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12 Best Ways To Redeem Delta SkyMiles for Max Value [2017]

Delta SkyMiles are often called “Sky Pesos” because of their seemingly low value on many redemptions, but there are actually a bunch of great reward options possible with SkyMiles!

Below I’ll share the best redemptions currently available to book award travel with the Delta frequent flyer program, so you don’t have to think of yours as “Sky Pesos” anymore either.

Using Delta SkyMiles With Airline Partners

SkyMiles can be earned by signing up for various credit cards, including Delta branded SkyMile credit cards offered by American Express.

You can search for award tickets on Delta.com and can easily redeem SkyMiles on flights with Delta Air Lines and partner carriers when using their search engine.

When you’re searching for availability, simply elect to view the price in “Miles” to see how many miles it will cost to take the award flight.

Delta is part of the Sky Team alliance, and they also partner with a few other airlines who are unaffiliated with an alliance. This means there are many options to redeem Delta SkyMiles for award tickets with a variety of carriers on flights all around the world.

American Express Delta SkyMiles Credit Cards

With the following cards, you can earn Delta SkyMiles directly with no transferring required. They also include a great sign-up bonus to help you quickly earn your first Delta award ticket!

CREDIT CARDMORE INFO
Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express
Earn 30,000 bonus miles
Earn 2 Miles per dollar spent on purchases made directly with Delta.
Annual Fee: $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95. Terms Apply.
Full Review
Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American ExpressEarn 35,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles
Earn 2 miles on every dollar spent on purchases made directly with Delta.
Annual Fee: $195. Terms Apply.
Full Review
Gold Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card from American ExpressEarn 30,000 bonus miles
Earn 2 miles per dollar spent on purchases made directly with Delta.
Annual Fee: $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95. Terms and limitations apply.
Full Review
Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card from American ExpressEarn 35,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs)
Earn 2 miles per dollar spent on purchases made directly with Delta.
Annual Fee: $195. Terms and limitations apply.
Full Review

American Express Membership Rewards Credit Cards

If you like earning Amex Membership Rewards, these can be transferred to Delta SkyMiles at a 1:1 ratio. These cards also include a great sign-on bonus.

Recommended Amex Personal Cards

CREDIT CARDMORE INFO
The Platinum Card® from American ExpressEarn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points
5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
$200 Airline Fee Credit. Terms Apply.
Annual Fee: $550
Card Review
Premier Rewards Gold Card from American ExpressEarn 25,000 points. Terms Apply.
3x points for flights booked directly with airlines. Terms Apply.
Annual Fee: $0 for the first year, then $195
Card Review
Blue Cash EveryDay® Preferred from American Express$150 statement credit
6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%). Terms Apply.
Annual Fee: $95
Card Review
Blue Cash EveryDay® from American Express$100 statement credit
3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%). Terms Apply.
Annual Fee: $0
Card Review
The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American ExpressEarn 10,000 Membership Rewards® points
2x points at US supermarkets, on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1x). Terms Apply.
Annual Fee: $0
Card Review

Recommended Amex Business Cards

CREDIT CARDMORE INFO
The Business Platinum Card® from American Express OPENEarn up to 75,000 Membership Rewards® points.
Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com. Terms Apply.
Annual Fee: $450
Card Review
The Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPENEarn 50,000 Membership Rewards® points
Get 3x points - Choose 1 out of 5 categories. Terms Apply.
$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $175
Card Review
The Blue Business℠ Plus Credit Card from American Express2X applies to the first $50,000 in purchases per year, 1 point per dollar thereafter. Terms Apply.
No annual fee
Card Review
SimplyCash® Plus Business Credit Card from American ExpressEarn up to $400 cash back
5% cash back on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and U.S. office supply stores. Terms Apply.
No annual fee
Card Review

Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Cards

Starwood Preferred Guest points transfer to Delta SkyMiles at a 1:1 ratio. When you transfer 20,000 SPG points, you will receive a bonus of 5,000 SkyMiles, effectively making the transfer ratio 1:1.25. Very valuable!

