Full Review of Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card
Generous bonus offer
Free checked bag for you and up to eight companions on the same reservation
More than 20 airline partners
American Express isn't as widely accepted as Visa or Mastercard
- Generous Bonus Offer: The one-time offer—35,000 bonus miles for spending $1,000 in purchases within the first three months—is one of the more generous currently available among travel cards. And, American Express is granting new cardholders who apply by May 31, 2020 an additional three months to qualify for the $1,000 spending required to earn the bonus offer. By our calculations using an Investopedia valuation of 1.6 cents per Delta mile, the offer is worth $560, which can justify the annual fee many times over, when used to book flights through Delta.
- Free Checked Bag For You and Your Companions: Cardholders have their first checked bag free on Delta flights, which can be a savings of $60 on a round-trip ticket. And where some airline cards extend free-baggage privileges to few or no companions, this card allows up to eight passengers traveling in the same reservation as the card member to skip the fees.
- Priority Boarding: Passengers holding this card can board early with Main Cabin 1 Priority Boarding on Delta flights, even if they lack the Delta SkyMiles status to do so. However, this perk is not available for Delta Shuttle flights.
- More Than 20 Airline Partners: Delta has an impressive list of airline partners, numbering more than 20 and including Virgin Atlantic, Air France, and Aeromexico. You can earn miles on these flights at the same rate as for Delta ones, provided Delta issues the ticket; otherwise, you still earn miles, based on a different formula.
- American Express isn't as widely accepted abroad as Visa or Mastercard: Thousands of merchants accept American Express, but its level of acceptance is somewhat lower than other major card networks internationally. That’s not ideal for a card aimed at frequent travelers, who may fly abroad at least occasionally. (On the other hand, the card at least has no foreign-transaction fee.)
This Card is Best For
Seeks the recognition and perks of branded travel partner status
Flies often for business or leisure
Dines out regularly while traveling or in home city
Travels outside of U.S. on occasion or frequently
The Gold Delta SkyMiles Amex card is naturally a best fit for travelers who frequently fly on Delta and its partners. Or who are at least willing to do so, since the card's introductory bonus alone, which we estimate is worth $560, is enough to get you onto a few Delta flights. Even if you don’t reap a lot of additional miles every year, that bonus figure would essentially justify several years of the card's annual fee expense.
This card is especially attractive if you often check bags on trips, or travel with people who do. Your first checked bag is free, which is a savings of $60 on a round-trip flight. Checking a bag on two round-trip flights per year would more than cancel out the annual fee. If you travel with companions, the savings would rise, since up to nine people who are on your reservation for any one flight also qualify for this perk.
With the addition of new rewards categories, the Gold Delta SkyMiles Amex is also now worth considering for those looking for a travel card with decent-enough (2 miles per dollar spent) earnings on restaurant and supermarket purchases. With each mile worth 1.6 cents, by our estimates, those rewards make the card competitive with cash-back cards that offer 3 cents per dollar spent in those categories—that is, provided you redeem the Delta miles for flights rather than cash.
Delta SkyMiles Gold Credit Card Bonus
Cardholders can receive 35,000 bonus miles after making $1,000 in purchases within three months of opening their account, which we calculate is a value of $560 when used to buy flights through Delta. The bonus comes in the form of a statement credit that posts to your account eight to 12 weeks after you meet the minimum threshold.
The bonus offer represents more than a 46% return on the required spending. (Our calculation subtracts the annual fee of $99 from the overall net rewards, but doesn't count the value of the miles you'd earn by reaching the required $1,000 in spending.)
Rewards Earning Details
Delta purchases earn an unlimited 2 miles per dollar spent. Eligible purchases include costs associated with flights, Sky Club membership or passes, seat upgrades, Delta Vacations, or in-flight purchases. This card also offers unlimited 2 miles per dollar spent at restaurants and supermarkets. The restaurant rewards don’t apply to prepared foods sold within other establishments, such as nightclubs and food stores, and the supermarket benefit isn’t available on food bought at superstores such as Walmart and Target nor at warehouse clubs such as Costco and BJ’s.
The card pays 1 mile per dollar on all other purchases. Delta SkyMiles do not expire.
Rewards Redemption Details
Cardholders must be members of the Delta SkyMiles rewards program to redeem miles through Delta's app, website, by phone, or at the ticket counter.
SkyMiles can be redeemed for flights, seat upgrades, Delta Vacation packages, gift cards, magazines, Sky Club membership, and experiences. You can also transfer SkyMiles to friends and family or donate them to charity. We value SkyMiles at 1.6 cents per mile when redeemed for domestic Delta flights. That's above average when compared to other airlines.
You can also use SkyMiles to buy flights on other airlines. Delta partners include fellow members of the SkyTeam alliance along with other carriers:
With these partners, you can book award travel on delta.com in the same way you do for Delta flights:
- Aerolineas Argentinas
- Air France
- China Eastern
- China Airlines
- China Southern
- Hawaiian Airlines
- KLM Royal Dutch Airlines
- Korean Air
- Mandarin Airlines
- Middle East Airlines
- Saudia Airlines
- Shanghai Airlines
- Tarom Airlines
- Vietnam Airlines
- Virgin Atlantic
- Virgin Australia
- Xiamen Airlines
For these other partners, you must contact Delta Reservations for help in booking award travel:
- Air Europa
- Air Tahiti Nui
- Czech Airlines
- Garuda Indonesia
- Kenya Airways
How to Maximize Your Rewards
Getting the most from this card begins, of course, with ensuring you spend the required $1,000 within the first three months and earn the 35,000-mile bonus. After that, be sure to use the card for all of your Delta purchases to earn 2 miles per dollar, including at restaurants and supermarkets. You might also use it for non-Delta purchases as well, and earn 1 mile per dollar spent, although you may well have a card that offers a better reward than that.
