Your complete guide to the Delta SkyMiles program – The Points Guy

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Delta SkyMiles, the loyalty program of Delta Air Lines, is one of the most popular frequent traveler programs. That said, there’s been a lot of negative news from the loyalty program in recent weeks — including announcements about upcoming restrictions on Sky Club access, increased elite status requirements and devalued partner airline earning rates.

Still, whether flying or using Delta cobranded credit cards, earning SkyMiles is relatively easy. The program also lets you earn elite status on award tickets.

There are several ways to redeem SkyMiles beyond free flights. However, you typically get the most value from your miles if you snag one of Delta’s frequent flash sales, offering discounted award flights domestically and abroad. After you earn SkyMiles, there are many ways to redeem miles for your dream vacation.

Today, we’ll explain everything you need to know about the Delta SkyMiles program.

Delta SkyMiles overview

A Delta jet at the gate. AARONP/BAUER-GRIFFIN/GC IMAGES/GETTY IMAGES

As noted previously, Delta SkyMiles is the loyalty program of Delta Air Lines. Joining the program is free, and your miles never expire.

You can earn Delta SkyMiles through a variety of methods. Some popular ones include flying, spending on Delta’s credit cards, transferring points from American Express Membership Rewards, shopping through Delta’s SkyMiles shopping portal, eating out through the SkyMiles dining program or partaking in various other promotions offered by the airline. We’ll talk about all of these options below.

SkyMiles program partners

Delta is a SkyTeam airline alliance member, comprising over a dozen airlines worldwide. You can earn and redeem miles when you travel with a SkyTeam airline. SkyTeam serves 1,000 destinations and touches virtually every part of the globe, with flights landing on six continents.

The members are:

  • Aerolinas Argentinas
  • Aeromexico
  • Air Europa
  • Air France
  • China Airlines
  • China Eastern Airlines
  • Czech Airlines
  • Delta Air Lines
  • Garuda Indonesia
  • ITA Airways
  • Kenya Airways
  • KLM
  • Korean Air
  • Middle East Airlines
  • Saudia
  • TAROM
  • Vietnam Airlines
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • XiamenAir

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Other partners

Delta has a number of other partnerships beyond SkyTeam members, giving you numerous options for earning miles even when you aren’t flying on Delta or a SkyTeam airline.

Non-alliance partners include:

  • Cape Air
  • China Southern Airlines
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • LATAM
  • WestJet

Just note that each partnership has specific restrictions and requirements.

Related: The best websites for searching SkyTeam award availability

Delta SkyMiles elite status

Luggage, passport and Diamond Medallion ID. DARREN MURPH/THE POINTS GUY

The program offers four elite status tiers for frequent Delta flyers: Silver Medallion, Gold Medallion, Platinum Medallion and Diamond Medallion. Starting Jan. 1, 2024, members will see massive changes to how they qualify for these tiers — leading some members to question whether it’s worth it.

Earning Delta Medallion status

Through the end of 2023, you can still qualify for an elite tier based on a combination of flying and spending. You do so by earning Medallion Qualification Miles, Medallion Qualification Segments and Medallion Qualification Dollars. Here’s how many you need to accrue in 2023 to earn status through Jan. 31, 2025:

  • Silver Medallion: 25,000 MQMs or 30 MQSs plus 3,000 MQDs
  • Gold Medallion: 50,000 MQMs or 60 MQSs plus 8,000 MQDs
  • Platinum Medallion: 75,000 MQMs or 100 MQSs plus 12,000 MQDs
  • Diamond Medallion: 125,000 MQMs or 140 MQSs plus 20,000 MQDs

However, with the cards mentioned below, Delta waives the MQD requirements for Silver Medallion, Gold Medallion and Platinum Medallion status when you spend $25,000 in a calendar year. You must spend a whopping $250,000 on the card to earn the MQD waiver for Diamond Medallion status. Unfortunately, this waiver will no longer be a benefit as of Jan. 1, 2024.

Starting Jan. 1, 2024, Delta will only use Medallion Qualification Dollars as criteria for qualification — and the thresholds are increasing significantly.

