A Delta One Award Sale to Europe — Reader Success Story

Feb 27, 2019

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Jack, who used a credit card benefit to get the miles he needed for a premium award:

Flying Delta One has been on my travel bucket list for some time, but never seemed achievable. I couldn’t justify the $3,000 – $4,000 price tag or the 300,000+ SkyMiles required … that is, until Delta’s flash sale a couple of months back gave me a chance to utilize a little known Delta American Express perk!

I was about to go to bed when I received notice of a 48-hour flash sale from Delta, with Delta One awards starting at 98,000 miles round-trip to Europe. The flash sales are usually a little restrictive and don’t line up with my plans, but this one was just right. My wife and I celebrate six years of marriage and her master’s degree at the end of May, and she’s always wanted to go to Amsterdam. We found the perfect itinerary for $3,500 or 98,000 SkyMiles per person. I looked at my Delta account and unfortunately only had 165,000 miles — 31,000 miles shy of an amazing deal.

However, I remembered the Fly Now, Earn Later feature that American Express introduced and decided to try it. I was able to borrow the 31,000 miles we needed, and I have six months to earn them back, so all the miles I earn on my card will pay down this balance instead of going into my SkyMiles account. If I’m short at the end of six months, they’ll charge me 2.5 cents per mile. So even if I earned zero miles, I’d owe $775 for two round-trip tickets valued at $7,000 — I’d take it!

I plan on paying down this balance fairly quickly, and just received a 15,000-mile bonus for referring a friend to the Delta Amex family. By taking advantage of flash sales, credit card perks and bonuses, I’m able to knock off a $7,000 bucket list item for a total of $100 in taxes and fees.

A handful of loyalty programs allow you to borrow rewards, which means you can take advantage of award availability when you don’t already have enough points or miles on hand. Marriott’s Points Advance is the most prominent and useful example, since it’s available to all Marriott Bonvoy members and lets you pay back the borrowed points as you see fit up until 14 days before your stay — apart from spending on Marriott credit cards, you can transfer points into your account or earn them through stays and partner activity. Fly Now, Earn Later similarly gives you access to awards that might otherwise be out of reach, but the lack of options for paying off your “loan” is a major drawback.

After accounting for his referral bonus, Jack still has to put $16,000 of spending on his Delta Amex card to pay down his negative SkyMiles balance. The problem is that the card earns just 1 mile per dollar, and SkyMiles aren’t especially valuable to begin with. In short, it’s not a good card for everyday spending, so he’s leaving a lot of value on the table by using it. That doesn’t mean his approach is faulty; ultimately, he got the flights he wanted at a great price, but it’s important to account for opportunity costs when you’re evaluating whether an award is worthwhile.

I love this story and I want to hear more like it! In appreciation for sharing this experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending Jack a $200 airline gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you. Please email your own award travel success stories to info@thepointsguy.com; be sure to include details about how you earned and redeemed your rewards, and put “Reader Success Story” in the subject line. Feel free to also submit your most woeful travel mistakes, or to contribute to our new award redemption series. If your story is published, we’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure. Due to the volume of submissions, we can’t respond to each story individually, but we’ll be in touch if yours is selected.

Safe and happy travels to all, and I look forward to hearing from you!

Featured photo courtesy of The Points Guy.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants in the first three months of card membership.

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
  • Earn 50,000 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 up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants with your card within the first 3 months of membership.
  • 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
Recommended Credit
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.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.