Delta Credit Cards: Huge Changes Coming

Delta and Amex have announced huge changes to their credit card lineup.  There are quite a few positive changes (including Centurion Club access for Reserve cardholders!), but annual fees are going up for new accounts and renewals beginning Jan 30 2020.  Let’s look at each card to examine the changes:

Delta Blue Amex

It’s all good news for the no-fee Delta SkyMiles Blue Amex.  Beginning Jan 30th, the card will no longer incur foreign transaction fees and it will begin earning 2X at restaurants worldwide rather than only in the US.

Delta Gold Amex

The news is arguably mostly positive for the Delta SkyMiles Gold consumer Amex and the Gold Business Amex.  Beginning Jan 30th,Gold cardholders will earn 2X miles at restaurants and 2X at US supermarkets (consumer version) or 2X for US shipping and advertising (business version).  Both cards will earn a $100 Delta Flight Credit after $10K/year spend.  This credit can be applied towards the cost of airfare, but the value expires after a year if not used.  On the other hand, Delta Gold cardholders will pay an additional $4 per year, will no longer be eligible for reduced price admission to Sky Clubs, and will not earn a MQM (Medallion Qualification Waiver) with $25K spend.

Greg’s take on the Gold card changes: Overall, I like the changes to the Gold cards. Those who need the MQM waiver towards elite status will do better with the Platinum or Reserve card anyway.  And now you’ll actually get something useful after $10K calendar year spend.  I’m not too excited about the new bonus categories since many cards offer better rewards in those categories, but they’re better than nothing.

Delta Platinum Amex

The news is mixed for the Delta Platinum consumer Amex and the Delta Platinum Business Amex.

Positive changes starting Jan 30 2020:

  • Bonus categories: Earn 2X or 3X for various categories of spend.
  • $100 Global Entry fee credit every 4 years (or 4.5 years for TSA Precheck)
  • Business card earns 1.5X on eligible purchases of $5K or more (max 50K extra miles per calendar year)

Negative changes starting Jan 30 2020:

  • Annual fee increases from $195 to $250
  • Miles Boost is replaced with Status Boost.  It’s basically the same thing (earn 10K MQMs with $25K spend, and again at $50K spend), but now you won’t earn bonus miles with the MQMs.
  • Delta Sky Club access price increases from $29 to $39 per visit.

Greg’s take on the Platinum card changes: I don’t like it, but it could have been worse.  The annual fee will increase by $55 and we’ll lose the ability to earn bonus miles with our MQMs when hitting spend thresholds.  We can breathe a sigh of relief, though, that the MQM bonuses are still in place.  Also still in place are the valuable companion certificates you get each year upon renewal.  And I do like the 1.5X earnings for the business card for large purchases.  I could see myself continuing to spend $50K per year on the business version of the card.  If I do so only with large (over $5K) purchases, I’ll earn 75K miles in the process.  That’s a bit more than I’ve been earning to-date on the same spend (currently, with $50K spend, I earn 50K miles plus 20K bonus miles thanks to Miles Boost).

Delta Reserve Amex

The news is also mixed for the Delta Reserve consumer Amex and the Delta Reserve Business Amex.

Positive changes starting Jan 30 2020:

  • Centurion Lounge access when flying Delta
  • 2 Delta Sky Club one-time guest passes (the card continues to offer Sky Club access for the primary cardholder when flying Delta)
  • 4 Status Boosts Annually (Ability to earn up to 60,000 MQMs with $120K calendar year spend)
  • Earn 3X miles on Delta
  • Complimentary upgrades (non-elite cardholders get on the free upgrade list behind any elite members traveling on the same flights)
  • $100 Global Entry fee credit every 4 years (or 4.5 years for TSA Precheck)
  • Business Reserve card adds the ability to earn 1.5X on all spend per calendar year after spending $150K.

Negative changes starting Jan 30 2020:

  • Annual fee increases from $450 to $550 (ouch!)
  • Miles Boost is replaced with Status Boost.  It’s similar to before (earn 15K MQMs with $30K spend…), but now you won’t earn bonus miles with the MQMs.
  • Non-elite cardholders lose access to the Sky Priority Security Lane
  • Delta Sky Club access price for guests increases from $29 to $39 per visit.

