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Delta SkyMiles - Program Guide & Overview [2020]

Delta SkyMiles - Program Guide & Overview [2020]

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Delta SkyMiles program overview

Signing up for a frequent-flyer program like Delta SkyMiles is a great way to earn miles on flights and some of your everyday purchases. Members of the SkyMiles program can earn points by buying plane tickets on Delta Air Lines and its partners, and by using the Delta dining and shopping portals. Once you earn enough points, you'll be able to redeem them for rewards like free flights and seat upgrades.

How Do SkyMiles Work?

SkyMiles are the rewards currency of Delta's frequent-flyer program. The SkyMiles program awards members with SkyMiles for every dollar they spend with Delta Air Lines and its affiliates. General members of the program will earn 5 miles per dollar spent on airline tickets.

As a member of the Delta SkyMiles program, you can earn points and redeem them for rewards like plane tickets and seat upgrades. Joining the program is free for all members, and you can sign up online at Delta's website. Once you're a member of the program, you can also sign up for SkyMiles Dining and SkyMiles Shopping, which are detailed below.

How to Earn Delta SkyMiles

All members of the SkyMiles program can earn miles on Delta flights, partner carrier tickets and purchases made through the Delta Dining and Shopping portals. You can also earn Delta SkyMiles by using a Delta credit card and accruing points on your regular expenses. Below, we've listed the best ways for you to earn Delta SkyMiles.

1. Buy Delta and SkyTeam tickets.

When you sign up for the SkyMiles program, you'll immediately be eligible to earn miles on Delta plane tickets, vacation packages and cruises. You'll earn 5 points per dollar spent as a general member of the program, and you can earn more by becoming an elite Delta Medallion status member.

Status levelMiles per dollar spent on tickets
General member5

It's important to note that you'll earn miles differently on some partner airlines. On Aeromexico, for example, miles are calculated according to your purchased fare class and the distance flown. This means you'll earn significantly fewer miles on a deeply discounted economy ticket (25% of distance) compared to a business class ticket (200% of distance).

2. Spend with a Delta credit card.

You can open a Delta co-branded credit card to earn miles on your everyday expenses. Delta offers four consumer cards with a variety of earning structures, welcome bonuses, annual fees and perks. The card with the highest annual fee offers luxury benefits like lounge access, while the cheaper cards are mainly useful for free checked bags and their ability to earn bonus points.

Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express CardDelta SkyMiles® Gold American Express CardDelta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express CardDelta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card
Annual fee$0$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $99.$250$550
Rates& Fees(See Rates & Fees)(See Rates & Fees)(See Rates & Fees)(See Rates & Fees)
Rewards rateEarn 2X Miles per dollar spent on Delta purchases and at restaurants, now worldwide. Earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases.Earn 2X Miles on Delta purchases, at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases. Earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases.
Checked bags0111
Priority boardingNoYesYesYes
Foreign transaction feesNoneNoneNoneNone

Opening a Delta card is a good choice if you primarily or exclusively fly with Delta. However, for those who look for the cheapest fare when buying tickets, regardless of airline, a general rewards credit card may be a better choice. This is because most general rewards cards earn points that can be transferred to a variety of airlines, including Delta.

For rates and fees of Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card, please click here. For rates and fees of Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card, please click here. For rates and fees of Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card, please click here. For rates and fees of Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card, please click here.

3. Sign up for SkyMiles Dining.

Joining the SkyMiles Dining program is an easy way to earn points on your regular restaurant expenses, on top of what your credit card already offers. As a member of the free program, you'll earn points at select restaurants once you link your credit and debit cards to your online account. After joining, you have the potential to earn between 1 and 5 SkyMiles per dollar spent, depending on your membership level. You can browse participating restaurants in your area and join the program at this link.

Membership levelLevel requirementsMiles per dollar
MemberNo email address provided1
Online memberEmail address provided and enrolled in marketing emails3
VIP memberEmail address provided and enrolled in marketing emails, plus 11 transactions completed in one calendar year5

You can also earn up to 3,000 bonus miles in the SkyMiles Dining program by meeting a series of requirements within the first 30 days of joining: 500 miles for spending $30 or more at a participating restaurant; 1,000 miles for spending $30 or more on your second participating restaurant visit; and 1,500 more miles for spending another $30 on your third participating restaurant visit. You'll also have to complete an online review of each restaurant within 30 days of your visit to get the bonus points.

4. Shop through the SkyMiles Shopping portal.

On the SkyMiles Shopping portal, you can earn upward of 15 SkyMiles per dollar spent on retail purchases. The portal hosts offers from dozens of popular retailers, such as Nike, Samsung, Lululemon and Backcountry. To sign up, all you need to do is fill out this form with your SkyMiles number and basic information.

Screenshot of SkyMiles shopping portal
Offers on the Delta Shopping portal, November 2018

5. Spend with a general rewards card.

If you want to earn airline miles and aren't a loyal Delta flyer, your best option is to use a general travel rewards card. The best cards in this category offer 2 to 4 transferable points per dollar spent on travel, dining and other bonus categories. This gives you more flexibility when planning and paying for travel, as your points can be transferred to a number of airline and hotel loyalty programs for travel redemptions.

