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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.
However, 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.
Don't already have SkyMiles? You can collect a ton of miles with the Delta co-brand cards. Plus, you can also top off your SkyMiles account by transferring points from Amex Membership Rewards to help put your next award flight within reach.
Delta Credit Card Welcome Bonuses
- Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card — Earn 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
- Delta SkyMiles® Gold Business American Express Card — Earn 50,000 bonus miles and a $50 statement credit after spending $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
- Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card — Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
- Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card — Earn 60,000 bonus miles, 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs), and a $100 statement credit after spending $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
- Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card — Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
- Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card — Welcome Offer: Earn 60,000 bonus miles, 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs), and a $100 statement credit after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
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. Round-Trip First-Class to Mexico on Delta for 26,000 SkyMiles
A popular destination for U.S. vacationers, 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. Prices vary depending on your departure airport and dates. However, you can find roundtrip flights all the way from Seattle (SEA) to Cancun (CUN) for as few as 30,000 miles:
Or, fly in Delta first class to Mexico City (MEX) for just 26,000 SkyMiles round-trip
2. Delta Flash Sales
Delta’s 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 economy to London for 48K, round-trip Delta Premium Select to Asia for 80K, and round-trip premium cabin awards to Europe for 99K.
Each flash sale 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.
- Delta Flash Sale to Portland and Seattle
- Delta Flash Sale to Central America and the Caribbean
- Delta Flash Sale to London Starting at 48,000 SkyMiles
- Delta Flash Sale to Asia
- Delta Flash Sale on Premium Cabins to Europe
3. One way from the United States to the Middle East for 85K
The most recent Delta SkyMiles devaluation really took away a lot of the value for Delta partner awards to Europe and Asia. But the new award prices can lead to some interesting inconsistencies. If you fly from Washington to London, Delta charges a minimum of 120,000 SkyMiles.
But if you add in an additional flight from London to Beirut, Lebanon, you cut the price by nearly a third. 85,000 SkyMiles from the US to the Middle East can still be a good use of SkyMiles.
4. One-Way Business-Class between Japan and 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 are several partners to choose from, including Korean Air, Vietnam Airlines, and China Airlines. While Delta doesn’t allow stopovers, you can stop for up to 24 hours if you want a full day to explore connecting cities such as Seoul, Taipei, or Ho Chi Minh City.
5. Round-Trip Economy Intra-South America for 25K
You can redeem Delta SkyMiles with Aerolineas Argentinas and LATAM for flights within South America. Both partners have extensive route networks, and many of the flights you can book with SkyMiles can be quite expensive to buy with cash. In particular, the Patagonia region of Argentina can be a great value.
Reaching southern Argentina by any method of transport other than air travel can be a nightmare. This round-trip fare between Buenos Aires and El Calafate, on the edge of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, often costs over $450. But with miles, you can shell out just 25,000 SkyMiles for a Delta partner award.
This used to be an easy booking to make at Delta.com, but Aerolineas Argentinas results haven't been showing up on Delta's website for some time now. You can use the Air France Flying Blue website to search for available flights. Once you've confirmed there are award seats available, you can call Delta reservations at 800-323-2323 to redeem.
Related: A Beginners Guide to Award Availability – Which Flights Can I Book with Miles?
6. Avoid Blackout Dates and Earn Elite Credit Using ‘Pay With Points'
Pay with Points is a benefit available exclusively to Delta Amex Cardholders. Pay With Points allows you to redeem SkyMiles for any flight that's on sale. Instead of paying the full cash price, you can redeem SkyMiles in blocks of 5,000 miles worth $50 towards the ticket price. Any portion of the ticket not covered by miles can be paid with your Delta Amex card.
While the value of one cent per point is far less than many of the other redemptions featured in this post, there are several big advantages:
- There are no blackout dates when you use Pay With Points—pick any flight you like, regardless of whether there is award availability.
- You'll still collect Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs) and Medallion Qualifying Segments (MQSs)—which means these bookings will help you qualify for Delta elite status.
- Pay with points redemptions earn redeemable miles on the cash portion of your ticket.
- If you hold Delta status, you'll be eligible for complimentary upgrades. Plus, you'll be placed on the upgrade list ahead of passengers who booked a traditional award ticket.
Pay with Points isn't always the best choice, but it's nice to have the option. Be on the lookout for situations where a traditional award costs more miles than Pay with Points. For example:
- Traditional Award: 40,000 miles + $5.60 (taxes and fees)
- Cash Price: $330 — Pay with Points would cost 30,000 miles + $30
7. 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. However, with a guaranteed redemption rate of $0.02 per mile 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:
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.
8. Domestic Hops for 2,000 Miles
Delta's erratic 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 2,000 miles + $5.60. If you had a cool 80K SkyMiles sitting in your account, you could take 40 of these shorter domestic flights.
9. First Class Flights in Korea for 6,000 Miles
Another intriguing use of Delta SkyMiles is on short, first-class flights within South Korea. Domestic first-class tickets with Delta partner Korean Air cost only 6,000 SkyMiles. That's a tiny increase over the 5,000 SkyMiles needed for economy class. Sure, it's a short flight, and these routes only feature a domestic first-class configuration (recliner seats). But given that it's only an additional 1,000 SkyMiles, why not stretch out your legs a little bit?
Delta doesn't make it easy to find great redemptions. But, it's still possible to get solid value for your SkyMiles when you know where to look. As with all loyalty programs, the best ways to use your points are constantly changing, and there are plenty of opportunities that didn't make it into this post. If you've got a favorite Delta redemption we missed, let us know in the comments.
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