9 Epic Ways to Use 80,000 Delta SkyMiles [2020]

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Today, we're going to recap some of the exceptional value you can extract from Delta’s frequent flyer program. Delta’s history of unannounced devaluations and the lack of a publicly accessible award chart, plus a move to fully dynamic award pricing has left many Delta fans with bitter feelings towards the SkyMiles program. But, with a little research and some patience, SkyMiles can still have you sipping Champagne while you relax in business class on your way to some of the world's most exotic destinations.

You can collect a ton of miles on the Delta co-brand cards, plus, you can also top up your SkyMiles account by transferring points from Amex Membership Rewards to help put your next award flight within reach.

The Best Delta SkyMiles Award Redemptions
Image courtesy of Delta.com

Delta Credit Card Welcome Bonuses

If you already hold a Delta Amex card, that doesn’t stop you from applying for other cards in the Delta family of cards. Outside of Amex’s standard application restrictions, nothing is preventing you from holding multiple Delta Amex cards.

1. One-Way Business-Class Transatlantic Partner Awards for 75,000 SkyMiles

It wasn't long ago that you could redeem Delta SkyMiles one-way in business-class to Europe for 70,000 miles any day of the week. Unfortunately, those days are long gone. If you want to fly Delta business-class to Europe you are now looking at a minimum 105,000 miles each way. However, Delta doesn't apply the same award pricing to partners as it does to fly its own metal. Transatlantic Skyteam partner awards typically cost 86,000 SkyMiles, but, it's still possible to land 75,000-mile partner awards flying Virgin Atlantic.

Boston Paris Delta SkyMiles Redemption

2. One-Way Business-Class Japan to Australia or New Zealand on Partners for 75,000 SkyMiles

One of the best-value routes left in Delta’s international partner network, you can fly a variety of Delta’s SkyTeam partners in business-class from Japan down to Australia or New Zealand for just 75,000 miles and minimal fees & taxes. There is a massive selection of partners to choose from depending on your final destination, with highlights including Korean Air, Vietnam Airlines, and China Airlines. While Delta doesn’t allow stopovers, choosing the right itinerary will give you a full day to explore connecting cities such as Seoul or Ho Chi Minh City.

Tokyo Sydney Delta SkyMiles Redemption

3. Round-Trip First-Class to Mexico on Delta for 47,000 SkyMiles

Another popular destination for U.S. holidaymakers, Cancún is home to a vast array of resorts, stunning beaches, and a tropical nightlife that can lead to one too many cocktails if you’re easily led astray. Direct awards from Atlanta to Cancún will set you back 54,000 miles round-trip, but if you don't mind taking the longer route you can get round-trip flights in first-class for as low as 47,000 miles.

Baltimore-Washington Cancun Delta SkyMiles Redemption


4. Monthly Delta Flash Sales

Delta’s monthly award flash sales are a chance to save big on award travel using SkyMiles. In past Delta flash sales, we've featured round-trip flights in coach to London for 48K, round-trip Delta Premium Select to Asia for 80K, and round-trip premium cabin awards to Europe for 99K. Each month tends to focus on a different geographic location, and you can save tens of thousands of miles per person on award travel. Check out some of the previous Delta flash sales in the links below, and keep an eye on the blog for future deals from Delta.

5. One-Way Business-Class to Morocco on Partners for 75,000 SkyMiles

Morocco is one of the most talked-about destinations in Award Travel 101, AwardWallet’s thriving Facebook community. You can land a one-way business-class flight from Detroit to Casablanca flying Air France for 75K plus minimal fees and taxes.

Detroit Casablanca Delta SkyMiles Redemption

6. Round-Trip Economy Intra-South America for 25K

Trying to traverse Argentina by any method of transport other than air travel is a nightmare. Less than a third of the roads in Argentina are paved, and while the country has an extensive rail network, air travel is the fastest and most comfortable way to get around. It can also be costly. You can redeem Delta SkyMiles for flights on Aerolineas Argentinas, and compared to the cash price of airfare; the rates are pretty sharp. This round-trip fare between Buenos Aires and El Calafate, on the edge of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, costs over $450 for a round-trip journey, or, you can shell out just 25,000 SkyMiles for a Delta partner award.

Buenos Aires El Calafate Delta SkyMiles Redemption

7. Minimum $400 Value Using ‘Pay With Points'

One of the highlights of the Delta co-brand cards, and an underrated benefit, is the Pay With Points feature. Pay With Points is exclusive to Delta co-brand cardholders, so you won’t see this benefit if you don’t hold one of Delta’s Amex cards. Pay With Points allows you to redeem SkyMiles for revenue fares at a value of a penny per mile, in blocks of 5,000 miles (5K miles is worth $50 against your paid ticket). You still collect Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQM) for your fare and have higher priority than award travelers on the upgrade list, and you'll earn redeemable miles on the cash portion of the ticket.

