The Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card was revamped in 2019 with a new list of perks and revised earning rates.
The card is a good choice for the occasional Delta flyer without elite status.
Other perks include priority boarding, 20% savings on in-flight purchases and no annual fee for the first year.
CNN Underscored reviews financial products such as credit cards and bank accounts based on their overall value, but does not review all financial companies or all available financial offers. We may receive compensation for sending traffic to partner sites, such as CreditCards.com, and this compensation may impact how and where links appear on this site. 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.
Our quick take: If you check a bag on at least two round-trip flights with Delta each year, the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card will easily pay for itself. Plus, you’ll earn a strong welcome bonus, get priority boarding and have an opportunity to grab an annual $100 Delta flight credit.
- Earn 2 miles for every dollar you spend at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets.
- First checked bag is free on Delta flights for you and up to eight companions.
- Priority boarding on Delta flights.
- Get a $100 Delta flight credit when you spend $10,000 on the card in a calendar year.
- Introductory annual fee of $0 for the first year, then $99 thereafter (see rates and fees).
- Everyday earning rate isn’t as good as comparable cash back.
- Delta SkyMiles aren’t as valuable as flexible travel points.
- Delta elites can’t waive the airline’s Medallion Qualification Dollars requirement with the card.
- No complimentary lounge access.
Current welcome bonus: For a limited time through Nov. 10, 2021, earn 70,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 in purchases in the first three months after opening the account.
Best for: Casual Delta travelers who don’t want to fuss with checked bag fees, or heavier travelers who only choose Delta on occasion.
Digging into the Delta Gold card
People are thinking about traveling again — in fact, many are already making plans for the holidays. And if you plan on flying Delta even once or twice during the rest of 2021 and into 2022, the Delta SkyMiles Gold credit card can easily pay for itself.
The card was revamped in 2019 with a new list of perks and revised earning rates, and it also currently comes with a nice welcome bonus — for a limited time through Nov. 10, 2021, new card members can earn 70,000 bonus miles after spending $2,000 in purchases in the first three months after opening the account.
Based on the point valuations of frequent flyer website The Points Guy, those miles are worth $770 in travel. And if you’re able to plan a bit, you can cash in on Delta’s frequent SkyMiles award sales to extract even more value from your miles (and even more free flights).
The Delta SkyMiles Gold card also earns 2 Delta SkyMiles for every dollar you spend at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets, and on eligible purchases made directly with Delta. It earns 1 mile per dollar on everything else.
Aside from granting a free checked bag for you and up to eight companions booked on the same reservation, the most eye-catching perk of the Delta Gold card is the opportunity to earn a $100 Delta flight credit after spending $10,000 on the card within a calendar year. Even if you can’t currently fly on Delta, this credit alone more than offsets the card’s $99 annual fee, which itself doesn’t even kick in until the second year you have the card.
Advantages of the Delta Gold card
Nothing squashes the buzz of an exciting trip quite like having to fork out $30 each way to check a bag. On a single round trip, that’s $60 per person. That means having the Delta SkyMiles Gold credit card saves you $120 on two round trips a year or just one round trip with a companion, which is already more than the card’s annual fee.
Better still, the free checked bag perk isn’t tied directly to the card. Instead, it’s associated with your Delta SkyMiles number, which means that even flights booked with a different credit card are eligible. That’s an important consideration if you hold a card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve, which earns 3 points per dollar on all travel purchases or even 5 total points on air travel purchased through Ultimate Rewards (including Delta airfare), compared to 2 miles per dollar on the Delta Gold card.
Other advantages of the Delta SkyMiles Gold card include a statement credit of 20% back on eligible Delta in-flight purchases, such as food, beverages, audio headsets and more, Main Cabin 1 priority boarding, no foreign transaction fees (see rates and fees) and car rental loss and damage insurance.
Plus, if you plan to spend $10,000 or more on the card in a calendar year, you’ll have a $100 Delta flight credit to look forward to as well. While $10,000 may sound like a lot of money to spend on a credit card, it’s actually only $833 a month.
What if you fly only a few times a year and you’re concerned that you’ll struggle to amass enough miles to cover an entire trip? For those folks, there’s the Delta Gold card’s Pay With Miles feature. This allows card members to take $50 off the cost of their flight for every 5,000 miles they redeem when they book on delta.com.
Disadvantages of the Delta Gold card
Delta credit cards from American Express are focused on providing perks for Delta flyers. So if you don’t find yourself on a Delta flight very often, there aren’t too many other strong points of the Delta SkyMiles Gold credit card that you can’t find elsewhere.
For instance, while double miles on U.S. supermarkets and restaurants is appreciated, there are dozens of other credit cards that offer similar earning rates. CNN Underscored’s benchmark credit card, the Citi® Double Cash Card, offers 2% cash back on everything you buy — 1% when you make a purchase, and another 1% when you pay it off — and charges no annual fee.
