Earning Delta SkyMiles without Flying
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Not everyone can travel frequently enough to rack up healthy balances in their frequent flyer accounts. Luckily, though, there are lots of other ways to earn miles — and TPG Senior Points & Miles Correspondent Nick Ewen will walk you through them below.
One of the most common refrains I hear from friends and family members hesitant to get into the points and miles hobby is something like this: “Oh, I don’t travel nearly as much as you, so I could never earn enough points or miles to do anything worthwhile with them.” This actually prevents them from even signing up for hotel and airline loyalty programs! It’s no surprise, then, that this earned the top spot in my list of 7 points and miles mistakes.
It’s true that traveling for business can be a big boost to your account balances, but last November I took a job that has me traveling just a handful of times every year. Even without extensive travel for work, I still manage to rack up hundreds of thousands of miles every year, as does my wife. I recently kicked off a new series by examining the myriad ways to earn American miles and United miles without actually hitting the road, and today I’ll continue with a detailed look at the Delta SkyMiles program.
Credit and Debit Cards
The first (and most lucrative) way to earn SkyMiles without flying is through credit cards. Delta currently has seven credit cards issued by American Express in the US alone, and all of them offer a welcome bonus to new applicants. Four of them are personal cards:
- Delta SkyMiles Credit Card: Get 5,000 bonus miles after your first purchase on the card.
- Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express: Earn 30,000 bonus miles after you make $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within your first 3 months and a $50 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new card within your first 3 months.
- Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express: Earn 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) and 35,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 on your new Card in your first 3 months. In addition, earn a $100 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months.
- Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express: Earn 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) and 40,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 within the first three months.
The other three are business cards:
- Gold Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card from American Express: Earn 30,000 bonus miles after you make $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within your first 3 months and a $50 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new card within your first 3 months.
- Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card American Express: 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.
- Delta Reserve for Business Credit Card: Earn 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) and 40,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months.
All these cards (aside from the basic personal card) offer a variety of benefits beyond the bonuses, such as 2 miles per dollar spent on Delta purchases, waived foreign transaction fees and at least one free checked bag.
For more information on these credit cards, check out the following posts:
- Delta American Express Cards Waive Foreign Transaction Fees Starting Today
- Choosing the Right Delta American Express Card For You
- Delta American Express Platinum and Reserve Card Companion Pass Details
In addition to these Delta-specific cards, the SkyMiles program is also a 1:1 transfer partner of Membership Rewards, giving you the opportunity to convert points earned on cards like the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express and the Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card to Delta miles. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen any bonus offers recently for these transfers. Makes me long for the good old days!
Finally, SunTrust Bank recently brought back the Delta SkyMiles World Debit Card, which offers you 5,000 bonus miles after your first purchase within the first 90 days and the ability to earn SkyMiles on expenses like tax and mortgage payments that would normally incur a fee if paying with a credit card. Unfortunately, earnings are capped at 4,000 per month, so you’d only be able to earn a maximum of 48,000 miles in a year. You’d also need to have a substantial account balance with SunTrust to avoid additional fees, so be sure to crunch the numbers to make sure this card is worth it based on your own financial scenario.
Online Shopping Portals
Another easy way to earn Delta miles without flying is through the SkyMiles Shopping site. Airline shopping portals allow you to earn miles with a specific carrier when you make online purchases with hundreds of retailers. These miles are in addition to the points or miles you’d earn on the credit card for making the purchase, and you can use any card you want for the transaction.
For example, at the time of writing, Staples was offering 2 miles per dollar spent through the SkyMiles Shopping site:
By clicking the Shop Now link and completing a purchase, I’d earn 2 SkyMiles per dollar spent. Of course, I love using my Ink Plus Business Card for purchases at office supply stores to take advantage of the 5x Ultimate Rewards points it offers, so if I spend a total of $100, I’d earn the following:
- 500 Ultimate Rewards points (valued at $10.50)
- 200 Delta miles (valued at $2.40)
I’ve thus boosted my overall return by 2.4% to a total of 12.9%, just by clicking through the shopping portal!
Keep in mind that there are several restrictions for earning miles through these portals. You typically can’t use coupon codes that aren’t listed on SkyMiles shopping, and your shopping cart must be empty before accessing the retailer’s site. In addition, you generally can’t earn bonus miles for purchasing gift cards through the portal. However, I’ve been able to earn bonus miles with all of these activities in the past, so you never know!
Another easy way to earn bonus Delta miles is by signing up for the SkyMiles Dining program. This site partners with more than 11,000 restaurants, bars and clubs and allows you to earn Delta miles every time you dine at one of these locations. All you have to do is set up an account, add your credit card(s) and then make a purchase with a registered credit card at a participating establishment.
The standard earning rate is 1 mile for every 2 dollars you spend, but if you subscribe to emails from the site, that jumps to 3 miles per dollar. Once you’ve dined 12 times in a year, you’ll earn 5 miles per dollar spent. I occasionally get emails out of the blue notifying me that I earned miles at a new restaurant that I didn’t even know was on the site.
Just as with the SkyMiles Shopping site, you can use any credit card to pay for the actual bill, and these miles would be in addition to the rewards you earn on the card. I personally love to use my Chase Sapphire Preferred Card when dining out, and it’s a TPG favorite as well. Earning 2x Ultimate Rewards points plus a bunch of miles is a win in my book.
