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7 Things Savvy Travelers Know About Using Delta Miles

7 Things Savvy Travelers Know About Using Delta Miles

Jason7 Things Savvy Travelers Know About Using Delta MilesMillion Mile Secrets Team

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Update: One or more card offers in this post are no longer available. Check our Hot Deals for the latest offers.

Earning lots of miles and points is usually a straightforward process.  But redeeming them for the most value is another challenge altogether!

It’s super easy right now to earn lots of Delta miles with the return of the highest-ever limited-time AMEX Delta offers.  Through April 11, 2018, you can earn an increased bonus on these cards:

The offers in the table below are no longer available.

Card NameWelcome Bonus
Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express
50,000 Delta miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening

Additional 10,000 Delta miles after you spend an additional $1,000 on purchases in the first 6 months from account opening

$50 statement credit when you make a Delta purchase with the card in the first 3 months from account opening

Gold Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card from American Express
50,000 Delta miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening

Additional 10,000 Delta miles after you spend an additional $1,000 on purchases in the first 6 months from account opening

$50 statement credit when you make a Delta purchase with the card in the first 3 months from account opening
Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express
70,000 Delta miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening

$100 statement credit when you make a Delta purchase with the card in the first 3 months from account opening

Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card from American Express
70,000 Delta miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening

$100 statement credit when you make a Delta purchase with the card in the first 3 months from account opening
7 Things Savvy Travelers Know About Using Delta Miles
Treat Yourself to a More Luxurious Experience With the Increased Bonuses on the AMEX Delta Cards

But Delta’s frequent flyer program has changed a lot over the years, and it can be tricky to remember everything you need to know to get the best deal from your miles.

So I’ve compiled some tips and tricks to remind y’all of the best strategies for booking award flights with Delta miles.  Including ways save your miles or find the perfect award!

Tips and Tricks for Using Delta Miles 2018

Link:   These AMEX Delta Card Offers Won’t Be Around Forever

1.   There’s No Award Chart 

Link:   How to Use Delta Award Search

In 2015, Delta stopped publishing an award chart.  So you can no longer see how much an award flight between certain regions is supposed to cost.

Now, you can only see the number of miles required when you search for a specific route and date.  The only way to come up with a reference point for the lowest available price is to search a lot of different days.

This is very inconvenient and makes it difficult to plan ahead – or even know if you’re getting a good deal!   But once you have some practice using Delta award search, it’s not too hard to figure out the minimum prices for low-level tickets.

2.   Flights with Partners Cost More Miles Than Delta Flights (But There’s a Trick!)

Last year, Delta quietly changed their pricing, so that award flights on partner airlines became significantly more expensive.  For example, flying from New York to London in Business Class on Delta costs at least 70,000 miles one-way.  But if you want to fly on their partner Virgin Atlantic, you’d have to pay 85,000 miles for the same ticket!

7 Things Savvy Travelers Know About Using Delta Miles
Fly Virgin Atlantic Upper Class for the Same Number of Miles as Delta With a Connecting Flight

There’s a trick to get around this increase though, if you’re willing to add a connecting flight.  An itinerary with any Delta flight on it will give you the lower prices, even if it’s just a short flight!   So you could fly from New York to Boston or Washington, DC, on Delta, then fly Virgin Atlantic to London, and pay the lower price.

3.   Award Tickets Might Get More Expensive Close to Departure – Or Disappear Completely

Unlike American and United Airlines, Delta doesn’t charge you a $75 fee to book tickets less than 21 days before departure.  But watch out, because sometimes they charge more miles to book tickets during that time!

Additionally, there are some partner airlines that disappear from the Delta website within 72 hours of departure, even if there are still available award seats.  So it’s still a good idea to book Delta awards as far in advance as you can!

4.   Pay With Miles (No Blackout Dates!) If You Have Certain AMEX Delta Cards

Here’s another great reason to consider the limited-time increased bonuses on the AMEX Delta cards!

If you have the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American ExpressGold Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card from American ExpressPlatinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American ExpressPlatinum Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card from American Express, or Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express, you can use your miles to book paid (NOT award) tickets on the Delta website.