Furthermore, the miles earned with the Delta SkyMiles Gold card are Delta SkyMiles. For avid Delta flyers, this is fine, but people who aren’t completely focused on Delta may prefer to earn either cash back — which gives you ultimate flexibility in spending your credit card rewards — or flexible points, such as American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards or Capital One miles, since all of these can be transferred to multiple different airline programs and even hotels.
Also, while the Delta Gold card’s Pay With Miles feature is useful for redeeming Delta SkyMiles without having to find award space, you’ll get only 1 cent per mile in value when redeeming them this way. That negates the purpose of collecting frequent flyer miles over cash back — usually, you’re trading off flexibility when you earn credit card rewards in miles instead of cash because you hope to get more value for your miles when you redeem them.
Finally, if you normally fly Delta a lot, you’ll likely find the Delta SkyMiles Gold card doesn’t have all the perks an elite Delta flyer wants. Unlike more expensive Delta credit cards, you can’t use large amounts of annual spending on the Delta Gold card to waive Delta’s Medallion Qualification Dollars requirement for earning elite status. And there’s no ability to enter Delta Sky Clubs with the Delta Gold card, even if you’re willing to pay on a per-visit basis.
Stacking up the Delta Gold card against our benchmark
CNN Underscored has chosen the Citi Double Cash Card as our “benchmark” credit card. That doesn’t mean it’s the best credit card on the market — rather, it means we use it as a basic standard to compare other credit cards and see where they score better, and where they’re worse.
Here’s how the Delta SkyMiles Gold card scores against our benchmark. The features of each card in the below chart are colored in green, red or white. Green indicates a card feature that is better than our benchmark, red indicates the feature is worse than our benchmark and white indicates the feature is either equivalent or cannot be directly compared to our benchmark.
When reviewing other credit cards, we use this format and these criteria to compare them with our benchmark. You can read our credit card methodology for more details on what we take into account when it comes to perks, protections and redemption value.
Other credit cards similar to the Delta Gold card
Given the deep integration with Delta and its SkyMiles program, the credit cards that are most similar to the Delta SkyMiles Gold credit card are, perhaps unsurprisingly, other Delta Amex cards.
The Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card — not to be confused with the stand-alone Platinum Card® from American Express — has a $250 annual fee, even the first year (see rates and fees), but it offers a more compelling list of perks, especially for regular Delta flyers.
The most notable benefit of the Delta Platinum card is an annual companion certificate starting after the first year you have the card — essentially, a buy-one-get-one-free domestic flight in coach on Delta. The card also offers a higher 3 miles per dollar on eligible purchases with Delta and purchases made directly with hotels, the ability to purchase Delta Sky Club access (at a cost of $39 per person per visit) and a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit worth up to $100.
Beyond the Delta credit card sphere, there’s the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. It too has a $95 annual fee (which isn’t waived for the first year) but earns 2 points per dollar on all travel, 3 points per dollar on dining, select streaming services and select online grocery purchases — a much more inclusive earning rate — and 5 points per dollar on Lyft rides through March 2022. Additionally, if you purchase your travel through Ultimate Rewards, you’ll earn 5 points total on all travel.
Plus, the Chase Sapphire Preferred earns points in the form of Ultimate Rewards, which can be redeemed directly for travel within the Chase travel portal at a rate of 1.25 cents per point (higher than Delta’s Pay With Miles redemption rate), or transferred to a variety of airline and hotel partners for stronger redemptions. The CSP also carries better travel protections, including trip cancellation and interruption insurance, trip delay protection and primary car rental insurance (versus the Delta Gold’s secondary coverage).
Should you get the Delta Gold card?
If you almost never find yourself on a Delta plane even in the best of times, the Delta Gold card probably won’t be a good fit. Unless you’re flying Delta enough to justify the free checked bag, you’re better off with the Chase Sapphire Preferred for earning travel rewards. For a slightly lower annual fee, you’ll still earn double miles on restaurants and airfare (all airfare and travel, not just on Delta), and you’ll have far more redemption options. Or, if you prefer simplicity above all, our benchmark Citi Double Cash card probably makes more sense.
On the other hand, if you’re a die-hard Delta loyalist, chances are you’ll reach Delta’s lowest elite status tier, Silver Medallion, just by flying. In that case, you’re better off casting your gaze on the Delta Platinum card. While it has a higher annual fee, the card’s annual companion certificate starting after the first year can easily offset it.
But if you’re in the middle — an occasional Delta flyer without elite status who almost always checks a bag — the Delta SkyMiles Gold credit card could make sense, especially since you can try it out for the first year without an annual fee, so it won’t cost you anything. Just make sure you’re taking advantage of the card’s perks enough after the first year to make the $99 annual fee worth it.
Find out which cards CNN Underscored chose as our best travel credit cards of 2021.