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How to get value from 5,000 or fewer Delta SkyMiles

May 12, 2022
10 min read
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Editor's Note

This post has been updated with new information.

Editor's note: This post has been updated with new information.


One of the benefits of earning miles in the Delta SkyMiles program is that they never expire, so you don’t have to rush to use your miles before a set expiration date. However, Delta is known for implementing devaluations out of nowhere, making many flyers uneasy about keeping a mileage balance in the program.

But what if you have a small mileage balance of 5,000 or fewer SkyMiles? Thankfully, you have few options for redeeming even the smallest amount of SkyMiles.

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Here, we’ll show you how to redeem 5,000 or fewer Delta SkyMiles. While these redemptions may not be as exciting as a long-haul ticket in Delta One, they can be a great way to squeeze value out of even the smallest number of miles.

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Book a cheap award ticket

You can often book Delta tickets for as few as 4,500 SkyMiles one-way. (Photo by Camilo Freedman/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images)

One of the most frustrating aspects of the SkyMiles program is that Delta hasn’t published award charts since 2015. Your price is whatever’s quoted, and this has led to some wild prices, especially for premium classes.

But on the bright side, it has also given Delta flyers extremely cheap award tickets. The cheapest one-way flights I’ve seen were just 2,500 SkyMiles during a 2021 promotion, but you can often find tickets for as low as 4,500 SkyMiles on various domestic routes.

For example, you can fly from New York to Boston for just 4,500 SkyMiles this September. You even have your choice of flying from John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) or LaGuardia Airport (LGA). Just note that the cheapest tickets are in basic economy, which is more restrictive than Main Cabin awards.

(Screenshot from delta.com)

Likewise, you can fly from San Francisco to Los Angeles for the same price in basic economy.

(Screenshot from delta.com)

There are plenty of other routes out there, so run a few test searches and see if you can use your low SkyMiles balance to cover part of a future vacation.

Related: Your complete guide to the Delta SkyMiles program

Buy premium drinks in Delta Sky Clubs

Redeem SkyMiles for a premium beverage at the Sky Club. (Photo by Andrew Kunesh/The Points Guy)

Delta Sky Clubs are stocked with complimentary house beer, wine and liquor but also have a premium menu. Interestingly enough, you can use your SkyMiles to purchase premium beverages at participating lounges — just ask the bartender for a menu.

According to Delta's menu (PDF link), you can purchase a bottle of Dom Perignon for 13,000 SkyMiles, which you'd otherwise pay $195 for. This gives you a value of 1.5 cents per point, which is a solid deal compared to our valuation of 1.41 cents per point.

You can expect to get this same 1.5 cents per point in value from just about anything on the bar's menu. For example, a premium craft beer costs $4.50 or 300 SkyMiles, while a Oaxacan Apple cocktail goes for $12 or 800 SkyMiles.

So if you're craving a drink next time you're in the Sky Club, treat yourself and use SkyMiles to upgrade to a premium beverage.

Shop on the SkyMiles Marketplace

You can also redeem your SkyMiles for merchandise on the SkyMiles Marketplace. Don’t expect a balance of fewer than 5,000 miles to get you a new iPad, but you can redeem for a range of other products like office supplies, bath products, kitchen products and more. Just be sure to pay careful attention to the item and compare prices to other online retailers, as this site can provide a horrifically minimal amount of value for your miles.

(Screenshot from delta.com)

For example, you can buy a 4 1/2-ounce bottle of Weber grill seasoning for 4,065 SkyMiles. However, this seasoning retails for $4.79 at Kroger, giving you a value of just 0.12 cents per mile. This is much lower than TPG’s most recent valuations, which peg SkyMiles at 1.41 cents apiece when redeemed for flights.

Redeem for magazine subscriptions

Another way to use a small amount of SkyMiles is for magazine subscriptions.

Delta gives you access to a limited selection of periodicals, and you can pick up a yearlong subscription to many of them for a relatively small outlay of miles. For example, you can get 12 issues of Midwest Living for 400 SkyMiles. Since the magazine is published quarterly, you'd pay $43.96 for 12 issues through Magazines.com, giving you roughly 1 cent per point in value.

Just bear in mind that after the year is up, you’ll generally be charged the standard annual price to continue the subscription, so be prepared for that (or set a calendar reminder to cancel before that comes due). Further, you're unlikely to get more than TPG's valuation.

Donate Your SkyMiles to charity

Delta Air Lines partners with a wide range of different charities. You can donate your SkyMiles to any one of them, letting you make a real difference with your miles. Just note that there’s a 1,000-mile minimum to donate. Some participating charities include the American Red Cross, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and Make-A-Wish.

Earn more miles

Earn more SkyMiles for a future trip. (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

If none of these options are intriguing, consider taking a different path: Earn more SkyMiles.

Your current travel plans may not include Delta, but what happens if you need a last-minute plane ticket? Or, say you need to take a trip somewhere where Delta offers the only nonstop flight from your home airport. You could be on the hook for an expensive plane ticket in either case, but having a stash of SkyMiles on hand can help you mitigate the cost.

You’d be surprised at how quickly you can build your SkyMiles balance back up too.

Open a Delta cobranded credit card

Delta offers a number of different cobranded credit cards through American Express, and these all offer lucrative welcome bonuses as well as ongoing perks when you fly Delta. For example, Delta's premium card offerings include an annual companion ticket that can help offset the annual fee.

Here's a look at Delta's credit card offerings:

You can also transfer American Express Membership Rewards points to Delta SkyMiles, but we only recommend doing this when you're ready to book a Delta award ticket.

Shop online through SkyMiles Shopping

Whenever you buy items online, you should always try to utilize an online shopping portal. Sites like Rakuten allow you to earn cash back on these purchases, but you could earn bonus SkyMiles by clicking through Delta’s shopping portal at hundreds of retailers.

For example, you can earn 3 SkyMiles per dollar spent at Adidas, so a $100 pair of new shoes would earn 300 SkyMiles.

(Screenshot from skymilesshopping.com)

Dine out with SkyMiles Dining

Another easy way to earn Delta miles is by leveraging the Dining Rewards Network, a collection of thousands of restaurants that partner with major airline programs to award you bonus points or miles.

All you need to do is sign up and link your preferred credit card(s) to SkyMiles Dining. Whenever you swipe one of those cards at a participating restaurant or bar, you’ll automatically earn extra miles on top of the regular earnings you’d enjoy on your card.

For added rewards, pay with a credit card that earns bonus points on dining.

Related: 15 easy ways to earn more Delta SkyMiles

Bottom line

There are many ways to use your hard-earned airline miles, but it’s harder when you’re left with a small balance.

The above suggestions are a few of the ways to use a small amount of Delta SkyMiles. Even though these may not give you as much value as a long-haul business-class flight, they’re better than letting miles sit in your account unredeemed. That said, we highly recommend redeeming them for cheap domestic flights, as that's the redemption most likely to get you high value from your SkyMiles.

Just bear in mind that since SkyMiles never expire, there’s no rush to use them in a suboptimal way. You never know when you’ll suddenly wish you hadn’t burned those miles for that magazine subscription.

Featured image by AFP via Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
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TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
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3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
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  • Intro Offer
    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

    Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points
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  • Annual Fee

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  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
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Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases