Delta rolls out credit card benefit changes, higher fees

Source: Delta
Source: Delta

Delta Air Lines is rolling out changes to its SkyMiles American Express cards that take effect Thursday -- with higher fees and some different benefits.

The new features justify the increase in fees, said WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzalez in a written statement, but card holders should "go over the new terms and decide if the cards are still suitable for their needs."

Among the changes effective Jan. 30 for the platinum version of the Delta frequent flier credit card, for example, are an increase in the annual fee from $195 to $250, the elimination of bonus miles and the addition of a $100 fee credit if you apply for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry.

The trusted traveler programs TSA PreCheck and Global Entry, which have a charge to enroll or renew once every five years, can speed the process through security lines or Customs.

“They save you so much time at the airport, especially if you’re a frequent traveler. It’s kind of become the must-have benefit for anyone that flies a lot,” said NerdWallet credit cards and travel expert Sara Rathner. “To be able to get that benefit for free is just icing on the cake.”

Delta is making the changes amid a competitive market for mileage credit cards in which frequent fliers jockey for perks.

One of the most popular benefits will remain: Gold, platinum and reserve cards will still allow travelers to check a bag on Delta for free.

The platinum and reserve SkyMiles AmEx cards will now be made of metal. Existing card holders would get a new card when theirs expires, or they can request a metal card from AmEx online or by phone.

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.

For Delta reserve cards, the annual fee for the AmEx 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 two one-time guest passes to Sky Clubs.

Club access “is a pretty trendy benefit right now,” Rathner said, though that also means some clubs get too crowded.

Reserve card holders will also get the $100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credit and other benefits.
Rathner noted that the new reserve card fee of $550 "is one of the highest you'll see" for such a card.

“This is not an insignificant amount of money to spend every year on your card,” she said. “If you find that you’re not extracting the true value of the card, it could be time to consider downgrading” to one with a lower annual fee.