SkyMiles Strike Back


Long the laughing stock of the award travel world, Delta SkyMiles is striking back against popular perception. On this week’s Frequent Miler on the Air, we discussed the new award discount for cardholders that looks to be as advertised and international business class deals connecting the dots outside of the US, it is possible to get better value out of SkyMiles than you may have otherwise assumed.

Elsewhere on the blog this week, read about an awesome tool for finding award flights, an updated guide for making a LifeMiles manual award booking (while avoiding my silly mistake), the latest on Vacasa redemptions (which you may want to consider sooner rather than later) and more. Watch, listen, or read on for more from this week at Frequent Miler.

00:40 Giant Mailbag
5:04 Mattress Running the Numbers Double-header
5:05 Wyndham Rewards points sale (too late, but good to know)
7:42 Citi to offer 30% transfer bonus to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
14:06 What crazy thing….did Caesars Rewards do this week?
18:28 Frequent Miler 2023 Team Challenge Update
23:45 Awards we booked this week: Greg books Vacasa
31:05 Awards we booked this week: Gifting Hyatt free night certs
33:30 Main Event: SkyMiles Strikes Back
34:18 15% discount on awards for cardholders (as good as advertised)
44:53 Opportunities for good value using SkyMiles for premium cabin international awards
57:06 Question of the Week: After Hyatt, which hotel program should be your #2 choice?

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This week on the Frequent Miler blog…

No catch: Delta’s 15% discount is real

If you thought that Delta’s new award discount for credit card holders would really just be a stealth devaluation since they could increase prices and then “discount” them to the same price as before, you would be forgiven for your skepticism. However, Greg ran the numbers: Delta SkyMiles awards have maintained a consistent value against the cash cost of flights — meaning that this award discount for cardholders is the real deal. We’ll keep  our eye on this, but for now this appears to be a nice benefit that adds real value to the Delta Gold, Platinum and Reserve cards (both consumer and business).

What are Delta miles worth? (towards domestic economy flights)

As noted in the summary above, Greg ran the numbers on the value of Delta SkyMiles against domestic economy class flights (the most common use of miles) and the numbers came out very close to the last time he ran the same analysis (in fact, the value was a smidge better this time, though probably not by a statistically significant difference given the sample size). That is as encouraging as one can expect from Delta SkyMiles.

Wyndham Vacasa: Great Value is Real!

I said it earlier this week: smoke ’em if you got ’em. I mean, of course, that the time to look for great Vacasa deals is right now. Greg updated our Vacasa resource post this week with new information and data points as well as easy-to-follow instructions for booking. The reason I say that now is the time to look is because we are expecting Wyndham award chart changes on February 22nd. We don’t yet know that there will be any affect on Vacasa redemptions, and I hope that there won’t be, but I would bet my Wyndham points on now being the time to book (and I believe that most Vacasa bookings can be cancelled for a refund of the points provided you do it at least 30 days in advance, so I intend to scoop up a few bookings before February 22nd just in case and we’ll see what happens.

Greg’s Top Picks: Interesting offerings from IHG, Delta, and Southwest

Credit card welcome bonus offerings change all the time and while you can find an objective ranking of those bonuses via our Best Credit Card Offers page, Greg publishes monthly updates with some subjective analysis sprinkled in.

LifeMiles manual booking: patience compulsory, persistence pays off

Avianca LifeMiles is probably the frequent flyer program I have used the most over the years, despite its drawbacks. One of those drawbacks is that some awards that should be bookable don’t show up online. Several years ago, I wrote about a solution to this problem: the LifeMiles manual booking. I recently succeeded in securing another LifeMiles manual booking despite a rookie mistake putting me on full tilt and nearly derailing the award. This type of booking isn’t a situation to look for but rather it can be a good tool to have in your belt. a wonderfully nerdy tool for finding Unicorn flight awards

If you are an intermediate to advanced award enthusiast, you are probably going to love, which can be a great tool for finding the awards you’re looking for. It isn’t as “pretty” as some tools, but the results are pretty awesome. Greg covers all the details in a read you definitely don’t want to miss if you enjoy finding great award flights.

