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Best Ways to Redeem Your Delta SkyMiles

Best Ways to Redeem Your Delta SkyMiles

*Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through a credit card issuer partnership.

This article was last updated Jan 30, 2020. Terms and conditions may have changed. For the most accurate information, please consult the issuer website.

Those new to Delta Air Lines’ SkyMiles® loyalty program or who don’t spend much time earning and redeeming miles in the program may want to take a look at what it offers. The SkyMiles program is pretty robust, giving you myriad ways to redeem your miles, including via Delta’s membership in the SkyTeam airline alliance of 18 global carriers.

Delta SkyMiles was named a Best Travel Rewards Program for 2018-2019 by U.S. News & World Report, coming in at No. 2 for the second year in a row. SkyMiles was lauded for benefits including miles never expiring, no blackout dates for award tickets on Delta flights and redeeming miles for travel to more than 1,000 cities on Delta and its partners.

There are plenty of ways to get the most out of the SkyMiles you earn on Delta. This cheat sheet shows you how to book award travel, what fees you’ll pay, where to look for flights, where to get extra miles when you need them and other ways to redeem them.

In this article 

Which credit cards earn SkyMiles?

Delta Air Lines has partnered with American Express to offer seven credit cards:

Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card

  • Earn 10,000 bonus miles after you spend $500 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.

  • Earn 2X Miles per dollar spent on Delta purchases and at restaurants, now worldwide. Earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases.

  • No foreign transaction fees.

Highlights
  • Earn 10,000 bonus miles after you spend $500 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
  • No Annual Fee.
  • Earn 2X Miles per dollar at restaurants, now worldwide.
  • Earn 2X Miles per dollar spent on Delta purchases.
  • Earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Receive a 20% savings in the form of a statement credit after you use your Card on eligible Delta in-flight purchases of food, beverages, and audio headsets.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees

See additional details for Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card

More Info

Earn 10,000 bonus miles after you spend $500 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Earn 2X Miles per dollar spent on Delta purchases and at restaurants, now worldwide. Earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases.

To see rates & fees for Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card please click here.

Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card

  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 80,000 Bonus Miles and 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $5,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021.

  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases. Earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases.

  • Enjoy your first checked bag free and Main Cabin 1 Priority Boarding on Delta flights.

Highlights
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 80,000 Bonus Miles and 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $5,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021.
  • Earn up to 60,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $30,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 15,000 MQMs four times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status.  MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Receive a Domestic First Class, Delta Comfort+® or Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card.*Payment of the government-imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Complimentary access into the Delta Sky Club® for you when travelling on a Delta flight.
  • Enjoy complimentary access to The Centurion® Lounge or Escape Lounge – The Centurion® Studio Partner when you book a Delta flight with your Reserve Card.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases.
  • Earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $550 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees

See additional details for Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card

More Info

Earn Limited Time Offer: Earn 80,000 Bonus Miles and 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $5,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases. Earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases.

To see rates & fees for Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card please click here.

Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card

  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 80,000 bonus miles, 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs), and a $200 statement credit after spending $5,000 on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer Ends 11/10/2021.

  • Earn 3 Miles on every dollar spent on eligible purchases made directly with Delta.

  • When you purchase a Delta flight with your Delta SkyMiles Reserve Card, you will receive complimentary access to The Centurion® Lounge or Escape Lounge – The Centurion® Studio Partner.

Highlights
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 80,000 bonus miles, 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs), and a $200 statement credit after spending $5,000 on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer Ends 11/10/21.
  • With Status Boost®, earn 15,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $30,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to 4x per year getting you closer to Medallion Status.
  • When you purchase a Delta flight with your Delta SkyMiles Reserve Card, you will receive complimentary access to The Centurion® Lounge or Escape Lounge – The Centurion® Studio Partner. 
  • After you spend $150,000 on your Card in a calendar year, you earn 1.5 Miles per dollar (that’s an extra half mile per dollar) on eligible purchases the rest of the year. If your purchase qualifies for a category that has a higher mileage accelerator, only the higher accelerator will apply (ex: you would earn 3X miles on purchases made directly with Delta instead of 1.5X).
  • Pay no foreign transaction fees when you spend overseas.
  • Earn 3 Miles on every dollar spent on eligible purchases made directly with Delta.
  • Terms and limitations apply.
  • See Rates & Fees

See additional details for Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card

More Info

Limited Time Offer: Earn 80,000 bonus miles, 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs), and a $200 statement credit after spending $5,000 on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer Ends 11/10/2021. Earn 3 Miles on every dollar spent on eligible purchases made directly with Delta.

