underscored delta skymiles program guide lead
CNN Underscored reviews financial products such as credit cards and bank accounts based on their overall value. We may receive a commission through the LendingTree affiliate network if you apply and are approved for a card, but our reporting is always independent and objective. Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Enrollment may be required for select American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more.

If you frequently — or even occasionally — fly with Delta Air Lines, you’ll want to know about the airline’s SkyMiles loyalty program. While it’s had its ups and downs in the travel rewards space, there are still some great rewards travelers can take advantage of. And, thanks to a large portfolio of Delta-branded credit cards, there are plenty of ways to earn miles to redeem for free travel.

Plus, you can also transfer points from American Express Membership Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy to Delta, solidifying Delta SkyMiles as some of the easiest airline miles to earn without having to fly. And when it comes to elite status, Delta takes care of its most loyal flyers — what it calls Medallion members — with an extended list of travel perks and benefits.

If you’re looking to earn some SkyMiles for future travels or just want to know more about the program, here is everything you need to know about earning and redeeming SkyMiles and the varying levels of elite status.

How much are Delta SkyMiles worth?

Before diving into all the ways you can earn and redeem Delta SkyMiles, it’s important to understand what they’re worth. Delta uses a dynamic pricing model for awards, which makes assigning a value difficult. However, frequent flyer website The Points Guy values Delta SkyMiles at 1.41 cents apiece.

The real value depends on how you redeem your SkyMiles. When demand is high, both paid and award rates often increase substantially, and you may not get the most value from your SkyMiles in these scenarios. On the other hand, Delta often runs award sales on its SkyMiles Deals page. While these sales occasionally coincide with low-season travel, you can still get a great deal with your SkyMiles.

underscored delta air lines plane

How to earn Delta SkyMiles

There are lots of ways to earn Delta SkyMiles. The most obvious way is to fly with Delta or its partner airlines and credit the flights to your account. However, you can also rack up miles from Delta-branded credit cards, by shopping online, by dining out and via various other travel partnerships.

Earn Delta SkyMiles by flying

As expected, the easiest way to earn Delta SkyMiles is when flying with Delta or its partner airlines. With each Delta or partner flight you take, input your SkyMiles number and you’ll earn miles in return for your business at varying rates.

Delta Medallion elite members earn more SkyMiles per dollar spent on flights than general members. Here’s a full breakdown of how many SkyMiles you’ll earn per dollar spent, based on your elite status level when flying with Delta:

  • General SkyMiles members: 5 miles for every $1
  • Silver Medallion members: 7 miles for every $1
  • Gold Medallion members: 8 miles for every $1
  • Platinum Medallion members: 9 miles for every $1
  • Diamond Medallion members: 11 miles for every $1

In addition, Delta has more than 20 airline partners with which you can earn — and redeem — SkyMiles. You’ll earn at varying rates for the different partners, but if you’re looking for a full list of the partner airlines, you can visit Delta’s dedicated page.

You certainly shouldn’t go out of your way to fly Delta if it will cost you more than competitors if you don’t have elite status with Delta. However, if you find that Delta has the best fares, make sure you add your SkyMiles number to your reservation in order to earn those miles.

Earn Delta SkyMiles from Delta credit cards

Delta credit cards offer the fastest way to accrue a large number of SkyMiles. Delta offers more credit cards than any other US airline, so there is bound to be one that fits your needs. Whether you’re looking for a business card or one with no annual fee, there are many options to choose from. Delta cards typically offer generous welcome bonus offers, and with the right card, you can even spend your way to elite status.

Here’s a look at all the current Delta SkyMiles personal credit cards and their current welcome bonus offers.

Welcome bonus offer

50,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after spending $3,000 within the first 3 months of account opening

50,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after spending $2,000 within the first 3 months of account opening

40,000 bonus miles after spending $1,000 within the first 3 months of account opening

10,000 bonus miles after spending $500 within the first 3 months of account opening

Category bonus earning

3x miles on Delta purchases; 1x miles on all other purchases

3x miles on Delta purchases; 3x miles on purchases made directly with hotels; 2x miles on dining and at US supermarkets; 1x miles on all other purchases

2x miles on Delta purchases; 2x miles on dining and at US supermarkets; 1x miles on all other purchases

2x miles on Delta purchases; 2x miles on dining; 1x miles on all other purchases

Keep in mind, too, that many of these cards carry an annual fee:

Delta also has a number of credit cards that are targeted toward small-business owners.

