4 Strategies I Used to Turn a Delta Credit Card Bonus Into 5 Round-Trip Flights and Save $1,100+

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INSIDER SECRET: Delta has weekly SkyMiles deals, which have turned Delta miles from an afterthought into the first place I look for domestic award travel. One thing that makes these sales so useful is that there are always hidden discounts. Check out this guide to learn how to uncover unadvertised Delta sales.

This past year I was able to turn 70,000 SkyMiles into five round-trip domestic flights. Delta miles aren’t the best — or even my favorite — airline miles, but they are the first place I look when I’m booking domestic award flights.

Depending on your situation and travel goals, they can be surprisingly valuable, and now is the time to open a Delta credit card because there are six limited-time (end July 2, 2019) bonus increases, including many all-time-high public offers.

I used Delta credit card miles to book all sorts of domestic flights this year, including a trip to Austin. (Photo by Sean Pavone/shutterstock)

4 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Delta Credit Card SkyMiles

Right now you can earn an increased welcome bonus on these Delta cards:

Delta doesn’t have an award chart, so it’s hard to know exactly how far each of these bonuses can take you. Even though I prefer airline loyalty programs that have award charts, one advantage with Delta is that sometimes prices can drop to rock-bottom levels.

Over the past year I used 70,000 Delta miles (plus $56 in taxes) to book these trips:

  • Two round-trip awards from Chicago to Austin for 11,000 miles per person
  • A round-trip award from Chicago to Philadelphia for 10,000 miles
  • A round-trip award from Chicago to Philadelphia for 16,000 miles
  • A round-trip award from Chicago to Sioux Falls, SD for 22,000 miles

Those same flights would have easily cost me $1,100+ out of pocket.

Here is what you can do in order to take advantage of similar deals.

1. Be Extremely Flexible

If you need to travel on specific dates or days, you’ll have a harder time booking the best deals. This is the biggest downside of Delta not having an award chart — the most popular travel dates and times will be more expensive.

Take a look at this search I did for flights from Chicago to Austin:

You’ll pay more if you fly on Friday or Sunday. Also, if you take a look at the departure times for the cheapest flights, you’ll notice that they are less than ideal.

The other problem you’ll run into if you don’t live in a Delta hub or focus city is that you’ll have to make a connection, which can easily double your travel time. This isn’t a huge deal for my wife and me because we both work remotely. But the extra time can be a deal-breaker.

Delta’s hub/focus cities are:

  • Atlanta
  • Boston
  • Cincinnati
  • Detroit
  • Los Angeles
  • Minneapolis
  • New York (JFK & LGA)
  • Raleigh/Durham
  • Salt Lake City
  • Seattle

2. Go Beyond Delta’s Advertised Award Sales

Delta has weekly SkyMiles deals and every once in a while they’ll have an extra flash sale. So there is no shortage of opportunities to pick up good deals.

Note: We publish these deals regularly, so subscribe to our newsletter if you want to keep up to date with them.

Some of the better sales that I’ve seen include:

  • 10,000 miles round-trip for domestic flights
  • 30,000 miles round-trip to Europe
  • 30,000 miles round-trip to Asia
  • 44,000 miles round-trip to Australia
  • 32,000 miles round-trip to South America

Each week Delta has a list of specific routes that are discounted, but in my experience the travel dates for these deals are almost always just good starting points for my search.

You can easily find prices that are better than advertised on dates well outside of the official sale dates. And if you happen show up late to a sale, it’s worth checking Delta’s site because the cheap prices tend to linger beyond the sales expiration date.

Check out this post for more tips on how to uncover these unadvertised Delta SkyMiles sales.

3. Opt for basic economy

Delta has introduced basic economy awards on domestic flights and some international routes. These awards can be significantly cheaper, although not always.

Delta’s basic economy awards come with these restrictions:

  • No changes
  • No cancellations (after 24 hours from booking)
  • No complimentary seat selection and you’re not guaranteed to be seated with your traveling companions
  • No upgrades
  • Last to board
  • No free checked bags

Regular Delta domestic economy (main cabin) fares also don’t include free checked bags and if you don’t have Delta status, you’re not getting free upgrades anyway. So it’s not much of a sacrifice to fly basic economy.

Because I have a Delta Gold credit card I’ll still get priority boarding and a free checked bag (the same applies to Delta elite members). So the only thing I’m giving up is the ability to change my flights. For cheap domestic flights this isn’t the end of the world, but if you need that flexibility, then skip basic economy. If I were traveling with children, the inability to select seats to be with my kids would be enough for me to skip basic economy.

4. Cherry Pick — Don’t Rely Solely on Delta

As I said earlier, the first place I check for domestic award flights is Delta, but it’s not the only place I check. I don’t prioritize Delta miles for domestic flights because I find them super useful, but just the opposite. It can be hard to find a great deal with Delta miles, so I book them whenever I can. I consider an award a good deal if it will save me a lot of cash or save me from using other miles I value more highly.

If I can’t find a cheap Delta flight, then I’ll check American Airlines. American charges 7,500 miles for one-way flights of 500 miles or less and 12,500 miles for one-way flights over 500 miles. But they do have Economy Web Specials for as little as 5,000 miles one-way. I’ve taken advantage of an Economy Web Special to book 6,000-mile, one-way flights.

You can also use British Airways Avios points to book American Airlines awards. Although British Airways recently devalued its partner award chart, you can still find some deals for domestic flights, like:

  • 7,500 Avios points for one-way flights of 650 miles or less
  • 9,000 Avios points for one-way flights of 1,150 miles or less
  • 11,000 Avios points for one-way flights of 2,000 miles or less

You can transfer points to British Airways from Chase Ultimate Rewards, Amex Membership Rewards and Marriott. So the points are easy to collect. On top of that, British Airways has more reasonable cancellation fees than American Airlines.

If I can’t find any awards that work for me with Delta or American, then I’ll see what United Airlines has available. United only charges 10,000 miles for flights of 700 miles or less, so I’ll occasionally book those awards.

Keep in mind, that United Airlines has ditched its award chart for all flights after Nov. 15, 2019, and American Airlines is currently working on getting rid of its award chart. So in the future it will be even more important to have options.

What’s your favorite way to use Delta miles?

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