The emphasis on wanting perks when flying depends on the customer and how often they travel.
Delta and American Express two years ago launched a blue card targeted at millennials who are just starting to travel. The gold card, according to Dube, is for value-seekers who don't travel often but want to be able to take their family on a vacation.
The platinum card is for frequent travelers who want more miles, while the reserve card is for those who travel very frequently and want a better experience when they fly and a faster path to elite status.
One of the things that won't change: Gold, platinum and reserve cards will still allow travelers to check a bag on Delta for free.
The changes in fees and benefits for all of the cards will take effect Jan. 30, 2020.
For Delta gold AmEx cards, the annual fee will be $99, up from $95. However, there will be a $100 flight credit for those who spend $10,000 a year on the card, and double miles for spending at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets.
For Delta platinum cards, the annual fee will increase from $195 to $250 and bonus miles will be discontinued. That means those who spend $25,000 on the card will no longer get 10,000 bonus miles. They will still get Medallion qualification miles for spending.
Delta platinum cardholders will also now get a $100 credit if they apply for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry, which charge a fee to enroll or renew once every five years. Delta Platinum cardholders will also get double miles for spending at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets and triple miles for some spending at hotels and on Delta.
Those Delta cards are focused on “rewarding you for what you do every day anyway,” like spending money at grocery stores and restaurants, said American Express executive vice president of global consumer partnerships Eva Reda.
“There are so many cards across the landscape that have features for customers,” she said. Airline cards like Delta’s combine points earned from spending and flying together, and include “perks that are going to improve your travel experience, making trips smoother.”
For Delta reserve cards, the annual fee will increase from $450 to $550, there will be no more bonus miles and no more access to Sky Priority security lanes.
However, reserve cardholders will get access to American Express Centurion lounges and 2 one-time guest passes to Delta Sky Clubs. And they will also get the $100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credit, be eligible for up to four “status boosts” a year to earn extra Medallion qualification miles for spending on the card and get triple miles on Delta purchases.
The Delta blue American Express card will still have no annual fee and will expand double miles for spending at restaurants internationally, along with waiving foreign transaction fees.
Delta and Amex will have limited time offers in October with 60,000 to 80,000 bonus miles for applying for new gold, platinum or reserve personal cards or business cards.
Other changes for gold, platinum and reserve cards will reduce benefits for Sky Club access by decreasing or removing the discount for one-time club passes. And for gold cardholders, Delta is no longer waiving its Medallion Qualification Dollar requirement to reach elite status.
Dube said all of the changes are aimed at targeting benefits to travelers, and said he believes “the benefits far, far outweigh the fee increases.”
Getting that calculation right – or wrong – could have a significant impact on the airline’s financial performance.
The American Express partnership brings in billions of dollars for Delta, with the airline selling miles to the credit card issuer, which then doles them out to cardholders as rewards. When the two companies renewed their partnership earlier this year, Delta said it expects to double its benefits from the American Express relationship to nearly $7 billion by 2023.