Welcome bonus offer

60,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after spending $4,000 within the first 3 months of account opening

60,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after spending $3,000 within the first 3 months of account opening

50,000 bonus miles after spending $2,000 within the first 3 months of account opening

Category bonus earning

3x miles on Delta purchases; 1.5x miles per dollar after you spend $150,000 on your card in a calendar year; 1x miles on all other purchases

3x miles on Delta purchases; 3x miles on purchases made directly with hotels; 1.5x miles on purchases of $5,000 or more, up to 50,000 additional miles per calendar year; 1x miles on all other purchases

2x miles on Delta purchases; 2x miles on dining, shipping purchases and advertising in select media; 1x miles on all other purchases

Similar to the personal cards, a number of these small-business credit cards also come with annual fees to keep in mind:

Earn Delta SkyMiles through transfer partners

In addition to its large portfolio of Delta-branded credit cards, you can also earn SkyMiles through a transfer partnership with American Express Membership Rewards. This option is ideal for those who aren’t frequent Delta flyers and don’t want to be tied down to solely SkyMiles. The Membership Rewards program has 19 other airline and hotel partners, giving you the flexibility to use your points how it best fits your needs.

Even if you are a loyal Delta flyer with tons of SkyMiles in your account, Membership Rewards can come in handy if you need to top off your balance. Membership Rewards transfer instantly to Delta at a 1-to-1 ratio, which is very convenient if you need miles quickly to secure a last-minute award redemption.

Marriott Bonvoy is another source from which you can transfer to Delta SkyMiles. At 3-to-1, the transfer ratio isn’t as favorable as from Membership Rewards. However, you get a 5,000-mile bonus for every 60,000 Marriott points transferred. This option makes sense if you have no other way of securing Delta SkyMiles quickly and don’t anticipate an immediate need for Marriott points.

Earn Delta SkyMiles on other travel

The next time you’re ready to book a vacation package, you might want to consider Delta Vacations. Not only will you earn thousands of redeemable SkyMiles, but you’ll also earn Medallion Qualifying Miles towards Delta elite status on the flight portion of your booking.

The number of redeemable miles earned depends on the total package price. You can earn up to 5,000 bonus miles per person on each Delta Vacation package at the following rates:

  • $10,000+ spent with Delta Vacations: 5,000 bonus miles per person
  • $5,000 to $9,999 spent with Delta Vacations: 2,000 bonus miles per person
  • Up to $4,999 spent with Delta Vacations: 1,000 bonus miles per person

Whether you’re renting a car or hitching a ride through Lyft, Delta’s ground transportation partnerships allow you to earn bonus miles. Delta partners with every major rental car company, allowing you to earn 500 bonus miles or more per booking with the likes of Hertz, Dollar, Thrifty, Alamo, Enterprise and National.

Earn bonus SkyMiles on your car rental.

With rental car companies experiencing shortages, Turo is a solid alternative that won’t leave you stranded. Dubbed the “Airbnb of car rentals,” Turo provides a broader selection of vehicles, plus the ability to earn 500 bonus SkyMiles per rental. As an added incentive, Turo offers 2,000 bonus miles after you complete your first trip.

If driving isn’t your cup of tea, you can always opt for a Lyft and earn 1 mile per dollar spent on rides in the US. Be sure to link your Delta and Lyft accounts ahead of time to earn miles on your next trip.

After a nearly two-year hiatus, cruising is starting to pick up again and cruise lines are offering incredible incentives to attract travelers. Offers include discounts on staterooms, upgrades, onboard credits, prepaid gratuities and more. You can combine these deals with up to 30,000 bonus miles by booking your cruise through SkyMiles Cruises — and you’ll get at least 1,500 miles on every booking.

