August 17, 2022

Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card: This Amex Middle Child Offers Decent Rewards

The Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card is the middle child of the Delta SkyMiles…

Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card: This Amex Middle Child Offers Decent Rewards

The Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card is the middle child of the Delta SkyMiles credit card family. It doesn’t offer as much value as its older siblings (Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card and Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card) and it’s not as low-maintenance as its younger sibling (the no-annual-fee Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card). 

But because of that positioning, the Delta SkyMiles Gold offers one of the best deals to get acquainted with the Delta SkyMiles card family. It has better rewards than the Blue, while the Gold has a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $99 (see rates and fees). If you end up spending more than anticipated on Delta flights, or you want the added perks of the Platinum or Reserve version, you can always upgrade.

Overall, the Delta SkyMiles Gold is best suited for those who fly Delta a few times a year. If you fly less than that, the Delta SkyMiles Blue might be better. And if you fly much more than that, the added value of the Delta SkyMiles Platinum may make up for its $250 annual fee. Read on to learn more about this card’s rewards, welcome offer and a comparison to its closest competitors.

In this article

Intro OfferEarn 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.

APR16.49% – 25.49% Variable

Recommended Credit Excellent/Good

Reward Rates

  • Earn 2X Miles on Delta purchases, at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery in the U.S., and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases.

Annual Fee$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $99

Intro Purchase APRN/A

Late Payment Fee Up to $40

Foreign Transaction Fees None

Penalty APR 29.99% Variable

  • Earn 2X Miles on Delta purchases, at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery in the U.S., and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases.

Rewards and welcome offer

The Delta SkyMiles Gold is a good introduction to airline cards and their unique rewards structure. Airline card rewards are brand-specific and a lot of the real value comes from incentives such as free checked bags, flight credits or in-flight discounts.

That’s why we don’t generally recommend using an airline co-branded credit card as your go-to for most spending. Usually a comparable card will get you a better rewards rate, and in a currency that’s more flexible (either cash or a flexible credit card currency like Ultimate Rewards points). Delta’s frequent flyers will be able to derive enough value in many cases, though.

As a travel rewards credit card, the Delta SkyMiles Gold’s rewards structure doesn’t stack up well against the competition. You’ll earn 2x Delta SkyMiles at restaurants (including delivery and takeout in the U.S.), 2x miles at U.S. supermarkets, 2x miles on Delta purchases, and 1x miles on all other eligible purchases. Those rates are lower than you’d find with comparable cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card ($95 annual fee), which offers 5x points on travel booked through Chase and 3x points on dining.

Perhaps the biggest draw of the Delta SkyMiles Gold is the welcome offer. Cardholders need only spend $1,000 in the first three months to earn 40,000 bonus miles, which is a great deal and won’t require too much work to unlock. The Delta SkyMiles Blue, on the other hand, only offers 10,000 bonus miles after spending $500 in the first three months.

Rewards redemption

As with many airline co-branded credit cards, the rewards currency is the frequent flier mile currency used by the airline. In this case, that means you’ll earn Delta SkyMiles on your spending. These miles are non-transferable (except to other SkyMiles members), so you’re constrained to using them with Delta, as opposed to other travel credit card rewards like Chase’s Ultimate Rewards points or AmEx’s Membership Rewards® points, which can be transferred to a list of affiliate partners. 

That said, you can also book flights through Delta with other members of the SkyTeam airline alliance, which includes Air France, Korean Air, KLM and 15 more companies spread across the globe.

The value of Delta SkyMiles will depend on how you use them — generally speaking you can often get better value for longer flights and business and first class. You can also occasionally find “sweet spots” where they’re worth more than usual. In my own experience, I usually get around 1 to 1.2 cents per mile when booking Delta flights with SkyMiles. I prefer to fly Delta, and I almost always book economy.

That means that the 40,000 bonus mile welcome offer (after spending $1,000 in the first three months) should be worth around $400 or more, and the 2x mile reward rates will earn you about 2% back.

You can also redeem SkyMiles to upgrade your seat, buy Delta gift cards and subscribe to magazines, but we don’t recommend those options as you typically won’t get the higher value you would when redeeming them for Delta or SkyTeam Alliance flights.

Other travel perks

Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Enrollment may be required for select American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more.

You can also earn a $100 Delta Flight Credit after spending $10,000 or more on your card during a calendar year. We don’t value this credit too highly, since that spending threshold is high for a card with mediocre rewards, and $100 is only 1% of the required spend. 

Cardholders also get their first checked bag free on Delta flights, 20% back (in the form of a statement credit) on eligible Delta in-flight purchases like food or beverages, car rental loss and damage insurance* and no foreign transaction fees. This is typical for most airline cards.

Comparable Cards

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Enrollment may be required for select American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more.

The annual companion certificate is perhaps the most important benefit the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card offers. Each year upon card renewal, cardholders receive a certificate for a companion fare on a domestic round-trip ticket in economy (taxes and fees of no more than $75 required). So as long as you occasionally travel with a spouse, friend or child, that alone could make the $250 annual fee worth it. 

