How To Use SkyMiles As Cash Towards The Cost Of A Delta Ticket

Filed Under: Delta
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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.

Delta Amex Cards

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 short-haul 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).

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  1. @ Ben — This is just about the best use of Delta miles remaining. Delta has stolen from its most loyal, long-term customers through unannounced serial devaluations, and if you don’t want to give them anymore cash, this is the perfect solution. You can qualify for Platinum with ZERO MQDs.

  2. One tiny caveat – when I last checked on this (ok it’s been 2 years since I used it), you earn elite qualfying miles ONLY if you pay for SOME of the ticket in cash. Meaning if the ticket is $401, you could pay for $400 with 40,000 miles, and then $1 on your credit card, and you’d still earn the EQM. If you paid 40,100 miles and $0, you’d earn nothing.

    Policy could have changed, but worth a double check.

  3. I guess the use of the pay with miles option depends upon how the math works out. I just booked a round trip first class ticket to Toronto that listed as $975 … Or it was available as an award ticket for 70K miles + $75 in taxes/fees. So, instead of that, I paid $375 +60K miles (mostly so that I still get the 6750 elite qualifying miles). Yes, the award ticket would have been a better redemption value, but $300 for almost 7k MQMs is a fairly good deal considering that it’s really hard to get >$0.01/mile on award redemptions with skymiles.

  4. I dont understand why anyone would actively pursue this strategy if they could do the same thing by purchasing through Chase using CSR and getting a 50% redemption rate, as well. 220$ ticket on Delta = 25,000 (which obviously isn’t a great deal, because you have to round up on that ticket, so you pay 3,000 miles more) or Chase, 14,666 pts. Seems like a no brainer if i’m caught on the elite hamster wheel. Good news is, the CSR came along, so I don’t have to be.

  5. @Sean , the thing is chase points are much more valuable than Delta’s. Also, if you don’t have a ton of Delta points, it is really hard to find any worthy redemption to get rid of them

  6. @Lu – fair point. I could almost see myself getting a gold card just to offload those points with the ones i currently have and be done with them.

  7. A great value when booking with miles is ability to cancel flight up to 72hours prior to flight and have miles redeposited fully (As Diamond Or Plat). This is huge if plans change or want to have multiple options). @Lucky- Do you know what the cancelation policy looks here?

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