Rewards Programs
Advertiser Disclosure

Advertiser Disclosure: Some of the card offers that appear on this website are from companies which ValuePenguin receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). The site does not review or include all companies or all available products.

Disclaimer: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone. For a full list of our advertisers, see our disclosure page.

Opinions, analyses, reviews, or recommendations expressed here are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed or endorsed by the issuer. We may be compensated through the issuer’s Affiliate Program. For a full list of our advertisers see our disclosure page.

Advertiser Disclosure

Advertiser Disclosure: Some of the card offers that appear on this website are from companies which ValuePenguin receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). The site does not review or include all companies or all available products.

Disclaimer: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone. For a full list of our advertisers, see our disclosure page.

Opinions, analyses, reviews, or recommendations expressed here are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed or endorsed by the issuer. We may be compensated through the issuer’s Affiliate Program. For a full list of our advertisers see our disclosure page.

How to Earn Delta SkyMiles®

Contents

Previously we explored the many ways to redeem Delta SkyMiles® on Delta. Here we'll discuss the other side of the equation of earning miles, which Delta provides a variety of ways and avenues to do so. The different methods of earning provide both long-term and short-term strategies to maximize your Delta SkyMiles® profile. You could steadily accumulate miles throughout the year by shopping and dining, or jumpstart your profile by earning a massive 35,000 SkyMiles® bonus on a new credit card. Below we go into greater detail about the different means and tricks one can use to earn miles across this major airline whether its on the ground or in the air.

How to Earn SkyMiles® Through Flying

On Delta Flights

The traditional way to earn miles, flying with Delta is the most obvious way to bolster your miles profile. Unfortunately, because of a recent trend within the American airline industry where airlines are switching their mile earning systems from a "distance flown" basis to a "fare price" basis, this method has lost some of its effectiveness. We write at length about the changes here. Flying Delta from New York to London's Heathrow Airport, one of the most popular routes, garners around 7,000 miles in a distance based reward system. Now, in the "fare based" system, at an average fare price $976, the same route will fetch the general flyer about 5,000 miles. In the table below you can see how the fare based system manifests itself across different elite status tiers. 

AirlineGeneral FlyerSilver StatusGold StatusPlatinum StatusDiamond Status
Delta 5 miles/$ 7 miles/$ 8 miles/$ 9 miles/$ 11 miles/$

Partner Airlines 

We write extensively in our other guide how Delta is an integral part of Skyteam, and redeeming miles on their flights is a good alternative. On the converse, you can also earn miles on a partner flight. While most American airlines are now in the fare based system, foreign airlines still operate a distance based system. Thus flights operated by partners will earn a percentage of miles based on the miles flown. Major partners like Air France and Alitalia will allow flyers to accumulate 100% of the base miles flown for economy fares while business or first earn you up to 200% of the flight distance in miles.

The biggest issue with partner flights is earning Medallion Qualifying miles or MQMs for elite status entrance. Only a handful of Delta's Skyteam partners allows you to earn MQMs on their flights. We show the groups below and how MQM earning varies between different partners; for a more in-depth look, you can go to Delta's Partners page here. If Elite Qualifying miles are not as important to you as regular miles, this may be a great option to earn SkyMiles®, especially if you can find a cheap flight to a far away location on a partner flight. 

GroupAirlinesMQMs for economy
1 AeroMexico, Air France, Alitalia, China Eastern, GOL, KLM, Virgin Atlantic and Australia 100%
2 Air Europa, Kenya Airways, Middle East Airlines, Saudia, Tarom 75%
3 Aeroflot, Aerolineas Argentina, China Airlines, China Southern, Czech Airlines, Garuda Indonesia, Vietnam Airlines, Xiamen Airlines 50%-75%
4 Alaska Airlines, Great Lakes Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, WestJet, Korean Air Varies

How to Earn SkyMiles® Without Flying

Unless it is your job to travel, most days of the year you will be on the ground. Airlines recognize being grounded makes it difficult to build miles, so they have implemented a series of other avenues in which members can earn miles between flights. We go into detail of what some of those avenues are below.

Credit Cards

Credit Cards are arguably the most effective way of earning SkyMiles® without flying. Their power comes from the sizable bonuses which are enough to jump start anyone's miles profile. After spending $1,000 in the first 3 months of opening an account, the Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card rewards you 35,000 SkyMiles®, enough for two round-trip domestic flights. In addition, SkyMiles® cards grant 2x miles when you make purchases with Delta, allowing you to accumulate miles even faster when you do actually fly. Below we've provided a list of several Delta credit cards. You may input your monthly spending and see which card may fit you best. 

Assumptions Based On Monthly Spend of: $1,430 Edit
General:
U.S. Gas Stations:
U.S. Supermarkets:
Airlines:
Hotel:
U.S. Restaurants:
Office:
Utilities:
Computing:
Card Annual Fee 2-yr Net Rewards Rate

The Net Rewards Rate is equal to the Rewards Value over two years divided by the total spending. The total spending is equal to the values entered into the tool and multiplied by 24 months. See the rewards Value note to see details on how it is calculated.

The estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone. They are not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. All estimates are based on the spend assumptions entered above (which you can edit).

Bonus Value

The bonus field shows our estimate for the value of the card’s welcome bonus. If the bonus is point or mile based, we multiply the total bonus points/miles by our estimate for their value to arrive at a dollar equivalent. We display $0 if there is no bonus or if the user doesn’t qualify for the bonus based on the current spending entered into the tool. All estimates are based on the spend assumptions entered above (which you can edit).

The estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone. They are not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer.

2-yr Rewards Value

The Rewards value is calculated by adding together the rewards earned from charging purchases to the card over two years and any welcome bonuses (if applicable). They are then multiplied by our estimated point/mile value, with any annual fees (if applicable) subtracted. All values are based on our own estimates for the dollar value of any points, miles or bonuses earned using a card and on the spend assumptions entered above (which you can edit).

The estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone. They are not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer.

Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express
$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95. 1.97%
$360
Earn 30,000 bonus miles after you make $1,000 in purchases within your first 3 months
$677
Graph Card Read Review More Details and Value Calculation

Terms and Limitations Apply

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Point Value Rewards Value
Spending Rewards 34,320 x $0.012 = $412
Bonuses
30,000 x $0.012 = $360
Less Annual Fees -$95
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months 677

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
APR 16.99%-25.99% Variable
*Rates and Fees

Card Details

  • Earn 30,000 Bonus Miles after spending $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months and a $50 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months.
  • Earn 2 miles on every dollar spent on purchases made directly with Delta. Earn 1 mile for every eligible dollar spent on purchases.
  • Check your first bag free on every Delta flight - that's a savings of up to $200 per round trip for a family of four.
  • Settle into your seat sooner with Priority Boarding.
  • Enjoy a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card
$195 1.58%
$520
Earn a $100 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months. Offer ends 11/09/2016. ; Earn 5,000 Medallion® Qualifying Miles and 35,000 Bonus Miles after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
$542
Graph Card Read Review More Details and Value Calculation

Terms and Limitations Apply

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Point Value Rewards Value
Spending Rewards 34,320 x $0.012 = $412
Bonuses
0 x $0.012 = $100
35,000 x $0.012 = $420
Less Annual Fees -$390
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months 542

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee $195
APR 16.74% - 25.74% Variable

Card Details

  • Earn 5,000 MQMs and 35,000 Bonus Miles after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
  • 2 miles for every $1 spent on Delta flight and vacation purchases
  • 1 mile for every $1 spent otherwise
  • Get a R/T domestic first class or economy class companion certificate upon each annual renewal
  • First checked bag free on Delta flights
  • No waiting - Priority Boarding
  • Save 20% on in-flight purchases
  • Discounted admission to Delta Sky Clubs for you and two companions
  • Redeem Delta SkyMiles for award travel, cabin upgrades, magazine and newspaper subscriptions, Broadway tickets, or charitable donations
  • Access to Global Assistance hotline, roadside assistance, travel accident protection, and car rental loss and damage protection
  • Exclusive access to ticket presales and American Express cardmember-only events in your city
  • Extended warranty and protection for purchases made on the card
Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express
$450 -1.07%
$120
Earn 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles and 10,000 bonus miles after the first purchase
$-368
Graph Card Read Review More Details and Value Calculation

Terms and Limitations Apply

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Point Value Rewards Value
Spending Rewards 34,320 x $0.012 = $412
Bonuses
10,000 x $0.012 = $120
Less Annual Fees -$900
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months -368

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee $450
APR 15.24%, 17.24% or 19.24% Variable

Card Details

  • Earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles and 10,000 bonus miles after the first purchase
  • 2 miles for every $1 spent on Delta flight and vacation purchases
  • 1 mile for every $1 spent otherwise
  • Delta Sky Club Access for you and two companions with complimentary Wi-Fi and snacks
  • Get a R/T domestic first class or economy class companion certificate upon each annual renewal
  • First checked bag free on Delta flights
  • No waiting - Priority Boarding
  • Save 20% on in-flight purchases
  • Redeem Delta SkyMiles for award travel, cabin upgrades, magazine and newspaper subscriptions, Broadway tickets, or charitable donations
 

Hotel Partners 

Hotel rewards programs are an excellent resource to increase your earning potential, especially since Delta has partnerships with most major hotel brands. During stays at partner hotels you can earn SkyMiles® in place of the hotel's points. Additionally, you can transfer their points for SkyMiles® directly. Below you may see which hotels grant you those freedoms. 

