What are Delta miles worth?

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When I last examined the value of Delta miles towards domestic economy flights, in February 2023, I found a median value of 1.3 cents per mile. That was based on a manual process where I looked at flights between 8 of the busiest airports in the U.S. and I compared the cash prices to the award prices.

Now, we have a better way of pinning down the value of Delta miles. Points Path, which is a Google Flights extension, keeps records of both the point prices and cash prices of all searches done its platform. The Points Path founder, and my friend, Julian Kheel, has made this data available to us for the purpose of identifying program point values. With over a million search results contributing to this statistic, this provides a far better estimate than I was able to calculate manually.

Based on an analyses of Points Path’s data, we’ve concluded that the new Reasonable Redemption Value (RRV) for Delta miles = 1.1 Cents Per Mile.

a large airplane on a tarmac

At Frequent Miler, we keep a database of point valuations (we call these “Reasonable Redemption Values“). These are point estimates of airline miles, hotel points, transferable points, and more. The idea is that we try to identify the value at which it is “reasonable” to get that much value or more from your points. This information is critical for making informed decisions. In fact, it’s a key component of the First Year Value information shown on our Best Credit Card Offers page, and it’s similarly used to show which cards offer the best value for everyday spend, and which offer the best category bonuses.

Calculations

  • Points Path Median Observed Value for Delta Main Cabin Flights: 1.1 Cents Per Mile
    (based on the past 365 days of data as of June 20, 2024)
    • Decrease by 7% to account for the fact that award flights do not earn redeemable miles: 1.0 Cents Per Mile.
  • Consider that Delta Gold, Platinum, and Reserve cardholders get 15% off award flights with the TakeOff 15 award discount. For cardholders, the starting cents per mile = 1.1 / 0.85 = 1.29 Cents Per Mile.
    • Decrease by 7% to account for the fact that award flights do not earn redeemable miles: 1.2 Cents Per Mile.
  • Range: 1.0 to 1.2.
  • For our RRV, we’ll pick the middle point between 1.1 and 1.2: 1.1 Cents Per Point.

Conclusion

The exercise described above resulted in a new Reasonable Redemption Value (RRV) for Delta miles. Where we previously pegged the Delta Reasonable Redemption Value at 1.3 cents per mile, we now list it at 1.1 cents per mile. That’s the point at which you are likely to get that much value or more.

Please keep in mind that this does not mean that you will always get 1.1 cents per mile value from your Delta miles. In practice, you’ll sometimes find better than 1.1 cents per mile value and sometimes you’ll find worse. As a Delta Gold, Platinum, or Reserve cardholder, you’re likely to get slightly better value. Additionally, note that there are some ways to get better value from Delta miles. For details, see: Best uses for Delta miles.

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Harry

I’m retired, fly 1st class almost always and AA hub captive DFW. The posts about DL’s points pales in comparison to how much AA charges. Try DFW to JFK which I fly for positioning flights. Try DFW to LAX, try almost anywhere and DL will beat AA almost always on award cost. Flight coming this fall to JFK, booked 2 in first class for 65K miles. AA wanted almost that much for one. And the kicker is DL is better than AA on the ground and in the air. Common sense, when you are pissed at your management, tell me it doesn’t come on board. In your job, rather work for a profitable company or one that is broke…duh?

Kevin

This valuation makes sense if I only ever fly Delta. Because I’ll often fly another airline if the fare is cheaper then Delta points are worth even less to me.

Matthew

They are worth precisely nothing. Much more concise

Darin

What’s the calculation that gets you to a 7% deduction for the loss in RDMs? If you’re a general member, you’d get 5 miles per dollar spent (before taxes), which is less than 5.5% based on a 1.1 cents per mile valuation. Obviously this gets larger as your status increases, is the 7% taking that into account or am I missing something in the calculation?

DMoney

As a Canadian with 3 young kids, I have redeemed Delta Skymiles more that any other programs. I have even transferred more than 500k MR points to Delta over the past year to redeem on WestJet. Delta has amazing 13k-15k pricing on most of WestJet’s domestic, transborder and Caribbean routes, and WestJet has started releasing a large # of seats to Delta for award booking. We have redeemed 5+ seats on direct flights out of YYZ during peak travel times and gotten 3+ cpp value on our MR points. Can’t beat that!

kenisha

This is sad and pathetic. They have the best domestic product/lounge experience (in my opinion) but their program is just brutal. I guess that’s why they do it lol

BZR

I don’t have much experience with UA or AA but in my decade with DL it’s been incredible seeing how far the points value has fallen.

I did the “Mosaic on the DL” challenge last year to match my DL Diamond over to Jetblue, and also got the $99 credit card for the signup points bonus. Redeeming Jetblue points has shown me just how much more value there is to be had from other airlines for US points redemptions.

For DL, I’m still a loyalist since my work/life has me frequenting HND, LAX and ATL airports, but points redemptions are only good for a small handful of niche (and seemingly not well known) international partner redemptions. DL has massacred SkyPesos for any flights touching the USA at any point in their itinerary

Greg

Dreadful just dreadful program. I actively avoid flying them because of it.

anonymous

Greg, using that data, do you have the capability of comparing average redeemed values for, say, domestic vs. international, or Economy vs. Business? That would be interesting… especially since this is about Delta.

Sco

Do you have access to info for the quartiles or deciles? It would be interesting to see how wide the value range is

anonymous

Thanks, Greg.

Mantis

I feel obliged to again point out that RRV is not how much they are “worth”, it’s a decision making guide to help you decide when you should/shouldn’t use your delta miles over cash. They are not “worth” 1.1 cpp as it would not be very wise to speculatively buy them at 1.1 cpp, and nobody would ever buy them off of you for 1.1cpp. Their value will always be worth less than what you can redeem them for, as cash is much more flexible, and can be invested and grow in value. Miles have a very narrow use, and only go down in value.

Lee

Greg, when Delta first introduced the cardholder 15 percent discount, I saw an immediate devaluation that is exactly in line with your numbers. And, all the 15 percent discount did was to preserve my pre-devaluation redemption rate. This is consistent across dozens of actual redemptions. To me, your analysis is spot on.

Ken

“Most likely, if you’re not a cardholder, you’ll sometimes find better than 1.3 cents per mile value and sometimes you’ll find worse.”

“Most Likely”? Just for the record, that statement is universally true, whether you’re a cardholder or not. Just saying.

[…] back for every dollar that you spend. Delta is well-known for trying to value their miles at about 1.3 cent per point during […]

Aloha808

Just curious, I noticed that the minimum CPM was listed as 1.0 here, whereas for UA and AA you list minimums below 1.0. Are you giving Delta the benefit of the “Pay With Miles” perk?

Also, sorry but did you calculate the CPM mean as well?

Aloha808

Thank you!

veeRob

Can’t wait to write the program to automate this for you! 😀