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Delta SkyMiles guide: The best ways to earn and use SkyMiles

Delta Air Lines ranks high in quality against most of its U.S. competitors, but its loyalty program leaves something to be desired


The Delta SkyMiles program can be pretty perplexing. Our SkyMiles guide dives into the details of earning and redeeming miles to help you decide if SkyMiles is right for you.

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If you’re looking for a frequent flyer program that offers flexibility and a lot of travel options, or you simply love flying Delta Air Lines, the Delta SkyMiles program should be near the top of your list.

Delta Air Lines is one of the world’s largest carriers and ranks high in quality against most of its U.S. competitors, according to the Airline Quality Rating. However, the SkyMiles program itself leaves something to be desired. 

What is Delta SkyMiles?

Delta SkyMiles is the loyalty program of Delta Air Lines, rewarding its members with miles that can be redeemed for flights on Delta and its airline partners as well on a few other options, such as car rentals, merchandise and gift cards.

The SkyMiles program comes with a lot of pros and cons buried under a tangle of terms and conditions that can make it difficult to determine if the program is the right choice. On the plus side, the program offers a large airline network, a fairly good value on its miles and flexible redemption options with no blackout dates or capacity controls on its own rewards seats.

On the downside, the SkyMiles program is prone to frequent updates that can drastically alter the value of points – for the better or for the worse – making it difficult to determine what your points are going to be worth in the long run. And, the program is difficult to decipher, with lots of surprises lurking in the fine print.

In the following pages, we take a dive into the SkyMiles program – showing you how to earn and redeem SkyMiles and what your miles are worth – to help you figure out if SkyMiles are the best option for you.

Delta SkyMiles program overview

Type of currencyMiles
Average point value1.61 cents
Credit cardsDelta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card, Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card, Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card, Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card, Delta SkyMiles® Gold Business American Express Card, Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card, Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card
Redemption optionsFlights, flight upgrades, Miles + Cash, Pay with Miles, vacations, car rentals, Sky Club membership, merchandise, gift cards, magazines, experiences, donations
Minimum required to redeem5,000 for Pay with Miles awards
Do rewards expire?No
Airline partners31 airline partners – 19 SkyTeam partners and 12 additional partners
Flight coverage14,500+ daily flights, 800+ destinations, 170+ countries
Booking restrictions
  • No blackout dates or capacity controls
  • One-way fares permitted
  • Open-jaw tickets permitted
  • No published limits on the number of connecting flights
  • Stopovers not permitted – layovers limited to four hours domestic, 24 hours international
  • Possible surcharges on award flights originating in Europe and on some airline partners
  • $150 cancellation fee on award tickets
Best for
  • Loyal Delta flyers
  • International travelers who travel to many different places
  • Travelers who prefer an airline with high-quality customer service
  • Travelers who prefer flexibility in an airline rewards program over value
  • Travelers who want a good value on airline upgrades
  • American Express Membership Rewards members

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