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We’ve spent plenty of time on our soapbox grumbling about Delta SkyMiles, most of it warranted. Take, for instance, Delta barring AwardWallet members from accessing their account information remotely (workaround), the lack of transparency for SkyMiles members, and the regular unannounced price hikes. Actions that are hard to swallow without calling Delta out.
But SkyMiles still has a lot to offer as a frequent flyer program, particularly for members based around Delta hubs.
For starters, SkyMiles offers a full stack of Amex co-brand credit cards ranging from a base no annual fee card to premium rewards cards offering lounge access and other benefits. And Delta's in-flight product and service are currently well ahead of its legacy carrier companions. Yes, Delta has ripped a lot of the value out of the SkyMiles program. But, with the other legacy carriers fast catching up, we thought it past time for a refresh on why Delta can still offer top value for frequent flyers.
A Full Stack of Delta Credit Cards and Top Transfer Partners
Delta takes first place among the legacy carriers for the number of co-brand cards that earn SkyMiles. From the base Blue Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express, one of the only no annual fee co-brand airline cards, through to Delta’s top-tier Reserve personal and business cards.
Delta co-branded credit card offers:
- Blue Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express
- Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express
- Delta Reserve for Business Credit Card
- Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express
- Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express
- Gold Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card from American Express
- Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card from American Express
It’s worth pointing out that, while you can only get the welcome bonus once for each of these cards, the offers on the Delta cards should be on the radar or anyone over 5/24 as the perfect way to round out their SkyMiles accounts. Also, remember that American Express business cards do not count against your 5/24 total.
SkyMiles members can also transfer points from Membership Rewards at a 1:1 ratio and Marriott Bonvoy points at a 3:1 ratio, with a bonus 5,000 SkyMiles thrown in when you transfer Marriott points in blocks of 60K or more.
Best Business Class Availability Across the Atlantic
Of the three legacy programs, Delta has the best award availability flying business class to Europe. The price may have gone up to 70K one-way in business, but the fees and taxes are minimal at just $5.60 across the Atlantic going east, and searching six months out there is saver-level business availability on 50% of the days over a five-week search.
Europe is by far the most common destination for U.S. travelers, and availability on some carriers can be spotty at best. A relatively stress-free round-trip award to Europe for 140K SkyMiles + reasonable taxes/fees is not a bad value. Expect to pay more than $5.60 in taxes/fees for your return (even if you book a round-trip) — the exact amount will vary based on your exact destination.
Heading the other direction, Delta also has stellar award availability heading over the Pacific on one of SkyMiles’ best redemption options, business class from the Continental U.S. to Asia for 80K each way. You may even get the chance to try the new A350 Delta Suites.
Delta SkyMiles Don't Expire
Each frequent flyer program has different rules around mileage expiry. Miles in both American AAdvantage and United MileagePlus will expire after 18 months of no account activity, Lufthansa miles expire 36 months after they're issued. Delta SkyMiles, on the other hand, don’t expire as long as your account is in good standing. While we don’t advocate storing miles in your account for extended periods of time, for the ‘sometimes’ flyer that isn’t on top of their rewards programs, they won’t lose miles due to lack of activity (or attention)
Pro Tip: Never let miles expire again. Sign up for an AwardWallet account, and we’ll track the expiry date of your miles, alerting you before miles are due to expire.
Award Flights as Low as 5,000 Miles
Short-haul domestic awards are available for as low as 5,000 miles each way on Delta. You can bag a flight from Atlanta to Washington for a paltry 5K, and the return on your miles isn’t terrible at roughly 1.7¢ per mile.
Best In-Flight Product and Service of the Big Three U.S. Carriers
Delta is not always the friendliest to its frequent flyer community, but they work hard to keep a competitive edge against the domestic competition. The recent addition of wider overhead bins, improved seats, a redesigned onboard menu, and the new international business class Delta One Suites all point to Delta focusing more attention on the product they fly than the rewards we get for flying it.
Solid Companion Ticket on Platinum and Reserve Delta Cards
SkyMiles members that hold the Platinum Delta Amex and Business Platinum Delta Amex receive a domestic main cabin companion certificate allowing a traveling partner to fly with you free of charge for just the cost of taxes and fees (no more than $75). If you hold the Delta Reserve or Business Delta Reserve, you’ll receive a certificate valid for domestic Main Cabin, Comfort+, or First class. Companions also now qualify for eligible for complimentary upgrades when traveling with a SkyMiles Medallion Elite member. Travel on these certificates is valid within the lower 48 states.
Well Established SkyMiles Medallion Status Match Challenge
Participate in the Delta SkyMiles Medallion Status Match Challenge after July 21, 2017, and you’ll keep your Medallion status through until January 31, 2019! That’s well over a year of upgrades, free bags, and lounge access. You'll receive Platinum, Gold, or Silver Medallion status for three months, based on the current airline elite status. To keep the status, you’ll need to earn a specific number of MQM’s or fly the elected MQS’s within three months of enrolling.
- Silver – 6,250 MQMs or 8 MQSs
- Gold – 12,500 MQMs or 15 MQSs
- Platinum – 18,750 MQMs or 25 MQSs
Delta SkyMiles Members Can Earn Miles on Airbnb Stays
This may not be a big deal for most folks, but having lived in Airbnb vacation rentals for the better part of a year while traveling through Asia with my wife and son, this is a quick way to rack up a huge number of Delta miles. The rate fluctuates between the standard 1 point per dollar through to promo's earning up to 3x points per dollar spent.
Delta may be happy to give SkyMiles members the run around at times, but there is still value in the program, and they offer a top in-flight experience for both domestic and international travel. Availability across the Atlantic to Europe and between the Continental U.S. and Asia is good, and your collecting miles that don’t expire (though they might lose some value) as long as your account is in good standing.
The current offers are a great way of padding your SkyMiles balance with a substantial number of miles for an affordable minimum spend, while also picking up some excellent perks like the companion pass mentioned above.
Don't forget to check out Sweet Spots with Delta SkyMiles and the video Richard Kerr put together on how to maximize Delta SkyMiles.
If you have any questions or you’d like to lament the days when you could consult Delta’s award chart before booking an award, get in touch via the comments.
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