Make this the year you master Delta SkyMiles and get the most out of them. And trust us: You can.
While others call them worthless or deride them as “SkyPesos,” we’re big fans of Delta SkyMiles. There’s no question Delta’s frequent flyer program is difficult to understand. And flight prices using SkyMiles are always changing, with wild swings and sometimes exorbitant pricing.
But we value SkyMiles because there are some incredible ways to use them – including some opportunities you won’t find with other airlines. Here are some of the absolute best Delta SkyMiles redemptions – and why you shouldn’t shy away from earning them.
Using SkyMiles is one of the best ways to book future travel – even far out into 2021. That’s because all SkyMiles tickets booked by Dec. 31, 2020 can be changed or canceled for free!
How to Earn Delta SkyMiles
First things first: To take advantage of these redemptions, you’ll need some SkyMiles in your Delta account. Luckily, your timing is impeccable.
That’s because Delta and American Express are out with bigger bonuses on two of their most popular co-branded credit cards. You can currently earn up to 60,000 SkyMiles on the Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card and Delta SkyMiles Platinum American Express Card.
The Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card is a great place to start, as you’ll earn 50,000 SkyMiles after spending $2,000 within the first three months. The card gets you free baggage and priority boarding on each and every Delta-operated flight and other perks. Best of all, you don’t have to pay the card’s $99 annual fee for the first year.
Click Here to learn more about the Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card.
And then there’s the Delta SkyMiles Platinum American Express Card, which comes packed with even more perks. For starters, you’ll earn 60,000 SkyMiles after spending $3,000 within the first three months. You get the same free baggage and boarding benefits, too.
But best of all, you’ll have a free companion certificate starting in your second year with the card – essentially a buy-one, get one ticket for a flight within the continental U.S. And that can easily outweigh the card’s $250 annual fee.
Click Here to learn more about the Delta SkyMiles Platinum American Express Card.
Already have those cards – or want to go even bigger? Some other American Express credit cards can get you there.
Take a hard look at the American Express Gold Card, which we think is one of the best all-around credit cards, period. That’s because it earns 4x points per dollar at restaurants worldwide and U.S. supermarkets, as well as 3x points per dollar on travel. It starts with a 35,000-point bonus after spending $4,000 within three months – but check to see if you’re eligible for a whopping 75,000-point bonus via CardMatch!
Best of all, you can instantly transfer these points straight to your Delta SkyMiles account.
Click Here to learn more about the American Express Gold Card.
And then there’s the Platinum Card from American Express, the king of all travel rewards credit cards. It comes with huge travel perks like unbeatable lounge access, a $200 annual airline fee credit, $100 towards your Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application, and many more.
At $550 a year, it’s not cheap. But that could easily be worth paying if you’re targeted for CardMatch’s 100,000-point welcome bonus on this card after spending $5,000 within three months.
Click Here to learn more about the Platinum Card from American Express.
Want to earn even more Delta SkyMiles? Check out our master guide with all best ways to earn SkyMiles in 2020!
SkyMiles Deals & Flash Sales
Delta gets a bad rap for not publishing an award chart, but there’s a serious upside: SkyMiles Flash Sales. They’re often the absolute best way to use your SkyMiles, period.
The airline is always running these sales on award flights. They keep a running a list of available sales on their site, and frequently push out two- or three-day occasional sales. Some of these are published, while others aren’t – but we always find those and send alerts to our Thrifty Traveler Premium members.
These sales have really taken off, and it can be a huge win for travelers. In fact, these sales might just be better than ever.
Whether it’s a round-trip flight to the Caribbean starting at just 10,000 SkyMiles, a trip to Europe for 22,000 SkyMiles, or flying to Japan and back for an astonishing 50,000 SkyMiles total, there are some serious savings here. Want to fly Delta One business class? Delta occasionally slashes prices to fly in style, too, with rates as low as 98,000 SkyMiles for a trip to Europe and back.
Jumping on one of these flash sales means you can spend half the SkyMiles (or less!) than what you’d normally pay.
In our minds, there’s no better way to use your Delta SkyMiles than with these flash sales. It’s a big part of the reason why we value SkyMiles much more than many experts out there, and Delta has doubled down on them recently.
Read our guide to making the most out of these SkyMiles flash sales.
Domestic Flights for 10K SkyMiles RT – Or Less!
While we generally warn travelers against using their miles for short domestic flights, it’s a sweet spot with Delta. And even when there isn’t a hot SkyMiles flash sale, you can snag a good deal with SkyMiles.
Shorter routes are fairly easy to find for roughly 10,000 SkyMiles round-trip. Flights shorter than 750 miles seem to be easiest to snag at this price, but even some longer flights make the cut. Be sure to book well ahead of your flight to ensure the lowest-priced SkyMiles award space is available.
Just beware that flights in and out of major Delta hubs like Atlanta (ATL), Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP), or Salt Lake City (SLC) can be harder to get at low prices thanks to Delta’s hub penalty.
Round-Trip Flights to Europe for 50K SkyMiles on Delta Partners
Update: Delta has recently increased the cost of these awards to at least 70,000 SkyMiles
When you’re using SkyMiles to fly Delta, the rates can be all over the place. Its dynamic pricing system can make for some unpredictable (and often expensive) redemptions.
But you can also use SkyMiles to book partner airlines like Air France, KLM, Virgin Atlantic, and others. When you’re booking partner airlines with SkyMiles, the prices are far more stable. And it’s a major sweet spot.
At 50,000 SkyMiles, you can snag a round-trip flight to almost anywhere in Europe for a fraction of the SkyMiles Delta often charges for its own flights. And that’s a great deal.
