How Much Are Delta SkyMiles Worth? (And How to Maximize Their Value)

How much are Delta Miles worth? The value of Delta SkyMiles is incredible to those who know how to maximize their power. Here's everything you need to know.
Last updated Jan 22, 2020 | By Lee Huffman
What are Delta SkyMiles Worth

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In the travel world, Delta SkyMiles are jokingly referred to as “SkyPesos” by many people who feel these miles aren't very valuable. That may have previously been the case, but times are changing. The value of Delta SkyMiles is incredible to those of us who know how to maximize their power.

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What is the Delta SkyMiles program?

Delta SkyMiles is the airline loyalty program for Delta Air Lines. The loyalty program is free to join, and it doesn't cost anything to stay a member. U.S. News & World Report recently named Delta SkyMiles as the No. 2 best airline rewards program.

What are SkyMiles?

SkyMiles are the mileage currency for Delta's frequent flyers. Members earn miles from both flying and spending with Delta partners. SkyMiles can be redeemed for flights, upgrades to First Class seating as well as other classes, vacation packages, experiences, and more. Unlike some other airline miles, Delta SkyMiles won’t expire even if you haven't flown recently.

How do you earn Delta SkyMiles?

If you're interested in earning Delta SkyMiles, you have several options. The traditional method is earning miles by purchasing flights, but that’s no longer the only way to rack up the miles. Here are some other options:

  • Delta Vacations: Earn up to 7,500 bonus miles per person when you book a bundled flight and hotel getaway package.
  • SkyMiles Cruises: Receive at least 1,500 miles on any cruise booking and up to 30,000 miles when you book a balcony or stateroom.
  • Airline Partners: When you fly with any of Delta’s 20 partner airlines, you can credit your flights to Delta to earn SkyMiles.
  • Hotels and Airbnb: Earn one SkyMile for every $1 spent with Airbnb or when booking through Delta’s hotel portal. Delta also partners with nine hotel chains, so you can earn miles when booking direct if you link your SkyMiles account.
  • Car partners: Whether you’re renting a car or using a rideshare service, you can earn valuable SkyMiles. Delta partners with eight rental car companies and four car service providers.
  • Shopping and dining: Link your credit and debit cards to your SkyMiles account to earn miles when dining at participating restaurants. Use the Delta online shopping portal for even more rewards.
  • Convert partner points: Redeem your points from other loyalty programs for Delta SkyMiles. Certain hotel, bank, and rental car points can be converted into SkyMiles.

One thing that doesn’t earn you SkyMiles? Booking a ticket for someone else. If you buy a ticket for someone else, the passenger's account will earn the miles, not the purchaser’s.

Why elite status matters when earning SkyMiles

Delta Air Lines rewards its travelers with miles based on the amount they spend on tickets. The more you spend, the more miles you earn. Similarly, Delta wants to reward you for your loyalty, so the perks add up as you move up the loyalty ladder. Delta refers to these statuses as Medallion Tiers.

For example, if you’re a basic SkyMiles member, you’ll earn five miles per $1 spent on your flight, while a Diamond Medallion member will earn more than twice as much (11 miles per dollar).

Status level Rewards rate
Basic Five miles per $1 spent
Silver Medallion Seven miles per $1 spent
Gold Medallion Eight miles per $1 spent
Platinum Medallion Nine miles per $1 spent
Diamond Medallion 11 miles per $1 spent

Based on your elite status as well as the class and price of your ticket, you could earn up to 75,000 Delta SkyMiles per ticket. Keep in mind that you’ll only earn miles based on the base fare and carrier-imposed surcharges. Any government-imposed taxes and fees are excluded from earning miles.

How do I earn Delta elite status?