The program is currently offering bonus miles to new members who sign up and complete eligible dines within the first 30 days of membership. Each dine needs to be at least $30 to count, and you’ll also need to complete a review within 30 days of the dine. Here are the bonus thresholds:
- Earn 500 bonus miles on your first visit to a participating restaurant (1,000 for Medallion members)
- Earn 1,000 bonus miles on your second visit to a participating restaurant
- Earn 1,500 bonus miles on your third visit to a participating restaurant
These bonuses do stack, so general members can earn up to 3,000 bonus miles and Medallion members can earn up to 3,500 bonus miles just for completing eligible dines! If you haven’t signed up, now is a great time to do so with these bonuses. Unlike with shopping portals, you can utilize other discounts and bonuses at these restaurants, so be sure to check out my post on quadruple-dipping at restaurants for more information.
Like both American and United, Delta allows you to earn miles with Fidelity when you open and fund a non-retirement brokerage account. Here are the earning thresholds:
- Deposit $100,000 and earn 50,000 miles
- Deposit $50,000 and earn 25,000 miles
- Deposit $25,000 and earn 15,000 miles
TPG earned a similar bonus through American earlier this year but was denied for an identical offer through United. Remember that you do need to keep the money in the account for at least 9 months to keep the mileage haul, and based on TPG’s experience, you may not be eligible for the bonus if you’ve opened a similar account within the last 12 months. Be sure to check out the full rules and limitations before committing.
Going through online shopping portals is one way to earn bonus SkyMiles with retailers, and another is by taking advantage of various partners that offer bonus miles for purchases. Here’s a sample of how you can earn additional miles with these retailers:
- Flowers: Delta partners with FTD and is currently offering 25 miles for every dollar you spend through September 30th.
- Wine: Another Delta partner is Vinesse, which allows you to earn 1,500 miles on your first shipment of wine from the company’s American Cellars Wine Club (plus 5 miles per dollar spent on all future wines).
- Biscoff: If you can’t get enough of the cookies on Delta flights, you can order them online and earn 1 SkyMile per dollar spent in the process.
- Gilt: When you shop online at Gilt.com, you’ll earn 2 miles per dollar spent as a Medallion member (1 mile per dollar for regular members), and new members will earn 1,000 bonus miles for their first purchase of $50 or more. You’ll also want to keep your eyes peeled for bonuses like the 15 miles/$ offer for Gilt City this past summer.
Making purchases online and earning Delta miles isn’t limited to the SkyMiles Shopping site and the retailers mentioned above. You can also boost your account balance while enjoying a Broadway play through the Audience Rewards program. The exact amount you’ll earn depends on the show and type of ticket you purchase, so be sure to check out the details at the above link. You’ll also notice that Medallion members can actually redeem miles for tickets as well, though I’ve found that the redemption amounts tend to be quite high.
Delta has a wide variety of transportation partners, including numerous rental car companies and airport transfer providers. Some notable ways to earn miles include:
- Hertz: Regular SkyMiles members will earn 500 miles per rental, while those holding Delta Medallion status earn even more (1,000 miles for Silver and Gold or 1,250 for Platinum and Diamond). Remember too that Hertz now offers elite status to Gold, Platinum, and Diamond Medallion members.
- Alamo, Enterprise and National: Earn 500 miles per rental.
- SuperShuttle: Earn 50 miles for each one-way trip you book to or from the airport.
Remember that you can pay for these options with any credit card, including those that offer primary rental car coverage.
You can also earn bonus Delta miles when you’re planning your next vacation. There are a few ways to do this. The first is by making reservations through two specific online travel agencies:
- Agoda: Earn 3 miles for every dollar spent on hotel bookings (using this link).
- Ctrip: Earn 1 mile when you spend 7 RMB on hotel bookings or 5 RMB on travel packages or activities (TPG included this site in his 5 travel hacks for China).
Just remember that third-party hotel bookings normally don’t count toward elite status and won’t let you earn points.
In addition to these two options, you can also earn SkyMiles by booking a combination of flight, hotel and/or car reservations through Delta Vacations. In addition to earning the miles you normally would on flights and gaining access to discounted, unpublished rates, you can also earn additional bonus miles for adding a rental car or choosing a “Preferred Pick” hotel for your trip. Be sure to check out the Specials page for additional offers like free breakfast and discount codes for your desired destination.
If your vacation plans take you out to sea, consider booking a cruise through SkyMiles Cruises. Standard earning rates are:
- 1,500 miles for 1-5 nights
- 3,000 miles for 6-8 nights
- 5,000 miles for 9-12 nights
- 10,000 miles for 13+ nights
However, you can currently earn triple Delta miles for booking a balcony or suite stateroom on a variety of cruises, as long as you book by September 30th and depart before the end of 2016. You’ll also see exclusive offers like upgrades, included drinks or special discounts on certain cruise lines.
As you can see, there are plenty of ways to boost your SkyMiles account balance without even setting foot on a Delta plane. You don’t need to be traveling every week — or even every month — to take advantage of valuable rewards. You just need the knowledge to make the most of every mileage earning opportunity!
What are your favorite ways to earn Delta miles without flying?