Should you sign up for the Delta 70K or 50K offers? An in-depth analysis

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Card offers discussed in this post have since expired. Please see our Best Offers page for the latest offers on these and other cards.

 

Last week, Amex increased their public offers for the Delta Gold and Delta Platinum credit cards (through November 9 2016):

  • Delta Gold Personal 50,000 miles + $50: Earn 50,000 miles after $2K spend in 3 months + $50 statement credit after any Delta purchase in 1st 3 months. $95 annual fee waived first year. NOTE: You may find a better offer (with a $100 credit) by going through the steps of booking a flight on Delta.com.
  • Delta Gold Business 50,000 miles + $50: Earn 50,000 miles after $2K spend in 3 months + $50 statement credit after any Delta purchase in 1st 3 months. $95 annual fee waived first year.
  • Delta Platinum Personal 70,000 miles + 10K MQMs + $100: Earn 70,000 miles and 10K MQMs after $3K spend in 3 months + $100 statement credit after any Delta purchase in 1st 3 months. $195 annual fee not waived first year.
  • Delta Platinum Business 70,000 miles + 10K MQMs + $100: Earn 70,000 miles and 10K MQMs after $5K spend in 3 months + $100 statement credit after any Delta purchase in 1st 3 months. $195 annual fee not waived first year.

Are these the best offers ever?

Yes and No.

Yes: The 70,000 mile offers for the Delta Platinum cards are the best public offers I can remember ever seeing for these cards.

No: 50K Gold card offers are common.  Plus, these 50K offers were surpassed as recently as last year with a 60K offer that was sort of targeted but readily available to most people.  Those who live in target markets (such as Seattle and New York) frequently receive better targeted offers as well.

I already have (or have had in the past) a Delta card, can I still get this bonus?

Maybe. Most Amex offers (including the current Delta card offers) state the following: “Welcome bonus offer not available to applicants who have or have had this product.”  This means that you can’t get the bonus again for the same exact card you’ve had before, but you can get the bonus for a different type of Delta card, or for a different business.

Suppose you have or have had in the past a single Delta card. Then:

Current or Previous Cardmember You can get bonus for:
Delta Gold Personal
  • Delta Gold Business
  • Delta Platinum Personal
  • Delta Platinum Business
Delta Gold Business
  • Delta Gold Personal
  • Delta Platinum Personal
  • Delta Platinum Business
Delta Platinum Personal
  • Delta Gold Personal
  • Delta Gold Business
  • Delta Platinum Business
Delta Platinum Business
  • Delta Gold Personal
  • Delta Gold Business
  • Delta Platinum Personal
  • Delta Platinum Business
    (for a 2nd business)

I’m not planning to purchase Delta flights anytime soon. Can I still earn the statement credits?

Yes.  Any Delta spend will trigger the statement credits. You don’t even have to spend much.  For example, when I last signed up for a Delta card, I used the card to pay the $5.60 TSA fee on an award ticket and that alone was enough to trigger the $100 statement credit!

Worst case, you can trigger the statement credit by buying a $50 gift card direct from Delta (found here).

What is the difference between the Personal and Business cards?

Other than the fact that the Platinum Business card offer has a higher spend requirement, there is very little difference between the Platinum Personal and Platinum Business card or the Gold Personal and Gold Business card.  The benefits are the same.  The annual fees are the same.

The primary difference to consider is that Amex business card accounts do not get reported to the personal credit bureaus. So, high balances on the business cards will not hurt your credit score, and Chase will not count the business cards towards your 5/24 status (in other words, signing up for Amex business cards will not hurt your chance of getting new Chase cards in the future).  In other words, there are a few distinct advantages to the business cards.

Of course, you do need to have a business in order to apply for business cards. That said, its not uncommon for people to have businesses without realizing it.  If you regularly sell items on eBay, for example, then you have a business.  Similar examples include: consulting, writing (e.g. blog authorship!), handyman services, owning rental property, etc.  In any of these cases, your business is considered a Sole Proprietorship unless you form a corporation of some sort.  To keep things simple you can even use your own SSN as the business Tax ID and your own name as the business name.

What is the difference between the Gold and Platinum cards?

Both cards offer standard airline card perks like first checked bag free, priority boarding, and in-flight discounts.  However there are three major differences between the Gold and Platinum cards (not counting differences in the signup bonuses):

  • Annual Fees: Amex charges $95 per year for the Gold card and $195 per year for the Platinum card.  The Gold card’s first year annual fee is waived. The Platinum card’s first year annual fee is not waived.  This translates to a $195 difference this year, and then a $100 difference in future years (if you keep the card past the first year)
  • Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs) & Bonus Miles for high spend: The Platinum cards offer perks for high spend. At $25,000 per calendar year spend and again at $50,000 in spend, the Platinum cards give the cardholder 10,000 MQMs (towards elite status) and 10,000 bonus miles.
  • Companion Certificate: When you renew your card membership at the end of the first year, and each year thereafter, Platinum cardholders get a companion certificate.  With some fare restrictions, this certificate lets you book a round trip domestic flight and add a companion sort of for free. By “sort of” I mean that you do have to pay some taxes and fees for your companion.  Note that tickets bought this way are not upgrade-able to Comfort Plus or First Class, and the companion does not earn miles for the flight.

Are the differences between the Gold and Platinum cards worth the extra fees?

If any one of these are true, then the answer is yes:

  • You are likely to fly Delta domestic economy with a companion on a paid fare at least once per year, and you don’t mind that the seats are not upgradeable.  The companion certificate alone (available starting at the beginning of your second year of Delta Platinum card membership) can be worth far more than the difference in annual fees.
  • You are likely to spend $25,000 or more per year on the Delta card.  If so, the 10,000 bonus miles alone are worth the difference in annual fees.
  • You have the ability to spend $25,000 or more per year on the card, and you value Delta elite status, and would like to use the card to attain status or reach a higher tier of status.

