How to earn and maximize 100,000 Delta SkyMiles
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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with current earning and redemption strategies. It was originally published on May 17, 2016.
Despite eliminating its award charts and moving to a dynamic pricing model, Delta SkyMiles are still a worthy investment for those with a little flexibility and know-how. Savvy travelers know Delta SkyMiles are easy to earn, and with the right strategies you can squeeze a lot of value from the program.
Today, we’ll show you the various ways to earn and then burn 100,000 SkyMiles.
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Earning Delta SkyMiles
Credit card bonuses and spending
There are a variety of ways to earn Delta miles — from Delta-operated flights to trips on SkyTeam airlines to various non-travel partners. As with most carriers, credit card welcome bonuses are the fastest way to earn huge amounts of airline miles — short of flying a few hundred thousand miles on paid tickets. Amex issues cobranded Delta cards which earn Delta SkyMiles directly, and you can transfer American Express Membership Rewards points to Delta at a 1:1 ratio.
One of the best ways to boost your SkyMiles balance is by adding any of these cards to your arsenal:
- The Platinum Card® from American Express ($550 annual fee; see rates and fees); 60,000-point welcome bonus after you use your new card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first three months, though be sure to check the CardMatch Tool to see if you’re targeted for a 100,000-point welcome bonus after spending $5,000 in the first three months (offer subject to change at any time). You can transfer Membership Rewards points directly to Delta SkyMiles. Terms apply.
- The Business Platinum Card® from American Express ($595 annual fee; see rates and fees); Earn 75,000 points after you spend $15,000 on qualifying purchases within the first 3 months of account opening. Terms apply.
- Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card ($99 annual fee; waived the first year, see rates and fees); Earn 35,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
- Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card ($250 annual fee; see rates and fees); Earn 40,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Plus, earn a $100 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months. Terms apply.
- Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card ($550 annual fee; see rates and fees); 40,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. Terms apply.
- Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card ($0 annual fee; see rates and fees); Earn 10,000 miles after you spend $500 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.Terms apply.
Another easy way to earn bonus Delta miles is by signing up for the SkyMiles Dining program. This site partners with thousands of 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. And once you’ve dined 11 times in a year, you’ll become a VIP member of SkyMiles Dining and earn 5 miles per dollar spent. There’s currently a 3,000-mile tiered bonus you can earn after meeting a dining and spending requirement within the first 30 days of membership.
Airline travel isn’t the only way to rack up miles.
Delta and Lyft officially launched their partnership back in 2017, allowing you to earn bonus SkyMiles for every ride you take. Here’s what you’ll get through the Delta-Lyft partnership:
- 1 mile per dollar spent on eligible rides
- 2 miles per dollar spent on rides to and from the airport
All you need to do to unlock these rewards is link your Delta and Lyft accounts. You’ll just need to visit www.deltalyft.com, enter your first, last name and SkyMiles number, agree to the terms and conditions, then click “GO.”
Once you’ve finished this process, you’ll start automatically earning Delta SkyMiles every time you pay for a Lyft, as you can see in the SkyMiles account screenshot below.
If you have a trip coming up and don’t want to stay in a hotel, you may want to consider using Airbnb and earn SkyMiles from Airbnb stays. All you have to do is go to this link, click through and enter your Delta SkyMiles number, and you’ll be taken to Airbnb’s website. Any booking made during your session will earn you 1 mile per dollar spent.
One of the most effortless ways to earn SkyMiles quickly is through the SkyMiles shopping portal. Shopping portals continue to offer an easy way to add significant earnings to your account. Browse SkyMiles Shopping before you complete an online purchase to make sure you don’t miss easy miles.
Before you make a purchase at your favorite store, whether it’s at a brick and mortar location or online, check to see if that store is a SkyMiles shopping portal partner. For instance, I make a monthly Sephora haul to stock up on skincare products. If I paid in-store using a credit card, I’d only earn 1x on the purchase. But through the SkyMiles shopping mall, I’d earn 3x SkyMiles.
You can also sort by earn rate on specific stores. For example, one of the highest earn rates currently is from Xfinity, where you can earn 25x miles on TV, internet and voice packages.
The bottom line is that by taking advantage of credit card welcome bonuses and being cognizant of a few of your normal spending habits, you can quickly accrue 100,000 SkyMiles.
Related: Maximizing online shopping portals
Maximizing 100,000 SkyMiles
Delta has focused on on-time performance, improved its business-class seats with Delta One Suites and expanded its Sky Club lounge network. However, the SkyMiles program has taken its fair share of knocks over the years. TPG values each SkyMile at 1.2 cents, ranking behind American AAdvantage miles (1.4 cents) and United MileagePlus miles (1.3 cents).
Low-mileage domestic legs
Delta has been offering one-way short-haul award flights on certain routes for 5,000 miles — or 10,000 miles round-trip — which could be a good option if you really want to stretch the value of those 100,000 miles. That said, while this is a cheap redemption option, it doesn’t provide much value since these tickets are often pretty cheap when you pay with cash.
Delta offers plenty of routes that cost 10,000 miles both ways. An especially valuable low-mileage domestic route would an San Francisco (SFO) to Seattle (SEA) round-trip for 10,000 miles plus taxes and fees. Redeeming 10,000 miles for a short-haul flight that costs less than $100 isn’t the best value, but when the ticket would otherwise cost $300 or $400 (especially last-minute flights), it’s definitely worth considering.
Round-trip to Europe
Europe is one of the most popular destinations — especially for points and miles enthusiasts looking to score a cheap flight. With frequent SkyMiles flash sales, it won’t be too difficult to find flights to cities like Paris, Amsterdam and Brussels around 30,000 SkyMiles round-trip in Main Cabin, or just a bit more in Comfort+.
Delta One Suites to Europe from the West Coast
Delta One Suites can be found aboard the Airbus A350, Airbus A330-900neo and some Boeing 777-200s and Boeing 767-400ER aircraft. Each Suite is equipped with a closing door, a “Do Not Disturb” indicator, numerous personal stowage areas and an 18-inch, high-resolution touchscreen.
You’ll have to do a bit of searching, but I was able to find one-way availability from Los Angeles (LAX) to Paris (CDG) for just 80,000 miles and $5.60 in taxes one-way. Not bad for an 11-hour flight, right?
Round-trip to South America or the Caribbean in Delta One or First
For just under 60,000 SkyMiles you can fly Delta One between Atlanta (ATL) to Bogota (BOG) round-trip. While it’s on the much older Boeing 767, it’s not a bad deal for a five-hour flight each way.
If you’re looking at a Caribbean route without Delta One, you’re still in luck as there are numerous first-class options. Assuming you had some SkyMiles stashed, you could get a family of three from New York to San Juan for just 111,000 miles plus taxes round-trip nonstop in first class.
It’s no secret that the SkyMiles can be confusing — and frustrating at times — to use, with no award charts and seemingly constant changes and devaluations. However, once you have a stash of SkyMiles in your account and are armed with the knowledge necessary to navigate this program, you will find that you can get a tremendous amount of value from your SkyMiles.
Featured photo by Nick Ellis/The Points Guy.
Richard Kerr contributed to this post.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Business Platinum card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Gold Amex card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Platinum Amex card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Reserve Amex card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Blue Amex card, click here.