Which Credit Cards to Earn Delta Miles or Hotel Points for Merchants that Don’t Accept AMEX?

Which Credit Cards to Earn Delta SkyMiles or Hotel Points for Merchants Who Don't Accept AMEX?


Which credit cards will earn you Delta SkyMiles or hotel points, when a merchant doesn't accept AMEX? A TravelSort client writes “I have an upcoming personal purchase in the next month or so that will cost about $15,000.  The vendor will accept Mastercard and Visa, but not AMEX.  Our home airport essentially only has access to Delta flights, so I'd ideally like to earn Delta SkyMiles. Are there any cards that you would recommend that I apply for? Hotel points are fine as are any points that could ultimately transfer to Delta.”

While I don't personally collect Delta SkyMiles, for a few reasons–no international first class awards, difficulty in obtaining saver level award space, no one way awards (or rather, you pay the same whether your award is one way or roundtrip) many folks live by a Delta hub or an airport where the majority of flights are Delta, so Delta SkyMiles are their best bet, especially for domestic travel. Here are my thoughts on this client's question on non-AMEX credit card spend to earn Delta SkyMiles, points that transfer to Delta, or hotel points.

Many Merchants Do Not Accept AMEX

There's a reason why AMEX can offer those targeted (and occasionally public) great signup bonuses, great consumer purchase protections and other benefits: AMEX charges merchants more to accept its card, than do Visa and MasterCard. As a business owner who accepts AMEX (as well as Visa and MasterCard) for my Award Booking Service, I am all too aware of this. So it's no wonder that this client has a major upcoming transaction with a merchant who doesn't accept AMEX, and anyone who travels internationally knows that if anything, even more merchants abroad don't accept AMEX.

But Delta's U.S. Credit Cards Are Issued by AMEX

All of Delta's credit cards are issued by AMEX, so unfortunately there aren't Visa or MasterCard Delta credit card options.

Suntrust Offers a Delta SkyMiles World Check Card IF You Live in a Suntrust State

Suntrust offers a Delta SkyMiles World Check Card, which earns 1 SkyMiles per $1 on general purchases, and 2 SkyMiles per $1 on direct Delta purchases. There's only a 5000 SkyMile signup bonus, and the catch is that you have to have or open a Suntrust checking account and live in a Suntrust state. Per the terms, the cards are only available to residents of AL, AR, FL, GA, MD, MS, NC, SC, TN, VA, WV and Washington, DC. 

Many Hotel Loyalty Programs Offer a Transfer to AMEX, But at Abysmal Transfer Rates (Except SPG AMEX)

As usual, the best hotel loyalty points for transfers to Delta SkyMiles (or most other frequent flyer programs) are SPG points, earned through the SPG AMEX. That's not helpful here, as the merchant doesn't accept AMEX. 

Also as is typical, other hotel loyalty programs apart from SPG offer terrible transfer rates to Delta SkyMiles. For example:

  • Choice Privileges: 1000 Delta SkyMiles for 5000 Choice points 
  • Club Carlson: 1 Delta SkyMile for 10 Club Carlson points 
  • Hilton HHonors: 1000 Delta SkyMiles for 10,000 Hilton HHonors points
  • Hyatt Gold Passport: 1 Delta SkyMile for 2.5 Hyatt points
  • IHG Rewards Club: 2000 Delta SkyMiles for 10,000 Priority Club points
  • Marriott Rewards: 2000 Delta SkyMiles for 10,000 Marriott Rewards points
  • Wyndham Rewards: 3200 Delta SkyMiles for 8000 Wyndham Rewards points

After the SPG AMEX, the Hyatt Visa and Wyndham Visa Credit Cards Offer the Best Transfer Ratio to Delta

As you can see from the above transfer rates, Hyatt Gold Passport and Wyndham Rewards offer the best of the poor transfer rates to Delta SkyMiles, at a ratio of 2.5 hotel points to 1 Delta SkyMile. Personally I would keep Hyatt points to redeem for Hyatt hotels, even after the Hyatt Devaluation (note that you have until January 6 to lock in current Hyatt award chart rates). 

The Hyatt Visa has a great 2 free nights signup bonus, if you can maximize it by redeeming for expensive Park Hyatt or other top Hyatt properties. The best bet is to start making a Hyatt reservation online, so that you can apply via the online offer and get a $50 statement credit as well as no annual fee. Please see http://travelsort.com/blog/hyatt-visa-still-the-best-hotel-credit-card-bonus-offer-2-free-nights-50-statement-credit 

Wyndham Rewards offers a $69 annual fee Wyndham Rewards Visa card with 30K signup bonus (so 45K including a $15K spend = 18K Delta miles) and a no annual fee Wyndham Rewards Visa with 12K signup bonus (so 27K including a $15K spend = 10.8K Delta miles).

For a Large Purchase, Consider Meeting Minimum Spend on Multiple Credit Cards 

While this isn't a major consideration for this client, $15,000 could be useful in meeting minimum spend on several new credit cards to earn multiple signup bonuses, if there are other cards you're interested in for frequent flyer miles or hotel loyalty points bonuses. That is, if the merchant in question is willing to split the transaction into 2 or 3 charges.

Small Purchases Could be Done with Visa or MasterCard Gift Cards Purchased with a Delta or SPG AMEX

While I don't recommend this for a major purchase due to the hassle involved with buying multiple gift cards, each with a fee, for a smaller purchase amount it could be worth buying a Visa or MasterCard gift card with your Delta or SPG AMEX, especially when there's a discount or bonus for doing so. 

The Bottom Line

If you live in a Suntrust state and are willing to open a Suntrust checking account, the Delta SkyMiles World Check Card could be a good option to earn Delta SkyMiles when the merchant doesn't accept AMEX. For small purchases, you could use a Delta AMEX or SPG AMEX to buy $500 Visa or MasterCard gift cards (especially if there's a special discount or bonus that makes up for the $5.95 purchase fee, such as the recent but now expired Pathmark, Food Emporium gift card deal) to make the purchase, or see if the merchant will accept Amazon Payments. 

But for large purchases, your best bet is to instead earn other frequent flyer miles or hotel points, due to the poor transfer ratios of hotel points to Delta SkyMiles. 

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