This post has been updated to include business class award deals where neither the start nor destination is within the U.S. or Canada. Plus, I’ve added the new ability to get a 15% discount by holding any Delta Gold, Platinum, or Reserve card.
The way to “win” the points & miles game is to acquire points cheaply (or for free) and to then use them towards outsized value. For example, you may be able to earn 60,000 points or more from a single credit card bonus. Then, if you find great sweet spot awards, you may be able to use those points for thousands of dollars in value. With Delta, though, opportunities to get far outsized value are slim (see: Delta Miles are Worth Less). Still, there are opportunities to get good value and sometimes even great value. Here’s a round-up of best uses for Delta miles…
Great Value Options
In my opinion, any time you can get 2 cents per mile value or more from Delta miles, that’s great. Here are some options…
Delta Skymiles Flash Sales
Delta periodically runs SkyMiles sales, and often doesn’t even advertise them. When blogs like this one post about these sales, it’s worth running some searches yourself on Delta.com. Sometimes you can get extraordinary value from these deals. And now that Delta is offering cardholders 15% off award flights, even better deals should soon be available.
Here’s an example where Delta was offering one-way flights for as little as 2,000 miles:
This was a rare case where Delta miles were often worth more than 2 cents per mile. Even rarer was the situation where a domestic first class award netted nearly 4 cents per mile value (for the 7:35am flight, above). Here’s the calculated value per mile for each class of service from the above example:
- Basic Economy: 2.14
- Main Cabin: 2.3
- Comfort+: 2.1
- First: 3.7
US to Canada via WestJet for 12.5K one-way, economy
Update 2/2/2023: This sweet-spot is still alive! I had doubts after the partner devaluation we reported in October 2022.
I don’t know how long this will last, but for now at least, Delta is pricing all awards on partner WestJet at their old fixed award prices: 12,500 miles one-way within North America. WestJet has flights to Canada from Atlanta, Boston, Denver, JFK, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Orlando, San Diego, San Francisco, and more. Anytime the cash price is over $170 one-way, you’ll get good value from your miles. And, anytime the cash price is over $250 one-way, you’ll get great value from your miles. I was easily able to dig up a few cases where one-way prices were over $300, especially to more remote parts of Canada.
Tip: Don’t trust Delta’s cash price for WestJet flights. I found an example where Delta wanted either 12,500 miles or $1,062 for a nonstop flight from JFK to Calgary! That would give you a theoretical value of 8.5 cents per Delta mile. Via Google Flights, though, I found that the exact same flight could be purchased through WestJet for only $211. When compared to the more reasonable price, the 12,500 mile award offers 1.6 cents per mile value. That’s still good for Delta miles, but not the insane value I first thought.
Flights that originate and end outside of the U.S. and Canada
Delta charges much less for most flights originating and ending outside of the U.S. and Canada. In each case where this works, at least one segment is flown by a partner airline, but often the bulk of the flying is on Delta itself. Below you’ll find a number of examples. For full details, see: Delta SkyMiles Business class deals aren’t dead. Here’s how to find them.
Unfortunately, the Delta credit card 15% discount applies only to itineraries flown entirely by Delta and so there is no additional discount for flights like those shown below.
Mexico to/from Australia business class for 95K
- Mexico City to Sydney via Houston and LAX
- Sydney to Mexico City via LAX
Mexico to/from South Africa business class for 95K
Example: Johannesburg to Mexico City
Mexico to/from Europe business class for 75K
- Mexico City to London via Amsterdam on KLM
- Amsterdam to Mexico City via Paris on Air France
South America to Europe business class for 80K to 90K
- Colombia to Paris on Air France for 80K
- Brazil to Paris on Air France for 90K
- Argentina to Paris on Air France for 90K
Mexico to/from Asia business class for 90K
Example: Mexico City to Seoul Korea on Korean Air
Europe to/from Asia business class for 90K
- Paris to Seoul on Korean Air
- Seoul to Amsterdam on Korean Air
- Vienna to Taipei via China Airlines business class
South Korea to/from Japan business class for 15K
Example: Seoul to Tokyo on Korean Air business class
Good Value Options
In my opinion, any time you can get between 1.3 and 2 cents per mile value from Delta, that’s a good value.
