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While you can certainly earn a lot of miles by flying and spending money on your credit cards, Delta — one of the largest airlines in the world — offers myriad ways to beef up your SkyMiles balance. Let’s take a look at all the ways to earn Delta miles and how to make them work for you.
» Learn more: The NerdWallet guide to Delta SkyMiles
16 ways to earn Delta SkyMiles
1. Fly Delta
Any conversation about earning SkyMiles with Delta has to start with a mention that the program is revenue-based and not distance based. That is to say, a $500 ticket from Seattle to Salt Lake City will effectively net you the same amount of miles as a $500 ticket from Atlanta to Paris, provided both base fares are equal. Government-imposed taxes and fees do not earn you any miles, but carrier-imposed fees — such as fuel surcharges — do. This is quite straightforward: the cheaper your ticket, the fewer the miles you will earn.
Unsurprisingly, flying the airline is the best way to earn Delta SkyMiles.
To further encourage loyalty, Delta will reward you with more miles per dollar spent the higher up their elite chart you are. That way, very 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
2. Buy Delta SkyMiles directly
You can always just buy miles on Delta.com. However, this rarely offers a good return on investment, even when Delta runs sales and promotions that knock down the price.
When we checked, Delta was selling SkyMiles for 3.5 cents each, way above our 1.3 cents per mile valuation.
There are really only two situations when buying miles makes much sense:
When a sale knocks down the price to something like 1 cent per mile.
When you need just a handful more miles to complete an award booking.
Otherwise, consider the other options listed below.
» Learn more: The current value of Delta SkyMiles
3. Fly on partners
Flying on Delta partner airlines is an altogether different story. Let’s start with an example to better illustrate how this works. If you were to purchase that $500 ticket from Atlanta to Paris on Air France through Delta, you would once again earn mileage based on the fare, plus carrier-imposed fees. However, if you were to buy the exact same ticket on Air France’s website and then credit the flight to Delta, you would instead earn miles based on distance.
To maximize earnings, the key when flying on a Delta partner is to purchase the ticket on the partner’s website and then credit the miles to your SkyMiles account. This is particularly true for deeply discounted tickets, where the distance flown greatly outweighs the earning based on the cost of the ticket.
4. Use credit cards
For loyalists, it's harder to find more easy ways to earn Delta SkyMiles than spending on a co-branded credit card. With extremely generous welcome bonuses and easy-to-understand earning structures, the suite of SkyMiles credit cards offers 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® Gold American Express Card. This card also earns 2 miles per $1 spent at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery in the U.S. and at U.S. supermarkets.
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. This card also earns 2 miles per $1 spent at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery in the U.S. and at U.S. supermarkets.
5. Use Lyft
6. Sign up for the dining program
By simply signing up for the SkyMiles Dining program and registering your credit and debit cards, you can earn up to 5 miles per $1 spent at participating restaurants. Join the program by filling out your info on the SkyMiles dining website, and you can even earn a first-dine bonus of 3,000 SkyMiles.
When you visit a participating restaurant and pay for your meal with a linked card, you will automatically earn miles. This is a great way to earn miles without any on-going work. Once you set it up, you’re done.
7. Earn via the shopping portal
If you're a person who shops online for the simplicity, you can earn miles for those purchases too. You can even earn miles for in-store pick-up orders placed online as well. All you have to do is start by going to skymilesshopping.com and search for participating stores.
If you think that’s too much effort, there's a browser extension you can install that will inform you of mile-earning opportunities as you shop online. Truth be told, this can be one of the slowest ways to build your SkyMiles collection.
8. Buy tickets through Ticketmaster
You can earn 1 mile per $1 spent on eligible events purchased through Ticketmaster. All you need to do is visit deltaticketmaster.com to register, then complete the purchase in order to get rewarded.
9. Stay with Airbnb
» Learn more: 3 ways to pay for Airbnb with credit card rewards
10. Rent a car
Yet another way of earning SkyMiles is by booking car rentals. There are a multitude of partners that can help you boost your SkyMiles account by just following their link before booking directly with the partners.
And 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 will be able to 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
11. Utilize the 'bags on time' guarantee
A fantastic way to earn SkyMiles for those of us who travel frequently is by making use of the Bags on Time guarantee. If your checked bags on domestic flights aren’t on the carousel 20 minutes after your flight arrives at the gate, you’re eligible to receive 2,500 bonus miles in compensation. Just submit the completed form online at this link — that’s it.
12. Get Medallion status
Members of Delta’s Medallion elite status program receive bonus miles on top of those earned from flying with Delta and partners. Each status tier receives its own bonus:
Silver Medallion: 40% bonus.
Gold Medallion: 60% bonus.
Platinum Medallion: 80% bonus.
Diamond Medallion: 120% bonus.
Obviously, Medallion status requires flying and spending quite a bit with Delta, so you won’t want to earn it just for the bonus miles. But they’re a nice cherry on top of the other benefits of status.
» Learn more: Which airline elite status should you choose?
13. 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), and we value the two at roughly the same amount, so it rarely makes sense to transfer.
14. Transfer AmEx Membership Rewards points
SkyMiles are a lesser-heralded transfer partner of AmEx 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).
» Learn more: AmEx vs. Chase points: Which is right for you?
15. 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).
16. Book a cruise
Delta has its own dedicated partner cruise booking site. Although this platform is called SkyMiles Cruises, you actually earn SkyMiles when booking through it, rather than using SkyMiles to book. The number of miles earned depends on the length of the cruise and whatever promotions the site is currently running.
» Learn more: How to earn and redeem points on a cruise
The bottom line
While not a comprehensive list by any means, there are plenty of earning methods here 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.
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 2022, 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