Last week, American Express US came out with new historically high welcome bonuses on their Delta co-branded credit cards, allowing new cardholders to earn 70,000–90,000 Delta SkyMiles on the personal and business Delta Gold, Platinum, and Reserve products.
While Delta SkyMiles might not be the most valuable points currency that you can earn, they do play a unique role for Canadians who often travel within North America, thanks to their partnership with WestJet.
Let’s take a look through why you might consider incorporating one of these limited-time Delta offers (available until May 5, 2021 through refer-a-friend links) into your US credit card strategy.
The Role of Delta SkyMiles for Canadians
The Delta cards tend to take a backseat in our usual discourse on the US credit card game, especially compared to Amex US’s other product lines like Membership Rewards, Marriott Bonvoy, and Hilton Honors.
That’s because Delta SkyMiles is generally viewed as a lower-value frequent flyer program, thanks to its lack of a transparent award chart, dynamic pricing on its own Delta flights, and relatively uncompetitive pricing on partner redemptions in both economy and business class.
For many Canadian points collectors, it’s doesn’t seem worth going through the trouble of collecting Delta SkyMiles when there are more valuable and more accessible points currencies (such as Aeroplan and Alaska miles) right here in Canada.
However, I do think that Delta SkyMiles now offers a unique and often-overlooked value proposition from a Canadian perspective: the ability to book WestJet flights within Canada for a fixed rate of 12,500 SkyMiles one-way, akin to the WestJet Member Exclusive fares of bygone days.
I’ve covered this sweet spot in a previous article on “Booking Domestic Canadian Flights with Foreign Airline Programs”: even though the fixed pricing on intra-North America WestJet flights of 125 WestJet Dollars through WestJet Rewards is no more, it’s still available if you use Delta SkyMiles as a backdoor channel.
Just like the old Member Exclusive fares, there are typically four seats available on every WestJet flight when booking through Delta SkyMiles, making this a potentially very useful solution for those of you who often travel within North America as a family or larger group.
For example, here’s the award calendar for Vancouver–Halifax, four passengers, in the peak of summer:
Meanwhile, travel to the United States is also priced very competitively, although it can be slightly higher or lower than the fixed level of 12,500 Delta SkyMiles once Delta’s own flights (which are priced dynamically) are introduced.
Vancouver–Fort Lauderdale starts at around 14,000 Delta SkyMiles…
…whereas Vancouver–New York can be booked for as little as 9,000 Delta SkyMiles.
If your travel goals will be focused on domestic and transborder trips over the next few years, you might just consider signing up for one of these elevated Amex US Delta offers and covering a handful of round-trip transcontinental flights on WestJet at very generous fixed rates.
Amex US Delta Gold Cards: 70,000 Delta SkyMiles + First Year Free
The Amex US Delta Gold Card and Amex US Delta Gold Business Card are both offering 70,000 Delta SkyMiles upon spending US$2,000 in the first three months. The annual fee of US$99 is waived for the first year.
On top of that, the personal version is offering US$200 in statement credits on select US home furnishing stores:
Eligible purchases are qualifying purchases in-store, online and via mobile app at The Home Depot, Lowe’s, The Container Store, Bed Bath & Beyond, Crate and Barrel, Crate and Kids, CB2, Anthropologie and Terrain. Only purchases made in the United States and in US dollars are eligible. Purchases of items shipped outside of the US are not eligible. Purchases at outlets and purchases of gift cards are not qualifying purchases.
This may not an easy credit for Canadians to use. Unlike a dining credit, it’s probably not on the forefront of a cross-border traveller’s mind, unless you’re purposefully going on a shopping trip.
Still, if you’re looking for a little home improvement on the cusp of springtime, you might do well by using a parcel forwarding service. As long as shipping and duties come out to less than US$200, ordering from the US website would beat buying from the store’s Canadian counterpart.
Furthermore, there’s an even better special offer on the personal version too, although it’s not available directly on the Amex US website.
Instead, it’s a targeted offer of a US$200 statement credit for Delta customers during the flight booking process. Simply search for a dummy flight on the Delta website, and you might see the offer pop up (try using a VPN with a US IP address for best results).
The Delta.com offer is superior to the refer-a-friend offer, since the US$200 statement credit can be used on any purchases, not just US home furnishing stores.
Meanwhile, the business version of the Delta Gold is offering a US$50 statement credit upon spending US$2,000 in the first three months.
Between the two versions, you should consider the personal Delta Gold Card if you’re in the early stages of the US credit card game, since you want to build up at least one or two long-term personal cards that will contribute to your US credit history in the long run.
Meanwhile, consider the Delta Gold Business Card if you’ve already gotten started with US credit cards, and are looking to preserve Chase 5/24 “slots” with a view of applying for Chase cards down the line.
(The same advice applies to the Delta Platinum and Delta Reserve card families that we’ll discuss below).
With either of the Delta Gold cards, the 70,000 Delta SkyMiles will be enough to cover at least five one-way WestJet flights within Canada – not bad for a single credit card signup bonus with no first-year annual fee!
Plus, if you actually fly Delta at some point (perhaps on a cheap SkyMiles redemption down to the US), you’ll enjoy a free first checked bag and priority boarding on your Delta flights.
