Your complete guide to the Delta SkyMiles program
Delta SkyMiles, the loyalty program of Delta Air Lines, is a favorite among many flyers. Whether flying or using Delta cobranded credit cards, earning SkyMiles is relatively easy. The program also developed a reputation of being friendly for earning and retaining elite status, like adding the ability to earn elite status on award tickets and offering rollover Medallion qualifying miles.
There are several ways to redeem SkyMiles beyond free flights. However, you typically get the best bang for your buck if you snag one of Delta’s frequent flash sales which offer deeply discounted award flights both domestically and abroad. After you earn SkyMiles, there are many ways to redeem miles for your dream vacation.
Today we'll explain everything you need to know about earning and redeeming Delta SkyMiles.
Delta SkyMiles overview
You can earn Delta SkyMiles through a variety of methods. Some popular ones include flying, spending on Delta’s credit cards, transferring points from American Express Membership Rewards, shopping through Delta’s SkyMiles shopping portal and the SkyMiles dining program through various other promotions offered by the airline. We’ll talk about all of these options below.
SkyMiles program partners
Delta is a member of the SkyTeam airline alliance, which comprises over a dozen airlines worldwide. You can earn and redeem miles when you travel with a SkyTeam airline. SkyTeam serves 1,000 destinations and touches virtually every part of the globe, with flights landing on six continents.
The members are:
- Aerolinas Argentinas.
- Air Europa.
- Air France.
- China Airlines.
- China Eastern Airlines.
- Czech Airlines.
- Delta Air Lines.
- Garuda Indonesia.
- ITA Airways.
- Kenya Airways.
- Korean Air.
- Middle East Airlines.
- Vietnam Airlines.
- Virgin Atlantic.
- Xiamen Air.
Delta has many partnerships beyond SkyTeam members, giving you numerous options for earning miles even when you aren’t flying on Delta or a SkyTeam airline. While these aren’t SkyTeam members, you should still consider these airlines, especially Air Tahiti, which is one of the best options for getting to the remote Bora Bora.
Related: Book this, not that: SkyTeam award tickets
Delta SkyMiles elite status
The program offers four elite status tiers for frequent Delta flyers: Silver Medallion, Gold Medallion, Platinum Medallion and Diamond Medallion.
Delta uses Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs), Medallion Qualifying Segments (MQSs) and Medallion Qualifying Dollars (MQDs).
Earning Delta Medallion status
- Silver Medallion: 25,000 MQMs or 30 MQSs plus 3,000 MQDs.
- Gold Medallion: 50,000 MQMs or 60 MQSs plus 8,000 MQDs.
- Platinum Medallion: 75,000 MQMs or 100 MQSs plus 12,000 MQDs.
- Diamond Medallion: 125,000 MQMs or 140 MQSs plus 20,000 MQDs.
You need to earn these thresholds each year to qualify for Delta status. With the cards mentioned below, Delta waives the MQD requirements for Silver, Gold, and Platinum when you spend $25,000 in a calendar year. However, you must spend a whopping $250,000 on the card to earn the MQD waiver for Diamond Medallion status.
Here are some key benefits of each of Delta's status tiers.
SkyMiles Silver Medallion
The entry tier in Delta’s program is Silver Medallion status. As a Silver Medallion, you’ll receive:
- Complimentary first-class upgrades on domestic flights and short-haul international flights. These upgrades start clearing 24 hours before departure.
- Priority boarding and check-in.
- One complimentary checked bag.
- 7 miles per dollar spent.
SkyMiles Gold Medallion
Next up is Gold Medallion. Here’s what you’ll get as a Gold elite:
- Complimentary first-class upgrades on domestic flights and short-haul international flights. These upgrades start clearing three days before departure.
- Upgrades to Comfort+ within three days of departure.
- Waived same-day confirmed changes.
- Two complimentary checked bags.
- 8 miles per dollar spent.
SkyMiles Platinum Medallion
The third tier in the SkyMiles program is Platinum Medallion status. In addition to the previously mentioned Silver and Gold perks, you’ll get the following:
- Complimentary first-class upgrades on domestic flights and short-haul international flights. These upgrades start clearing five days before departure.
- Upgrades to Comfort+ at the time of booking.
- Three complimentary checked bags.
- Your pick of a Choice Benefit.
- 9 miles per dollar spent.
