Delta Air Lines is changing the perks for its branded American Express credit card holders in a move that divides its members into two camps: those motivated by free travel and those motivated by exclusive amenities.
The Atlanta-based airline, which is the dominant carrier at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport where it has a large business-traveler base, announced the changes Monday.
After a year of research with current and prospective cardholders, Delta said the tweaks will give people more of what they want.
“Each card is tailored to what our customers have told us is most important to them – ranging from ways to earn even more miles to travel perks along the way,” Sandeep Dube, Delta’s senior vice president of customer engagement and loyalty, said in a release.
Delta said its blue and gold card members are more cost-conscious and less frequent travelers who care most about earning miles to offset ticket prices. Its platinum cardholders are loyal to Delta, but want to get to their travel rewards quicker. And its reserve members want to earner elite status faster so they can enjoy the luxury amenities.
After the changes go into effect in January, the airline's gold, platinum and reserve cardholders will earn more points on daily purchases, such as restaurants and supermarkets.
There are, of course, a few tradeoffs. Everyone will pay a higher annual fee. (Blue card holders are the exception as their card's annual fee will remain $0.) The annual fee will increase from $95 to $99 for gold, from $195 to $250 for platinum and from $450 to $550 for reserve.
Gold cardholders will no longer have the option to pay $29 for its airport sky club lounges or the ability to use their purchases toward Medallion Qualifying Dollar (MQD) waivers, which is a path to elite status. Delta declined to say exactly how many of its gold members used these two perks, but said less than 5% used the Sky Club access and less than 1% used the MQD waiver.
Platinum members will still have lounge access, but the fee per visit is increasing from $29 to $39. Delta is also giving these cardholders either a Global Entry or TSA Precheck fee credit.
As for reserve members, they now have access to the highly-exclusive American Express Centurion Lounge (in airports where available), and get two one-time guest passes to Delta’s standard Sky Clubs each year. Reserve cardholders can also earn a 15,000 medallion qualifying miles (MQM) boost four times a year, which is twice as often as currently offered.