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Delta Tests Paying for Checked Bags with SkyMiles

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Delta keeps creating new ways for travelers to use their SkyMiles, from upgrading with miles to buying bottles of champagne in the Delta Sky Club. Add this one to the list.

The airline is currently testing the ability to pay for checked baggage fees by using SkyMiles, a Delta spokeswoman confirmed in a statement. During this test, passengers flying out of Greensboro, North Carolina (GSO) and Columbus, Ohio (CMH) can choose to cover the $30 checked baggage fee with 3,000 SkyMiles. This option is currently only when using self-service check-in kiosks – not online.

The airline confirmed that a checked bag costs 3,000 SkyMiles during this test. Delta said the service is “expected to expand in 2020.”

“We will share more details about using miles as a form of payment for bag fees once testing is complete,” a spokeswoman said in a statement.


SkyMiles and Delta
A slide from Delta's 2018 investor day presentation


Delta first hinted at this option last year, as it unveiled its more flexible “upgrade with miles” policy during an investor meeting. At the time, airline executives said only that the ability to pay for baggage fees with SkyMiles was coming sometime in 2020.


Our Analysis

Delta portrays this as a good thing for flyers, giving them more options to use their SkyMiles the way they want. And certainly, making frequent flyer miles easier to use is one of the primary complaints from travelers.

But just because they're easy to use does not mean they're easy to use well. With more low-value options like cabin upgrades and baggage fees, Delta wants to keep convincing travelers to trade in their SkyMiles without getting much in return.

These new options simply limit how much Delta loses on SkyMiles redemptions. As more of these creative options to use miles come onboard, Delta just claims more control over SkyMiles.

And while the prospect of covering a pesky bag fee with SkyMiles may appeal to some travelers, it's a poor choice. Rather than paying for baggage or cabin upgrades, Delta travelers can get much more out of their SkyMiles by redeeming flights. That's especially true of SkyMiles deals and flash sales, when the airline offers ultra-low rates like domestic flights under 10,000 SkyMiles roundtrip, flights to the Caribbean for just 14,000 SkyMiles, or a trip to London as low as 14,000 SkyMiles.

And using SkyMiles to pay for baggage is a potentially poor option because there's such an easy workaround: carrying one of Delta's co-branded credit cards.

From the Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card to the Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card, any Delta American Express credit card will get you a free checked bag on every Delta flight (with the exception of the Delta SkyMiles Blue American Express Card). What's more, it will also get free bags for up to eight other travelers on your reservation. And you don't even need to pay for your ticket to get that benefit – it's attached to your account.


Bottom Line

Delta is making it easier to use SkyMiles, but that's not always a good thing for travelers looking to get the most out of their SkyMiles. Watch for this option to expand in the coming months.


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