5 times it makes sense to transfer American Express Membership Rewards to Delta SkyMiles
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Delta is my favorite domestic airline, and American Express Membership Rewards are my favorite transferrable points. Coincidentally, Amex and Delta are transfer partners, so I can transfer points from my favorite credit cards to my favorite airline. This isn’t usually recommended, though — Delta SkyMiles have been notoriously devalued and are worth just 1.2 cents per point in value per TPG’s valuations. This is 0.8 cents per point lower Amex’s 2.0 cents per point valuation, and it’s hard to get higher value from Delta.
That said, there are some exceptions to this rule. I’ve personally achieved high redemption values from Delta SkyMiles that warrant transferring points from Amex. These opportunities are few and far between but are still possible if you know where to look. So in this article, I’ll show you times that it makes sense to transfer Amex Membership Rewards points to Delta SkyMiles. Some of these redemptions are of niche use, and some are more widespread. That said, all have the potential to stretch your Membership Rewards points.
Before we start, though, always compare pricing with other airlines and transfer partners. Membership Rewards has a slew of different airline partners, so you may get a better deal depending on the flight you’re booking and when you book it.
Let’s dive in!
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Book Economy flights to Europe
One good way to use Delta SkyMiles is to book economy flights to Europe. Generally, these can be booked for roughly 25,000 SkyMiles one-way with minimal taxes and fees. Remember, though, SkyMiles awards are priced dynamically, so there’s no guarantee that this price will be the same when you go to book. Prices change by day and route, so some days are more expensive than others.
For example, flights from New York-JFK to Amsterdam (AMS) consistently price at 25,000 SkyMiles and just $5.60 in taxes throughout most of 2021. Round trip flights price at just 50,000 miles and $89.85 in taxes and fees:
Alternatively, you can fly New York-JFK to Prague (PRG) via Amsterdam (AMS) for just 25,000 SkyMiles and $22.20 one-way.
Interestingly enough, you can often find the same pricing on connecting flights too. We found a handful of itineraries — like this Moline-Quad Cities (MLI) to Dublin (DUB) itinerary that costs 50,000 SkyMiles and $70.95 round-trip. This same flight costs $827, so you’ll get just over 1.5 cents per point in value.
While you may not always find excellent U.S. to Europe deals with SkyMiles, it’s worth a look when booking a trip. You may be able to find an excellent redemption that beats other Membership Rewards transfer partners, especially on connecting flights.
Fly to Mexico on the cheap
Flights to Mexico are another solid SkyMiles redemption. Delta and Aeromexico are SkyTeam partners, so you can use your SkyMiles to book flights operated by the Mexican flag carrier. You can use your miles to book flights on several different routes to Mexico between the two airlines at solid rates.
You can book a round-trip Aeromexico flights from New York-JFK to Mexico City (MEX) for 34,000 and $109.37 on a handful of dates in early 2021. This same flight costs $578, so while it’s not the best redemption value at 1.37 cents per point, you save over $460 and have convenient nonstop flights.
Flights to smaller Mexican cities can be booked for similar prices. A nonstop, round-trip itinerary from Los Angeles (LAX) to Monterrey (MTY) costs 34,000 SkyMiles and $107.08 on a handful of dates.
Delta-operated flights can be booked on the cheap too. This basic economy fare from Salt Lake City (SLC) to Puerto Vallarta (PVR) costs just 26,000 SkyMiles and $106.88 round-trip.
Take advantage of Flash Deals
Delta often runs SkyMiles Flash Deals that offer limited-time discounts on award travel. In the past, we’ve seen amazing deals like round-trip economy flights to Europe for 16,000 SkyMiles. These sales are generally limited to specific city pairs and only last for a few days at a time. Keep an eye on Delta’s Flash Deals page for the latest sales.
Low-cost domestic award tickets
My most common SkyMiles redemption is booking low-cost domestic award tickets. You’ll want to pay for your low-cost domestic tickets, but booking expensive last-minute and holiday flights with SkyMiles can save you a huge chunk of change — even if it doesn’t yield the highest cent per point value.
Again, Delta prices awards dynamically, so pricing varies by day and route. That said, the airline is known to discount its domestic award tickets. This is especially true on flights between non-hub cities that connect in Delta hubs like Atlanta (ATL), Detroit (DTW) and New York-JFK.
Check out this flight from Milwaukee (MKE) to Portland (PDX) via Minneapolis (MSP). It starts at 10,500 SkyMiles in basic economy and 13,500 in standard economy. These types of connecting flights can get extremely expensive at the last minute, so having a points option as a backup is extremely helpful.
There are solid deals to be had on flights between major cities too. I fly the New York to Chicago route a few times a year to visit family and often book with SkyMiles. You can find tickets for as low as 6,000 SkyMiles one-way in basic economy — even when booking just a couple of weeks from departure. You can upgrade to standard economy for 3,000 extra SkyMiles.
These may not be the most exciting redemptions, but they’re worth a look if you need to take an expensive domestic flight. They can save you a nice chunk of change if you take domestic flights frequently.
Book Virgin Atlantic Upper Class to the U.K.
Virgin Atlantic has an excellent business class product — dubbed Upper Class — that flies between the U.S. and U.K. You can book these with Virgin Atlantic Flying Club points, but you’ll be charged hefty taxes and fees. That said, you can avoid these by booking with your Delta SkyMiles.
You’ll pay as little as 86,000 SkyMiles and $24.50 in taxes and fees for a one-way Upper Class ticket to the U.K. To contrast, this would cost 47,500 Virgin Points and a huge $724.50 in taxes and fees if you booked with Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. Both are Membership Rewards transfer partners, though, so do the math and see which is best for your redemption goals.
Note that booking tickets from the U.K. to the U.S. with SkyMiles will levy more taxes and fees. To avoid this, book your trips as a part of a round-trip itinerary, if possible.
Korean Airlines business class to Asia
If your sights are set on a post-coronavirus trip to South Korea, consider using SkyMiles to book Korean Airlines business class. You can use just 85,000 miles to fly from the U.S. to South Korea (and beyond) with this SkyTeam partner. Better yet, these tickets have very low taxes and fees attached — $49.50 on a round-trip ticket.
Here’s a look at a sample round-trip booking from New York to Seoul (ICN):
Depending on when you book, you can connect to a Korean Airlines gateway for no additional cost. Take this Salt Lake City to Seoul itinerary for example:
For just a little more in taxes and fees, you can head to Hong Kong (HKG) with a quick stop in Seoul:
How to earn Membership Rewards
You can earn Membership Rewards with one of American Express’ many cards. Each has its own set of benefits, fees and bonus earning categories. Further, each card has a welcome offer that will jumpstart your earning and — depending on the card — put you within reach of many of these flights.
- American Express® Green Card: Earn 30,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $2,000 in the first three months of account opening. Terms apply.
- American Express® Gold Card: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $4,000 in the first six months of account opening. Terms apply.
- The Platinum Card® from American Express: Earn 75,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $5,000 in the first six months of account opening. Terms apply.
The information for the Amex Green card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Delta SkyMiles aren’t the most valuable points and miles currency out there, but you can get solid redemption values if you know where to look. Here, I showed you all the times it makes sense to transfer your Membership Rewards to SkyMiles. While it may seem like you’re devaluing your points when making this transfer, you can often get a great value — even when compared to other Amex transfer partners.
Feature photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy
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