15 easy ways to earn more Delta SkyMiles in 2021

Mar 15, 2021

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Delta SkyMiles has been devalued time and again, but it can still be a valuable program for domestic awards and other redemption sweet spots.

The airline has a vast route network with significant hubs in large U.S. cities, and there are a ton of different ways to earn Delta SkyMiles that you can redeem for SkyTeam flights. 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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In This Post

Earn miles by flying

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)
You can earn miles when flying with Delta and its airline partners. (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Earning Delta SkyMiles by flying may seem self-explanatory, but the number of miles earned depends on numerous factors. You’ll earn miles differently on Delta and partner flights — here’s everything you need to know.

Earning when flying with Delta

When flying on Delta-operated flights, you earn SkyMiles based on your ticket’s base price (which doesn’t include government-imposed taxes). Flyers without elite status earn 5 miles per dollar spent on airfare, not including taxes and fees.

This means that a one-way Delta ticket from Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) to Tokyo Haneda (HND) costing $1,100 before taxes would earn 5,500 SkyMiles, assuming the flyer has no Delta elite status.

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. 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.

Elite status bonuses

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:

  • Silver – 7 miles
  • Gold – 8 miles
  • Platinum – 9 miles
  • Diamond – 11 miles

This means that a Diamond Medallion member would earn 12,100 SkyMiles on the same $1,100 ticket we discussed earlier. Elite members do not earn bonus MQM on any flights.

Related: 5 things you need to know about Delta SkyMiles

Earning when flying with airline partners

Aeromexico and Delta Plane
(Photo by Helissa Grundemann/Shutterstock)

Things get confusing when earning miles on Delta’s partner airlines. These flights sometimes earn miles differently from ones operated by Delta, and it all depends on how the ticket is 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:

How many Delta SkyMiles you'll earn on an Aeromexico ticket
(Image courtesy of Delta)

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.

Related: When you will (and won’t) earn miles for your flight

Earn with credit cards

(Photo courtesy of Delta)
Earn a ton of SkyMiles when you open a Delta cobranded credit card. (Photo courtesy of Delta)

By far, 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):

Personal cards

Business cards

Which Delta SkyMiles credit card is right for me?

The Delta SkyMiles Reserve card is one of my favorite credit cards. I use it for all of my non-bonus spending as I use it to inch closer to Delta elite status. This is because the card offers 15,000 MQM (18,750 in 2021) for every $30,000 you spend on the card, up to 60,000 MQM per year. Plus, the card is offering other bonus earning opportunities through the end of the year.

That said, I only recommend the card to Delta frequent flyers who want Delta SkyClub membership and MQM earning opportunities. If you’re a more casual flyer, the Delta SkyMiles Gold card is your best bet. This card earns SkyMiles on all purchases and has a 40,000-mile welcome bonus, worth $490 per TPG’s valuation.

If you’re thinking of applying for one of these cards, keep Amex’s once-per-lifetime rule in mind. This rule limits you to one card welcome bonus per lifetime. 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.

Related: Choosing the best credit card for Delta flyers

Transfer points

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

(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)
You can transfer American Express Membership Rewards points to Delta SkyMiles. (Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)

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.

Often, putting purchases on a card that earns 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 American Express Travel (earn 5x points on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year). In contrast, 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.

Related: The best ways to use Amex Membership Rewards points

Transfer Marriott Bonvoy points to SkyMiles

Marriott Marquis in Downtown Chicago
Marriott Bonvoy points transfer to Delta SkyMiles at a 3:1 ratio. (Photo by Felix Mizioznikov/Shutterstock)

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 to Delta 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 (for the better) to 2.4:1.

There are several Marriott cobranded credit cards out there, issued by Chase and American Express. Check out our article on picking the best Marriott credit card to find the best card for your wallet.

Related: Beginner’s guide to Marriott Bonvoy

Transfer miles between accounts

While you can transfer SkyMiles between accounts, we don’t recommend it. Delta charges $0.01 per mile transferred plus a $30 transaction fee. This isn’t a great deal, as you’d lose most of the value of your miles after paying the applicable fees.

If you decide to go this route, both accounts must be open for at least ten days and have earned at least one account. Miles earned through the Delta SkyMiles Shopping portal do not fulfill this requirement.

Related: Your ultimate guide to family points pooling

Earn miles by shopping and dining

You can also earn Delta SkyMiles through several everyday Delta partners. These methods make it easier than ever to earn miles based on things you already do, like eating out and shopping online. Let’s check them out.

A Delta Airlines Boeing 767 takes off from Dusseldorf, Germany, on November 24, 2019. (Photo by Robert Smith/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Earn with the SkyMiles Shopping portal

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.

Delta SkyMiles Shopping Summer Deals
(Image courtesy of Delta)

Check the portal frequently for spending and merchant bonuses. This past summer, Delta ran a Summer Deals promotion for certain merchants like Nike, Under Armour, AT&T and others. If you’re looking to make a purchase anyway, shopping through Delta’s portal can mean serious bonus miles.

Related: The beginner’s guide to airline shopping portals

Earn while you eat with SkyMiles Dining

Group of people dining at a restaurant
Eat your way to more miles with SkyMiles Dining. (Photo by VGstockstudio/Shutterstock)

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 adds up.

