Why the changes Amex made to the Delta SkyMiles cards made me want to keep mine – The Points Guy

On Feb. 1, Delta Air Lines and American Express announced some big changes, including a total reimagining of their cobranded credit card portfolio — which hasn’t had a major update since January 2020.

I’m a longtime holder of the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card, which I’d used for years to requalify for Delta Medallion elite status thanks, in part, to spending on that card. As I look ahead to my strategy as a Diamond Medallion member in 2024, I’m thrilled with the new perks — such as enhanced travel benefits, improvements to companion certificates and new statement credits.

These cards have become an even more powerful tool for casual and frequent Delta flyers alike.

Here are the five changes to the Delta Amex cards I’m most excited about.

Statement credits help cover the annual fees

I’m a big fan of the great selection of new statement credits now offered on the following Delta SkyMiles credit cards:

All of these cards now come with new (or enhanced) credits similar to what we’ve seen on other American Express cards (like one of my other favorites, The Platinum Card® from American Express). For me, the aggregate value of these benefits is an easy way to offset most (or even all) of the cards’ annual fees.

Here’s a table that summarizes the new credits along with existing credits:

Note that the total value of these statement credits can go a long way in covering each card’s annual fee.

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For the Resy statement credits, once you enroll, all that’s required is to use your eligible Delta Amex card to make an eligible purchase with a Resy restaurant in the U.S. Once you do, you’ll receive a statement credit up to the monthly maximum on that card.

It’s a similar story for the ride-hailing services credit; just add your eligible Delta SkyMiles card as a payment method in your Uber or Lyft app, and when you charge a ride to it, you’ll receive up to $10 back as a statement credit each month. The credits will also work with Revel, Curb and Alto.

Finally, the Delta Stays credits are available for eligible purchases at travelextras-delta.com. Each year, you’ll receive up to $250 in statement credits for prepaid hotels or vacation rentals booked through this site (depending on the card you use) and also score at least 2 miles per dollar spent.

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I have a good track record of maximizing statement credits on other cards, so if I can do the same on my Delta SkyMiles Reserve Card, I can get $560 in annual statement credits thanks to these new benefits.

Meanwhile, on the Delta SkyMiles Platinum Card, if you maxed out the new statement credits, you’d come out at $390 in total value.

And remember, every dollar spent on the Delta SkyMiles Platinum Card and the Delta SkyMiles Reserve Card — including purchases with merchants that now offer statement credits — now goes toward earning status. This allows you to enjoy enhanced value beyond just booking flights.

Delta Companion Certificates become dramatically more valuable

A Delta SkyMiles Companion Certificate. DELTA

In the past, you had a more limited footprint where you could use your Delta Companion Certificate, as they hadn’t been valid on flights to places like Alaska, Hawaii or international destinations.

However, the certificates are now more valuable than ever for how I travel.

Both the Delta SkyMiles Platinum Card and the Delta SkyMiles Reserve Card come with an annual Companion Certificate at each renewal, valid for round-trip tickets in select fare classes. You can earn more than one by holding multiple eligible Delta SkyMiles cards.

Related: Save money on flights with the annual Delta companion ticket

The certificates are now good for flights to all 50 U.S. states, including Hawaii and Alaska, plus Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean.

On the Delta SkyMiles Platinum cards, the companion ticket is valid for economy tickets in the L, U, T, X or V fare classes. This excludes Delta’s basic economy fares (E class) and some higher coach fare classes.

For the Delta SkyMiles Reserve cards, the companion ticket can also be used for first class, Delta Premium Select and Delta Comfort+ in addition to economy — that’s the A, G, I, S, W and Z fare classes. Note that you can only use the certificates in first class or premium economy when eligible economy classes (L, U, T, X or V) are available.

Delta companion tickets are valid for a year from the date of issue, and you need to book and complete the trip by the expiration date.

The Companion Certificate requires payment of government-imposed taxes and fees of no more than $80 for round-trip domestic flights and no more than $250 for round-trip international flights (both for itineraries with up to four flight segments). Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.

It’s a great way to save money on your next Delta flight, and this expansion of destinations makes these companion certificates even more valuable.

Delta lounge access

A new Delta lounge at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK). CLINT HENDERSON/THE POINTS GUY

As a Delta SkyMiles Reserve cardmember, I’m pleased with the revised lounge access rules.

Delta has been making a real effort to expand and upgrade its lounges. From opening a second club at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) to the massive new lounge at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), Delta has been pushing hard to make the lounges more desirable.

Delta SkyMiles Reserve cardmembers will continue to get unlimited visits to Delta Sky Clubs through Jan. 31, 2025. You’ll also now get four one-time guest passes (up from two previously). This is a cool feature for me since I sometimes like to travel with a buddy.