  • Silver Medallion: 6,000 MQDs
  • Gold Medallion: 12,000 MQDs
  • Platinum Medallion: 18,000 MQDs
  • Diamond Medallion: 35,000 MQDs

While you’ll no longer have access to the MQD waiver on Delta credit cards, starting Jan. 1, 2024, the cards mentioned below earn up to 1 MQD per $10 spent.

Read more: Is Delta Air Lines status worth it? What this disappointed soon-to-be-Diamond thinks

Here are some key benefits of each of Delta’s status tiers.

SkyMiles Silver Medallion

The entry tier in Delta’s program is Silver Medallion status. As a Silver Medallion, you’ll receive:

  • Complimentary first-class upgrades on domestic and short-haul international flights from 24 hours before departure
  • Priority boarding and check-in
  • One complimentary checked bag
  • 7 miles per dollar spent

SkyMiles Gold Medallion

Next up is Gold Medallion. Here’s what you’ll get as a Gold elite:

  • Complimentary first-class upgrades on domestic and short-haul international flights from three days before departure
  • Upgrades to Comfort+ within three days of departure
  • Waived same-day confirmed changes
  • Two complimentary checked bags
  • 8 miles per dollar spent

SkyMiles Platinum Medallion

The third tier in the SkyMiles program is Platinum Medallion status. In addition to the previously mentioned Silver Medallion and Gold Medallion perks, you’ll get the following:

  • Complimentary first-class upgrades on domestic flights and short-haul international flights from five days before departure
  • Upgrades to Comfort+ at the time of booking
  • Three complimentary checked bags
  • Your pick of a Choice Benefit
  • 9 miles per dollar spent

SkyMiles Diamond Medallion

Finally, the highest public elite tier in the SkyMiles program is Diamond Medallion. You’ll get everything detailed above, plus some even better perks:

  • Three additional Choice Benefit options
  • Complimentary Clear membership
  • Higher upgrade priority
  • 11 miles per dollar spent

Note that Delta does have an invitation-only tier of status: Delta 360. However, there are no published qualification criteria to earn it.

Related: The inside scoop on invite-only Delta 360 status

How to earn SkyMiles

Comfort+ section on a Delta plane. ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

There are several ways to earn Delta SkyMiles. The easiest is flying Delta-operated flights, traveling with a SkyTeam partner or opening a Delta cobranded credit card. You can also earn miles through everyday activities like shopping and dining.

Earn SkyMiles by flying

When you fly Delta on a Delta-issued ticket, you earn SkyMiles based on the base price of your ticket. Since Delta miles never expire, there’s no reason to avoid becoming a member, even if earning enough miles for a free ticket takes awhile.

Those with Delta Medallion elite status earn more miles on paid tickets.

  • General member: 5 miles
  • Silver Medallion: 7 miles
  • Gold Medallion: 8 miles
  • Platinum Medallion: 9 miles
  • Diamond Medallion: 11 miles

In practice, this means that if you buy a one-way flight from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) for $253 before taxes on delta.com, you will earn 1,265 SkyMiles as a general member. However, you’ll earn 2,783 miles if you’re a Diamond Medallion member.

Earn SkyMiles through credit cards

There’s a Delta credit card for everyone — the loyalist, the business traveler and even the infrequent flyer. All of them — except for the Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card — offer the following perks:

However, each one offers some additional perks for travelers.

Here’s a look at some of the best Delta SkyMiles credit cards from American Express (terms apply).

CREDIT CARD ANNUAL FEE WELCOME BONUS BONUS VALUE* NOTABLE PERKS
Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $99 (see rates and fees) Earn 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new card in your first six months of account opening. $480 $100 Delta flight credit after you spend $10,000 in eligible purchases on your card in a calendar year
Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card $250 (see rates and fees) Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in your first six months of account opening. $600 An annual companion certificate each renewal for main cabin, round-trip travel; statement credit to cover the membership fee for Global Entry ($100, every four years) or TSA PreCheck (up to $85, every 4.5 years); 1 MQD for every $20 spent starting Jan. 1, 2024
Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card $550 (see rates and fees) Earn 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 in purchases on your new card in your first six months of account opening. $720 Delta Sky Club access when traveling on Delta (through Feb. 1, 2025), plus a pair of one-time guest passes to the Sky Club every year; access to the American Express Centurion Lounge when you book your Delta flight with the card; an annual companion certificate each year upon card renewal for round-trip travel in first class, Comfort+, Premium Select or the main cabin; complimentary upgrades for non-Medallions; 1 MQD for every $10 spent starting Jan. 1, 2024

Note: Effective Feb. 1, 2025, Reserve card members will receive 10 visits per year to the Delta Sky Club. To earn an unlimited number of visits each year starting on Feb. 1, 2025, the total eligible purchases on the card must equal $75,000 or more between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2024, and each calendar year thereafter.