15% Off for Delta cardholders
Now that Delta offers a 15% award discount to Delta Gold, Platinum, and Reserve cardholders, you can get good (but not exciting) value on almost any flight.
Shown above you can see both the cash and award search results for a one-way flight from Detroit to Los Angeles. In the table below, I’ve calculated the value of using SkyMiles to book into each of the 3 cabin options both with and without the 15% discount:
Cents Per Point
Cents Per Point
Cents Per Point
|With 15% Discount||1.4||1.4||1.3|
As you can see above, the value of SkyMiles for a domestic flight often hovers around 1.2 cents per point, but with the 15% discount you’re more likely to get 1.4 cents per point value.
Fly within Europe for 10K economy or 20K/25K business
Delta offers fixed award prices when flying partner airlines within Europe. Economy appears to be fixed at 10K miles one-way whereas business class costs 20K within a country or 25K across countries. Whether or not this is a good deal depends upon cash rates at the time. Also note that you can often do much better with Virgin Atlantic miles. See: Air France & KLM across Europe for less.
Unfortunately, the Delta credit card 15% discount applies only to itineraries flown entirely by Delta and so there is no additional discount for flights like these.
US to northern South America via LATAM for 25K one-way economy
Using Delta miles, LATAM flights between the US and northern South America price at 25,000 miles one-way. That can be a good or bad value depending on the cash price of the ticket. Anytime the cash price is over $350 one-way, you’ll get good value from your miles. And, anytime the cash price is over $500 one-way, you’ll get great value from your miles.
Sky Club Premium Drinks
Delta Sky Clubs offer both complementary and premium alcohol options. The latter must be paid for with cash or with miles. When using miles to pay for premium drinks, you’ll get 1.5 cents per mile value. You can view a recent menu with prices here.
A cool bonus: you can tip the server with miles at the same rate! For example, you can give the server a $3 tip and it will cost you only 200 miles.
What did I miss?
Do you know of great uses for Delta miles not included above? Please comment below.
This is useful information. I have Delta miles that have been idle for a while since I always find better deals on other carriers. At least this tells me where to look for the best chances for a decent return on the miles,
Great article!! Thanks.
Did they remove option to apply RUC/GUC online? I see space available then in check out no way to apply RUC/GUC. Agent via text says must be done via agent.
My wife just applied a GUC this morning during check-out
Thanks for updating this Greg!
Now maybe your people can contact Nick’s people about the existence of sweet spots in domestic travel redemptions? 🙂
I fly to Toronto a lot from the East Coast.
I usually get good value from my Delta sky miles for these flights. Usually 1.5 cents/point or more. Depending on when I book the flights. Plus the added bonus of it being flexible/changeable. These prices fluctuate up and down daily.
I have also found that Delta jacks up prices of the Westjet flight they are offering. It’s usually easily booked directly through WestJet for much cheaper. If you want to pay cash…
You misses exchanging for pesos at 1.5 miles per peso
The 4 cents/mile on FC isn’t that rare given that Delta (at least the few times I’ve looked) is charging 2-3x the price vs UA and AA. ($4,000+ for one round trip ticket to Mexico vs. $1,800 on their competitors). I don’t live in a “hub” captive city. Given that I’d never pay $4,000 for a ticket I could get elsewhere for half that, it does tend to skew the results when calculating the value of SkyPesos. Plus the fact that there are never any flash sales from our airport (ALB).
While I do think that DL outperforms the other US carriers (timeliness, planes and crew, baggage handling), I can’t imagine why anyone not in a hub would choose them. They are always so much most costly than other options. Personally, I live in ATL and rarely have choices. It think this piece is especially useful for us. But I do envy those of you with lots of choices.
Can still get Asia to Europe for 90K in business on Air France.
We’ll see what happens as soon as people can actually fly that route.
Thoughts on Delta First to Hawaii? 50-60K one way usually from East Coast. Seems a good deal, wonder your thoughts
That’s a good deal if you can get on a flight with lie flat seats.