The rose-colored glasses come off (on Nick’s mind)

The Joy of Free is what draws most of us into this hobby. A recent comment from reader and Youtuber Dugroz Reports stuck in my mind when he suggested that he would prefer having one great hotel transfer partner over more great airline partners because he doesn’t pay for flights or hotels and so using points was the only option. My travels certainly wouldn’t fit into the family budget if not for the ability to use points for great awards, so I can absolutely understand the ability of points to save the family budget for things that matter more — but I think that the value of a good hotel program is often overstated. While I love to book a nice Hyatt property when I can, the savings created on premium cabin flight bookings by having access to the best sweet spots outpaces what I save by using hotel points in large part because the “real” savings of hotel points (how much I would have paid for an acceptable hotel were it not for the point redemption opportunity) is typically less significant. Again, I’ll use points very often — but I value airline transfer partners more highly than hotel partners since I stand to save more with the right airline sweet spots.

DoubleTree Tampa Bay – North Redington Beach: Bottom Line Review

Tim reviews a Hilton property near Tampa Bay that didn’t quite live up to his hopes for it. His loss is our gain — while I had no plans to visit this property any time soon, I now know to look for other options should I find myself in need of lodging in the area.

Guide Updates

Air Canada Aeroplan Complete Guide

Greg has revamped our Aeroplan Complete Guide to give you everything you need to know about the program — from credit cards to elite status to award chart updates and more.

Plastiq Guide: Pay Bills via Credit Card (but not Amex)

Bummer: Plastiq no longer accepts Amex cards. While most people won’t find Plastiq to be worth the fee in most instances, I saw a data point in the MilesTalk Facebook group that was a good example of the “right” situation when I read about someone who had been paying monthly daycare fees via Plastiq. While the 2.9% fee would make that unattractive, their daycare didn’t accept Amex cards and anyone who pays for daycare knows that you might have been able to hit a Delta MQD waiver or a Hilton Surpass free night certificate by sending the monthly check through Plastiq. Unfortunately, that ship has sailed. It’s a bummer that this came with no advance notice.

That’s it for this week at Frequent Miler. Keep your eye on this week’s last chance deals and grab them before they’re gone.

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I’m surprised that you didn’t mention that after using 15% off, Delta SYD-LAX-MEX is a bit over 80,000 Skymiles which makes it competitive especially because it’s easily booked compared to slightly cheaper competitors’ programs.

Greg The Frequent Miler

Have you seen that discounted price? All of the examples I’ve looked at include a segment on aeromexico for the LAX-MEX segment. In those cases where there’s a partner involved, you don’t get the 15% discount.


You are correct (of course!). I thought LAX – MEX leg was also on Delta.


Regarding the Delta Amex cards, as a Diamond Medallion who doesn’t use spend to get waivers or MQMs, I have never seen the use of keeping one of their cards. The gold version gets you free bags, so there is no added value with elite status. The platinum version gives you an economy BOGO companion pass, but given all the restrictions, plus the loss of earnings for the companion, its not worth $250 to me (after intermittently having this card over the years).

Since I do mainly fly Delta, I earn & burn SkyMiles frequently. So I immediately applied for the Gold version, because it will save me more than $99 a year in miles. Now I am questioning whether it is worth it to upgrade (in the future) to the platinum, since the companion cert would be only $151 more.


NK3: Indirectly it could cost you more than $151. Using my last personal Reserve card companion cert, during booking I noticed how Delta will bump the paid ticket price by a several hundred dollars. Case in point, when I checked the cash ticket price for one, it was say $700. Got that figure, so now start booking by first pulling up the companion ticket cert, clicked on two flyers and now my cash ticket price for one goes to $1,000. It’s not exactly as advertised. AA does the same thing on booking two award tickets. One award is X, and then you go for 2 flyers it will most times be more than 2X. International sometimes will be off the charts.Oh, capacity controlled (dynamic) pricing, the case in point above was all seats (1st class) were open.