CREDIT CARDMORE INFO
Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
Earn 25,000 bonus Starpoints®
Redeem Starpoints® at over 1,300 participating hotels and resorts in over 100 countries and for flights on more than 150 airlines with SPG flights.
$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95. Terms Apply.
Our Review
Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express
Earn 25,000 bonus Starpoints®
$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95. Terms Apply.
Our Review

The 12 Best Ways To Use Your Delta SkyMiles

Since Delta doesn’t publish an official award chart anymore, it can be tough to determine the lowest price available for a given flight you want to book.

I recommend using the award chart listed above as a general reference, but it may not be completely accurate because it is not published by Delta (especially as Delta continues making changes to their pricing models).

When you search for award availability on Delta.com, you should select the 5-week flexible award option to improve your chances of finding a low-level award, especially if you have flexibility in your award travel.

Even if you don’t have flexibility, finding the lowest price will at least tell you how much of a premium you’ll be paying to fly on your ideal date, and might lead you to investigate booking with other airlines instead.

In this post, I’ll quote the SkyMiles amount that’s generally accepted as the lowest level mileage price that Delta currently charges. If you randomly search on any given day, you may see significantly higher prices.

When you search on specific dates, make sure to sort by “Price” from the dropdown menu since that’s not the default sort option.

Once you have earned enough Delta miles, follow the suggestions below to make sure you’re using your SkyMiles for the best redemptions possible!

Hot Tip: If you own The Platinum Card® from American Express, you can access Delta Sky Clubs when you’re flying Delta same-day. You can also access any Priority Pass lounges regardless of which airline you’re flying. Both this card and the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express also have airline fee credit benefits!

1. Delta One-Way Awards Within the U.S. for as Low as 5,000 Miles

Delta air lines
Fly Delta within the U.S. for as low as 5,000 Delta SkyMiles. Image courtesy of delta.com.

Yes, there was a time not too long ago when Delta did not offer award travel on one-way flights. Until January 2015, Delta SkyMiles were redeemable only for round-trip tickets, which made SkyMiles significantly less valuable than they are now.

Thankfully, Delta SkyMiles joined the rest of the industry by granting great award redemptions on both one-way and round-trip flights. Cheers to that!

While Delta says on its frequent flyer page that one-way flights in the U.S., Alaska, and Canada start at 10,000 SkyMiles, it is actually possible to find flights as low as 5,000 miles one-way on select routes like San Francisco to Seattle.

These low-cost flights can be a great deal, especially last minute when Delta flight prices tend to be higher. However, if you’re searching a month out on this route, you will probably see one-way prices around $89, making the redemption only mediocre.

Since Delta’s prices are variable, it always makes sense to compare award prices to cash prices for the flights you’re looking at.

When considering transferring your American Express Membership Rewards points to Delta, there is something else you need to think about: American Express charges a fee to transfer Membership Rewards to any U.S.-based program, including Delta SkyMiles.

The fee is quite small: only 0.06 cents per point up to a maximum of $99.

If Delta has award availability on a flight you want, this fee probably shouldn’t be enough to stop you from transferring your miles and booking the ticket, but it’s something to be aware of nonetheless.

Hot Tip:  Bring The Platinum Card® from American Express for complimentary access or the Gold Delta Skymiles® Credit Card from American Express for discounted access to the Delta SkyClub to make your travels a little sweeter!

2. Virgin Atlantic to London in Upper Class for 85,000 Miles Each Way

Virgin Atlantic Upper Class
Use your Delta SkyMiles to fly Virgin Atlantic Upper Class to Europe. Image courtesy of virgin-atlantic.com.

A lot of people rave about Virginia Atlantic‘s “Upper Class” (basically, their business class) experience – especially on the ground at London Heathrow. For flights across the Atlantic Ocean, you can really get the full experience of their lie-flat seats and great food.

There are a few different programs out there that will grant you access to book Delta airlines award travel on Virgin Atlantic. One of the best redemptions available is to use Delta SkyMiles.