That’s a good deal regardless, IMO. When I looked (this was like 7 years ago) DL wanted 270,000 EACH WAY for each ticket. AA had it for around 60k I believe (lie flats from DFW to OGG), but that pricing is gone now (AA charges more for lie flats now).
Pre-pandemic I found pretty good value flying from non-US destination to non-US destination. Like CDG to Abu Dhabi in business class was around 65k one way (and then AA miles for etihad for the next leg)
Was ready to say “bbbbut Dom Perignon 2009 for $200 isn’t a good price, so you can’t say that’s a good value just bc of a good cpp”, but actually $200 seems to be close to market price. I did see my local Costco have Dom for I think $140ish, not sure which vintage though.
Skymiles get a bad rap because they don’t make it so easy to exploit like some other programs. I love flying Cathay F with just 2 credit card signups, or J with 1, but the ability to do so obviously has no effect on creating loyal and long term profitable customers with that particular program. So good for Delta, bad for people like me who enjoy international F/J for peanuts.
[…] Delta Skymiles are so devalued that we used to call them Skypesos. And even that became too good so then maybe they should be called Drachmas (the long gone former Greek currency). Or Zimbabwe money or whatever. But if you really try hard you can find some and…these may also be gone by Wednesday lol: Best Uses for Delta Miles. […]
Underrated use that I’ve used a few times is either Garuda Air or Korean Air interasia business. I flew garuda DPS – ICN which was about 8 hour life flat on a 5 star airline for 45k
Thanks! Later this week (or next week) I plan to investigate all of the reader suggestions and update this post accordingly.
It seems like economy flights between the US and Mexico on Aeromexico are still fixed at 17k. Those flights can sometimes be $300+.
What about using them to upgrade? Do they have a set amount of miles it takes to upgrade to Delta One suites? From Economy? Premium Economy?
In my experience, you can usually upgrade service class at a straight one cent per mile, maybe a little more or less than that.
Still potentially useful if you have a lot of SkyMiles and care about earning MQMs (after booking a paid ticket)!
A bit off topic:
It seems to me that Virgin Atlantic does not have “honeymoon” suites or seats where I can sit next to my wife in “business class” or whatever they call it. Is this so, or are there certain planes that are outfitted for 2 middle seats without a wall between them?
Virgin Atlantic had a few A330-200s that they took over when Air Berlin went under. Those are probably the closest to what you are talking about. I had read that they were retiring that model by 2022, so I am not sure if you would encounter it anymore.
The A350 has 2 seats in the middle but they angle away from each other.
For what it’s worth, the 787 seats are not very private. When we flew, we took 2 seats next to each other in the A row, and could easily talk. We also sat at the bar together for part of the flight.
Thanks for that, NK3
This is very useful!
Greg desperately trying to fall back in love with Delta 😉
They’re basically Southwest points today. That’s not all bad, it’s just different.
Really funny that you should say that because in tomorrow’s FM On the Air (recorded yesterday), I declared the same thing: Delta miles are like Southwest points.
It’s not just from the US to Tel Aviv on Virgin Atlantic business class that is a good deal, but also to other destinations in Middle East where it is just 37,500 one-way economy and 85,000 one-way business (I got an upcoming itin on KLM but other itins on Saudia, Air France, Virgin Atlantic, or MEA, maybe even Alitalia also work. Adding a Delta segment bumps up the price).
Also US to Africa is 40,000 one-way economy and 90,000 one-way business if you fly on partner airlines via Europe or the Middle East. Appears to be 52,000 one-way economy and 120,000 one-way business if you fly Delta direct from the US.
Both ideas use the old US Airways booking philosophy of “fly farther via somewhere to your destination for less than if you just flew to the via point as your destination” (the old “Asia as destination via Europe is cheaper than Europe as destination”).
Otherwise I also kept my eye on Europe-Middle East flights which are still just 25,000 one-way economy or 42,500 one-way business. Price seems to be in line with other loyalty programs and cheaper than some.
