Stop putting spend on your Delta card


The thing that I love about many airline mileage programs is that it is sometimes possible to get far outsized value for your points. For example, you may be able to book a $3,000 flight for around 50,000 airline miles. That’s a value of 6 cents per point. But over the years Delta has been stomping out those kinds of great values. Today you can expect that $3,000 flight to cost around 300,000 Delta miles. Delta has been systematically pushing the value of their miles down towards a penny each. Sometimes you may still find outsized value with Delta miles, but not often. My advice: if you’ve been putting spend on your Delta card, it’s time to stop. There are many much better options.

Delta Credit Cards

Keep your card, spend elsewhere

If you’re a frequent Delta flier, Delta Gold, Platinum, and Reserve cards are good cards to have for their perks. But you don’t need to put your daily spend on these cards to benefit:

  • Delta Gold: For $150 per year, you get a free checked bag for everyone on the same itinerary, priority boarding; 15% off award bookings; and up to $100 back on hotels booked through Delta Stays (up to $150 back with the Delta Gold Business card).
  • Delta Platinum: For $350 per year, you get all of the Gold card perks; an annual companion ticket upon renewal; a number of elite status perks; a bigger rebate for Delta Stays; and rebates for Resy restaurants and select rideshares.
  • Delta Reserve: For $650 per year, you get all of the Delta Platinum perks; a better companion ticket; SkyClub access (starting 2/1/25, limited to 15 visit-days per year) plus 4 guest passes; Centurion Lounge access when flying Delta; bigger rebates for hotels and Resy restaurants; and more.

In each case above, the card’s perks can easily make the card worth keeping long term. But that doesn’t mean you need to put spend on the card except when trying to earn annual rebates. For all other spend, you’d be better off with any number of other cards. For example, a simple 2% cash back card would be way more rewarding. I’ll take 2 cents back per dollar any day compared to 1 Delta SkyMile per dollar. If you prefer points that can transfer to airline and hotel programs, consider one of these:

For many more options, see:

What about paying for Delta flights?

Nope, I don’t recommend using your Delta card even for Delta flights. Delta cards offer 2x or 3x SkyMiles per dollar when using the card to pay for Delta flights. But many cards offer 3x or more transferable points for any airline spend. And even if your card only earns 2x transferable points (such as with the Sapphire Preferred card), I’d argue that there’s more potential upside to 2x transferable points vs 3x Delta miles.

What about checked-bags?

You don’t need to pay with your Delta card in order to get travel perks like free checked bags. Those perks are tied to your Delta SkyMiles account and how you pay is irrelevant.

What about companion tickets?

You don’t even need to pay with a Delta card for companion ticket flights. You do need to pay with an Amex card, but it doesn’t have to be a Delta card. Those with an Amex Platinum card would do well to use that since it earns 5x Membership Rewards points (which are transferable to Delta and many other airline programs) for flights.

The Exception

If you highly value Delta elite status, it can make sense to put big spend on a Delta Reserve card in order to earn one MQD per $10. Since the Delta Platinum card only earns half as many MQDs, I don’t recommend putting spend there.


Most Delta flyers would do well to keep their Delta card for its perks, but put their spend elsewhere. The one exception I can think of is that it can make sense to spend heavily on the Delta Reserve card if you highly value elite status. For everyone else, it’s time to find a better card for your spend.

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This article came as a huge surprise – GOOD SURPRISE! Until I read it, like many others, I assumed you had to lay with a Delta card to get free checked bags. Nobody in my family has any elite Delta status, so we assumed.”Buy tickets with a. Delta card ” to get free checked bags. Is that really not the case? I ask because then I can’t make head or tail of the fact when corbeanded airline cards as marketed as “get checked bags free with this card “. Can’t get my head around this….


My entire family has been Delta loyal for many years, and my daughter was apparently the youngest Skymiles member for a while, but for me it all just changed.
This year I have rollover that I can use to extend my Diamond status, so I called Delta to understand how this works relative to spend. The agent did not know, so she checked with the Skymiles desk and was told that if I made my spend I would get an additional year of Diamond added to my rollover Diamond. I verified this more than once.
After $80k in credit card charges, I was told on another call that I had been given the wrong information and that my spend would not be honored. This led to a number of polite email exchanges, with me pointing out the obvious flaws and lack of clarity in the program, and noting that I had based my $80k in charges on the reassurances that came directly from the Skymiles team.
I never received a good explanation, and my questions never were actually answered (since the program itself and the web pages both have some serious flaws). I had studied the web pages carefully and they were not able to explain this away, while continuing to ignore what I had been told. I also gave them the dates and times of my calls so that they could verify what was said.
After about 5 or 6 email exchanges I was told by the executive desk that they were not going to answer any more questions or explain any further.
I’ve stopped all spend on my Reserve Card, and I will now cancel all but one of my Delta cards, but I just wasted $80k based on the incorrect information that Delta gave me, which they now refuse to honor. That spend has $0 value for me now, although I think maybe it got me some extra club visits or something else fairly insignificant.
I will still fly Delta, but only when the fares are competitive and it is the most convenient option, which often is not the case. In its efforts to become more premium, Delta has just succeeded in commoditizing itself.

