Why all military should get the Amex Delta Reserve – Especially in Alaska or Hawaii

Its general knowledge among the military community that American Express waives all annual fee under their very generous interpretation of the Servicemember’s Civil Relief Act and the first card most active duty military get is the Amex Platinum card … but most seem to stop here.  Military Miles and Finance was started to help military members take the next step in really maximizing the benefits available to them.

BLUF:  Get the Amex Delta Reserve Card for its once a year free companion pass, access to Delta Sky lounge, and higher priority for complementary upgrades.  From a daily aspect, no real use in any purchase category, not even Delta tickets.

At initial glance, the Amex Delta Reserve seem like an unnecessary and redundant card once you have the Amex Platinum but as you dive into it, there are extreme money saving benefits to take advantage of.

So lets break the value of each benefit:

  • FIRST CHECKED BAG FREE ON DELTA FLIGHTS = $0

Worthless to military since Delta Policy is 2 free 50 pound check in luggage for military on personal travel and a whooping 5 free 100 pound check in luggage if on orders.  

  • MILES ON DELTA PURCHASES, SPEND WITH DELTA. SPLURGE WITH MILES. =$0

The Delta Reserve offers 2 Delta Miles for Delta purchases and 1 Delta Mile for all other purchases.  You should NEVER use this card for any airline ticket purchase, ESPECIALLY Delta ticket purchases!  The Amex Platinum gives 5x points for all airline ticket purchased directly with airlines and the Amex Platinum program offers a direct 1 for 1 exchange with Delta SkyMiles.

  • PRIORITY BOARDING MAKE WAITING A THING OF THE PAST = $0

I personally don’t value at all.  I never understood why so many think this is such a benefit.  We’re all end up arriving at the same time anyways.

  • IN-FLIGHT SAVINGS = $.00001

This is a 20% refund on all purchases of food, alcoholic beverages and audio headsets. That’s it.  Doesn’t apply to miles booster, on board wi-fi, duty-free purchases, etc.  If you’re in the miles game, you have some sort of status and will 99% of the time get upgraded to at least Delta Comfort+, meaning unlimited free drinks.  And really, you’re actually gonna pay money for airline food?

  • BAGGAGE INSURANCE PLAN
  • CAR RENTAL LOSS AND DAMAGE INSURANCE 
  • GLOBAL ASSIST® HOTLINE 
  • TRAVEL ACCIDENT INSURANCE 
  • NO FOREIGN TRANSACTION FEES 

Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah…… Nothing really exceptional about the card that other basic cards don’t offer.  Now let’s get to the good stuff.

DELTA RESERVE COMPANION CERTIFICATE

Receive a Domestic First Class, Delta Comfort+® or Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card.

Here is the #1 reason to hold onto the card even if you never end up charging anything on it.  The companion ticket is good for any domestic round trip within the 48 contiguous states UNLESS you are a resident of Hawaii, Alaska, or Puerto Rico.  For those residents you can apply it to a round trip ticket from your home state to anywhere on the mainland.  Even though there are some restrictions on the type of coded ticket for each class, you still come end up saving hundreds of dollars a year!

Over $600 dollars in savings this example of round trip from Honolulu to San Antonio with free companion certificate.

Comparable available tickets

 

DELTA SKY CLUB® ACCESS

 

****Updated 07 Nov 2017**** Delta policy has changed that you must be flying with a delta operated or delta coded flight to access the Delta Sky Club with your Delta Reserve credit card.****

The Amex Platinum does provide access to the Delta Lounge when traveling on a Delta flight, and it does provide a Priority Pass membership but as seasoned travelers know, the priority pass lounge at an airport can be a hit or miss and we don’t have the choice of airlines as a customer of the Defense Travel System. This card allows access to the Delta lounge no matter what airlines you are flying, and I’m sure military stationed in Hawaii can agree that the priority pass lounge in at Honolulu Airport is horrendous compared with the Delta lounge.  * Don’t forget, this card only gets the card holder access to the lounge, so remember to order an additional card for your spouse under your account…also free for military of course.

Higher priority for complimentary upgrade

Most flyers understand complimentary upgrades are determined by medallion status but how is it determined afterwards?  Delta, like most other airlines, have a complex list of rules to rack and stack Medallion Members on the complimentary upgrade list.

Delta upgrade hierarchy: After Medallion Status and Fare Class, those with the Delta Reserve will get upgraded first over those that don’t

Allows cardholders the option to Pay with Miles

Pay with miles is an option available to Amex Delta cardholders.  This isn’t the same as an award ticket. In an award ticket, you have to purchase the whole ticket with miles and you don’t earn miles on the trip.  With pay-with-miles, you can utilize your SkyMiles with as little as 5,000 miles in the account.  It basically values each mile at 1 cent but calculates it as a purchase so when you fly on a Delta flight purchased with pay-with-miles, you get miles back as if you payed cash for the ticket.

Conclusion:

Even if I had to pay the $450 annual fee, I would keep this card it since I can make the cost of the fee and more with just the annual companion certificate but it being free is the cherry-on-top.  All military members should get this card, get the sign up bonus, then put a low repeating bill on the card to just keep it active ( I charge my monthly Apple music bill on my card and that’s it).  Really, just use the card for its once a year free companion card (given after your first year), Delta sky lounge access, and prioritization for complimentary upgrades.

Any one else have this lesser known card?  What was your experience utilizing the free companion pass?