Delta Credit Cards: Huge Changes Coming

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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.

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