Getting a Delta American Express card can be a newbie trap and mistake for those starting off in award travel. I say this as one of the biggest Delta fans you will find. I have a Delta Reserve Card, am a Delta Platinum member, have completed mileage runs, and fly Delta frequently. Here are some of the top reasons why you should not get a Delta American Express personal card, at least early in the hobby.
Chase's 5/24 Rule
Chase's 5/24 rule is the first thing we typically talk about in the points and miles hobby. Taking advantage of Chase sign-up bonuses early on can earn you hundreds of thousands of points with minimal annual fees. This is especially true with the current 100,000-point sign-up bonus for the Chase Sapphire Preferred. Opening Chase cards early on can set you up for earning Ultimate Rewards for years to come on a steady basis. Finally, learning Chase Ultimate Rewards can be a good first step to learning how to use points and miles.
Chase Pay Yourself Back & Travel Portal
You can still use points to fly Delta without having a Delta credit card. Through the Chase travel portal, you can book Delta flights at 1.25-1.50 cents per point (1.50 cents per point if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve, 1.25 cents per point if you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred). Also, with Chase Pay Yourself Back, you have another option to cash out your Chase points and fly Delta by booking direct. Folks can get confused by Chase Pay Yourself Back, since only a few categories qualify for this benefit. But through PYB, you are putting cash back into the pocket that you can use to book Delta flights directly. This has become much more limited since the grocery category went away but still something to think about.
Using American Express Membership Rewards to Fly Delta
Delta is an American Express transfer partner. This means that you can transfer Membership Rewards (MR) to Delta. Amex charges a small excise fee of $0.0006 per point when transferring to a US airline, but it caps at $99 for a single transfer.
If you really need to transfer points to Delta, the American Express Gold card and the American Express Platinum card could be options. However, opening business cards that earn MRs is an even better option, since Amex business cards do not count towards 5/24. If you have the American Express Business Platinum, you can earn a 35% rebate on your pay with points purchases earning you just over 1.5 cents in value per point. This is valid on your selected airline of choice for the year and any other airline on which you book first or business class. It's also worth mentioning that many of these Amex cards come with airline incidental credits, which can offset baggage fees.
Do You Understand the SkyMiles Program?
If you don't understand the SkyMiles program, you may be in for a surprise when it comes to redeeming miles. SkyMiles have earned the nickname “sky pesos” because a lot of folks don't think the miles are worth much. This reputation is mostly due to the fact that Delta no longer has an award chart, so award flights can have some pretty high award prices. If you have any intention of redeeming through Delta SkyMiles, you should take the time to learn the program.
At the end of the day, getting a Delta card means you are committing yourself to that airline to some degree. To truly understand whether Delta deserves a credit card spot in your wallet, you must understand the program and how redemptions work. This goes for any airline credit card.
Use Partners to Book Delta Awards Instead
Virgin Atlantic is a Delta partner and an excellent alternative for booking award flights on Delta metal. Virgin Atlantic charges just 50,000 in Virgin Atlantic miles for Delta One business class to Europe, while Delta charge between 120-320,000 SkyMiles for that same flight. Domestic flights also cost much less through Virgin Atlantic than Delta. Even better, Virgin Atlantic is a transfer partner of all three major banks (Chase, Amex, and Citi). This means it is easier to earn Virgin Atlantic miles than Delta miles since you can transfer points from all of those banks. Using flying blue miles (KLM & Air France) and AeroMexico would be another option.
While partner availability has become more and more difficult, flexibility will help. I have been able to use the Virgin Atlantic booking method both time I have been to Europe in the last few years.
This topic can be a hot debate at times, especially when it comes to Delta loyalists. But saying that a Delta credit card is not the best option for many does not mean that Delta isn't a good airline or that SkyMiles is a bad program. In fact, I share many great Delta deals on our Facebook group.
It is easy to get drawn in by a high sign-up bonus for an airline card. But in the vast majority of cases, cards that earn transferable points are a much better option. Transferable points offer flexibility to transfer to many transfer partners. On the other hand, an airline credit card like Delta's ties you to that airline. There is little reason to pin yourself down like that when better cards from Chase, Amex, and Citi are available.
Do you carry any Delta credit cards? Come join the discussion in our Facebook group and let us know your thoughts.