How to earn more Delta SkyMiles, from using the right credit card to shopping – The Points Guy


Though Delta Air Lines’ SkyMiles has seen devaluations over the years, it can still be a valuable program for domestic awards and partner redemptions.

Not only does the airline have a vast route network with significant hubs in large U.S. cities, but there are many different ways to earn Delta miles that you can redeem for SkyTeam flights. Sometimes, Delta even runs award sales that allow you to snag cheap flights, starting at 5,000 SkyMiles round-trip.

Delta miles are fairly easy to accrue — and they never expire — so we’ll show you ways to add to your SkyMiles balance, including flying on Delta and its partners, spending on travel rewards credit cards and transferring miles from other programs.

Earn Delta SkyMiles by flying

You can earn miles when flying with Delta and its airline partners. BOARDING1NOW/GETTY IMAGES

Earning Delta SkyMiles by flying may seem self-explanatory, but the number of miles earned depends on several factors. You’ll earn miles differently on Delta and partner flights — here’s everything you need to know.

Earn miles when flying with Delta

When flying on Delta-marketed and -operated flights, you earn miles based on your ticket’s base price (which doesn’t include government-imposed taxes). Flyers without elite status earn 5 miles per dollar on airfare, not including taxes and fees.

This means a one-way Delta ticket from Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) to Tokyo’s Haneda Airport (HND) with a base fare of $1,100 (before taxes) would earn 5,500 SkyMiles, assuming the flyer has no Delta elite status.

While this revenue-based scheme is used for earning purposes, remember that Delta Medallion status is still partially earned based on distance flown, not just dollars spent. Any flight eligible for Medallion Qualification Miles will earn a minimum of 500 MQMs.

For example, if you’re flying from Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) to Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW) in economy class, you’ll earn 500 MQMs, even though the flight only covers 488 miles.

Elite status bonuses

Additionally, those with Delta Medallion elite status will earn at a higher rate than those without it — the higher your status, the more miles you’ll earn.

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Here’s how many miles Medallion members earn for every dollar spent:

  • Silver Medallion: 7 miles
  • Gold Medallion: 8 miles
  • Platinum Medallion: 9 miles
  • Diamond Medallion: 11 miles

This means a Diamond Medallion would earn 12,100 miles on the same $1,100 ticket we discussed earlier.

Related: 5 things you need to know about Delta SkyMiles

Earn Delta SkyMiles when flying with airline partners

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

Things get confusing when earning miles with Delta’s partner airlines. These flights sometimes earn miles differently from those operated by Delta, depending on how the ticket is booked.

The simplest example applies to flights booked on Delta ticket stock, which generally happens when you book on delta.com. Even though the flight is operated by another airline, it’s marketed by Delta. So you’ll earn miles the same as with a standard Delta flight.

But what happens if you book a partner flight on a partner airline’s website and add your Delta SkyMiles number? In this case, you’ll earn miles based on the distance flown. However, the exact number of SkyMiles you’ll earn varies based on the partner, fare class and elite status.

For example, here’s how many SkyMiles you’d earn on a flight that’s operated and ticketed by Aeromexico:

DELTA.COM

Looking at the chart above, you’ll see that tickets booked in higher fare classes earn more miles. You should be able to identify your fare class by calling the ticketing airline or checking the e-ticket sent to your email after purchase.

Once you’ve found your booking class, head over to Delta’s list of partner airlines, find your partner and locate your fare class. Multiply the number in the “Total Miles Earned” column by the distance of your flight(s); the easiest way to figure out this final number is to use Great Circle Mapper.

For example, a one-way flight from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) to Mexico City International Airport (MEX) clocks in at 2,090 miles flown. An H-fare economy ticket earns 100% of that mileage, so you’d earn 2,090 SkyMiles for this ticket.

Related: Delta’s loyalty changes are even worse than originally announced

Earn Delta SkyMiles with credit cards

You can earn SkyMiles quickly with a cobranded credit card. ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

One of the easiest ways to earn lots of Delta SkyMiles is through cobranded credit cards — including welcome bonuses and earning on everyday spending. Currently, American Express issues four personal Delta cards and three business cards.

Each one has a different suite of perks and benefits. Some are geared toward the frequent Delta flyer, and others are more suited for everyday consumers who want the occasional free Delta flight.

