Has The Delta Reserve Surpassed The Amex Platinum? It Has For Me

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Delta Reserve vs Amex Platinum

Delta Reserve vs Amex Platinum, Which Card Reigns Supreme?

The Amex Platinum card has been making a ton of headlines as of late. First for offering outrageous welcome offers, up to 125K, and then they added 10X on groceries for new card holders. After they built up all of this hype rumors started leaking about an annual fee increase and a new perks set up.  Then it came out that Centurion Lounge access would be limited to one person in the coming years. With all of these changes it has me wondering, Delta Reserve vs Amex Platinum, which one reigns supreme? It has been on my mind a lot lately as it probably has for most Delta loyalists.  But what about everyone else? Let’s take a look and you can decide and share your thoughts below.

Update 9/15/21: with new credits & fees.

Delta Reserve & Amex Platinum Comparison, Which Is Better?

I am going to compare the two cards based off their annual fee, credits and card perks.  This is focusing on long term value so the current welcome offers will not be discussed but should be included if you are deciding on which one to sign up for.  Since neither card is a great earner I won’t really focus on the spending structure either, but Amex Platinum comes out ahead there. I want to really focus on the perks of each card. Because I think that is why people choose to carry either of these card.

Both offers are currently increased and I would say both are worthwhile to get depending on your circumstances. I would put the Amex Platinum well ahead in terms of first year value but if you are chasing Delta status, like me, then the Delta Reserve’s offer is hard to beat too.  That is why I recently grabbed one! Let’s get into it.

Delta Reserve vs Amex Platinum

Annual Fee

First things first, we have to discuss cost.  Here are the annual fees for the cards:

  • Delta Reserve – $550
  • Amex Platinum – $695

With the recent Amex Platinum annual fee increase the Delta Reserve comes out $145 ahead.

Credits

Let’s take a look at offsetting those annual fees.  Here are the credits or other perks that can discount the annual fees some. I put my valuations for each below the credits.

Delta Reserve
  • $100 Global Entry / TSA credit every 4 years
    • I put this at near zero value because so many cards offer it.
  • After the first year you get an annual companion pass certificate for a domestic first class, comfort plus or main cabin booking in the 48 contiguous United States. This does not work on Delta One flights anymore.
    • This is difficult to quantify since it totally depends on your booking and if you would have booked first class anyway.  I will put it at a $350 valuation since I feel like that is an achievable floor for the offer.
  • 2 guest passes for Delta lounge entry.
    • I value these at $25 each because I think that is about what a person can get in value from the food and drinks in the lounge. It is nice to have them since your card only gets you access for one person too.
Amex Platinum
  • $100 Annual Saks Department Store Credit: How to Use the $100 Saks Credit
    • Even though I just got a pretty good deal stacking promos with my Saks Fifth Avenue credit I don’t put a ton of value in it.  I would put the value at 50% or $50 a year.
  • $200 Annual Uber Credit: Our Guide to Amex Platinum Uber Credit
    • The Uber credit is close to same valuation since I will often use it on Uber Eats but the higher prices, and fees, cut into the value some. With surge pricing out of control even rides are not always a great value compared to Lyft or cabs. I value this at around $125 per year.
  • $200 Annual Airline Fee Credit: See Complete Guide to Maximizing Your Travel Credits
    • Even thought these have become more difficult to use I still value it at 85% or $170 per year.
  • $100 Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓ (every 5 years): Check out our 3 Part Guide to Global Entry
    • No value as noted above.
  • $300 equinox credit (gym)
    • No value since there are no locations near me and the cost is outrageous.
  • $240 entertainment credit, $20 monthly (on eligible purchases or subscriptions with Peacock, Audible, SiriusXM and The New York Times.)
    • I currently use my credit for Peacock just to use it for something but without it I would cancel my subscription.  Because of that I value this at $0, I wish it was less restrictive.
  • $200 credit for prepaid hotel booking on FHR.
    • I have never used Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts before but did use it for an upcoming Vegas trip.  I would probably value this at $100 since it forces me to pay more for a room than I normally would or pay cash for a room when I could use points.
  • Annual CLEAR membership
    • You can get CLEAR memberships discounted but I do enjoy the service.  I would pay $100 a year to use it so that is my valuation.

saks
Photo Courtesy Saks 5th Avenue Toronto.

