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Delta just might be the reason many people throw their hands up in the air in frustration when they think about using miles to book award tickets. We totally get that. Delta has systematically made the SkyMiles program less valuable and harder to use.

However, if you know a few things, you can still get some great value out of your SkyMiles. Below, we’ll dive into some of the best ways you can use your SkyMiles. We’ll cover award sales, international business class flights, cheap economy flights and even how to use your miles to get champagne.

If you need some guidance on how to find award space, routing rules and more, check out our complete guide to redeeming SkyMiles.

Now, let’s get to the fun stuff!

How To Earn Delta SkyMiles

amex platinum cards

Perhaps the best part of Delta SkyMiles is its partnership with American Express Membership Rewards. While American Express does issue co-branded Delta cards (Learn More), you can earn more miles faster with cards that earn Membership Rewards points.

Whether you spend a lot at grocery stores and gas stations or on flights and hotels, you can easily set yourself up with a combo of cards that will help you earn 2X to 5X on many purchases. Here are a few of our favorite Membership Rewards cards:

Check out some of the other amazing ways you can redeem Amex Membership Rewards points for some insane value.

In a pinch, you can also transfer Marriott Bonvoy points to Delta at a 3:1 ratio. Transfers of 60,000 points will earn you 20,000 SkyMiles plus a bonus of 5,000 miles for a total of 25,000 miles. You can earn more Marriott points with any of the co-branded Amex and Chase Marriott cards (Learn More)

Delta Award Sales

If you have SkyMiles you’ve been wanting to use, keep an eye out of for one of Delta’s award sales. Delta regularly runs award sales to different regions of the world or even within the US. Whether you want to book an economy ticket to Mexico, premium economy — what Delta calls Premium Select — to Asia or business class — Delta One — to Europe, you’re bound to find a sale that could work for you.

As an example, we’ve seen business class award prices to Europe as low as 128,000 SkyMiles round-trip. Now, if you have the cash on hand for cheap business class fares, you’ll notice these award sales often coincide with cheaper cash fares as well. Some of you will prefer to pay cash in these circumstances but I’m betting plenty of us would prefer to save the $2,000+ if possible.

Virgin Atlantic Upper Class To London

new virgin upper class seat airbus a350

If you want to fly Virgin Atlantic Upper Class and avoid the steep surcharges, Delta SkyMiles is the way to go. A non-stop Upper Class award ticket from the US to London will cost you 86,000 SkyMiles and have minimal taxes/fees. Just remember that if you book a flight from London with SkyMiles that you’re going to get smacked with the steep surcharges — and the Air Passenger Duty (APD) fee.

Keep an eye out for Virgin’s new Airbus A350 out of New York (JFK) as the aircraft will have the newest seat and inflight bar. Virgin is expected to launch its A350 to JFK later this year.

Regardless of what aircraft you’ll be flying, make sure you check out the lounge before you fly. The Clubhouse in London is obviously famous — and we’ve covered it plenty — but the one at JFK is no slouch. You can enjoy a sit-down meal, grab a haircut and play a game of billiards while you wait for your flight.

Delta One Suites

Delta one Suites Cabin

Image courtesy of Delta

For all the grief we give Delta, we like to give credit where credit is due. Delta has certainly upped its game with its latest business class product — the Delta One Suites. You can find it on all of Delta’s A350s, some retrofitted Boeing 777s and soon you’ll see it on its new A330-900neos.

If you want to fly one of Delta’s A350s, you’ll want to look at these routes:

  • Atlanta (ATL) to Seoul (ICN)
  • Atlanta (ATL) to Amsterdam (AMS) – seasonal
  • Detroit (DTW) to Tokyo Narita (NRT)
  • Detroit (DTW) to Seoul (ICN)
  • Detroit (DTW) to Beijing (PEK)
  • Detroit (DTW) to Amsterdam (AMS)
  • Detroit (DTW) to Shanghai (PVG)
  • Los Angeles (LAX) to Shanghai (PVG)
  • Los Angeles LAX) to Tokyo Haneda (HND)
  • Minneapolis (MSP) to Shanghai (PVG) – starting June 2020 (expected)
  • Seattle (SEA) to Tokyo Narita (NRT)

Delta, of course, makes it difficult to figure out how many SkyMiles you’ll need for Delta One Suites thanks to dynamic award pricing, but we at least have a bit of an idea. For a one-way flight to Europe on the A350, you should look for flights that require 105,000 miles.

If you want to fly to Asia, you can find options for 90,000 SkyMiles – particularly to the west coast. You can also find this rate on flights to other parts of the US on Delta’s retrofitted 777-200. If you’re booking a flight to the midwest or east coast, don’t be surprised to see 120,000 SkyMiles as the fewest miles possible.

If you’re going to transfer Membership Rewards points, booking with Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles could save you a ton of points.

Business Class To Asia On Partners

China Airlines Business Class Cabin

Image courtesy of China Airlines

If you want to book a business class flight to Asia, you’ll have several options with Delta SkyMiles. Korean Air business class gets solid reviews, China Eastern continues to improve and China Airlines (from Taiwan) is a very nice business class option that often seems to be forgotten.