Here’s a look at the full suite of Delta SkyMiles credit cards from American Express (terms apply):

Personal Delta cards

Business Delta cards

If you’re a casual Delta flyer, we recommend the Delta SkyMiles Gold card. It earns SkyMiles on all purchases and has a 40,000-mile welcome bonus worth $480 at our valuation.

If you’re considering applying for one of these cards, keep Amex’s once-per-lifetime rule in mind. This rule limits you to one card welcome bonus per lifetime. If you’ve received a welcome bonus for the Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card before, you won’t be eligible to receive it again if you reapply for the card. That’s why holding out for a high welcome bonus is so important — you’ll only receive it once.

Related: Choosing the best credit card for Delta flyers

Earn Delta SkyMiles by buying gift cards

As a limited-time offer, Delta is running the following holiday promotion: Buy $400 or more in Delta gift cards and earn miles (terms apply).

  • SkyMiles general members earn 3 miles per dollar
  • Silver Medallions earn 4 miles per dollar
  • Gold Medallions earn 5 miles per dollar
  • Platinum Medallions earn 6 miles per dollar
  • Diamond Medallions earn 7 miles per dollar

This promotion is only running from Nov. 20 – 29, and no enrollment is required. Whether you want to gift the special someone in your life with a Delta gift card or purchase the gift card for yourself and use it to book your own flight, you can earn extra miles.

Transfer points and miles to Delta SkyMiles

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

If you need SkyMiles quickly or don’t want to add another credit card to your wallet, you may be able to transfer points or miles from another reward program. Delta partners with American Express Membership Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy, making it easy to top off your balance when needed.

Transfer Membership Rewards points to SkyMiles

Delta SkyMiles has one credit card transfer partner: American Express Membership Rewards.

You can transfer Membership Rewards points to Delta SkyMiles at a 1:1 ratio. However, you will pay a fee of $0.0006 per mile (up to a maximum of $99) to offset the federal excise tax, so the transaction will carry an additional cost.

Often, putting purchases on a card that earns Membership Rewards points will yield more SkyMiles per dollar spent than using one of Delta’s cobranded American Express cards. For example, The Platinum Card® from American Express earns 5 Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on flights booked directly with any airline or through American Express Travel (on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year).

Here are some popular options for earning Amex points that can then be transferred directly to your SkyMiles account:

  • The Platinum Card from American Express: Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $8,000 on eligible purchases within the first six months of card membership. However, some readers have been targeted for an even higher welcome offer using the CardMatch tool (offer subject to change at any time). Terms apply.
  • American Express® Gold Card: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $6,000 on purchases with your new card within the first six months of account opening. However, some readers have been targeted for an even higher welcome offer using the CardMatch tool (offer subject to change at any time). Terms apply.
  • American Express® Green Card: Earn 40,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $3,000 on purchases on your new card in your first six months of card membership. Terms apply.
  • The Business Platinum Card® from American Express: Earn 120,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the card within the first three months of card membership. Terms apply.

The information for the American Express Green Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Related: The best ways to use Amex Membership Rewards points

Transfer Marriott Bonvoy points to SkyMiles

Marriott Bonvoy points transfer to Delta SkyMiles at a 3:1 ratio. FELIX MIZIONIKOV/SHUTTERSTOCK

You can also transfer hotel points from various programs to your Delta SkyMiles account. In my experience, the only potentially appealing transfer is from Marriott Bonvoy. These points transfer to Delta at a 3:1 ratio, but you’ll get a 5,000-mile bonus for every 60,000 Marriott points transferred.

That said, we generally recommend using Marriott points to book hotel stays, as you’ll typically get better value.

Chase and American Express issue several Marriott cobranded credit cards if you’re short on Marriott points.

Related: The award travelers guide to Marriott Bonvoy

Transfer Delta SkyMiles between accounts

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

While you can transfer SkyMiles between accounts, we don’t recommend it. Delta charges $0.01 per mile transferred plus a $30 transaction fee. This isn’t a great deal, as you’d lose most of the value of your miles after paying the applicable fees, and you can only transfer a maximum of 30,000 miles per transaction.

If you decide to go this route, both accounts must have been open for at least 10 days and earned at least 1 mile. Miles earned through the Delta SkyMiles Shopping portal do not fulfill this requirement. You can receive a maximum of 300,000 SkyMiles per year and transfer out up to 150,000 SkyMiles per year.