Delta measures your “loyalty” based on how much you fly and how much you spend. Delta created acronyms to measure how far you fly (MQMs), how frequently you fly (MQSs), and how much you spend (MQDs):

  • MQMs = Medallion Qualifying Miles
  • MQSs = Medallion Qualifying Segments
  • MQDs = Medallion Qualifying Dollars

How many MQMs you earn is calculated based on the distance you fly and modified by the fare class you purchase. Full-fare First and Business Class are eligible for a 100% MQM bonus, while discounted First, Delta Premium Select, Business, and Premium Main Cabin tickets are eligible for a 50% MQM bonus.

MQSs are more relevant for travelers who fly frequently but only on shorter flights. They refer to the number of flights you take.

The amount of money you spend matters as well. MQDs are based on the base fare and any carrier-imposed surcharges. Government-imposed taxes and fees are not included in the MQD calculation. Paid upgrades for First Class, Delta Comfort+, Preferred Seats, and Premium made through a Delta channel are included in MQDs. Other Delta purchases, such as baggage fees, Priority Boarding, and inflight food and beverages, don’t qualify. Spending on certain Delta co-branded credit cards can earn a waiver on the MQD requirement — more on that later.

The following chart explains what’s required for each status level. You must meet the miles or segments requirement as well as the dollars spent requirement to achieve each level.

Status level Miles or segments flown Dollars spent
Basic None None
Silver Medallion 25,000 MQMs or 30 MQSs $3,000 MQDs or MQD waiver
Gold Medallion 50,000 MQMs or 60 MQSs $6,000 MQDs or MQD waiver
Platinum Medallion 75,000 MQMs or 100 MQSs $9,000 MQDs or MQD waiver
Diamond Medallion 125,000 MQMs or 140 MQSs $15,000 MQDs or MQD waiver

How much are Delta SkyMiles worth?

Delta eliminated its award chart in 2015 and moved to variable pricing on award tickets (i.e., the flights you redeem your SkyMiles for). Because of this change, the value of your SkyMiles will vary depending on the award you book.

You can easily calculate the value of your SkyMiles by dividing a flight’s dollar cost by the number of SkyMiles you would have to redeem for the same flight. That will tell you the number of cents each SkyMile is worth. For example, if a $400 flight would cost 20,000 SkyMiles, that means those SkyMiles are worth two cents each.

On average, your Delta SkyMiles will be worth 1.2 cents each. Keep this number in mind when researching award redemptions. If you’re getting less than 1.2 cents per mile, you aren’t getting the best use of your SkyMiles, and you should consider redeeming using another airline's miles or using cash to buy your ticket.

An example of a Delta flight redemption

When redeeming miles for a flight, the cost in miles can vary widely, even if the cash price of the flight doesn't. For example, I live in Nashville, TN and want to visit New York City this fall. When I look up tickets, I can see the award prices vary between 9,000 and 55,000 Delta SkyMiles, depending upon the departure and return dates (as of Aug. 15, 2019).

delta flight options bna to jfk october 2019
As of Aug. 15, 2019

To determine the value of my SkyMiles, I searched for cash prices for a trip during the same time period. I discovered cash tickets for flights leaving on Thursday and returning on Monday were as low as $206 in Basic Economy.

delta flight options bna to jfk october 2019 cash 206
As of Aug. 15, 2019

If I divide the best cash price by the best award price — $206 / 9,000 SkyMiles — that gives me a redemption value of 2.3 cents per mile, which is pretty good.

But what if I wanted to fly out on Sunday and return on Thursday? According to my research, that flight would cost 35,500 SkyMiles. When I checked on the dollar value of the flights, I discovered Basic Economy tickets were sold out, so I chose Main Cabin seats.

delta flight options bna to jfk october 2019 cash 444
As of Aug. 15, 2019

Although the miles price was nearly four times as much in this scenario as my first redemption scenario, the cash price was just a bit more than double at $444. This resulted in a value per mile of 1.25 cents ($444.30 / 35,500). So, my Delta SkyMiles value was about half of the first flight option we examined, making it not as good of a deal.

What can you get for your Delta SkyMiles?

Members of Delta SkyMiles have many options when it comes to redeeming miles. The most popular redemption is to book a Delta Air Lines flight. However, you’re missing out on fantastic experiences if you don't explore your other options.

