5 Best Ways to Use Delta SkyMiles

You can score SkyMiles deals via partner awards, where you can fly an international airline for fewer miles.
Aaron Hurd
By Aaron Hurd 
Updated
Edited by Giselle M. Cancio

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This influences 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.

Since unpublishing its SkyMiles award charts, Delta Air Lines has slowly shifted SkyMiles award redemptions to a revenue-based model where the price in miles for most redemptions floats with the cash price of comparable tickets.

While this has made the expected value of SkyMiles redemptions more stable — for most U.S. domestic redemptions, you can expect to get about 1.2 cents per mile of value — it has all but eliminated the high-value redemptions that frequent flyer program aficionados love.

Today, you’re lucky to find a SkyMiles redemption in business class to Europe for less than 250,000 miles each way. Want to fly to Asia? Be ready to spend north of 400,000 miles each way.

Although Delta has slowly chipped away at the value you can get from SkyMiles, the program still offers value. But you need to know where to look. Here are the best ways to use SkyMiles in 2024.

Earn up to 100,000 bonus miles with our favorite Delta cards
Check out our nerdy picks for the best Delta credit cards and find the right card for you.

1. Award travel within the United States from 4,000 SkyMiles one-way

You can find incredibly cheap flights in the United States using SkyMiles, especially on short-haul flights in competitive markets. When we searched, we found flights from Seattle to San Francisco in basic economy for as low as 4,000 each way in June 2024.

These great SkyMiles deals will typically be offered on routes where Delta sells revenue seats at low prices. In the case of the Seattle deal above, the basic economy price was $70. But getting 1.7 cents per point out of Delta SkyMiles is a great value for this program.

These flights become even cheaper if you hold a Delta SkyMiles credit card with an annual fee. With these cards, you can get a 15% discount on award tickets through Delta’s TakeOff 15 benefit when you fly Delta-operated and Delta-marketed flights. Terms apply.

Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card
Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card
NerdWallet Rating
Apply now

on American Express' website

Rates & Fees
Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card
Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card
NerdWallet Rating
Apply now

on American Express' website

Rates & Fees
Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card
Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card
NerdWallet Rating
Apply now

on American Express' website

Rates & Fees
Annual fee
$0 intro for the first year, then $150
$350
$650
Earning rates

• 2 miles per $1 on purchases made directly with Delta and at U.S. supermarkets and restaurants (including takeout and delivery in the U.S.).

• 1 mile per $1 on all other eligible purchases.

Terms apply.

• 3 miles per $1 on eligible purchases made directly with Delta and on hotel purchases.

• 2 miles per $1 at U.S. supermarkets and restaurants (including takeout and delivery in the U.S.).

• 1 mile per $1 on all other eligible purchases.

Terms apply.

• 3 miles per $1 on eligible purchases made directly with Delta.

• 1 mile per $1 on other eligible purchases.

Terms apply.

Other benefits

• First checked bag free.

• Priority boarding.

• No foreign transaction fees.

Terms apply.

• Companion certificate (main cabin).

• First checked bag free.

• Priority boarding.

• No foreign transaction fees.

Terms apply.

• Airport lounge access.

• Companion certificate (first class, Delta Comfort+ or main cabin).

• Credit for application fee for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry

• First checked bag free.

• Priority boarding.

• No foreign transaction fees.

Terms apply.

Horizontal scroll

2. Delta flash sales to international destinations

Although they are not as common as they once were, Delta still runs flash sales on SkyMiles fares to many international destinations. If you’re looking to book a vacation with SkyMiles in the main cabin, these flash sales can be a great opportunity to get better-than-average value out of your SkyMiles.

Here are some of the deals we have seen in the last year through Delta’s flash sales:

  • Costa Rica from 19,000 SkyMiles.

  • Cancun from 19,000 SkyMiles.

  • Europe from 32,000 SkyMiles.

  • Puerto Vallarta in main cabin from 22,000 SkyMiles.

  • Australia and New Zealand from 80,000 SkyMiles.

Many Delta flash sales are posted on Delta’s SkyMiles award deals page, but some deals are unannounced. Your best bet for discovering SkyMiles flash sales is subscribing to a service offering airfare sale alerts.

3. Longer coach flights within Europe

If your travel plans have you flying around Europe, you can save some money using your SkyMiles, even if you never touch a Delta plane.

Partner flights within Europe cost just 10,000 SkyMiles plus taxes one-way in economy. The proliferation of low-cost carriers in Europe means this is only a great use of miles on more expensive routes.

You might not get great value by redeeming miles for a $90 London to Paris flight, but a London to Istanbul flight that might otherwise cost you $400 will still price at 10,000 SkyMiles, plus taxes and fees.

4. Premium cabin redemptions on global partners

While most premium cabin options using SkyMiles that touch North America have been devalued, there is still plenty of value in SkyMiles if you want to roam the globe in business class on SkyTeam. Delta still offers fixed-price awards on its partner airlines that can provide the best opportunities for getting outsized value from your SkyMiles. Here are some examples.

Flights between the Middle East and Europe on Saudia consistently price out at 42,500 miles, plus a small amount of taxes and fees. Comparable flights in premium cabins can be found on Google Flights for $1,200 or higher, giving you almost 3 cents per point of value for your SkyMiles.

Nonstop flights between Europe and East Asia in business class price out at 80,000 points, plus a few hundred euros in taxes and fees. Comparable flights on Air France and Korean Air cost between $2,650 and $3,800 each way.

Flying between Australia and Europe in business class might cost you $6,000, but you can find flights from 90,000 miles, plus taxes and fees.

The above are just a few examples of the types of deals you can find using SkyMiles.

5. Booking early when your plans might change

Delta SkyMiles tickets can be canceled and miles redeposited with no fee for non-basic economy tickets originating in the United States and Canada. This opens up some possibilities for using SkyMiles for speculative bookings that can save you money or give you additional flexibility.

Here are a few ideas on how to use SkyMiles for speculative bookings.

If you are unsure whether you’ll take a trip, you can use SkyMiles to book your ticket and pay no penalty if you need to cancel and redeposit your ticket.

If you want flexibility when you travel, you can book multiple dates using SkyMiles and cancel the tickets you don’t intend to use as you get closer to your travel date. If traveling domestically, you can book your outbound trip as a one-way flight and book a few return trips on different days, canceling the tickets you don’t ultimately use. This can enable you to come back from a conference early or extend a family vacation by a day or two at the cheapest price.

Locking in an option now and waiting for a better deal is an option if you book with SkyMiles. You can book your travel and wait for a fare sale or business class award availability to open up on another airline. If a better option becomes available, you can cancel your SkyMiles trip and book the better option. If not, you can travel using your SkyMiles trips.

Best uses of SkyMiles recapped

If you’re looking for a frequent flyer program that will get you between the United States and international destinations in premium cabins on the cheap, Delta SkyMiles isn’t the program for you.

But if you want consistent domestic value, some flexibility in your travel dates, and a program that occasionally offers excellent value in the main cabin, there’s still plenty of value to be had with Delta SkyMiles.

To view rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card, see this page.
To view rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card, see this page.
To view rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card, see this page.

How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are some of the best travel credit cards of 2024:

Cards for Delta from our Partners
Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card

on Chase's website

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
5.0
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

1x-5x

5x on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠, 3x on dining, select streaming services and online groceries, 2x on all other travel purchases, 1x on all other purchases.

Points

Intro offer

75,000

Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's over $900 when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.

Points
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

on Capital One's website

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
4.7
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

2x-5x

Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day. Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options.

Miles

Intro offer

75,000

Enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel.

Miles
See more cards for delta
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.