You’ll want to compare prices against other sites to make sure you’re getting the best deal. The last thing you want is to pay more for your cruise in order to earn bonus miles.

With more than 7 million homes worldwide, Airbnb is a popular alternative to hotels. Families, groups and solo travelers alike have found value in booking stays through Airbnb. Thanks to a partnership with Delta, you can earn 1 mile per dollar spent on qualifying Airbnb bookings worldwide.

All you have to do is visit the dedicated site, enter your SkyMiles number and book your stay. You’ll automatically earn bonus miles on your bookings (excluding taxes and fees).

Earn Delta SkyMiles when paying energy bills

If you live in Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey or Pennsylvania, you could earn 2 miles per dollar on your energy bills. EnergyPlus is upping the ante with 5,000 bonus miles after two months of service.

If you can choose between energy providers, it might be worthwhile to go with one that offers SkyMiles on your bill. It’s also important to compare rates and ensure you’re not paying more just to earn miles.

Earn Delta SkyMiles with Instacart

Delta’s partnership with Instacart lets you earn up to 1.5 SkyMiles per dollar spent, depending on your membership type. Members are also eligible for a free Instacart Express membership trial ranging from three to 12 months.

Earn Delta SkyMiles on grocery deliveries with Instacart.

Instacart Express costs $9.99 per month or $99 per year, which is an excellent offer for SkyMiles members. It’s especially beneficial if you use Instacart occasionally but not enough to justify paying for an Express membership outright. Express gets you $0 delivery fees on orders over $35 and a 5% credit on eligible pickup orders.

Earn Delta SkyMiles with Ticketmaster

In-person concerts are back and chances are your favorite artist is lining up a long overdue tour. Through Delta’s partnership with Ticketmaster, you can earn 1 mile per dollar spent on eligible event tickets in the US and Canada.

To earn bonus miles on your ticket purchases, link your accounts at the dedicated page. Pay for your tickets as usual and you’ll earn those bonus miles. Use your Delta credit card to generate extra earnings.

Earn Delta SkyMiles via SkyMiles Shopping

The Delta SkyMiles Shopping portal is an excellent way to earn bonus miles on your online purchases. You’ll earn at least 1 mile per dollar spent at thousands of popular retailers like Gap, Macy’s, Sephora and more. All you have to do to earn bonus miles is sign up for SkyMiles Shopping and click on the portal’s link whenever you’re ready to shop online to earn bonus miles.

Earn Delta SkyMiles via SkyMiles Dining

Delta’s SkyMiles Dining program is similar to the shopping portal and an equally easy way to earn bonus miles. Join the free program and register one or more credit cards with the service. Then, when you dine at a qualifying restaurant, you’ll earn 0.5 to 1 SkyMile per dollar spent. This is a low-effort way to earn miles whenever you eat out.

Delta is currently offering a new member bonus of 3,000 miles for signing up. You’ll earn 1,000 bonus miles by spending $30 or more at any participating restaurant — Medallion members earn an additional 500 bonus miles too. Clearly, signing up for SkyMiles Dining can pay off nicely.

Earn SkyMiles when dining with friends.

How to redeem Delta SkyMiles

The best way to redeem Delta SkyMiles is for flights, but Delta offers plenty of other options. If redeeming miles saves you money, by all means, use them. That said, here’s a look at what you can expect when redeeming Delta SkyMiles for different values.

Redeem Delta SkyMiles for travel

Delta doesn’t publish an award chart, but instead, it uses dynamic pricing to determine how much an award will cost. That can work out favorably when demand is low and paid fares are cheap. However, when demand is high, so is the number of miles required.

You’ll generally get good value for your miles on short-haul domestic flights. A great place to look for deals is on the SkyMiles Deals page. Enter your home airport and you’ll see discounted airfare to various destinations around the US.

You’ll often find airfare starting at around 10,000 SkyMiles each way, plus taxes and fees. However, I’ve booked flights between the Bay Area and Chicago for as few as 8,500 miles each way, plus taxes and fees. That being said, here are a few examples of award redemption rates you can expect from Delta, noting that they can vary quite a bit:

  • Economy class between the continental US and Alaska: From 22,000 SkyMiles one way
  • First class between the US and Japan or Korea: From 80,000 SkyMiles one way
  • Economy class with Delta partners between the US and Europe: From 35,000 SkyMiles one way
  • Economy class with WestJet between the US and Canada: From 5,000 SkyMiles one way
Redeem SkyMiles to fly in Delta One Suites.

