Credit card points and airline miles can be so confusing that it can be overwhelming for novice or experienced reward travelers alike. When using your miles, which offers are excellent and which are not? With Delta SkyMiles, that’s particularly challenging to understand. In favor of a dynamic pricing methodology, which implies that the number of SkyMiles required to book a flight is always changing depending on the cash price, demand, time of year, and other factors, Delta did away with the award chart that previously determined rates when using SkyMiles.
What is the current value of Delta SkyMiles? Determining that is difficult because it fluctuates as much as the price Delta charges to purchase a flight using SkyMiles. A new element has been added to Delta’s TakeOff 15 bonus, which offers American Express credit cards on Delta flights 15% off airfares purchased with SkyMiles. To reassure you that your SkyMiles are not useless, we have crunched some data that can serve as a reference for what you should receive when redeeming them.
Compare with Cash Prices
You can calculate how far your miles are bringing you with the use of a straightforward calculation called CPM, or cents per mile. This is how it functions.
Cash flight cost/mileage cost for the same flight equals cents per mile (cpm). Here’s an easy illustration. Let’s say you are considering a $250 ticket to Las Vegas (LAS) from Minneapolis-St. Paul. When you use SkyMiles to look for the same flight on Delta.com, you discover that you can book it for 25,000 miles. $250 divided by 25,000 equals.01, or precisely one cent.
That’s not a given, though. Not every time will $100 in airfare be covered by a hoard of 10,000 SkyMiles. Similar to airfare generally, it is always fluctuating. We thus did some math and hundreds of searches on Delta’s website to compare paying cash versus utilizing SkyMiles. By doing this, we validated a pattern and created a benchmark to assist you in appreciating SkyMiles while making travel arrangements.
Here’s a true illustration. January 2024: A lengthy weekend travel from Minneapolis (MSP) to Las Vegas (LAS). The ticket would cost $437.80 if I were to pay with cash, as you can see. It costs 52,000 miles to take that same flight with SkyMiles.
Explaining the Benefit of TakeOff 15
Do you want to receive a higher SkyMiles value? The new TakeOff 15 bonus from Delta is the only place to look. When redeeming SkyMiles for flights serviced by Delta, American Express cardholders now receive a new perk that offers at least a 15% discount.
It is accessible on the Delta SkyMiles Gold, Platinum, and Reserve credit cards for both individuals and businesses. Only the Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card with no annual fee will be able to make use of this new feature.
If you are using SkyMiles for a booking and are registered into a Delta account linked to a SkyMiles credit card, the TakeOff 15 discount will be applied immediately at checkout. You can utilize the TakeOff 15 advantage as often as you’d like, and the reduction is available regardless of the fare class you choose.
If you own one of the qualifying Delta cards, you can see that your SkyMiles will just go farther when examining the identical instances from above. The cost of our flight from Minneapolis (MSP) to Las Vegas (LAS) is reduced with TakeOff 15 from 40,500 SkyMiles to merely 34,400 SkyMiles.
Look out for the Delta Hub Penalty
As there is no award chart, Delta award rates behave more like regular airfare. But everything is not lost. However, once you examine flight prices using SkyMiles, it becomes evident how Delta’s hub penalty operates—and how it disadvantages passengers who are headquartered in its hubs.
Imagine that you would like to visit Denver (DEN) from Seattle (SEA). If you’re prepared to book a basic economy award, you can discover a nice offer for even less SkyMiles, starting at just 11,000 SkyMiles round-trip.
The cost will usually be higher, even for a much shorter journey, if you wish to travel to Salt Lake City, which is Delta’s main hub. How come? because you are arriving at a Delta hub on a route where Delta dominates and there is little competition.
Avoid using SkyMiles to book Delta One Business Class
Today’s most luxurious and recently designed business class seats are the Delta One Suites. Be advised, though, that using SkyMiles to book it will require a significant amount of them.
Consider the flight that is scheduled to depart in February from Detroit (DTW) to Amsterdam (AMS) below. This route is operated by Delta using its elegant new Airbus A350 aircraft, which are outfitted with Delta One suites.
For this one-way flight to Europe, Delta wants $3,782 in payment. When utilizing miles to reserve premium tickets, Delta does not provide its customers with a great bargain like many other airlines offer. You will receive 375,000 SkyMiles for the same flight.
Although they’re unusual, discounted prices for Delta One redemptions made through SkyMiles flash sales rarely occur. Paying 240,000 to 400,000 SkyMiles for each journey has become the standard in recent years. For these expensive fares, you will nearly always receive a mere cent in value back from your SkyMiles.