To see rates & fees for Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card please click here.

Delta SkyMiles® Gold Business American Express Card

  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 70,000 bonus miles, and a $50 statement credit after spending $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer Ends 11/10/2021.

  • Earn 2 Miles on every dollar spent on eligible purchases made directly with Delta, on every dollar spent on eligible U.S. purchases for advertising in select media, on every dollar spent on eligible U.S. shipping purchases, on every eligible dollar spent on dining at restaurants. Earn 1 Mile on every eligible dollar spent on purchases.

  • First Checked Bag Free + Main Cabin 1 Priority Boarding.

Highlights
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 70,000 bonus miles, and a $50 statement credit after spending $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer Ends 11/10/2021.
  • Additionally, take $100 off your next Delta flight – after you spend $10,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you will earn a $100 Delta Flight Credit to use toward future travel.
  • Earn 2 Miles on every dollar spent on eligible purchases made directly with Delta, on every dollar spent on eligible U.S. purchases for advertising in select media, on every dollar spent on eligible U.S. shipping purchases, on every eligible dollar spent at restaurants. Earn 1 Mile on every eligible dollar spent on other purchases.
  • Check or stow your bag with ease: First Checked Bag Free + Main Cabin 1 Priority Boarding.
  • Pay no foreign transaction fees when you travel overseas.
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $99.
  • Terms and limitations apply.
  • See Rates & Fees

See additional details for Delta SkyMiles® Gold Business American Express Card

More Info

Limited Time Offer: Earn 70,000 bonus miles, and a $50 statement credit after spending $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer Ends 11/10/2021. Earn 2 Miles on every dollar spent on eligible purchases made directly with Delta, on every dollar spent on eligible U.S. purchases for advertising in select media, on every dollar spent on eligible U.S. shipping purchases, on every eligible dollar spent on dining at restaurants. Earn 1 Mile on every eligible dollar spent on purchases.

To see rates & fees for Delta SkyMiles® Gold Business American Express Card please click here.

Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card

  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 70,000 Bonus Miles after spending $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021.

  • Earn 2X Miles on Delta purchases, at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.

  • Check your 1st bag free on every Delta flight*

Highlights
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 70,000 Bonus Miles after spending $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Earn 2X Miles on Delta purchases, at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases.
  • $100 Delta Flight Credit: After you spend $10,000 in purchases on your card in a calendar year, receive a Credit to use toward future travel.
  • Enjoy a $0 introductory Annual Fee for the first year, then $99.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees

See additional details for Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card

More Info

Receive Limited Time Offer: Earn 70,000 Bonus Miles after spending $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021. Earn 2X Miles on Delta purchases, at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.

To see rates & fees for Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card please click here.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 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. Offer expires 11/10/2021.

  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels. Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets. Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.

  • 15.74%-24.74% Variable

Highlights
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 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. Offer expires 11/10/2021.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card.*Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees

See additional details for Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

More Info

Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 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. Offer expires 11/10/2021. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels. Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets. Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.

To see rates & fees for Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card please click here.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card

  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 bonus miles, 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs), and a $100 statement credit after spending $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer Ends 11/10/2021.*

  • Earn 3 Miles on every dollar spent on eligible purchases made directly with Delta and on every eligible dollar spent on purchases made directly with hotels.

  • First Check Bag Free on Delta flights + Main Cabin 1 Priority Boarding.