If you’re not planning on keeping either card long term, then the annual fee difference hardly matters.  The extra 20,000 miles for the Platinum card  make up for the extra $195 first year fee.

I’m not planning on keeping the card long term, so which offer is better?

On the surface, the offers appear to be pretty similar.  You can get 50,000 miles for free with the Delta card or 70,000 miles for $195 with the Platinum card.  Since those extra 20,000 miles are worth at least $200 towards Delta flights, it appears to be a wash.  There are some significant differences though:

Advantages of the Delta Gold offers:

  • The Delta Gold offers require less spend: $2,000 vs. $3,000 or $5,000 with the Delta Platinum offers.
  • The Delta Gold offers waive the first year fee, so there is no out of pocket commitment

Advantages of the Delta Platinum offers:

  • The Delta Platinum offers are special.  I can’t remember ever seeing a public offer this high in the past for these cards and I don’t know if we’ll ever see it go this high again.  Meanwhile, the Delta Gold offers are not special.  50K offers for the Delta Gold cards are common.
  • The Platinum offers include 10,000 MQMs (Medallion Qualifying Miles).  This is great for those who chase Delta elite status.  If you don’t know what MQMs are, then you probably don’t need them and won’t get any value from them.
  • The Delta Platinum Business card offer has a higher statement credit than the Delta Gold Business card offer ($100 vs. $50).

In sum, I think that the Platinum offers are slightly better for anyone willing to invest the $195 fee, and much better for those seeking Delta elite status.

Are Delta miles valuable?

Yes, absolutely.  Delta award space has improved tremendously in the past year or two.  Compared to other mainstream US mileage programs such as American and United, I find that Delta offers more predictable value.  With AA or United it is possible to get incredible value from certain business and first class international awards.  But, getting good value from those programs for domestic economy flights is less common.  With Delta, I recently found that it was hard not to get at least 1.4 cents per mile value for domestic economy, and closer to 2 cents per mile was not at all uncommon (see: Delta SkyMiles sheds SkyPeso moniker).  In my experience, it has been possible to get excellent value from international business class flights as well.

Worst case, Delta cardholders can use their miles to pay for airfare at a rate of 1 cent per mile.  That’s not amazing value, but it means that the current signup offers are worth at least $500 in Delta airfare, after first year annual fees are considered, but not counting the available statement credits.

Is Delta elite status valuable?

Some of the perks of elite status (free checked bags, priority boarding, etc.) overlap with Delta credit card perks.  In those cases, elite status is not valuable.  Delta offers four primary tiers of elite status: Silver (requires 25K MQMs per year), Gold (50K MQMs), Platinum (75K MQMs), and Diamond (125K MQMs).  Delta also has a spend requirement for each tier (MQDs) which is waived if you spend $25,000 or more per year on Delta credit cards.

The value of elite status increases substantially as you go up in status.  Silver status is better than a hole in the head, but you’re unlikely to score many first class seat upgrades.  Gold is a bit better in that respect, but if you fly out of a Delta hub on business traveler routes you can forget about it.  Here are a few reasons that Platinum status is great: 1) free upgrades become more likely; 2) free award changes and cancellations; and 3) Four upgrade certificates per year (as a “Choice Benefit”) can be used to greatly increase your chance of upgrades on regional flights when it is most important to you.  And, Diamond status adds every more: 1) global upgrade certificates which can be used to upgrade international flights; 2) free CLEAR membership to bypass the lines at TSA security ID checks; 3) Even better chance of free regional upgrades; and more..

Personally, I’ve found Platinum and Diamond status to be hugely valuable.  However, I do live near a Delta hub (Detroit Airport) so I do fly Delta often and therefore have many chances to benefit from status.

I’m sold on the Platinum card, but I want to get the MQMs next year. Is that possible?

First a little background.  Delta MQMs help get you to elite status.  If the 10K MQMs from the Platinum card signup bonus are not enough to get you to Silver status at least, then they’re completely wasted.  In other words, if you end the calendar year with 24,999 or fewer MQMs, then they all go away.  Poof.

If you end the year with more than 25,000 MQMs, though, the extra MQMs above the level of status you achieved roll over into the next calendar year.  For example, if you achieved Silver status and you end the year with 30,000 MQMs, then 5,000 MQMs will roll over into the next year.

If you’re not going to make it to Silver status this year, even with an infusion of 10,000 more MQMs, then you’re better off getting those MQMs next year.  Similarly, if you are near the next elite level, but would rather roll over MQMs than reach that next level now, you may want to wait on those 10K MQMs.  For example, a person who has earned 115,000 MQMs in 2016 may prefer to roll over 40,000 MQMs to next year and get those extra 10K MQMs next year, rather than earn the extra MQMs now to get to Diamond status.  Why?  If they earn the extra MQMs now, they’ll have the benefit of earning Diamond status, but they won’t roll over any MQMs to next year.

If you want to get your MQMs next year, then the following should work:

  1. Wait until early November to sign up (the 70K offer is good through November 9th).
  2. Wait until January to complete the spend requirement.

Note that I wrote that this “should” work.  If any readers have experience that will prove or disprove this idea, please comment below.  I’ll update this post accordingly.

Bottom Line

All four Delta offers are very good, but only the Platinum offers are really special.  If you read the above post and decide that you prefer the Gold card, that’s reasonable, but keep in mind that there is probably no rush.  Chances are good that you’ll see the same 50,000 mile offer in the future. If you like the Platinum offer, though, I’d recommend jumping on it before the offer expires on November 9th.  If you have a business, there are advantages to the business cards over the personal cards.  Or, you can double the bonus by signing up for both a personal and a business card.

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