15 Best Ways to Redeem Delta SkyMiles [2019]

Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. 

Delta SkyMiles is an overlooked miles currency that people tend to give up on. You might be used to seeing Delta One (aka Delta’s name for business class) redemptions going for over 300,000 miles one-way. However, when focusing on Delta’s partners, you will see that Delta SkyMiles can take you further than you thought. Here’s a thorough review of the 15 best ways to redeem Delta SkyMiles.

Interested in finding out the top travel credit cards for this month? Click here to check them out!


Table of Contents

Earning Delta SkyMiles

Delta SkyMiles are moderately easy to earn. There are 7 different Delta SkyMiles cobranded American Express credit cards available for you to grab.

  • Blue Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card
  • Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card
  • Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card
  • Delta Reserve® Credit Card
  • Gold Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card
  • Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card
  • Delta Reserve® for Business Credit Card

Here is a quick look at two of my favorite Delta co-branded credit cards.

Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card

  • Welcome bonus up to 60,000 miles after meeting the minimum spend requirement
  • 2 miles per dollar on Delta purchases
  • First checked bag free
  • Annual fee waived first year, then $95

The Delta Gold card is a perfect way to quickly rack up a lot of SkyMiles while paying no annual fee the first year. The key with this card is to time your application so that you end up applying for the best welcome bonus that’s offered. 

Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card

  • Welcome bonus up to 70,000 miles + 10,000 MQMs after meeting the minimum spend requirement
  • 2 miles per dollar on Delta purchases
  • First checked bag free
  • Annual fee $195
  • 1 time economy companion pass
  • Annual miles and MQMs after spend requirement

The Platinum Delta card also often comes with a great welcome bonus, but it’s even better for those who are trying to earn elite status with Delta since you’re able to earn MQMs along the way.

I really recommend reading up on our guide for applying for American Express cards.

Amex Membership Rewards

You can also transfer your American Express Membership Reward points to Delta. However, Amex Membership Rewards does impose an excise tax offset fee of $0.0006 per point (with maximum fee of $99) for transferring your Membership Rewards points to Delta. I personally would only transfer to SkyMiles if I needed to top off for an award redemption. Otherwise, the excise tax adds up and devalues the points.


Delta SkyMiles Calculator and Award Chart

The first thing people need to know, Delta SkyMiles is a dynamic mile’s currency that has no award chart or calculator. This means, we don’t know what the redemption cost will be in the future, especially for Delta’s own flights.

Dynamic pricing works by changing the miles needed for a redemption based on the cash price. So, when the price goes up, Delta will slightly raise the miles for an award that was once less. This is also related to seasons. So, when redeeming one month a Delta One seat might go for 80,000 miles, but the next month it could be 86,000 miles for saver level redemptions.

Having no calculator or award chart makes it hard to know exactly how many miles one needs for certain redemptions. Luckily, for Delta’s partners it’s typically easier to know the lowest redemption price, since Delta’s partners will only show up when there is availability. Otherwise, Delta’s partners won’t show up if there is no availability.


Delta SkyMiles Value 

Generally, you can expect an average 1.1 cents per point for economy class redemptions, but the value will go up much further when booking premium class tickets. Looking at the current price of a Virgin Australia ticket from SYD to LAX, you’d get about 6.3 cents per point in value after redeeming 100,000 miles.

At the standard economy valuation, if you were to collect 50,000 Delta SkyMiles you’d get about $550 in value and if you earned 100,000 Delta SkyMiles you’d get about $1100 in value. But using the premium Virgin Australia redemption above, 50,000 Delta SkyMiles would be worth about $3,150 and 100,000 Delta SkyMiles would be worth about $6,300.

Depending on how you use your miles, the Delta credit cards can be very valuable. However, take these numbers with a grain of salt. Your own valuation might be higher, but might be lower. This goes for any miles and points currency.


Award Regions Chart

Delta once had a regions chart, and we already know the outcome. It’s not published anymore. Therefore we base the regions off the old published regions award chart that is not available anymore. Luckily, the regions chart is still kinda holding true today.

North America

USA, Canada, Mexico

Hawaii

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.

Now, this regions chart isn’t the official one. I do wish Delta will publish a real regions chart so we know exactly every region, but if you have a correction to it please let me know so I can update it.