Highlights
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 bonus miles, 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs), and a $100 statement credit after spending $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer Ends 11/10/21.
  • Earn 3 Miles on every dollar spent on eligible purchases made directly with Delta and on every eligible dollar spent on purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 1.5 miles per dollar on single eligible purchases of $5,000 or more (that’s an extra half mile per dollar), up to 50,000 additional miles per year. 1 Mile on every eligible dollar spent on other purchases.
  • With Status Boost®, earn 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your card in a calendar year, up to 2x per year getting you closer to Medallion Status.
  • Status-like benefits: First Check Bag Free on Delta flights + Main Cabin 1 Priority Boarding.
  • Terms and limitations apply.
  • See Rates & Fees

See additional details for Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card

More Info

Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 bonus miles, 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs), and a $100 statement credit after spending $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer Ends 11/10/2021. Earn 3 Miles on every dollar spent on eligible purchases made directly with Delta and on every eligible dollar spent on purchases made directly with hotels.

To see rates & fees for Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card please click here.

Airlines you can book with miles

Delta has improved its website for award bookings, allowing you to search and book flights on nearly every SkyMiles partner at Delta.com. Just choose ‘Show Price In Miles’ when searching for flights there.

Here’s a full list of the airlines you can book:

  • Aeroflot
  • Aerolineas Argentinas
  • Aeromexico
  • Air France
  • Alitalia
  • China Airlines
  • China Eastern
  • China Southern
  • Garuda Indonesia
  • GOL
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • KLM
  • Korean Air
  • Mandarin Airlines
  • Middle East Airlines
  • Saudia Airlines
  • Shanghai Airlines
  • Tarom Airlines
  • Vietnam Airlines
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • Virgin Australia
  • WestJet
  • Xiamen Airlines

You must contact Delta reservations at 800-221-1212 to book award travel on Air Europa, Air Tahiti Nui, Czech Airlines and Kenya Airways. SkyMiles members living in Asia can redeem miles on Thai AirAsia, Jetstar and Skymark.

Tip: Call Delta reservations and ask the agent to check for more flight options.

How much do awards cost?

Delta no longer publishes award price charts, so the SkyMiles you redeem for awards can change at any time. Below are some examples of award travel in different regions, based on a round-trip economy flight between Oct. 10-17, 2019 (at press time) to destinations within the U.S. and cities in the Caribbean, South America, Europe and Japan:

New York City to San Francisco

Below are some of your flight options in all classes:

Baltimore to Montego Bay, Jamaica

Below are some of your flight options in all classes:

Below are some of your flight options in all classes:

Minneapolis to Rio de Janeiro

Below are some of your flight options:

Atlanta to Paris

Below are some of your flight options:

Detroit to Tokyo

Below are some of your flight options:

Delta can raise and lower miles needed for award travel based on demand, so if you see a flight that works, book it sooner rather than later.

Tip: If your plans are flexible, Delta offers excellent deals on reward travel via DeltaSkyMilesLife.com. Check out real-life travel experiences and book your next reward flight with SkyMiles. Current economy class deals at press time include New York to Zurich, 37,000 miles; Boston to Paris, 38,000 miles; and Minneapolis to London, 54,000 miles.

Use miles and cash to book flights

Delta’s Miles + Cash option allows you to pay for award tickets using a combination of points and cash, which can come in handy if you don’t have enough miles to redeem for a flight. For example, you could redeem an award ticket for 35,000 miles or choose a Miles + Cash award ticket for 25,000 miles plus $159.

Those with the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card, the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card or the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card can use Pay with Miles to book award flights. Under the program, cardmembers use their SkyMiles to lower the price of their airfare. For example, you can redeem 10,000 miles to cut $100 off the price of a ticket. You must have at least 5,000 miles in your account to use Pay with Miles.

What are award change and booking fees?

  • Award ticket redeposit/reissue: $150; waived for Platinum and Diamond Medallion SkyMiles members
  • Change date: $150
  • Change origin/destination cities: $150
  • Cancel and redeposit miles: $150. You must cancel at least 72 hours before your departure time or else you’ll lose the miles and the ticket can’t be changed.

Can I upgrade with SkyMiles?

Yes, you can, although seats are limited. You also won’t know how many miles you’ll need until you book your reward travel.

If you’ve already purchased a flight, you can use SkyMiles to upgrade at delta.com or through the Fly Delta app for Delta One®, Delta Premium Select, first class, Delta Comfort+®, preferred or exit row seats. Here’s how:

  1. Find your reservation in My Trips on delta.com or the Fly Delta app
  2. If an upgrade is available, you will see an option to ‘Select Seats’ for money or miles
  3. Pick an available seat in the seat map and complete your purchase

If you aren’t able to upgrade your seat using miles on delta.com, Delta reservations may be able to help. Call a SkyMiles agent, share your trip information and ask to book a mileage upgrade award. The agent will offer prices and availability. If your reservation is eligible and there are enough miles in your account, the agent can confirm your upgrade.

