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

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

Joseph HostetlerDelta Pay With Miles: Save hundreds on flights with no blackout datesMillion Mile Secrets Team

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.

For some folks, 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:

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?

Folks 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. As long as a seat is open on an eligible Delta flight, you can book it with Pay With Miles.

This is an especially good deal if you usually 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 2 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 (not award) tickets, 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 (not award) 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 folks who:

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

I’ll show you what I mean.

1. 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 on Delta can cost 60,000 Delta miles + ~$88 in taxes & fees.

Your Guide To When And When NOT To Use Delta Pay With Miles

But you can often buy a coach flight to Paris for $565 or less round-trip, including taxes & fees.

Because you’ll get 1 cent per Delta mile when you use Pay With Miles, you’ll only spend ~55,000 Delta miles and a few bucks. So you’ll save 5,000 Delta miles, and a bunch of money on taxes & fees. You’ll even earn miles for your flight.

Your Guide To When And When NOT To Use Delta Pay With Miles

2. 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 12,000 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:

If you need to travel to Cancun on Monday the 16th you’d be paying 42,000 miles + $87.41, but you can use Pay With Miles for the cash price of the seat. The cash price for the same flight is ~$376.

Using Pay With Miles you could book this flight for 35,000 miles + ~$26, so you’d save 7,000 miles and ~$61 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.

For example, this one-way Delta One lie-flat seat between Minneapolis and Paris costs $8,000.

Using Pay With Miles, you’d have to redeem ~800,000 Delta miles to cover the cost of the ticket (~$8,000 cash price / 1 cent per mile). That’s not a good deal, since even an expensive business-class award flights on the same route would generally cost fewer miles. There isn’t a Delta award chart, but I found plenty of Delta One seats along that same route for just 80,000 Delta miles. That’s a whole lot cheaper than 800,000!

You’ll get a much better deal if you book inexpensive tickets using Pay With Miles. Read our post on the best ways to use Delta miles for more instruction on the smartest ways to redeem them.

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.

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.

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

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

  • Earn 40,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Plus, earn a $100 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months.
  • New! With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 MQMs after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • New! Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free and Main Cabin 1 Priority Boarding on Delta flights.
  • New! Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • New! Earn 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • Receive a 20% savings in the form of a statement credit after you use your Card on eligible Delta in-flight purchases of food, beverages, and audio headsets.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Terms Apply | Rates & Fees

More Info

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’m assuming you can’t use a companion certificate with a pay with miles flight?

Using pay with miles DOES NOT EARN any MQM, MQS, MQD. I learned this the hard way after my last 2 pay with miles trips. Per Delta website that customer service directed me towards,

“Award, Miles + Cash, free, barter, pass travel and certain other tickets are not eligible for mileage accrual.”

Pay with Miles earns MQM and SkyMiles on the portion paid for in cash, according to Delta’s website.
Miles + Cash does not earn MQM or SkyMiles.