How to Redeem Delta SkyMiles

In most cases, you'll get maximum value for your SkyMiles when redeeming them for airline tickets. There are no blackout dates for award travel, so you can search for award tickets for flights at any time of year. As you can see in the table below, the per-point value of your miles will vary depending on the redemption. In general, you should look for redemptions that give you a value of more than 1.5 cents per point (this is the average value of a Delta mile).

RouteCabinPrice in cashPrice in milesPer-point value (cents)
NYC to AtlantaMain$1187,5001.57
NYC to LAComfort+$29723,5001.26
NYC to BeijingDelta One$4,232300,0001.41
NYC to HonoluluEconomy$49624,0002.07
LA to HonoluluComfort+$39034,0001.15
LA to LondonEconomy$2,446105,0002.33

To redeem SkyMiles, you can log in to your Delta account and search for award space as you would search for a paid ticket. You can also look for award space on the websites of SkyTeam partner carriers. Redeeming your SkyMiles for other redemptions like gift cards is possible but not recommended, as you'll get significantly less value.

Delta SkyMiles Transfer Partners

Once you earn enough miles, you can transfer them to a number of Delta's partner carriers to get free flights. Delta is a founding member of SkyTeam, an international airline alliance with 19 airline partners.

List of the SkyTeam carriers
List of SkyTeam airlines. China Southern left the alliance in 2018.

In addition to being able to transfer your miles to SkyTeam airlines, Medallion status members can also get perks when flying on certain partner airlines. These partner benefits are specific to Aeromexico, AirFrance, GOL, KLM, Korean Air, Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia. You can read more about elite status benefits at our Delta Medallion guide.

FAQs about the Delta Frequent Flyer Program

Browse the information below if you have unanswered questions about the Delta SkyMiles frequent flyer program.

How much are Delta miles worth?

Delta miles are worth about 1.5 cents on average. In general, 10,000 miles are worth $150, 30,000 miles are worth $300 and so on. However, miles redeemed for main cabin tickets are worth closer to 1 cent, while miles redeemed for premium cabin tickets can be worth more than 2 cents.

Are Delta SkyMiles free?

Yes. You can earn Delta SkyMiles for no extra cost when you buy Delta or partner airline tickets, or when you use SkyMiles Dining and SkyMiles Shopping.

What does it cost to buy Delta miles?

You can buy anywhere from 2,000 to 60,000 miles on the Delta website at a value of 3.5 cents per mile. For example, 2,000 miles cost $70 and 60,000 miles cost $2,100. We don't generally recommend buying miles, as you'll be paying more than they're worth.

Can I convert my SkyMiles to cash?

No. SkyMiles can cannot be redeemed for cash, but they can be redeemed for plane tickets and other things that you'd normally buy with cash.

Can you buy gift cards with Delta SkyMiles?

Yes. Delta SkyMiles can be exchanged for gift cards. We don't recommend this redemption, however, as you won't get maximum value from your miles.

How are Delta SkyMiles calculated? How many Delta miles will I earn on my flight?

The Delta SkyMiles program uses a revenue-based system to calculate and award miles, meaning that you earn miles for dollars spent, not miles flown. As a general member of the SkyMiles program, you'll earn 5 miles for every dollar you spend with the airline.

How many Delta SkyMiles do I need for a free flight?

Delta doesn't publish an award chart, but you can find flight prices in miles by entering the details for a potential itinerary on the Delta website. Prices range from 7,500 miles for a one-way domestic flight in the economy cabin to 300,000 miles for a flight to Asia in Delta One.

Can you use Delta SkyMiles for hotels? What about car rentals and seat upgrades?

Yes. In addition to airline tickets, Delta SkyMiles can be used for hotel bookings, car rentals, seat upgrades, vacation packages, gift cards and a range of other redemptions.

Can you use Delta SkyMiles on other airlines?

Yes. You can redeem your Delta SkyMiles for eligible flights on SkyTeam member airlines. The full list of eligible carriers can be found below.

  • Aeroflot
  • Aerolineas Argentinas
  • Aeromexico
  • AirEuropa
  • Air France
  • Alitalia
  • China Airlines
  • China Eastern Airlines
  • Czech Airlines
  • Delta Air Lines
  • Garuda Indonesia
  • Kenya Airways
  • KLM
  • Korean Air
  • Middle East Airlines
  • Saudia
  • Vietnam Airlines
  • XiamenAir

Yowana is a former product analyst at ValuePenguin, specializing in credit cards, rewards programs and travel. He previously covered mortgages, banking and insurance for the website. Yowana graduated from Columbia University with a B.A. in Political Science.

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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.

Example of how we calculate the rewards rates: When redeemed for travel through Ultimate Rewards, Chase Sapphire Preferred points are worth $0.0125 each. The card awards 2 points on travel and dining and 1 point on everything else. Therefore, we say the card has a 2.5% rewards rate on dining and travel (2 x $0.0125) and a 1.25% rewards rate on everything else (1 x $0.0125).