  • Delta Air Lines flights: Book a flight anywhere Delta flies using your miles
  • Upgrade your ticket: Pay for your eligible flight with cash, then use miles to upgrade to First Class or other ticket classes
  • Flash Deals: Limited-time deals available throughout the year
  • SkyMiles Deals: Discounted award flights between specific cities
  • SkyTeam partner flights: 18 additional airlines where you can redeem SkyMiles for flights
  • Sky Club lounge membership: Enjoy airport lounges when you fly Delta or one of its partner airlines
  • Delta Vacations: Bundled vacations that include flight, hotel, and car rental
  • Pay for fees: Instead of paying cash for fees, use your Delta SkyMiles
  • SkyMiles Experiences: Unique experiences only available for SkyMiles members
  • SkyMiles Marketplace: A catalog of items available for purchase using SkyMiles
  • Gift, transfer, or donate SkyMiles: Share the wealth with others who want to travel. Be aware that there may be fees associated with these options, so you may be better off just booking their flight from your account.

If you need some inspiration for how to use your SkyMiles, consider these options with Delta and its partners:

Delta one-way domestic flights as low as 4,500 miles

delta skymiles sfo to sea
As of Aug. 15, 2019

Domestic round-trip flight from Los Angeles to New York for 13,000 miles

delta skymiles lax to jfk
As of Aug. 15, 2019

Round trip on Delta from the U.S. to Cancun, Mexico for 32,000 miles

delta skymiles bna to cun
As of Aug. 15, 2019

Fly Delta One business class to Europe for 80,000 miles each way

delta skymiles jfk to cdg
As of Aug. 15, 2019

As you become more familiar with SkyMiles and Delta’s partner airlines, you'll discover even more options to redeem your miles.

Additional airlines you can fly using Delta SkyMiles

Delta Air Lines is a member of the SkyTeam Alliance. As part of this alliance, Delta SkyMiles members can earn or redeem miles with any of the 19 partner airlines. When booking a cash ticket on these airlines, you may credit your flight to Delta SkyMiles to earn miles toward your next redemption.

Member airlines include:

  • Aeroflot
  • Aerolineas Argentinas
  • AeroMexico
  • Air Europa
  • Air France
  • Alitalia
  • China Airlines
  • China Eastern Airlines
  • Czech Airlines
  • Garuda Indonesia
  • Kenya Airways
  • KLM
  • Korean Air
  • Middle Eastern Airlines
  • Saudia
  • Tarom
  • Vietnam Airlines
  • XiamenAir

Transfer partners with Delta SkyMiles

When you earn points in hotel and bank loyalty programs that partner with Delta, you can transfer those points to Delta SkyMiles to redeem for flights and more. Below are the hotel and credit card loyalty programs that allow you to transfer to Delta.

Marriott Bonvoy points transfer

Marriott Bonvoy points transfer to Delta SkyMiles at a rate of 3:1. This means you'll need to transfer 60,000 Bonvoy points to receive 20,000 Delta SkyMiles. But for every 60,000-point increment you transfer, you'll receive an extra 5,000 airline miles. So you'll actually receive 25,000 Delta SkyMiles when you transfer 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points.

60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points = 20,000 Delta SkyMiles + 5,000 bonus miles

You can earn Marriott Bonvoy points from several credit cards:

Additionally, Chase Ultimate Rewards points transfer on a 1:1 basis to Marriott Bonvoy. The Ultimate Rewards points you transfer to Marriott Bonvoy can then be converted into Delta SkyMiles to quickly build up your mileage balance. You can earn and transfer Ultimate Rewards points from one of these three credit cards:

  • Chase Sapphire Reserve Card: A luxury travel credit card with a $300 annual travel credit that earns 10X points on Lyft rides, 3X points on travel (excluding $300 travel credit), 3X points at restaurants, and 1X points per $1 spent on everything else. The current sign-up bonus is 50,000 points.
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: A travel credit card that earns 5X on Lyft rides, 2X points on eligible dining and travel, and 1X points per $1 on all other eligible purchases with a current sign-up bonus of 80,000 points.
  • Chase Ink Business Preferred Card: A small business credit card that earns 5X points on Lyft rides; 3X points on the first $150,000 spent each year on travel, shipping, internet, cable, or phone services, and advertising purchases with social media and search engines; and 1X points per $1 on everything else with a current sign-up bonus of 100,000 points.