Amex US Delta Platinum Cards: 90,000 Delta SkyMiles + US$250 Annual Fee
The Amex US Delta Platinum Card and Amex US Delta Platinum Business Card are both offering 90,000 Delta SkyMiles upon spending US$3,000 in the first three months. The cards have annual fees of US$250.
The personal version comes with the same US$200 statement credit on US home furnishing stores that’s part of the refer-a-friend offers on most Amex US personal cards for the spring of 2021.
Meanwhile, the business version is offering a US$100 statement credit upon spending US$3,000 in the first three months.
If you’ve already started in the US game and would like to limit your outlay on annual fees, then the statement credit on the business version would reduce your first-year fee to a net US$150.
With either of the Delta Platinum cards, the 90,000 Delta SkyMiles will be enough for at least seven one-way WestJet flights within Canada – that’s pretty outstanding for a single credit card signup bonus!
From a Canadian perspective, the Delta Platinum family doesn’t offer too many perks that are useful beyond the free first checked bag and priority boarding. There’s an annual companion voucher for travel on Delta, but it’s only valid within the continental United States, so you’d have to pop down to Seattle or Buffalo to make good use of it.
Amex US Delta Reserve Cards: 80,000 Delta SkyMiles + US$550 Annual Fee
The Amex US Delta Reserve Card and Amex US Delta Reserve Business Card are both offering 80,000 Delta SkyMiles (as well as 20,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles) upon spending US$5,000 in the first three months. The cards have annual fees of US$550.
Just like the Delta Gold and Delta Platinum, the personal version of the Delta Reserve comes with the same US$200 statement credit on US home furnishing stores.
On top of that, the business version is offering a US$200 statement credit upon spending US$5,000 in the first three months. That could bring your net annual fee down to US$350 in the first year.
The main appeal of the Delta Reserve cards (and what goes a long way towards justifying their high annual fees) is the fact that they can help Delta’s frequent flyers achieve and retain Medallion status within the program, which probably won’t be applicable to most Canadians. I’d say that the lower-tier Gold and Platinum families would be a better fit if your primary objective is to earn SkyMiles for redeeming on fixed-price WestJet flights.
Nevertheless, if you do apply for the Delta Reserve cards, the 80,000 Delta SkyMiles will be enough for at least six one-way transcontinental WestJet flights within Canada, which is still an excellent return on the US$550 annual fee.
After the First Year: Downgrade to the Amex US Delta Blue Card
With US credit cards, it’s important to consider the long-term strategy for each card that you sign up for.
Cardholders are almost never eligible for repeat signup bonuses in the future, and you don’t want to cancel too many accounts if you want to build up a strong US credit history over time.
Thankfully, the Delta card family offers what’s known as a “downgrade path” among the personal cards, allowing holders of the Delta Gold, Platinum, and Reserve cards to downgrade to the no-fee Amex US Delta Blue Card after one year if they no longer want to pay the annual fee.
(You can’t downgrade the Delta business cards to the Delta Blue Card; the lowest they can go is the Delta Business Gold Card, which still has a US$99 annual fee. If you’re applying for one of the business cards, it’ll probably make sense to cancel after the first year is up, unless you see yourself flying with Delta with some regularity.)
Amex US Four Credit Cards Limit
There’s one more consideration before applying for the Delta cards: American Express US has a limit of four credit cards per individual (not including charge cards), which appears to be more strictly enforced since the onset of the pandemic.
You’ll therefore want to weigh the importance of earning Delta SkyMiles for travel on WestJet against the other points currencies that you could earn through Amex US credit cards.
Perhaps the wealth of hotel rewards points available through the Hilton Honors and Marriott Bonvoy co-branded credit cards might be more appealing to you (especially with the Amex US Hilton cards also putting on record-high bonuses through April).
Personally, I’m holding five Amex US credit cards at the moment (having opened them before the pandemic), so I won’t be eligible for a new Amex US Delta card at the moment.
I’d expect the enforcement of this rule to be relaxed again once Amex US loosens up their lending practices after the pandemic, but until then, it’s an important limitation to keep in mind.
The Amex US Delta co-branded credit cards have bumped up their welcome bonuses until May 5, 2021 via the refer-a-friend channel.
While these won’t be the most appealing offers (nor Delta SkyMiles the most appealing program) if your goal is to travel in international premium cabins, they do offer a backdoor method for the frequent Canadian domestic traveller to access up to four fixed-price award seats on every WestJet flight, similar to the old WestJet Member Exclusive fares.
The sweet spot among the offers is probably the Delta Platinum Business Card, which lets you earn enough SkyMiles for seven transcontinental one-ways for only a net fee of only US$150 in the first year. The personal Delta Gold Card isn’t bad either, enough for almost six transcontinental one-ways along with a US$200 statement credit through the targeted Delta.com offer.
If a member of your points-collecting entourage already holds a Delta co-branded credit card or Amex US Membership Rewards card of their own, then you should use their referral link to apply (as the Delta and MR cards can refer among each other).
Otherwise, consider using the link of a fellow member of the community, or you can send me an email if you’re interested in using my referral link for one of the Amex US Delta cards.
Don’t forget, you can always top-up your Delta SkyMiles balance by transferring at a 1:0.75 ratio from Amex MR points or a 1:1 ratio from Amex US MR points.