How to Earn Delta SkyMiles®

How to Earn Delta SkyMiles®

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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 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. 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.


General FlyerSilver StatusGold StatusPlatinum StatusDiamond Status


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.


AirlinesMQMs for economy


AeroMexico, Air France, Alitalia, China Eastern, GOL, KLM, Virgin Atlantic and Australia100%


Air Europa, Kenya Airways, Middle East Airlines, Saudia, Tarom75%


Aeroflot, Aerolineas Argentina, China Airlines, China Southern, Czech Airlines, Garuda Indonesia, Vietnam Airlines, Xiamen Airlines50%-75%


Alaska Airlines, Great Lakes Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, WestJet, Korean AirVaries

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

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 $1,430 monthly spend
Monthly spending:

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.


Mile Earning RateHotel Points:Miles


2 miles/$1:1


2 miles/$~3.5:1


2 miles/$5:1


1 mile/$10:1

Best Western



500 miles per stay2.5:1

Club Carlson


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.


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 apply 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.


Number of Partnered Restaurants
New York790



Washington DC






Los Angeles


San Francisco





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.



Shari's Berries

18 miles/$

15 miles/$

8 miles/$

H&R Block

5 miles/$

2 miles/$


1 mile/$


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.


1-5 Nights


6-8 Nights


9-12 Nights


13+ Nights


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.


Miles per Rental








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.

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).