The number of miles you earn through SkyMiles Dining depends on your status, which is entirely 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.

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.

Related: Maximizing restaurant spending with dining rewards programs

Earn SkyBonus points for your business

Business owner sitting with a pencil in hand
Enroll in SkyBonus to earn rewards for your business travel. (Photo by Hero Images / Getty Images)

While not SkyMiles, businesses can enroll in SkyBonus to earn rewards on employee travel. Through this program, businesses earn SkyBonus points whenever an employee travels. These points are earned in addition to the traveler’s personal SkyMiles earning, so there’s no downside to enrolling. You can redeem SkyBonus points for free flights, elite status, lounge access and cabin upgrades.

Businesses can earn SkyBonus points on flights operated by Aeromexico, Air France, Delta Air Lines, KLM and Virgin Atlantic. Depending on how much you spend, you can earn up to 30 SkyBonus points per dollar spent on airfare. You can earn miles by adding your business’ SkyBonus number to employee itineraries.

Redemptions start at just 10,000 points. If you’re interested, you can enroll your business in SkyBonus for free on Delta’s website.

Related: Airline loyalty programs for small businesses

Earn miles with travel partners

You can also earn bonus miles when you book other types of travel, like rental cars, Lyft rides hotel stays. Here’s a quick look at all your travel earning options.

Book a ride with Lyft

(Photo courtesy of Lyft)

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 2x 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.

Related: How to maximize points and miles through Lyft partnerships

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.

Related: 15 tips that will help you score the perfect Airbnb every time

Earn miles when you book hotels

(Photo courtesy of The Ritz Carlton Orlando Grandlakes)
Earn bonus miles when you book hotels with Delta’s partners. (Photo courtesy of The Ritz Carlton Orlando Grandlakes)

Not feeling an Airbnb? You can earn SkyMiles with Delta’s hotel booking portal. The portal awards 1 mile per dollar spent on hotels, with frequent bonus promotions. The prices you see on this portal should match booking direct, but it’s in your best interest to double-check.

One word of caution: you won’t earn hotel points or get to use elite status benefits when booking through this portal. Unfortunately, these are generally reserved for those booking directly with the hotel company. Do your own research and see if earning Delta miles or hotel points is best for your specific hotel stay.

You can earn SkyMiles when you book direct with Delta’s hotel partners too. The number of miles you’ll earn depends on the hotel group you book with — here’s a look at how many miles you can earn:

Hotel Earning rate
Accor Live Limitless Points transfer at a 4,000:2,000 ratio
World of Hyatt Earn 500 miles per stay
IHG Rewards Club Earn up to 2 miles per dollar spent depending on-property.
Langham Hospitality Group Earn 500 miles per night with a maximum of 1,500 miles per stay at select hotels.
Marriott Bonvoy Earn up to 2 miles per dollar spent depending on the property.

Points transfer at a 3:1.1 ratio, with a 5,000-mile bonus awarded for every 60,000 transferred.

Radisson Rewards Points transfer at a 10,000:1,000 ratio.
Shangri-La Gold Circle Earn 500 miles per stay.
Worldhotels Earn 500 miles per stay.

Related: Earning airline miles for a hotel stay — Reader Mistake Story

Rent a car with one of these partners

Rental Cars in a lot
You can earn SkyMiles every time you rent a car with one of Delta’s partners. (Photo by alexfan32/Shutterstock)

You can also earn SkyMiles when you rent a car with one of Delta’s six rental car partners. Similar to hotels, you won’t earn rental car points when you elect to earn SkyMiles. Here’s a look at how many SkyMiles you can earn:

Rental Car Company Earning rate
Alamo Earn 500 miles per qualifying rental.
Dollar Earn 500 miles per qualifying rental.
Enterprise Earn 500 miles per qualifying rental.
Hertz Earn 500 miles per qualifying rental. Elite members can earn up to 1,250 miles per rental depending on status tier.
National Earn 500 miles per qualifying rental.
Thrifty Earn 500 miles per qualifying rental.

Delta elite members are eligible for a free status match with Hertz Gold Rewards. Gold members receive a match to Hertz Five Star status, while Platinum and Diamond members are eligible for President’s Circle status. You can enroll in this status match on Delta’s website.

Related: How to never pay full price for a rental car

Buy miles

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)
Only buy SkyMiles if you have an immediate plan to use them. (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

If you need SkyMiles in a pinch, you can buy them directly from Delta. The airline charges a whopping $0.035 per SkyMile, which is more than double TPG’s valuation of 1.2 cents per mile. You must buy miles in increments of 2,000 miles and you can purchase a maximum of 60,000 SkyMiles per account per year.

Delta frequently discounts SkyMiles by offering bonus miles or a bonus on the number of miles purchased. Buying SkyMiles is only worth doing if you have an immediate use for them. Otherwise, it’s usually a bad idea to speculatively purchase miles as they can be devalued at any time.

Related: Get up to a 200% bonus when you buy points and miles

Bottom Line

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.

Feature photo by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto/Getty Images

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Offer ends 11/10/2021.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
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Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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