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Travel Are Delta's New SkyMiles Membership Perks Worth the $59 Annual Fee?

17:25  22 october  2019
17:25  22 october  2019 Source:   cntraveler.com

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a large passenger jet sitting on top of a runway© JB Accariez/Master Films/Courtesy Delta

Condé Nast Traveler has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Condé Nast Traveler and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. We don't review or include all companies, or all available products. Moreover, the editorial content on this page was not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are entirely those of Condé Nast Traveler's editorial team.

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Don’t have airline elite status? Delta's latest product offering, Delta SkyMiles Select, aims to make frequent-flier perks available to those who haven't racked up the miles. The annual subscription membership costs $59 per year and offers a couple of benefits that Delta says are worth $100 in value.

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Unlike full elite status, which comes with the potential for seat upgrades, bonus miles on flights, and checked bag fee waivers, SkyMiles Select allows travelers to buy a few elite status perks without doing all that flying. The most useful perk: Main Cabin 1 boarding. This is the first boarding group for Delta's economy cabin, but comes after several groups of elite fliers, top Delta co-branded credit card holders, and premium cabin passengers have boarded (so, it's more like the fourth boarding group in most cases). The true benefit of boarding early? A better shot at finding overhead bin space for carry-on luggage.

SkyMiles Select also comes with eight free drink coupons that are valid for a glass of wine, beer, or a cocktail. Delta charges as much as $9 for alcoholic drinks on most flights, so this perk could be valued around $72. Depending upon how often you fly and the types of tickets you buy (hint: basic economy fliers stand to score big here), this could be a good deal. Here’s who should consider purchasing SkyMiles Select membership.

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Should you buy or pass on SkyMiles Select?

Basic economy fliers If you typically buy basic economy fares, you're used to restrictions like being the very last group to board the plane. A Delta SkyMiles Select membership would trump that restriction, giving you a better shot at finding a place for your bag on board, instead of being forced to gate check your carry-on. That means this a fantastic alternative for those who buy the cheapest fares, especially for those who fly often. Verdict: Buy

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Infrequent fliers with a carry-on If you travel occasionally and prefer not to check a bag, you could also pick up some handy perks, especially if you don't have elite status. A SkyMiles Select membership will likely be cheaper for those passengers who don’t need the extra legroom that comes with buying Comfort Plus, but still want priority boarding and in-flight cocktails. Verdict: Buy

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Delta frequent fliers with elite status Medallion-level fliers have already earned the perks that SkyMiles Select is offering. Gold Medallions and higher get several free drink coupons annually as well as SkyPriority boarding. Even Silver Medallions (Delta's lowest elite tier) board in the Main Cabin 1 boarding group, so unless they want to edge out new SkyMiles Select members now in their boarding group for overhead bin space, the membership would otherwise be moot. Verdict: Pass

Delta co-branded credit card holders Travelers with the Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card and higher already enjoy SkyPriority boarding. And anyone with a Delta-branded American Express card earns 20 percent off in-flight food and beverage purchases. If you fly at least twice a year and check a bag, it’s more valuable to pay the $99 annual fee for the Gold-level card since it comes with free checked bags and discounts on in-flight purchases. Verdict: Pass

Learn more about signing up for the Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card here.

Holders of other travel credit cards Anyone with The Platinum Card from American Express enjoys $200 in credit toward airline-related purchases and Citi Prestige cardholders get $250 in airline-related credit. Both of those cards’ perks would more than cover a few drinks or seat upgrades with priority boarding. Verdict: Pass.

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Learn more about signing up for The Platinum Card from American Express here.

While airlines already up-sell travelers with specific bundles of amenities like in-flight Wi-Fi, airport lounge access, or upgraded seats at a discount, this annual offering for priority boarding and drinks at this price point is truly the first of its kind. United does have annual subscriptions for different amenities like extra legroom seats or checked bags, but their cost and value are both higher.

Perhaps Delta sees this as appealing to millennial travelers already familiar with subscription-based services, especially those that give them priority perks. It also locks in the occasional flier to stay loyal to Delta for future flights throughout the year.

For infrequent travelers in regular economy and those on basic economy fares, this annual fee is worth it to assure space for a bag plus a few other niceties like drinks along the way (plus each member gets a luggage tag). For most everyone else, you’ll still score more value from a carefully chosen credit card than with this annual subscription.

Condé Nast Traveler has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Condé Nast Traveler and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. We don't review or include all companies, or all available products. Moreover, the editorial content on this page was not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are entirely those of Condé Nast Traveler's editorial team.

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