Routing Rules

Delta allows you to route through certain regions for no extra miles, like Australia to Europe you can route through North Asia or Southeast Asia. However, for Australia to Europe you cannot route through North America. Delta will always favor the shortest route with the least amount of connections.

Connections

Connections with Delta SkyMiles are also really interesting. They are based on that days availability and the least amount of connections available that day for that route. Delta will usually prioritize 1 connection routings over 2 connections. This makes the 2 connection routings need more more miles than 1 connection routings.

Basically, Delta adds extra miles on routings that have one more connection than what else is available for that day. However, if there are no routings that have 1 connection, than Delta will allow the 2 connection routings to be redeemed for the lowest amount of miles possible.

Open Jaws and Stopovers

Delta does allow open jaw since Delta will charge for each way on awards, similar to how United or American Airlines charge for each way. However, Delta doesn’t allow stopovers. If there is a connection, then the connection has to be less then 23 hours and 59 minutes.


SkyTeam Alliance and Delta Partners

Delta is part of the SkyTeam alliance, which means that you can use your Delta SkyMiles to fly any airline in the SkyTeam alliance.

The SkyTeam alliance has a huge presence in Asia, Europe, and the North America. Plus, Delta has a few non-alliance partners like Virgin Australia, Virgin Atlantic, Jet Airways, GOL, and WestJet. There is a full list of all Delta’s partners below.

AeroMexico
Air France
Alitalia
China Eastern
Korean Air
Virgin Atlantic
Virgin Australia
KLM
Aerolineas ArgentinasAeroflotMEAKenya Airways
China AirlinesChina SouthernCzech AirlinesGaruda Indonesia
Xiamen Air
Vietnam AirlinesSaudiaWestJet
Jet AirwaysGOLHawaiian AirlinesAir Europa
TaromGreat Lakes Airlines

Delta SkyMiles restrictions

Sadly, Delta doesn’t allow you to redeem for international first class like Korean Air first class, where it’s all about the dining experience.

While business class is fine, it’s nice to have the option to use your hard earned miles for first class on their partners. There are some cases that SkyMiles will allow you to book international first class, but it’s very rare and limited.

(Do note that if there isn’t any business class seats, you will be seated in first class. This is very common for regional products where some airlines don’t have business class on regional flights.)

Currently you cannot book Aeroflot using your SkyMiles. This isn’t a SkyMiles problem, but a problem with Aeroflot sharing their award inventory with their partners.


1. Delta SkyMiles Redemption Flash Sales (as low as 5,000 roundtrip)

Delta randomly runs flash sales for certain city pairs from 5,000 miles roundtrip. That is a crazy good redemption! That’s because the exact same domestic route on United Airlines would be 20,000 miles roundtrip or 25,000 miles roundtrip with American Airlines.

Flash sales usually start at 5,000 miles and go up from there. Sometimes, the flash sale might not have 5,000 miles redemptions. It is usually random for the redemption cost, so this isn’t the most guaranteed way to redeem your miles.

The city pairs are also random and might not be desirable. (Do you see a trend that SkyMiles loves to be random?) Luckily, their redemption sales happen multiple times a year with new city pairs for better odds. Sometimes they will have flash sales for international destinations in both economy and Delta One. (Sadly, the most recent sale doesn’t have any sales on Delta One.)

Typically, you can only take these flights on Delta metal (aka, their own planes and not their partners), so if you want to fly one of their partners, flash sales isn’t for you.

You can look at the ongoing deals right now here.

The current SkyMiles Award Sale. (ending October 19th)

2. Fly China Airlines Between Europe and Australia in Business Class for 90,000 Miles One-Way

With decent availability between Europe and Australia, you can easily redeem 90,000 miles for one-way in business class flying China Airlines. China Airlines flies their flagship A350 or 777 from Taiwan to London, Amsterdam, Rome, Vienna, Frankfurt, Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane making it easy to have a consistent experience.

My fiancé and I flew China Airlines from Rome to Melbourne via Taipei back in May on their A350. I will say this with certainty, China Airlines has a much-underrated business class product. We were amazed with the crew being very professional and attentive. The seat very stylish and comfy. Plus, it was a nice surprise to have a few flight attendants able to speak Japanese.

Of course, if you don’t want to fly China Airlines, you can redeem 90,000 miles for any of Delta’s partners.

