I don’t know ’bout you, but I’m the kind of person who insists on having two credit cards—a main and a backup. If you’re tempted to roll your eyes and call me “Head Safety” as the husband does, read this to see how my prudent policy saved our asses while traveling abroad:

Near Misses and a Direct Hit: Driving in France

And incidentally, our backup card doubled as a life preserver this past summer when fraudulent activity shut down our main card for almost two weeks before a replacement card arrived.

What the . . . I didn’t spend $72.55 at Paunch Burger! Photo by Mikhail Nilov on Pexels.com

Anyhow, our backup card was netting us a few bucks a year to a retailer whose products we haven’t needed in over a decade. It had outlived its usefulness, so we decided it was time to get a new backup card and make it work for us.

Enter Delta.

Since our closest airport is a Delta hub, it made sense to consider their offerings. Delta does offer a Gold card for an easily recoupable $99 annual fee, but its relatively paltry perks rendered it unworthy of inclusion in my Tom Haverford-approved exclusive, high-end, VIP chart below.

Note: words in italics denote perks I have deemed superior to those of the opposing credit card. You are permitted to disagree.

Card FeatureDelta Platinum SkyMiles® AmexDelta Reserve
SkyMiles® Amex
Annual Fee$250$550
One-Time Bonus Miles80,000 (after spending $4K in 6 months)95,000 (after spending $6K in 6 months)
Foreign Transaction Fees?Of course not.Of course not.
Overlimit FeeNope, so go nuts!Nope, so go nuts!
Airmiles earned on purchasesHotels & all Delta purchases:
3 miles/dollar
Groceries: 2 miles/dollar
Restaurants: 2 miles/dollar
All else: 1 mile/dollar
All Delta purchases:
3 miles/dollar
All else: 1 mile/dollar
First Bag FreeFor basic member only, but also up to 8 other people traveling on the same reservation with basic memberFor basic member only, but also up to 8 other people traveling on the same reservation with basic member
Priority BoardingFor basic member only, but also up to 8 other people traveling on the same reservation with basic memberFor basic member only, but also up to 8 other people traveling on the same reservation with basic member
Sky Club Lounge Access (3 hours max prior to flight departure; limitless on layovers)$39 per person (for basic member, additional member, and up to 2 others on same reservationFree for basic and additional member + 2 free guest passes annually
Centurion Lounge & Escape Lounge accessNo lounge for you!Free for basic member and additional member
Free domestic companion airfare each year upon renewal (48 contiguous states only)*main cabin only
*for basic member only
*companion must pay for first bag
*any cabin
*for basic member only
*companion must pay for first bag
Global Entry* or TSA Pre-Check** fee comped$100*/$75** statement credit every 4 years for either basic or additional member, not both$100*/$75** statement credit every 4 years for either basic or additional member, not both
Eligible for complimentary upgrades?‘Fraid not.Yes, but only with domestic US travel and you’re in the queue behind those smug Medallion members.
Trip Insurance IncludedTrip delay insurance only and the delay must be > 12 hoursTrip delay (> 6 hours), interruption, and cancellation insurance¹
Car Rental CoverageYep!²Yep!²
Cellphone ProtectionYep!²Yep!²
Extended Warranty ProtectionYep!²Yep!²
Purchase ProtectionYep!²Yep!²
There are actually more perks than those shown here, but these are the ones whose legalese I could make the most sense of.

¹Cancelling for illness or death only works if it happens to a “family member” [you or spouse/domestic partner or kid(s)], so if anyone else in your immediate family falls ill or dies and you have to cancel your trip, you won’t be covered. Other insurance providers often have a broader definition of “family member.” ² I’d reached my brain’s limit of legalese for the year and thus didn’t have the stamina to study the details.

All these perks made me wonder what boons and benefits I’d failed to take advantage of all these years on our main no-annual-fee credit card, so I did some research and came up with . . .

. . . a big fat goose egg. As in zero. Zip, zilch, nada.

Suddenly, Delta’s annual fees looked less like a bilking from a slimy airline and more like fees for services rendered. This begs the question, “Hey, Travel Architect, since your main credit card clearly has little going for it, why don’t you just use the Delta card as your main card?”

Well, you see, our main card—Bank of America Travel Rewards Visa—which regularly gets high marks in the travel credit card rankings, has something no Delta card can match: free money. Just in the last ten months alone, we’ve had nearly $1300 taken off our credit card bills. So as much as I like earning air miles, I really like saving money. (Aside from the British accent, the blind devotion to Arsenal FC, and the ability to quickly grasp arcane scientific concepts, it’s the main way you can tell the difference between the husband and me.)

Your reign of total dominance is ending, B of A Visa!

At the moment we’re leaning toward the Reserve card, even though the annual fee makes me gulp in a dramatic, badly-acted-movie kind of way. The trick, we’ve decided, is to save so much money with the perks that we come out even each year:

  • Saved baggage fees
  • No money spent at overpriced airport restaurants  (because we’ll be lounging—and eating—in the lounge)
  • Not purchasing additional travel insurance (Reserve card only)
  • Free annual companion fare (Though, in fare-ness—get it?—if we didn’t have that perk, we’d probably just stay home.  The perk will send us on an extra domestic trip each year and actually cost us more money. Damn those sly bankers!)
  • Free flights once enough airmiles have accumulated
Curse those dastardly bankers and their irresistible domestic companion fare perk! Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

The plan is to use it strategically: on all travel purchases and on any big purchases where the cellphone, extended warranty, or purchase protection might come into play.  So, like, not on donuts.

