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By: Spencer Howard
Let’s get this out of the way right off the bat. The way Delta runs its SkyMiles program lacks transparency and is not even close to consumer friendly. Delta refuses to publish an award chart, devalues overnight without announcement and often requires an absurd amount of miles for award tickets.
That’s all I have. Article finished.
Just kidding, folks.
While I may rag on Delta weekly (daily?), I have still taken advantage of opportunities to use SkyMiles to book Virgin Atlantic Upper Class at saver level. So, yes, SkyMiles do have their uses. You just have to know how to use them.
With increased welcome bonuses on both the Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express and the Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express, we figured now is a good time to talk about a few fun ways to use Delta SkyMiles.
First, let’s check out the current limited-time offers that end next week (April 11, 2018).
Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card – 60,000 SkyMiles
The standard welcome bonus offered by the Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card is often 30,000 SkyMiles. Right now, the bonus has been increased to 50,000 SkyMiles after you hit the minimum spend requirement of $2,000 within 3 months.
On top of that, you can earn 10,000 SkyMiles if you spend an additional $1,000 within the first 6 months of opening the card. Since $3,000 is the minimum spend requirement for many credit cards, I look at this as an opportunity to get 60,000 SkyMiles for $3,000 in spend.
You will also receive a $50 statement credit when you make a purchase with Delta within the first 3 months. Even better, the annual fee of $95 is waived your first year with that card.
As a cardholder, you’ll receive one free checked bag for you and up to 8 other people on your reservation when flying Delta. You’ll also get priority boarding on these flights. If you happen to get stuck with a basic economy ticket, you will still get your free checked bag and access to priority boarding.
One more important note about the checked bag and priority boarding benefits. You do NOT have to pay for your flight with the Gold Delta SkyMiles Card to be eligible for these perks. You just have to be a cardholder. This means you can pay for your flight with a card that provides trip delay insurance, lost and delayed baggage coverage and more—the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Citi Prestige are great options.
Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card – 70,000 SkyMiles
The Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card has a slightly higher welcome bonus offer of 70,000 SkyMiles and 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs)—the latter means roughly nothing unless you naturally earn elite status with Delta. The minimum spend requirement for the bonus is $3,000 within the first 3 months.
You’ll have a shorter time frame to spend the required $3,000 but you’ll earn 10,000 more SkyMiles. The main difference is that the $195 annual fee for the Platinum Delta SkyMiles Card is not waived the first year.
A couple other differences are that the card comes with a $100 statement credit after your first Delta purchase rather than the $50 credit. Additionally, you will receive a companion ticket each year on your card anniversary that can be used for economy class cash bookings.
Like the Gold Delta SkyMiles Card, this card comes with the same access to priority boarding and a free checked bag. Remember, if you use a card with travel protections when booking flights just in case you run into any issues and you’ll receive these benefits.
4 Fun Ways To Use SkyMiles (Plus A Bonus)
If you get one of these cards, you’ll have between 63,000 and 73,000 SkyMiles to play with once you hit the minimum spend. If you get both, you’ll be looking at 136,000 SkyMiles. Don’t forget, Delta is a partner of American Express Membership Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG), so you can always transfer points to your Delta SkyMiles account if you need a few more.
Now, let’s get to the fun part and look at a few fun ways to redeem your miles.
1. Fly Delta One (Business Class) To Europe
Europe is always a popular destination for Americans and Delta operates tons of flights across the Atlantic. You can book a one-way award in Delta One for 70,000 SkyMiles. You’ll get a lie-flat seat and direct aisle access no matter which seat you choose.
Solo travelers will probably prefer one of the window seats for the most privacy while couples will enjoy the middle section so they can chat.
Just make sure you’re booking a flight on Delta as the mileage requirement jumps to 85,000 miles to book with partner airlines such as Air France, Alitalia, KLM and Virgin Atlantic. However, as long as the long-haul flight is on Delta, you can add a connection within Europe on a partner airline for no extra miles.
With either of the welcome bonuses we’ve discussed, you’ll be well-positioned to book a business class flight to Europe.
2. Take Advantage Of Monthly Delta Award Sales
While Delta doesn’t publish an award chart, it does offer monthly award sales to various destinations. You might be wondering how it can be a sale if we don’t know the normal award price. That’s a fair question. Fortunately, we’ve kept track of the fewest miles required by Delta on many routes to ensure its actually a good deal.
3. Fly Business Class On SkyTeam Partners To North Asia
In a rare move, Delta actually reduced the number of miles required to book business class and economy class awards to North Asia on partner airlines. Can’t say I saw that coming, but I’ll take it.
You can now use 85,000 SkyMiles for a one-way business class award on SkyTeam partners such as China Airlines—fun fact, it’s a Taiwanese airline—and Korean Air. If economy is more your style, you can book a one-way award for 35,000 SkyMiles.
Personally, I can’t wait to try China Airlines business class on its Boeing 777-300 (or Airbus A350). I just need to find the time to do it!
4. Fly Delta One Suites On The Airbus A350
In 2017, Delta released a new business class product on their newest aircraft, the Airbus A350. The Delta One Suites each have direct aisle access and are lie-flat just like the Delta One product on other aircraft. However, each Delta One Suite has a door to give you even more privacy.
Most of Delta’s A350 are based in Detroit (DTW) with one in Atlanta (ATL) and one to be added in Los Angeles (LAX). You can fly to cities such as Tokyo (NRT), Seoul (ICN, Beijing (PEK), Amsterdam (AMS). Flights to Shanghai (PVG) are expected to launch this month.
If you can find saver level award space one of these flights, take it! It’s not an easy find, though closer to the date of departure, we have seen space open up. If you’re flying to North Asia, you’ll want to find one-way awards for 80,000 SkyMiles in Delta One Suites. To Europe, you’ll be looking for a one-way award for 70,000 SkyMiles.
Bonus: Redeem SkyMiles For Champagne At A Delta SkyClub
If you have 10,000 to 14,000 SkyMiles leftover or don’t plan on using them for awhile, you can use them to get a bottle of champagne at a Delta Sky Club. This might sound ridiculous but the option is out there and you can get about 2 cents per mile when redeeming this way—I still find this hysterical.
Krug will cost you 10,000 SkyMiles, Dom Perignon is 12,500 miles and, finally, Louis Roederer Cristal is 13,750 miles. I’m still debating whether I’d do this, but it’s certainly an out of the box way to go!
It’s probably pretty clear that a number of aspects of Delta SkyMiles bug me—there are more but I’ll spare you for now. That being said, there are still a number of ways to make good use of SkyMiles, you just have to know where to look.
If you’re planning a trip and SkyMiles could help you get there, take a look at the increased offers on the Gold Delta SkyMiles Card and/or the Platinum Delta SkyMiles Card. With those welcome bonuses in hand, you might just be flying business class across the globe before you know it.
See you in the sky,