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Complete Guide to Redeeming Delta SkyMiles

Jan. 2, 2020
Reward Optimization, Travel
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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.

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:

  • Aeromexico.
  • Aerolineas Argentinas.
  • Air Europa.
  • Air Tahiti Nui.
  • Alitalia.
  • Air France.
  • China Eastern.
  • China Airlines.
  • China Southern.
  • Czech Airlines.
  • Hawaiian Airlines.
  • Garuda Indonesia.
  • GOL.
  • Kenya Airways.
  • KLM Royal Dutch Airlines.
  • Korean Air.
  • Mandarin Airlines.
  • Middle East Airlines.
  • Saudia Airlines.
  • Shanghai Airlines.
  • Tarom Airlines.
  • Vietnam Airlines.
  • Virgin Atlantic.
  • Virgin Australia.
  • WestJet.
  • Xiamen 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.

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 less than NerdWallet’s valuations.

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:

» Learn more: Blue Delta SkyMiles review: Ideal for loyal but infrequent flyers

There are also business versions of three of these cards:

» Learn more: Gold Delta SkyMiles Business review: Decent perks, mundane rewards

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. We value SkyMiles at approximately 2 cents per mile, so redeeming them for significantly less than that amount is not a great use of your miles.

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 2020, including those best for:

Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice:
Find the best airline credit card for you
Delta Air Lines SkyMiles program: The complete guide
Revamped Delta cards: Worth the headache of redeeming SkyMiles?

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