Breaking Down The Amex Platinum Value

After adding up my valuations for each of the many Amex Platinum credits, it is the world’s most expensive coupon book after all, I get $545 in value. With the Platinum’s $695 annual fee I have an out of pocket cost of $150 each year.

Breaking Down Delta Reserve Value

As stated above the Delta Reserve companion fare is hard to quantify. The fact that it is limited to certain fare buckets makes it even more difficult.

“Tickets are only available in I and Z classes of service for First Class travel, and only available in L, U, T, X, and V classes of service for Main Cabin travel. For Delta Comfort+ travel, tickets are available in W and S classes of service, but only when L, U, T, X, or V classes of service are available in the Main Cabin.”

I was able to get over $300 in value from the more restricted Delta Platinum companion pass so I think $350 should be easily achievable.  I suspect that I will end up getting closer to $500 or $600 in “value” when I go to book my flights.

The lounge access passes come in handy during family travel times.  Although I have noticed that Delta lounges will often let my kids in free without using my passes so they may go further than you think 😁.

After accounting for the companion pass and the lounge access certificates I am left with an out of pocket cost of $150.

Delta Reserve vs Amex Platinum: Travel Insurance & Protections

These seem to be a wash across the cards so they are all on equal footing in terms of travel insurance.

Lounge

Lounge Access

Lounge access is a big key to these cards.  I will combine the Amex Platinum versions here since there shouldn’t be a difference.

Delta Reserve
  • Delta lounge access when flying Delta for the cardholder
  • Centurion lounge access for the cardholder when flying Delta and when the flight is booked with an Amex card. Although I am not sure if the paid part is enforced or as long as you have a Delta ticket and the card you are good to go.
  • 2 Delta lounge guest passes every year
Amex Platinum
  • Delta lounge access when flying Delta for the cardholder
  • Centurion lounge access for the cardholder & 2 guests (guest access ending on 2/1/2023)
  • Priority Pass lounge membership (excluding restaurants) plus one guest
  • Global lounge collection entry (Escape lounges, Plaza Premium etc.)

The Delta lounge access is the same for the two cards but the Reserve does give you a couple of guest passes which is a nice little perk.  Centurion lounge access will kind of be the same in 2023 but comes with hoops for the Delta Reserve since you need to book the flight with the card and being flying Delta. Readers have said paying the award ticket taxes counts.

You also get access to Priority Pass and other Global lounge collection options with the Platinum card. This comes in handy if you don’t have Priority Pass access with another card. If you do already have it then it is likely the other cards will offer better access.

Delta Reserve vs Amex Platinum

Delta Reserve vs Amex Platinum: Elite Status

What kind of elite status can you get for carrying the cards?

Delta Reserve
  • No elite status is given but you do get added to the upgrade list behind Medallion Members.
  • The card can act as a tiebreaker for upgrades for Medallion members too.
  • You will get earlier boarding for holding a Delta credit card (all Delta credit cards with an annual fee get the same boarding group).
  • 1 free checked bag for every member on the itinerary
Amex Platinum
  • Hilton Gold status
  • Marriott Gold status

For the Amex Platinum, I put $0 value on Marriott Gold status and Hilton Gold status is easily earned with the Surpass card so I guess you could value that at $95.  If you don’t have the Surpass card, and frequent Hilton’s, then this will offer you a lot of value. Hilton Gold is the best mid tier hotel status out there.

I am not sure how often a Reserve cardholder will get an upgrade without status.  It would most likely be Comfort+ at best but there are success stories out there. If it isn’t a popular route or through a main hub I think you would have a shot. I put the free checked bag here because that is kind of like a perk of airline status.  If you have a family, and check bags for your flights, this could be a huge savings (although available with the much cheaper Delta Gold card etc. as well).

