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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 1.2 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 1.2 cents or more in value from your Delta miles.
2. Flying on Delta partners
In addition to SkyTeam, Delta partners with several other carriers, bringing the total partner redemption options to about two dozen.
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 1.2 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 1.2 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.
» Learn more: The Delta seat selection guide
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.
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 1.2 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 1.2 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 1.2 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.
Bidding on trips, theater tickets, culinary classes and more at SkyMiles Experiences
Delta SkyMiles Experiences offers a unique way to spend your points, but it's tough to say it's the best. The experiential online auction platform allows Delta SkyMiles Members to bid miles in exchange for experiences that are relatively difficult (and sometimes impossible) for money to buy, such as tickets to exclusive sports experiences or celebrity-attended events.
Because the experiences are billed as money-can't buy, it's difficult to assess whether they're truly a good 'deal' or not. Some, like a stay at Waikiki's Halekulani Hotel, are easier to assign worth. Others, like a private meet-and-greet with the cast of Monty Python's "Spamalot" on Broadway in NYC, depend on how much you value such an experience.
And since it's bid-based, prices can swing wildly. Here's a list of experiences that were available in late 2023, and how much they sold for. Given NerdWallet's valuation of a Delta mile at 1.2 cents, we included a rough estimation of the value of that experience in terms of your Delta mile exchange:
Access for four to Crash My Playa, a 5-night, all-inclusive concert vacation in Mexico: 346,000 miles (worth about $4,150).
An 8-day, 7-night trip for two on the Southeast Asia Culinary Odyssey of Thailand & Vietnam culinary tour, including lodging (no airfare): 341,000 miles (worth about $4,000).
Two tickets to Z100's "Jingle Ball" at Madison Square Garden in New York: 75,250 miles (worth about $900).
Two VIP tickets to the Opry Country Christmas Show in Nashville, plus artist meet and greet: 27,000 miles (worth about $325).
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:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card