Starting in February 2025, you’ll receive 15 visits annually with the card — with a visit defined as a 24-hour window (to allow for access upon departure and at a connecting airport, if applicable). You’ll also be able to purchase additional visits at a rate of $50 per visit, per person.

However, if you want to continue to enjoy unlimited Delta Sky Club access, you can spend $75,000 in a calendar year on your Delta SkyMiles Reserve Card. For example, if you were to spend $75,000 on the card in 2024, you’ll get unlimited access through Jan. 31, 2026.

Beyond unlocking unlimited Sky Club access, this spending also counts toward Medallion status for the next Medallion qualification year — which we’ll cover now.

Status boosts

Delta One Suites. ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

Delta has come up with some fun ways to gain a shortcut to elite status, including the opportunity to spend your way to status while also earning SkyMiles on everyday purchases. You also earn Medallion Qualification Dollars on spending on Delta Air Lines and partner flights. I’ve taken advantage of this by booking on KLM and Aeromexico this year, and those MQDs really add up.

However, eligible Delta SkyMiles cards now offer two new ways to accelerate your pathway to Medallion status.

First, Delta and American Express have added a new perk for cardmembers with one (or more) of the following cards:

For each of these cards you hold, you’ll get 2,500 MQDs at the start of each year just for being a cardmember. That’s halfway to Silver Medallion status, just for being a cardmember!

Even better? These stack for travelers with multiple eligible cards.

For example, if you have both the Delta SkyMiles Reserve and Delta SkyMiles Platinum cards, you start each year with 5,000 MQDs. That’s enough for Silver Medallion status before you spend a cent on your cards (or even set foot on a Delta plane).

No other major U.S. airline offers this kind of automatic boost toward status for its cardholders.

Everyone with an eligible card should see this “MQD Headstart” hit their account within six to eight weeks of Feb. 1, giving you a solid jump on qualification.

Beyond this initial deposit of MQDs, cardmembers can also earn MQDs based on everyday purchases. As originally announced in the fall, those with a Delta SkyMiles Reserve Card earn $1 MQD for every $10 spent, while those with a Delta SkyMiles Platinum Card earn $1 MQD for every $20 you spend.

There’s no limit to how many MQDs you can earn from credit card spending. And if you combine these earnings with the MQD Headstart, you could unlock a higher status level just on the purchases you’re making every day.

Related: Best credit cards for flying Delta

Delta Air Lines’ growing travel footprint

CLINT HENDERSON/THE POINTS GUY

I’m increasingly impressed with Delta’s growing push to be more than just an airline, as it’s making a real attempt to keep customers plugged in through all aspects of travel. That includes connecting SkyMiles members (literally) with free Wi-Fi on most flights, the growing list of Delta Sky Clubs and much more.

Among the initiatives I’m interested in learning more about is Delta Vacations, which was updated last year to provide even more value to SkyMiles members.

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In the past, you’d receive MQDs for just the Delta flights booked through Delta Vacations. Now, you’ll earn MQDs on the whole trip, including hotels and car rentals. You’ll earn 1 MQD for each dollar you spend on your vacation package (excluding taxes).

And if you use your Delta SkyMiles Platinum Card or Delta SkyMiles Reserve Card, you’ll earn even more MQDs toward status ($1 MQD per $20 of purchases for Platinum cardmembers; $1 MQD per $10 of purchases for Reserve cardmembers).

SkyMiles members also get discounts of up to $250 per booking with Delta Vacations, along with up to 10,000 bonus miles. Platinum and Diamond Medallion travelers can also choose a Delta Vacations credit as part of their annual Delta Choice Benefits.

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Bottom line

Call me a convert. A few months ago, I anticipated a move away from Delta SkyMiles and its cobranded cards.

However, Delta listened to customer feedback in adjusting its plans for 2024, and now, American Express has unveiled a bunch of exciting new benefits for eligible Delta SkyMiles Amex cardmembers, including a slew of statement credits.

Delta is also allowing elite members like me to use up their rollover MQMs from last year by extending their 2024 status. For every 100,000 rollover MQMs you had sitting in your account after the end of 2023, you can choose to extend your status by a year. I was sitting on 133,671 rollover MQMs, so I can extend my Diamond status through 2025.

Now, with the array of new ways to earn MQDs, it looks like I will be enjoying top-tier Delta status for several more years, and I’ll keep that Delta Reserve credit card far into the future. In fact, I may even open another card — especially with the new limited-time offers that just launched.

I’m excited to see where I head with Delta in 2024 … and beyond.

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