Yeah, they can be tricky to use. I haven’t had your exact situation, but had others. For the Platinum cert, it says there needs to be L, U, T, X, or V fare classes. I have found a flight I wanted with 2 tickets available in L fare class, but then when I go to use the cert, it is not an option.

Its probably not worth the hassle to upgrade just for the cert. Maybe if there is a good upgrade offer I would consider it.

Greg The Frequent Miler

I think that only happens if there is just one $700 seat left. There would have to be two $700 seats left for the price to stay the same when you go to use your companion ticket.


Please reread my last sentence. No 1st class seats were taken. Absolutely wide open. Again this is a real booking made in January 2023 (cert expired @ end of January) for flights in November 2023.

Sidebar, last week Delta changed our flight arrival by 3 hours. We would miss our connection with another airline. Called Delta as I knew I would not be successful trying to change online. Delta rep was very nice as was I, but she said I cannot change to what you want. I politely said, understand with the computer not allowing you and she acknowledged. Then again very politely, please get me your manager as I said this is Delta’s fault not mine, and I want this fixed. Reminded her I was a million miler and again total politeness. It took a called back from Delta, but was changed to what I wanted. Now any bearing on this blog, who knows anymore, but can’t help but wonder if the ecert was not compounding the situation? At the end of the day, book with miles if you can. Covers most everything that in this day and age can happen.

Greg The Frequent Miler

Even if all seats are open, that doesn’t mean that they are selling more than 1 seat for $700. One way you can prove my theory wrong is to try to do a regular cash purchase on the same flight for two people rather than just one and see if the price changes.

It’s also the case that the certs are only valid with certain fare codes. Usually it’s valid with the most discounted fare codes, but maybe you found a situation where the cheaper fare wasn’t valid.

Or maybe you’re right and they’re messing with the price intentionally. I don’t think that’s the case, but I’ve been wrong before.

Regarding your last point, I do 100% agree that doing things like using companion certs and applying upgrade certificates makes things more difficult when you need to make changes. That can be insanely frustrating.


Understand your point on pricing as two purchased tickets. However, the case I was making to NK3 was justification for going Amex Delta Platinum card and above which meant receiving/using an companion cert.

I was tempted to take out the Reserve business version (my last available card). Best offer in awhile when the past included the MQMs which is worthless to me and fewer miles. I still cannot justify the card mostly because of the e-cert even 1st class. My problem too is DFW home base. Now if DL still had a hub here, then I could probably justify the card (e-cert). Thanks for your site. The best.


Late Spring! Thank god! im going to japan in June and was afraid id miss your tips!


“…it is possible to get better value out of SkyMiles than you may have otherwise assumed.”@NickI think Miles Talk’s take on Skymiles/flash sales is amusing: milestalkDOTcom/delta-flash-sale-just-240000-750000-miles-round-trip-to-europe-in-delta-one/Some of those work out to even less than 1cpm.

Last edited 7 months ago by anonymous

Sorry for the double-post.


“…it is possible to get better value out of SkyMiles than you may have otherwise assumed.”


Another take:

https://milestalk DOT com/delta-flash-sale-just-240000-750000-miles-round-trip-to-europe-in-delta-one/



@Greg- What Beach(area) did you book in Hawaii? Thanks

Willy McCovey lll

Sam … that sounds a little creepy, but I know Greg is quite the good looking gentleman.


Not that kind of guy. Have tons of Wyndham points and planning a trip to Hawaii and wanted to see what area he was able to book Vacasa. I have asked a lot of questions to Greg on various topics on his articles. Not sure why would you feel this way about a question I asked.