The best credit card for Delta flyers in 2019 isn’t even a Delta card

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  • Although Delta offers a few co-branded credit cards, there’s a different credit card that’s actually a better choice for the airline’s regulars.
  • The Platinum Card® from American Express is more useful for Delta passengers, since it offers much more extensive airport lounge access than Delta’s equivalent card, up to a $200 airline fee credit each calendar year, and earns more points on purchases with Delta and other airlines.
  • Since you can transfer Amex points to Delta SkyMiles, you can pool them with the miles you earn by flying – there are plenty of other ways to use them, too.
  • However, depending on your traveling habits, it might still be worth considering one of the Delta cards, either on its own or in addition to the Amex Platinum Card.

If you’re a Delta loyalist, chances are you’ve considered opening a Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express, or possibly the Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express. However, the best card for flying Delta isn’t even technically a Delta credit card.

The best credit card for flying Delta

If you’re looking to earn Delta miles on your normal spending, and enjoy certain perks on the airline, the Platinum Card from American Express is arguably the best pick.

While it has a high annual fee of $550, the Amex Platinum – which is issued by American Express, but isn’t co-branded with Delta – offers a massive amount of value for Delta flyers, easily enough to make up for the annual fee.

Read on for a few reasons the Amex Platinum Card can be a better option for Delta flyers – particularly those who hold elite status or only check their bags a few times a year.

1. The Platinum Card earns more miles than the Delta cards

The most valuable rewards credit cards tend to earn miles in bonus categories, and the Platinum Card is no exception. The card earns an incredible 5 points perdollar spent on airfare, whenever you purchase directly from the airline or through the Amex Travel booking portal. That includes your Delta flights, as well as virtually any other airline.

You can also earn 5x points on prepaid hotel stays booked through Amex, including Fine Hotels and Resorts stays.

Often, co-branded cards offer bonus categories too, but they’re usually confined to the co-brand. That’s the case with Delta’s cards – they earn 2x SkyMiles on Delta purchases. (It’s worth noting that the United and American Airlines cards are starting to offer bonus points on additional categories, so Delta might follow suit later.)

A major benefit to earning Amex Membership Rewards (MR) points instead of Delta SkyMiles from your credit card spending is that there are more ways to use them – and you’ll still earn Delta miles every time you fly. Plus, if you do want to book Delta award flights, Amex MR points can be transferred to Delta at a 1:1 ratio, and combined with the miles you earned in the air. They can also be transferred to a few different airline and hotel partners, or used to book directly through Amex Travel.

2. The Platinum Card offers access to Delta Sky Club lounges any time you fly on the airline, as well as more than 1,200 other lounges around the world no matter what airline you fly

In my personal opinion, this is one of the most compelling reasons to have the card if you’re even a semi-regular traveler.

I love flying, but there’s no denying that airports are … not the best. While I don’t fly nearly as often as some business travelers, I still find myself spending a lot of time in airports, and having lounge access is a game-changer.

Lounges are exclusive areas where you can enjoy seats, an internet connection, food, drinks, and sometimes other amenities. Although lounges were traditionally reserved for first class and business class passengers, many are accessible to any traveler who holds either a lounge membership or certain credit cards.

When you fly Delta, regardless of which cabin, the Platinum Card grants you access to any Delta Sky Club. If you’re traveling with anyone who does not have their own card, you can purchase discounted guest access for $29 (usually, a day pass is $59).

In addition, whenever you fly, regardless of airline, you and two guests can access Amex’s proprietary Centurion lounges, available at 10 major airports, with several high-profile locations scheduled to open next year. The Platinum Card also comes with a Priority Pass Select membership – Priority Pass is a network of over 1,200 lounges around the world. You and two guests can access these lounges as long as you’re flying on the same day.

Read our full review to learn more about the lounges that the Platinum Card gets you access to.

The premium co-branded Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express also comes with access to Sky Clubs when you fly Delta, but it doesn’t get you access to Centurion Lounges or Priority Pass locations.

3. The Platinum Card offers up to $200 each year in airline fee reimbursements – and up to $200 in Uber credits annually

Every calendar year, the Platinum Card offers a $200 credit toward incidental fees on one airline (that you can choose at the beginning of each year). Naturally, a Delta loyalist can pick Delta.

After that, any eligible charges you make with that airline will automatically receive statement credits to cover them. While it doesn’t cover tickets, it applies to a wide variety of charges and fees, such as checked bags, change fees if you need to change your flight, in-flight food and drinks, fees for traveling with a pet, day passes for lounge guests, and more.

The best part of the airline credit is that because you get it each calendar year, not cardmember year, you could get it twice in your first year of having the card. Say you opened the card in February – you can earn the full $200 credit before the calendar year ends, then once the credit resets on January 1, get it again before your next annual fee posts, meaning you can get up to $400 in value from this credit each year.

While the Delta co-branded cards offer the cardholder a free checked bag on each flight, this fee credit would apply to baggage fees.

The Platinum Card also offers up to $200 in Uber credits each year, broken up into 12 monthly chunks. At the start of each month, you’ll get $15 of credits added to your Uber account, with a $20 bonus each December (for a total of $35 that month).

Why you may still want to consider a Delta credit card, either instead of, or in addition to, the Amex Platinum Card

While the Amex Platinum Card earns more miles than the Delta co-branded cards, offers lounge access, and credits you for $200 in airline fees each calendar year, there are some perks that make the airline cards worth having for Delta flyers who might not fly enough to make use of the lounge access, or others.

All of the three primary Delta cards – the Gold Delta SkyMiles card, the Platinum Delta SkyMiles card, and the Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express – offer a free checked bag for each person on the cardmember’s account, as well as priority boarding. They also feature discounted access to Delta Sky Clubs – the Reserve offers complementary access, but doesn’t include Centurion or Priority Pass lounges. The Platinum and Reserve versions also offer an annual companion certificate – in the case of the Platinum, the companion pass can make up for the annual fee. (There’s also a Blue Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express, but that doesn’t come with similar benefits.)

These benefits can be extremely useful, and anyone flying Delta may get enough use from them for it to make sense to carry the card. Theoretically, it can be worth keeping the Delta co-branded card for the Delta-specific travel benefits, and the Amex Platinum Card for the lounge access and the points-earning.

That’s what I do, since the Delta Platinum’s companion pass essentially pays for the card’s fee each year. However, the regular Platinum Card’s benefits are much more useful, and if I had to pick just one card, I’d go with the latter.

Additionally, it can be worth opening the Delta co-branded cards to earn their sign-up bonuses.

Bottom line

Keep in mind that if you have Delta Medallion elite status, you already get free checked bags and priority boarding. Whether it makes sense to carry a co-branded card as well as the Amex Platinum Card will be different for each person.

However, if you only want to have one card, if you travel enough to have elite status, and you can afford to float the annual fee (remembering that you’ll get value back), the Amex Platinum Card is the best choice. Between the lounge access, airline fee credits, and increased points earning rate, it makes an ideal card for Delta flyers.

Click here to learn more about the Platinum Card from American Express from Business Insider’s partner, The Points Guy.