Only Delta and Delta Connection flights are eligible (NOT partner flights).  You can redeem Delta miles at a rate of 1 cent each, in increments of 5,000 miles.

7 Things Savvy Travelers Know About Using Delta Miles
Delta May Not Have the Best Business Class, but You Can Easily Redeem Your Delta Miles Like Cash if You’re a Delta Credit Card Holder

Plus, you can use miles to pay for all or part of your ticket. And because these are paid (NOT award) tickets, you’ll earn miles and elite qualifying dollars for the flight!

This isn’t always a great deal.  You can usually get better value from your Delta miles by redeeming for award flights instead of using Pay With Miles.  But it can make sense if your dates are not flexible, if regular cash airfares are low, or if you just don’t want to struggle with searching for award flights.

5.   Watch for Limited-Time Flash Award Sales

Delta regularly offers flash sales for certain destinations or times of year, where you can get a discount on award tickets.

For example, past sales have included flights to Seattle or Portland for 10,000 Delta miles round-trip, flights to New York starting at 11,000 Delta miles round-trip, and even flights to Asia for 60,000 Delta miles round-trip in coach or 80,000 Delta miles round-trip in Premium Economy.

These sales can save you a ton of miles, but you have to act fast!  Usually they only last for a day or 2, and the best deals can get snapped up quickly.

6.   Look for Cheap Awards on Short Flights

Even though Delta doesn’t publish an award chart anymore, you can usually expect to spend at least 12,500 miles for a one-way flight in the continental United States

7 Things Savvy Travelers Know About Using Delta Miles
Fly From Seattle to Los Angeles (and Vice Versa!) for as Few as 5,000 Delta Miles Each Way

But not all domestic flights are the same.  Even when there isn’t an official sale, you can sometimes find award tickets for short flights (like Seattle to Los Angeles) for as little as 5,000 to 6,000 Delta miles one-way!   This is especially true on the West Coast, where Delta competes with its rival Alaska Airlines. 

7.   Remember to Look for Hidden Award Flights on Delta’s Partners

Some of the best deals with Delta miles are on partner airlines like China Airlines, Air Europa, and Jet Airways.  But you won’t always find them using the Delta search engine!   So make sure to use these tricks to find hidden award flights, then call Delta to book your ticket over the phone.

Other Ways to Earn Delta Miles 

You can transfer points from American Express Membership Rewards to Delta at a 1:1 ratio.  But keep in mind you’ll have to pay a small excise fee to transfer points because Delta is a US airline.

You can also transfer Starwood points at a 1:1 ratio to Delta, plus you’ll get a bonus of 5,000 Delta miles for every 20,000 Starwood points you transfer.

And the best part?  Delta miles never expire, so you don’t have to worry if you can’t find the award flights you want right away.

Bottom Line

It’s a great time to earn Delta miles, because the welcome bonuses on the AMEX Delta cards are at an all-time high until April 11, 2018.

Delta’s made a lot of changes to their frequent flyer program in the past few years.  So knowing the best ways to redeem Delta miles (and a few clever tricks) will help you get the most from your miles.

Keep an eye out for cheap short-haul award flights, flash sales, and inexpensive airfare you can offset by using Pay With Miles.  And remember to consider little-known partner flights that don’t always show up in award searches.

Do you have your own strategies for redeeming Delta miles?  Let me know in the comments!

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Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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I would avoid Delta at all costs, I just had a flight booked in Delta Comfort+ that some agent by MISTAKE cancelled. When I got the notifications my flight was cancelled and called now the cabin is fully booked, and they’re saying my only options are to change my plans and take an earlier flight or else fly downgraded with an inconsequential voucher. Talk about terrible customer service, to inconvenience a passenger after they make a mistake.

“award flights on partner airlines became significantly more expensive”: a notable exception are flights to/from Africa on e.g. KLM and Air France. There isn’t much DL availability given their limited flights to/from Africa but there are exceptional values, especially for difficult one-ways like going into Johannesburg and out of Nairobi or Dar Es Salaam. That said always check what these flights would cost to make sure you’re getting a good value for your miles!

Million Mile Secrets

Great tip Steven. Thanks for sharing!