Do you have Delta SkyMiles that you want to use, but are not sure how to get the best value out of them?
If so, you're not alone. In fact, a recent study says that 25% of people who collect airline miles or hotel points let them expire without ever using them.
While Delta SkyMiles never expire, they don’t do you any good if they’re just sitting in your account. In this article, we’re going to talk about how you can redeem those miles you’ve collected to get the maximum value out of them.
3 Steps to Getting the Most Out of Your Delta SkyMiles
Whether you’re a frequent flyer or just the occasional traveler, if you’ve taken trips with Delta Air Lines you probably have accumulated some Delta SkyMiles. The airline miles landscape is constantly evolving, but if you want to get the best value for those unused miles right now, read on…
Table of Contents:
- Log In to Your Delta SkyMiles Account and Check Your Balance
- Know What Your Delta SkyMiles Are Worth
- Redeem Your SkyMiles for Travel or Other Things
1. Log In to Your Delta SkyMiles Account and Check Your Balance
The first thing you want to do is to log in to your SkyMiles account on Delta.com.
Enter your SkyMiles number or user name plus your password to access your account. If you have forgotten any of this information, there are links that will allow you to recover it.
Once you’re logged in, you’ll be able to see an overview of your SkyMiles account. From here, you can see any trips you currently have booked or choose to book one now. But what we’re really interested in for the purposes of this article is your SkyMiles balance.
How to See Your SkyMiles Balance
After you’re logged in to your SkyMiles account, go to the left side of the page to see your current SkyMiles balance.
You may have accumulated these miles through travel with Delta, as rewards for use of a credit card or by spending money with one of Delta’s partners.
But how you got the miles isn't nearly as important as how you use them. In order to get the maximum value out of your miles, you have to understand the value of them.
2. Know What Your Delta SkyMiles Are Worth
Knowing the amount of miles you have to redeem is important, but understanding how much those miles are typically worth is what will give you a sense of when you should redeem them and when you would be better off paying cash.
Popular rewards site The Points Guy says that as of November 2019, Delta SkyMiles are worth about 1.2 cents each, on average.
But credit card expert Jason Steele, who covers credit card rewards and loyalty programs extensively, says they may not even be worth that much when you’re redeeming them for travel on Delta.
"While Delta regularly offers 'sales' for reduced mileage, these are typically for low demand flights that are often heavily discounted if you were to pay cash," he says. "Therefore, Delta SkyMiles are often worth about one cent each, and sometimes less or just a little more, towards Delta flights."
So, if each SkyMile has a relative cash value of around a penny (or just a little more) the key to figuring out how to maximize your SkyMiles is to look for situations where they are actually worth more.
3. Redeem Your SkyMiles for Travel or Other Things
Redeeming Miles for Delta Flights
Now that you know how many SkyMiles you have and how much they’re worth, on average, it’s time to figure out what you can do with them. If you have a trip you’d like to take in the near future but haven’t booked yet, look to see if it might make sense to use miles for it.
Let’s take a look at an example. If I want to take my family of four on a trip to Orlando over a Winter Break in February, here’s how I would determine if I should use miles or pay with cash:
First, I would go to the Delta homepage, put in my trip details and check the “Shop with Miles” box:
The resulting grid shows me that each ticket will cost me between 9,000 and 38,500 miles, depending on when I choose to travel. That’s quite a spread!
Assuming the miles are worth one cent apiece, that is the equivalent of paying anywhere between $90 and $385 per ticket.
If I can adjust my travel days to one day earlier and one day later than I had planned, I can travel round trip from Atlanta to Orlando from February 12-18, 2020 for 9,000 miles (plus $11.20 in fees) per ticket.
In order to see if that’s a good deal versus paying cash for the tickets, I need to perform my search again, but without “Shop with Miles” selected this time. Here are the results:
As you can see from the grid, the price in dollars for the same ticket during the same dates is $121.60. Subtracting $11.20 from that price (the taxes and fees that would be added to a miles ticket) gives us $110.40. That means that our miles, in this case, would be worth around 1.23 cents a piece ($110.40 / 9,000 = $0.0123) — or slightly higher than average. It would probably make sense to use the miles for these tickets.
Conversely, if you look at the dates I originally selected (in the middle of the grid), you’ll see that the cash price for the ticket is $306.60 — versus the 38,500 miles that would be required. Doing the same math shows that using miles for that ticket would make those miles worth less than $0.008 each — definitely a case where you would not be getting good value using miles (unless you just really needed to use them).
The key is to look for cases where there is an advantage to using miles over paying cash — typically when the value of each mile exceeds a cent or more.
Delta does run specials on SkyMiles tickets, which you can find on its SkyMiles Deals page. Even with these, you should check the cash price on equivalent tickets to make sure you really are getting a deal.
Redeeming Miles for Flights on Other Airlines
It might not seem intuitive, but the best use of your SkyMiles may not be for flights on Delta at all.
"Delta SkyMiles are most valuable when redeemed for awards on flights operated by its partners, including Air France/KLM, Virgin Atlantic and Korean Air," Steele says. "These awards don't use as much dynamic pricing and are much more competitive with what other frequent flyer programs charge."
Airline rewards site UpgradedPoints.com has put together a useful list of situations where you might be able to get a lot more bang for your (SkyMiles) bucks. They include:
- Flying Virgin Australia to the South Pacific Islands from 55,000 miles each way
- Flying Virgin Atlantic to London from 35,000 miles each way
- Flying Chinese Airways to China in Business Class from 85,000 miles each way
These deals should show up when you book on Delta.com if they’re available. Again, make sure you compare the mileage redemption offers against cash prices to ensure that redeeming miles makes the most sense in your particular case.
Using Your SkyMiles for Things Other Than Travel
Finally, we should note that there are other ways to use your Delta SkyMiles that don’t involve travel. However, you are likely to find that it is even more difficult to get real value out of your miles using them this way.
The SkyMiles Marketplace offers a variety of goods that can be purchased using your SkyMiles.
For example, the Bose QuietComfort 35 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones II pictured in the screenshot above are available right now for $350 at Best Buy. If you paid 76,396 miles for them, that would make your miles effectively worth less than half a cent per mile.
If you've only flown Delta a handful of times and don't have enough miles to redeem for travel, you might want to consider redeeming them for magazine subscriptions. You can get 10 issues of Bon Appetit, for instance, for as little as 600 miles. There are dozens of other choices.
Delta SkyMiles might not be worth a lot in the wider realm of frequent flyer programs, but if you have them and you're not using them, they aren't worth anything at all. Now that you know what they should be worth — and more importantly could be worth — take some time to explore your options. Don't be part of that 25% who lets those miles you've earned go down the drain!
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