Keep track of this card's perks and rewards, since they change from time to time. And keep them in mind when you travel, to boost the value you get from this card. For example, checking your first bag for free on each flight allows you to skip a $30 charge. You receive a 20% savings when you use this card for Delta in-flight purchases on food, beverages, and audio headsets.
Lastly, be careful about how you redeem your miles. As a rule, you'll get the most for your money by redeeming your miles for flights. By our calculations, redeeming for gift cards, hotel stays, and merchandise will yield less for your money.
For our scenario, let’s assume you live in the New York area and take three round-trip flights on Delta per year, all charged to this card to earn 2 miles per dollar spent. According to the Bureau of Transportation, you'd spend an average of $402 per round-trip flight from JFK International Airport. Let's further assume that on each trip you spend $500 on non-Delta purchases like lodging, ground transportation, and other miscellaneous expenses, again charged to the card but at the standard 1-mile-per-dollar rate.
At the end of the year, you would have earned 3,936 miles with this card. Those rewards would be worth about $63 when redeemed through Delta—which is well below the annual fee. Our calculation includes the miles you would earn by using this card for flights and expenses. It does not, however, consider the miles you would earn if you used this card for daily spending or of the 35,000 you might earn with the one-time offer.
Taking advantage of this card's perks—especially the free checked bag on every flight—could add more value. If you checked a bag on each of the three round-trip flights, you'd save $180 in fees for checking a bag.
Naturally, those who travel a lot, and on Delta, will get proportionately larger returns by owning this card.
For example, someone who travelled once a month, flying on Delta out of Atlanta International Airport, would spend an average of around $4,150 on round-trip tickets per year, according to the Bureau of Transportation. If they spent (and charged to the Delta Skymiles Gold card) an additional $500 on non-Delta purchases on each trip, they'd earn a total of about 14,300 points for the year. Those would be worth $229 when redeemed through Delta, which is nearly double the card’s annual fee.
In the event our traveling cardholder checked bags on each of the dozen round-trip flights, they'd add $720 in saved baggage fees to the financial benefit of the card. There's a caveat here, however: The travelers’ spending could well qualify him or her for a membership tier that offers this perk, regardless of the card you use to pay for the flights.
The total annual benefit for this card use, then, would be about $950, or nearly 10 times the card’s annual fee. And that doesn’t count possible additional earnings from miscellaneous purchases charged to the card that earned 1 cent per dollar spent.
Delta SkyMiles Gold Amex Credit Card's Outstanding Benefits
- First checked bag is free
- 20% in-flight savings on food, beverages, and audio headsets
- No fraud liability
- Rental car collision insurance (secondary to your own policy)
- 24/7 global assist hotline
- Access to exclusive cardmember-only events
According to J.D. Power's 2019 U.S. Credit Card Satisfaction Survey, American Express, the issuer of this card, ranks second overall for customer satisfaction, behind Discover.
Chat assistance is also available on the Amex website. You can also connect with American Express on Facebook or tweet questions and comments to @AskAmex.
The Delta SkyMiles Gold Amex card offers the typical array of measures to thwart fraud, including monitoring your account for suspicious transactions and contacting you if fraudulent activity is suspected. A few less-common protections with American Express include:
- Using 128-bit encryption technology to protect online user IDs and passwords.
- Automatically logging you out from online account access after 10 minutes of inactivity.
- Allowing members to establish a Personal Security Key to authenticate account access.
- Using pre-purchase verification to verify your personal information before authorizing a transaction.
The Gold Delta SkyMiles Amex is a strong choice for those who frequently fly Delta or its SkyTeam partners. With miles used for flights worth more than a cent-and-a-half apiece, and 2 miles earned per dollar spent at Delta and on food, cardholders could justify the card’s $99 annual fee if they spent $3,100 with Delta or at restaurants or supermarkets over the course of a year. The extras like waived baggage fees would be incremental savings, with the 35,000-point introductory bonus a welcome windfall.
Even if a cardholder didn’t spend more than was required to earn the bonus, they could employ the value of that bonus, worth $560 when used for flights, as a justification for six or more years of the card's fee. During those years, you’d also enjoy the other benefits of the card, such as free baggage checks and early boarding, even if they lack a high status in Delta's SkyMiles program.
Even though its rewards are food rewards are decent, pairing the Gold Delta SkyMiles Amex with a cash-back card to get more from day-to-day spending could be a good move. For example, the American Express Blue Preferred card offers 6% on groceries at U.S. supermarkets up to $6,000 per year and streaming services, 3% cash-back on gas at U.S. gas stations, and 1% cash-back on all other purchases.
True Delta enthusiasts who are able to maximize the miles they earn and fully utilize perks will find this card most beneficial. Other cards, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, are better for travelers who require more choice and flexibility when they travel.