Delta SkyMiles® Gold Business American Express Card $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $99 (see rates and fees)

Earn 75,000 bonus miles after you spend $6,000 in purchases on your new card in your first six months of card membership. Plus, earn an additional 5,000 bonus miles after you make an eligible Delta purchase with your new card within your first six months. Offer ends Oct. 25, 2023.

$960 $100 Delta flight credit after you spend $10,000 in eligible purchases on your card in a calendar year
Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card $250 (see rates and fees) 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $8,000 in purchases on your new card in your first six months of card membership. Plus, earn an additional 10,000 bonus miles after you make an eligible Delta purchase with your new card within your first six months. Offer ends Oct. 25, 2023. $1,200 An annual companion certificate each renewal for main cabin, round-trip travel; statement credit to cover the membership fee for Global Entry ($100, every four years) or TSA PreCheck (up to $85, every 4.5 years); 1 MQD for every $20 spent starting Jan. 1, 2024
Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card $550 (see rates and fees)

Earn 100,000 bonus miles after spending $12,000 in purchases on your new card in your first six months of card membership. Plus, earn an additional 10,000 bonus miles after you make an eligible Delta purchase with your new card within your first six months. Offer ends Oct. 25, 2023.

$1,320 Delta Sky Club access when traveling on Delta (through Feb. 1, 2025), plus a pair of one-time guest passes to the Sky Club every year; access to the American Express Centurion Lounge when you book your Delta flight with the card; an annual companion certificate each year upon card renewal for round-trip travel in first class, Comfort+, Premium Select or the main cabin; complimentary upgrades for non-Medallions; 1 MQD for every $10 spent starting Jan. 1, 2024

Note: Effective Feb. 1, 2025, Reserve card members will receive 10 visits per year to the Delta Sky Club. To earn an unlimited number of visits each year starting on Feb. 1, 2025, the total eligible purchases on the card must equal $75,000 or more between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2024, and each calendar year thereafter.

*Based on TPG’s valuations; not provided by the card issuer.

Related: Best Delta credit cards

Earn SkyMiles through partners

Air France Boeing 777-300ER business-class cabin. KYLE OLSEN/THE POINTS GUY

Another way to earn miles is by flying Delta’s partner airlines, but how you earn those miles depends entirely on how you booked the ticket. For example, when you book partner airline tickets — like KLM — on Delta.com, you’ll earn miles the same way as a regular Delta flight, even if another airline operates the flight.

Meanwhile, if you book a partner flight on the carrier’s website (for example, Air France) and add your Delta SkyMiles number, you’ll earn miles based on the distance flown. However, the exact amount of SkyMiles you’ll receive varies based on the partner, booking class and whether you have elite status. Additionally, Delta slashed partner earning rates when it announced elite status changes in Sept. 2023. These changes take effect for flights on (or after) Jan. 1, 2024.

Related: When you will (and won’t) earn miles for your flight

Earn SkyMiles through shopping portals

Shopping through Delta’s online portal. 10’000 HOURS/GETTY IMAGES

One of the easiest ways to earn Delta miles is through its online shopping portal. You can earn miles for purchases you ordinarily make with thousands of merchants online.

If you don’t already have an account, you must register using your SkyMiles number so the bonus miles will be credited to your frequent flyer account. Then, you can use the search box to find your favorite stores or a product. You can also compare prices and mileage rates. Remember to look out for stores offering bonus miles (more on that later), featured deals and special bonus offers.

After selecting your merchant, click on the store, product or offer, and you’ll be taken to the store’s website to shop and check out. The store will alert the portal when you’ve made a purchase, and the miles you earned will be added to your SkyMiles account. You’ll receive an email to confirm when your miles have been posted, typically within three to five days. However, depending on the store, the miles can take up to 15 days to post to SkyMiles Shopping.

Almost every major airline has a shopping portal, so use a shopping portal aggregator to ensure you get the best deal when you shop online.

