How to Earn Delta SkyMiles
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Need more Delta SkyMiles to finally afford that first class seat? Seeking more miles to fly your family for free? Delta is one of the largest airlines in the world, and it offers myriad ways to beef up your SkyMiles balance beyond just frequently flying or spending on Delta credit cards.
Here are some easy ways to earn more Delta SkyMiles this year.
» Learn more: The NerdWallet guide to Delta SkyMiles
20 best ways to earn Delta SkyMiles
1. Fly Delta
Flying with Delta is the most straightforward way to earn Delta SkyMiles. As a SkyMiles Member, you’ll earn 5 miles per dollar spent on Delta flights in Main Cabin or above. Simply enter your SkyMiles number upon booking, and the miles will be credited to your account.
For better or for worse, Delta doles out SkyMiles for your flights based on the revenue they make from your ticket — not the distance you flew (as is common with other airlines). A $700 ticket from Seattle to Salt Lake City will effectively net you the same amount of miles as a $700 ticket from Seattle to Switzerland, provided both base fares are equal.
While it means you won’t nab a boatload of points for a cross-country airfare deal you may have scored, consider the increased miles a consolation prize if you end up having to pay for an especially-expensive airfare.
There are a few types of Delta purchases that do not earn miles:
Government-imposed taxes and fees do not earn you any miles (but carrier-imposed fees — such as fuel surcharges — do).
Basic Economy tickets purchased on or after December 9, 2021 for flights departing on or after January 1, 2022, are not eligible to earn miles.
2. Hold Delta elite status when you fly
To encourage loyalty, Delta rewards you with more miles per dollar spent the higher up their elite chart you are, meaning frequent flyers will earn more miles on the same ticket than those who only fly once a year to visit Aunt Myrtle.
Delta's Medallion status tiers and respective mileage earnings are as follows:
General SkyMiles Members: 5 miles for every $1.
Silver Medallion Members: 7 miles for every $1.
Gold Medallion Members: 8 miles for every $1.
Platinum Medallion Members: 9 miles for every $1.
Diamond Medallion Members: 11 miles for every $1.
» Learn more: 5 Delta sweet spot redemptions
3. Apply for a Delta-branded credit card — and spend enough to earn the intro offer
Most travel credit cards are especially rewarding in the first few months thanks to their intro offers, which typically land you with a boatload of points for hitting a minimum spend requirement in the first few months of card ownership.
Delta’s branded credit cards are no exception. Here are some of the Delta cards to consider, alongside their intro offers:
Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card (annual fee: $0): Earn 10,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months. Terms Apply.
Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card (annual fee: $0 intro for the first year, then $99): Earn 70,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months. Terms Apply.
Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card (annual fee: $250): Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months. Terms Apply.
Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card (annual fee: $550): Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $6,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months. Terms Apply.
4. Spend on Delta-branded credit cards
The intro offers tend to be extremely generous, but the easy-to-understand earning structures on the suite of SkyMiles credit cards makes them useful to have even after the offer period is over. Consider these cards a solid earning platform for anyone who is looking into making SkyMiles one of their go-to mileage programs in their tool belt.
These cards will earn you 2 miles per $1 on Delta purchases and 1 mile per $1 spent on all other eligible purchases.
Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card.
Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card.
And all of these cards will earn you 3 miles per $1 spent on Delta and at 1 mile per $1 spent on all other eligible purchases.
Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card.
Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card.
5. Buy Delta SkyMiles
Delta allows you to purchase miles, typically sold at a rate of 3.5 cents per mile. Considering NerdWallet values one Delta mile at just 1.5 cents this generally isn’t a good deal.
However, there are a few rare circumstances where buying miles from Delta makes sense.
When a sale knocks down the price per mile to something below our valuation (aim for 1 cent per mile).
When you need just a handful more miles to complete an award booking.
If you decide to buy miles on Delta, it is pretty easy. Select how many miles you want to purchase (sold in increments of 2,000) and checkout. Delta limits the number of miles you can buy per year to 60,000 miles (which would usually cost you $2,100).
» Learn more: The current value of Delta SkyMiles
6. Fly on Delta partner airlines
You don’t have to fly exclusively with Delta to earn Delta miles when flying. Delta has more than 20 airline partners worldwide that earn miles which you can use for award travel, upgrades and more.
Delta’s core global airline partners are:
Delta’s other global airline partners are:
China Southern Airlines.
Middle East Airlines.
When on eligible flights with those carriers, you’ll earn miles according to the partner airline’s rules. Not only does this allow you to earn Delta miles on more airlines, but this also offers an opportunity for savvy travelers to net even more miles.
Because Delta gives out miles based on revenue (but many other airlines disperse miles based on distance traveled), it sometimes makes sense to book flights that are low in cost but long in distance through those partner airlines and then credit the flight to Delta — as opposed to booking a Delta-ticketed flight for a non-Delta airline.
