Delta SkyMiles have lately been derided as one of the poorer currencies to collect. They’ve even been given the moniker “SkyPesos” in reference to their lack of value in comparison to other currencies. Finding the best uses of Delta miles can be a bit tough.
At least if your MO is using miles for international premium cabin redemptions. There really aren’t many great sweet spots on the Delta award “chart” for these. Most awards require 10,000-30,000 miles more than other currencies, and you really can’t fly across an ocean for less than 70,000 miles one-way. And Delta often tacks on fuel surcharges.
Adding to the confusion is the fact that Delta doesn’t even publish an award chart (but try this one). You just need to know what the lowest level prices are. But there is one use for which I find Delta miles to be a great currency.
Delta shines domestically
Compared to other U.S. carriers, Delta is one best programs for redeeming miles on domestic flights. The only one I may consider better is Southwest, and possibly Alaska. It depends where you live.
Most Delta awards cost the same as awards with any of the other big airlines: 12,500 miles one-way. But there are many awards over shorter distances that Delta prices at substantially lower rates. Unlike United or American, these aren’t stratified by distance (although longer routes will often be more). They are just an artifact of the arcane way Delta prices awards.
The floor for Delta awards appears to be 5,500 miles one-way, which is an amazing deal. There are several routes that price at this level, and many more where the price is not much more, often 8,000 miles.
Best uses of Delta miles in the U.S. West
I’ve found that the best “territory” for finding these lower-level awards is on the West Coast of the U.S. Here are a bunch of one-way options and their associated prices:
- Sacramento, CA to Victoria, BC for 5,500 miles
- Denver, CO to Tucson, AZ for 5,500 miles
- San Jose, CA to Cedar City, UT for 5,500 miles
- Fresno, CA to Colorado Springs, CO for 5,500 miles
- Salt Lake City, UT to Reno, NV for 5,500 miles
- San Francisco, CA to Kalispell, MT for 8,000 miles
- Las Vegas, NV to Casper, WY for 8,000 miles
- Medford to Idaho Falls for 8,000 miles
- Reno to Bozeman for 8,000 miles
- Albuquerque to Billings for 11,000 miles
And many more. Search at delta.com for routes your interested in flying.
Will prices remain at these levels?
Probably not forever, but hopefully for a while. I’ve already noticed a small increase in prices since the last time I ran a bunch of searches several months ago. The floor used to be 5,000 miles, and the next “tier” was apparently 7,000 miles. Now the floor seems to be 5,500/6,000 miles, with the second tier at 8,000 miles.
As long as Delta doesn’t devalue these awards much, they will definitely outcompete most other carriers when it comes to domestic awards (except for Alaska short-haul – SEE: West Coast Magic with Alaska Miles: A Primer).
While there may be other decent uses, I’ll still posit that one of the best uses of Delta miles is flying short-haul in the western United States. When you can fly a family of 5 round-trip for 55,000 miles, that’s value.
Today is the very last day to get a Delta American Express card with an increased bonus. The Gold card is offering 60,000 miles after $4,000 in purchases, and the Platinum card is offering 70,000 miles (annual fee of $195). Consider applying for one if it makes sense to you. These are the highest bonuses that we’ve seen on these cards.