9 Best Ways to Use Delta SkyMiles [2021]

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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.

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. 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.

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.

Buenos Aires El Calafate Delta SkyMiles Redemption
Note: It's no longer possible to book Aerolineas Argentinas on Delta.com using Skymiles. Call Delta Reservations at 800-323-2323 to book.

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: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.

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.

Delta SEA to SFO

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?

Final Thoughts

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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Comments

  • JamieTurner says:

    Delta is leading the pack on COVID waivers and adjustments to elite requirements.

  • Marian Lovelace says:

    Great info. Thanks for rounding up all the deals. It’s a full time job trying to keep track of all the award/points.

  • Just applied for the Delta Skymiles 70K award card … not many direct flights out of my home airport but with miles that don’t expire and descent, from what i scanned domestic flights thought it was a good addition to my award programs.

  • I would love to fly Delta, but they almost never have the government fare out of my city.

  • Curt Lewis says:

    Good article for a Delta newbie who rarely fly’s on this carrier.

  • I’m still new to this whole points thing with credit cards and airlines. Is it smarter to buy tickets with your points or use them for upgrades? Or only buy with points when flights are expensive? What is the strategy?

    • Here’s a great intro guide for you: https://awardwallet.com/blog/what-flights-can-i-book-with-miles/

      But, to answer your question: it depends! Some travelers want to use their miles/points for travel no matter the value. Very much a “1 bird in hand vs 2 in the bush” mentality. Others of us are more discerning with when to use miles. I typically won’t redeem points/miles unless I’m getting an outsized value out of them. So, I’ll pass on using 10,000 miles for a $100 flight, but I’ll happily use 50,000 miles to fly in business class to Europe!

  • Can this be used on open jaw reservations?

  • The lack of international credit card options (exc Amex) is a real drag. The now-defunct AA card was a big plus for that program for non-US members.

    The airline that starts that again would certainly become my preference.

  • Sad commentary on Delta’s program that one of the best usages is to buy drinks in the lounge. 🙂

  • So many airlines cards that it’s almost impossible to have them all with the sole purpose of getting miles, considering that this is not a good time to travel, plus programs can devalue at any time, even though it may see attractive at first glance,I don’t think this option is worthy.

  • Thanks for this blog post. I obviously haven’t been making any big international trips during the pandemic but even before that, I was finding it difficult to redeem my Delta points due to their devaluation in Asia trips. This post is very helpful and I’ll keep an eye out for any good business-class Japan flights!

  • How often do those 2k-mile domestic awards show up?

    • Only recently have these been available. However, Delta seems to have expanded the range that award flights can cost. So, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this more of these in the future.

  • angelo fonseca says:

    the pricing that airlines do is incomprehensible to me. at least, there are better opportunities for award tickets, as long as you do a lot of research.

  • I definitely would not use it to get bubbly on flights. To me that is a complete waste of miles.

  • Any easy way to find those 2K domestic hops?

  • Yes, you really need to get creative to make those SkyPesos work hard for you, but if you’re flexible and persistent you can find some decent deals from time to time….just don’t ever expect to fly in the front of the plane across the pond or to Asia for nothing short of extortion level amounts of points – numbering in the hundreds of thousands one way….nibbling around the edges is the best way to get value from this program.

  • Delta is one of my favorite airlines to fly. Wish they would continue blocking the middle seat a little longer.

  • Very useful info especially for the domestic flight part!

  • Andrew Jeffery says:

    So true!!! Live Delta. But the frustration of trying to keep up with the deals and promotions is tiring. Plus it always seems that the deals are hardly out of markets that are easy to book. Almost nothing from PHL.

  • Keeping up with all of the airline info is exhausting. I appreciate the good information from this blog.

  • 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
    Thanks

  • 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)?