7. Ride with Lyft
A partnership between Lyft and Delta allows you to earn SkyMiles for Lyft rides by linking your accounts. You’ll typically earn 1 mile per $1 on every ride in the U.S., exclusive of taxes, fees, tools and tips. And, you’ll earn 2 miles per $1 on all airport rides.
Plus, you can double-dip, and also continue to earn credit card points for your Lyft rides. Pay with a Delta card for even more miles (you’ll earn 1 mile per dollar spent on Lyft with Delta-branded cards).
8. Sign up for the Delta dining program
Most major airlines have dining programs, and Delta’s is the best — allowing you to earn as much as 6.5% of the total price of your bill in the form of Delta miles (and that stacks on top of other credit card dining rewards you may be earning).
Joining the Delta SkyMiles Dining program is free; you’ll have to register with some simple personal information, and then register your credit card. Every time you visit a participating restaurant and pay for your meal with that linked card, you will automatically earn miles. You can even register multiple credit cards, in case you trade off which cards you use to pay.
Join the program by filling out your info on the SkyMiles dining website.
This is an easy way to earn miles with minimal effort. Sure, you might specifically seek restaurants to dine at through the program. But because you don’t need to do any extra work to earn miles (no checking in or submitting receipts required) you may find yourself earning additional miles simply by swiping your credit card at a restaurant that happened to qualify.
» Learn more: The best dining rewards programs
9. Earn via the shopping portal
While slightly more complicated than the Delta SkyMiles Dining program, online shopping provides a fairly easy way to earn Delta miles for purchases you’d be making anyway.
To get Delta miles for online shopping, head to skymilesshopping.com, where you’ll see a list of participating stores. Click into that store through Delta’s link, and you’ll earn miles based on how much you spent.
Perhaps even easier: There’s a browser extension you can install that will inform you of mile-earning opportunities as you shop online.
Earrings rate varies by store (typically 1 to 3 miles per dollar spent online, depending on the store), so an $100 online shopping purchase would net you between 100 to 300 miles (worth about $1 to $4).
Sure, $1 won’t get you very far in earning enough to book an entire flight, so consider this one of the slowest ways to build your SkyMiles collection. But if you’re online shopping anyway, then going through the portal or using the browser extension doesn’t take much additional effort, but can inch you closer to a free flight.
10. Book a vacation package with Delta Vacations
With Delta Vacations, you can bundle together a package of not just your Delta flight, but other hotels and activities too. And when you do, you’ll often see bigger savings than if you had booked those things a la carte. Plus, it makes for a solid way to earn Delta SkyMiles on not just your airfare, but your other vacation costs like lodging too.
The number of SkyMiles you’ll earn varies based on the price of your Delta vacation package:
Bookings up to $4,999: 1,000 bonus miles.
Bookings between $5,000 and $9,999: 2,000 bonus miles.
Bookings of $10,000 or more: 5,000 bonus miles.
And the bonus earnings don’t stop there. If you book a car rental package that includes a rental car from either Alamo or National, you’ll get an additional 500 bonus miles, plus an extra 200 per day on top of that.
Many top vacation destinations can be booked through Delta Vacations, including trips to Walt Disney World.
Pay with your Delta-branded credit card to earn even more miles. Here’s the earnings rate per card:
Bonus miles earned (per dollar spent on card)
11. Rent a car
Perhaps you just want the car — not the entire vacation package. Even if you’re on a trip that doesn’t involve a Delta flight at all, you can still earn Delta miles when booking rental cars with Delta’s partners.
Besides the miles earned, some rental car companies also offer discounts simply because of your affiliation with Delta. Here are Delta’s car rental partners, and the earnings rate:
Alamo: Earn 500 miles for each qualifying rental in the U.S. and Canada.
Dollar: Earn 500 miles for each qualifying rental at participating locations.
Enterprise: Earn 500 miles for each qualifying rental in the U.S. and Canada.
Hertz: Earn at least 500 miles on your rental — and up to 1,250 miles depending on your elite status in Hertz’s Gold Plus Rewards Program.
National: Earn 500 miles for each qualifying rental in the U.S. and Canada.
Thrifty: Earn 500 miles for each qualifying rental at participating locations.
12. Rent someone else’s car through Turo
If you're more into rental car alternatives like peer-to-peer car sharing companies, here's an appealing offer. Turo, which is basically Airbnb for cars, launched a partnership with Delta in January 2022.
Delta SkyMiles Members can earn miles from any booked Turo trip after linking their SkyMiles number to their Turo profile. Travelers will earn 2,000 miles on their first Turo trip and 500 miles on every trip after.
» Learn more: The cheapest rental car company may surprise you
13. Book a cruise
In addition to its vacation package booking service, Delta has its own dedicated partner cruise booking site called SkyMiles Cruises. Though Delta-skinned, it’s actually powered by a popular cruise agency called Cruise Only.
