The Complete Guide to Delta Skymiles

The Delta Air Lines loyalty program, SkyMiles, gets mixed reviews. Some travelers love Delta and fly the airline…

The Delta Air Lines loyalty program, SkyMiles, gets mixed reviews. Some travelers love Delta and fly the airline frequently. It is, after all, one of the best domestic airlines in terms of service and amenities. However, SkyMiles isn’t always the easiest loyalty program to use to your advantage, and sometimes the miles-earning opportunities aren’t as plentiful as those you might find with other loyalty programs. 

Photo: Pixabay

If you enjoy the Delta experience and want to know more about how you can make SkyMiles work for you, keep reading.

The SkyMiles Elite Status Program

To start, one of the best ways to make the most of your airline loyalty program is by earning your way into that program’s elite status tiers. The SkyMiles program is made up of SkyMiles’ Basic Membership and then Medallion Elite Membership. As you fly, you earn Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs, or the distance you fly and your fare), Medallion Qualification Segments (MQSs, or the number of flights you take) and Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQDs, or spending on flights), and these all add up to giving you a higher elite tier. The more you fly, the more you earn and the more you earn, the better the perks that come with your status. 

  • To earn Silver status, you have to accumulate 25,000 MQM or 30 MQS and $3,000 MQD.
  • To earn Gold status, you need 50,000 MQM or 60 MQS and $6,000 MQD.
  • For Platinum, you need 75,000 MQM or 100 MQS and $9,000 MQD.
  • Lastly, for Diamond status, you need 125,000 MQM or 140 MQS and $15,000 MQD.

Note that for any of the MQD amounts above, you can replace that requirement with a MQD waiver. MQD requirements to reach the next elite status tier (Silver, Gold or Platinum) are waived if you make $25,000 or more in eligible purchases during the calendar year with a Delta SkyMiles credit card from American Express (read more). In order to reach Diamond status with a MQD waiver, you must spend more than $250,000 on eligible purchases with a Delta SkyMiles credit card from American Express (learn more). 

Photo: Delta

With Silver status, you enjoy:

  • 7 miles earned per $1 spent
  • Unlimited rollover MQMs
  • Unlimited complimentary upgrades
  • Free first checked bags for you and up to eight traveling companions
  • Priority check-in
  • Exclusive pricing on CLEAR membership
  • Priority boarding
  • Hertz car benefits (1,000 bonus miles for every qualifying rental)
  • Elite status with SkyTeam members
  • Priority wait list status
  • Priority help line status
  • Delta Vacations savings

With Gold Status, you enjoy all of the above, plus:

  • 8 miles earned per $1 spent
  • Waived same-day confirmed fees
  • Waived same-day standby fees
  • Priority security line access
  • Expedited baggage service
  • SkyTeam lounge access
  • Comparable Hertz Gold Plus Rewards status

With Platinum Status, you enjoy all of the above, plus:

  • 9 miles earned per $1 spent
  • Your selection of one Choice Benefit (a special Delta perk, with options ranging from Delta Sky Club membership to upgrade certificates to gift cards; see more info below)
  • Waived award deposit or reissue fee
  • 1,250 miles per Hertz rental

With Diamond status, you additionally, on top of all of the above, receive:

  • 11 miles earned per $1 spent
  • Your choice of three Choice Benefit perks
  • Complimentary CLEAR membership

Choice Benefits

Let’s dive a little deeper into the Choice Benefits perk. Choice Benefits are like little bonus gifts you receive when you reach a Medallion qualifying threshold. Some gifts are great value, others not so much. Here are some of the items you can choose from:

  • Regional Upgrade Certificates (four, one-way certificates, a $1,000 value each)
  • Global Entry Voucher ($100 value)
  • 20,000–25,000 Bonus Miles
  • $200 Travel Voucher
  • $200 Tiffany & Co. Gift Card
  • Silver Medallion Status Gift (for another passenger)
  • Delta Sky Club Membership with Guest Option
  • Global Upgrade Certificates  (a set of two)
  • Gold Medallion Status Gift

Platinum Medallion members receive one Choice Benefit gift per year when they reach 2019 Medallion status. Diamond Medallion members receive three Choice Benefit gifts per year when they reach 2019 Medallion status.

Earning SkyMiles Miles

Photo: Delta

There are many ways to earn Delta SkyMiles miles. Note that there’s a difference between your normal, everyday SkyMiles and MQMs. The former are those that you use to redeem award flights, while MQMs are just for determining your elite status.

Miles Earned from Flying

The easiest way to earn SkyMiles is through simply flying. The amount of miles you earn is based on the amount you spend on your ticket, as well as on your elite status.

  • Basic members earn 5 miles per $1 spent on a ticket
  • Silver members earn 7 miles per $1 spent on a ticket
  • Gold members earn 8 miles per $1 spent on a ticket
  • Platinum members earn 9 miles per $1 spent on a ticket
  • Diamond members earn 11 miles per $1 spent on a ticket

Miles Earned Via Credit Cards

Photo: American Express for Digitas

There are several different Delta cards that you can earn with. There’s the Blue Delta SkyMiles card (learn more), Gold Delta SkyMiles card (learn more), Platinum Delta SkyMiles card and the Delta Reserve card. 

