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Test Your Delta Knowledge: Here Are 7 Features of Delta’s SkyMiles Program That You Might Not Know

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Test Your Delta Knowledge: Here Are 7 Features of Delta’s SkyMiles Program That You Might Not Know

Jason StaufferTest Your Delta Knowledge: Here Are 7 Features of Delta’s SkyMiles Program That You Might Not KnowMillion Mile Secrets Team

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INSIDER SECRET: Some of Delta’s partner airlines won’t appear in the search results on the Delta site. So you’ll have to call in to book award flights with these “hidden” partners.

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 limited-time Amex Delta offers.  Through July 2, 2019, you can earn an increased bonus on these cards:

Delta SkyMiles can be valuable, if you know how to use them. (Photo courtesy of Delta)

Tips and Tricks for Using Delta Miles 2019

1. There’s No Award Chart 

Link: How to Redeem Delta Miles

In 2015, Delta stopped publishing an award chart. So you can no longer see how much an award flight between 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 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.

2. Flights With Partner Airlines Have Different Prices Than Delta Flights

Not long ago, Delta quietly changed the pricing on business-class award flights to Europe to 105,000 miles one-way. Or at least that’s the way it looks, 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.

But right now Delta partner business-class award flights to Europe are costing much less than Delta’s own flights.

There’s a trick to get around this increase if you’re willing to add a connecting flight. An itinerary including a Delta partner flight will give you the lower pricing.

So, for example, you could fly from New York to Boston or Washington, DC, on Delta, then fly Virgin Atlantic to London, and still pay the lower price. In the example above, heading over to Paris on Air France knocked 30,000 Delta miles off the final 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 consumer Delta cards that end on July 2, 2019.

If you have the Gold Delta card, Platinum Delta cardDelta Reserve cardPlatinum Delta Business cardGold Delta Business card or Delta Reserve Business card, 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.

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 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. Pay Attention to Delta’s Regular Award Sales

The Delta SkyMiles deals come around at least once a week (subscribe to our newsletter to get notified about them) and they can 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
  • 30,000 miles to Europe
  • 30,000 miles to Hong Kong
  • 50,000 miles to Australia
  • 16,000 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.

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 US. And often times 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.  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 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.

Bottom Line

It’s a great time to earn Delta miles because the welcome bonuses on these Amex Delta cards are increased until July 2, 2019:

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 rewards.

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 the latest tips and tricks on traveling big without spending a fortune, please subscribe to the Million Mile Secrets daily email newsletter.

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 did a pay with miles. My activity shows no mileage credit. I have the delta Reserve card. Was there a way I needed to do this I order to get credit?

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.

Yikes sorry to hear that TK! I’ve had nothing but good experiences with Delta, so I’m hoping yours was just an exception.

But still, I agree if they accidentally cancelled it they should have tried harder to make you whole!

“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!