Best Ways to Use Delta SkyMiles for Maximum Value


Delta does not publish an award chart, so they price awards fairly close to the cash price of the flight.

Partner awards are fairly stable values, but Delta can charge multiple prices for similar flights on the same exact day. Therefore, check on Delta.com to see how much an award costs. 


Airlines You Redeem SkyMiles On

SkyTeam Partner Airlines

  • Aeroflot
  • Aerolineas Argentinas
  • Aeromexico
  • Air Europa*
  • Air France
  • China Airlines
  • China Eastern
  • China Southern
  • Czech Airlines*
  • Delta
  • Garuda Indonesia
  • Kenya Airways*
  • KLM
  • Korean Air
  • MEA
  • Saudia
  • Tarom
  • Vietnam
  • Xiamen Airlines

(*= cannot book via Delta.com)

Other Partners: 

  • Air Tahiti Nui (call to book)
  • Hawaiian
  • Mandarin Airlines
  • WestJet
  • GOL
  • Jet Airways
  • Shanghai Airlines
  • Virgin Australia

Fuel Surcharges

Delta charges fuel surcharges on Aeroflot, Aerolineas Argentinas (to/from Europe only), Air Europa, Air Tahiti Nui (less than $150), China Airlines, China Eastern, China Southern, Czech, Middle Eastern, and TAROM. 


Roundtrip Awards Are Cheaper Than One-Ways

You can save SkyMiles and cash by booking a roundtrip award rather than a one-way award.

In the example below, you can book two one-way trips for 210,000 SkyMiles plus $340 (when you convert Euros to USD). You can book those same flights for only 128,000 SkyMiles plus $134.63.

Delta One Way Awards Are Expensive Compared to Roundtrips

Delta Award One Way From Europe

Save Points By Booking a Roundtrip


Flexibility is Key

Delta charges many different rates for the same flights on different days. Thus, it is very important to be flexible when using Delta SkyMiles.

As you can see below, you can score a good deal by booking on the dates at 128,000 SkyMiles, but there are some dates that are ridiculously priced in the 300,000 to 610,000 SkyMiles. 

Award Chart showing 5 weeks of award prices on Delta
Roundtrip Business from Kansas City to Madrid in July (four months in advance)

Hubs Are More Expensive

Delta’s main hubs in Atlanta (ATL), Minneapolis (MSP), and Salt Lake City (SLC). If you are departing from one of these hubs, you should expect to pay more SkyMiles on many routes over non-hub airports. 

The example below is for the same time period and destination as above, but from Delta’s hub Minneapolis instead of a non-hub (Kansas City). The “hub penalty” in this example would be an extra 61,000 SkyMiles. (Salt Lake City had almost identical pricing as Minneapolis, but Atlanta had four dates at 128,000 SkyMiles)

Award Chart showing that it is more expensive for fly from a hub airport
Roundtrip Business from Minneapolis to Madrid in July (four months in advance)

The hub penalty also applies to domestic flights. In the example below it is much more expensive to fly out of a Delta hub than a fairly close non-Delta hub. 

Delta Hub Penalty Domestic SLC
Delta’s hub Salt Lake City to Chicago (ORD) in Economy

 

Delta Award Price with No Hub Penalty
Delta’s non-hub Denver to Chicago (ORD) in Economy

Delta Charges Outrageous Prices on Some Routes

Delta charges sky-high SkyMiles prices on some routes. Below is the cost for Delta One (business class) on the direct flight between Atlanta and South Africa. We checked the entire year and the price stayed stable at 930,000 SkyMiles (580,000 SkyMiles on some partners with connections in Europe).

You will also see similar results on routes featuring Delta’s amazing Delta One Suites, but you can book those routes at a discount using Virgin Atlantic miles

Delta Award From Atlanta to South Africa
Roundtrip Business Class Cost on the Atlanta to South Africa Direct Flight

Routing Rules

Awards starting in Europe: Delta charges about $350 when booking an award ticket from Europe on the following airlines: Air France, Alitalia, Delta, Garuda Indonesia, Korean Air, Vietnam Airlines, and Virgin Atlantic. 

Search Tip: Delta will not always show the cheapest flight for points at the very top of the search results. Be sure to scroll down and see every available flight. Additionally, for international flights, check awards from international gateway cities as well if you don’t see any good results. 

Flash Sale– Delta typically does a once per month award flash sale, but sometimes it is more frequent. We will send out flash sales via to our “Quick Deals” email list. 

