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Amex MR points vs Delta SkyMiles

What’s the Difference Between Amex Points and Delta SkyMiles?

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Transferrable credit card points and airline miles are not synonymous – and they're not created equally. And despite their (incredibly close) relationship with co-branded credit cards, American Express Membership Rewards points and Delta SkyMiles are worlds apart.

Sure, the airline and bank's credit cards even share similar names. But here's what it boils down to: If you've got a stash of Amex points from cards like *amex platinum*, you can turn those into Delta SkyMiles … or points with 20 other airlines or hotel chains that are Amex transfer partners. With SkyMiles from a *delta skymiles platinum card* or simply flying with the airline, you're stuck booking through Delta – and only Delta.

That flexibility is the primary difference between Amex points and Delta SkyMiles. Read on to see what else you should consider when weighing these travel rewards currencies – and why you might want to lean toward Amex alone.


Confusing Amex Card Names

American Express hasn't done travelers any favors with keeping things straight.

Some of the most popular cards within Delta's co-branded portfolio and Amex's own roster of Membership Rewards cards have similar names that regularly cause confusion. For example, travelers frequently mention an Amex “Platinum” card, referring to either *amex platinum* or the *delta skymiles platinum card*.

The former earns flexible credit card points that you could transfer to a wide variety of frequent flyer programs. The latter earns SkyMiles that are only redeemable at delta.com.


*amex platinum*


Learn more about *amex platinum*.


*delta skymiles platinum*


Learn more about the *delta skymiles platinum card*


Same goes for the “Amex Gold” card: Is it the *amex gold* or the *delta skymiles gold card* you're talking about?


*amex gold card*


Learn more about the *amex gold*


*delta gold*


Learn more about the *delta skymiles gold card*.


Understanding which card is which – and which one is right for you – is important … especially when it comes time to use your points and miles.


SkyMiles are Stuck, Amex Points are Flexible

Let's make one thing clear: Amex points are simply more valuable than Delta SkyMiles. And even if flying Delta (and only Delta) is your primary goal, you may be better off earning Amex points instead of Delta SkyMiles.

With Amex points, you have the ability to send points directly to more than 20 different airlines and hotels that are Amex transfer partners. And that list includes Delta, so you can turn Membership Rewards points into SkyMiles, if you want to.

ProgramTypeTransfer RatioTransfer Time
Aer LingusAirline1:1N/A
AeroMexicoAirline1:1.62-12 days
Air Canada AeroplanAirline1:1Instant
Air France/KLMAirline1:1Instant
ANAAirline1:11-2 days
British AirwaysAirline1:1Instant
Cathay PacificAirline1:1Instant
IberiaAirline1:11-3 days
Qatar AirwaysAirline1:1Instant
Virgin AtlanticAirline1:1Instant
Choice PrivilegesHotel1:1Instant
Hilton HonorsHotel1:2Instant
Marriott BonvoyHotel1:1Instant

Amex Membership Rewards are the only transferrable credit card points you can send straight to Delta. With points from Capital One, Chase, Citi, and Bilt, sending them to Delta is not an option.

Unlike Amex points, Delta SkyMiles cannot be transferred to any other airlines – not even partner carriers like Air France/KLM Flying Blue or Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. While you can use SkyMiles to book flights on those airlines and other SkyTeam alliance carriers, you have do so through delta.com … at the (often exorbitant) rates Delta charges.


delta skymiles KLM
The 84,000 SkyMiles Delta is charging for this one-way to Europe in economy is not a good deal.


Amex points give you the flexibility to find a far better way to use your points, whether it's booking that exact same KLM flight to Amsterdam (AMS) using just 20,000 points, an ANA business class flight to Tokyo-Haneda (HND) for as low as 75,000 points roundtrip, or even book Delta flights for a fraction of the points by transferring them to a different airline. With Delta SkyMiles, none of that is possible.

It's not just the points are more flexible – you can get more of them with Amex, too. Consider this: You can earn a welcome bonus of as much as 150,000 points after spending $8,000 in six months on *amex platinum* if you're targeted for a bigger bonus via CardMatch or apply via personal referral links. That dwarfs the bonuses you can get on even the top-tier *delta reserve card*.