Tip: Travelers can book different cabins on the outbound and return flights of the same round-trip ticket. So you can choose Delta Comfort+ one way and Delta One on a return.

Is there an upgrade waitlist?

If a mileage upgrade award isn’t available at the time of request, a traveler holding a confirmed Main Cabin or Delta Comfort+ reservation can be put on the upgrade waitlist in advance. Those on the waitlist will be accommodated according to Delta’s priority rules for Medallion members: Diamond, Platinum, Gold, then Silver.

Upgrades may be confirmed on Delta or Delta Connection up to three hours before departure, if available. Note that mileage upgrade awards do not carry over to the airport standby list, so if seats are available in a premium cabin, you’ll have to pay cash for it.

Can I make changes to award travel?

Changes to origin, destination, routing, date and time are allowed if the number of miles needed for the new itinerary doesn’t change. If the miles change, you will be charged a $150 fee.

Changes to outbound and return award travel must be made 72 hours before departure of the outbound flight. Award tickets booked within 72 hours of departure are nonrefundable and cannot be redeposited or changed.

How to transfer hotel points to airline miles

You can convert hotel points into SkyMiles miles any time with no charge for the conversion. Every hotel program has a different conversion rate, and to make it easier to understand, here are the conversion rates:

  • Marriott Bonvoy™: 3 points for 1 SkyMile
  • Hilton Honors: 10,000 points for 1,000 SkyMiles
  • IHG® Reward Club: 10,000 points for 2,000 SkyMiles
  • Radisson Rewards: 10,000 points for 1,000 SkyMiles
  • World of Hyatt: 1,250 points to 500 SkyMiles

Tip: Unless you need more miles to redeem an award flight, transferring hotel points to airline miles isn’t a great option. You’re better off using hotel points for free rooms and upgrades.

How do I transfer Delta SkyMiles to someone else?

Delta charges $10 for every 1,000 miles transferred to another SkyMiles member, plus a $30 processing fee. You can transfer a minimum of 1,000 and a maximum of 30,000 miles per transaction. The maximum number of miles you can deposit into a SkyMiles account per year is 300,000; the maximum you can transfer from a SkyMiles account is 150,000 per year. You must fill out Transfer Miles Recipient Information by entering the SkyMiles number and name of the individual who will receive the miles.

Read Credit Cards with Airline Mile Transfer Features.

It’s not a terrible deal, but you’re better off booking an award for someone else using your miles since you can do it for free. There’s also the option of transferring your American Express Membership Rewards points at a 1:1 ratio to 18 airline partners, including Delta.

How else can you redeem SkyMiles?

Delta gives you plenty of options to spend your miles. Improve your ground and in-flight experience by redeeming them for a Delta SkyClub airport lounge membership, premium drinks in the lounge or on upgrades into the airline’s premium cabins. You can also choose to book a getaway with a Delta Vacations package.

There’s also the option to bid on once-in-a-lifetime experiences, such as premium seats at sports events, VIP packages at concerts and exclusive dining events with celebrity chefs, all at SkyMiles Experiences®. Or, you can use your miles to buy Delta gift cards or merchandise at the SkyMiles Marketplace. Alternatively, miles can be donated to your favorite charity.

Do SkyMiles expire?

Delta miles never expire.

The bottom line

Delta SkyMiles was the first among the legacy carriers to eliminate published award charts in order to use its own algorithms to determine the miles needed between city-pairs. That means the airline has more flexibility to raise or lower award redemptions based on demand.

However, that can mean bad news for those who want to redeem miles for flights to popular destinations at peak times, since it will probably cost you more miles. But with advanced planning, combined with some research and some flexibility, you should be able to redeem flights and upgrades with your miles. Delta SkyMiles also gives you the option of using a combination of miles and points for reward travel.

Terms apply to American Express credit card offers. See americanexpress.com for more information.


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