If you frequently fly Delta Air Lines, you likely have a Delta credit card or have at least considered signing up for one.
Delta credit cards like the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card and Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card can provide useful travel perks, such as waived checked bag fees, priority boarding benefits and 15% back when booking award travel on Delta flights. I had the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card when I flew Delta more frequently and found I got significant value from the first-checked-bag-free benefit even if I only flew Delta a few times each year.
There’s certainly a lot to love about Delta credit cards. But, even if you have a Delta card that you find beneficial, you may find it useful to also have an American Express Membership Rewards card. Here’s why.
More ways to book Delta award flights
If you use a Delta credit card for most purchases, you may be limited to redeeming Delta miles if you want to book an award flight. And since Delta SkyMiles uses dynamic award pricing, it’s not uncommon to see high award rates. But if you earn transferable rewards, you’ll have more options when booking award flights (even if you want to fly Delta).
After all, you can transfer American Express Membership Rewards points to several of Delta’s SkyTeam partners and then book Delta-operated award flights through these partners (sometimes at lower rates than you’d be able to through Delta). Or, if you decide you want to earn Delta miles, you can also transfer American Express Membership Rewards points to Delta (but beware of the excise tax of $0.0006 per point when doing so).
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club is a 1:1 transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards and one of the best-value SkyTeam partners for booking Delta-operated flights. You can get particularly good value when you book short-haul Delta flights using Virgin Atlantic points. Economy flights of 500 miles or less cost 7,500 Virgin Atlantic points, while economy flights of 501 to 1,000 miles cost 8,500 points.
You may find more award options with Delta SkyMiles, but rates for short-haul flights are often better through Virgin Atlantic. For example, while writing this article, I found seven Delta-operated award flights through Delta SkyMiles from Atlanta to Charleston, South Carolina, on Nov. 7 (each for 14,000 miles and $5.60 in basic economy). But only two of these flights were bookable through Virgin Atlantic Flying Club (each for 7,500 points and $5.60 per person in Main Cabin economy).
By checking Virgin Atlantic when you need to book short-haul Delta-operated awards, you might snag a better-value redemption. In the example above, I could transfer 7,500 Membership Rewards points to book a Main Cabin award through Virgin Atlantic or redeem 14,000 points for a basic economy award through Delta on the same flight. Considering I’d likely redeem more miles to book a Main Cabin award if I were to book through Delta, Virgin Atlantic provides a much more appealing option for this award.
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Airport lounge access
The Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card and Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card offer complimentary access to Delta Sky Club lounges, Centurion lounges and U.S. Escape lounges for cardmembers traveling on a same-day Delta-marketed or Delta-operated flight.
Meanwhile, Delta SkyMiles Platinum American Express Card and Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card cardmembers can pay $50 per person per visit for Delta Sky Club access when traveling on a same-day Delta or Delta partner airline flight.
It’s worth noting that airport lounge access through select cobranded Delta credit cards is only available when you’re flying Delta (or, in some cases, a Delta partner airline). So, if you occasionally fly other airlines, you may benefit from the broader lounge access offered by select American Express Membership Rewards cards.
- Centurion lounges: Complimentary access to all locations of the Centurion Lounge within three hours of departure (you can earn complimentary guest access for up to two guests per visit by spending $75,000 or more on eligible purchases on your card in a calendar year).
- U.S. Escape lounges: Complimentary access for the cardmember and up to two guests (or the cardmember’s spouse or domestic partner and children under 18) with proof of same-day travel.
- Delta Sky Club lounges: Complimentary access to Sky Club lounges within three hours of scheduled departure on a same-day Delta-operated flight or during a layover between two Delta-operated flights on the same ticket.
So, you can visit U.S. Escape lounges and Centurion lounges when flying any airline if you have The Platinum Card from American Express or The Business Platinum Card from American Express. Meanwhile, you’d only get complimentary lounge access when flying Delta-marketed or Delta-operated flights if you had the Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card or Delta SkyMiles Reserve Business American Express Card.
