The Secret to One-Way Delta SkyMiles Award Tickets
Delta brought back one-way SkyMiles award tickets at the beginning of 2015, with domestic award tickets starting as low as 12,500 SkyMiles. On domestic flights, Mrs. TT and I fly Southwest almost exclusively, due to the valuable Southwest Companion Pass. Since we typically fly Southwest here in the US, we save our American Airlines, Delta, and United points for first class international award tickets, where they are the most valuable. We are planning an upcoming trip to Europe, and we’ve been looking at how to squeeze as much value out of our SkyMiles as is possible.
Based on my research the secret to getting the most out of your SkyMiles is booking international one-way flights, with the maximum value in first class award tickets. Many people simply don’t have 60k or 75k SkyMiles to fly round-trip so the cheaper one-way flights make more sense.
I suggest booking a Delta fare and then taking United or American Airlines back on another one-way point redemption, or vice versa. My method would require you to apply for two credit cards (Delta + another airline) to earn enough points for both flights. Through this method you will get the most value for your points, for the least amount of effort, and it also offers you the flexibility of working with more than one airline schedule! By applying for two cards it also makes getting a first class award ticket within reach. American Airlines and United first class one-way redemptions start at 50k miles.
Thrifty Tip #1: Avoid booking one-way flights back to the United States from Europe. You will get hit with hefty taxes and fees.
Flying direct round-trip in the main cabin (coach) from Minneapolis to Amsterdam is a minimum 60,000 SkyMiles + $52.60. For round-trip flights there are typically limited dates available for booking and you typically end up paying more than the minimum 60k Skymiles.
Alternatively, if you book a one-way direct ticket the flight from Minneapolis to Amsterdam is only 30,000 SkyMiles + $5.60, with very good availability. You will have more available dates to book and also save some coin. I realize this is not a significant difference but being able to book when you want matters. Across the Pacific I found direct flights from Minneapolis to Tokyo starting out at 35,000 SkyMiles + $5.60. The MSP to NRT flight is 13 hours so you’re really maximizing those SkyMiles.
Thrifty Tip #2: Book one-way tickets on Delta to maximize available award space, SkyMiles, taxes, and fees. Use the flexible days search function to see fares over a 5 week period and select non-stop fares if available.
Thrifty Tip #3: Book direct non-stop flights when possible as it greatly improves your flying experience and many times does not cost additional miles. Check Wikipedia for your nearest airport to determine which airlines fly non-stop routes to your destination.
The real value in one-way award tickets is on First/Business class redemptions. Off-season round-trip awards to Amsterdam are typically around 160,000 Skymiles with very poor availability. On the other hand, you can fly one-way for only 62,500 SkyMiles which is less than half of what you would have spent round-trip. The 62.5k is much more attainable for the average person as well since Delta offers increased welcome offer bonuses on their American Express credit cards several times per year. You also maximize the value of your SkyMiles since First class fares start at around $5,000 round-trip! Premium cabin redemptions are usually the best use of your points.
Thrifty Tip #4: Book First/Business class fares when possible as it far exceeds the experience you have in the cattle car (coach) and you maximize the value of your points/miles.
Booking direct one-way business class award tickets is without a doubt the best value for your SkyMiles. With the help of the five American Express Delta credit cards offered it makes obtaining the required point balance relatively easy.