Delta Specific Perks

For this breakdown we will just be looking at the Delta Reserve.
  • 20% back for inflight purchases on Delta flights.
  • Get at MQD waiver after spending $25,000 on the card in a calendar year.
  • 15K MQM after spending $30,000 on the card
    • Earn an additional 15K for every $30K in spend up to 60K MQM
    • Extreme example but by spending $120K on the card in a year you would have Delta Gold status.

Delta Reserve vs Amex Platinum

Has The Delta Reserve Surpassed The Amex Platinum – Final Thoughts

It appears that the Amex Platinum still comes out ahead for the majority of people at the current level. Even though the out of pocket costs are the same the Amex Platinum comes with more lounge access and card perks.  You may value the perks at a different rate than me that swings it even more in the Platinum’s favor.

But the real decision comes down to the Delta Companion Certificate with the Reserve card.  If you can get $500-$600 in value from it (could be a tough task) then you are coming out well ahead of the rumored Platinum. If you are only able to get $300-$350 in value from it then you are probably better off with the Amex Platinum.

Delta Reserve vs Amex Platinum: Why I Prefer The Delta Reserve

I am still leaning towards holding the Delta Reserve and ditching the Amex Platinum though. That is because I am a Delta hub captive and I am on the status merry-go-round with them.  I think others will fall into this boat as well, however most will not.

The addition of Centurion Lounge access kind of closed the gap between the cards for me, even with the hoops required for Reserve cardholders. To be honest, the shine has worn off Centurion Lounges for me anyway. Most of the time I would prefer a less crowded Delta Lounge anyway. Limiting it to only Delta flights hampers the value some and is something you need to consider. That is especially true if you are based at an airport with a Centurion Lounge.  I already have Priority Pass with other cards so that isn’t important to me.

The ability to earn the MQD waiver and extra MQMs via spend is a great perk and a huge selling point for me. While this is offered with the Delta Platinum card as well, that card does not come with lounge access.  Throw in the priority upgrades for cardholders, some getting upgraded even without status, and I think this is the winner for Delta frequent flyers.

What do you think? Let me know below.

Mark Ostermann
Mark Ostermann is a father, husband and miles/points fanatic. He left the corporate world after starting a family in order to be a stay at home dad. Mark is constantly looking at ways to save money and stay within budget while also taking awesome vacations with his family. When he isn't caring for his family or taking a weekend trip, Mark is working towards his goal of visiting every Major League Baseball ballpark.

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30 COMMENTS

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30 COMMENTS

  1. I used to hold the Delta Reserve card. In 2018 I got the AX Platinum card and downgraded my DL card to the Platinum version. To me the benefits were lounge access regardless of airline traveled even though I primarily travel on DL and use Sky Clubs and of course 5X MR on airfare. In terms of the companion pass I’ve been tracking the savings since late 2018 and have averaged $315 and in many cases have been upgraded to C+ and First on Domestic trips.

    In terms of value currently I pay the $550 fee + $175 (this way my wife gets lounge access) AU for the Platinum card so $725. So far in 2021 I have received $1265 in statement credits on the Platinum card.

    My DL Platinum has a AF of $250 and thus far in 2021 I have received $830 in value between 2 redemeed companion passes and $120 in food credits.

    I am currently DL Platinum elite status but probably will drop to Gold in 2023 unless I do end up with some business trips in 2022. Providing this info and of course elite status is what drives opportunities for upgrades.

  2. I thought the Amex priority pass access included TWO guests!
    And you are not including any value that some Amex offers bring to the table from time to time.

    • If you don’t already have Priority Pass from another card that is something to consider for sure. The Delta Reserve also gets Amex Offers so that is a wash.

