Delta Pay With Miles: Save hundreds on flights with no blackout dates

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Some of the best travel deals don’t require learning complicated airline award charts or searching for available award seats. You can receive hundreds of dollars in paid Delta flights using a feature called “Pay With Miles” if you earn the bonuses from any of the best Delta credit cards. Oh, and by the way, those cards have insanely high limited-time offers right now (the highest I’ve ever seen), all of which end on April 28, 2021:

The above cards are hands-down the fastest way to earn Delta SkyMiles.

Pay With Miles allows you to redeem your miles for 1 cent each in value. By earning a single Amex Delta welcome bonus, you’ll have hundreds of dollars in guaranteed Delta flights — with no blackout dates and no scrounging for available award seats. This method won’t always get you the most value for your miles, but it’s an easier way to redeem them for free or discounted flights. Here’s a quick tutorial for how to use Delta Pay With Miles.

Your next trip to the Bahamas is closer than you think and if you use the Delta Pay With Miles feature you won’t have to worry about blackout dates. (Photo by Stefan Ugljevarevic/Shutterstock)

Who should use Delta Pay With Miles?

Travelers who worry about (or simply hate) hunting for award seats will love Pay With Miles. No award seat searching necessary. When your schedule isn’t flexible, Pay With Miles is a perfect solution. There are no blackout dates when you redeem your miles with this method. If you want to be prepared for last-minute travel, Pay With Miles is your best friend. You can book your ticket as long as a seat is open on an eligible Delta flight.

This is an especially good deal if you often book cheap coach fares, or if you like jumping on Delta SkyMiles deals (which can be criminally inexpensive sometimes). Plus, if you don’t have enough Delta miles for an award flight yet, Pay With Miles will let you redeem miles for a portion of the ticket price.

If you don’t fall into any of these categories, you must own a private jet.

What is Pay With Miles exactly?

Certain American Express Delta SkyMiles cardholders have this exclusive perk that allows you to redeem miles at a rate of 1 cent per mile for paid (not award) Delta flights. We estimate Delta miles value to be closer to 1.25 cents each, so you’re not getting the biggest bang for your mile with this method. Eligible cards include:

How does Pay With Miles work?

To use Pay With Miles, you must book on the Delta website. Only Delta and Delta Connection-operated flights are eligible (not partner flights).

Your Amex Delta card must be linked to your frequent flyer number for Pay With Miles to appear as a booking option. And you can only redeem in 5,000 mile ($50) increments.

You can use Pay With Miles to fully or partially pay for the ticket. And because these are paid tickets (again, this is different than an award flight), you’ll earn elite Medallion® Qualifying Miles and Medallion® Qualifying Dollars for your flight.

Step 1. Log-in to your Delta account

First, sign-in to your account on Delta.com.

Step 2. Search for paid flights

Search for your flight as you would any paid flight. Be sure to select “Show Price in Money” because you’re not searching for an award ticket.

Step 3. Choose “Pay With Miles” eligible flights

Select the flight you want from the list of options. Pick flights that have “Pay with Miles eligible” written under the price.

Step 4. Choose the number of miles you want to use

On the payment page, you’ll see a pull-down menu with options for the number of miles to redeem. You can use miles to partially or completely cover the cost of the ticket.

Delta Pay With Miles

Remember, you must redeem in 5,000 mile ($50) increments. So, for example, if your ticket costs $309, it makes the most sense to only redeem 30,000 Delta miles ($300) and pay the rest in cash. Because otherwise you’d have to redeem 35,000 Delta miles ($350) to cover the whole ticket, and you’d waste 4,100 Delta miles.

Step 5. Complete your booking

Continue booking like normal. You’ll see the discount applied at the final payment screen. When you finish the booking, the Delta miles will be deducted from your account.