Tickets from the U.S. to London are available on both Delta and Virgin Atlantic, but you generally won’t find low-level availability for Delta’s own flights. Rather, you should look to fly on Virgin Atlantic.

When you do your search on Delta.com, look for “VS” in the corner of the box displaying the flight details; this indicates it’s a flight on Virgin Atlantic.

Your lowest fare from any major U.S. city to London one-way in economy class is 35,000 SkyMiles, or 85,000 miles in Upper Class. That’s a round-trip flight for as low as 70,000 SkyMiles—even from the West Coast!

You can also connect onward to anywhere else in Europe, provided there’s availability with either Virgin Atlantic or another Delta partner.

Virgin Atlantic flies nonstop from Atlanta, Detroit, New York, San Francisco, and a handful of other U.S. cities.

Get the greatest value out of the Upper Class experience by flying from the West Coast, since your flight time will be 10.5 hours instead of 7 from the east coast.

It’s even better to fly Virgin Atlantic back to the U.S. from Europe because you’ll have access to the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse during your stay at London Heathrow. I haven’t yet had the pleasure to visit, but I’ve heard wonderful things from others who have!

The number of Delta airlines frequent flyer miles you’ll need to redeem your ticket is the same regardless of flight time.

You can also book a flight to Europe in Delta One for the same amount of miles.

Need some help booking a Delta One flight? Use our simple booking guide to simplify the process.

Hot Tip: Grab a Global Entry account before making your journey to enjoy quickly passing through customs when you come back to the U.S. You can get the $100 fee reimbursed with numerous cards, including The Platinum Card® from American Express.

3. Virgin Australia to the South Pacific Islands From 55,000 in Economy Each Way

Virgin Australia in Business Class
Fly around Australia in style with Virgin Australia in business class! Image courtesy of virginaustralia.com.

Ticket prices to Australia, New Zealand, and the South Pacific are high, as a general rule. On the low end of the spectrum, you’re looking to pay at least $4,500 in business class or $900 in economy class per ticket.

Considering the relatively high flight prices, Australia, New Zealand, and the South Pacific are great places to visit using miles if you can find availability.

You can fly from the U.S. to Australia and New Zealand on Delta’s partner, Virgin Australia.

If you want to fly to the South Pacific Islands of Rarotonga, Figi, Tonga, or others, it may be easier to call Delta Reservations at 1-800-221-1212 to have them look for award space.

It’s great that Delta charges the same price to fly to these South Pacific Islands as to fly to Australia and New Zealand! Paid fares to the islands are generally more than to Australia and New Zealand, so booking to the South Pacific Islands is a way to push the value of your miles even further.

Most routes from the U.S. will fly through Australia on the way to the smaller islands but unfortunately, Delta does not permit a stopover.

Virgin Australia tickets from the U.S. to Australia, New Zealand, and Oceania/South Pacific Islands one-way in economy class are 55,000 SkyMiles, while business class is 115,000 SkyMiles.

We generally would not recommend spending 115,000 Delta miles to fly business class, as there are a handful of other airlines that offer much more economical awards to Australia and the South Pacific.

If you want to fly Virgin Australia in business class, flights within Australia and the South Pacific are much more reasonable at 40,000 SkyMiles each way.

Fees run around $200, but this is still an excellent redemption value!

You can search for Virgin Australia award availability on Delta’s website. For more complicated itineraries, especially around the South Pacific, you may need to book through Delta Reservations at 1-800-221-1212.

Hot Tip: Don’t pay extra foreign transaction fees during your international trip. Take credit cards with no foreign transaction fees like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express.

4. Book Air France Business Class in Advance for 85,000 Miles Each Way

Air France business class
Use your Delta SkyMiles to access Air France business class award space even earlier than you could access it directly from Air France! Image courtesy of airfrance.com.

Air France business class space is only released to Air France Flying Blue Members 305 days ahead of time, but the same space is generally released to Delta SkyMiles members 331 days before departure date.

