Guide to Delta SkyMiles

The Delta SkyMiles rewards program has fantastic perks for Delta loyalists and adventurers looking for a way to financially strategize their way to more trips. Delta has partnered with American Express to offer a variety of consumer credit cards ready to help you accelerate your earning potential. Cardmembers can redeem Delta SkyMiles for a wide range of rewards, including Delta flights, upgrades, partner airlines, products and more. The right card for you depends on your travel preferences and lifestyle. Let’s explore the Delta credit card options and the best ways to leverage SkyMiles.

Best cards to use for Delta SkyMiles

Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express® Card

  • APR: Standard variable rate of 17.24%-26.24%
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Reward Rates: Earn two miles per dollar on Delta purchases and restaurants. Earn one mile per dollar on everything else.
  • Intro Offer: Earn 15,000 bonus miles after spending $1,000 within three months of account activation through 4/1/2020. 

For no annual fee, this card offers a solid earning rate at 2X miles per dollar on restaurant spending and Delta purchases. Plus, if you can take advantage of the fairly low spending target to get those bonus miles, you’ll easily be within the range of an airline travel reward.

Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express® Card

  • APR: Standard variable rate of 17.24%-26.24%
  • Annual Fee: $0 first year, then $99 per year
  • Reward Rates: Earn two miles per dollar on Delta purchases, restaurants, and U.S. supermarkets. Earn one mile per dollar on everything else.
  • Intro Offer: Earn 60,000 bonus miles after spending $2,000 within the first three months of account activation through 4/1/2020. Plus, cardmembers can earn an extra 10,000 bonus miles after the first anniversary of Card Membership. And, you can also earn a $100 Delta Flight Credit after spending $10,000 in purchases during a calendar year.

If you spend a pretty penny on food and Delta flights, you can use this card to quickly earn your next free or discounted flight. With the Gold Card, you’ll also receive your first free checked bag on Delta flights and Main Cabin 1 Priority Boarding.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express® Card

  • APR: Standard variable rate of 17.24%-26.24%
  • Annual Fee: $250
  • Reward Rates: Earn three miles per dollar on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels. Earn two miles per dollar at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets. Earn one mile per dollar for everything else.
  • Intro Offer: Earn 80,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 within three months of account activation through 4/1/2020. Earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $35,000 in purchases during a calendar year. Plus, earn an extra 20,000 bonus miles after your first anniversary of Card Membership.

Although there’s a hefty annual fee, you can easily take advantage of perks like the Global Entry or the TSA Precheck fee credit. Plus, you also qualify for a Companion Certificate each year upon card renewal, so you can take a friend or loved one with you on a trip for free, plus taxes and fees.

Medallion Points are separate from bonus miles but still a worthwhile reward. There are several tiers of Medallion Membership that boast elite status benefits like fewer fees, complimentary upgrades and a better flying experience.

Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express® Card

  • APR: Standard variable rate of 17.24%-26.24%
  • Annual Fee: $550
  • Reward Rates: Earn three miles per dollar on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels. Earn two miles per dollar at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets. Earn one mile per dollar on everything else.
  • Intro Offer: Earn 80,000 bonus miles and 20,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after spending $5,000 within three months of account activation through 4/1/2020. Plus, earn an extra 20,000 bonus miles after your first anniversary of Card Membership. Earn an extra 15,000 MQMs after spending $30,000 in purchases on your card during a calendar year, up to four times per year.

Although this is the most expensive of the Delta credit card options, it packs some serious heat when it comes to travel benefits. You’ll receive complimentary access to Delta SkyClubs® and access to The Centurion® Lounge to give your next trip to the airport a gilded edge. Cardmembers also enjoy their first checked bag free and Main Cabin 1 Priority Boarding on Delta Airlines flights.

How to redeem your Delta SkyMiles

Your Delta SkyMiles can be redeemed in a multitude of ways, including Delta flights, airline partner flights, products, hotel stays and car rentals —among many other choices. To redeem your rewards for a flight, you’ll need to log into your Delta SkyMiles account and choose your reward flight. You can customize your search to “Price in Miles” to see exactly how far your miles will go. You can also use the “Pay with Miles” feature, which allows you to use the miles you have earned and pay the remainder in cash.

For other redemption options, you can check out the SkyMiles Marketplace to purchase gift cards, cruises, hotel stays and car rentals. Here are all the ways you can use your SkyMiles.

Delta flights

You can use your rewards points on Delta, Delta Shuttle and Delta Connection flights. If you’re flexible with your travel dates, you can make the most of your rewards. Prices can vary dramatically depending on the travel season, location, and demand.

One of the best ways to take advantage of flight deals is by looking out for SkyMiles Deals, which offer deep discounts.

Travel partners

Since Delta is part of the SkyTeam alliance, you have access to a range of transfer partners you can use to expand your travels. SkyTeam Alliance partners include the following:

  • Aeroflot.
  • Aerolineas Argentina.
  • Aeromexico.
  • Air Europa.
  • Air France.
  • Alitalia.
  • China Airlines.
  • China Eastern.
  • Czech Airlines.
  • Garuda Indonesia.
  • Kenya Airways.
  • KLM Royal Dutch Airlines.
  • Korean Air.
  • MEA.
  • Saudia.
  • Tarom.
  • Vietnam Airlines.
  • Xiamen Air.

Besides SkyTeam Alliance members, Delta also has linked up with other travel partners as well. For Delta SkyMiles users, this means you have more options for carriers and routes around the globe. Non-alliance partners include:

  • Air Tahiti Nui.
  • GOL Airlines.
  • Hawaiian Airlines.
  • Mandarin Airlines.
  • Shanghai Airlines.
  • Virgin Atlantic.
  • Virgin Australia.
  • WestJet.

All partner awards ticket prices are available at a set price but can be changed at any time by Delta. You can typically book all awards travel through Delta or partner airlines directly online.

Upgrades

Want to upgrade to the next class on a flight? You can use your Delta SkyMiles to do so. When you have a confirmed Delta flight, use miles to upgrade your flight on Delta.com. There are only some partner airlines that offer this perk, so you’ll want to double-check before saving up your points to enjoy an airline upgrade.

Rental cars, experiences, hotels and merchandise

Besides flights, you can use your points to get gift cards, merchandise, cruises, hotel rooms or car rentals. With that said, you’ll always get the most value from your miles by using them for flights.

In a nutshell

Delta SkyMiles credit cards offer serious value if you want to start earning travel rewards. Whether you’re looking for a budget option to earn with no annual fee or a prestigious travel experience with all the upgrades you expect, there’s a Delta SkyMiles credit card for you. To maximize the value of your Delta SkyMiles, it’s best to transfer your miles for rewards flights, but you have the flexibility to redeem your points for other options if you choose.

Michelle Wilson

Michelle Wilson is a San Diego-based writer specializing in the topics of personal finance, technology, and culture. You can find her writing on sites such as HP Tech Takes, The Simple Dollar, and San Diego Magazine. In her spare time, she enjoys finding new cats to follow on Instagram.