While my favorite way to redeem miles is for international premium cabin tickets, there’s one way to redeem Delta SkyMiles that’s unique, and that sets them apart from American AAdvantage and United MileagePlus.
Specifically, Delta has a Pay With Miles option, which I’ll explain in this post for those not familiar with it. While it’s not personally my favorite way to redeem SkyMiles, it at least sets a floor value to the miles.
Delta’s Pay With Miles feature
Delta has a Pay With Miles option, which allows you to redeem miles for a discount on the cost of a cash ticket, either in economy or first class. You can redeem in increments of 5,000 miles, with each set of 5,000 miles getting you a $50 discount. In other words, each mile gets you one cent off the cost of a ticket. What makes this cool is that you still earn elite qualifying miles for your ticket, and still earn redeemable miles for the portion of your ticket that you paid for in cash.
Pay With Miles is available exclusively to those with a co-branded Delta American Express card (with the exception of the new no annual fee Blue Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express (Rates & Fees)), so other members can’t take advantage of this. If you are eligible, you should automatically see the option when you log into your SkyMiles account and search for a revenue ticket.
For example, for a $220 ticket you’d have the option of redeeming 5,000 miles to save $50, 10,000 miles to save $100, 15,000 miles to save $150, 20,000 miles to save $200, or 25,000 miles to get the ticket for free.
Ultimately my favorite way to redeem airline miles is for premium cabin international tickets. That’s the way to get outsized value for your miles. However, there’s no denying that doing so isn’t practical for many people. This can sometimes require flexibility, not to mention many people don’t travel a lot internationally, and would rather redeem their miles for shorthaul travel at the best rate possible.
Yesterday I wrote about how American is charging up to 75,000 miles for a one-way economy ticket from San Francisco to Los Angeles right after Thanksgiving, which is insane when you consider that a paid ticket would cost as little as $133. That’s a case where you’d get a lot more value through a program like Delta SkyMiles.
Is Pay With Miles worth it?
Personally, I don’t see myself using the Pay With Miles feature, even though I’m slowly becoming a Delta flyer.
But surprisingly I also know a lot of elite members who love redeeming their SkyMiles this way. They’re on the status hamster wheel and they don’t really have time to redeem their miles for award flights, since it would mean they’d earn fewer elite qualifying miles. So for those people, it makes a lot more sense to just redeem their miles as payment towards the cost of a ticket so they can still earn elite qualifying miles.
Like I said, it’s not personally my favorite way to redeem SkyMiles, though it’s a fantastic option to have, and establishes a floor value for the miles, in my opinion.
The following links will direct you to the rates and fees for mentioned American Express Cards. These include: Blue Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express (Rates & Fees).