How Bad Are The Changes To The Delta Reserve Amex?

Forbes Finance 0 month ago
Crying Woman Sits On Bed With Bottle Of Champagne.
You may need a free drink or two in the Delta Skyclub after reading about all the negative changes ... [+] to the premiere Delta Reserve American Express Credit Card.

For those of you who love to fly Delta Airlines, you likely have, at some point, considered getting one of the American Express Delta Skymiles Cards. Amex recently announced big changes to its premium card, the Delta Reserve Amex. Some changes are good; others are quite costly. 

Starting on January 30, 2020, the Delta Skymiles Reserve credit will have new benefits, ranging from additional bonus categories to help you rack up more miles to complimentary upgrades and more airport lounge access. Some of these improvements are valuable. But what the big print giveth, the small print taketh away. Some of the so-called improvements are, in fact, expensive devaluations.

Full disclosure I currently hold the Delta Reserve Amex and was already on the fence about keeping it another year. In my opinion, the Two-for-one first class voucher is the most valuable benefit that comes with this card.   Sadly, for the second year in a row, it appears I will be unable to utilize this benefit; the flight available is just too restrictive.   I think these announced changes to the card will push firmly into the cancel this card realm.

The New Delta  Reserve Amex Changes Coming in 2020

Starting on January 30, 2020, both new and existing Delta Reserve cardholders will gain access to several new benefits.  Sadly, these benefits will be somewhat offset by a substantial increase in the annual fee for the Delta Reserve American Express. Furthermore, other benefits are somewhat silently being devalued in the fine print of these changes.

Here are the new perks and updates coming to the most premium of the American Express co-branded Delta Skymiles Cards, according to an email to current cardholders.

·        Annual fee increasing from $450 to $550

·        Access to American Express Centurion Lounges

·        Two Delta Sky Club one-time guest passes

·        Earn 3x miles on Delta purchases

·        Access to complimentary upgrades for those without Delta elite status

·        Up to $100 toward Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee

·        Ability to Earn up to 60,000 MQMs when you spend $120,000 or more in a single year with this credit card.

·        Earn 1.5x miles on all purchases after $150,000 in spending per calendar year

Keep reading as we delve further into the value of these changes to the top Delta Amex Credit Card.

Previously, I’d written about the major reasons to get the Delta Reserve American Express. They include: the free first class companion voucher, Delta Skyclub access, Elite Qualifying Miles, and the sign up bonuses. Luckily these benefits remain mostly in tact.

France, Paris, Woman sitting on bridge over the river Seine with the Eiffel tower in the background taking a selfie
Getting to Paris may be a little more expensive with the upcoming changes to the Delta Amex Reserve ... [+] Credit Card.

The New Higher $550 Annual Fee:

This devaluation is pretty straight forward; you will now be able to pay $100 more for the privilege of holding the Delta Reserve Amex. The new $550 annual fee is a 22% increase. Now the question becomes, will you be able to get 22% more value from this credit card? It will depend on your travel habits and spending.  

You may think that paying $550 for a credit card is crazy, but it does come with many benefits. For most people, you are probably right, but others may derive a large amount of value from their spending on this credit card.  The card still comes with a two for one first-class voucher – which if can use will easily surpass $550 in value

Lounge Access Expanded:

The Delta Reserve credit card gives you access to all the Delta Lounges, which is quite a nice perk. Free Starbucks coffee, water, snacks, and even booze. In my opinion, having a little bit of calm before boarding a crowded flight is priceless. 

In 2020, cardholders will also have access to the American Express Centurion Lounges.  While I have never personally never been inside one of these lounges, I’ve been told they are far more posh and glamorous than most (probably all) of the Delta Skyclubs. The problem here is that there are only nine lounges currently in the US.  If you happen to fly out of Seatle, Laguardia, or San Fran, you are in luck. A few more lounges should be opening in the coming years in places like Los Angeles.   Most everyone else will likely not find much value in this new perk.  

