Credit card showdown: AA Mileup vs. Delta Blue Amex

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Two of the major domestic airlines, American Airlines and Delta Air Lines, offer no-annual-fee credit cards in addition to their far-reaching portfolio of cards: the American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card and the Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card.

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These cards have no frills but do a great job of the basics — earning airline miles for the opportunity to redeem award tickets for just the cost of taxes and fees. Let’s see how these two competitor cards stack up.

American and Delta Planes at LAX
American and Delta go head-to-head as some of the major airlines in the U.S. (Photo by Philip Pilosian/Shutterstock)

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Comparing the AA Mileup card vs. Delta Blue Amex card

We’ll look at the card’s features on a broader scale, then parse out the differences to analyze which card is the best pick for you.

American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card Delta SkyMiles Blue American Express Card
Annual fee $0 $0 (see rates & fees)
Sign-up bonus/Welcome offer Earn 10,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles and a $50 statement credit after spending $500 in purchases in the first three months of account opening. Earn 10,000 bonus miles after spending $500 in purchases on your new card in your first three months of card membership.
Bonus categories 2x on eligible American Airlines purchases and groceries, 1x on everything else. 2x on eligible Delta purchases and dining at restaurants, 1x on other purchases.

Sign-up bonus

At face value, both sign-up bonuses seem relatively comparable — you’ll have to reach a doable minimum spend of $500 within the first three months of card opening. Let’s take a look at the value of each airline currency to help you understand the award travel possibilities with each offering.

According to TPG’s most recent valuations, American AAdvantage miles are worth 1.4 cents each, while Delta SkyMiles are worth 1.1 cents each. As a result, the MileUp Card’s sign-up bonus is worth $190 (with the $50 statement credit offer), while the Delta Blue Amex is worth $110.

Winner: The AAdvantage MileUp Card is the clear winner here, thanks to the higher value of AAdvantage miles and the $50 statement credit.

Bonus categories

Both cards offer 2x on their respective eligible airline purchases and an additional bonus category, plus 1x on all other purchases. The better-earning rate will be dependent on your everyday spending habits.

According to 2020 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, American households spent $4,725 on groceries and $2,994 on restaurants on average. We won’t consider how much you spend on flights, as that will depend on how often you travel.

American AAdvantage MileUp Card Delta SkyMiles Blue American Express Card
Groceries: $4,725 2x at grocery stores (9,450 miles) 1x on groceries (4,725 miles)
Dining: $2,994 1x on everything else (2,994 miles) 2x on dining (5,988 miles)
Total annual rewards 12,444 miles, worth $174.22 according to TPG valuations 10,713 miles, worth $107.13 according to TPG valuations

Winner: The American AAdvantage MileUp Card is more lucrative, based on data of American household spending.

Redemption options

Both frequent flyer programs employ dynamic pricing and have experienced devaluations over the past few years.

However, you may find the AAdvantage program to be a favorable option, as it still offers an award chart for MileSAAver and partner award tickets where you can tend to find the greatest value for your miles — especially on off-peak dates. The AAdvantage program also offers web special awards and AAnytime awards that are (oftentimes) even cheaper than the MileSAAver rates.

The Delta SkyMiles program has award tickets that fluctuate wildly. The carrier increased the price of many of its partner award tickets in October 2020, but there’s still value to be found using SkyMiles.

In the past, I’ve scored dozens of round-trip flights from New York (JFK) to my hometown of Raleigh-Durham (RDU) for under 10,000 SkyMiles. We’ve even noted Delta flash sales for award flights as low as 2,500 miles one-way and 10,000 for first class.

Winner: The American AAdvantage MileUp Card wins, thanks to its much more predictable redemption opportunities (though you can still find some great deals with Delta SkyMiles). More importantly, the best card for you will depend on which carrier you fly more often and fits your route network best.

Card benefits

For starters, the American AAdvantage MileUp card offers a 25% discount on inflight food and beverage purchases on American-marketed flights. While there’s no checked baggage waiver or priority boarding benefit, there’s a unique opportunity to waive the Elite Qualifying Dollar (EQD) requirement to earn AAdvantage Gold, Platinum or Platinum Pro elite status for 2021. To qualify, you’ll need to spend $30,000 or more in purchases with this card by Dec. 31, 2021. While this is a hefty spending requirement, it’s not often that a no-annual-fee credit card offers an elite-earning incentive like this.

Meanwhile, the Delta Blue Amex offers a 20% statement credit on inflight purchases and no foreign transaction fees (see rates & fees) when using this card internationally. This is a huge plus, as the MileUp card charges a 3% foreign transaction fee.

The Delta Blue Amex also comes with the ability to get $50 off your flight for every 5,000 miles you redeem on Delta’s website. This could add up to huge savings the more you take advantage of award tickets. Last but not least, you’ll enjoy secondary car rental coverage, 24/7 emergency travel assistance, purchase protection and extended warranty with this card.

Winner: The Delta Blue Amex offers much more robust benefits than the AAdvantage MileUp card. It waives foreign transaction fees, offers a discount on eligible award tickets and a diverse range of travel and purchase coverages.

Which card should you get?

There are pros and cons to both of these airline cards that serve as excellent introductions to each loyalty program. While the AAdvantage MileUp wins in most categories, the differences aren’t too drastic when it comes to these cards. Ultimately the best pick will depend on which airline you fly more often.

If you’re lucky enough to live in an area serviced by both American and Delta, here are a few factors that can help you decide the better card for you.

If you’re more interested in a higher sign-up bonus, spend more on groceries, want access to more predictable award tickets and the opportunity to earn elite status, opt for the AAdvantage MileUp card. The Delta Blue Amex is the better choice for you if you want no foreign transaction fees, spend more on dining at restaurants and want access to complimentary travel and purchase protections.

Bottom line

You could certainly opt for a more expensive airline credit card (with annual fees of $95 or much greater). But a basic airline card such as the AAdvantage MileUp or the Delta Blue Amex is still a solid option to consider. Take away all of the extra benefits and emphasize the importance of earning airline miles on everyday purchases, and you’ll have both cards that can be excellent additions to your wallet.

Depending on your lifestyle choices and spending habits, there’ll be a clear winner for which card will benefit you the most.

Application link: American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card available for 10,000 bonus miles and a $50 statement credit in the first three months of account opening.

Application link: Delta SkyMiles Blue American Express Card available for 10,000 bonus miles after spending $500 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.

For rates and fees of the Delta Blue Amex, click here.

Featured photo by Wyatt Smith for The Points Guy.

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