If you want to fly Air France to Europe in business class, booking with Delta between 306-331 days in advance is even better than booking directly with the operating carrier (Air France). This is highly unusual, as most airlines offer better availability to their own members than the members of partners.

Even if Paris isn’t your final destination, you can connect onward to most other areas of Europe and beyond.

Flights from the U.S. to Europe in economy can be booked for as low as 35,000 SkyMiles one-way, while one-way in business class will cost 70,000 SkyMiles.

Hot Tip: Starwood Preferred Guest is also partnered with Delta Air Lines. Transfer extra points to Delta by earning them with the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express or Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express.

5. Aerolineas Argentina and GOL to Patagonia for 100,000 Miles in Business Class Each Way

Patagonia
Use your SkyMiles to fly to beautiful Patagonia. Image courtesy of eu.patagonia.com.

In 2012, Aerolineas Argentina joined Sky Team alliance and GOL joined Delta as a non-alliance partner. There are limited flights directly from the U.S. (only New York or Miami), but the options within South America are numerous.

Since LATAM is one of the only other airlines dominating the region, SkyMiles are very valuable for flights within South America on Aerolineas Argentina and GOL.

Patagonia is a very popular destination, especially for those inclined to spend time in the great outdoors. You can fly to El Calafete in economy for 35,000 SkyMiles one-way, or 100,000 SkyMiles in business class.

This flight has a layover in Buenos Aires, so if you don’t want to go all the way to Patagonia, you can fly to Buenos Aires for the same number of SkyMiles.

If you want to see more of South America while you’re there, you can book economy flights within the region for 12,500 Delta frequent flyer miles between any 2 cities.

Hot Tip: Visit the Delta Sky Club in O’Hare before leaving! You can gain access by purchasing a day pass, a membership through Delta Sky Club, or by having The Platinum Card® from American Express. Members of the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express get access for only $29/visit.

7. AeroMexico to Mexico City and Madrid from 82,500 Miles in Economy Round-Trip

AeroMexico business class
Use your Delta SkyMiles to plan a fun multi-destination trip with partner AeroMexico. Image courtesy of businesstraveler.com.

Delta’s partnership with AeroMexico is one of the few that has been relatively unaffected by several recent devaluations in the Delta frequent flyer program.

You can fly to Mexico, or (if you’re really feeling adventurous!) do a multi-city tour to Mexico and then to Europe. That’s right – Mexico City has great award availability on flights to London, Paris, and Madrid.

When the option is available, choose to view the 5-week flexible dates calendar in your search. This will help you find the lowest SkyMiles award ticket prices.

You’ll need to book your flight to Mexico, then to Europe, and finally back to the U.S. through Delta’s advanced multi-city search option.

Multi-city will only let you search specific dates, and you may end up on a different airline than AeroMexico on your way back from Europe to the U.S. (e.g., Delta, Aeroflot, etc.).

If you were to put together a multi-city itinerary like this, you would pay:

  • New York to Mexico City one-way in economy class for 20,000 SkyMiles, or in business class for 35,000 SkyMiles.
  • New York to Mexico City to Madrid to New York in economy class for 90,000 SkyMiles, or in business class for 170,000 SkyMiles.

Hot Tip: When putting together a multi-city itinerary with Delta, it makes sense to search both the entire itinerary as a multi-city search and each segment individually. In some cases, the price may be better booking one way vs. the other.

8. Fly Chinese Airlines in Business Class for 95,000 Miles Each Way

china eastern business
Delta SkyMiles give you access to booking 2 different China-based carriers. China Eastern is likely the better option if you can choose! Image courtesy of airlinequality.com.

Many of the Chinese airlines are praised for their business class products. When using your Delta miles, you have the ability to book both China Eastern and China Airlines in business class for only 95,000 SkyMiles in each direction, or you can book economy class for only 45,000 SkyMiles.

Both airlines present a good option to get across the Pacific, but if you have your choice, China Eastern is generally thought to be better than China Airlines.

9. Fly From Japan to Australia or New Zealand in Business Class for 65,000 Miles

Korean business class
Fly from Japan to Australia in Korean’s business class with a full day to see Seoul on your way there! Image courtesy of waytofly.com.

