If you live in a Delta hub city or fly them a lot and charge $60,000 or more to your credit cards per year, then the new Delta Reserve credit card from American Express might be a good thing to get.
I already have a Gold SkyMiles card, and when I originally began researching this post I thought to myself, "Oh, just another way to extract extra fees for a little extra status." But by the end of writing this, I was on the phone to American Express to upgrade my card.
It costs $450 a year, on par with Amex's elite Platinum Card ($395 per year if you have another Amex Card with an annual fee of $55 or more). But... it has some unique frequent flyer perks.
1. 10,000 Delta "equity miles"* (MQMs in Delta SkyMiles speak) with your first purchase.
2. If you spend $60,000 or more in a calendar year you'll get an additional 30,000 equity miles . If you have no equity miles to begin with, those 40,000 equity miles give you more than the 25,000 MQMs needed for entry-level Silver Medallion status and put you in striking distance of the 50,000 MQMs needed for Gold status. If you have, say, 35,000 MQMs already, then you'll become a Platinum member, which takes 75,000 MQMs to achieve.
3. You'll also get 30,000 bonus SkyMiles (not to be confused with equity miles) when you hit $60,000 in purchases, for a total of 90,000 SkyMiles. (15,000 for the first $30,000 and another 15,000 for the second $30,000). Of course, if all of that $60,000 was spent on Delta tickets, or at gas stations, supermarkets, drugstores, home improvement stores, wireless phone companies, office supply stores, or the post office, you'll get double miles, for a grand total of 150,000 SkyMiles.
4. A free companion ticket in either first or economy each year (although there are restrictions, which, of course, Amex does not spell out, but we suspect there are minimum fare requirements and certain fare classes are invalid).
5. Free membership in Delta's Crown Room lounges (this alone costs $400 per year plus a $50 initiation fee if bought separately).
6. Access to the dedicated Breezeway priority boarding lane and frequent traveler security line.
If you already have a Delta SkyMiles card, you'll get a pro-rated credit when you upgrade.
So is it worth $395-$450 per year? Obviously, I thought so, and I'll be using my new card exclusively in hopes of reaching that magic $60,000 spend (with gas prices what they are, that should be easy). And after all, Delta may soon be the biggest airline in the world, if the merger with Northwest goes through, so I'll probably be flying them a lot and I might as well get those free upgrades.
* For those new to the game, the main benefit of Medallion status is free upgrades to business or first. You'll get immediate upgrades from "Y" (full fare economy fares) at time of booking; and upgrades from B, M, H, Q, K, L, U and T fares (the cheap seats, which for non-Medallion members are not eligible for free or mileage upgrades) one calendar day in advance of flight. Plus, you get free companion upgrades on Y, B, M, H, Q and K fares. There are other perks, too, such as priority boading, priority waitlisting, and a 25-100 % mileage bonus. As you go up the Medallion ladder, to Gold or Platinum, the perks get even better (for example, you can get a same day confirmed flight change without paying a fee).