Delta SkyMiles Shopping: Cool Miles, Lame Rewards

Delta pic

Delta SkyMiles Shopping Mall is one of the more popular airline portals. Let’s start with a look at the important statistics, current as of 9/18/12:

  • Average rewards rate: 1.63% (check out our calculation here. Delta’s portal partners with 38 of the 40 stores we tested).
  • # of stores: 740
  • Miles post: 3- 45 days

Top 3 Things to Know about the SkyMiles Mall

  1. Delta SkyMiles don’t expire. Ever. Out of NerdWallet’s comparison of 12 different frequent flyer programs, Delta was the only airline with immortal miles.
  2. The SkyMiles toolbar comes with some privacy concerns.
  3. Rewards rate is low, but miles can be more valuable than points or cash back.

Insiders’ Tips

René from Delta Points:

“Now and then [SkyMiles Shopping] offers 3-30x bonus points from certain merchants. These are the times to use the portal to buy things. I also naturally check each time I am going to buy things at say “Lowes” or “Walmart” and just choose in-store pickup. I would never ever just go to the store and buy something as I would be missing out on extra points!

It is good to also check with Skymall.com as they may have the same item you are going to buy at [SkyMiles Shopping] and Skymall pays 5x [Delta SkyMiles] per dollar.”

René’s take on the Shopping Assistant Toolbar:

“When you click on “I agree,” you are giving up so much control and privacy. Not to mention the fact that there are many times that you are, as talked about already, better off NOT shopping from the Skymiles portal. You do not need a tool bar trying to fight you when you are attempting to earn points from another portal link.”

Gary Leff from View from the Wing:

“The best strategy is to accumulate Delta miles when the offer for a particular merchant is for more miles than a competing online shopping mall is offering, or when making a purchase with the Skymiles Mall earns a bonus (which is occasionally offered for certain merchants, like ‘back to school’ promotions with clothing, electronics, or office supply [stores]).

I am not a fan of downloading shopping toolbars – they are better than not earning points for purchases at all, but they take away control and the ability to offer the best deal for a given transaction.  If you download the Skymiles Mall toolbar, expect to earn Delta Skymiles even if you can get a better deal through the American AAdvantage mall.”

Toolbar Too Far?

You have the option of installing the SkyMiles Shopping Assistant, a browser toolbar that alerts you when you’re missing a chance to get miles. It’s a quick download, available on Windows and Mac, and compatible with Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer and Safari.

When you go to a participating merchant website directly, the toolbar will pop up and remind you that miles are available. Click “Earn Miles” on the toolbar, and your purchase will now be tracked. If you search on Google, Yahoo! or Bing, your eligible search results will also be tagged with a Delta picture that indicates miles are available.

The elephant in the room for toolbars is privacy. Rewards malls aren’t transparent about what they do with your information, and toolbars are even worse.

Delta SkyMiles Shopping Assistant
The Good: The Bad:
Reminders about Miles Automatically opted in
No need to start through Delta’s site Collects non-personally identifiable information
Earn 1 mile per 3 valid searches on toolbar Toolbar End User terms are not transparent

 

Features We Like

  • There’s no special requirement to shop at the mall. You just have to create a SkyMiles account so the site can properly track your purchases. Getting a Delta SkyMiles credit card will help you earn faster, but it’s not necessary.
  • Delta SkyMiles never expire, so you won’t have to buy random items on the mall to prove account activity.
  • If you’re just a bit shy of enough miles to get a full ticket, the site is a great way to get the bare minimum.
  • The Shopping Assistant makes sure you never miss out on miles.
  • Delta recently launched a 2,500 bonus mile back-to-school promotion – this could be a sign of bigger seasonal deals to come.

Features We Don’t Like

Delta’s rewards rate is pretty average. Amongst 11 travel rewards malls compared in our recent back to school rewards analysis, Delta’s portal came in 7th place. If you’re just looking to cash out on your online buys, this isn’t the place.

The site isn’t noted for good customer service either. Cartera Commerce, a third party company that administers loads of rewards malls, runs SkyMiles Shopping. Cartera is famous in the blogosphere for less than model customer service, and you’ll have to contact Cartera, not Delta, if your points don’t post properly.

We aren’t fans of the lack of transparency about the Shopping Assistant Toolbar Terms and Conditions either. On the portal FAQs page, under the question “Are you capturing/tracking my behavior online?” there’s a link that supposedly goes to the “Shopping Assistant Terms and Conditions.” The link actually goes to the main SkyMiles Shopping T&C page – you’ll have to work your way down to the very bottom of the page to find the link to toolbar end user license agreement.

How We Calculated the 1.63% Average Rewards Rate

For our calculations of average rewards rate, we checked the SkyMiles Shopping rate at the 40 major retailers listed below. Delta’s shopping site partnered with 38 of the 40 stores we used in our normalized analysis, so we had to exclude the 2 non-partnered stores.

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Retailer Delta SkyMiles Shopping Rewards Rate
1-800-Flowers.com 5%
Aeropostale 1%
Apple Store 1%
Avon 3%
Bath and Body Works 1%
Bed Bath and Beyond 1%
Best Buy 1%
Buy.com 1%
Crate and Barrel 2%
Dell Home 1%
Foot Locker
Game Stop 1%
GAP 2%
Home Depot 2%
HP 1%
HSN 2%
J.Crew 2%
JCPenney 2%
Kmart 1%
Kohl’s 1%
L.L. Bean 1%
Lowe’s 2%
Macy’s 2%
Newegg.com 1%
Office Depot 2%
OfficeMax 2%
Overstock.com 1%
PetSmart 2%
RadioShack 1%
Sears 2%
Shoebuy.com 5%
Sony 1%
Sports Authority 2%
Staples 1%
Starbucks Store 2%
Target 1%
Toys ‘R’ Us
Urban Outfitters 1%
Victoria’s Secret 1%
Wal-Mart 1%
1.63%