More points and more flexibility? That's why we often tell even diehard Delta flyers that the best credit card for them is not a Delta credit card at all.


Book Delta Flights for Less … Without SkyMiles

It might sound counterintuitive, but it's true: The best way to book Delta flights for the fewest amount of points is almost always by booking with another airline's miles. And only Amex's core credit cards make that possible.

Whichever airline's miles you're using, that's who determines how many miles you need to book a flight. And Delta's dynamic award pricing puts SkyMiles at a disadvantage, with award rates that fluctuate wildly based largely on the cash cost of a flight. Unless you stumble into a Delta SkyMiles flash sale, you might see exorbitant rates to book a flight on Delta or other airlines.

Other airlines do things differently, with lower, more predictable award rates. And that includes Delta's partner carriers like Air France/KLM and Virgin Atlantic … even when you're using their miles to book Delta flights.

Let's look at an example flying from Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) to Cancún (CUN) this spring. Delta is charging 48,000 SkyMiles roundtrip for a main cabin award, which includes free seat selection and cancellation.


msp cun delta


Even after a recent increase, you can book those exact same flights for less using Virgin Atlantic Flying Club points: 37,000 points roundtrip.


msp to cancun virgin


It's even (a bit) cheaper using Air France/KLM Flying Blue miles: 36,000 miles roundtrip. 


air france msp cun


You can transfer Amex points to all three airlines, so the choice should be easy.

That's just one of countless examples where you can save points by booking Delta flights through a partner airline program. Some workarounds are even more jarring, like booking a Delta One business class seat to Europe for just 50,000 points when Delta is charging 300,000 SkyMiles or more.

It gets even better with frequent Amex transfer bonuses of 25% or 30% to Air France or Virgin Atlantic, something we never see to Delta. A current transfer bonus of 30% to Virgin Atlantic means you could book those flights to Cancún using just 29,000 Amex points – nearly half of what Delta is charging.

There's another advantage to consider: You'll always get a Delta main cabin economy fare when booking using Air France or Virgin Atlantic points. When using SkyMiles, Delta now sells basic economy awards on most routes across the globe.

That said, you could still score deals from amazing Delta SkyMiles flash sales. At the very least, it's worth comparing between both Delta and its partner airlines.


Sharing SkyMiles is Expensive

Sharing is caring.

While you can easily book a ticket for a loved one using your own miles, sometimes you need to transfer points to friends or family who need a few more miles to book an award flight. Airlines don't make it cheap, and Delta is notoriously expensive.

The fees to transfer SkyMiles add up fast depending on how many miles you're trying to send to another flyer: Delta charges $10 per 1,000 miles that you transfer, plus a $30 processing fee. That means transferring 30,000 SkyMiles will cost you $330.


Amex transfer to Delta


You can bypass that hefty cost with Amex's own Membership Rewards cards. So long as you add them as an authorized user to your card (and wait at least 90 days), you can transfer Amex points directly to any and all of their frequent flyer accounts at a far lower cost – if you have to pay anything at all.

It's not quite free to send points to your pal's Delta account, but it's much cheaper. Along with other U.S. airlines, Amex charges .06 cents per point you send to any Delta SkyMiles account. That means transferring 30,000 points to your primary or authorized user's Delta account will cost you just $18 – not the $330 you'd pay when transferring from one SkyMiles account to another.


Amex transfer to Delta


If you're transferring to airlines other than Delta, JetBlue, or Hawaiian Airlines, those transfers are always completely free.


Bottom Line

Credit card points and airline miles might seem interchangeable, but they're not. And the differences between Amex points and Delta SkyMiles are critical.

Both can help you book a nearly free flight. But considering how much further Amex points can get you – whether you're looking to fly Delta or another airline – and your friends and family, one is clearly more valuable than the other.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

3 Responses

  • good analysis, but what about charges for bags and any other incidentals that the Delta Amex card covers….your analysis probably is apples to apples if you are traveling with no checked luggage….true?

  • Hello: Thanks for some great articles. I just wanted to comment that you don’t mention the annual fee for Amex, $695. That is a cost of a ticket right there. I love points and miles, but look at the total cost of my 3 or 4 flights (hopefully more) per year.

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