It used to be that there was a good reason to carry a frequent flyer credit card. You know, to earn valuable frequent flyer miles that you could easily redeem for a free flight to anywhere you want to go. Today, though, frequent flyer miles aren’t always that valuable — and they’re usually not easy to redeem.
Yet there are still some very good reasons to have an airline credit card. The right airline card will offer a free checked bag along with discounts on other airline purchases that can make your travel more affordable and comfortable. Perhaps no other card exemplifies that new equation better than the Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express.
What You’ll Get With the Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card From American Express
This card offers you 30,000 bonus miles after you spend just $1,000 on new purchases within three months of account opening. These miles are enough for a valuable award flight — or not, depending on various factors such as where and when you want to go, whether or not Delta is having an “award sale” and what the current barometric pressure is in Atlanta. OK, I made that last one up, but you can’t prove it isn’t true since Delta no longer publishes an award chart telling you what your miles are worth. That’s why the deal that is probably more valuable for many is this card’s offer to receive up to $300 in statement credits that you’ll get from Delta purchases made within three months of account opening.
Those two separate sign-up bonuses are both great reasons to apply for the card, but why should you keep it? Earning one Delta SkyMile per dollar spent (and two times on Delta purchases) isn’t so great, especially since the value of SkyMiles is uncertain at best. But the fact that you get a free checked bag for yourself and up to eight others on the same reservation can be quite valuable. You’ll also get a 20% discount on in-flight purchases and access to a Delta SkyClub for $29. If you’re stuck in a big airport for a few hours, that can be a pretty good deal. Other benefits include extended warranty coverage, return protection and purchase protection.
There’s a $95 annual fee for this card, but that’s waived the first year. So it’s a great idea to give this card a try and see if its rewards and benefits work for you, while you don’t have to pay that annual fee for the first year.
How Does This American Express Card Measure Up Against Competitors?
There are a lot of airline cards that have an annual fee of just under $100. Here are a few of the best competing options:
The Citi/AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard
The Citi/AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but it’s a solid card. You currently earn 50,000 American Airlines miles after spending $2,500 in purchases within three months of account opening, and these miles have fairly consistent value compared to SkyMiles. Better yet, you also earn two times miles at restaurants, at gas stations and on American Airlines purchases and one mile per dollar spent elsewhere.
Benefits include a free checked bag for yourself and up to four companions, preferred boarding and a 25% savings on in-flight food and beverages. And you can also earn a $125 American Airlines flight discount after you spend $20,000 or more in purchases during your card membership year and renew your card. There’s a $99 annual fee for this card that’s waived for the first year.
The United Explorer Card From Chase
The United Explorer card from Chase has a 40,000-mile bonus after spending $2,000 on purchases within three months of account opening. It offers you two times miles at restaurants, at hotels and on United charges, and one mile per dollar spent elsewhere. Other benefits include a $100 statement credit toward the application fee for TSA Precheck or Global Entry and a 25% statement credit toward onboard purchases. And of course, you get the first bag checked free for yourself and a companion when you pay for your ticket (or the award fees) with your card. There’s a $95 annual fee that’s waived for the first year.
The JetBlue Plus Card From Barclays
Finally, I’ve always liked the JetBlue Plus card from Barclays. It features 40,000 bonus points after your first purchase and six times points for JetBlue purchases. You also get two times the points at restaurants and grocery stores and one times the points elsewhere. There are plenty of benefits with this card including 5,000 bonus points each year, a free checked bag for you and up to three companions and an awesome 50% savings on inflight purchases. You can even get Mosaic elite status after spending $50,000 or more on purchases in a calendar year.
Which Card Is Right for You?
I could make a pretty good case that the American Airlines, United and JetBlue cards are all better than the Gold Delta SkyMiles card from American Express. But that doesn’t matter much if you live in a place like Atlanta, Minneapolis, Detroit or Salt Lake City where Delta dominates the market, or if you’re a Delta loyalist for some other reason. Furthermore, the Gold Delta SkyMiles card really does have a great offer for 30,000 miles and $300 in statement credits toward ticket purchases. Combine these offers with this card’s solid benefits, and it becomes a good choice to enjoy perks and benefits — if not miles.
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