  3. My analysis was similar to yours: 1) I don’t use enough of the AmEx Platinum perks to justify the fee, especially with the refurbished AmEx Gold Card, which is an ideal fit for me. 2) The Centurion Lounge access with Delta Reserve clinched it. In fact, AmEx Customer Service rang me a couple of months ago because, apparently, there had been a rash of cancelations of the Reserve Card. I stated that I intended to continue to hold the card in large part due to the improved lounge access.

    • That was a big improvement for sure. The Delta requirement makes it not quite as valuable as the Platinum but it was good enough for me.

      Thanks Corbett

  4. I’ve always read on reviews of the Delta Reserve card that its for people who fly often on Delta. We’re going on 1 flight next year. I’m old and riddled with arthritis and simply can’t do the compactor economy section anymore. My first class ticket cost $1060 and my wife’s was free with the reserve card. I get lounge access and 2 companion accesses, 1 for each direction for my wife. The following year, we’ll go to Europe and have Global Entry cards, 1 of them covered by Delta Reserve. Pretty easy math for me at least.
    Joe

    • If you are able to get that kind of value from the companion pass then it is well worth it for sure. Nice work Joe!

  5. You neglect to mention the rumored Amex Platinum will keep its $200/year in airline fee credit. That throws your math all out of whack.

    • I thought that was rumored to be going away with the new stuff. If it does stick around then it would change things for sure. Hopefully we get some actual terms from Amex at some point soon.

  6. I’m no fan of Delta and under the current situation don’t see equal value in the Reserve card but I find it interesting that the Reserve card offers the medevac benefit. As someone who at times is very far from a high quality hospital while traveling in Asia, that provides a major safety net in case of injury or illness.

  7. If you’ll take a point about signup bonuses, even though you said they’re less important: Double check that they really gave you the bonus.

    Last week I was approved for an Amex Platinum Delta Skymiles. Neither the info mailed me nor my account website mentioned the 90K miles bonus. Being paranoid, I called. The rep eventually said that I wasn’t eligible. She could not say why, only offered generalities. I’ve never had a Delta CC. The closest is that I canceled a Marriott Bonvoy last year when their benefits decreased.

    • That is strange unless you got the pop up when applying I don’t see why that would be the case. I would try reaching out again and see what is going on, escalate it to a supervisor.

    • If reps are unsure about something, they will choose the option least likely to get them into trouble — e.g. telling you that you are not eligible (especially when you already expressed doubts about your eligibility). That way if you actually aren’t eligible, they haven’t screwed up by promising something you weren’t entitled to. The bonus is never in the materials that Amex sends nor is it usually reflected online. Just do the spending and you should be fine.

  8. Interesting analysis. I think with the upcoming changes to the Platinum, you could make a strong argument for Delta Hub flyers with kids, the Reserve would make more sense because you at least have a couple guest passes to use when flying with them.

    • I will be using my guest passes on my son for our Alaska trip for sure :).

      I think it will be a niche group where it makes sense to take the Reserve over the Platinum but there will be people where it does make sense imo

  9. Centurion lounge access on the Delta Reserve card is only if you are flying Delta, and book the flight on the card. Completely useless given JFK is the only airport with a Centurion lounge in the Delta terminal. You need to rethink this, unless you just don’t care about Centurion lounge access.

        • I appreciate the help. Do you have any first hand knowledge if they actually check if the ticket was paid or not etc. I feel like if you show the Delta ticket and the card you will get access but haven’t tested it out yet.

          • Yeah, they check. It’s similar to the United Explorer card where you only get the free checked bag if you pay with the card. It’s all in the computer. Same system that allows you scan your Delta boarding pass and enter the SkyClub without showing your Platinum card, if the Platinum card is saved in your Delta account.

          • Okay on final question does an award flight work if you pay the taxes and fees with a card?

    • There are other airports where you can get to the Centurion airside, it’s just more of a walk: SEA, LAS, DEN, CLT, and even DFW, I think.

      Notably, you’re hosed at SFO, PHX and LAX.

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