Transfer Amex points to Delta

Finally, you can transfer American Express Membership Rewards points directly to Delta at a 1:1 ratio. We don’t usually recommend this because we value Membership Rewards points higher than SkyMiles. Currently, we value SkyMiles at 1.2 cents apiece — 0.8 cents per point lower than Amex’s valuation. It’s often difficult to get a higher value from Delta, thanks to dynamic pricing. You’ll also have to pay an excise tax offset fee when transferring Amex points to Delta (and other domestic frequent flyer programs).

Related: 5 things you need to know about Delta SkyMiles

How to redeem SkyMiles

Delta removed published award charts in 2015, becoming the first major U.S. airline to shift to dynamic pricing for award tickets. As a result, you will need to search on Delta.com (or in the Fly Delta app) to determine how many SkyMiles you need for an award ticket. Delta’s site is pretty easy to navigate, and you can see how many miles you need for a redemption through a handy calendar feature.

Generally, we’ve found the best redemptions on domestic flights. Paired with a Delta cobranded credit card (which offers a 15% discount on Delta-operated award tickets), you can sometimes book short-haul flights for under 4,000 SkyMiles one-way. That said, prices will vary by day, route and cabin class.

SkyMiles comparisons for a one-way flight from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to San Francisco International Airport (SFO). DELTA.COM

Note that Delta award tickets are fully refundable, so if your plans change, you can redeposit the miles (and get a refund of the taxes and fees). This also allows you to rebook an award ticket when the mileage price drops, securing a partial refund of the difference in miles.

Additionally, you can use your miles to book partner tickets on most of Delta’s SkyTeam and non-alliance partners. Unfortunately, these have now largely been aligned with prices on Delta’s own flights, minimizing the opportunity to get maximum value from your SkyMiles, especially in premium cabins.

Sweet spots

Side view of a Delta plane. ANDREW KUNESH/THE POINTS GUY

With Delta using full dynamic pricing across its route network, there aren’t many sweet spots to maximize the value of your SkyMiles. Nevertheless, there are a few good options out there.

Delta flash sales

Delta frequently runs SkyMiles flash sales to short- and long-haul U.S. destinations and cities in Europe, Asia and the Caribbean. We’ve seen some terrific deals for Main Cabin, Comfort+ and first class. Past deals include one-way flights to Hawaii for 13,000 SkyMiles and round-trip flights for as little as 5,000 SkyMiles for New Yorkers.

Of course, these cheap tickets aren’t always published. Delta often prices short- and mid-haul award tickets for well under what other airlines would charge for similar flights. You’ll often find the best deals when booking in advance and traveling on off-peak dates.

SkyMiles comparisons for a one-way flight from Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport (ORD) to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA). DELTA.COM

Likewise, you can expect to pay more for peak flights — for example, New York to Orlando over Thanksgiving.

SkyMiles comparisons for a one-way flight with one stop from Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) to Orlando International Airport (MCO). DELTA.COM

Delta and LATAM economy flights to South America

Regardless of the class of service, cash flights to South America are rarely cheap, especially to Brazil. Delta SkyMiles members can book LATAM award tickets at reasonable prices, and it’s one of the better ways to use miles.

When you search for South America flights, you might find reasonable award rates. For example, 64,000 SkyMiles can generally get you a round-trip itinerary from JFK to Sao Paulo-Guarulhos International Airport (GRU). Many of these flights are nonstop. The downside is that there only appears to be economy award space available, not business. Still, 64,000 SkyMiles for a round-trip international flight is an appealing award rate.

Bottom line

With its operational performance, numerous flight options and many ways to qualify for status, some say Delta is the best airline. In fact, the carrier has taken the top spot in TPG’s own analysis of the best airlines in the U.S. for the last five years. Despite its lack of award charts and unannounced program devaluations, there’s still plenty to like about the Delta SkyMiles program.

However, this may not be the case for some travelers over the next year or two, as massive changes will impact how you earn Medallion status and how you access the Delta Sky Club.

Nevertheless, if you’re a Delta frequent flyer (or even a more casual customer), a mix of flying, shopping portals and credit cards can increase your SkyMiles balance for your next redemption.

For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Gold Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Platinum Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Reserve Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Gold Business Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Platinum Business Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Reserve Business Card, click here.

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