Now, you may be thinking, why would anyone want to redeem miles at a penny apiece when you can achieve higher returns redeeming for international premium cabin awards? There are several instances where it makes sense to redeem for 1¢ value:

  • When the cash fare presents better value than a traditional award ticket. If the choice is an award fare at 40,000 miles + $5.60, or a cash ticket for $330, you would be better off paying 30K SkyMiles + $30 for your fare than taking the award ticket.
  • If you’re chasing status. Fares paid using Pay With Points are treated as revenue fares in the respect that you still earn MQMs. If you’re trying to achieve Medallion status, it can make more sense to redeem miles at a penny a piece for flights which will earn MQMs than for an award flight that won’t. And as a Delta co-brand cardholder, when you see a Delta airfare sale, you can jump on it knowing you are getting solid value for your miles.

8. Redeeming Skymiles for Drinks in the Delta SkyClub

Redeeming your hard-earned SkyMiles at the bar may not appear like the best use of miles at first glance, but with a guaranteed value of $0.02 per mile redeeming at SkyClub lounges, alcohol may be one of the most consistent ways of receiving top-value for SkyMiles. A great example comes from a member of AwardWallet’s Facebook community, Award Travel 101:Howie-Champagne-SkyClub

Lounge prices can be a little inflated, but a bottle of Louis Roederer Champagne for 13,750 miles (instead of $275), while you relax in the lounge pre-flight, waiting for your business-class flight paid for with miles is a perfect example of how award travel can change the way you fly.

9. Domestic Hops for 5,000 Miles

Delta's funky award pricing will sometimes dish up award tickets costing north of 450K miles, but you can also find domestic hops between non-hub cities for as little as 5,000 miles + $5.60. If you had a cool 80K SkyMiles sitting in your account, you could take 16x of these shorter domestic flights.

Los Angeles San Francisco Delta Award Redemption


Final Thoughts

When Delta pulls an unannounced award chart change, I’ll be the first to jump on my soapbox and cry that it's foul play, but there is still exceptional value in the SkyMiles brand when you know where to look. Whether your goal is premium cabin international travel, requalifying for Medallion status, or a bottle of Dom Pérignon in the SkyClub as a precursor to a romantic weekend away, SkyMiles offers a ton of value.

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  • My mother and father are users of Delta Skymiles.
    We hope to continue adding and to be able to make some trip either within Usa or Latin America.
    Where can i download the mileage chart?
    Thank you so much

  • Be careful I signed up to get the initial bonus miles with my new card, I made the purchases over the alotted amount in the first 3 months and they won’t give me the miles.

  • My wife got a targeted Amex Delta Gold mailer. It’s for 70k bonus miles and a $50 credit statement. She has had the same card in the past. The past card was activated June 2016 and canceled in May 2017. Are targeted mailers exempt of the Amex once in a lifetime rule? I clicked on the terms and conditions link and nowhere is the word “lifetime” mentioned.

    • Hey Jason, that’s an interesting development. Generally, there are not exceptions, but I also haven’t heard many cases of targeted mailers being sent out to folks not eligible for an offer. If the T&C don’t mention a lifetime limit, I’d say it’s worth a shot.

  • My family and I did this last November to Austrailia and New Zeeland and it was fantastic. All told, we were on nine different flights and I had to use a combination of miles from AA, United, and Delta but it was worth it.

  • Thank you for this – good info. I travel to Mexico each January but have never done a multi-leg search. Will definitely add a connection if it gets me business class for low redemption as advertised here.

  • Patrick B. says:

    it would be great if all airlines made it easy to redeem their points/miles for rewards, eg using accrued miles to pay for in-flight snacks & beverages, in-flight wifi, additional entertainment options, instead of asking for cash or credit.

  • I think the trick to booking Delta miles is book early. I was able to book a great flight to Singapore for 50,000 miles and all the travel was on Delta with great times and connections.

    • Yes, booking early is a very good idea.
      The other one is when possible not to book in the highest season period.

  • Delta’s award pricing is odd and I still can’t figure it out. The lowest one way econ award seat from SEA to BKK is 70k. I’ve flown SEA to SAN RT for 10k. It doesn’t make sense to me?!

  • Personally I recommend using it to go from South-East Asia to either Europe or the Continental United States

  • The_Bouncer says:

    There still seems to be some value here, especially the intra South American flights.

  • Regarding the Delta Platinum card, can you get it (with the bonus) more than once? I’ve already had it and cancelled it 2 years ago. Thanks!

  • I predict a few of us might retire the moniker SkyPesos after learning a few ideas for redemptions in this post.

  • Living in NC, Delta miles are hard to use. Never can find an easy connection.

  • I have 20.8k orphaned Skymiles. What’s the best use for that?

    • That should cover you for a fair number of domestic trips. You might consider earning Amex Membership Rewards so you can top up your balance to the exact amount you need for a ticket. Amex will also let you buy points for $25 per 1k points if you call to make a transfer by phone. It’s only a good deal, however if you have only a small amount needed to complete an award.

  • The 5K short hops are excellent value. It makes the rewards club much more enticing for casual travellers – not everyone is accruing tens of thousands in miles every year. Affordable short hops are a smart way for Delta to get the loyalty of a huge swath of non-frequent flyers.

