles and 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) when you spend $5,000 in the first three months.

Annual fee: $450 ($550 if application is received on or after January 30, 2020)

The Delta Reserve card has a higher $450 annual fee, but it has a few additional perks that can make it worthwhile for some frequent flyers.

Like the Platinum SkyMiles card, it offers a domestic companion pass. However, the Delta Reserve’s pass can be used for first-class tickets, not just economy.

Additionally, the Delta Reserve offers full access to Delta Sky Club airport lounges whenever the cardholder is flying with Delta. Plus, starting in 2020, Reserve cardholders will be able to access Amex Centurion Lounges when they’re flying Delta. Centurion Lounges are known for their high-end complimentary food and drink, so this will be a great value-added perk.

Other new benefits coming in 2020 include 3x miles (up from 2x) on Delta purchases, two Delta Sky Club one-time guest passes, up to $100 for a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit, and access to complimentary upgrades for non-elite Delta members. Plus, if you’d like to use the Delta Reserve card to work toward Delta Medallion status and you can put a lot of spending on the card, you’ll be able to earn additional MQMs after spending $90,000 and $120,000 in a calendar year.

The Reserve has one other major perk, which can be crucial for travelers who hold Delta Medallion elite status. Delta Medallion members are eligible for complimentary, space-available upgrades to first class and Delta One on flights within the US and the region, including Mexico and Central America, and extra-legroom seats on international flights.

Upgrades clear in hierarchical order based on a number of factors, including each passenger’s status level, the original fare class they booked, and a few other factors. The first tiebreaker for people with the same Medallion level and fare class: whether they hold the Delta Reserve card. Reserve cardholders will be prioritized over those without it. If there’s only one seat left and two members are still tied and both have the Reserve, it continues down the list of tiebreakers.

For travelers who fly a lot and frequently find themselves one or two upgrade-list spots away from getting that first-class seat, holding the Reserve can be extremely valuable.

Click here to learn more about the Delta Reserve card.