(Tip: China Southern, China Eastern, Garuda Indonesia, and Xiamen Airlines flies mostly their sub-par hard products between Asia and Australia. Sometimes you can find their new hard products on the routes, but you have to check the equipment and configuration. Vietnam Airlines and Virgin Australia run their flagship products constantly on these routes.)

Availability between Rome and Melbourne.
China Airlines A350 B/E Super Diamond Business Class Seat. (FCO-TPE)

3. Fly Between North America and North Asia in Business Class for 85,000 Miles One-Way on Partner Airlines

Want to fly on the upper deck of a Korean 747-8 in business class? Or do you prefer a 777, 787, A380, or A350? For 85,000 miles you can fly any of those on one of Delta’s partners in business class.

Korean Air 747-8 or 787 would be my go to airline since they use Apex Suites for their new business class hard product. Availability is typically great for Delta’s Asian partners since there is a handful to choose from, but typically China Southern, China Eastern, and China Airlines have the best availability.

Availability on Korean 747-8 is tough to find, but still possible.
Flights to China and onward on either China Southern (as shown in screenshot) or China Eastern have availability almost everyday.

4. Fly Between Europe and Asia in Business Class for 80,000 Miles One-Way

For only 80,000 miles, you can fly between Europe and North Asia and Southeast Asia in business class one-way.

Availability isn’t bad either from many cities. There is typically wide-open availability for these transcontinental routes between Europe and Asia.

My friend and I flew China Southern A380 from Beijing to Amsterdam in August and loved having half the cabin to ourselves. The flight attendants were great, funny, and definitely made the flight special. However, the catering was just okay. If you wanted a special flight, KLM flies their 747-400 combi to Asian cities like Hong Kong and they have business seats in the nose. 😉

Be aware, some of the routes will have sub-par leisure business class product to leisure destinations. I would highly recommend looking at the configuration of the aircraft for the best experience. Departing Asia will result in lower surcharges, while departing Europe will result in the usual high fuel surcharges.

KLM and China Southern availability for Beijing to Amsterdam is almost available everyday.
China Southern A380 Business Class. (PEK-AMS)

5. Fly between Seoul and Guam in “Business Class” for 30,000 Miles One-Way

Why does business class have quotation marks around them? Well it’s because on this particular flight between Seoul and Guam it’s bookable for Korean 777-300er first class. SkyMiles sometimes will have loopholes, if you must call it that, where you can book international first class even though you’re booking business class.

For example: You were once able to book China Airlines 747 first class with SkyMiles, but not anymore since they have corrected the loophole. 🙁

So, if you’re in Seoul or a short hop away, it might be worth it to visit Guam to fly Korean first class. 😉

Availability is almost daily. (36,000 Won ~ $32 USD)
Unfortunately everyday I have checked only has 1 seat available.

6. Fly between North Asia and Southeast Asia in Business Class for 40,000 Miles One-Way

Want to fly between Tokyo and Jakarta (NRT-CGK) or Beijing and Bali? 40,000 miles in Garuda Indonesia 777 business class for 7 hours in the sky isn’t bad.

Availability is easy to find from many cities. Vietnam Airlines typically flies their A350 or 787 for many of their intra-asia routes. Sometimes, Korean flies their 747-8 on some routes, but changes frequently. Some of China Easterns A330s will have 1-2-1 configuration using Zodia Cirrus seats.

Just be aware that some routes might have a regional product instead of a lie-flat seat. Therefore, if you want the most value, routes that are on the airline’s flagship aircrafts will usually allow you to have the best experience.

Tokyo to Jakarta Business Class availability. (prices in Yen ~ $23 USD)
Vietnam Airlines A350 and 787 business class. (Image source: Vietnam Airlines)

7. Fly Between North America and Europe in Business Class for 75,000 Miles One-Way on Partner Airlines

If Asia isn’t your thing, you can fly Air France, KLM, Alitalia, or Virgin Atlantic in business class between America and Europe. Just be aware the flights leaving Europe will have high fuel surcharges (over $250) and flights leaving America will have low fuel surcharges ($5.60).

If you’re flying Air France, both their 777 and 787 has their best business class product, while their A380 has their dated subpar product. KLM 787 has their wonderful new business class product. Alitalia is decent, but because of recent money troubles I suggest you skip Alitalia. For Virgin Atlantic on any aircraft the bar is fun with a wonderful soft product, but their business class hard product is cramped.