Marriott Bonvoy Travel Packages

When you redeem Marriott Bonvoy points for Marriott Travel Packages, you receive a combination of airline miles and a one-week stay at a Marriott hotel. Packages start at 255,000 Marriott Bonvoy points for a one-week stay in a Category 1-4 hotel and also come with 50,000 airline miles. Marriott Travel Packages are a better redemption for Delta SkyMiles than a straight exchange of Bonvoy points to Delta miles because it will cost fewer Bonvoy points for the same amount of SkyMiles.

For example, let’s say you want to go on a one-week vacation in a Category 4 Marriott hotel. According to the Marriott Bonvoy award chart, standard Category 4 hotel nights are 25,000 points each. Seven nights would normally cost 175,000 Bonvoy points (7 x 25,000). However, Marriott gives members the fifth night free on award reservations, so a one-week stay will only cost 150,000 Bonvoy points (7 x 25,000 - 25,000 = 150,000). So, you can redeem 150,000 Bonvoy points for the room, plus exchange another 120,000 Bonvoy points for 50,000 Delta SkyMiles for your flights. Your hotel stay and miles for flights would be a total of 270,000 Bonvoy points.

Or you could redeem 255,000 Marriott Bonvoy points for a Travel Package. This package gives you a one-week Category 1-4 stay, plus 50,000 Delta SkyMiles. Since we know the hotel room value is 150,000 points, that means our SkyMiles only cost us 105,000 points. By booking a Travel Package, you’ll receive the same vacation for 15,000 fewer Marriott Bonvoy points.


Exchange Bonvoy Points for Delta SkyMiles Redeem Marriott Travel Package for Delta SkyMiles
Seven hotel nights (Category 4) 150,000 150,000
50,000 Delta SkyMiles 120,000 105,000
Total cost 270,000 255,000

American Express Membership Rewards points

You can also transfer American Express Membership Rewards points to build up your Delta SkyMiles balance. Points transfer on a 1:1 basis from Membership Rewards to SkyMiles.

There are many personal and small business American Express credit cards that earn Membership Rewards points, including the following:

  • Amex EveryDay Preferred Credit Card: Earn a 50% bonus when you use your card 30 or more times each month
  • Blue from American Express: Earn rewards without an annual fee
  • American Express Gold Card: Receive unlimited 4X points on dining worldwide and 4X on U.S. grocery purchases up to $25,000 with this charge card
  • The Platinum Card from American Express: $200 annual airline credit, Centurion Lounge access, and 5X points per dollar spent on eligible airfare and hotel purchases, and 1X points per dollar on all other eligible purchases
  • The Blue Business Plus Credit Card from American Express: Earn 2X Membership Rewards points on business purchases up to $50,000 each year, and 1X points on purchases after that without an annual fee

Just keep in mind that there's a small fee when transferring Amex points to partner airlines. The fee is $0.0006 per point you transfer, with a maximum fee of $99. This means an exchange of 100,000 Membership Rewards points to 100,000 Delta SkyMiles would result in a fee of $60.00. Alternatively, you can use your Membership Rewards to pay the fee. In this example, paying the fee would cost me 12,000 points.

Earn more Delta SkyMiles with these credit cards

Delta Air Lines partnered with American Express to offer co-branded airline credit cards. There are many options for both consumers and small businesses to earn Delta SkyMiles using these credit cards.