Greg’s take on the Reserve card changes: I’m impressed.  The Reserve card goes a long way toward mimicking real high level elite status.  When flying Delta, cardholders will have more lounge choices (with the addition of Centurion Lounges), they’ll be able to invite 2 guests into the Sky Club for free one time per year, and they’ll appear on the upgrade list for all flights that qualify for complimentary upgrades (mostly domestic flights and flights to nearby countries).  For those who want to manufacture elite status with spend, I really like the ability to earn four status boosts annually (the current limit is two).  This means that you can earn up to 60K MQMs with a single Delta Reserve card.  Those with both the consumer and business version of the card could earn up to 120K MQMs.  Of course I’m not happy about the increased annual fee or the loss of bonus miles with each spend threshold.  Overall, though, I think that the changes are a net positive for most people.

Conclusion

I was really scared when I saw the announcement about big changes coming.  I figured that they would gut some of my favorite card features.  Specifically, I thought we’d lose the ability to spend our way to high level elite status.  The truth is the opposite.  With the Reserve card, it becomes easier to spend our way to high level status.  Unfortunately, it also becomes harder to justify that spend since we no longer earn bonus miles along the way.

Overall, there are both good and bad changes to the cards.  I think there are more good changes than bad changes, but if I were to look only at the Platinum cards, I would say the opposite.  My bet is that Blue and Gold cardholders will be happy with the changes.  Platinum cardholders will be annoyed, but not desperate to dump the cards.  Reserve cardholders will be happy with the card’s new features but will be unhappy with the increased annual fee.

If you have a Delta card, what do you think about the upcoming changes?  Please comment below and let us know which type of card you currently have.

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

More articles by Greg The Frequent Miler »

Regarding comments: Comments posted at the bottom of Frequent Miler pages and posts are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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ejordanw
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ejordanw

I have the Delta Platinum and will product change to Blue. I only held the Delta Platinum for the companion certificate and perks when flying Delta, better off using other cards now and don’t want to take on the increased AD

Alex
Guest
Alex

Bad changes overall imho. Harder to justify MSing for status. Fees are up. 1.5x for big purchases is not that useful since Amex hates Simon. And if you don’t MS on these cards, Amex Platinum is probably better for you anyway.

Brian
Guest
Brian

They’re interesting. I do the bulk of my spend on the personal reserve as it is (versus the platinum biz, which my wife mostly uses), so the changes are a wash in some areas to positive in others).

We do a lot of bookings on Delta Vacations (like maybe $20k+ per year), so the 3x miles will effectively wash out the loss of the bonus redeemable miles.

I also do a lot of grocery shopping, so that will help eat the loss of the redeemable miles.

It’s nice to see the increased thresholds to 4x per year, but between our two cards I doubt we’ll get $90k in spend. It’s our first year with both the reserve and business cards, so it’ll be interesting to see where we will fall. However, i’ll Have options to go $30k/15k MQM on Reserve with $50k/20k MQM on Platinum or $60k/30k MQM all on reserve.

The GE credit is nice, but we typically get GE via our NEXUS card, so who knows how that will work.

I do like the Centurion access. It’s a nice added option, so I’ll look forward to using that.

Overall, not sure it helps my status a ton (I’m a platinum), but some nice new perks

Eric
Guest
Eric

Though, if I’m understanding things, the reserve does not have increased earning on groceries and restaurants. I’m going to have think long and hard whether earning fewer miles with the reserve, compared to the platinum will be worth it.

anonymous
Guest
anonymous

I don’t imagine too many Gold cardholders will be happy about the loss of paid lounge access.

Blue
Guest
Blue

I can’t imagine the Reserve Upgrade list feature will have much value, right?

geoff
Guest
geoff

For Personal Reserve holders the elimination of the bonus miles at $30k/$60k spend essentially makes this card a 1X on all spending but Delta(where most of us get 5X on our non-Delta Platinum!). This card in now STRICTLY for status chasers. Period. As for Centurion access and GE/TSA our Platinum cards also already have that except for one-time companion access.Add the increased fee and these are not good changes.

Stefan Krasowski (Rapid Travel Chai)
Guest
Stefan Krasowski (Rapid Travel Chai)

Not terrible, which in itself is good news to me. While it will be easier to spend to keep Diamond, I’ve been on the fence for next year and not earning the bonus miles with the boost along the way might finally get me off of my addiction to Diamond.

Lately, I have valued the Platinum card companion certs less because of the fare class restrictions, even when I am willing to pay for a pricey ticket, the certs show fare unavailable.

Interesting that enough people must be booking Delta flights with the Delta cards rather than cards that earn more for airfare that they do not feel the need to incentivize spend on Delta.

