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How To Get The Most Delta Skymiles – Andrew is a former senior editor at The Points Guy. He’s been a fan of Miles and Points since 2014 and previously wrote for Upgrade Points and Credit Karma. Outside of the world of travel, Andrew is a technology enthusiast, craft coffee lover and — although now living in NYC — a Chicagoan at heart.
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How To Get The Most Delta Skymiles
Delta SkyMiles has been repeatedly devalued, but it’s still a valuable program for domestic awards and other partner redemptions.
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The airline is the largest U.S. It has an extensive route network with important hubs in cities and many ways to earn Delta miles that you can redeem for SkyTeam flights. For some time now, historically, the carrier has held frequent award sales to snag cheap flights from 5,000 SkyMiles round-trip.
In this guide, we’ll show you how to add to your SkyMiles balance, including travel on Delta and its partners, spending on travel rewards credit cards, transferring miles from other programs, and more.
Earning Delta SkyMiles by flying may seem self-explanatory, but the number of miles earned depends on several factors. You earn miles differently on Delta and partner flights — here’s everything you need to know.
When flying on Delta-marketed and operated flights, you earn miles based on the base price of your ticket (excluding government-imposed taxes). Flyers without elite status earn 5 miles per dollar on airfare, including taxes and fees.
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This means a one-way Delta ticket from Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) to Tokyo’s Haneda Airport (HND) earns 5,500 SkyMiles on a base fare of $1,100 (before taxes), the flyer does not hold Delta Elite status.
Although this revenue-based scheme is used for earning purposes, remember that Delta Medallion status is still partially earned based on distance traveled rather than dollars spent. Any flight eligible for Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) will earn a minimum of 500 MQMs.
For example, if you fly from Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) to Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW) in Economy Class, you’ll earn 500 MQMs, but the flight only travels 488 miles.
Additionally, those with Delta Medallion Elite status earn at a higher rate than those without it — the higher your status, the more miles you earn.
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Things can get confusing when it comes to earning miles on Delta’s partner airlines. These flights sometimes earn miles differently than those operated by Delta depending on how the ticket is booked.
A common example applies to flights booked on Delta’s ticket stock, which is usually the case when you book on Delta.com. Although the flight is operated by another airline, it is marketed by Delta. So you earn the same miles as a standard Delta flight.
What happens if you book a partner flight on the partner airline’s website and add your Delta SkyMiles number? In this case, you earn miles based on the distance traveled. However, the exact number of SkyMiles you earn will vary based on partner, fare class and elite status.
Looking at the chart above, you will see that tickets booked in higher fare classes earn more miles. You can determine your fare class by calling the ticketing airline or by checking the e-ticket sent to your email after purchase.
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Once you’ve found your booking class, go to Delta’s partner airlines list, find your partner, and locate your fare class. Multiply the number in the “Total Miles Earned” column by the distance of your flight(s); The easiest way to figure out this last number is to use the Great Circle Mapper.
Let’s consider an example. New York’s John F. A one-way flight from Kennedy International Airport (JFK) to Mexico City International Airport (MEX) is about 2,090 miles. An H-Fare economy ticket earns 100% of that mileage, so you get 2,090 SkyMiles for this ticket.
One of the easiest ways to earn the most Delta SkyMiles is through cobranded credit cards — including welcome bonuses and everyday spending. Currently, American Express issues four personal Delta cards and three business cards.
Each has different perks and benefits. Some are geared toward the frequent Delta flyer, and others are more suited to everyday users who want occasional free Delta flights.
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The Delta SkyMiles Reserve Card is one of my favorite credit cards. I use it for my non-bonus spending as I inch closer to Delta Elite status. The card offers 15,000 MQMs for every $30,000 you spend on the card, 60,000 MQMs per year, and Medallion Qualification Dollar Waiver after spending $25,000 on the card in a single calendar year. You must spend $250,000 on the card to earn the Diamond MQD waiver. Effective 1/1/24, this benefit will no longer be available and there will be a new way to earn medallion status with the card. Learn more at delta.com/skymilesprogramchanges
I recommend the card to Delta frequent flyers who want Delta Sky Club access and MQM earning opportunities. If you’re a more casual flyer, the Delta SkyMiles Gold Card is your best bet. It earns SkyMiles on all purchases and includes a 40,000-mile welcome bonus worth $564 at our valuation.
If you’re considering applying for one of these cards, remember Amex’s once-in-a-lifetime rule. This rule limits you to one card welcome bonus per lifetime. If you previously received a welcome bonus for the Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card, you will not be eligible to receive it again if you reapply for the card. That’s why it’s important to hold out for a high welcome bonus — you’ll only get it once.
If you need SkyMiles quickly or don’t want to add another credit card to your wallet, you can transfer SkyMiles from another rewards program. Delta has partnered with American Express Membership Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy, making it easy to top up your award when needed.
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You can transfer Membership Rewards points to Delta SkyMiles at a 1:1 ratio. However, you’ll pay $0.0006 per mile (up to a maximum of $99) to offset the federal excise tax, so the transaction costs extra.
Often, placing purchases on a card that earns Membership Rewards points will earn you more Skymiles per dollar spent than one of Delta’s cobranded American Express cards. For example, the Platinum Card® from American Express earns 5 Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on flights booked directly with any airline or American Express Travel (up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year).
Here are some popular options for earning Amex points that can be transferred directly to your SkyMiles account.
American Express Green Card information is independently collected by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Amex Business Credit Cards
You can also transfer hotel points from various programs to your Delta SkyMiles account. In my experience, the only potentially attractive transfer is from Marriott Bonvoy. These points transfer to Delta at a 3:1 ratio, but you get a 5,000-mile bonus for every 60,000 Marriott points transferred.
We generally recommend using Marriott points to book free hotel stays, as you usually get better value.
Although you can transfer SkyMiles between accounts, we don’t recommend it. Delta charges $0.01 per mile transferred plus a $30 transaction fee. This isn’t a great deal since you lose most of the value of your miles after paying the applicable fees, and you can only transfer a maximum of 30,000 miles per transaction.
If you decide to go this route, both accounts must be open for at least 10 days and have earned at least one mile. Miles earned through the Delta SkyMiles shopping portal do not meet this requirement. You can receive up to 300,000 SkyMiles per year and transfer up to 150,000 SkyMiles per year.
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You can also earn Delta SkyMiles through many everyday Delta partners. These methods make it easier than ever to earn miles based on the dining out and online shopping you already do.
Like most airlines, Delta has its own online shopping portal: SkyMiles Shopping. This site allows you to earn additional SkyMiles in addition to the rewards earned with your credit card when you shop online. To use the portal, sign up for a SkyMiles shopping account, find your merchant on the site and click through the link. Each merchant offers a different number of SkyMiles per dollar spent, and these rates can fluctuate — especially around the holidays.
Check the portal often for spending and merchant bonuses. In the past, we’ve seen promotions from Nike, Under Armour, AT&T and other merchants. If you want to make a purchase anyway, shopping through the Delta portal means serious bonus miles.
The Delta SkyMiles dining program is a way to earn extra
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