Test your Delta knowledge: 8 tips that you might not know
Signing up for credit cards through partner links earns us a commission. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. Here’s our full advertising policy: How we make money.
There are quite a few ways to use the Delta SkyMiles program to make your travel life more enjoyable. The program can improve your airport experience, it offers access to some of the best airport lounges in the country and can make flights in lie-flat seats to your favorite places affordable by leveraging its own miles and that of its partners.
However, there are some other less enticing things you should know about the program. I’ll share eight tips that you should know about Delta SkyMiles for Delta miles collectors.
Tips and tricks for using Delta Miles 2021
1) Award charts with Delta
Delta hasn’t had an award chart in ages. That stinks, because it’s harder to anticipate what your award flight will cost. 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 for flights on 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 the Delta award search, it’s not too hard to figure out the minimum prices for low-level tickets.
Fortunately, several of Delta’s partner airlines do have an award chart. It’s easier to predict the number of miles you’ll need for your flight when you book Delta flights with airline currencies that are not Delta (we’ll talk a little bit more about that in a second).
2) Free CLEAR membership
CLEAR is an expedited security program that basically lets you cut the entire airport security line. Just approach the CLEAR kiosk at the security checkpoint, use the fingerprint or iris scanner, and walk ahead of everyone with your own dedicated lane.
CLEAR costs $179 per year (ouch!), but Delta members can get it for way cheaper. Check out the below discounts, and the requirements to earn them.
Most of us don’t have Delta’s top-tier elite status. But simply by holding a Delta credit card, you’ll get $70 off. Plus, if you also have the American Express®️ Green Card, you’ll get a $100 discount annually when you pay for your CLEAR membership with this card. Holding these two cards would completely offset your CLEAR membership fee each year!
The information for the Amex Green Card has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
3) Book Delta flights with other airline currencies for the best price
Once Delta ditched its award chart, the price of the cheapest one-way business-class award flights to Europe rose to 105,000 miles. Or at least that’s the way it looked for a while, but there’s no way of knowing for sure. In the past Delta has increased award prices, only to lower them, and then, later on, to increase them again.
For example, a Delta One (lie-flat business class flight) from Cincinnati to Paris costs 230,000 Delta miles each way (laughably expensive, but pretty standard pricing for this route).
However, the exact same route using the Virgin Atlantic site costs 67,500 Virgin Atlantic miles.
If you can find nonstop business class Delta seats to Europe on the Virgin Atlantic website, they’ll cost as little as 50,000 Virgin Atlantic miles. For example, a Delta One seat from Atlanta to Paris costs 50,000 miles, versus 95,000 Delta miles.
4) Award tickets might get more expensive close to departure – or disappear completely
Delta doesn’t charge you a fee to book last-minute tickets. 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.
5) You can Pay With Miles (no blackout dates!) if you have certain Amex Delta cards
- Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card
- Delta SkyMiles® Gold Business American Express Card
- Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card
- Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card
- Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card
- Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card
The program essentially allows you to cash in your miles for 1 cent each, in increments of 5,000 miles. So, if a flight costs $700, you’ll pay 70,000 points. Only Delta and Delta Connection flights are eligible (not partner flights). Plus, you can use miles to pay for all or part of your ticket. And because these are paid tickets, you’ll earn miles and elite qualifying dollars for the flight.
This isn’t usually a great deal. You can often 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.
6) Pay attention to Delta’s regular award sales
Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, Delta SkyMiles deals would come around often and be one of the best ways to use your miles. In the past, they have had round-trip deals like:
- 128,000 miles in Business Class to Europe
- 70,000 miles in Premium Economy to Asia
- 10,000 miles for domestic flights
- 22,000 miles to Europe
- 30,000 miles to Hong Kong
- 50,000 miles to Australia
- 12,000 miles to the Caribbean
These sales usually last a week, but sometimes they’ll only be for a day or two, and the best deals can get snapped up quickly. Also, Delta sales almost always extend to routes that aren’t listed on the official sale page. So check out this guide on how to find hidden Delta award sales.
7) 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 U.S. — and oftentimes it will be a lot more.
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 for as little as 5,000 to 6,000 Delta miles one-way. I was recently able to book round-trip tickets from Chicago to Austin for only 11,000 Delta miles per person, which was much cheaper than other options.
8) 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.
Ways to earn Delta miles
- Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card – Earn 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new card in your first three months of card membership.
- Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card – Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new card in your first three months of card membership.
- Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card – Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in your first three months of card membership.
You can also 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 U.S. airline. You can also transfer Marriott points at a 3:1 ratio to Delta, plus you’ll get a bonus of 5,000 Delta miles for every 60,000 Marriott 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.
Delta’s made a lot of changes to their frequent flyer program in the past several years. Knowing the program’s latest tips and tricks will help you get the most from your rewards — and keep you from spending them frivolously.
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 Delta partner flights that don’t always show up in award searches.
For more posts like this delivered to your inbox once per day, subscribe to our newsletter!
Featured image by SpaceKris/Shutterstock
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! :)