I’ve never had the Reserve Business, planning to in October if a good offer is around. Get the annual fee lower for most of a year vs potentially a higher bonus when they relaunch all this.

Stefan Krasowski (Rapid Travel Chai)
Guest
Stefan Krasowski (Rapid Travel Chai)

Correction: I missed the part that they are increasing miles earned on Delta purchases to 3x on some of the cards. 3x is not 5x but the people using the card for that don’t know or don’t care.

Mark
Guest
Mark

Not terrible, but not great either.

The end of “4 card monte” is a plus. No more managing the upgrade/downgrade cycles or wasting 4 slots on AMEX cards.

That said, it *might* make sense to use say the Business side quickly, grab all the 4 boosts, then downgrade that for the rest of the year — especially if you can find a more useful card. This would save some pro-rated annual fees (though again, more mental load, lots of card reissuing, and you’d want to time it out so you get your companion ticket as a Reserve holder).

To me, this is a set of pretty expensive cuts. I lost 100K redeemable SkyMiles, worth what $1200 using Greg’s RRV method? (Typically, I target 1.5 cents for redemptions, but this is fine).

Weirdly, the bump in annual fees and MQM bonuses probably ends up costing me another $600+ in annual fees though I will likely use all 4 SkyClub guest passes so that feels like a small offset on the boosted annual fees.

Personally, I found I was buying the extras of Diamond for around $5700 but getting a near path in SkyMiles alone to breakeven (-$900 but practically breakeven in actual use). The companion tickets didn’t need to be figured in as value for me. All the benefits of Diamond over Platinum were gravy.

Now, I think this is closer to $5800 with only about $3600 in SkyMiles value. That puts me at -$2200, $1300 worse off which is about what you’d expect given my numbers above. So now it gets much dicier and I have to start counting pennies:

* 4 club certificates? Worth about $150 all in.
* 2 reserve companion tickets? Let’s just call that $250 worth of value in a year? (There was always going to be one of these)
* More MQMs? (it goes to 120K from 100K). These are basically just more rollover. I dunno, $100?

So the gap is maybe “it costs $1700 to be Diamond”. Is $1700 worth it vs. Platinum? Many will say yes. I’m fairly sure I will pass on this and drop to Platinum next year.

Stefan Krasowski (Rapid Travel Chai)
Guest
Stefan Krasowski (Rapid Travel Chai)

Thanks Mark, that analysis helps shape my decision to drop the cards after 1/30/20, though what I do 1/1-29 is TBD.

James
Guest
James

Yet again, there is absolutely nothing new that isn’t already the same or better on my Amex Platinum, which any regular Delta flyer should have already for Sky Club access (is there anyone that doesn’t?). But I’m going to keep paying the (now) $250 and spending $25k for the waiver, hoping I can find a way to use my B1G1 ticket (or give it away at least). Oh well.

wadacash
Guest
wadacash

In my view, the Reserve refresh is horrible. The $100 annual fee increase plus the loss of 30k miles for hitting both spend thresholds means it’s now $400-$450 (depending on your view of how much Delta miles are worth) more expensive to use this card to earn status. I only see incremental benefits on here at best worth $100 if I’m stretching the value a bit. I’m now strongly considering canceling this card.

Gene
Guest
Gene

@ Greg — The Reserve card changes are a major downgrade. If you spend $30,000 or $60,000 per year, you now lose 15,000 miles (value $180) or 30,000 miles (value $360) and pay a $100 higher annual fee. We’ll be closing our accounts, along with most of our other AMEX accounts that have been recently downgraded as well. I really was expecting a more honest review from you of all bloggers. Is there an honest blogger left?

Rob
Guest
Rob

As a Delta Platinum card holder who isn’t chasing status and values each of my 5 Amex credit card slots highly, the card becomes an automatic close for me. And guess what? Baggage fees, boarding and lounge benefits won’t be missed if I just book away from Delta to an airline I have those benefits with already. I don’t fly a ton on Delta, but for what it’s worth, these moves cost them a cardholder and a flyer.

David
Guest
David

These category multipliers won’t come free. Expect a low-key devaluation in redemptions in 2020.

Money
Guest
Money

100%. Just imagine all of those people who were already spending for status plus others MS ers who will do uncapped MS at grocery stores. Need to use miles ASAP and need to dump amex cards as soon as done with 1 year.

