Best ways to use Delta miles to get exceptional value
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I love redeeming airline frequent flyer miles for award flights within the U.S. and around the globe. Delta offers an excellent frequent flyer program — Delta SkyMiles — that makes earning and redeeming your miles easy and straightforward.
Delta miles value has gone somewhat downhill in recent years as Delta eliminated its award chart and started charging somewhat outrageous award prices on certain flights. But with Delta’s easy-to-use booking tool, a vast network of airline partners through the SkyTeam alliance and an overall pleasant onboard experience, collecting and redeeming Delta miles remains an attractive option.
I’ll break down six of the best ways to use Delta Miles (in no particular order) to help you get phenomenal value.
Best ways to use Delta miles
Unfortunately, planning how to use your Delta miles can be a guessing game, because Delta got rid of its award chart a few years ago. This means that although there are general guidelines for how much a specific award flight might cost you, the only true way of pricing out an award flight is to search for it on Delta.com.
If you’re an Amex Delta cardholder, you can always redeem Delta miles for one cent each (with Delta’s Pay with Miles), so I typically use one cent as my floor value for booking award flights. In the past two years, I have consistently redeemed my Delta miles for ~1.5 cents each, so that’s a decent benchmark to use when deciding if you are getting solid value from your Delta miles.
The ideas in this post are a good starting point, but be sure to always check out award flight options for yourself. Finding valuable award flights can take some searching and flexibility — and sometimes, Delta will be charging upwards of 100,000 (or even 300,000) miles for award flights that are seemingly simple, quick or cheap.
You never know your exact savings goal until it’s time to book your flights. This makes transferable points (such as Amex Membership Rewards) even more valuable because you can “top off” your Delta account in case you’re a little short on miles.
You can redeem Delta miles to fly nearly anywhere around the globe. Delta is a member of the SkyTeam alliance, which means you can use your Delta miles on many partner airlines such as Air France for travel to Europe, Kenya Airways for travel to Africa, Korean Air for travel to Asia and more.
You can also redeem Delta miles with other unique airline partners such as Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Australia and Air Tahiti Nui. I primarily redeem Delta miles for flights on SkyTeam partner airlines. Most of these airlines can be booked online at Delta.com, but some will require calling Delta. For more information, read our post about how to use Delta miles.
Here are some of the best ways to use Delta miles:
Short flights within the Continental U.S.
I’ll start with a boring option, but one that can be tremendously valuable. Delta offers short flights within the U.S. for as little as 4,500 Delta miles plus $5.60 per person each way in coach.
If you need a specific flight between two nearby destinations, under 5,000 miles will be nearly impossible to beat. This is perhaps my favorite use of Delta miles and is a great reason to always keep a few thousand Delta miles on hand.
International flights on partner airlines
Although Delta doesn’t publish an award chart, it typically sells award flights on partner airlines for very consistent prices. For example, you’ll typically be able to fly from the continental U.S. to Asia for 37,500 Delta miles plus ~$135 taxes and fees on partners like China Southern, China Eastern and Korean Air (or even fewer miles if there’s an award sale).
That’s a great deal for an award flight to Asia (Shanghai in this example), and availability is generally excellent. As long as you can find partner award seats you can typically get very strong value.
Award flights on Virgin Atlantic or Virgin Australia
Award flights on Delta partners Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia also can be particularly valuable. For example, you can consistently find last-minute award seats Down Under in coach or business class at a very reasonable price. Especially at the last minute, this can be an excellent deal.
Award flights departing the U.S. with no lap infant fee
This example is quite personal for me because my wife and I recently flew from Los Angeles to Rome using Delta miles. While we spent 86,000 Delta miles each to fly in business class, we chose to book with Delta because there was no fee for bringing along a lap infant. Other airlines (such as American and United) were charging 10% of the cash rate for my tiny daughter to sit on our laps for the award flight to Europe. This meant that even though we were redeeming miles for the flights, we would be on the hook for a $500 infant fare because the last-minute retail price of the one-way business class flight was nearly $5,000. Ouch!
This made booking our award flights with Delta a no-brainer, and I will continue to book award flights with a lap infant with Delta whenever it meets my travel needs.
Delta reduced mileage awards
Delta is perhaps the most consistent airline when it comes to having award flight sales and offering reduced mileage awards. Whenever there is a valuable sale, we’ll write about it here on Million Mile Secrets. (View our up-to-date post for all the latest Delta SkyMiles deals.)
For example, recently you could book a round-trip flight in coach to Europe for just 20,000 Delta miles. I always look for award flight deals and reduced mileage awards when starting my adventure planning — you never know what might be available at the time.
Bonus: Delta Pay With Miles
Certain Amex Delta cardholders can take advantage of a unique offering called Delta Pay With Miles. You can redeem Delta miles for a fixed value of 1 cent each to receive a cash discount on your paid flights.
You can utilize this perk if you have any of the following Amex Delta credit cards:
- Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card: Earn 40,000 bonus miles after spending $1,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Plus, earn up to $50 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants within the first three months of card membership. $0 intro annual fee for the first year; then $99 (see rates and fees). Terms Apply.
- 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 the first three months of card membership. Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants in the first three months of card membership. $250 annual fee (see rates and fees). Terms Apply.
- 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 the first three months of card membership. Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants in the first three months of card membership. $550 annual fee (see rates and fees) Terms Apply.
- Delta SkyMiles® Gold Business American Express Card: Earn 50,000 bonus miles, and a $50 statement credit after spending $2,000 in purchases the first three months of card membership. $0 introductory annual fee for the first year; then $99 (see rates and fees). Terms Apply.
- Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card: Earn 60,000 bonus miles, 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs), and a $100 statement credit after spending $3,000 in purchases in the first three months of card membership. $250 annual fee (see rates and fees). Terms Apply.
- Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card: Earn 60,000 bonus miles, 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs), and a $100 statement credit after spending $4,000 in purchases in the first three months of card membership. $550 annual fee (see rates and fees) Terms Apply.
For example, if there’s a flight you need to take which costs $275, you can redeem up to 25,000 Delta miles to reduce the cost of the flight by $250 (in 5,000 mile or $50 increments).
This isn’t the best use of Delta miles, but it can be very helpful for folks who need a particular flight, or who only have a few miles and just want to get some value out of them. For more inspiration or strategies on growing your miles balance, visit our post about how to earn Delta SkyMiles.
However you choose to use your Delta miles, with some flexibility and searching you can get excellent value for rewarding and fun travel experiences. Here are a few of the best ways to use Delta miles:
- Short flights on Delta within the continental U.S. starting at 4,500 miles one-way
- International partner award flights
- Award flights on Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia
- Award flights departing the U.S. with no lap infant fee
- Delta Reduced Mileage Awards
The above examples are some of the best uses of Delta miles, but each of you might have a different redemption option or need that provides you with the most value.
Let us know about your best ever Delta award redemption in the comments.
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For rates and fees of the Amex Delta Gold, click here
For rates and fees of the Amex Delta Platinum, click here
For rates and fees of the Amex Delta Reserve, click here
For rates and fees of the Amex Delta Gold Business Card, click here
For rates and fees of the Amex Delta Platinum Business Card, click here
For rates and fees of the Amex Delta Reserve Business Card, click here
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