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Delta vs. United Airlines: Which Is Best For You?
Delta vs. United Airlines: Which Is Best For You?
Apr 15, 2024 3:01 PM

As two of the largest U.S.-based carriers, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines have many similarities, but also a few things that set them apart. The main differences between United and Delta are:

Delta charges lower carry-on bag fees on basic economy tickets.

United is a member of Star Alliance (largest network with 26 airlines) while Delta is part of SkyTeam (smaller alliance with 18 airlines).

Delta’s most expensive credit card, which provides Sky Club lounge access, also offers entry to American Express Centurion Lounges, while United’s most expensive card only grants entry to United Club lounges.

United’s award tickets are generally cheaper than Delta’s.

So which is better for your individual travel needs, preferences and budget?

A side-by-side comparison will let you decide which is better, Delta or United.

Where Delta and United are based and where they fly

Winner for most options: United

Delta

Delta Air Lines passengers can fly to about 300 destinations in more than 50 countries across the globe. As a SkyTeam member, the airline partners with 17 other carriers that cover more than 1,000 destinations in 170 countries.

Delta hubs

Atlanta.

Boston.

Detroit.

Los Angeles.

Minneapolis.

New York (JFK and LaGuardia).

Salt Lake City.

Seattle.

Delta's key international destinations

Amsterdam

London-Heathrow.

Mexico City.

Paris-Charles de Gaulle.

Seoul.

Tokyo.

United

Star Alliance member United Airlines covers more than 300 destinations across five continents: about 210 U.S. cities and more than 120 international destinations. Star Alliance is the world’s largest alliance, and includes 26 carriers serving more than 1,300 airports. This gives you a lot of global connection options.

United hubs and key destinations in the U.S.

Chicago.

Denver.

Guam.

Houston-Intercontinental.

Los Angeles.

Newark.

New York-LaGuardia.

San Francisco.

Washington-Dulles.

United key international destinations

Frankfurt.

Hong Kong.

London-Heathrow.

Sao Paulo.

Tokyo.

Travel credit card availability

Winner for most valuable airline credit card: Tie

Delta and United both offer credit cards with perks like free checked bags, although Delta AmEx cards include baggage for up to nine travelers booked on the same reservation, whereas United limits the perk to two passengers. Terms apply.

Both also offer premium cards with airport lounge membership, but Delta has a slight edge in this regard because its premium card offers access to the Centurion Lounges as well. Terms apply.

For a casual traveler, the United℠ Explorer Card is slightly better than the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card because it comes with two one-time United Club passes and a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck enrollment fee statement credit. For the Delta card, you have to earn the $100 statement credit benefit by spending $10,000 on the card. Terms apply.

Overall, both airlines’ card offerings are similar enough to call it a tie in this department. Your pick in the Delta versus United credit card battle largely comes down to which carrier you fly more often and whose credit card perks you’re likely to use.

You don't have to be a travel rewards expert to use credit cards to make travel more affordable. Here are your airline credit card options, broken down by airline.

DELTA CREDIT CARDS

American Express issues several Delta-branded credit cards to consumers. Here’s a closer look to help you decide which one might suit you.

Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card (Annual fee: $0)

Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card

NerdWallet rating

NerdWallet's ratings are determined by our editorial team. The scoring formula incorporates coverage options, customer experience, customizability, cost and more.

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Rates & Fees

Welcome bonus: Earn 10,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months. Terms Apply.

Earning rates:

2 miles per $1 spent on Delta purchases and at restaurants.

1 mile per $1 spent on all other eligible purchases.

Other benefits:

20% back on in-flight purchases.

Pay with Miles.

No foreign transaction fees.

Terms apply.

Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card (Annual fee: $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $99)

Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card

NerdWallet rating

NerdWallet's ratings are determined by our editorial team. The scoring formula incorporates coverage options, customer experience, customizability, cost and more.

Apply Now

Read Review

Rates & Fees

Welcome bonus: Earn 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months. Terms Apply.

Earning rates:

2 miles per $1 on Delta purchases and at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets.

1 mile per $1 spent on all other eligible purchases.

Other benefits:

First checked bag free for up to nine passengers.

$100 Delta credit after making $10,000 in purchases.

Terms apply.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card (Annual fee: $250)

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

NerdWallet rating

NerdWallet's ratings are determined by our editorial team. The scoring formula incorporates coverage options, customer experience, customizability, cost and more.

Apply Now

Read Review

Rates & Fees

Welcome bonus: Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months. Terms Apply.

Earning rates:

3 miles per $1 spent on Delta purchases and hotels.

2 miles per $1 spent at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets.

1 mile per $1 spent on all other eligible purchases.

Other benefits:

First checked bag free for up to nine passengers.

Fee credit for Global Entry / TSA PreCheck.

Delta companion certificate.

Status boost.

$50 Delta Sky Club access.

Cell phone protection.

No foreign transaction fees.

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