The Complete Guide to Redeeming Delta SkyMiles

Flying with Delta and its partner airlines is usually the best way to redeem miles, but there are other options.
Sally French
By Sally French 
Edited by Mary M. Flory

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This may influence which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money.

Delta Air Lines is one of the world’s largest airlines, with a huge presence throughout the U.S. as well as significant routes in Europe and Asia, making it one of the best airlines for redeeming miles no matter your destination. And, yes — even if you're flying somewhere that Delta doesn't fly, you can probably still redeem your miles for a free flight. That's because Delta has more than 20 airline partners that you can earn and redeem miles with.

If you're interested in finding and bookmarking a Delta SkyMiles redemption chart, the bad news is that Delta no longer publishes an award chart.

Assuming you've already done the work to earn Delta SkyMiles, let's get to the fun part: determining how to use Delta SkyMiles in ways that feel good to you.

The best Delta SkyMiles redemptions

1. Flying with Delta

Flying on Delta flights is one of the easiest, most straightforward ways to spend Delta SkyMiles.

If you're open to the date and destination

Check the Delta award sale page. This page lists ongoing deals on award flights — and keep checking back as they change frequently. Delta allows you to filter by origin and/or destination, meaning you could select your home airport and find a deal for airfare. Delta also lists the dates these deals are valid, so it helps if your travel schedule is flexible.

If you have a specific flight in mind

Head to Delta's website, and — when searching flights — display the cost to book using miles. Unlike many other airlines that price award flights based on distance or country, Delta doesn't publish an award chart. Instead, the pricing is dynamic, which has its pros and cons. The good news is the miles price is more likely to be closely tied to the cash price, but it removes the chances you'll find an incredible redemption by, say, booking a flight during an otherwise high-demand time (like to the city hosting the Super Bowl).

Check Delta.com for the cost of your flight, which will vary based on the routing and dates selected.

There is a general correlation between the cost of a flight in cash and its cost in SkyMiles. But you should always calculate the reward redemption rate versus the cost to book in cash. NerdWallet values Delta miles at 1.5 cents each. This is a baseline value, drawn from real-world data on hundreds of economy routes, not a maximized value. In other words, you should aim for award redemptions that offer 1.5 cents or more in value from your Delta miles.

2. Flying on Delta partners

Delta is a part of the SkyTeam alliance, and you can use your Delta SkyMiles to book flights on most of the SkyTeam and other Delta partners.

In addition to SkyTeam, Delta partners with several other carriers, bringing the total partner redemption options to about two dozen.

Delta’s core global airline partners are:

  • Aeromexico.

  • Air France.

  • China Eastern.

  • KLM.

  • Korean Air.

  • Latam Airline.

  • Virgin Atlantic.

  • Virgin Australia.

Delta’s other global airline partners are:

  • Aerolineas Argentinas.

  • AirEuropa.

  • Cape Air.

  • China Airlines.

  • China Southern Airlines.

  • Czech Airlines.

  • Garuda Indonesia.

  • Hawaiian Airlines.

  • ITA Airways.

  • Kenya Airways.

  • Middle East Airlines.

  • Saudia.

  • TAROM.

  • Vietnam Airlines.

  • WestJet.

  • XiamenAir.

Things to keep in mind when redeeming miles for flights

Whether you’re using your miles to fly on Delta or any of its partners, there are some rules and guidelines that you’ll want to keep in mind.

  • No blackout dates. One upside to the lack of an award chart is that there are no blackout dates for redeeming your miles. Every date and route that has open seats are available for a SkyMiles redemption. That said, dynamic pricing makes it so you may come across some dates and routes that cost so many SkyMiles that it’s not feasible to redeem miles (say, flying during the holidays).

  • Basic economy awards are cheaper. Delta does offer basic economy awards, which generally cost fewer SkyMiles than main cabin awards. Basic economy award tickets don’t allow you to pick your seat in advance, and you can’t make any ticket changes or get any upgrades. However, you are allowed to bring a personal item.

  • Sometimes flights are good, sometimes they're bad Delta SkyMiles redemptions. Nerdwallet values one Delta SkyMile at 1.5 cents each. Always calculate the cost to purchase flights in cash to see if it's worth it.

3. Upgrading your Delta flights

Another option for redeeming SkyMiles is to use your miles to upgrade your existing ticket. If your flight is eligible to be upgraded, you will see an option to upgrade in your reservation details page.

Delta gives you the option to upgrade with either miles or cash. As you can see above, this redemption gets you roughly 1 cent per point in value, which is close to Nerdwallet's value of 1.5 cents each. That said, always calculate the upgrade cost to see if it's worth it, as upgrade costs vary by flight.

4. Using miles for Delta reservation services

If you need to pay for services such as a ticket change fee, your Delta SkyMiles may be able to pay for it. In most cases, you can use your miles instead of money to fund products and services you'd receive when calling Delta Reservations at 1-800-323-2323.

You can use your miles for:

  • Selecting preferred seats (waived for all Medallion members as part of Medallion benefits).

  • Ticket change fees.

  • Same-day confirmed fees (waived for Diamond, Platinum and Gold Medallion members as part of Medallion Benefits).

  • External ticket charges (applies to all tickets issued in the U.S. or Canada by companies other than Delta).