Upgrade with SkyMiles
In 2018, Delta introduced the option to use SkyMiles to upgrade your seat. This implies that you can purchase an economy ticket for the main cabin and then use SkyMiles to upgrade to first class, Comfort Plus, or even Premium Select or Delta One on longer-haul flights.
It has an indisputable charm. Delta said in 2019 that 4,000 travelers used SkyMiles per day for upgrades. After the pandemic, the number was probably significantly higher. But in our opinion, you’re not getting much value for your SkyMiles. You will receive approximately one cent for each SkyMile used in the majority of cases.
For instance, I have a flight from Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) to Salt Lake City (SLC) coming up. Because of my Delta Platinum Medallion status, I was previously upgraded to Delta Comfort+ for free. However, I can use my remaining SkyMiles (32,900) to upgrade to First Class on the way to Salt Lake City. Compared to the cash fee, it’s nearly exactly 1 cent per SkyMile in every case we examined. Furthermore, there is no way to use the TakeOff 15 perk to upgrade using miles at a 15% discount.
Advice on Maximizing Delta SkyMiles’ Value
After discussing a few mistakes to avoid making when spending your SkyMiles, let’s discuss some strategies to make the most of your SkyMiles.
SkyMiles Delta Flash Sales
We cannot emphasize this enough. Making a reservation during a Delta SkyMiles flash sale is the best way to optimize the value of your miles. Dynamic award pricing was introduced by Delta in 2016, but it came with a large drawback: unpredictable rates that can change significantly from day to day, and as was previously mentioned, it frequently costs 250,000 SkyMiles or more to fly business class. Travelers, however, stand to gain significantly from this since Delta can now choose to further reduce award rates.
Call them SkyMiles bargains or flash discounts; either way, they have the potential to be incredible. It’s sometimes a simple method to reduce travel expenses by several thousand SkyMiles. In other cases, it’s easily the least expensive option to travel using miles, saving you 50% or more of your total. The deals differ a lot, just like SkyMiles. You can derive significant value from your SkyMiles as they frequently have little to do with the flight’s monetary cost.
Make use of the Delta Award Price Calendar
Examining the pricing calendar for your route is one of the first things we advise you to do when planning to use your Delta SkyMiles. Finding the greatest deal and getting the most value out of your SkyMiles depends on this. You may get a better idea of what an award ticket can (or should) cost when you want to go by giving yourself a five-day view by choosing “Flexible Dates” when you start your search, or even five weeks by selecting “Price Calendar”.
Take a look at these flights from Minneapolis to Las Vegas, for example. This perspective indicates that even though I traveled from Thursday, March 10 to Sunday, March 13, I might have saved 34,000 SkyMiles if I had left on a Tuesday or Wednesday.
Having some flexibility with your days will be essential to making the most of your SkyMiles—this is not exclusive to Delta SkyMiles. You may save a ton of miles by simply moving your departure or return dates by one or two days. Once more, unless there is an ongoing SkyMiles flash sale, these rates ought to be somewhat similar to the flight’s cash cost.
What’s the value of Delta SkyMiles?
So, how should we interpret this? Does a SkyMile have a value of 1.1 cents? Are they each worth 1.8 cents? Or are they truly worth at least four cents? In response to each of the aforementioned questions, the answer is true. This is so because your SkyMiles’ value is based on how you utilize them. However, this is what we can tell you after conducting hundreds of searches similar to this.
The maximum value you should be able to obtain from your SkyMiles is 1.1–1.3 cents. That serves as our gauge for the wise use of SkyMiles. You can do far better on a significant overseas trip or during a fantastic SkyMiles flash sale. While it’s not ideal, the approach can provide a starting point for estimating the value of SkyMiles.
Possess a credit card from Delta? By automatically receiving a 15% discount when using SkyMiles to book a Delta-operated flight, the TakeOff 15 perk is the simplest way to maximize the value of your SkyMiles. The new perk, though, appears to be centered more around encouraging users to interact with their SkyMiles program and—more importantly—open a co-branded Delta American Express credit card.
Overall, it’s challenging to determine Delta SkyMiles’ exact value. The airline is at liberty to set its prices for every route it operates, and there’s no doubt that it’s trying hard to link the SkyMiles reward program closely to the actual cash worth of its flights. By doing this, they’re steadily bringing SkyMiles’ worth down to just one penny each. Then, you could use 50,000 miles to get about $500 off a Delta ticket. Thankfully, though, it hasn’t come to that yet.