If you fly on Delta very often and check a bag, you’ll probably be better off with the Delta SkyMiles Platinum card, which can earn you more miles and other perks.

And, if you’re on the fence about which card to get, you should know that if you opt for the Gold first and then decide to upgrade to the Platinum, you won’t have the opportunity to get the SkyMiles Platinum’s welcome offer when you upgrade.

For more information, see our full review of the Delta SkyMiles Platinum Card.

Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card

Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Enrollment may be required for select American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more.

If you’re only flying once or twice a year, the Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card is probably your best bet. You won’t be responsible for an annual fee and you’ll still get some modest rewards when you use it to book future Delta flights. 

The Delta SkyMiles Blue has similar rewards and perks to the Gold, with 2x miles on restaurants (plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.) and Delta purchases (but no U.S. supermarket rewards) and 20% back (in the form of a statement credit) on eligible Delta in-flight purchases. The welcome offer is smaller, however, and the Blue doesn’t have an annual fee. You also won’t get that first checked bag for free.

The difference in welcome offers is substantial (10,000 bonus miles after spending $500 in purchases in the first three months, compared to the Gold’s 40,000 bonus miles after spending $1,000 in the first three months), but if you don’t fly Delta frequently enough to warrant the annual fee, the Blue may be your best bet.

Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®** is a similar credit card, albeit for a different airline. You’ll earn American Airlines’ AAdvantage Miles when you use it, and 2x miles at restaurants, gas stations and on eligible American Airlines purchases. The annual fee is also $99, $0 for the first 12 months, like with the Delta SkyMiles Gold.

The choice here is really between airlines. If you’re not an airline loyalist, then a general travel card, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, might serve you better.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

If you’re an avid traveler but not a brand loyalist, your best overall option is probably the Chase Sapphire Preferred. With an annual fee of $95, you earn 5x Chase Ultimate Rewards points on travel booked through Chase, 2x points on other travel purchases and 3x points on dining, online grocery purchases and select streaming services. The welcome offer — 80,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months — is worth $1,000 in travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

The main advantage of going with a non-airline travel rewards credit card is that the points are more flexible, so you’re not constrained to a specific airline (or airline alliance). With Chase, for example, you can transfer points to one of 11 airlines and 3 different hotel chains. You also get a boost in value (25%) when redeeming them for travel through Chase. 

For more details, check out our full review of the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

FAQs

How do airline credit cards work?

Airline credit cards reward users with points or miles from an airline’s frequent flyer program, which can be redeemed for flights with that airline. Sometimes you can transfer those points to one of the airline’s travel partners, though this option varies from airline to airline. 

Airline credit cards operate like loyalty programs in that you stay in a closed-loop rewards system. You earn rewards when you purchase flights on the airline, and you can use those points for future bookings. Some airline credit cards also reward cardholders for making purchases at restaurants, grocery stores or other categories, but given the average reward rate of airline credit cards for those categories, we generally advise paying for those purchases with a cash-back credit card or general travel rewards credit card.

What are the benefits of an airline credit card?

Some common benefits of an airline credit card include:

  • Waived checked baggage fees
  • Lounge access (during some, not all, itineraries) 
  • Accelerated airline status qualification
  • Complimentary or reduced companion fares
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credits

How do airline cards compare with travel rewards cards?

While airline credit cards offer rewards in the form of an airline’s miles or points, many general travel rewards credit cards have their own systems, like American Express’ Membership Rewards points or Chase’s Ultimate Rewards points. General travel credit card points can be used to redeem travel (with any available airline) through the card issuer’s travel portal, or for a potentially higher value, transferred to an airline partner. You also earn extra points on any travel purchase, regardless of the airline.

Though they may charge higher annual fees, the general travel rewards credit cards tend to offer superior return rates and, since they cover a much greater range of purchases, they are often the better option. Even the best airline credit card is typically less flexible than general travel cards. Given their relative inflexibility, airline credit cards are best for travelers who want to take advantage of airline-specific perks. If you often spend on upgraded boardings or checked bags and you always fly with the same airline, these cards can save you money. 
If you’re not loyal to one airline, rarely check bags and don’t care about your frequent flyer status, a general travel credit card is a better choice.

Our approach

We review the cards that are in the highest demand and offer the best benefits. We scour the fine print so there aren’t any surprises when you open an account. We find the key factors that make a card stand out and compare them with other top cards. That way, readers can opt for a different card with similar features if our pick isn’t right for them. Our reviews are regularly checked and updated to incorporate new recommendations, as well as to reflect changes in offers and the market.

*Eligibility and Benefit level varies by Card. Terms, Conditions and Limitations Apply. Please visit americanexpress.com/benefitsguide for more details. Underwritten by Amex Assurance Company.

**All information about the Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard has been collected independently by CNET and has not been reviewed by the issuer.

For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card, click here.

The editorial content on this page is based solely on objective, independent assessments by our writers and is not influenced by advertising or partnerships. It has not been provided or commissioned by any third party. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products or services offered by our partners.