Virgin Atlantic availability from Washington Dulles to London.
The Virgin Atlantic 787 bar.

8. Fly Between North America and Middle East in Business Class for 85,000 Miles One-Way

I think the Middle East should be on everyone’s bucket list. It’s one of my favorite places for food and certainly the only reason to travel is to eat, right?

Go to the Middle East for only 85,000 miles with Delta partners only. Most availability is with Saudia, but it could be any other one of Delta’s partners like Air France, KLM, Virgin Atlantic, etc.

Or for 86,000 miles you could fly Delta halfway there. Most of the time you will connect through Paris or Amsterdam, but try to position yourself at DTW so you could take the new Delta One Suites to Amsterdam and then connect onward to the Middle East with KLM. It’s worth it I think to try the new Delta One Suite, I certainly loved it. I was more surprised by the huge footwell compared to reverse herringbone seats.

You could fly KLM to Muscat with a stop in Dammam and it’s one of the few routes that KLM Delft Blue houses aren’t filled with alcohol because of Saudi Arabian laws. (Makes for a great souvenir.) There is tons of availability on the AMS-DMM-MCT route and offers cheap business class fares from Muscat to America.

Availability throughout America to the Middle East is easy to come by.
For only 1,000 miles more you could fly in the new Delta One Suite with a door.

9. Fly Between Asia and Africa in Business Class for 80,000 Miles One-Way

For 80,000 miles you can fly between Asia and Africa. Experience the beautiful continent.

Availability is good between the two regions. Most of the time the flights will route through Europe on KLM or Air France, but other partners that offer limited routes and availability to Africa would be Saudia and China Southern. You could time your connection to be long for a nice short visit in Paris or Amsterdam.

However, Kenya Airways is tough to book on Delta’s website. So, if you wanted to Fly Guangzhou to Johannesburg while connecting in Nairobi to fly Kenya Airways the rest of the way. You will have to call up Delta. Delta’s representatives tend have a hard to booking Kenya Airways, so you might have to try a few times. Delta and Kenya Airways did start a codeshare agreement recently, but virtually no of flights are redeemable online.

Tokyo to Johannesburg flying Air France in business class.
Availability is great between Tokyo and Johannesburg. (7,290 Yen ~ $64 USD)

10. Fly Between Europe and South America in Business Class for 90,000 Miles One-Way

With wide open availability between Europe and South America, you can enjoy flying most days between the two continents. And when I say wide open, I mean wide open most dates. From my findings, Argentina has the most availability.

The primary airlines flying between the two continents would be Air France and KLM. While Alitalia and Aerolineas Argentinas have very limited availability, but you aren’t missing much not flying those two airlines.

If you want lower fuel surcharges, depart from South America instead of Europe.

Buenos Aires to Paris has ton of availability.
Air France business class seat. (Image source: Air France)

11. Fly Kenya Airways Between New York and Nairobi for 95,000 Miles One-Way

Why is this one of the best ways to redeem SkyMiles? Because it’s Kenya Airways and it’s their first route to North America! While their business class product is subpar with a 2-2-2 layout, the soft product is wonderful. Plus, it’s a brand-new route on their beautiful 787. Maybe it’s just me, but I cannot wait to fly on this on this route.

Do take note that this route has high fuel surcharges (around $400). You can only book this route by phone (check availability on ExpertFlyer). Plus, it’s difficult to book this route since Delta’s systems aren’t easy for booking Kenya Airways. If one rep gives up, call back and try to get a rep that will power through it. However, none of that will stop me from flying their first ever transatlantic route.

If you want to visit other destinations or fly other partner airlines, it will still be 95,000 miles.

Kenya Airways 787-8 (Image source: Kenya Airways)

12. Fly Between Australia and North and Southeast Asia in Business Class for 65,000 Miles One-Way

Fly any of Delta’s partners between Australia/New Zealand and North/Southeast Asia for 65,000 miles in business class.

There is tons of availability between the two regions flying Delta’s partners, especially Vietnam Airlines having the most availability. You could even fly Virgin Australia A330 to Hong Kong from either Sydney or Melbourne. Plus, Virgin Australia’s business class between Australia and Asia can be redeemed anytime, unlike flights going to America on Virgin Australia, which have the 14 days limit.

