Delta’s SkyMiles program doesn’t offer the most valuable rewards. But it is easy to earn SkyMiles, and if you put in the extra effort required to book with partner airlines, you can get some more bang for your points.
What Is Delta SkyMiles?
Delta SkyMiles is the loyalty program for Delta Air Lines, the world’s second-largest airline by passengers. With destinations in more than 50 countries and participation in the SkyTeam Alliance, Delta also has major reach. That partly makes up for the fact that Delta’s points don’t go as far as some other airlines’.
Like with most carriers, the main way to earn miles is by flying with the airline. You earn 5 SkyMiles per dollar you spend with Delta, and more if you have elite status. Delta’s Medallion program has four tiers, with associated increasing benefits; you reach those tiers through a complicated system that has both flying and spending requirements. For each mile you fly with Delta, you earn one (sometimes two) Medallion Qualification Miles. You can’t trade those miles for anything—they only count toward your elite status. And you have to spend a certain amount of money each year.
Here’s a rough guide to Delta’s Medallion levels:
- Silver. Top benefits include earning 7 SkyMiles per dollar spent on Delta tickets and complimentary upgrades starting the day before departure. To reach Silver, you have to rack up 25,000 qualifying miles or 30 qualifying segments, and spend $3,000 or get a waiver by spending enough on a Delta credit card.
- Gold. Top benefits include earning 8 SkyMiles per dollar spent on Delta tickets and complimentary upgrades beginning three days before departure. Getting to Gold requires earning 50,000 qualifying miles or 60 qualifying segments and spending $6,000 or getting a waiver.
- Platinum. Top benefits include earning 9 SkyMiles per dollar spent on Delta tickets, complimentary upgrades beginning five days before departure, and one “choice benefit,” with options such as bonus points, vouchers, gift memberships, and lounge access. Platinum requires 75,000 qualifying miles or 100 qualifying segments and spend $9,000 or get a waiver.
- Diamond. Top benefits include earning 11 SkyMiles per dollar spent on Delta tickets, complimentary upgrades beginning five days before departure, and three choice benefits. Reaching Diamond means accruing 125,000 miles or 140 segments and spending $15,000 or getting a waiver.
You can also earn SkyMiles by using a Delta credit card. Delta offers four levels of its credit card, with most non-Delta purchases earning 1 SkyMile per dollar spent and Delta purchases earning more. Some credit cards offer bonus points in additional categories. And you can transfer American Express Membership Rewards to Delta at a rate of 1:1.
Delta partners with other companies to offer even more ways to earn miles. You can collect SkyMiles when you book through Airbnb and ride with Lyft, and stay at hotel chains including Marriott and Hilton. In addition, you can earn miles when renting cars, shopping with selected stores, and dining at certain restaurants. Keep in mind that if you choose to earn SkyMiles when booking with a partner, you may be foregoing the points you would earn through that partner’s program.
Which Cards Earn SkyMiles
- Delta SkyMiles Blue American Express
- Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express
- Delta SkyMiles Platinum American Express
- Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express
Ways to Use Delta SkyMiles
Delta offers quite a few options for redeeming your miles, but the smartest way to use them is for buying flights. Most other redemptions will offer a maximum value of 1 cent per mile.
- Delta and partner flights. SkyMiles are worth 0.9 to 1.5 cents each.
- Upgrades. Use SkyMiles to get a better seat.
- Marketplace. Redeem your miles through the SkyMiles marketplace for merchandise, travel, and more. 1 mile = 0.6 cents
- Experiences. Use SkyMiles to bid on exclusive opportunities.
- Gift Cards. Buy cards from a range of major retailers, for 0.4 to 0.9 cents per point.
- Transfer. Give points to friends, for a fee.
- Donate to charity.
Delta and Partner Flights
The best way to use your SkyMiles is for flights on Delta and its partner airlines. Delta has done away with its award chart and its prices for flights—in cash and miles—change constantly depending on demand and other factors. But it’s relatively easy to compare points, cash and points-and-cash prices when searching for a flight—you can toggle between them in search results. Delta also provides a chart that shows the price of a flight in miles for different departure and return dates. If you’re flexible, this can really help maximize your miles.
If you are getting over 1.2 cents per mile in value, you can be confident that you are getting a good deal.
You also have to pay fees for award flights, but within the U.S., they’re less than $6 a ticket.
Delta allows you to use points to upgrade flights that you’ve booked with cash. To see if an upgrade is available, look in the My Trips section of the Delta app or Delta website at the flight in question.The upgrade cost varies depending on the flight, but 1 cent per mile is a pretty typical value.
You can use Delta SkyMiles to pay for hotel rooms, rental cars, merchandise, and more, through its marketplace. This typically will not be as good of a use of miles as redeeming for flights, but the value you get will vary.
We checked the cost of a two-night stay at the Novotel Madrid Center in Madrid, Spain, and found that booking the hotel with points would cost 46,128 points. The cash rate for the same dates was $267. That means your miles have a value of almost 0.6 cents each.
Since the portal doesn’t show the cash value of bookings, it’s wise to do a separate search for whatever you’re considering booking, and then divide the retail price by the points price to make sure you’re getting a decent deal.
One unique way that Delta allows you to use your miles is by bidding on unique experiences. These are experiences that money can’t buy and you can’t even flat-out buy them with your miles—you have to place a bid. Some examples of experiences include Billboard Music Awards After Party Access, dinner and kitchen tours at various restaurants, and a four-night vacation to Scottsdale AZ. Depending on how you personally value the experience you are bidding on and what the final price ends up being, this can be an okay use of your miles.
Delta allows you to use your points to pay for gift cards from many different companies including Delta, Starbucks, and Airbnb. You can get a value of 0.4 to 0.9 cents per mile. Delta gift cards typically offer the highest redemption value.
Transfer to Friends and Family
You can transfer points to other SkyMiles members, but it will cost you 1 cent per mile with a minimum transfer of 1,000 miles, plus a $30 processing fee. The high cost means it’s not a good use of your miles.
Donate to Charity
Delta allows you to donate your SkyMiles to charity. There’s a wide variety of charities available including those that assist veterans, help children struggling with illness, assist with disaster relief, and more. There are no tax breaks for donating miles.
While Delta’s SkyMiles aren’t known to be the most valuable frequent flyer currency available, they are relatively easy to earn and offer the ability to book flights around the world. It’s also possible to redeem SkyMiles for hotels, experiences, and more, though you typically won’t get as much value for your miles with this type of redemption.