While Air France-KLM’s Flying Blue program provides some great business class redemption rates to Europe, Delta actually comes out on top to Asia. You can book a one-way business class ticket for 85,000 SkyMiles. Not bad when you consider that a non-stop China Airlines flight from JFK to Taipei (TPE) is nearly 16 hours!

Business Class To Europe On SkyTeam Partners

KLM Beverage

While Delta has dramatically increased the number of miles required to book a business class award ticket to Europe, things are a bit more reasonable when booking SkyTeam partners. This is good news for us as Delta provides a way to book flights to Europe without surcharges on Air Europa, Air France, Alitalia and KLM.

For the best inflight experience, you might want to skip Air Europa but it can be useful when flying to Spain. On the other hand, Alitalia gets high marks for its inflight dining while KLM has excellent service and fun delft blue houses as souvenirs. Air France also has quality inflight dining and many of its aircraft feature comfortable reverse herringbone seats.

You can book a one-way flight for 75,000 SkyMiles. Just stick with booking from the US if possible as Delta will tack on the surcharges if you start your award ticket from Europe.

Cheap Delta Economy Flights

Delta A220

Image courtesy of Delta

When it comes to Delta’s dynamic award pricing, flights within North America or to the Caribbean and Central America might be the toughest to figure out. That being said, it’s worth checking the route you need as you can sometimes economy flights for as few as 5,000-6,000 SkyMiles.

If you’re looking to use the fewest miles possible so you can take even more trips, economy flights on Delta can be a great way to do it. Even if the airport closest to you doesn’t have a great redemption rate, it can be worth driving to another airport to save a ton of miles.

Fly Delta One Suites For Fewer Miles From Mexico

Delta One Suites Booked From Mexico

If you’re based in Mexico, don’t mind repositioning or are happy to combine a trip to Mexico with a trip to a place like Europe, pay attention. While a one-way Delta One Suites seat will require 105,000 SkyMiles if you’re flying out of the US, you can get slash that cost by flying out of Mexico. How does 65,000 SkyMiles sound to you? Sounds a lot better than 105,000 miles, that’s for sure.

Yes, the example shows a 2-stop itinerary but we’ve seen 1-stop options. If you’re someone who enjoys putting together fun trips to multiple destinations or just enjoying flying around the world, this is an easy way to stretch your miles. Of course, if you live in Texas, maybe it’s worth positioning to Mexico City (MEX) to start your trip to Europe.

Australia Or New Zealand To North Asia In Business Class

Korean Air Business Class Seat

Speaking of putting together trips with multiple destinations. Delta might not allow stopovers but you can still take advantage of award tickets between regions that don’t touch the US to build a fun region-hopping adventure. For example, you can fly SkyTeam partners from Australia or New Zealand to Japan or South Korea in business class for 75,000 SkyMiles.

When you think about it, a non-stop flight from Sydney (SYD) to Seoul (ICN) is listed at just under 11 hours so this is a comparable deal, if not better, than using 75,000 miles to fly to Europe. In fact, it’s not much shorter than a flight from Seattle (SEA) to Seoul which would require 85,000 miles.

Champagne In The Sky Club

Delta Sky Club San Francisco

Image courtesy of Delta

Yes, Champagne. You can redeem SkyMiles at one of Delta’s Sky Clubs for a bottle — or bottles — of champagne. The funny thing is, the redemption value isn’t that bad. While Delta has devalued it’s award options, hidden away its award chart and pushed some terrible ways to use miles, somehow getting champagne at the club is a decent way to go.

In fact, as we write this there are four options including:

  • Dom Perignon Brut – 12,500 SkyMiles (or $250)
  • Laurent Perrier La Cuvee Rosé Brut NV – 4,000 SkyMiles (or $80)
  • Laurent Perrier La Cuvee Brut NV – 1,100 SkyMiles (or $22)
  • Moët et Chandon Brut Imperial NV – 700 SkyMiles ($14)

Based on the Sky Club’s pricing of champagne, that’s 2 cents per mile. If you look at some of Delta’s award tickets, that’s a better value per mile than you can get flying sometimes.

You can get champagne at any of Delta’s Sky Club’s that offer THE BAR service. Here’s the current list of the airports with clubs that offer THE BAR:

Sky Clubs With THE BAR
Atlanta (ATL) Orlando (MCO)
Boston (BOS) Phoenix (PHX)
Cincinnati (CVG) San Diego (SAN)
Fort Lauderdale (FLL) San Francisco (SFO)
Miami (MIA) Seattle (SEA)
Minneapolis (MSP) Tampa (TPA)
New York-Kennedy (JFK) Washington-Regan National (DCA)
New York-La Guardia (LGA) West Palm Beach (PBI)
Newark (EWR)

Final Thoughts

Rightfully, people have been frustrated for some time with Delta’s attitude toward devaluations basically being, ‘If we can, we should.” Rather than get frustrated and blow your SkyMiles on a bad redemption, take the opportunity to extract as much value as possible out of your miles. The above examples are some of the best options out there, but don’t be afraid to see what else you can find!

Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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