The trick is making sure you’re flying a partner like KLM, Air France, or Virgin Atlantic on the long flight across the Ocean. Finding award availability can be a challenge – especially when Delta hides some of this partner award space.
But perhaps the best part about this redemption is that it’s not just good for nonstop flights to major hubs like London-Heathrow (LHR), Amsterdam (AMS), or Paris-Charles de Gaulle (CDG). So long as there’s award availability, you can generally continue on almost anywhere in Europe and still pay just 25,000 SkyMiles each way.
Even smaller towns throughout France and Italy as well as harder-to-reach destinations like Greece, Turkey, and Russia work! Flying from anywhere in the U.S. to Bologna, Italy and back for just 50,000 miles total is tough to beat.
Premium Select, Please?
If you are booking any trips to Asia, you’ll want to take a look at Delta’s new Premium Select product. Premium Select is bookable for only 90,000 SkyMiles round-trip – and sometimes less. That’s a great deal – especially when you’re flying Delta’s new Airbus A350.
We reviewed a flight in Delta Premium Select last year and found it was a great, middle-of-the-market offering for the long flight across the Pacific Ocean. There’s far more legroom than you’d get in economy, better food, improved service, and much more.
Fly Business Class on Partner Airlines
Update: Delta has recently increased the cost of many partner business class awards.
If you want to fly at the front of the cabin, Delta may charge you an arm and a leg for it. It’s not unusual seeing one-way Delta One business class flights to Europe or Asia selling for 250,000 SkyMiles – or much more.
But partner airlines come to the rescue again. Finding award availability can be a chore – especially considering Delta seems to hide some partner awards – but the value here is great. Here’s a look at what some of Delta’s best partner airlines charge for a one-way business class ticket from the U.S.:
- Virgin Atlantic Upper Class: 86,000 SkyMiles between U.S. and Europe – and just 85,000 to continue onward to Israel!
- KLM Business Class: 75,000 SkyMiles between U.S. and Europe
- Air France Business Class: 75,000 SkyMiles between U.S. and Europe
- Korean Air: 85,000 SkyMiles between U.S. and Seoul (ICN)
- China Airlines: 85,000 SkyMiles between U.S. and Taipei (TPE)
These rates increase on many of these airlines as you get closer to your departure date. Still, there’s some solid value here if you’re looking to fly business class with your SkyMiles.
Buying Champagne in the Delta Sky Club
This won’t be for everyone, but it’s a fun one. And it’s a heck of a good value for your SkyMiles.
You can buy expensive (and delicious) bottles of champagne in the Delta Sky Club for as low as 4,000 SkyMiles. You can get 2 cents per SkyMile, which is a solid value. It’s a great way to start any vacation.
- Veuve Clicquot Brut Champagne – 3,900 SkyMiles (retail $78)
- Laurent Perrier La Cuvee Brut Rosé NV – 4,500 SkyMiles (retail $90)
- Dom Perignon – 10,000 SkyMiles (retail $200)
This deal has been around for a few years, and our team never hesitates to take advantage. Sky Club bartenders will even give you a bucket of ice if you’d like to drink it away from the bar.
If you’ve got a few thousand SkyMiles to burn, this is a great way to start your trip off right.
Booking Flight Deals with SkyMiles
It won’t always make sense, but you can use a novel feature of Delta’s SkyMiles to book a cheap flight deal – and come out way ahead.
Delta’s “Pay with Miles” feature allows you to put your SkyMiles balance toward the cash price of your flight. It’s only available to American Express Delta cardholders. And as a bonus, you can still work toward earning Delta Medallion status by using this potentially powerful feature.
When you use Pay with Miles, each SkyMile is worth 1 cent toward the fare, so 5,000 SkyMiles is worth $50 off your fare. And you have to pay in 5,000-mile increments.
While it’s not the greatest value, you can come out ahead when you find a great flight deal here or through Thrifty Traveler Premium: It means you can book a flight for fewer miles than the standard award flight may cost. And unlike a normal award, you’ll still earn Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs) toward Delta status.
Check out this example we found from New York-JFK (JFK) to Singapore (SIN) for around $450 or 45,000 SkyMiles round-trip. A typical award ticket on this route typically costs over 100,000 SkyMiles.
This is also how our team member Mikhala booked two round-trip tickets to Hawaii for $27.80. If you play it right, using this method can be one of the best ways to use SkyMiles.
Fly to Mexico and the Caribbean
SkyMiles can be unpredictable, and the routine flash sales mean you can snag some even better deals than this one.
But it’s pretty easy to book a round-trip flight to Mexico in economy for 30,000 SkyMiles. That’s a solid deal for a winter escape, as many flights during the peak season can cost $500 or more.
You can even save a few thousand SkyMiles by booking one of their basic economy awards, giving up free seat assignment and a few other benefits.
Domestic Trips to Alaska
Another one of our favorite Delta SkyMiles redemptions is for round-trip flights between the lower 48 States and Anchorage, Alaska (ANC).
It’s generally pretty easy to find nonstop, round-trip flights between cities like Atlanta (ATL), Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP), Boston (BOS) and ANC for around 35,000 SkyMiles – and sometimes less. Considering that’s a six-plus hour flight, that’s some pretty great value. Even if you’re not in a Delta hub, you can find these flights for around 35,000 SkyMiles.
Delta SkyMiles are far from worthless. They just require a bit more work and care to ensure you’re squeezing all the value you can out of them. And while these are some of the best ways to use SkyMiles, this list is far from exhaustive. It should get you started for getting the most out of your SkyMiles.
If you need to boost your SkyMiles balance, take a hard look at the bigger bonuses currently available on some of the American Express Delta SkyMiles cards.