Don’t Redeem Your Points in Delta’s SkyMiles Marketplace

You'd be hard-pressed to find an airline shopping portal that delivers value on points. Delta is no exception.

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Many of us are good at earning airline miles and hotel points, but aren't sure about the best ways to redeem them. One of the many redemption options available for your Delta Air Lines SkyMiles is to use them like cash to make purchases in the SkyMiles Marketplace.

But while Delta SkyMiles Marketplace is an option for your miles, it's generally one of the worst redemptions you can make. Here's why.

What is the SkyMiles Marketplace, and how does it work?

The Delta SkyMiles Marketplace is a website where you can redeem your Delta SkyMiles. Along with using miles for travel, standard SkyMiles members have the option of using miles to purchase Delta gift cards, order magazine subscriptions or make charitable donations.

Those based in the U.S. and Puerto Rico with Medallion elite status or select Delta co-branded American Express credit cards have the additional option to redeem miles for a selection of merchandise from many popular brands. Terms apply.

When it's time to check out, you'll use your SkyMiles instead of cash to complete the purchase. You can also use a mix of cash and miles if you don't have enough miles or want to save miles for other redemptions.

SkyMiles Shopping vs. Delta SkyMiles Marketplace

When shopping online, know the difference between Delta SkyMiles Shopping and the Delta SkyMiles Marketplace. The Delta shopping website provides opportunities to earn additional SkyMiles on all of your purchases at participating merchants. The SkyMiles Marketplace allows SkyMiles members to redeem their miles for gift cards, donations and more.

Put more simply, SkyMiles Shopping is for earning SkyMiles, while the SkyMiles Marketplace is for redeeming miles.

Delta SkyMiles Marketplace markup

Here is a sampling of the possible markup on Delta shopping portal redemptions compared with online retail outlets.

delta skymiles marketplace markup on nerdwallet

Item

Cost in SkyMiles

Cost in cash

Delta’s markup

Circulon® Symmetry Chocolate 10'' & 12'' Skillets

45,398 miles.

$79.99 from Amazon.

638%.

2021 Apple iPad Mini (Wi-Fi 64GB) Space Gray

218,276 miles.

$494 from Amazon.

474%.

SkyGolf SkyCaddie SX550 GPS Rangefinder

181,151 miles.

$414.95 from Amazon.

468%.

JBL - Club ONE Wireless Noise Cancelling Over-the-Ear Headphones

87,308 miles.

$189.90 from Amazon.

498%.

Most SkyMiles members would be better off buying these items in cash and saving their SkyMiles for better, higher-value redemptions.

Are SkyMiles Marketplace sale items worth it?

Depending on the discounted price and how much you value your miles, sale items might be a worthwhile purchase for members who have the option of buying merchandise — but it's not likely.

In general, NerdWallet values Delta SkyMiles at 1.5 cents per mile, although your actual redemption value could be higher or lower depending on how you use them.

For example, we found Circulon® Symmetry Chocolate 10'' & 12'' Skillets on sale for 45,398 miles. This is a 43% discount on the standard price of 79,646 miles. These skillets can be purchased for $79.99 from Amazon. Based on the standard miles price, you'd receive just 0.1 cent per mile of value (before tax) when making this purchase.

Even with the 43% sale discount, you'd receive just 0.176 cent per mile for that purchase, which is still well below our rough 1.5 cents baseline value.

In this situation, neither the standard nor the sale price would be considered a good value for your miles.

Is the Delta SkyMiles Marketplace ever worth it?

Generally, the best redemption value for Delta SkyMiles (or any airline miles) is when you book a flight directly with the airline or one of its partners. While using the Delta Marketplace to redeem miles for your purchases is generally a bad idea, it can be worth it in a few situations.

Here are a few examples where it might make sense:

  • You're not traveling on Delta anytime soon. If you're not traveling anytime soon, you may be tempted to redeem your miles through Delta SkyMiles Marketplace to get at least some value out of them. Since many airlines devalue their programs periodically, this can make sense.

  • You don't have enough miles to redeem for a flight. When you don't have enough miles to redeem for a flight, using them to make a purchase can be a good idea. You may want to consider getting a Delta credit card, such as the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card, to boost your balance so that you can book an award flight in the future.

  • You need to buy something but want to save cash. For people who are short on cash or trying to stay within budget, using alternative assets like airline miles to make online purchases can be a wise decision.

  • Sale items with a high value. Browsing through the Delta shopping portal may uncover hidden gems at a decent price point. Understanding the value of your miles can make it easier to know which items to buy and which to avoid.

How to shop the SkyMiles Marketplace if you still want to

If you've decided that you'd rather use your SkyMiles for shopping than to book a future vacation, here's how to do it. Visit the Delta SkyMiles Marketplace shopping portal and log in to your SkyMiles account. Once you've logged in, select how you’d like to use your miles. Gift cards and magazine subscriptions are available only to U.S. residents.

U.S. and Puerto Rico-based Medallion members and certain Delta credit card holders can also perform a search for a specific item or browse a variety of categories. The a wide range of available products includes clothing, luggage, electronics, jewelry, toys and more. You can even buy Apple products with your miles.

When you find items that you wish to buy, click on "Add to cart" and then check out when you're ready. You can pay for 100% of your order with miles or use a combination of miles and a credit card. Generally, there's a minimum number of miles that you must redeem when paying with cash and miles. This option is valuable for shoppers who don't have enough miles to complete their purchase or if they'd like to save some miles for other redemptions in the future.

If you want to use Delta SkyMiles Marketplace to redeem miles

While most of us use cash to make online purchases, you do have the option to redeem airline miles for purchases instead. These redemptions tend to offer lower value than booking a flight, but you may find situations where the redemption value is above our baseline recommended value.

However, if you want the flexibility of using rewards points to shop online, you're probably better off with a credit card that earns cash back or flexible points.


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