andrew brenner

You don’t need to pay with your Delta card in order to get travel perks like free checked bags. Those perks are tied to your Delta SkyMiles account and how you pay is irrelevant.

Please explain. This isn’t for all tickets, correct? The cheapest fares do not include any perks.


People who complain about Delta cards being virtually useless for travel have never used one for scrapping gum off the sole of a shoe. Delta cards have much better uses than just babysitting socks in a sock drawer.


I’m not sure about the companion ticket comment. I just booked my first companion flight and it wouldn’t take my AMEX Platinum card. I called Delta and they told me I had to put the paid portion on my Delta card.


I never had spent much on the card, but since the new MQD boost I’m putting groceries on my SkyMiles Platinum this year and I’ll soon achieve Medallion for the first time. You imply here that all spending is 1x SkyMiles, but e.g. groceries are 2x.


Well, I get 1.5x points and zero MQDs with Chase.

Nick Reyes

That may be true, but you have to consider your opportunity cost.

You can earn an unlimited 3% back on groceries with no annual fee with the Capital One Savor card or 4x Membership Rewards points per dollar spent at U.S. Supermarkets on up to $25K spent per year (then 1x).

To keep the math simple, let’s say you would spend $25,000 on groceries this year. Here are your options:

  1. Spend $25K on your Delta Platinum card, get 50,000 Delta miles and $1,250 MQDs.
  2. Spend $25K on a Capital One Savor One card and have $750 in cash
  3. Spend $25K on an Amex Gold card and have 100,000 Membership Rewards points

The 50K Delta miles you will earn on the Delta Platinum are worth around $500. If you would otherwise be willing to pay $250 for $1,250 MQDs, then Option 1 beats Option 2. I know that sounds like a no-brainer initially, but of course it only is if that $1,250 makes a difference in hitting an elite status tier — and then you have to ask whether the incremental benefits of that tier are worth paying $250 to receive. They certainly may be, I’m just saying that you have to do the math.

Option #3 means having 100,000 points that could become 100,000 Delta miles if you wanted Delta miles (50K miles more than you’ll earn with your Delta Platinum) or you’ll have the flexibility to transfer them to programs where it is possible to get far more value. We conservatively value Membership Rewards points at 1.5c per point, but you can obviously do far better with them depending on how you use them. For instance, 100K can be enough or very nearly enough for a round trip business class flight to Europe from the US with some of the Amex transfer partners. Whether that is worth more to you than 50K Delta miles and $1,250 is what you need to consider.

Finally, consider that the Delta Reserve card offers 1 MQD per $10 spent. Generating the same $1,250 MQDs would require half the spend ($12,500). All of the above so far is just an imaginary situation, but continuing the same example of a world in which $1,250 MQDs is what you’re after, you could accomplish that with $12,500 spend on a Delta Reserve and then with the other $12.5K spend you could:

  1. Spend $12.5K on the Capital One SavorOne and have $375 in cash
  2. Spend $12.5K on an Amex Gold card at U.S. Supermarkets and have 50,000 Membership Rewards points

I recognize that the Reserve card has a higher annual fee, but you could essentially make up for most of the difference with a no-annual-fee SavorOne card at the grocery store for that other $12.5K in spend and then get to enjoy the elevated benefits of the Reserve or you could switch to the Amex Gold card at the $12.5K mark and end up with your MQDs and more miles.

Obviously you may not have the SavorOne or the Gold card and you may need more or less MQDs. The examples above also leave out other options, like a Citi Strata Premier for 3x transferable points per dollar spent at grocery stores (though the Capital One cash back can also become 3x transferable points if paired with a Capital One miles-earning card).

Just some food for thought.


I stopped using my delta platinum card when they change the spending requirements. Should done it long before that.
I get much better reward reward points for dollar spent on my usbank visa. We only keep the delta card for the companion pass and the bags.