Actual points earned vary by cabin type booked and length, but you’ll always earn at least 1,500 on any booking. Splurge on a bigger, better room for even more miles; you can earn up to 30,000 miles when you book a balcony or a suite stateroom.
Delta also promises to throw in other benefits for booking a Cruise Only bookings like discounts or money to spend on-board.
» Learn more: How to earn and redeem points on a cruise
14. Stay with Airbnb
You can also earn Delta miles through Airbnb stays. To earn miles, you must book through Delta’s Airbnb partner page and enter your SkyMiles number prior to every booking. When you do, you’ll earn 1 mile per $1 spent with Airbnb on all qualifying stays worldwide.
Given that we value one Delta mile at 1.5 cents, that’s essentially about 1.3% back in the form of Delta miles on your stay.
And like many other Delta partnerships, you can stack this. Pay with a credit card that earns rewards on Airbnb stays to not only earn Delta miles, but credit card points on top.
» Learn more: 3 ways to pay for Airbnb with credit card rewards
15. Buy tickets through Ticketmaster
Similar to Delta’s partnership with Airbnb, you can also earn 1 mile per $1 spent on eligible events purchased through Ticketmaster. To earn miles, you must buy your tickets through Delta’s Ticketmaster partner page and enter your SkyMiles number prior to every checkout.
If you’re going to a show or concert anyway, this is an easy way to net some extra Delta miles.
16. Utilize the Delta 'bags on time' guarantee
Waiting for your checked bags at the carousel can certainly be annoying — until it becomes highly rewarding. Delta offers a generous Bags on Time guarantee, which promises that your checked bag will arrive at the carousel within 20 minutes of the boarding door on any domestic flight being opened or you’re eligible for 2,500 bonus miles.
If you check bags on domestic flights — and find yourself waiting for them to arrive — submit the completed form online at this link — that’s it.
17. Stay at Marriott hotels or transfer Bonvoy points
The Marriott Bonvoy rewards program partners with dozens of airlines, including Delta. If you connect your SkyMiles and Bonvoy accounts, you can earn 1-2 SkyMiles per dollar spent on Marriott hotels, depending on the hotel brand. However, these points are instead of, not in addition to, the Bonvoy points you’d usually earn for this spending — so make sure the math makes sense for your travel preferences before opting in.
You can also transfer existing Bonvoy points to SkyMiles. However, this transfer is at a 3:1 ratio (3 Bonvoy points for every 1 SkyMile). Given our valuations of the two points programs, it rarely makes sense to transfer — unless you really don’t anticipate staying with Marriott again — given that your points lose a huge chunk of their value in the transfer process.
18. Transfer AmEx Membership Rewards points
SkyMiles are a lesser-heralded transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards. These transfer at a 1:1 ratio with a 1,000-point minimum. There are scads of ways to earn Membership Rewards points, most of them involving spending with an AmEx card, so this can be a good way to bolster your SkyMiles account without changing your existing habits too much (if you already use an AmEx card).
Transferring American Express Membership Points to Delta is fairly quick and rarely takes longer than 30 minutes for the transfer to go through, so you’ll likely be able to book your flight the same day you transfer your points.
» Learn more: AmEx vs. Chase points: Which is right for you?
19. Refer a friend to a credit card
Cardholders of Delta co-branded credit cards can refer friends to apply for AmEx cards and earn bonus SkyMiles in the process. The number of miles earned depends on the card and the amount currently offered by AmEx. Go here to check the referral bonus for your card(s).
» Learn more: Delta credit cards: Top picks and how to choose
20. Order drinks and food from Starbucks
Link your accounts by visiting deltastarbucks.com to earn both Delta SkyMiles and Starbucks Stars on your Starbucks purchases. Not only can you earn Delta SkyMiles, but Delta flying can also earn you more Starbucks Stars. Here's what you'll get:
Earn one Delta SkyMile per $1 spent 1 on eligible purchases at Starbucks (excluding taxes and gratuity).
Earn double Starbucks Stars on eligible purchases at participating Starbucks stores on days when you have a scheduled flight with Delta.
Just realize that this is not an efficient way to earn Starbucks rewards nor Delta miles. But for coffee addicts, it could be a way to at least earn miles for you’re already doing anyway. NerdWallet values a Delta mile at 1.5 cents cents, so a $5 latte would earn you about eight cents worth of Delta miles. Have a $5 latte every day for a year, and that comes out to 1,825 miles annually (which is only about $27 in Delta SkyMiles value). Learn more about how to earn Delta miles through Starbucks here.
Maximizing how you earn Delta SkyMiles
While not a comprehensive list, the above pointers provide plenty of earning methods that can get you a good amount of SkyMiles without going too much out of your way. With so many options within easy reach, increasing your Delta SkyMiles account balance should be an easy goal for the year — setting you up for more free flights.
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