If you want to tack on an extra destination to your trip, flying from Japan to Australia or New Zealand with Korean Air in business class is a great way to experience a taste of luxury for fewer miles.

Overall, you’ll end up with about 13 hours of flight time, plus a layover in Korean Air’s Seoul-Incheon hub with a great lounge to visit. It is possible to work in a longer layover and have time to head out into Seoul for a day of sightseeing as well.

10. Travel to India on Jet Airways Starting on March 1, 2017

jet airways business class
Starting on March 1, 2017, you’ll be able to redeem your Delta miles for flights on Jet Airways in their fully-flat business class. Image courtesy of Carolinelupini.com

Starting March 1, 2017, you’ll be able to redeem Delta SkyMiles for flights on Jet Airways. While many won’t think of Jet Airways when they think of luxury, Jet Airways does offer a fully flat seat in business class that actually isn’t half-bad (I tried it!).

Additionally, this new partnership will allow you to fly much more extensively throughout India, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia on the same award ticket.

Jet Airways currently only operates 1 flight from North America, which is Toronto (YYZ) to Amsterdam (AMS).

We’re still waiting for some details about this partnership, but prices should follow Delta’s current “award chart,” meaning that economy class redemptions will start at 40,000 SkyMiles and business class redemptions will start at 80,000 SkyMiles for flights between the U.S. and India.

11. Add a Side Trip to Vietnam for 40,000 Miles in Business Class

Vietnam Airlines' business class
Use your Delta miles for a redemption in Vietnam Airlines’ business class. Image courtesy of businesstraveler.com.

Vietnam Airlines is part of SkyTeam, which means you have the option to redeem your Delta SkyMiles for flights to and within Vietnam as well.

You can add on a trip to Vietnam, one of this year’s hottest destinations, from Japan for only 22,500 miles in economy or 40,000 miles in business class on Vietnam Airlines.

12. Head to One of the Most Beautiful Pacific Islands for 115,000 Miles in Business Class

Korean Air's business class
You have another chance to redeem miles for Korean Air’s business class when you fly to Palau using your Delta SkyMiles. Image courtesy of waytofly.com.

Availability might not be the easiest to find, but if you can get it you surely won’t regret using your Delta SkyMiles to get to Palau.

Palau is one of the most beautiful Pacific Islands, and you’ll save a boatload of money by redeeming miles for your flights. Economy class redemptions from the U.S. start at 55,000 miles and business class redemptions start at 115,000 miles.

There’s a good chance that you will end up flying Korean Air to Palau, and their business class will ensure that you hit the ground running!

List of Sky Team Alliance Delta Airline Partners

The Delta airline partners include Sky Team airlines as well as some non-alliance partners as well. Image courtesy of skyteam.com.

Delta frequent flyer partners include Sky Team and non-alliance partners. Following are the Sky Team partners:

Sky Team Partners
AeroflotGaruda Indonesia
Aerolineas ArgentinasKenya Airways
AeromexicoKLM
Air EuropaKorean Air
Air FranceMiddle East Airlines
AlitaliaSaudia Airlines
China AirlinesTarom
China EasternVietnam Airlines
China SouthernXiamen Airlines
Czech Airlines

List of Non-Alliance Delta Airline Partners

Non-alliance partners are some other great airlines that aren’t a part of other alliances.

Other Partners
Alaska AirlinesVirgin Atlantic
GOLVirgin Australia
Great Lakes AirlinesWestJet
Hawaiian Airlines

Using Your Delta SkyMiles: The Delta Award Chart

Delta currently has a revenue-based award program for earning, but they still have a somewhat zone-based award program for flight redemptions.

Strangely, the Delta award chart was removed at the beginning of 2015, so it is sometimes a challenge to determine which destinations are in what zone as well as the prices to various zones.

Though overall Delta still has a zone-based program, some flight options don’t quite fit this mold, which makes it very difficult to make sure you are getting a good deal for your flights.