Delta SkyMiles Blue American Express Card

The Delta SkyMiles Blue Credit Card is perfect for travelers who want to earn Delta SkyMiles for their purchases but don't have plans to fly over the next year. This $0-annual-fee credit card earns 2X miles on eligible purchases made directly with Delta and at restaurants worldwide, and 1X miles on all other eligible purchases. Additionally, it provides a 20% statement credit for any inflight purchases.

In-flight Savings, No Annual Fee

Benefits

  • 10,000 bonus mile welcome offer
  • 2X miles on Delta purchases and at restaurants worldwide
  • 20% in-flight savings
  • No annual fee
  • Terms apply

Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card

If you plan on flying at least once this year, the Delta SkyMiles Gold Credit Card is a great starter credit card. You'll receive your first checked bag free, Main Cabin 1 priority boarding, and 2X miles on purchases made directly with Delta, at restaurants, and at U.S supermarkets; and 1 mile per $1 spent on all other eligible purchases. You'll pay an annual fee of $99 (waived first year). Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months (offer ends 10/28)

Delta SkyMiles Platinum American Express Card

The Delta SkyMiles Platinum Credit Card is ideal for travelers looking to earn or maintain status with Delta. In addition to getting your first checked bag free and Main Cabin 1 priority boarding, you can earn up to 20,000 MQMs (Medallion Qualifying Miles) based on your spending. Cardholders also receive an Annual Companion Certificate each year when they renew. These certificates allow you to bring a companion on domestic main cabin round-trip flights for a small fee.

Free Bag & Priority Boarding

Benefits

  • Earn up to 60,000 bonus miles - Offer ends Oct. 28
  • 3X miles on purchases made directly with Delta and at hotels
  • First checked bag free on Delta flights
  • Statement credit for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry
  • Terms apply

Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card

If you’re a frequent Delta traveler who wants to maximize your ability to earn MQMs and gain entry to the Delta Sky Club airport lounges, the Delta Reserve Credit Card is for you. In addition to your own individual Sky Club Membership, you'll not only get two one-time guest passes to the Sky Club lounges, but you'll also have access to American Express Centurion Lounges.

Reserve cardholders also enjoy the same perks as the other Delta credit cards, such as your first checked bag free, Main Cabin 1 priority boarding, and an Annual Companion Certificate. Additionally, you can boost your elite status with the ability to earn up to 30,000 MQMs.

Delta SkyMiles Gold Business American Express Card

Small business owners who want to earn Delta SkyMiles for personal or business use should look into the Delta SkyMiles Gold Business Credit Card. It’s similar to the personal version with free checked bags, Main Cabin 1 priority boarding, and 2X miles on purchases at Delta, restaurants, and eligible advertising in select media. It has an annual fee of $99 (waived first year).

Double miles on Delta purchases

Benefits

  • Earn up to 60,000 bonus miles - Offer ends Oct. 28
  • Earn a $100 Delta Flight Credit to use toward future travel after you spend $10,000 in the first calendar year
  • 2X miles on eligible purchases with Delta, at restaurants worldwide, and more
  • First checked bag free + priority boarding
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Terms apply

Delta SkyMiles Platinum Business American Express Card

The Delta SkyMiles Platinum Business Credit Card offers the same benefits as the Gold Business Card, plus an annual miles boost to help you reach or maintain elite status. Cardholders can earn up to 20,000 MQMs each year based on annual spending. If you value Delta SkyMiles status, you'll want to pay the higher annual fee for this card.

Delta SkyMiles Reserve Business American Express Card

This premium business credit card offers the same benefits as the personal Reserve Card. The big difference is that with the Delta SkyMiles Reserve Business Credit Card, cardholders can add employees as authorized users to earn even more points while also keeping track of employee spending.

Reserve Business Card users will love having complimentary access to the Delta Sky Club airport lounge when they fly with Delta or one of its partners. Entrance is normally $59 per person, but Reserve cardholders get in for free and will also receive two one-time guest passes.