Redeem Delta SkyMiles with Cash + Miles

Cash + Miles awards can be a great way to save on airfare when you don’t have enough miles for an award ticket. Usually, a Cash + Miles award requires half the miles of a regular award, plus a cash co-pay. Sometimes this works out favorably, while at other times you’ll pay more cash.

For example, a one-way Main Cabin ticket between Seattle (SEA) and Los Angeles (LAX) costs $134 in September.

underscored deltaskymiles1.jpg

That same ticket prices out at 7,000 miles and $6 in taxes, getting you 1.8 cents per point in value — more than what Delta SkyMiles are typically worth.

underscored deltaskymiles2.jpg

Meanwhile, a Cash + Miles award costs 2,000 miles and $96. Essentially, you’re redeeming 2,000 SkyMiles to save $38, which gets you a value of 1.9 cents per point — a better deal.

underscored deltaskymiles3.jpg

While you are getting good value for your points, you have a $96 cash co-pay. That may not be appealing if you’re looking to minimize your out-of-pocket cost. But if you’re trying to stretch your SkyMiles further, Cash + Miles can be a great way to redeem miles.

Ultimately, if you’re considering a Cash + Miles redemption, it’s best to consider all your options and do the calculations to determine your best choice.

Redeem Delta SkyMiles for Delta gift cards

You can redeem SkyMiles for Delta gift cards starting at 5,600 miles for a $50 gift card. At 0.9 cents per mile, that’s not a great use of SkyMiles. In fact, it’s about half the value you’ll get when redeeming SkyMiles for a Cash + Miles award.

Redeem Delta SkyMiles on merchandise

The Delta SkyMiles Marketplace lets members redeem miles for merchandise: furniture, kitchen appliances, sporting goods, electronics and more. The marketplace even has Apple products for which you can redeem miles, though the redemption rate isn’t great.

An iPhone 13 Pro costs $999 or you can redeem 435,564 SkyMiles, which will give you less than 0.2 cents per mile in value. That’s a terrible use of SkyMiles and one we don’t recommend if you can help it. However, if you’re looking to save cash, it could be a viable option.

Redeeming miles for magazines is a slightly better use of miles. A 10-issue subscription to Martha Stewart Living costs 100 SkyMiles and $2. The same subscription retails for around $10, getting you about one cent per mile in value. Not the best redemption rate, but not awful either, considering it only costs 100 miles.

You'll typically get the best value from your SkyMiles for travel.

Everything to know about Delta Medallion elite status

Delta has four elite status tiers, and you can achieve Delta elite status by flying or through credit cards.

Earning Delta SkyMiles Medallion status involves several different metrics. You can achieve status by completing a certain number of Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) and Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQDs). Alternately, you can swap out the MQM requirements by completing a certain number of Medallion Qualification Segments (MQSs).

How to earn Delta Medallion elite status

MQMs are earned based on fare class and distance flown, while MQSs refer to the number of segments on an itinerary. Lastly, MQDs are calculated based on the cost of airfare. You can get the MQD requirement waived with a Delta SkyMiles Platinum American Express Card, Delta SkyMiles Platinum Business American Express Card, Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card or Delta SkyMiles Reserve Business American Express Card.

Silver, Gold and Platinum Medallion members can get the MQD requirement waived by completing $25,000 worth of spending on an eligible Delta card. Meanwhile, the waiver for Diamond status requires a whopping $250,000 worth of credit card spending.