Redrover 159
Guest
Redrover 159

I think I’m gonna dump the platinum card. I have an AMEX platinum that gets me into the lounges, plus the Pre-check benefit. And I never seem to be able to use the companion certificate. I’m always on too inexpensive a fare, there aren’t more seats available, etc, etc. So they go to waste every year.
Finally, as a million-miler, I have silver status anyway. I don’t need to spend $250 to get free bag check.

Graydon
Guest
Graydon

Big question for me is if the Status Boosts are transferrable to other DL flyers like the current system. I never need mine for the most part but I value giving them to those employees and friends who travel with me and fall short on their status quests. It’s nice to be able to help a PM become a DM if they are only lacking MQM.

Aloha808
Guest
Aloha808

Overall a big negative. Glad they didn’t toss the ability to earn MQMs, though. Additionally, looks like it might be worthwhile for some to MS at grocery stores now with personal Gold and Plat.

I’d like to add that the new T&Cs will still let you get an MQD waiver with all card spend if you have a plat/reserve, i.e. lower tier card spend will still count towards MQD waiver if you have a higher tier card.

From new T&Cs: “However, if linked to the same SkyMiles number, eligible purchases made on a Delta SkyMiles®Blue Card, Delta SkyMiles® Gold Card, Delta SkyMiles Business Card, or Delta SkyMiles® Gold Business Card will continue to count towards the MQD Waiver spend threshold requirements.”

geoff
Guest
geoff

“Additionally, looks like it might be worthwhile for some to MS at grocery stores now with personal Gold and Plat.”
Precisely. Downgrading Reserve to Platinum and MSing at grocery stores more than make up for loss of spending bonuses at $25k/50k(Platinum)

Aloha808
Guest
Aloha808

It doesn’t make up for it for those of us that MS at GCM. Before you could get 90k skypesos, 30k MQM, and 60k MR for $714 (reserve). Now you’ll get 100k skypesos and 20k MQM for $595 or so (plat). A net loss.

Money
Guest
Money

It will all be devalued in 2019 since many will be MSing status at grocery stores. Doesnt matter that you can earn more

Mike B
Guest
Mike B

I really don’t like the loss of the SkyMiles Miles Boost bonus for meeting the minimum spend thresholds for the Platinum and Reserve cards (I have one of each). I know not everyone puts much value in SkyMiles, but the potential to earn an extra 50,000 SkyMiles in the past with my two Delta cards is the equivalent of somewhere around a $500-$600 Delta round trip ticket. Now adding the increased cost of the two annual fees on top of that, I’m looking at $655-$755 in negatives. The chance to earn double the number of MQMs on the Reserve is nice and the two SkyClub passes are nice, but I don’t make very many purchases over $5K, I already have the AMEX Platinum for the Centurion lounges and I’ve got plenty of cards that give me the $100 reimbursement for the Global Entry. So for me, I don’t see the positives of these changes adding up enough to offset that much lost value. This overall is a significant negative change for me.

If they would have stopped restricting the use of the companion tickets earned from the reserve and platinum cards to only certain fare buckets and allowed them to be used in any open fare bucket in that particular cabin class, that actually would have been a very positive offset to the miles boost loss. Those current fare bucket restrictions make the companion tickets almost useless.

Eric Gunderson
Guest
Eric Gunderson

Currently, the Blue card doesn’t qualify on its’ own for the MQD Waiver, but the spend does count towards the total spend of the cardholder’s other Delta AMEX cards. I’m assuming, based on no mention of that being changed for the Blue card, that the Gold card will now work the same way: no standalone MQD waiver, but spend accumulated with Platinum/Reserve spend towards the total. Can you confirm this?

Eric Gunderson
Guest
Eric Gunderson

Found the answer –> According to the FAQ’s, If you have an eligible Delta SkyMiles Card (Delta SkyMiles® Platinum, Delta SkyMiles® Reserve, Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business, or Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business) with the MQD waiver benefit in addition to an ineligible Delta SkyMiles Card (Delta SkyMiles® Blue, Delta SkyMiles® Gold, Delta SkyMiles Gold Business, Delta SkyMiles Business Credit Card from American Express), purchases made on each of your Delta SkyMiles Cards will continue to count towards the MQD waiver.

Eric Gunderson
Guest
Eric Gunderson

Based on my understanding of this, one should still be able to earn the 15k bonus miles if $30k spend is met before the end of January. However, I wonder if it might need to be completed before the January statement close so that it posts correctly?