Says Greg after spending hundreds of thousand of dollars on Delta cards just 7 months ago…


I wonder if it will prove to have been worth it. Time will tell. Living near a DL hub and being DM, I just don’t see much value there, but we also avoid DL to the extent possible (prefer UA, NK amd AS) and will probably never again qualify for DM.


Spending on delta reserve also gets unlimited sky club access, so if one wants status, they use the reserve, and then might as well hit 75k spend for sky club


People who look at Delta status rationally are missing the influence of behavioral economics. I recommend John Hodgman’s 2019 book “Medallion Status: True Stories from Secret Rooms” where he hilariously examines the siren appeal of his “beloved airline.” I just achieved Gold Status this week after many years of being a Silver, and I regret nothing!


Totally agree. My husband and I were just talking about how we went from about 100k across our Delta cards to only using them for offers or resy/uber credits. We wondered how many other people have done the same and if AMEX/Delta sees a change.


Couldn’t agree more. I fly delta roughly 2 x a year but have the reserve card. May seem silly to some but
$10 Uber credit used every month
A load a gift card to a restaurant at exactly $20 per month
Use the $200 hotel credit
Companion cert used for a transcontinental flight.
Since I fly out of Cleveland that doesn’t have a major presence from any airline and not at a delta hub then I get upgraded regularly when I do fly them
So even as a very infrequent flyer it pays for me to hold the card for now but I don’t put any spend for the reasons outlined in the article.

I may add the platinum card to use those credits and the companion certificate
This would give me automatic silver status which would help with extra checked when I fly Air France ( which I do about 2x a year )


Extra checked bag.


ATL is my home (the biggest DL hub) and the only time I use my Delta card is if there is a specific Amex offer that makes sense, and also to trigger the credit on Delta Stays. Outside of that, it stays put away.

One mildly positive thing I can say about SkyMiles these days is they do count towards MQD spend when you book an award, but that furthers the idea that they are more like a bank account where each mile is worth a penny each.


My one gripe about AA’s LP system is that the awards don’t similarly count. If I got 1 LP per award mile, I’d be much happier. But I also get 1 LP per $1 on my AA CC, plus all the additional ways I earn LPs, so I can only complain so much…

pb Jones

I’ve never understood why anyone even looks at Delta for miles flights unless they’re stuck at a hub. they’ve been a joke since the mid ’00s, generally two to three times what American or United flights ‘cost’ and often way worse


Indeed, they are usually extremely limited, but I have found some fair (not great) value using them on partners in Asia. For example, I go to Jakarta twice per year for my business. I book ATL to ICN on a paid ticket (GUC applied). From there I use 40K Skymiles from ICN to CGK for business class seat on Garuda Indonesia. It’s a 7 hour flight so for me it’s not a terrible way to spend Skymiles.

I’ve also gotten some fair value using them on Vietnam Airlines premium cabins as well.


This is it. Partner flights not involving Delta or the United States at all can sometimes be a good value with Delta miles. But not often enough that I put any priority at all on collecting them.


SkyMiles are the way I pay for most of my domestic travel. It can vary from city to city, but I routinely get 1.5 to 2 cents per mile for domestic economy tickets out of my home airport of SEA (with the 15% discount from having the Delta Amex). For example, I just bought a PHX-SEA flight for 5500 miles (cash fare was around $100). This was considerably less miles than AA, United and Alaska were charging. Not exciting, but more times than not Delta is the best option. These flights also award MQDs and count towards million miler status. And I usually check a bag, because 60-70% of the time I will get 2500 miles for late bags.

It is widely known that SkyMiles are a poor way to book premium cabin international travel, though we did book Delta One tickets to TPE for 146k miles roundtrip during a flash sale earlier this year.


When Delta announced SkyMiles changes in 2023, it was clear it wanted to drive revenue channels other than just airfare. While Delta did reverse course, its CEO stated the original changes are still the long-term targets.

Regarding just Delta cards, a reasonable comparison is the Amex Delta Reserve and the Citi AA Executive. If Delta wants to drive revenue to its hotel portal and rental car portal, it can readily see AA’s choice.

Regarding tier status, when Delta reversed course, rather than either/or, it should have kept BOTH the old and new MQD targets and given the customer choice.

For Diamond:
– $28k MQDs from only airfare
– $36k MQDs from a combination of airline, hotel portal, and rental car portal

And, throw in earn-able Delta 360 with appropriate MQD targets.