Related: How to cancel or change a Delta Air Lines flight
Delta Diamond Medallion
Finally, the highest public elite tier in the SkyMiles program is Delta Diamond Medallion. You’ll get everything I just mentioned, plus some even better perks including three additional Choice Benefit options, complimentary Clear membership, higher upgrade priority and more. Diamond members also receive 11 miles per dollar spent.
Related: The inside scoop on invite-only Delta 360 Status
How to earn SkyMiles
There are several ways to earn Delta SkyMiles. The easiest is flying Delta-operated flights, traveling with a SkyTeam partner or opening a Delta cobranded credit card. You can also earn miles through everyday activities like shopping and dining.
Earn SkyMiles through credit cards
There’s a Delta credit card for everyone — the loyalist, the business traveler and even the infrequent flyer. Here’s a look at the full suite of Delta SkyMiles credit cards from American Express (terms apply):
|CREDIT CARD||ANNUAL FEE||WELCOME BONUS||BONUS VALUE*||NOTABLE PERKS|
|Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card||$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $99 (see rates and fees)||Earn 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new card in your first six months of account opening.||$564||First checked bag free on Delta flights; Medallion® Qualification Dollar (MQDs) waiver after spending $25,000 in a calendar year; 20% discount on inflight purchases on Delta flights.|
|Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card||$250 (see rates and fees)||Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in your first six months of account opening.||$705.||15% off award redemptions for Delta flights (when paying taxes and fees with this card), an annual companion certificate each renewal for main cabin, round-trip travel, 10,000 MQMs toward elite status after you spend $25,000 (up to 20,000 MQMs per year), 20% discount on inflight purchases on Delta flights and first checked bag free on Delta flights.|
|Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card||$550 (see rates and fees)||Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $5,000 in purchases on your new card in your first six months of account opening.||$705.||Delta Sky Club membership and Centurion Lounge access when traveling on Delta; earn 15,000 MQMs when you spend $30,000, $60,000, $90,000 and $120,000 on the card in a calendar year; an annual companion certificate each year upon card renewal for round-trip travel in first class, Comfort+, Premium Select or main cabin, complimentary upgrades for non-Medallions.|
|Delta SkyMiles® Gold Business American Express Card||$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $99 (see rates and fees)|
Earn 50,000 bonus miles after $2,000 in spending in the first three months of cardmembership.
|$705.||First checked bag free on Delta flights; MQD waiver after spending $25,000 in a calendar year; 20% discount on inflight purchases, $100 Delta flight credit after spending $10,000 in a calendar year.|
|Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card||$250 (see rates and fees)|
Earn 60,000 bonus miles after $3,000 of purchases in the first three months of cardmembership.
|$846.||Earn 10,000 MQMs at $25,000 and $50,000 in spending in a calendar year; MQD waiver after spending $25,000 in a calendar year; TSA PreCheck or Global Entry fee credit; priority boarding; first checked bag free on Delta flights; 15% off award flights.|
|Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card||$550 (see rates and fees)|
Earn 70,000 bonus miles after $5,000 in spending in the first three months of cardmembership
|$987.||Delta Sky Club membership and Centurion Lounge access when traveling on Delta; earn 15,000 MQMs when you spend $30,000, $60,000, $90,000 and $120,000 on the card in a calendar year; an annual companion certificate each year upon card renewal for round-trip travel in first class, Comfort+, Premium Select or main cabin; 20% discount on inflight purchases on Delta flights and first checked bag free on Delta flights.|
Related: Best Delta credit cards
Earn SkyMiles by flying
When you fly Delta on a Delta-issued ticket, you earn SkyMiles based on the base price of your ticket. Since Delta miles never expire, there’s no reason not to become a member, even if it takes a while to earn enough miles for a free ticket.
Those with Delta Medallion elite status earn more miles on paid tickets:
- General member: 5 miles.
- Silver: 7 miles.
- Gold: 8 miles.
- Platinum: 9 miles.
- Diamond: 11 miles.
Here's what this means in practice: Say you buy a one-way flight from John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) for $253 before taxes on delta.com. If you're a general member, you will earn 1,265 SkyMiles. However, you’ll earn 2,783 miles if you're a Diamond member.
Earn SkyMiles through partners
Another way to earn miles is by flying Delta’s partner airlines, but how you earn those miles depends entirely on how you booked the ticket. For example, when you book partner airline tickets — like KLM — on Delta.com, you’ll earn miles the same as a regular Delta flight — even if another airline operates the flight.
Meanwhile, if you book a partner flight on the carrier’s website (for example, Air France) and add your Delta SkyMiles number, you’ll earn miles based on the distance flown. However, the exact amount of SkyMiles you’ll receive varies based on the partner, booking class and whether you have elite status. Sometimes you can earn MQDs at a fraction of the price.