Things to remember when flying using Delta SkyMiles

By now, you're realizing the value and power of Delta SkyMiles in your travel wallet. When earning and spending Delta SkyMiles, remember these tips:

  • When you register your Delta credit card with SkyMiles Dining, also register all your other credit cards. This way, no matter which credit card you use to pay your tab at participating restaurants, you'll earn extra SkyMiles.
  • Use the flexible award calendar. As we showed in the example above, you can save a lot of miles when booking award flights if you have flexibility in your travel dates. Delta's award search tool shows the lowest prices available when you depart and arrive on dates surrounding your desired travel dates.
  • Unlike its competitors, Delta doesn’t charge you a close-in booking fee when booking an award flight within 21 days of departure. American Airlines and United Airlines, for example, both charge $75 to use your miles when booking so close to the start of your trip.
  • It’s okay to book one-way tickets. If you don't have enough miles for a round-trip ticket, you can book one-way using Delta SkyMiles and then use cash or another airline's loyalty program to book your return flight.

As you can see, Delta SkyMiles offer tremendous value as an addition to your travel strategy. If you're not already a member, consider signing up today. Then start your process of earning miles with Delta’s co-branded or transfer partner credit cards so you can book your next vacation using SkyMiles.

Commonly asked questions

How many Delta miles does it take to get a free flight?

How many Delta miles it takes to get a free flight will depend on the cost of your desired ticket. You’ll need a minimum of 5,000 SkyMiles to pay with miles, which will reduce the cost of your ticket by $50. 10,000 SkyMiles are worth $100, which could be enough for a free flight, depending on where you’re traveling.

What airlines can I use Delta miles on?

In addition to booking flights on Delta, you can use your Delta miles to pay for flights with the following airlines:

  • Aeromexico
  • Aerolineas Argentinas
  • Alitalia
  • Air France
  • China Eastern
  • China Airlines
  • China Southern
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • GOL
  • KLM Royal Dutch Airlines
  • Korean Air
  • Mandarin Airlines
  • Saudia Airlines
  • Shanghai Airlines
  • Tarom Airlines
  • Vietnam Airlines
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • WestJet
  • Xiamen Airlines

You can also use miles for flights on these additional airlines by directly contacting Delta Reservations:

  • Air Europa
  • Air Tahiti Nui
  • Czech Airlines
  • Garuda Indonesia
  • Kenya Airways

Can you redeem Delta SkyMiles for cash?

No, you can’t redeem your Delta SkyMiles for cash. However, in addition to using your SkyMiles to book flights, you can also use them for the following:

  • Vacation packages
  • Upgrades
  • Bidding on experiences
  • Delta gift cards
  • Merchandise on the SkyMiles Marketplace
  • Gifts or donations
  • Magazine subscriptions

Can I use my SkyMiles for someone else?

Yes. You can gift your Delta SkyMiles to up to four recipients at a time. You’ll be able to gift anywhere from 2,000 to 60,000 miles in increments of 2,000. You can give out up to 60,000 SkyMiles per year. You can also transfer points to someone else, but you will incur a fee. Depending on your situation, the easiest thing to do may be just to book a ticket from your account on the other person’s behalf.

Who can go into the Delta Sky Club?

Delta Sky Club members, Delta One or SkyTeam premium cabin passengers, and certain credit card holders can all get access to the Delta Sky Club. The following credit cards permit you to use the Delta Sky Club lounges:

  • Delta Reserve Card
  • Gold and Platinum Delta SkyMiles Cards
  • Centurion Card and Platinum Card from American Express

You can also purchase a Delta Sky Club membership with miles. You’ll need 54,500 miles for an individual membership and 84,500 miles for an executive membership.

Great Welcome Offer and Continuing Rewards

Benefits

  • Earn up to 50,000 bonus miles (Offer ends Oct. 28)
  • Earn a $100 Delta Flight Credit to use toward future travel after you spend $10,000 in the first calendar year.
  • 2X miles on purchases with Delta, at restaurants, and at U.S. supermarkets
  • Check your first bag free on Delta flights
  • Annual fee is waived your first year
  • Terms apply