Weekly Deals: Delta now has a page for weekly travel deals using SkyMiles. 

Award Fees

  • $150 for redeposit/reissue (waived for Platinum and Diamond).
  • Changes are allowed within 72 hours of departure.
  • Booking with Delta or U.S. call center are free. 

Last Minute Awards: Delta generally prices awards within 21 days fairly high. The best deals using Delta are when you book well in advance.

Stopovers: Not allowed.

Flight Segments: You are limited to 3 flight segments for a domestic flight and 4 flight segments for an international flight. 

Pay With Miles: You can also cash out SkyMiles at 1 cent each via Delta’s Pay With Miles program. The one advantage to that program is the fact that you still earn elite credits, but if you’re not close to earning elite status, I would stick with a regular award. 

Blackout Dates: There are no blackout dates on Delta flights, but there are on Korean Air. (hit CTRL + F and type Blackout Dates to save time)

Auctions: You could also use your points for a Delta Auction instead of for flights. Examples of auctions are concert or sporting event tickets, a VIP NASCAR experience, or Dinner and Kitchen Tour at the French Laundry (one of the top restaurants in the world).


Delta Award Chart

Below is the starting price for a one-way Delta award departing the United States. These prices change constantly and Delta charges several different prices based upon your dates and routing. Thus, it’s always best to check Delta’s website. Remember that it is cheaper to book a roundtrip award than a one-way. 

Delta also prices their premium routes at very high rates (e.g. Atlanta to South Africa is almost always 425,000 points one-way for Delta One; the U.S. to Sydney on Delta in business class has a lot of dates in the 375,000 point range)

Occasionally, Delta will conduct an unpublished flash sale when the cash price of the flights are very low. This frequently occurs on trips between the U.S. and Mexico or the Caribbean. 

Good Value Awards

The best value from the Delta points program comes from (1) flash sales (mostly on domestic routes or Caribeean/Mexico/Central America), (2) domestic economy tickets on Delta, (3) partner awards (less variability in the prices), and (4) Delta One Suites at the lowest rates.

  • Partner Awards– Europe to Australia on China Airlines for around 90,000 in one-way business class; North America to North Asia for 80-85,000 points for one-way business class; North Asia to Guam or Saipan; Asia to Africa for 80,000 points for one-way business; North America to Europe for 75,000 points in one-way business class; and North America to the Middle East for 85,000 for one-way business class.

DestinationEconomy (Delta)Economy (Partner)Business/First (Delta)Business (Partner)
Within U.S.5,000-12,500N/A25,000N/A
Hawaii22,500N/A40,000N/A
Mexico17,50017,50030,00030,000
Caribbean17,500N/A30,000N/A
Central America22,000N/A35,000N/A
Northern South America17,50025,00030,00045,000
Southern South America30,00035,00075,000100,000
North Asia35,00035,00080,00085,000
Southeast Asia40,00045,00080,00095,000
Japan35,00040,00080,00095,000
Europe30,00032,50064,00086,000
Middle East35,00042,50084,00085,000
North Africa30,00035,00070,00085,000
South Africa40,00050,000375,000115,000
India40,00050,00094,000115,000
Australia/New Zealand45,00055,000175,000115,000


Region Definitions

These are unofficial definitions since Delta no longer publishes an award chart.

North America

  • USA, Mexico, and Canada

Caribbean

  • Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Bonaire, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Cuba, Curacao, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Martinique, Montserrat, Puerto Rico, Saba, Saint Eustatius, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Maarten, Saint Vincent and The Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands, and US Virgin Islands. Central America-Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama.

Northern South America

  • Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela.

Southern South America

  • Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay.

Europe

  • Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Faroe Islands, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Morocco, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania; Russia, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Svalbard and Jan Mayen Island, Sweden, Switzerland, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and Vatican City.

Middle East

  • Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, and Yemen.

Africa

  • Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Libya, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mayotte, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Reunion, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Indian Subcontinent

  • Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, British Indian Ocean Territory, India, Nepal, Maldives, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.

North Asia

  • China, Hong Kong SAR, Japan, South Korea, Micronesia, Philippines, Taiwan, Russia (East of the Ural Mountains), Guam, and Saipan.

Southeast Asia

  • Brunei, Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, Laos, Macau SAR, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, Singapore, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkmenistan, and Vietnam.

Southwest Pacific

  • American Samoa, Australia, Christmas Islands, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Cook Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia, Kiribati, Nauru, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Niue, Norfolk Island, Pitcairn, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tongo, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Wallis, and Futuna Islands.