10 easy ways to earn more Delta SkyMiles
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Delta Air Lines is considered by many to be the best domestic airline in the United States, and its SkyMiles program was voted Best U.S. Airline Loyalty Program at the 2019 TPG Awards.
The airline has a huge route network with significant hubs in many large cities and there are a ton of different ways to earn Delta SkyMiles that you can use to fly the airline and its SkyTeam and non-alliance partners. The carrier even runs frequent award sales to snag flights on the cheap, starting at 5,000 SkyMiles one-way.
Delta SkyMiles are also fairly easy to accrue. We’ll show you the various ways that you can add to your SkyMiles balance, including flying on Delta and its partners, spending on travel rewards credit cards, transferring miles from other programs and more.
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Earn Delta miles by flying
Earning Delta SkyMiles by flying may seem self-explanatory, but the number of miles earned depends on numerous factors.
SkyMiles earned when flying Delta Air Lines
When flying on Delta-operated flights, you earn SkyMiles based on the base price of your ticket (which doesn’t include government-imposed taxes). Additionally, those with Delta Medallion elite status will earn at a higher rate than those without it — the higher your status, the more miles you’ll earn.
Here’s how many SkyMiles Medallion members earn for every dollar spent:
- No status – 5 miles
- Silver – 7 miles
- Gold – 8 miles
- Platinum – 9 miles
- Diamond – 11 miles
To put this into perspective, a one-way Delta ticket from Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) to Tokyo Haneda (HND) that costs $1,100 before taxes would earn 5,500 SkyMiles, assuming the flyer has no Delta elite status. On the other hand, a Diamond Medallion member would earn 12,100 SkyMiles on the same ticket.
While this revenue-based scheme is used for earning purposes, keep in mind that Delta Medallion status is still earned based on distance flown, not just dollars spent. In addition, any flight eligible for Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) will earn a minimum of 500 MQMs, even if the distance is shorter.
For example, if you’re flying from Newark (EWR) to Detroit (DTW) in economy class, you’ll earn 500 MQMs, even though the flight only covers a distance of 488 miles.
SkyMiles earned when flying Delta partners
Things get confusing when earning miles on Delta’s partner airlines. These flights sometimes earn miles differently from flights operated by Delta, and it all depends on how the ticket is actually booked.
The simplest example applies to flights booked on Delta ticket stock, which generally happens when you book on Delta.com. Even though the flight is operated by another airline, it’s marketed by Delta. So you’ll earn miles the same as a standard Delta flight.
But what happens if you book a partner flight on a partner airline’s website and add your Delta SkyMiles number after the fact? In this case, you’ll earn miles based on the distance flown. However, the exact number of SkyMiles you’ll earn varies based on the partner, booking class and elite status.
For example, here’s how many SkyMiles you’d earn on a flight that’s operated and ticketed by Aeromexico:
Looking at the chart above, you’ll see that tickets booked in higher fare classes earn more miles. You should be able to identify your fare class by either calling the ticketing airline or checking the e-ticket sent to your email after purchase.
Once you’ve found your booking class, head over to Delta’s list of partner airlines, find your partner and locate your fare class. Multiply the number in the Total Miles Earned column by the distance of your flight(s); the easiest way to figure out this final number is to use the Great Circle Mapper.
Let’s take a look at an example. A one-way flight from New York-JFK to Mexico City (MEX) clocks in at 2,090 miles flown. A regular economy ticket earns 100% of that mileage, so you’d earn 2,090 SkyMiles for this ticket.
Earning SkyMiles with exception fares
Some “exception fares” earn miles this way too. These are fares sold by consolidators, Delta Vacations and as part of other vacation packages. You may also find yourself booked on a consolidator fare if you book a ticket where the price isn’t disclosed before you buy.
Here’s a look at how many miles you’ll earn on exception fares:
For example, if you’re booked on a consolidator fare from New York-JFK to Paris (CDG) in C fare business class, you’d earn 5,452 SkyMiles. This is because the fare earns 150% miles flown on a 3,635-mile flight.
Delta Medallion elite members will earn bonus miles on these fares too. A Medallion Diamond member would earn an additional 120% bonus on the New York to Paris flight mentioned above, earning 11,994 SkyMiles total.
Here’s a look at how many miles each status tier earns on exception fares:
- Medallion Silver: 40% bonus
- Medallion Gold: 60% bonus
- Medallion Platinum: 80% bonus
- Medallion Diamond: 120% bonus
Earn Delta Skymiles through credit cards
Aside from flying, the easiest way to earn a large number of Delta SkyMiles is through cobranded credit cards, both through welcome bonuses and everyday spending. Currently, American Express issues seven different Delta credit cards: four personal cards and three business cards.
Each of these cards has a different suite of perks and benefits. Some are geared toward the frequent Delta flyer, and others are more suited for everyday consumers who want the occasional free Delta flight.
Here’s a look at the full suite of Delta SkyMiles credit cards from American Express (terms apply):
- Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card: Earn 10,000 miles after you spend $500 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.
- Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card: 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: 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.
- Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card: Earn 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.
- Delta SkyMiles® Gold Business American Express Card: Earn 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in the first 3 months.
- Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card: Earn 45,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in the first 3 months. Plus, earn a $100 Statement Credit after your first Delta purchase on your new Card in the first 3 months.
- Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card: Earn 45,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.
If you’re thinking of applying for one of these cards, just keep Amex’s once-per-lifetime rule in mind. This rule limits you to one card welcome bonus per lifetime. So if you’ve received a welcome bonus for the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card before, you won’t be eligible to receive it again if you re-apply for the card. That’s why it’s so important to hold out for a high welcome bonus since you’ll only receive it once.
Transfer points to Delta Skymiles
If you need Skymiles quickly or simply don’t want to add another credit card to your wallet, you may be able to transfer SkyMiles from another reward program. Delta partners with both Amex Membership Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy, making it easy to top off your award when you need to.
Transfer Membership Rewards to SkyMiles
Currently, Delta SkyMiles has one credit card transfer partner: American Express Membership Rewards. You can transfer Membership Rewards points to Delta SkyMiles at a 1:1 ratio. However, you will pay a fee of $0.0006 per mile (up to a maximum of $99) to offset the federal excise tax, so the transaction can carry an additional cost if you’re transferring enough for a large, international award. Thankfully, this fee is waived for the rest of 2020.
Oftentimes, putting purchases on a card that earns Amex Membership Rewards points will yield more SkyMiles per dollar spent than one of Delta’s cobranded American Express cards. For example, The Platinum Card® from American Express earns 5x Membership Rewards points on flights booked directly with any airline (or with American Express Travel), whereas the Delta cards above will only earn 2x miles. Since you can transfer Amex points directly to Delta, you’re effectively earning 5x SkyMiles on these purchases.
Transfer Marriott points to SkyMiles
You can also transfer hotel points from a variety of programs to your Delta SkyMiles account. In my experience, the only worthwhile transfer is from Marriott Bonvoy. These points transfer at a 3:1 ratio, but you’ll get a 5,000-mile bonus for every 60,000 Marriott points transferred. That effectively drops the ratio to 2.4:1.
Earn Delta Skymiles through partners
You can also earn Delta SkyMiles through a number of other Delta partners. These methods make it easier than ever to earn miles based on things you already do, like eating out, staying at hotels and shopping online. Let’s check them out.
Like most airlines, Delta has its own online shopping portal: SkyMiles Shopping. This site lets you earn extra SkyMiles when you shop online, in addition to any miles earned with your credit card. To use the portal, just sign up for a SkyMiles shopping account, find your merchant on the site and click through the link. Each merchant offers a different number of SkyMiles per dollar spent and these rates fluctuate frequently — especially around the holidays.
Check the portal frequently for spending and merchant bonuses. Currently, Delta is running a Summer Deals promotion for certain merchants, including Nike, Under Armour, AT&T and others. If you’re looking to make a purchase anyway, shopping through Delta’s portal can mean some serious bonus miles.
The Delta SkyMiles Dining program is a great way to earn extra miles when dining out. Just sign up for an account, link a credit card and dine at a participating restaurant, cafe or bar. When you swipe your registered card at these establishments, you’ll earn extra SkyMiles. This is in addition to the miles you already earn with your credit card. Use a card that earns bonus points at restaurants and it really adds up.
The number of miles you earn through SkyMiles Dining depends on your status (which is completely separate from your Medallion status). There are three tiers: member, online member and VIP. You’ll become an online member by signing up for email alerts, and you can get VIP status after making 11 transactions within 12 months.
If you don’t give the program a valid email address and sign up for email alerts, you’re a standard member and will only earn 1 mile for every $2 spent. Online members will earn 3 miles per dollar spent, while VIP members will take home 5 miles per dollar spent.
As of the time of writing this article, SkyMiles Dining offers a welcome bonus of 3,000 miles after making three $30 dining purchases within 30 days of account opening and writing reviews for each.
Link your SkyMiles number to your Lyft account
Here’s an easy way to earn miles: just link your Delta and Lyft accounts. When you take a ride with Lyft, you’ll earn 1 mile per dollar spent on everyday rides and 2 miles per dollar spent on airport rides. Business travelers can rack up huge amounts of points with this promotion.
Best of all, once you’re linked, you don’t need to click through a link to earn SkyMiles on Lyft rides. They’ll be automatically credited to your account and can even be stacked with Lyft’s partnership with Hilton Honors.
Earn SkyMiles on Airbnb stays
Similar to Delta’s partnership with Lyft, you can earn SkyMiles on Airbnb stays. Just head over to Airbnb’s Delta website, enter your SkyMiles number and click through the link before you make a booking. You’ll earn 1 mile per dollar spent on Airbnb purchases with no limit, so longer trips can rack up a nice haul of SkyMiles.
There are plenty of ways to earn Delta SkyMiles, whether it’s through flights, credit cards, transferring points or using one of Delta’s many other partners.
Even better? SkyMiles is one of the few loyalty currencies that never expire. While Delta did win the 2019 TPG Award for Best Airline Loyalty Program, there are some important things to keep in mind when you book your flights. However, with the myriad of earning opportunities outlined above, you’ll hopefully have no shortage of SkyMiles the next time you’re planning a trip.
For details on the redemption process, check out our guide on how to redeem miles with the Delta Air Lines SkyMiles program.
Additional reporting by Carissa Rawson.
Feature photo by Ramin Talaie/Corbis via Getty Images
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