Can I justify renewing my Amex Delta Reserve?

Old Sep 4, 19, 10:21 am
Original Poster
Join Date: Sep 2019
Posts: 2
Can I justify renewing my Amex Delta Reserve?

Alternate title: How much is upgrade priority really worth?

I have had the Chase Sapphire Reserve since 2016 and fully believe it is worth the annual fee. I am in the first bonus year for both the Amex Delta Reserve and Amex Platinum - after doing the math I also think the Amex Platinum benefits make the card pay for itself and plan to renew it in future years. However, what I'm having trouble correctly valuing is the Delta Reserve, and whether I should cancel it before the renewal period.

Other relevant considerations: I fly Delta frequently, but usually domestic flights or relatively short international flights to Mexico and Canada. I have Gold Status through 2020 and will likely have Platinum by the end of the year. My upgrade clears to Comfort+ more than 90% of the time, and to First Class more than 70% of the time, so I always purchase Main Cabin tickets unless it is a very long flight where main cabin would be a huge pain - I figure worst case I'll get a preferred exit row seat which is not the end of the world.

Annual fee: $450

Worthless benefits that I should not take into consideration:
  • 1 SkyMile per dollar spent on regular purchases. Worth: $0 because I could get the a better benefit from putting the same purchase on my CSR or AmexPlatinum (non-travel is 1 UR or MR point which are valued 1:1 with SkyMiles and also much more flexible - I could cash them out, "pay" for a flight that doesn't have an award ticket, or use on a different airline if I wanted).
  • 2 SkyMiles on purchases made directly with Delta. Worth: $0 because I could get the equivalent of 4.5 SkyMiles if the purchase was made on my CSR and 5 SkyMiles if made on my Amex Platinum.
  • Delta SkyClub access - Worth: $0 because I get the same benefit with my Amex Platinum.
  • Main Cabin 1 Priority Boarding and free checked bag - Worth: $0 because I get those benefits or better through my DL status.

Benefits that MIGHT make it worth it:
  • First Class, Comfort+, or Main Cabin companion pass on a domestic flight. Because this is only for domestic flights within the lower 48, and I only pay for main cabin tickets, it is not guaranteed that I would save $450 on this ticket -- lots of times my tickets even to the other coast are less than that. Also, I'm not married and don't have kids so my companion pass would go to people who would probably be paying for their own ticket to go with me, like my boyfriend or parents or siblings. How we've handled that in the past is that we split the cost of the first ticket, so we each essentially get half off. So, I would have to have a reason to buy a $900 domestic main cabin ticket for this to offset the $450 - which might happen but is far from likely or typical. I could spring for business class just for the sake of it, but I'm generally against spending money I wouldn't have otherwise spent just to get an illusory "savings" from a credit card benefit.
  • Upgrade Priority within medallion classes. Is the reason my upgrades clear so frequently because I have the Delta Amex? If so, this might be worth it. It "feels" like I have Platinum-level upgrade success while only being a Gold; plenty of people pay way more than $450 to jump a status tier in mileage runs, keeping this cc might be the easiest and cheapest way to get some of those perks. Presumably it would be even better to have upgrade priority over all the other Platinums when I likely achieve that status for 2020. Alternatively, I could just be flying routes that happen not to have a lot of high status medallions and the upgrades might have gone through anyway; it's really hard to tell what's really causing it.
Thoughts from the smart folks on this forum? I'm a long-time lurker but first-time poster, so let me know if I should put this someplace else!
RenataRicotta is offline  
Old Sep 4, 19, 10:35 am
FlyerTalk Evangelist, Moderator: American Express, Citi, Diners Club, Signatures
Join Date: Jun 2003
Location: Miami & London
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Posts: 38,594
Welcome to Flyertalk.

Typically a discussion of Skymiles Reserve would also include these features:

Medallion Qualification Dollar Waiver
Annual Miles Boost

Originally Posted by RenataRicotta View Post
.... not guaranteed that I would save $450
Why is this an All/Nothing analysis? A benefit does not need to save the full amount of the annual fee to be valued.
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mia is offline  
Old Sep 4, 19, 10:46 am
Original Poster
Join Date: Sep 2019
Posts: 2
During this first bonus year, I spent just over $30k on the Delta Reserve in order to get both the MQD waiver and the first annual miles boost. I decided to stop using it after that because it didn't feel worth it to me to spend another $30k for the second miles boost, given the opportunity cost of getting UR or MR points on those purchases instead (I do not have the time or inclination for manufactured spend). There is zero chance I would attempt the $250k Diamond MQD waiver.

If I kept it for another year, I would probably try to hit the $30k again but not the $60k. Even the first $30k is a bit of a tough call for me, however - I'd be giving up $450-$1350 worth of Ultimate Rewards points (1.5% on regular purchases if redeemed for travel and 4.5% on travel purchases if redeemed for travel). The difficulty is that it's hard to put a number value on status, but UR/MR points are very easy to value in dollars and cents.
RenataRicotta is offline  
Old Sep 4, 19, 2:41 pm
Join Date: May 2011
Location: NYC (LGA, JFK, EWR)
Programs: Delta Silver, AAdvantage Gold, SPG/Marriott/Hilton Gold, AMEX Membership Rewards
Posts: 1,297
I am in a very similar situation as you. You should also consider the Amex Delta Platinum - for a $195 fee, you get a coach companion ticket and a smaller MQM boost (10,000 MQM) at $25,000 spend, which may be more attainable to you. You lose SkyClub access, but you already have it with the "regular" Platinum. If I were you I would actually apply for the Amex Delta Platinum outright (if you haven't already) to get the signup bonus.

I currently have both the Delta Platinum and Delta Reserve (I have gotten bonuses for all of the Delta cards over the past couple of years). Theoretically the companion pass for both cards can pay for themselves in any given year. However I will likely consolidate into one card or the other - it really depends on if I notice any upgrade benefit from the Reserve. If I don't, I suspect the Delta Platinum will be good for my needs. I have my SO as an AU on my Delta Platinum, so it helps me reach the MQM bonus while giving her access to the $29 day passes at the SkyClub if she is traveling alone.
Adelphos is offline  
Old Sep 5, 19, 12:39 am
Join Date: Nov 2013
Location: PHX, SEA
Programs: DL Silver, Avis President's Club, Hertz President's Circle, Global Entry (Former AA Plt/Gold)
Posts: 3,304
If you "never" would buy first class tickets, then I agree with the poster saying to get the SkyMiles Platinum card, or else just drop the cards completely if your purchases cover the regular MQDs.

To be frank, it sounds like your mind was already made up by the post; we will support your decision and still let you post here

I will also remind you that the regular Amex Platinum card no longer works with gift cards for the $200 "incidentals" so you might need to re-evaluate that card too.
Gig103 is offline  

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