Reader Request: What can I do with about 60,000 Delta SkyMiles?
Delta SkyMiles do not have the best reputation as a “high value” mileage currency. In fact, several years ago it became popular to start referring to them as “Sky Pesos,” due to their often poor redemption value and limited award availability, especially on partner flights.
However, despite their limitations, there are some decent redemption opportunities for those who have accumulated SkyMiles. One reader asked me what he could do with about 60,000 SkyMiles, so I did a little research and found some decent value redemptions out there.
Delta’s Award Chart
Good luck trying to find Delta’s award chart on their website. It doesn’t exist! In fact, in early 2015, Delta pulled all of their award charts from their website for some unknown reason. Essentially now an award flight simply costs what Delta tells you that it costs–not exactly consumer friendly.
However, the current redemption costs seem to be pretty close to the 2015 Award Chart that was posted on their site for a few weeks. A copy of the Economy Award Chart is shown below, thanks to The Points Guy.
Not publishing an award chart for a consumer to plan when and how best to use their miles is a major foul in my opinion, and makes it very challenging to redeem miles on Delta sometimes, let alone maximize value. How do you know when you have earned enough miles to redeem for a flight to Europe? You don’t…until Delta tells you (after you ask them, of course). You simply have no good way to plan based on the information on their website, and you need to rely on research from sites like this.
Idea #1: 50,000 miles for 2 Round Trip Domestic Economy Tickets
I did some sample searches on Delta.com for award flights from both New York City and Washington, D.C. to LAX. Good “saver” award availability exists for these transcontinental routes for most of the rest of the winter and early spring. I was specifically trying to find trips that cost the lowest number of miles, in this case 25,000 for the round-trip. Once you start searching the summer months, availability dries up and you have to shell out between 40,000 and 52,500 miles most days for the same trip, although availability is a bit better out of New York then DC.
It is easy to search other routes on Delta’s website. Most routes with several flights per day have good seasonal availability.
Idea #2: 62,500 miles for One-Way Business Class to Europe this Summer
One-way Business Class Redemption to Europe this summer are a good use of SkyMiles. You do not have to pay much in taxes and fees for flight originating in the US, and there is decent availability. 62,500 miles is actually a pretty good to fly across the pond in Business. However, you will pay significantly more in taxes for one-way flight originating in Europe, so either book your ticket back to the US using a different mileage currency, or book a roundtrip award ticket if you have enough miles.
I did some sample searches and availability isn’t bad from Atlanta to London and other major cities in Europe. The lowest redemption you are going to see is 62,500 miles for the one-way trip.
Remember, avoid booking the return flight on Delta with miles, due to high taxes they charge on flights originating from Europe. You do not pay these high taxes on flights originating in the US or roundtrip award flights.
Idea #3: 60,000 miles for Round-trip Economy to Europe this Summer
There is excellent availability from Delta’s hub in Atlanta to London in June and July in economy. In fact, availability is so good and available to so many cities that this would be my top recommendation at the moment to use 60,000 SkyMiles.
If you don’t live near a Delta hub, it may be harder. It appears that Delta tacks on a significant amount more miles if you are flying from a connecting city in the US. However, it may be worthwhile to book this as a separate itinerary. My recommendation is to do a search from your home city to your destination of choice in Europe and see what comes up and what Delta is charging you. Then do a search from a Delta hub (i.e. Atlanta or JFK) to that same city to compare availability and price. If there is a significant difference you may have to find book your connecting flights separately or make other arrangements to get to the Delta hub.
Also excellent availability to Frankfurt from New York in July and August, but note that the taxes and fees are significantly higher on some days.
Not enough SkyMiles?
SkyMiles are actually pretty easy to get without actually flying Delta. There are a couple of good credit card signup options and Delta is also a transfer partner of both Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) and American Express Membership Rewards.
First, consider applying for the Delta SkyMiles Amex Gold Card, which currently has a 30,000 mile bonus after you make $1,000 in purchases over the first 3 months of membership. If you use the link above, you also get a $50 statement credit if you make a Delta purchase in the first three months. The annual fee is waived the first year (then is $95 after the first year), so you are actually making a profit by opening this card and keeping it for a year or less. This card also offers some decent benefits including first checked bag free, priority boarding, and 2 miles per dollar on all Delta purchases (1 mile per dollar on all other purchases).
Second, American Express also offers the Delta SkyMiles Platinum Card. This card has a higher annual fee of $195 and it is not waived the first year. However, the benefits are better, especially for frequent Delta travelers. If you sign up for this card you will earn 5,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) and 35,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. In addition, you will earn a $100 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new card within your first 3 months. The reason this card is great for frequent Delta travelers is that you earn 10,000 MQMs and 10,000 bonus miles after you spend $25,000 during a calendar year. You earn another 10,000 MQMs and 10,000 bonus miles when you hit $50,000 in annual spend. There are not too many credit cards out there that offer miles that count towards elite status from spending (as opposed to actual flying). This bonus could make the different between earning a status or not, and could be a great value!
Finally, as I previously mentioned, you can transfer American Express Membership Rewards to Delta at a rate of 1000 Amex points to 750 Delta miles. This is not the greatest value out there, but may be an option if you need just a few thousand miles to get a high value award. SPG points also transfer to Delta, at a rate of 1:1 with a 5,000 mile bonus for every 20,000 points you transfer.
Although Delta SkyMiles have a reputation for being relatively useless, there are some decent uses for them, especially for economy flights. If you are looking to go to Europe this summer and you have SkyMiles to use, then there is a lot of availability to many cities. Without a published award chart, Delta really doesn’t help its customers plan out trips using miles, but with a little bit of trial and error on their site you can find redemptions at fairly low levels.