This post has been updated to include several reader tips (Mexico to Europe business class for 65K, business class within Asia for 35K, etc.). Given that Delta credit card offers are currently at a high watermark (70K to 90K!), I figured that this would be a good time to re-publish this post…
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.
Here’s one recent 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
Recent flash sales:
US to Canada via WestJet for 12.5K one-way, economy
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.
US to South America via LATAM for 25K one-way economy
Using Delta miles, LATAM flights between the US and 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.
Mexico to Europe for 65K one-way (business class)
Delta’s saver-level business class flights to Europe cost only 65K one-way, or 130K round-trip, if you start the trip in Mexico. When comparing a 130K + $242 in fees round-trip award to the best available cash prices when booked through Delta ($3,209), I calculate a per-mile value of 2.3 cents per mile.
If you fly entirely on partner airlines, though, the price is slightly higher (75K one-way). This leads to an estimated 2 cents per mile value.
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.
US to Middle East (including Israel) for 85K one-way (business class)
Delta charges 170,000 miles round-trip (or 85,000 miles one-way) for partner awards to the Middle East in business class. Cash prices for the similar trips start at over $3,200 on the dates and routes I looked at. After accounting for award fees, this means that you can get about 1.8 cents per mile value, or more.
Economy flights to the Middle East on partner airlines cost 37,500 miles one-way or 37,000 miles one-way flying Delta itself.
US to Africa for 95K one-way (business class)
Delta charges 95,000 miles one-way for partner awards to Africa. The best you’ll find for itineraries that include Delta’s own flights is 120K one-way.
Mexico to/from Asia for 90K one-way (business class)
While Delta charges at least 114K one-way for business class flights between the US and Asia, they charge only 90K one-way for business class flights between Mexico and Asia.
Flights within Asia for 35K one-way (business class)
While some routes within Asia price at 45K one-way, I found that many routes price at just 35K one-way for business class.
Delta’s “Lowest Award Price”
Many airlines differentiate between standard awards (read: high priced awards) and saver awards. The trick with these airlines is to find saver award availability for routes where their award chart offers especially low prices. But Delta doesn’t work that way. Delta doesn’t publish an award chart and no longer offers any obvious way to see which awards are “saver” awards. Instead, their award search Price Calendar indicates dates with “LOWEST” award prices for that period. In the example above, you can see that the lowest award price for whatever search I did at that time was 21,000 miles.
Through many different searches, I’ve found that Delta’s lowest award price often offers between 1.3 and 2 cents per mile value. Here are some examples…
US to Europe (Delta One Business Class)
Delta charges 210,000 miles round-trip for business class flights to Europe. That’s a huge number of miles compared to many competing programs. On the other hand, the same flights are often extremely expensive if paying cash. For example, with a flight I found from Los Angeles to Amsterdam, you could pay either 210,000 miles round-trip (plus $73 in fees) or $4,825. That leads to a value of 2.3 cents per mile if you’re determined to fly Delta. For the same dates, though, you could instead fly a competing airline in business class for as little as $2,025. When compared to the competitor’s price, you’ll get less than a penny per mile value with this award. This is an extreme example, though, of where the best alternative price is less than half of Delta’s price. In many cases, your true value will be somewhere in-between. For example, the next best price for the above trip was $3,112. Compared to that price, Delta miles offer 1.5 cents per mile value. My bet is that in most cases you’ll get around 1.5 cents per mile value compared to the best competing cash price.
Pick just about any domestic itinerary and search for the lowest award prices and then compare to paid prices. In my experience, you’re likely to get around 1.3 cents per mile value. Here’s an example:
I randomly searched one-way from Salt Lake City to New Orleans for September and found the following award and paid prices:
Here’s the calculated value per mile for each class of service from the above example:
- Main Cabin: 1.4
- Comfort+: 1.3
- First: 1.3
In practice, your results will vary. In various searches I’ve seen as low as 1 cent per mile value and as high as 1.5.
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.