Hey Travel Junkies,

If you’re looking to save money when paying cash for a flight, you might find yourself booking a basic economy ticket. Generally, a basic economy ticket comes with a seat on the plane and little else.

If you’re considering a flight in Basic Economy on Delta, you may be wondering how to get the most out of the low fare. Amongst its competitors, Delta probably has some of the most reasonable restrictions on basic economy tickets.

Despite its policies, it’s important to know how to get the most out of the basic economy experience.

If you’ve been keeping up with our series on beating basic economy, you know by now that the best way to beat any basic economy flight is by using (or even just having) an airline co-branded credit card.

Make sure you check out how you can beat American Airlines Basic Economy and do the same with United — this one isn’t quite as simple.

Let’s start by going over the relevant benefits you get from American Express’ co-branded Delta cards. After that, we’ll take a look at Delta’s Basic Economy restrictions and how these card benefits can help you beat Delta Basic Economy.

delta basic economy
Large families may find significant value when booking Delta Basic Economy using Delta co-branded credit cards from American Express.

The Best Credit Cards to Beat Delta Basic Economy

American Express offers six Delta credit cards — three personal, three business — that can help you beat Delta Basic Economy.

  • Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express
  • Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express
  • Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express
  • Gold Delta SkyMiles Business Credit Card from American Express
  • Platinum Delta SkyMiles Business Credit Card from American Express
  • Delta Reserve for Business Credit Card from American Express

Gold Delta SkyMiles Business Credit Card

30,000 Delta miles after $1,000 spend in the first 3 months

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Platinum Delta SkyMiles Business Credit Card

35,000 SkyMiles (and 5,000 MQMs) after $1,000 spend in the first 3 months

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Delta Reserve for Business Credit Card

40,000 Delta SkyMiles and 10,000 MQMs after $3,000 spend in the first 3 months

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Delta Reserve Credit Card

Learn more by visiting our
credit cards page.

Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card

30,000 SkyMiles after $1,000 spend in the first 3 months

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With each of these Delta co-branded credit cards, your first checked bag will be free. Even better, up to 8 family members or friends traveling on the same reservation as you can also receive a free checked bag. Large families may find significant value from this benefit when booking Delta Basic Economy.

You will also receive priority boarding benefits. You’ll get to board in Zone 1 instead of Zone 4. Priority boarding is a much bigger benefit when you fly Delta Basic Economy than with any other major U.S. airline as you’ll see below.

To get your free bag and priority boarding benefits, you just need to attach your SkyMiles number to your reservation. Your cardmember benefits will be applied automatically.

There’s a lot of other great perks that come with each credit card, but you’ll find that complimentary checked bags and priority boarding will have the biggest impact when flying Delta Basic Economy. Let’s look at the Delta Basic Economy rules to see why.

Delta Basic Economy Rules

Basic Economy on Delta has the fewest restrictions when compared to other U.S. legacy carriers. I’ve seen numerous complaints about United and American Basic Economy, but rarely do I see as many complaints from those flying Delta Basic Economy. With more forgiving rules, you’ll understand why.

Baggage Fees

Delta does charge baggage fees for basic economy flyers, but the fees are the same as if you were flying on a regular main cabin ticket. Baggage fees start at $25 for a one-way ticket within the U.S. for your first checked bag.

The only exception is for basic economy flights from the U.S. & Canada to Europe or North Africa, where main cabin customers will receive their first checked bag free. Basic economy travelers must pay $60 for their first checked bag each way.

What really sets Delta Basic Economy apart is that you are allowed to bring a carry-on item. American and United only allow you to bring a personal item that can be stored under your seat.

Delta basic economy
What really sets Delta Basic Economy apart is that you are allowed to bring a carry-on item

If the overhead bin space is full, you’ll be forced to gate-check your carry-on bag but Delta won’t charge you to gate-check your bag in this case. This is a significant difference between Delta and its competitors.

If a carry-on bag isn’t enough and you want to check a bag, you won’t have to pay the fee for your first bag just by having a Delta co-branded credit card. This can save you $50 per person for round-trip domestic flights, and $120 per person for round-trip flights to Europe or North Africa.

Priority Boarding On Delta

Unsurprisingly, Basic Economy flyers board in Zone 4 — the last group to board. Remember how you get a free carry-on even when you book a basic economy fare? If you’re one of the last to board the plane, it’s unlikely that there will be space remaining and you might be forced to gate-check your bag.

If you have a tight connection, waiting for a gate-checked bag can really throw a wrench into your plans. Thankfully, with one of the co-branded Delta SkyMiles cards we mentioned above, you’ll receive Zone 1 priority boarding.

This will allow you to board after elite status members but before other main cabin passengers. This is a huge perk when flying Basic Economy on Delta as it means you’re all but guaranteed space in an overhead compartment.

Seat Assignments

When flying Basic Economy, your seat will be assigned at check-in. There’s no option to select your seat before check-in, even if you’re willing to pay more.

delta airlines select seating review
Delta won’t let you select any extras on a basic economy ticket, like paying to select a seat.

This is one of the biggest drawbacks to Basic Economy and there’s no way around. For solo travelers, it might not be a big issue, but it could be problematic for families wanting to sit together.

If you want to sit together, you may want to reconsider flying Basic Economy. There’s no guarantee that seats will be assigned together. If you’re seated separately, your only options will be to plead your case to the gate agent or to your fellow flyers.

Final Thoughts

Delta’s Basic Economy product has some big differences compared to its competitors. Namely, you get to bring a full-sized carry-on bag. When you have a co-branded Delta credit card, you can check a bag for free if you want but, if you choose to stick with a carry-on, then your priority boarding benefits will virtually guarantee that there will be overhead space for your bag.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to select your seat in advance with Delta but that’s the case with American and United as well.

While you can’t beat every aspect of Delta Basic Economy with a co-branded credit card, they can certainly go a long way in helping you have a more enjoyable experience.

Travel in Style,


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Editor’s Note: Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.

About the Author

Travis became addicted to travel after his first international trip to Nicaragua in 2016. He wanted to travel more but didn’t want to pay for it. He found points and miles, and hasn’t paid cash for a trip since. A self-proclaimed adventurer and beach-bum, Travis is often found at remote island destinations and beaches with scuba gear in tow. If you don’t spot him on a beach, look for somewhere with good wine or a...

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4 Responses to “How to Beat Delta Basic Economy”

Good article, very insightful. The one thing I would add to it is that if you value Premier qualifying miles, a basic fare won’t earn you any. PQM’s are important for earning status. I’ll probably never buy a basic economy flight…but you never know.

One thing I discovered recently while traveling with my toddler is that Delta tries its hardest to seat you together if you all check in together. They’ve bumped people out of their seats to allow us to sit together!

So all you need is to have the credit card in your name and linked to your Skymiles account for the benefit? You don’t also need to purchase your tickets for the benefits like you do with United?

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