What’s the Best Credit Card for Earning Delta SkyMiles?

May 29, 2016

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.

TPG reader Garrett sent me a message on Facebook to ask about earning Delta SkyMiles:

“I’ve been an avid Delta Gold Amex cardholder for a while now, since I fly Delta almost exclusively. I know you’re a big fan of the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, but is it worth getting even though I can’t transfer those points to my SkyMiles account?”

The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is my overall top choice for earning travel rewards, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best option for everyone. You actually can redeem for Delta flights through the Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal, and you can book Delta awards by transferring to Korean Air. However, if you specifically want to earn SkyMiles, then the Ultimate Rewards program and its credit cards aren’t a good fit.

That said, I think Garrett can earn SkyMiles more efficiently than he is at the moment. The Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express offers perks (like free checked bags) that make it valuable to Delta frequent flyers, but it’s not the best card for accruing SkyMiles, since it only earns 1 mile per dollar on most purchases.

I generally advocate for earning transferable points instead of points or miles from a single loyalty program because that diversifies your rewards portfolio and insulates you from devaluation. Both Amex Membership Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest transfer to Delta, and each program offers credit card options with better earning rates than the co-branded Delta Amex cards. Choosing between them is mostly a question of which card best suits your spending patterns.

The Amex EveryDay Preferred Card is great if you tend to make a lot of purchases, since you get a 50% bonus on all points earned in a billing period when you have at least 30 qualifying transactions. So long as you meet that requirement, you’ll be earning a minimum of 1.5 Membership Rewards points per dollar (which translates to 1.5 SkyMiles per dollar). You’ll get even more in some cases, since US supermarket purchases earn 3 points per dollar (on up to $6,000 in purchases annually) and US gas purchases earn 2 points per dollar.

Starwood gives you access to other Delta partners like Korean Air, which may sometimes be your best bet for booking Delta awards.

The regular Amex EveryDay Card is also a good option. Both the transaction and category bonuses are lower than on the Preferred version, but the card has no annual fee and still allows you to transfer to airline and hotel partners. Check out Nick Ewen’s comparison of the EveryDay cards from earlier this year for more information.

The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card is another decent option. SkyTeam members Korean Air and Air France (Flying Blue) are SPG transfer partners, and so is Delta’s non-alliance partner Alaska Airlines, so you’ll have plenty of options for booking Delta awards. You also get a 25% bonus when you transfer 20,000 Starpoints to other loyalty programs, so you’re effectively earning 1.25 points per dollar spent despite the card’s lack of bonus categories. On the other hand, Membership Rewards offers instant transfers to Delta, while SPG does not, and that transfer bonus won’t do you much good if the price goes up while you’re waiting.

I don’t think any of these options is clearly superior, but they all give you more opportunities to earn and book Delta awards than the co-branded Delta cards. For more ideas, check out these posts:

If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook or send me an email at info@thepointsguy.com.


Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.