There’s one final thing to consider if, like the husband and me, you and your partner sometimes travel solo. In case it isn’t clear from the chart, when traveling alone—whichever card you choose—it’s the basic member who reaps all the rewards. Naturally, I have already decreed that it is I who shall be the exalted Basic Member and the husband who shall be the lowly Additional Member. So when he goes on a spring break bikepacking trip or back to the UK to visit family? No free bags. No priority boarding. Nor can he use the companion fare to bring a friend. 

It pays to be the Household Finance Minister.

Photo by Joslyn Pickens on Pexels.com

A final word to cover my ass: the information contained herein is as accurate as I can make it at the time of publication. Banks regularly change their terms and conditions, so please forgive me when this inevitably falls out of date.  Further, although I used that fancy “herein” a moment ago, I have no law degree, no interest in the law (aside from following it, of course), and even less natural ability at understanding legalese, so do your own research before committing. Finally, I’ve seen some contradictory information out there, so all the details in my chart are straight from Delta’s credit card site.

What’s in your holster wallet?

25 thoughts

  1. If you’re a frequent flier I suppose those fees make sense, but it always galls me credit card companies want to charge me for the privilege of giving them business. We had a Delta card years ago but used it so rarely I think they took it back.
    🤣

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Interesting analysis of something we’ve talked about investigating but never did because we fly so infrequently now that I doubt either card would benefit us– which is sad. Our primary credit card is for Kroger– so we can earn points to buy more food. Nowhere as sexy as what you have going on.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Those fees are scarier than anything I’ve seen this Halloween (even scarier than the little boy in my picture) but I understand the attraction to the perks (but, are they really “perks” if you are paying for them?). We have two cards. The main one: no annual fee, money back. The other, which has a $45 annual fee, gives us some travel perks and no foreign transaction fees, so we use that one while traveling.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I have an Amazon VISA card that gives me cash back on Amazon purchases. Self-serving much? Maybe, but it’s a pretty generous reward program. Comes in handy for the occasional big purchase.

    Ahh…Tom Haverford…I love his food nicknames!

    Desserts – ‘Zerts
    Entree – Tray Trays
    Sandwiches – Sammies / Sandoozles / Adam Sandlers
    Cakes – Big Ol’ Cookies
    Noodles – Long Ass Rice
    Fried Chicken – Fri Fri Chicky Chick
    Chicken Parm – Chicky Chicky Parm Parm
    Chicken Cacciatore – Chicky Catch
    Eggs – Pre Birds / Future Birds
    Root Beer – Super Waters
    Tortillas – Bean Blankies

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I have the Delta platinum. The free companion fare alone is worth the price of the card to me. I have found I get complimentary upgrades with my card, too, so I guess maybe I’ve just gotten lucky with that. I think I’ve gotten free upgrades on 3 or 4 flights in just 2 years. It’s all about playing the game and what works for your situation.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi John and Susan, thanks for the comment and the follow. I checked out your blog and got a couple chuckles immediately. Following back. If we get accepted by Delta Reserve, maybe we’ll see you in a lounge one of these days!

      Like

  6. I’ve had the Delta Platinum for a long time now and always get my money’s worth out of the fee. For my backup (because you have to have one when your main card is an AmEx), I churn through other no-fee rewards cards (hotels.com, REI, American Airlines, etc) – usually a new one every year to get the sign-on perks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re the first person to respond to this post who actually has one of the cards. Your point is interesting about needing to have a backup if your other card is Amex. I hadn’t thought about that – because Amex is less accepted, is that right? So if something went wrong with our Visa in, say, Europe, Amex would be little help? Or is it also in America that Amex is problematic? I’ve only ever had Visa/MC. Thanks, Jen, for your insight.

      Like

  7. I’m totally with you on having a main card and a back up card. Brad just got one of the Delta platinum card as his backup card but he’s decided to make it his go to card instead because the benefits are so good. If you’re going to have a credit card you might as well reap the benefits of it 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. We’ve discussed perhaps getting a travel rewards credit card, but our problem is we don’t have an obvious best option like you do. Denver airport is not a hub for any airline (except for Frontier, which, no thank you) so we end up flying whatever will get us where we’re going. Recently that’s been mostly Southwest, but since they don’t fly all over the world, I’m hesitant to commit. Hmm…. It sounds like I have a lot of research to do. I appreciate your comparison table of perks, that will give me a place to start.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It sounds like you might be a candidate for one of those cards that gives you points toward any airline. There are lots of blogs and websites out there that do comparisons. My biggest concern would probably be how easy it is to book.

      I guess I feel lucky we have a Delta hub here. It does make you kind of beholden to them, but we don’t fly other airlines enough that it’s a big problem. Happy researching!

      Liked by 1 person

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