Keep in mind that these mileage redemptions listed are nonrefundable.

5. Book with Delta Vacations

With Delta Vacations, you can bundle together a package of Delta flights, plus other hotels and activities. You can pay for it with cash, but you might prefer paying with miles, which you can do, too.

When building your vacation package, enter your SkyMiles number, which will allow you to choose miles as your payment type at checkout. What’s nice here is that even if you don’t have enough miles to cover the whole trip, Delta allows you to purchase tickets as Miles + Cash, so you can apply your mileage as a discount and pay the rest in cash.

🤓Nerdy Tip

If you have a mega sum of miles, this should come as good news, too: You don’t only have to use the miles on yourself. Your miles can pay for everyone on your Delta Vacation, as long as they’re on the same reservation. Though, you are limited to redeeming up to 999,999 miles when booking online. If you will be redeeming more miles, contact Delta Vacations at 1-800-800-1504.

Delta Vacations also provides one of the few solid ways to pay for Disney trips on points and miles. Very few travel programs allow you to use points or miles to pay for Disney theme park tickets, making Delta vacations a rare exception.

6. Ordering magazines

Redeem your Delta SkyMiles for magazines through what’s called MagsforMiles. Rates vary by the magazine and also change depending on when you’re ordering, but past examples have included 15 issues of Wine Spectator for 1,000 miles, which comes out to about 66 miles per issue.

Given NerdWallet’s valuation of a Delta mile at 1.5 cents, that’s actually less than 50 cents per issue, which might not be a bad deal.

(Mostly) bad ways to redeem Delta SkyMiles

Delta offers myriad ways to redeem miles, but not all of them are good. Going back to the valuation of a Delta mile at 1.5 cents each, and you’ll find most of these redemptions fall flat.

That said, these redemptions can make sense every once in a while. Maybe you used to live in a Delta hub and acquired oodles of miles, but you’ve since moved to an airport that isn't served by Delta. Perhaps a change in circumstances means you can no longer fly, period. In scenarios such as these, the following redemptions might still be a smart money move.

For everyone else, these redemptions tend to be pretty bad. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Donating Delta miles through SkyWish

Delta partners with dozens of charities worldwide that support a range of causes, to which you can donate your miles, through a program called SkyWish. However, mileage donations to SkyWish charities aren't tax deductible — neither for SkyMiles members nor Delta.

Transferring Delta miles to a friend

If you’re not using your miles on yourself, you could give them to someone else.

Delta allows you to transfer miles from your personal SkyMiles account to another SkyMiles account in increments of 1,000 miles. However, Delta charges a boatload of fees that probably don’t make it worth it. For starters, there’s a $30 processing fee per transaction. You’ll also pay $0.01 per mile on top of that.

Considering NerdWallet values one Delta mile at just 1.5 cents this isn’t a good deal. Transferring 30,000 miles — worth roughly $390 — would cost you about $330 in combined fees. In most cases, transferring miles isn’t worth it given they lose so much value (in this scenario, it’s 85% of the overall value).

You can give away up to 150,000 miles per year, and each SkyMiles account can receive up to 300,000 miles per year.

Redeeming Delta miles for gift cards

If you want to give your miles to someone else to book flights, it might make more sense to convert your miles to Delta gift cards (as opposed to transferring your Delta miles and getting hit with all those fees).

Gift card amount

Delta SkyMiles needed

Dollar value per mile

$50

5,600 SkyMiles.

0.8 cent.

$100

11,150 SkyMiles.

0.9 cent.

$250

27,800 SkyMiles.

0.9 cent.

$500

55,600 SkyMiles.

0.9 cent.

You can purchase a $50 Delta gift card for 5,600 miles (you can also purchase them in amounts of $100, $250, or $500 at comparable rates). That transaction would effectively make your Delta miles worth 0.8 cents per mile, which is far lower than our valuation of a Delta mile at 1.5 cents.

Delta gift cards don't expire and can be used toward any flight on delta.com or toward Delta Vacations packages that include airfare.

Additionally, plan ahead. Physical gift cards naturally take time to arrive via snail mail, but digital gift cards also still take about seven days for delivery.

Other tips on how to use Delta miles

There are a few Delta sweet spots

There are a few Delta sweet spots to watch for when redeeming Delta SkyMiles:

You can earn miles for your next redemption more quickly with a Delta SkyMiles credit card

In order to have plenty of SkyMiles to redeem, you first have to earn them. While there are a variety of ways to earn Delta SkyMiles, one of the fastest is through a credit card welcome offer. Delta and American Express offer four different personal credit cards:

There are also business versions of three of these cards:

Not interested in a Delta credit card, or simply seeking even more ways to earn Delta SkyMiles? Here's a guide to nearly two dozen ways to earn Delta SkyMiles.

Delta SkyMiles redemptions recapped

You now know how to use Delta SkyMiles on a myriad of redemptions, and that some uses are better than others. Stick to using your miles to book flights for yourself, but don’t overlook Delta’s deals page for award flights.

And look beyond Delta, too, as Delta’s partners may offer the best redemptions of them all.


How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2023, including those best for:

Get more smart money moves – straight to your inbox
Sign up and we’ll send you Nerdy articles about the money topics that matter most to you along with other ways to help you get more from your money.