Related: Your ultimate guide to family points pooling

Earn Delta SkyMiles by shopping and dining

You can also earn Delta SkyMiles through several everyday Delta partners. These methods make it easier than ever to earn miles based on things you already do, like eating out and shopping online.

Earn with the SkyMiles Shopping portal

Like most airlines, Delta has its online shopping portal: SkyMiles Shopping. This site lets you earn extra SkyMiles when you shop online, in addition to rewards earned with your credit card. To use the portal, sign up for a SkyMiles Shopping account, find your merchant on the site and click through the link. Each merchant offers a different number of SkyMiles per dollar spent, and these rates fluctuate — especially around the holidays.

SKYMILESHOPPING.COM

Check the portal frequently for spending and merchant bonuses. In the past, we’ve seen promotions from merchants like Nike, Under Armour, AT&T and others. If you’re going to make a purchase anyway, shopping through Delta’s portal can mean serious bonus miles.

Related: Your guide to maximizing shopping portals for your online purchases

Earn while you eat with SkyMiles Dining

Eat your way to more miles with SkyMiles Dining. VGSTOCKSTUDIO/SHUTTERSTOCK

The Delta SkyMiles Dining program is a way to earn extra miles when dining out. Sign up for an account, link a credit card and dine at a participating restaurant, cafe or bar. When you swipe your registered card at these establishments, you’ll earn extra SkyMiles. This is in addition to the miles you already earn with your credit card. Make sure to link a card that earns bonus points at restaurants to watch the rewards add up.

The number of miles you earn through SkyMiles Dining depends on your status in the program, which is entirely separate from your Medallion status. There are three tiers: member, select member and VIP. You’ll become a select member by signing up for email alerts, and you can get VIP status after making 11 transactions within 12 months.

If you don’t give the program a valid email address and sign up for email alerts, you’re a standard member and will only earn 1 mile for every $2 spent. Select members will earn 3 miles per dollar spent, while VIP members will take home 5 miles per dollar.

Related: The best hotel rewards programs in the world

Earn Delta SkyMiles for your business

Enroll in SkyMiles for Business to earn rewards for your business travel. HERO IMAGES/GETTY IMAGES

SkyMiles for Business is open to all companies, regardless of size and annual revenue. However, earning miles is still restricted to companies with at least five unique employee travelers and that spend at least $5,000 in eligible flight revenue every calendar year. Here’s a closer look at the SkyMiles for Business tiers:

  • Member: Open to any business, with no minimum traveler or spending requirements
  • Plus: Accounts with at least five employee travelers and $5,000 in annual travel spending
  • Elite: Accounts with at least five employee travelers and $300,000 in annual travel spending

Related: Airline loyalty programs for small businesses

Earn Delta SkyMiles with travel partners

You can also earn bonus miles when you book other types of travel, like rental cars, Lyft rides and hotel stays. Here’s a quick look at all your travel earning options.

Book a ride with Lyft

LYFT

You can earn Delta miles when you link your Delta and Lyft accounts. When you take a ride through the platform, you’ll earn 1 mile per dollar spent on everyday rides and 2 miles per dollar spent on airport rides. Business travelers can rack up huge amounts of points with this promotion.

Best of all, once you’re linked, you don’t need to click through a link to earn SkyMiles on Lyft rides. They’ll be automatically credited to your account.

Just note that Lyft also partners with other programs — including Alaska Airlines MileagePlan and Bilt Rewards. Since you can only have one program set as your active loyalty rewards partner in your Lyft account, you’ll want to select the one that makes the most sense for your needs.

Related: Triple stack these offers to maximize your next Lyft ride

Earn with Delta Vacations

Delta Vacations recently made several customer-friendly changes to its program. Here’s what you can earn on travel packages with Delta Vacations:

  • 1,000 SkyMiles per person on bookings of up to $4,999
  • 5,000 SkyMiles per person on bookings of $5,000 to $9,999
  • 10,000 SkyMiles per person on bookings of $10,000 or more

You’ll also now earn additional miles from the flight portion of your vacation packages.

Earn SkyMiles on cruises

Through Delta Cruises, you can earn 2 miles for every dollar spent on your next sailing. However, the platform does offer limited-time bonuses during certain times of the year, allowing to to take home even more miles.