Get a card that better fits your spending
Most Delta credit cards offer bonus rewards on purchases made directly with Delta. In some cases, you may also earn more than 1 mile per dollar spent on purchases in select other categories. But if you’re currently using a Delta credit card for most of your everyday purchases, there’s likely a better-earning Membership Rewards card you could use.
Here’s a look at the earning rates across popular spending categories for some of the most popular Membership Rewards cards:
|Card||Points per dollar spent||Annual fee|
|The Platinum Card from American Express||
||$695 (see rates and fees)|
|American Express® Gold Card||
||$250 (see rates and fees)|
|American Express Green Card||
||$150 (see rates and fees)|
|The Business Platinum Card from American Express||
||$695 (see rates and fees)|
|American Express® Business Gold Card||
||$295 (see rates and fees)|
|The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express||
||No annual fee (see rates and fees)|
As you can see, many of the American Express Membership Rewards cards discussed above earn bonus points on flights booked directly with an airline or with American Express Travel. With these cards, you’d earn bonus points when booking directly with all airlines, not just with Delta.
Likewise, the American Express Green Card is valuable for frequent travelers due to earning 3 points per dollar spent on general travel purchases, including flights, hotels, transit and vacation rentals. And the no-annual-fee Blue Business Plus Credit Card is useful for its 2 points per dollar earned on the first $50,000 spent each calendar year.
Consider what purchases you often make that only earn 1 point or mile per dollar spent. Check the above table to see whether you can earn more with an American Express Membership Rewards card. Many of these cards come with extra credits and perks that can help you justify the sometimes sizable annual fee.
Unlock more award travel options
You likely already know you can redeem Delta miles for flights on SkyTeam partners. But, if you earn American Express Membership Rewards points, you unlock a much larger set of loyalty programs through which you can book award travel.
Membership Rewards has 18 airline partners to which you can transfer points. And some American Express Membership Rewards transfer partners may provide a better value on your next trip than Delta SkyMiles. Look at some of our favorite Membership Rewards sweet spots for inspiration and study our guide to redeeming Membership Rewards points to get maximum value from your points.
For example, you could transfer Membership Rewards points to Air France-KLM Flying Blue at a 1:1 ratio. You could snag a Flying Blue Promo Reward with these miles. Or you could use Air France-KLM Flying Blue to fly from the U.S. to Europe in economy, often for under 20,000 miles one-way. Best of all, the taxes and fees on these awards are often modest.
You could also transfer Membership Rewards points to Singapore KrisFlyer and book nonstop Alaska Airlines-operated flights to Hawaii from many U.S. cities with these miles. You have to call KrisFlyer Membership Services to book these awards currently. Based on KrisFlyer’s Alaska award chart, you can fly on nonstop Alaska-operated flights between the continental U.S. and Hawaii for as little as 13,000 Singapore KrisFlyer miles.
Transferring Membership Rewards points to British Airways Executive Club can also provide good value. For as little as 13,000 Avios each way, you can fly between the U.S. and Ireland or between the continental U.S. and Hawaii. And you can sometimes get excellent value when you redeem British Airways Avios for short-haul flights to or from Oneworld airline hubs. For example, here are a few short-haul awards I found for 7,500 Avios or less:
As you can see, many options exist for redeeming Membership Rewards points for flights. I recommend using a tool like point.me to see all the award options you can book with Membership Rewards transfer partners once you have a specific trip in mind.
A Delta credit card can be extremely valuable even if you only fly Delta a few times each year. And the more you fly Delta, the more value you’ll get from a card like the Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card, which offers a first checked bag free and Main Cabin 1 priority boarding on Delta flights for the cardmember and up to nine travel companions traveling on the same reservation.
But, even if you love your Delta credit card, you may benefit from having one or more American Express Membership Rewards cards. The points these cards earn can unlock other ways to book Delta flights and provide other redemption options when Delta and its SkyTeam partners aren’t best for your trip. Plus, these cards may offer bonus earnings in spending categories where you currently earn just 1 mile per dollar spent. So, a Membership Rewards card is worth considering even if you frequently fly Delta Air Lines.