All of them come with a welcome offer of varying value, but here’s how they benefit you as far as miles earning goes. 

The Blue Delta SkyMiles card gives you 2 miles at U.S. restaurants, 2 miles on Delta purchases and 1 mile for every other eligible purchase (learn more). There’s no annual fee, but the only in-flight perk you get is 20 percent off in-flight purchases. 

The Gold Delta SkyMiles card, which is often considered the favorite (read more), does not give you the 2 miles at restaurants, but it does give you 2 miles on Delta purchases and 1 mile on everything else, plus a whole slew of travel perks. These include a first free checked bag, priority boarding, no foreign transaction fees, the in-flight purchase discount, discounted Sky Club access and the opportunity to earn a MQD waiver. It has no fee the first year and then the fee is $95 per year starting in the second year.

The Platinum card has a $195 annual fee and here’s why. You have the same earning potential as the Gold card, but other perks on top of what you get with the Gold card include a companion certificate and a built-in miles boost (earn 10,000 bonus miles and 10,000 MQMs after you make $25,000 in purchases).

Lastly, the Delta Reserve card, which comes with a hefty $450 annual fee, gives you all this, plus concierge services, Sky Priority access, upgrade priority and an extra 5,000-mile boost. 

Miles Earned Via Partner Brands

There are lots of different miles-earning partners to choose from. As far as airlines go, you can pick from more than 20 partners, all around the world. 

When you book a partner marketed flight through Delta, you earn SkyMiles based on the ticket price, similar to how you would earn SkyMiles through Delta itself. 

Delta also has many hotel partners. 

Photo: IHG

Earn 2 miles for every $1 spent at hotels that fall under the Marriott Bonvoy program or IHG Rewards Club.

Earn 500 miles per stay at any hotel within the Radisson Rewards, Millennium Hotels and Resorts brand, Shangri-La Golden Circle, Worldhotels or the World of Hyatt programs.

For AccorHotels properties, the miles-earning potential is a bit more complex. You earn 12.5 miles for every 10 euros spent at Sofitel, Pullman, MGallery, Novotel, Mercure and Thalassa properties; 6.25 miles for every 10 euros spent at ibis and ibis Styles properties; 5 miles for every 10 euros spent at Adagio properties; and 2.5 miles for every 10 euros spent at Adagio Access properties. 

The Langham Hospitality Group miles-earning is similar, with up to 1,500 miles per stay (or 500 miles per night) at Langham Hotels and Resorts and Cordis Hotels and Resorts. For select properties, though, the miles-earning rate changes to 250 miles per night up to 750 miles per stay. 

You can also earn miles with Airbnb, at a rate of 1 mile per $1 spent.

Other travel-related earning partners include rental brands like Hertz, Dollar, Thrifty, Alamo, Enterprise and National. These all give you somewhere around 500 miles per rental. You can also earn 1 mile per $1 spent with Lyft. 

SkyMiles Dining

Earn more miles on dining. Photo: Unsplash

Delta’s SkyMiles Dining program allows you to earn miles when you dine and pay at select restaurants, bars and clubs with a registered credit or debit card.

VIP Dining members earn 5 miles for every dollar spent, with direct access to a VIP Member Services line. To acquire VIP status, you just have to dine 11 times before the end of the calendar year. 

SkyMiles Shopping

Similarly, Delta also has its own shopping portal, so you can earn SkyMiles when shopping online with your favorite brands. The amount you can earn depends on the brand you’re shopping with, but the premise is always the same. You just have to go to the portal, pick the brand you like and then you’re redirected to shop directly with that vendor. Many of the brands give you 2-3 miles per $1 spent, but you can also find specials, such as a current one for 5 miles per $1 spent with H&R Block. 

Redeeming Your Miles

There are many ways to redeem your SkyMiles miles. You can book award travel to more than a thousand destinations, with no blackout dates, but beyond that, you can redeem you miles for things like…

  • Upgrades to a premium class
  • In-flight and airport perks
  • Delta Vacations
  • SkyMiles experiences like celebrity meet-and-greets and VIP passes
  • Delta gift cards
  • Charitable donations

You get your best value when you redeem your miles for flights or an upgrade. 

To book a Delta award flight, all you have to do is go about booking online as normal, and then in the “Show Price In” section, just select “miles.” The awards calendar will show you the lowest price options for your preferred dates.

Delta Air Lines
Delta Skymiles can be very rewarding Photo: Airbus

You can book award flights with all of Delta’s partner airlines (listed above), many of which post their award flights right on Delta’s website, so you can see them when you’re searching for an available route. You only need to contact Delta Reservations via phone to book award travel with Air Europa, Czech Airlines, Air Tahiti Nui and Kenya Airways. 

Final Thoughts

For those who are loyal to and love Delta Air Lines, the SkyMiles program is a good fit. For those that are just looking to earn as many miles as quickly and easily as possible, for better award flights, without an affinity for a certain brand, however, the SkyMiles program might not be the best choice, as it is a true loyalty program that rewards those who want to work within its system. 

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