To earn SkyMiles on your next cruise, book on cruises.delta.com or call 800-820-3244 with your SkyMiles number.

Related: How to book a cruise using points and miles

Earn SkyMiles on Airbnb stays

Similar to Delta’s partnership with Lyft, you can earn SkyMiles on eligible Airbnb stays. Just head over to Airbnb’s Delta website, enter your SkyMiles number and click through the link before you make a booking. You’ll earn 1 mile per dollar on Airbnb purchases with no limit, so more expensive trips can rack up a nice haul of SkyMiles.

Related: 15 tips that will help you score the perfect Airbnb every time

Earn SkyMiles when you book hotels

In addition to Airbnb, you can earn SkyMiles with Delta’s hotel booking portal. The portal awards 2 miles per dollar spent on hotels, with frequent bonus promotions. The prices on this portal should match booking directly, but it’s in your best interest to double-check.

One word of caution: You won’t earn hotel points or get to use elite status benefits when booking through this portal. Unfortunately, these are generally reserved for those booking directly with the hotel company. Research and see if earning Delta miles or hotel points is best for your hotel stay.

Read more: 9 things to consider when choosing to book via a portal vs. booking directly

You can also earn SkyMiles when you book directly with Delta’s hotel partners. The number of miles you’ll earn depends on the hotel group you book with — here’s a look at how many miles you can earn:

Hotel Earning rate
World of Hyatt Earn 500 miles per stay.
IHG One Rewards Earn up to 2 miles per dollar spent, depending on the brand.
Langham Hospitality Group Earn 500 miles per night with a maximum of 1,500 miles per stay at select hotels.
Marriott Bonvoy Earn up to 2 miles per dollar spent, depending on the property.
Shangri-La Circle Earn 500 miles per stay.
Accor Live Limitless Earn up to 12.5 miles for every 10 euros spent.

Earn SkyMiles when you rent a car with one of these partners

You can earn SkyMiles with one of Delta’s partners when renting a car. ALEXFAN32SHUTTERSTOCK

You can also earn SkyMiles when you rent a car with one of Delta’s partners. Similar to hotels, you won’t earn rental car points when you elect to earn SkyMiles. Here’s a look at how many SkyMiles you can earn:

Rental car company Earning rate
Alamo Earn 2 miles per dollar with each qualifying rental.
Dollar Earn 4 miles per eligible dollar.
Enterprise Earn 2 miles per dollar with each qualifying rental.
Europcar Earn 60 miles per day per qualifying rental day.
Hertz Earn 4 to 8 miles per eligible dollar.
National Earn 2 miles per dollar with each qualifying rental.
Sixt Earn 500 miles per car rental.
Thrifty Earn 4 miles per eligible dollar.
Turo Earn 2,000 miles after your first rental and 500 miles per qualifying rental after that.

Delta elite members are eligible for a free status match with Hertz Gold Plus Rewards. Gold Medallion members receive a match to Hertz Five Star status, while Platinum and Diamond Medallions are eligible for President’s Circle status. You can enroll in this status match on Delta’s website.

You can also read about Delta’s partnership with Turo.

Related: How to never pay full price for a rental car

Buy Delta SkyMiles

If you need SkyMiles in a pinch, you can buy them directly from Delta. The airline charges a whopping $0.035 per mile, more than TPG’s valuation of 1.2 cents per mile. You must buy miles in increments of 2,000, and you can purchase a maximum of 60,000 SkyMiles per account per year.

Delta frequently discounts SkyMiles by offering bonus miles or a bonus on the number of miles purchased. Buying SkyMiles is only worth doing if you have an immediate use for them. Otherwise, purchasing miles speculatively is usually a bad idea, as they can be devalued anytime.

Related: Book a pricey suite or flight for a fraction of the cost: Current points promotions to save you money

Bottom line

There are plenty of ways to earn Delta SkyMiles, whether through flights, credit cards, transferring points or using one of Delta’s many other partners.

Even better? SkyMiles is one of the few loyalty currencies that never expire. And with the myriad earning opportunities outlined above, you’ll hopefully have no shortage of SkyMiles the next time you plan a trip.

For details on the redemption process, check out our guide on redeeming miles with the Delta SkyMiles program.



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