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Sunday Email Question: Maximizing Delta Miles To Europe

by on June 10, 2012 · 8 comments

in Delta, Sunday Reader Questions

TPG reader Anne is trying to find the best way to maximize her Delta miles for a European vacation this summer:

“I recently decided on a two-week Europe vacation with five city destinations – starting in Berlin and ending in Barcelona – around Labor Day. I’m a novice point collector. While I’ve traveled significantly in the past, I’ve only recently seen the value in loyalty to an airline. I have over 30,000 Delta miles on my own and just got the credit card bonus, so I’m over 60,000 miles (the minimum for a Europe economy flight). Unfortunately, my searches for a roundtrip flight (knowing I’d pay for individual flights to my choice destinations within Europe) have all resulted in a 90,000-mile requirement. And any one-way searches have resulted in the same. My attempts to transfer my Amex Blue rewards were futile, as they would not allow me to transfer to an airline partner. Is there something I’m overlooking and might there be a way to use the miles?  Or is my best bet to pay for a Delta flight and continue to rack up the miles?  Any help is appreciated!”

My tips:

1) Amex Blue points cannot be transferred to airlines. You have to upgrade to a Membership Rewards card, like the Premier Rewards Gold or Platinum and then those Blue points become full-blown Membership Rewards points and can be instantly transferred to Delta as well as a number of other airlines and hotels.

2) Labor Day is the end of the busy summer leisure travel season, so economy class awards at the low level are tough to come by. Delta does fly from Barcelona to JFK and Atlanta, but as you noticed, low-level awards are not available. In that case, I’d recommend finding partner airline availability, like Air Europa, which flies Madrid to JFK and has excellent award availability. Most partners don’t show up on delta.com, so you’ll have to use ExpertFlyer or call agents to piece together something that works. (Just note Delta imposes fuel surcharges on Air Europa awards, so a coach award may not make sense, though business class is easier to justify since those tickets are normally 3-5x more expensive than coach). Set Expertflyer alerts for Air France and KLM flights that might work for your schedule – the more flexible you are, the better chance of getting a low level award. While writing this post, I checked SkyTeam carriers the week of Labor Day and found several options on Alitalia and Air France for low-level economy awards – for example Alitalia has 5 coach award seats available on their September 5 Milan-JFK flight – build in a stopover and why not add one more country to the list? I don’t know what your final destination is, but this is just an example of thinking outside of your exact itinerary to get the low-level award booked.

3) If the flight you want to purchase is cheap, it may make more sense to buy the ticket and save the miles for when you can redeem for a low-level award. What is the exact ratio that you should buy vs. use miles? It’s different for everyone, but I personally wouldn’t redeem miles if I wasn’t getting at least 2 cents apiece back in value (so $1,200+ for an economy 60,000 mile award). Though everyone’s situation is different and I recommend using the miles when it makes sense for you.

See these related posts on booking Delta awards:
10 Tips on Using Delta SkyMiles
How to Book a Delta SkyMiles Award
Maximizing Stopovers, Transfers and Open Jaw Ticketing on Delta Awards

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  • emily

    i’ve been thinking about getting amex blue cashback card that earns 6% at supermarkets in my next churn. does that earn points that are transferrable to miles if you have a platinum MR account?

  • David

    I’m wondering the same thing. I’m hoping it’s like my Chase Freedom/Chase Sapphire Preferred combo I’m sportin’ right now. 9x Avios/$ at the grocery store (if I wait for the next 50% bonus) doesn’t sound half bad.

  • Grant

    I believe that the American Express blue cash cards offer straight cash back in increments of $25.

  • David

    Right, if you only that the Blue Cash card. But TPG seems to be suggesting that having a true MR card like the PRG or the Platinum will in essence upgrade any Amex Blue points so that they become full out MR points and are thus transferable.

  • thepointsguy

    Only Amex blue points can be converted to Memberhip Rewards when you upgrade your card- not blue cash

  • Alan

    So this is where those bonus mile transfers from Amex to Delta can come into play. If flights to Europe are available on Alitalia or Air France, coach seats will be at the 60K level and fees will be on the lower side?

  • PJ

    7500 amex blues =100 dollars travel reimbursement $1200 ticket = 90000 amex blue points and you get miles you fly
    I save amex blue to pay for my time share annual fees another good way to consume a goody from Amex . not to mention i spent only $500 to get 28K blue points bonus.

  • Aster

    I applied for an Delta Am Ex Gold and was able to use partial points. Plus signing up and using the first time got me 30,000 miles.

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