  • While one could obtain value from the Delta Skypesos program, one cannot do it on a regular basis if one has the information hidden from that person.

  • And just how does one get back from these one way flights?

    • In some cases you can buy the other flight if miles are limited. Low cost carriers like Norwegian do a good job of charging half the RT airfare for a one way. Otherwise, it’s possible to book the other one way with points. One ways are allowed with most programs, so booking two OWs allows you to book a trip when you don’t have enough for a round trip in any single program.

      If you just have Delta, there are plenty of RT options in economy that can be booked with one of these bonuses, or you could always consider getting more than one card.

  • This is a nice informative post. However, I think that for the specific example you gave using Delta points on Aerolineas Argentinas, you should have used an airport that AA has a monopoly. Your example is Buenos Aires to El Calafate for 25,000 points round trip.

    LATAM Argentina flies the same route, and with BA Avios last year I got the same routing for 20,000 points rt. Post-devaluation, it’s still 22,000 points.

    Aerolineas does have a monopoly on many routes though, so DL miles are good value on those routes.

  • Good idea. I’ll use it to go to Morocco.

  • Domestic Hops work great for us

  • Points 6 and 9 are the most advantageous for people not having lot of miles.

  • Booked two RT tix from KC to London for 42,000 pts each.

  • Very interesting information. Good to have some Delta Skymiles in your account as they don’t expire and if you’re lucky you can score some very good tickets for cheap.

  • My first choice is the Delta monthly flash sales!

  • You can also use VS to redeem DL flights.

  • Steven William Van Meter says:

    I like the business class travel option to some of the world’s most exotic destinations.

  • Camilla A Sauder says:

    I recently used 32,000 Delta miles each to book round trip tickets to Ireland from Chicago in peak season for four people AND
    42,000 Delta miles each to book round trip tickets to Kristiansand, Norway from Chicago in peak season for two people. It’s almost like you
    have to completely stumble across a deal with them though!

  • FYI – Morocco is misspelled in #5’s headline.

  • Value can be had, but Delta makes it increasingly harder and harder to find.

  • those 5k short hops seem harder and harder to find

  • I will definitely look into using my Delta miles for that Japan option. I would love to go back!

  • The domestic hops are a great idea. Any chance you could do the same write up for AA?

  • Steven William Van Meter says:

    I like the idea of travelling in business class on to some of the world’s most exotic destinations.

  • I like the options to the Caribbean and Mexico. Can find value there sometimes. Of course, you can do that with just about any airline, so it’s not unique to Delta. But an option is an option.

  • I am looking forward to using mine for Virgin Atlantic Upper Class. I always hear good things and just a few bad ones.
    Any opinions?

  • Great use of Skymiles to fly Virgin Atlantic. Also at the sky club. Thanks!

  • The domestic hops are great value!

  • John Shim says:

    Too bad they did away with the Krug in the lounges, what a great redemption for 10,000 skymiles.

  • Liu Sheng says:

    I love that! Thanks for the information!

  • love the suggestion to fly on F to mexico!!

  • Perhaps 50000 miles would be a more practical premise for this post. In any event, while informative, who exactly has 80,000 miles on Delta and just doesn’t know what to do?

    • Fair point! The title “use-60,000-to-80,000-skymiles” seemed a bit too long. But the goal was to cover options you could get with many of the current welcome bonuses.

  • Steven William Van Meter says:

    I especailly like that you can get 75,000-mile partner awards flying Virgin Atlantic. Good airline.

  • Too bad I cannot get any more AMEX DL promos.

  • Lol I need to try using my skymiles for drinks in the lounges.

  • I never considered #8

  • The Arts Traveler says:

    Great tips. I am now reconsidering if Delta Skymiles could actually be of some use. For domestic flights, Skymiles good. Internationally generally bad. Very bad.

    • I’d actually argue the opposite is true. I have always found much better value, and opportunity, using Skymiles for international partner awards, than for domestic flights on DL metal.

  • Using the Delta miles for Virgin Atlantic Upper Class is something that is very interesting to me. Thanks for the hint.

  • charles j says:

    I’m all hub where I live (without traveling a few hours), but thanks for pointing out that 5000 mile options exist. I might try to find a way to make use of these in the future.
    Regarding using miles for alcohol in lounges. I’m a cheapskate, and free (or what’s included) always works.

  • I used 9,000 miles to get to the Bahamas.

  • rodney ross says:

    Delta doesnt fly much from my airport, but maybe they will add in future

  • Not many flights offered in my home airport from Delta. 🙁

  • james garten says:

    I use the 5000 miles for short hop flights all the time. Currently, have booked 5000 miles for each way from MCO to IND thru ATL for September flights. It is a great feature for using Delta SkyMiles.

  • I personally would not redeem my SkyMiles for a penny a piece unless I wanted to close out my SkyMiles balance. Why not just use a 2% cash back credit card?

  • Good information about partner airlines. Thanks.

  • Sky miles are so hard to use….

  • Is it possible to redeem Amex SKymiles for a statement credit? How much is 70,000 miles worth as cashback (statement credit)?