As a general rule, Delta sticks pretty close to their old award chart. I’ve included the old award chart with some generally accepted updates below as a reference:

delta award chart
Delta SkyMiles approximate award chart. Image courtesy of travelisfree.com.

Booking Delta Award Flights

If you’re interested in how to actually make award travel redemptions for Delta Air Lines, we are creating pieces to explain the process.

In Conclusion

This article has outlined the what we believe to be the best ways to redeem your Delta frequent flyer miles for flights once you have taken the time to earn enough of them.

You can fly cheaply within the U.S., put together great multi-city itineraries, fly in world class international premium cabins, and fly to far-flung and remote islands in the South Pacific.

When you use your Delta SkyMiles in these ways and compare the pricing offered to the lowest cash price available, you can be confident that your SkyMiles aren’t “Sky Pesos” after all.

Also useful might be to take a look at Delta’s baggage rules so that you can avoid paying any extra fees. Happy redeeming!

Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express

Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express

FAQ

What are Delta miles?
Delta’s points program is called SkyMiles. The points you earn, redeem, and transfer are Delta SkyMiles.

What credit cards offer Delta Air Lines miles?
You can earn Delta miles through their branded American Express cards: the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express, the Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express, and the Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express.

You can also transfer points to Delta SkyMiles from American Express Membership Rewards or Starwood Preferred Guest.

What are Delta SkyMiles worth?
The value of Delta SkyMiles depends on what kind of ticket you are redeeming with your points. Most people value Delta SkyMiles at around 1.2 cents per mile.

However, I can easily find redemption values upward of 5.5 cents per mile (e.g., a business class flight on Virgin Australia).

At 5.5 cents per mile, that’s like getting a $100 ticket for the equivalent of about 1800 Delta SkyMiles.

What are MQM Delta miles?
MQM are Delta’s Medallion Qualifying Miles, which help people reach elite status membership in Delta’s Medallion program.

As a Medallion member, you will receive special perks and benefits like fee waivers and additional SkyMiles earned on flights.

How many Delta SkyMiles do I need for a free flight?
Inside the U.S., you’ll need as few as 7,500 SkyMiles to fly one-way between U.S. cities.

For international flights, you can get to places like the Caribbean, Central America, and Mexico for as few as 17,500 SkyMiles.

How do I transfer Delta SkyMiles to a spouse?
Sign in to your Delta SkyMiles account and go here. Choose add a recipient, and then you can transfer SkyMiles to up to 4 recipients at once.

Fill out the requested info, including the recipient’s SkyMiles account number, name, and email. Select Add to Cart and continue through the prompts.

Who are Delta SkyMiles partners?
The Delta SkyMiles program has several airline partners:

AeroflotGreat Lakes Airlines
Aerolineas ArgentinasHawaiian
AeromexicoKenya Airways
Air EuropaKLM
Air FranceKorean Air
AlaskaMiddle East Airlines
AlitaliaSaudia
China AirlinesTarom
China EasternVietnam Airlines
China SouthernVirgin Atlantic
Czech AirlinesVirgin Australia
Garuda IndonesiaWestJet
GOLXiamen Airlines

When do Delta SkyMiles post in your account?
For Delta SkyMiles earned through credit cards, SkyMiles should appear in your account after the billing cycle in which you have earned them.

You can dispute missing frequent flyer miles you feel you should have earned by calling the number of the back of your credit card.

Delta says SkyMiles earned on flights operated by them should post within 24 hours. If earning SkyMiles via flights on partners, your account should show them within 7 days.

After this period, if your SkyMiles are still missing, consider requesting mileage credit. You will only need to enter your SkyMiles account number and your ticket number for your flight.

Are Delta SkyMiles refundable?
Your SkyMiles will be redeposited for any award ticket bookings cancelled at least 72 hours prior to the origin flight departure time. There is a $150 fee for redeposit.

The fee is waived only for Diamond and Platinum Medallion members.

When do Delta SkyMiles expire?
Delta SkyMiles do not expire. Hooray!