If you start/end your European journey in Mexico, it’s a lot cheaper than if you start/end it in the US. If you fly on Delta only or Delta+Virgin Atlantic or Delta+Aeromexico, it is 35,000 one-way economy and either 65,000 or 85,000 one-way in business (I saw itins with both prices on Delta online). If you fly only on Air France, KLM, Aeromexico, it’s 37,500 one-way in economy or 75,000 one-way in business. Not sure about Delta+Air France, Delta+KLM…
Thanks! I’ll look into these and update the post when I get a chance!
Want to also add one more that I found:
Starting/ending your Asia (at least to northeast Asia) journey in Mexico costs 50,000 one-way in economy and 90,000 one-way in business, whether you fly Delta, Aeromexico, Korean Air, China Airlines and possibly also China Eastern (whenever they start releasing award space again).
Great info. Euro and @Greg The Frequent Miler I see quite a few options for biz class from MEX to CDG and MEX to LHR for 65k o/w and 130k r/t in June. Fees were $200 something for CDG and $400 something for LHR. On the other hand, cash prices for those same (r/t) flights were around $2500.
[…] Best Uses For Delta Miles: This is an airline currency that I struggle to use effectively. However with Delta being a transfer partner with Amex, I should brush up on how to get outsized value from Delta miles. Here are some great options. […]
My takeaway from this is that you should always take 2% cash over 1 Delta mile. You are very, very unlikely to ever redeem that mile for better than 2 cents and, with the cash, you have enormously more flexibility in how you deploy the money. I’m not a fan of cash back because I plan (imagine, maybe) that I’ll get 5 or 10 cents of “value” from each point — in reality that I’ll be willing to “pay” for things with the miles that I would never pay for with cash (what I think you guys call “the value of Free”). But this analysis makes me think that will increasingly be the way to go as more programs align their redemptions more closely with cash prices.
I don’t know if there is any currency where I would take 1 point/mile over 2% cash.
I hear you on the value of each point. There have been a few occasions where I have redeemed some currency for 5-10 cpm based on the cash price. But in reality, if I actually paid cash for the fare, it would only be a fraction of that. Last week I picked up a Delta ticket for Mother’s Day weekend at 2500 Skymiles, where the cash price was $63. I worked it out to about 2.3 cents/mile. In terms of actual value, it was probably one of the best redemptions I have made in a long time, because I was about to break out my credit card and pay for the flight.
Another thing to keep in mind–there is only value in a point/mile when you redeem it. Cash back has immediate value. If you earn a mile and wait 5-10 years for a great redemption, the cash back could have grown significantly in a decent index fund. These are (common sense?) things I finally realize as the pandemic drags on and my points/miles collection grows with little to use it on.
“…you should always take 2% cash over 1 Delta mile.”
Over 1 Delta mile, yes, but if you’re earning 3 Delta miles per dollar, then that changes the equation.
It doesn’t necessarily result in more “value” in Skymiles, though. Lol!
The difficulty of finding award deals has some effect on the value of the award miles. I will probably keep using what limited Delta miles I have on buying magazine subscriptions.
Useful collection of Delta miles uses. They become more like BA avios – mostly good for domestic economy flights with occasional sweet spots for flights abroad. The good thing is Delta has a wide network in US, although right now many flights are cancelled. They need to invest in customer relations side, and stop placing astronomical miles numbers on business awards – this way they can win back more clients. Some of the moves with no more change fees and mile expiration were good moves.
I’m surprised your article is this long, Greg.
Why do trolls like you exist? Why burn calories on this? To each their own I guess.
or you could realize it as a swipe at skypesos…a little humor
brooks you are the one burning calories, take a pill
Adre: LOL. True. I was very tempted to publish a blank post just for fun 🙂
Saw a gag-gift book a few decades ago. It was entitled “Everything Men Know About Women” and looked like a regular paperback.
Except every page was blank.
Best part: a ‘review’ on the back cover: “Says it all!”
Full disclosure: married to a beautiful woman for 20+ years, still learning…
I apologize.My comment was pre coffee nad I tire of trolls. I’ll take a lap.