HotelMile Earning RateHotel Points:Miles
Starwood 2 miles/$ 1:1
Marriott 2 miles/$ ~3.5:1
IHG 2 miles/$ 5:1
Hilton 1 mile/$ 10:1
Best Western N/A 5:1
Hyatt 500 miles per stay 2.5:1
Club Carlson N/A 10:1

Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG), Marriott and IHG hotels provide a great partnership with your SkyMiles® account by allowing you to earn 2 miles per dollar spent for your stay at one of their properties. SPG has the best exchange ratio for Delta SkyMiles®, but the exchange for Marriott points can be improved to the same level by utilizing Marriott's "hotel + air packages", which we talk about here. The shortcoming of the Marriott and IHG partnerships is needing to choose miles over hotel points. SPG is the only partner who overcomes that issue by having a direct partnership with SkyMiles®, allowing members to earn miles while staying and points while flying. Furthermore, elite status Delta flyers will also get special perks and benefits when they stay at an SPG hotel such as a later 4pm check out and access to the SPG elite check-in lane.

Dining 

Delta has a dining portal where you get bonus miles when eating at partnered restaurants. All you need to do is register a credit or debit card. Once you sign up and use the card, you automatically earn 3 SkyMiles® per dollar spent-including tax and tip. After your twelfth visit within the year, you will start earning 5 miles per dollar. Delta boasts over 10,000 dining partners in most major cities, so it should not be too difficult to rack up miles in this capacity. As well for a limited time, you automatically get 500 miles after your first visit, 1,000 the second time and 1,500 the third time within 30 days of registering. Below we list a few major U.S cities and the number of partnered restaurants in each. 

City Number of Partnered Restaurants 
New York  790
Boston  241
Washington DC  195
Detroit  237
Orlando 130
Los Angeles  443
San Francisco   194
Seattle  143

Shopping 

Through the Delta shopping portal you can earn bonus miles when you shop at over 500 partnered retailers. The list of merchants Delta includes is far encompassing and should not be difficult to find a retailer which you use regularly anyway. The great thing about the portal is you do not need to use a Delta credit card to shop - you may use any card you have, even ones that may earn you miles for other airlines. If you're focused on maximizing your SkyMiles®, it'll be best to use a Delta credit card, since whatever bonus miles earned through the shopping portal will be tacked on to the miles you earn by charging the credit card. For example, purchases at Starbucks, which get 2 miles per dollar in the portal, will really be 3 miles per dollar if you use a SkyMiles® credit card. Below you can see a sample of retailers and the bonus miles each offers.

RetailersEarnings
Shari's Berries 18 miles/$
Magazines.com 15 miles/$
123inkjets.com 8 miles/$
H&R Block 5 miles/$
Macys.com 2 miles/$
Apple 1 mile/$

Cruises 

Several cruise lines such as Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian have partnerships in place with Delta where you may earn points when booking through their portal. Delta's system of earning can be seen in the table below. Additionally, several cruises, such as a Norwegian Cruise that tours Europe, will earn you up to 30,000 bonus miles when you book it through Delta's portal. 

LENGTH OF CRUISEMiles
1-5 Nights 1,500
6-8 Nights 3,000
9-12 Nights 5,000
13+ Nights 10,000

Car Rentals

With each rental service, an eligible rental within the U.S and Canada will post 500 SkyMiles® to your account. In the case of Hertz, Platinum and Diamond status members get as much as 1,250 miles. You must visit Delta's site and book your car rental through their portal in order to get the miles.

ServiceMiles per Rental
Enterprise 500
National 500
Alamo 500
Hertz 500, 1,000, 1,250

Financial Partners

One of the most surprising ways to earn miles happens to be in partnered financial institutions. With Delta opening up a non-retirement Fidelity Brokerage Account can earn you a large amount of points. A deposit of $25,000 gives you 15,000 miles while a deposit of $100,000 gives you 50,000 miles. While that is a lot of money for a deposit, if you are looking to start investing, you may be killing two birds with one stone by opting for the Fidelity account. You just need to follow the link on Delta's site, and you'll be guided to opening up your account. 

Comments and Questions

* See the online credit card application for details about terms and conditions. Reasonable efforts are made to maintain accurate information. However all credit card information is presented without warranty. When you click on the "Apply Now" button, you can review the credit card terms and conditions on the issuer's website.

Info about the following cards: American Express® Gold Card, Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express, Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card, Hilton Honors™ Card from American Express, Hilton Honors Surpass® Credit Card, American Express® Blue Sky, American Express® Green Card, The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express, The Plenti® Credit Card from Amex, Blue from American Express®, Platinum Card® from American Express Exclusively for Mercedes-Benz, Bluebird, Centurion® Card from American Express, Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, and Delta Reserve for Business Credit Card from American Express has been collected independently by ValuePenguin. The issuer did not provide the details, nor is it responsible for their accuracy.

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program. 

These responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

How We Calculate Rewards: ValuePenguin calculates the value of rewards by estimating the dollar value of any points, miles or bonuses earned using the card less any associated annual fees. These estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone, not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer.

Advertiser Disclosure: Some of the offers that appear on this website are from companies which ValuePenguin receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where offers appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). The site does not review or include all companies or all available products. For more information please see our Advertiser Disclosure.