While Delta SkyMiles aren’t my favorite mileage currency, one of the things I do appreciate about SkyMiles is that they have a higher “floor” value than American and United miles. That’s to say that you can potentially “cash out” SkyMiles towards the cost of a ticket at a better rate than you could with AAdvantage and MileagePlus.
This is all thanks to Delta’s “Pay With Miles” feature, which lets you redeem miles at the rate of one cent each towards the cost of a Delta purchase. So in this post I wanted to look at how that works.
How much are Delta SkyMiles worth?
Personally I value Delta SkyMiles at 1.2 cents each. I’m conservative about valuing points, simply because you’re holding onto a currency that can easily be devalued (this is especially true with SkyMiles, since they don’t publish award prices).
Ideally I’d recommend redeeming SkyMiles for business class on a SkyTeam partner airline, like China Airlines, Air France, KLM, Alitalia, etc. For example, China Airlines offers an exceptional business class product, and they’re also generally good about making award space available.
85,000 SkyMiles for a one-way business class ticket from the US to Asia is quite a deal, if you ask me.
China Airlines’ 777 business class
However, for many people just redeeming for domestic travel is a lot more practical.
That’s one of the areas where Delta SkyMiles can be a great program. I know many people get frustrated by miles, and therefore don’t think it’s worth accruing miles with some airlines, whether through flying or credit cards.
Delta’s “Pay With Miles” feature
The good news is that unlike some other points currencies, SkyMiles have a legitimate “floor” value, thanks to the ability to redeem SkyMiles as cash towards the cost of a ticket.
If you have a Delta co-branded credit card then you can redeem SkyMiles for one cent each towards the cost of a ticket, in increments of 5,000 miles. The Pay With Miles benefit is available exclusively to those with select Delta co-branded credit cards, and even elite members without the credit card don’t have access to this benefit.
You should use Pay With Miles for a Delta One ticket
In other words, if a ticket costs $200, you could choose to pay $150 plus 5,000 miles, $100 plus 10,000 miles, $50 plus 15,000 miles, or just pay 20,000 miles outright. The best part is that for all practical purposes these are still considered “paid” tickets. This means that:
- You’re eligible for complimentary upgrades on these tickets as an elite member (assuming you don’t book a Basic Economy ticket)
- You’re eligible for Medallion Qualifying Miles and Medallion Qualifying Segments for these tickets
- You earn redeemable miles based only on the portion of the ticket for which you’re paying cash
That’s an especially great option for someone who is trying to requalify for status with Delta, since you can earn miles towards status requalification while redeeming.
Even for someone who doesn’t want to go through the effort of redeeming SkyMiles for award tickets, this can be great way to use miles earned through the welcome bonus on a Delta credit card.
Let me just emphasize again that this isn’t personally how I’d choose to redeem SkyMiles. Even though Delta has significantly increased many award costs over the past few years, I still think you can get more value through premium cabin redemptions.
However, there is something to be said for there being a floor value for miles, because I can see many people redeeming American and United miles for significantly less than a penny of value per point.
A lot of people choose not to collect SkyMiles because they think that partner redemptions are tough to come by and are expensive.
While that’s not untrue, there is something to be said for there being a floor value for SkyMiles. In the context of larger 60,000-80,000 mile credit card bonuses, that translates to $600-800 worth of travel on Delta, if nothing else.
For those with SkyMiles, do you use your miles for the Pay With Miles feature, or what is your favorite use of them?