Here’s how many MQMs, MQMs and MQDs you need for each level of Delta Medallion status:

  • Delta Silver Medallion status: 25,000 MQMs or 30 MQSs and $3,000 MQDs
  • Delta Gold Medallion status: 50,000 MQMs or 60 MQSs and $6,000 MQDs
  • Delta Platinum Medallion status: 75,000 MQMs or 100 MQSs and $9,000 MQDs
  • Delta Diamond Medallion status: 125,000 MQMs or 140 MQSs and $15,000 MQDs

Delta Medallion elite benefits

Once you’ve reached Delta Medallion status, you have many incredible benefits to look forward to. Between bonus miles, upgrades and discounted travel, Delta elites are some of the best treated in the airline space. Here’s an overview of Delta’s elite status benefits.

Delta Medallion members have access to airport perks like priority check-in.

Delta Silver Medallion status

  • 7 miles per dollar spent
  • Complimentary upgrades to Delta One, on the day of departure
  • Complimentary first-class upgrades, starting 24 hours before departure
  • Complimentary Delta Comfort+ upgrades, starting 24 hours before departure
  • Complimentary Class Premier Upgrades on select Aeromexico flights, starting 24 hours before departure
  • Discounted CLEAR membership
  • Priority boarding and check-in
  • 1,000 bonus miles per Hertz rental
  • Three months free Instacart Express membership
  • Delta Vacations discount
  • Waived baggage fees

Delta Gold Medallion status

  • 8 miles per dollar spent
  • Complimentary upgrades to Delta One, on the day of departure
  • Complimentary first-class upgrades, starting 72 hours before departure
  • Complimentary Delta Comfort+ upgrades, starting 72 hours before departure
  • Complimentary Class Premier Upgrades on select Aeromexico flights, starting 72 hours before departure
  • Discounted CLEAR membership
  • Priority boarding, check-in and security
  • Expedited baggage service
  • SkyTeam Elite Plus status
  • SkyTeam lounge access
  • 1,000 bonus miles per Hertz rental and Hertz Five Star status
  • Three months free Instacart Express membership
  • Four onboard drink vouchers
  • Delta Vacations discount
  • Waived baggage fees

Delta Platinum Medallion status

  • 9 miles per dollar spent
  • Complimentary upgrades to Delta One, on the day of departure
  • Complimentary first-class upgrades, starting 120 hours before departure
  • Complimentary Delta Comfort+ upgrades, starting after ticketing
  • Complimentary Class Premier Upgrades on select Aeromexico flights, starting 120 hours before departure
  • One Choice benefit: Four Regional Upgrade certificates, 20,000 bonus SkyMiles, Gift Silver Medallion status or $200 Delta travel voucher
  • Discounted CLEAR membership
  • Priority boarding, check-in and security
  • Expedited baggage service
  • SkyTeam Elite Plus status and SkyTeam lounge access
  • 1,250 bonus miles per Hertz rental and Hertz President’s Circle status
  • One year free Instacart Express membership
  • Four onboard drink vouchers
  • Delta Vacations discount
  • Waived baggage fees

Delta Diamond Medallion status

  • 11 miles per dollar spent
  • Complimentary upgrades to Delta One, on the day of departure
  • Complimentary first-class upgrades, starting 120 hours before departure
  • Complimentary Delta Comfort+ upgrades, starting after ticketing
  • Complimentary Class Premier Upgrades on select Aeromexico flights, starting 120 hours before departure
  • Three Choice benefits: Eight Regional upgrades, four Global upgrade certificates or two Global and four Regional upgrade certificates, 25,000 bonus SkyMiles, Gift Gold Medallion status, Individual Sky Club membership or $200 Delta travel voucher
  • Discounted CLEAR membership
  • Priority boarding, check-in and security
  • Expedited baggage service
  • SkyTeam Elite Plus status and SkyTeam lounge access
  • 1,250 bonus miles per Hertz rental and Hertz President’s Circle status
  • One year free Instacart Express membership
  • Four onboard drink vouchers
  • Delta Vacations discount
  • Waived baggage fees

Bottom line

Delta has built a lucrative program by the way of SkyMiles. The miles are easy to earn through a large portfolio of Delta-branded credit cards, and there are plenty of ways to use them. And, if you fly with Delta enough, the Medallion elite status levels offer plenty of benefits to make flying even more comfortable.

Looking for a travel credit card? Find out which cards CNN Underscored chose as our best travel credit cards of 2022.