Free Guest Passes to the Delta Skyclub:

Guest passes for the lounge is actually a useful perk. There is nothing worse than traveling with a friend or family member who doesn’t have lounge access. With these two free Skyclub passes, you can bring a friend along with you at no charge.  The total value here is about $58, assuming a guest pass would typically cost around $29 each.

Earn 3x miles on Delta Purchases

Previously you would earn two miles per dollar with purchases on Delta. This was a shockingly cheap benefit, as you can get 5x the points on other American Express Credit Cards as well as 3x the points on the Chase Sapphire Reserve card for travel. There was virtually no reason to buy your Delta Airline tickets with your Delta co-branded credit card.

Starting in 2020, you will now get 3x the points for Delta Purchases. A 50% improvement, but I still wouldn’t use this card to buy my airline tickets. Other points or miles are just more valuable and easy to use.

Frequent Flyer Baggage Tag. Luggage
The Delta Reserve American Express can help you hit Delta Skymiles Platinum Status Faster.

Access to complimentary upgrades for those without Delta elite status

Who doesn’t love a free upgrade? While this sounds amazing, the odds of an upgrade are probably slim, if you have no airline status. You will still be in line behind all of the other people who do hold status with Delta.   That being said, even upgrades to economy comfort can save you several hundred dollars per year if you fly a lot.  Of course, if you fly that much, you will likely end up with status at some point.

Up to $100 toward Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee

What is better than having a global entry? Not having to pay for global entry. At this point, most of the premiere credit cards offer these benefits, so the Delta Reserve American Express is playing catch up. Personally, I just renewed my Global Entry and had the fee reimbursed with another credit card. Global entry only needs to be renewed every five years, so this benefit is great the year you need to renew. Over time, it averages out to about a $20 per year benefit.

Expanded Spending Bonuses:

Bonus Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs) is one of the biggest benefits of this card. When you spend certain amounts on this credit card per year, you will receive bonus MQMs, which can help you achieve higher Skymiles Status. Currently, you can receive up to 30,000 MQM per year if you spend $60,000 on the Delta Reserve Amex. Starting next year, there will be additional bonus thresholds at $90,000 and $120,000. Which can double the amount of MQMs your receive, bringing in a total of 60,000. This is enough to hit gold status without even flying.

This will be huge for loyal Delta Flyers who can spend 60,000-120,000 dollars per year on this one credit card.

Frustrated and worried young man portrait in grey t-shirt
Hopefully you won't see yourself crying when you see how bad the changes are to the Delta Reserve ... [+] American Express.

What is the Biggest Negative to the Changes?

What the expanded threshold bonuses giveth, the fine print taketh away. Previously you would also get redeemable miles with each spending threshold bonus. At $30,000 spent you would receive 15,000 bonus SkyMiles.  When you hit $60,000 in total, spend, you would receive an additional SkyMiles.  The bonus redeemable SkyMiles are going way in 2020.

At the very least, assuming just 1 cent per mile of value, this is a $300 devaluation of benefits for this card.   Thirty thousand SkyMiles should also be enough for a free domestic round trip ticket. Keeping that in mind, this could easily be $450-$600 less in benefits for those who use this card regularly and hit the $60,000 spending threshold.

More Miles for the Biggest Spenders:

I can’t imagine many people are going to spend $150,000 on this credit card, but if you do, you will be a 50% bonus on spending beyond that amount. So, in plain English – each dollar spent beyond $150,000 per the calendar year will receive 1.5 miles.  If you are spending this much, you should take the time to get the most miles or points for your spending, and it won’t likely be with this added benefit.

What to do now?

If you already have this card- take a look at the changes and see if you will continue to get at least the $550 of value from this card. If you have been successful using the two-for-one voucher- you should be good to go right there. 

If you don’t already have this card and aren’t a huge Delta flyer, check out other credit cards that may have better benefits for where you fly and spend.


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