Melbourne to Hong Kong availability for both Virgin Australia and Vietnam Airlines. ($85 AUD ~ $60 USD)
Virgin Australia A330 business class turndown service.

13. Fly Virgin Australia Between America and Australia in Business Class for 100,000 Miles One-Way

Lastly, flying Virgin Australia between America and Australia for 100,000 miles one-way in business class is a treat.

Virgin Australia is a wonderful experience and well worth it. In fact, Daniel had tons of fun flying business class on Virgin Australia 777 that sometimes had a first class feel to it. From the bar to the service and seat, it should be on everyone’s bucket list to fly Virgin Australia 777.

However, there is one issue about booking Virgin Australia business class on routes between Australia and the USA. You must redeem miles for Virgin Australia business class less then 14 days in advance of the departure date. So, if you search and try to redeem your miles on the 10th of October, you can only book between the 10th and 24th of October. It’s great for last minute awards, but not great if you’re planning a family vacation.

Virgin Australia’s bar on their 777.

14. Fly Between Indian Subcontinent and Africa in Business Class for 70,000 Miles One-Way

Want to go from India to Africa? You can fly from Delhi to Johannesburg for 70,000 miles in business class. Most flights will once again route through Europe, lots of them are with KLM, Air France, and sometimes Saudia.

I would only suggest not flying Jet Airways, their business class is not only cramped and subpar, but it’s also really dirty in the galleys where they prepare the food and usually different parts of the seats will be broken.

Availability is good in business, plus fuel surcharges are relatively low for this redemption.

Availability is not an issue flying KLM between Delhi and Johannesburg.


15. Fly Between Middle East and Europe in Business Class for 42,500 Miles One-Way

Side trip from the Middle East to Europe? For 42,500 miles you can fly business class to visit the tallest building in the world.

Availability is good between these two regions, almost everyday for airlines like KLM, Saudia, and Air France.

Fuel surcharges leaving from countries within the Middle East will be low, but fuel surcharges leaving Europe will be much higher.

Dubai to Paris has almost everyday availability. (120 UAE Dirham ~ $33 USD)
Paris to Dubai has lots of availability, but has high fuel surcharges because of leaving Europe.

Other uses for Delta SkyMiles

Miles + Cash Redemptions

Miles + Cash redemptions are a way to add a cash surcharge to your award ticket to reduce the amount of miles needed for a redemption. Miles + Cash still issues an award ticket that doesn’t earn any MQMs, MQSs, and MQDs.

Usually using the Miles + Cash option is great if you don’t have enough miles. However, you’re effectively paying for miles by adding a surcharge. I suggest doing the math to see if you come out ahead for particular bookings.

Pay with Miles

Paying with miles is unlocked when you hold one of the Delta credit cards. Paying with miles will allow you to redeem 1 mile for $0.01 off the ticket. 5,000 miles would equal to $50 off the cash price. $100 for 10,000 miles, $150 for 15,000 miles, etc. This won’t allow you to get much value out of your miles, but it does allow you to earn MQMs and miles.

Delta Vacations

You can redeem your miles for the whole vacation like hotels, flights, rental cars, and activities. Plus, it will cover the costs of others, as long as they are on the same reservation. Using your miles for Delta Vacations isn’t going to get great value out of your miles since 1 mile is worth 1 cent. You do earn miles and MQMs when redeeming miles on vacations.

Delta Experiences

Bid your miles for experience like backstage at a concert, special seats at sporting events, once in a lifetime activity, etc. Anything is possible with Delta Experiences and it’s done auction style. Sometimes you can get great value or bid so much that you lost the concept of valuing your miles. Otherwise, this is one way to burn your SkyMiles for once in a lifetime experiences.


Final word

While Daniel has his views about Delta SkyMiles, I for one think SkyMiles are useful for a backup miles currency. Especially when it’s the same redemption cost as American Airlines or United Airlines miles. When there is availability, Delta SkyMiles goes a long way. Most of the best redemptions are for their partners, and that isn’t a bad thing, but Delta SkyMiles is just another tool to achieve business class award flights. I just hope Delta adds functionality to book SkyTeam first class inventory and maybe, just maybe, add an award chart.