Delta Pay With Miles

When to use Pay With Miles

Again, Pay With Miles is a terrific option for anyone who:

  • Doesn’t want to fuss with searching for available award tickets
  • Isn’t flexible with travel dates, or traveling at peak times when award flights are harder to find
  • Wants cheap coach tickets
  • Finds a sale fare where paying with miles would cost less than an award ticket

I’ll show you what I mean.

Cheap cash fares

It’s not uncommon to see great Delta sale fares pop up to fun destinations. If you see a good sale, it could totally be worth using Pay With Miles instead of booking an award flight.

For example, a round-trip coach award flight from New York to Paris in summer 2021 can cost 68,000 Delta miles + ~$91 in taxes and fees.

But you can buy the same seat for just $634, including taxes & fees.

Because you’ll get 1 cent per Delta mile when you use Pay With Miles, you’d pay 63,400 Delta miles if you reserved this ticket with Pay With Miles — including taxes and fees. And by booking an award flight, you’d spend 68,000 miles and $97 — which we can equate to about 77,700 miles (if we’re assuming Delta miles are worth 1 cent each). So you’ll save 14,300 Delta miles by booking an award flight instead — and you’d earn Delta miles for your flight!

Firm travel dates

If you don’t have any flexibility, Pay With Miles can really save you!

For example, you can find award flights to the Caribbean for as low as 11,000 Delta miles round-trip — but if you must travel on certain dates, you may end up paying much more. Here are the award prices for flights from Chicago to Cancun this fall:

As an extreme example, let’s say you need to travel to Cancun on Monday the 30th. You’d be paying 116,000 miles + $92 if you booked an award flight — but you can “buy” the same seat using Pay With Miles. The cash price for the same flight is ~$559.

Through Pay With Miles, you could book this flight for 55,000 miles + ~$9, saving you 61,000 miles and ~$83 in cash.

When not to use Pay With Miles

While the biggest draw of Pay With Miles is how easy it makes to book free travel, there are situations where Pay With Miles does not make sense. Expensive first or business-class flights that would cost thousands of dollars will set you back hundreds of thousands of miles using Pay With Miles. It’s usually a much better deal if you book as an award ticket — though Delta continues to devalue its award program.

You can also simply find great coach award prices (particularly from Delta SkyMiles Deals, as we touched on earlier). If you’re ever getting a deal worse than 1 cent per Delta mile, you should choose Pay With Miles.

Let’s take a look at another flight between New York and Paris for later in the year.

As you can see, you’ll pay just 40,000 miles and $91 in taxes and fees. The paid rate for this same flight is $675 (or 67,500 miles). You’re effectively saving 18,400 miles (after accounting for the $91 in taxes and fees) by just booking an award flight.

Note: If you use miles to fully or partially pay for your ticket, you will not get the miles back if you cancel your trip except if you cancel your trip by midnight the day after you booked it. If you otherwise receive a refund, the dollar value of the Pay With Miles portion will be credited to your account.

Bottom line

You can earn hundreds and hundreds of dollars in Delta flights with the best Delta credit cards. Just realize that if you’ve had one of those cards before, you can not earn the welcome bonus on that particular card again. But you can earn the bonus on all the cards you’ve never had. They’ve got astonishingly high welcome offers right now.

Delta’s Pay With Miles is a flexible and super-easy way to redeem Delta miles for paid Delta flights. You’ll earn miles for your ticket and there are no blackout dates. Only certain American Express Delta credit card holders are eligible. Using Pay With Miles, your Delta miles are worth 1 cent each to partially or completely pay for your ticket.

While you won’t always get the most value from your miles this way, it’s a worry-free option for folks who are not flexible with their travel dates. Or don’t want to fuss with searching for award flights.

Let us know how you prefer to use Delta miles. And subscribe to our newsletter for more miles and points how-to’s delivered right to your inbox.

Joseph Hostetler is a full-time writer for Million Mile Secrets, covering miles and points tips and tricks, as well as helpful travel-related news and deals. He has also authored and edited for The Points Guy.

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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