You can view full earning rates for partner airlines at this link.
Related: When you will (and won’t) earn miles for your flight
Earn SkyMiles through shopping portals
One of the easiest ways to earn Delta miles is through its online shopping portal. You can earn miles for purchases you ordinarily make with thousands of merchants online.
If you don’t already have an account, you must register using your SkyMiles number so the bonus miles will be credited to your frequent flyer account. Then you can use the search box to find your favorite stores or a product. You can also compare prices and mileage rates. Remember to look out for stores offering bonus miles (more on that later), featured deals and special bonus offers.
After selecting your merchant, click on the store, product or offer and you’ll be taken to the store’s website to shop and check out. The store will alert the portal when you’ve made a purchase and the miles you earned will be added to your SkyMiles account. You’ll receive an email to confirm when your miles have been posted, typically within 3 to 5 days. However, depending on the store, it can take up to 15 days for the miles to post to SkyMiles Shopping.
Just about every major airline has a shopping portal, so use a shopping portal aggregator to make sure you're getting the best deal when you shop online.
Related: The ultimate guide to the Delta SkyMiles shopping portal
Transfer Amex points to Delta
Finally, you can transfer American Express Membership Rewards points directly to Delta at 1:1. We don't usually recommend this because we value Membership Rewards points higher than SkyMiles. Currently, we value SkyMiles at 1.41 cents apiece. This is 0.59 cents per point lower than Amex’s 2.0 cents per point valuation, and it’s often difficult to get a higher value from Delta thanks to dynamic pricing.
Related: 5 things you need to know about Delta SkyMiles
How to redeem SkyMiles
Things to know
Delta removed published award charts in 2015, becoming the first major U.S. airline to shift to dynamic pricing for award tickets. As a result, you will need to search on Delta.com to determine how many SkyMiles you’d need for an award ticket. Delta’s site is pretty easy to navigate, and you can see how many miles you need for a redemption through a handy calendar feature.
Generally, we've found the best redemptions on domestic flights. Paired with a Delta cobranded credit card (which offers a 15% discount on awards), you can sometimes book short-haul flights for under 4,000 SkyMiles one-way. That said, prices will vary by day, route and cabin class.
However, using SkyMiles for Delta-operated flights isn’t the only way to maximize them. You can also use your miles to book partner tickets, both on Delta's SkyTeam and non-alliance partners.
Although partner awards are still priced based on an unpublished award chart, they have seen their fair share of devaluations over the last few years. Delta has added close-in booking surcharges and increased prices for many U.S.-departing partner awards.
Delta flash sales
Delta frequently runs SkyMiles flash sales to short- and long-haul U.S. destinations and cities in Europe, Asia and the Caribbean. We’ve seen some terrific deals for Main Cabin, Comfort+ and first class. Recent deals include one-way flights to Hawaii for 13,000 SkyMiles and round-trip flights for as little as 5,000 SkyMiles for New Yorkers.
Of course, these cheap tickets aren't always published. Delta often prices short- and mid-haul award tickets for well under what other airlines would charge for similar flights. You'll often find the best deals when booking in advance and traveling on off-peak dates.
Likewise, you can expect to pay more for peak flights — for example, New York to Orlando over Thanksgiving.
Delta and LATAM economy flights to South America
Regardless of the class of service, cash flights to South America are rarely cheap, especially to Brazil. Delta SkyMiles members can book LATAM award tickets at reasonable prices, and it’s one of the better ways to use miles.
When you search for South America flights, you might find reasonable award rates. For example, 64,000 SkyMiles can generally get you round-trip from JFK to São Paulo/Guarulhos International Airport (GRU). Many of these flights are nonstop. The downside is that there only appears to be economy award space available, not business. Still, 64,000 SkyMiles round-trip is an appealing award rate.
Related: 6 Delta SkyMiles sweet spots worth saving up for
With its operational performance, numerous flight options and many ways to qualify for status, some say Delta is the best airline.
Despite its lack of award charts and unannounced program devaluations, there’s still plenty to like about the Delta SkyMiles program. If you’re a Delta frequent flyer (or thinking about switching), a mix of flying, shopping portals and credit cards can increase your SkyMiles balance for your next redemption.
Additional reporting by Benji Stawski and Kyle Olsen.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Gold Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Platinum Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Reserve Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Gold Business Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Platinum Business Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Reserve Business Card, click here.