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Delta Air Lines is one of the world’s largest airlines, with a huge presence throughout the United States as well as significant routes in Europe and Asia. Additionally, Delta has over 20 airline partners that you can earn and redeem miles with. In this post, we’ll cover how to redeem Delta SkyMiles.
» Learn more: Delta Air Lines SkyMiles program: The complete guide
Flying with Delta
Is it any surprise that the first SkyMiles redemption option we talk about is … flying on Delta? While this isn't always the best use of your SkyMiles in terms of getting the absolute maximum value, think about it this way: the “best” use of your miles is the one that gets you where you want to go, when you want to go there.
Delta offers regular award sales to different destinations. Typically these deals are changed each week and can be found on the Delta award sale page.
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 19 SkyTeam partners. In addition to SkyTeam, Delta also partners with several other carriers, bringing the total partner redemption options to 26:
Air Tahiti Nui.
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines.
Middle East Airlines.
For most of Delta’s partners, you can book your award travel directly on delta.com. For bookings with Air Europa, Air Tahiti Nui, Czech Airlines, Garuda Indonesia and Kenya Airways, you will need to contact Delta Reservations.
Things to keep in mind
Whether you’re using your miles to fly Delta or any of its partners, there are some rules and guidelines that you’ll want to keep in mind.
No award chart
Delta does not publish an award chart, and its pricing is dynamic. You’ll need to 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.
NerdWallet values Delta miles at 1.3 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 1.3 cents or more in value from your Delta miles.
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 is available for a SkyMiles redemption. Because of dynamic pricing, though, you may come across some dates and routes that cost so many SkyMiles that it’s not feasible to redeem miles.
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.
» Learn more: How to make the most of Delta’s basic economy
Using miles for upgrades on 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 cose to Nerdwallet's value of 1.3 cents each.
A few Delta sweet spots
There are a few Delta sweet spots to watch for when redeeming Delta SkyMiles:
Routes that are on sale or part of Delta’s current award sale promotions.
Business class seats from the U.S. to Asia. These should cost 85,000 SkyMiles one way, as in this example:
Economy class to the South Pacific on Virgin Australia for 40,000 miles.
Earning Delta SkyMiles via credit cards
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 bonus. Delta and American Express offer four different personal credit cards:
There are also business versions of three of these cards:
The bottom line
There are a ton of other ways you can redeem Delta SkyMiles, but most of them are not a great use of SkyMiles.
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 2021, 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