Stefan Krasowski (Rapid Travel Chai)
Guest
Stefan Krasowski (Rapid Travel Chai)

I will be operating under the belief that 1/1-29 will earn as current.

Larry
Guest
Larry

The complimentary Centurion lounge benefit requires Delta ticket purchase on a Reserve card. I wonder how the Centurion counter agent will be able to tell how you purchased your ticket and if you can split the cost of the ticket to maintain the trip delay benefits of purchasing a portion on Chase Sapphire Reserve?

Aloha808
Guest
Aloha808

The simplest way to do it would be for the computer to trigger when you meet the requirement with your reserve card. Then on your boarding pass a statement to the effect of “this traveler gets access to the centurion lounge” would be printed.

Scribbious
Guest
Scribbious

I have re-read this term multiple times in the the notice I received on my personal Delta Platinum Card.

“Card Members are only eligible to receive one annual bonus per threshold per calendar year for each type of eligible Delta SkyMiles Card (e.g., Platinum or Reserve) that is linked to the same SkyMiles account. ”

I also have a Delta Reserve Business Card. Does that mean I will or will not be able to get the full MQM bonuses on both cards? I have read it both ways. (I primarily chase status for myself and use miles for others)

Robert Weisberg
Guest
Robert Weisberg

Does anyone here know if gift cards purchased at a supermarket might be ok for earning Amex points vs the Simon cards which we know do not work.

Mark
Guest
Mark

It has thus far on other Amex cards been ok to do this.

Bruno
Guest
Bruno

So with two current Reserve Cards to chase 60k mqms, I will drop to one card saving $350 in annual fees. But I’ll lose 60,000 bonus miles with a assured value of at least $600. And I’ll lose a companion ticket, which as a single guy I often wind up giving away, but which is worth at least $200. Net loss, but my big fear would have been some material erosion in the MQM boost feature. And that didn’t happen. Also positive is not having to figure which of two cards I need to be using and not needing to shuffle all the automatic payments from one card to another.

Warren Blume
Guest
Warren Blume

I hold the Reserve Card…not sure how the Centurion Lounge access is helping me? There aren’t that many of them and there are Sky Clubs in all the airports that have a Cent Lounge. If it gave me access when not flying Delta that would be a perk. Also, I do not have TSA Pre-Check and was happy with the Sky Priority Access lane which has saved me big minutes on very busy travel days. $100 more/year and they take that away? Seems petty…

DSK
Guest
DSK

I am not chasing Delta status and have the Platinum card, mainly for the companion certificate, priority boarding, free bags and $29 per person lounge access. I also have the Ritz Carlton card, so the value of the companion certificate was there but a bit marginal (Ritz will give me $100 off two tickets domestically for an unlimited number of times, and Delta Platinum will give me a domestic second ticket free minus taxes as long as my primary ticket is in certain fare classes). Increasing the price of the Delta Platinum card by $50 makes the value of the companion certificate even more marginal compared with the Delta Gold card. Adding $10 per person onto lounge access tips me more toward just using free Priority Pass lounges. So, for me, downgrading to Gold is a no brainer, since the $100 off can be used internationally and I can stack two $100 off coupons by putting my last dollar towards the $10,000 requirement late in one year and early in the following year (Terms and Conditions appear to allow international flights and will let you use up to three $100 off coupons). The rest of the changes are worthless to me since I have AMEX Gold which will earn me double for restaurants and US supermarkets and Sapphire Reserve for hotels (plus I use co-branded cards for Marriott, Hilton and Hyatt anyway). So, downgrading to Gold will save me $150 per year.

Am I missing anything in this analysis?

dickiek
Guest
dickiek

What exactly is Pay with Miles (vs using regular miles)? And with the Pay with Miles, can you pair a companion cert with that?

Jeff
Guest
Jeff

The new terms say Delta Reserve basic and additional card holders receive access to both centurion and Delta lounges. I believe that is a change too for the additional card holders. Can you confirm?

KKua
Guest
KKua

Does anybody know where the Reserve Card holders stand for the UPGR queue? Do they go before or after the medallions?

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[…] Credit Cards: This week, Delta and Amex announced some changes coming to their credit card lineup. This post from Greg at The Frequent Miler sums up the changes nicely. I’ve had the Delta cards in the past, but I haven’t held onto them […]

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[…] Miler already has a detailed analysis that I mostly concur. My first reaction was ‘not terrible.’ I am less positive after […]