The Credit Card That Gives Automatic Delta Gold Status

In a comment on my post about the card that earns 2 Delta miles per dollar on all spend, Tokyo Hyatt Fan points out that there’s also a card that gives you Delta Gold Medallion status.

It’s an American Express card. And it’s issued in Japan.

US carriers in foreign markets have unique challenges. Generally speaking their benefits are geared towards US consumers, but with a substantial presence elsewhere they may try to tailor their offerings.

Delta in particular inherited a big Japan presence from Northwest Airlines (formerly Northwest Orient) in their merger. Delta, through their Seattle hub and with longer range aircraft, are now overflying their Tokyo operation to a much greater degree than in the past. But there’s a large historic tie to Japan.

Several US carriers used to offer non-US members complimentary lounge access based on their elite status, which wasn’t offered to similar status members in the U.S. (and so they were quite concerned to validate members ‘moving abroad’). They did this because their foreign competitors offered lounge access even on domestic itineraries via status.

Delta also reduces the value of the program based on geography. Since European airlines generally add fuel surcharges to award tickets, Delta adds an ‘international origin surcharge’ to awards which begin in Europe (New York – Paris – New York wouldn’t have this fee, but Paris – New York – Paris would).

And while United and Delta have minimum spend requirements for elite status, those requirements don’t apply to members with addresses outside the United States.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Is this card one that a US citizen could obtain (with a couple of addess shenanigans)? I don’t speak Japanese so can’t read what the site says.

  2. I’m thinking maybe you could, Easy Victor. If you are an AmEx cardholder in very good standing in the US, I know they will facilitate issuance of an AmEx in the UK and also Hong Kong for you.

  3. Don’t forget there is a catch to that Delta Gold status via Amex Japan… which is.. the expensive annual fee (JPy 26,000 + tax).. which means you should be able to use the Delta lounge at least 6 times to break-even/offset the cost of lounge access for non Medallion Gold member.
    The screening process for foreigners are… a hit and miss too…

  4. No, it does not require credit history in Japan though it will require an address.

    American Express routinely facilitates accounts in foreign countries for U.S. American Express cardmembers in very good standing. They’ve done it for me in the UK, France and Hong Kong when temporarily assigned there. They have done it for me in Spain when one of my children was there for a year studying.

    You will need an address and plausible reason. You will need to have been a cardmember for a while. You will not need a credit history in the target country.

  5. @JC…helpful. I wouldn’t relocate to game this product, but nice to know Amex will issue foreign cards for longstanding customers.

  6. @ Billy: While you may not relocate, some may “relocate”. People do it often just to get around the Delta MQD requirements and even though Delta can require one to substantiate their overseas address, it’s not always done. Even when it is, Delta representatives have told me they are not convinced it’s foolproof.

    I’m not saying one should or should not game the system. Personally I think it’s absurd. I am, however, pointing out that it’s false to claim it cannot be done relatively easily if you are motivated to do so.

  7. It would be sneaky, but certainly not beneath Delta, to charge the Europe origin fee on the segment of awards that once would have been a stopover but in 2015 will be priced as additional one-ways.

    One of the great pleasures of NWA was the NRT hub. From day 1 of the merger Delta disregarded the extremely strong brand position in Japan, seems they only could muster interest when JAL was in play for SkyTeam. I wonder how much has been lost by ignoring that market. And for us US-based travelers, connecting in SEA is such an unpleasant proposition over NRT (crappy planes, US port of first entry, some companies booking domestic segments of biz travel in economy, etc) that I am really sad to see it wither along with their 747s.

  8. @RTC The Asian market must be the fastest growing market worldwide. Yet delta does not seem to have much interest. They even deleted the ICN airport map in skymagazine in favor of two Brazilian GOL airports. GOL isn’t even a skyteam member.

  9. There are 2 cards. The standard will grant Silver status and the gold card will grant gold status.

    I just wanted to comment, (USA) AMEX cannot facilitate a “transfer” or “endorse” (Global Transfer) a Japanese AMEX account, Japanese AMEX is operated and issued by a Japanese bank that licenses the AMEX brand for issue in Japan. It is regulated by Japanese law and credit regulations. You’ll see on other websites/forum posts that the AMEX Global Transfer generally doesn’t work for Japan, while it might work for other countries. It is due to the heavy regulation Japanese banks and credit agencies have, you must be residing in Japan and have proof of such. No simple address change will work here.

    Foreigners who live in Japan can and do get the Japan AMEX, but it requires residency (living in Japan), proof of Japanese residency and Japanese credit history. Getting a CC in Japan even for people living in Japan can be tricky, Japanese do not use CCs as much as their US counterparts. Over 80% of transactions done in Japan are still cash transactions.

    Notwithstanding, the application is done in Japanese only (there is no English application), and you might get a telephone call at your Japanese workplace (in Japanese) to verify your application, which is not uncommon for Japanese credit card companies to do.

    That on top that, you need a Japanese bank account to pay your credit card bills, and to get a Japanese bank account is the same, you need residency and show proof of residency, proof of visa status etc. So again, a simple change in your address profile will not do, you need to prove it, for foreigners in Japan in means submitting a copies of Japanese issued identification. Japan is a very bureaucratic country and a ton of paperwork and identification is involved.

  10. I applied for the Japan Gold Amex Delta Skymiles card just for shits and giggles and was shocked that I got approved. I used my friend’s address in Tokyo, and used a Skype Japanese number and they actually sent the card to his address, but couldnt receive it because it requires my identification. I am now really kinda confused as to what to do now. I already see the Gold Medallion status reflected in my profile, and have been upgraded to First class twice as of today, (Lie flat to Hawaii too, Win). They keep calling me and I keep ignoring the calls as I don’t speak any Japanese. Haven’t even received the card, and neither do I have a bank account in Japan that I can use to pay the card, which I just realized is required……

    Anyone with some advice? Lol

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