Airline Rewards Programs

Delta Air Lines – SkyMiles Overview

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Updated – January 1, 2024 to reflect Delta SkyMiles changes.

Delta Skymiles
Delta Skymiles – Photo courtesy Delta Air Lines

Delta Airlines is a popular airline for business and leisure travelers alike. If you’re looking to rack up some frequent flyer miles towards a big trip or vacation, Delta is an excellent option due to its size, reach and comfortable equipment (jets). In this post, we’ll cover everything you need to know about their SkyMiles program. From earning to redeeming, we’ve got you covered!

How To Join The Delta SkyMiles Program

Signing up for the Delta SkyMiles program can be done through an online application where you’ll provide some basic personal information. Becoming a member will also allow you to accumulate miles that not only can be used towards international and domestic flights with Delta Airlines, but other perks like elite Medallion benefits and Million Miler status.

Benefits of Being a SkyMiles Member

Joining SkyMiles can provide many long-term benefits. Members accumulate miles for every flight, giving you the opportunity to save up for a free trip, upgraded seats, experiences, free bags, or even a cocktail at one of Delta’s SkyClubs. A recent addition to the benefits of being a SkyMiles member is access to free WiFi on most Delta flights.

Additionally, members can earn elite “Medallion” status by accruing MQD’s (Medallion Qualification Dollars) through the trips they take or through credit card spending. Medallion status, depending on your tier, can provide access to airport lounges, priority check-in lines, priority boarding and seating on the plane, as well as priority baggage service just to name a few. If you fly regularly, it’s important that you make the most of your travel miles and enjoy these perks along the way.

What Delta Says About Sustainability

“Delta continued building momentum in 2022 on its journey to connect people to a more sustainable future of flying. From welcoming a new CSO and developing innovative partnerships, to advancing sustainable aviation fuel markets and further reducing single-use plastics onboard, work across the global carrier in 2022 has set Delta apart as a sustainability leader in the aviation sector.” – news.delta.com

Get more info about Delta’s commitment to sustainability here.

Delta Skymiles
Delta SkyMiles Platinum Medallion comes with unlimited upgrades, waived same-day change fees, and SkyPriority access.

How To Earn SkyMiles

Earn SkyMiles by flying paid itineraries, shopping online, using Delta branded credit cards, booking hotels, or renting cars. With flights, the more you book on Delta, the more miles you can accumulate and miles never expire.

  • Earn 5 miles per dollar spent on each ticket (less taxes and fees) – note, medallion members earn at an even higher rate up to 11 miles per dollar.
  • Be careful with “Basic Economy” fares – since they do not earn SkyMiles or MQDs.
  • Credit card offers can be a way to jump start and boost your earning of both SkyMiles and MQDs. Check out the latest offers here — SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express.
  • Shop at 1000+ stores through SkyMiles Shopping to earn up to 20 miles per dollar (I never send flowers without checking the current earn rate here – it’s usually one of the highest).
  • You do not earn SkyMiles on award tickets, however it’s important to note that you will earn MQDs on award tickets meaning you can still progress towards your medallion status through free flights.
  • You can also earn with partner airlines (there are over 20) – so be sure to add your Delta SkyMiles number when flying other SkyTeam and partner airlines which include Air France, KLM and Korean Air.
  • Earn 1 mile per dollar spent on Lyft rides and 2 / dollar on all Lyft rides to and from domestic airports – with no cap on earning. You need to link your SkyMiles and Lyft account to begin earning, find out more on Delta’s Skymiles & Lyft FAQ page.
  • Earn 1 SkyMile per dollar on your Airbnb stays.
    • To earn miles on Airbnb stays, SkyMiles members must enter their membership number on deltaairbnb.com prior to each booking session and enable cookies in their browser. Earning is for the booking price itself and excludes taxes and fees.
    • Earn up to 5 miles per dollar with SkyMiles Dining
  • There are also two places from which you can transfer in points – Amex Membership Rewards points can be traded for Delta SkyMiles 1:1, and although it’s not generally a great value — it’s handy if you just need a few more for an award you’re eyeing. And Marriott Bonvoy Points can be transferred into Skymiles at a 3:1 ratio, which sounds even worse, but again it may be part of a strategy to get a great saver award locked down.

Delta’s US-Based Hub Cities

Atlanta (ATL), Boston (BOS), Detroit (DTW), Los Angeles (LAX), Minneapolis (MSP), New York City (JFK & LGA), Salt Lake City (SLC), and Seattle (SEA).

Choosing an airline that has its hub near you can save you time and money. Flying out of a hub drastically reduces the need for layovers, saving you time due to the increased availability of direct flights. Furthermore, you may find lower fares on both the hub airline and rival airlines who sometimes try to woo your business away from the main hub airline. Due to the higher concentration of routes served, it’s often convenient to consider hubs in your airline choice. You’ll also want to consider an airline’s alliance and partners if you often travel internationally. Delta is a member of SkyTeam.

How To Redeem Skymiles

Sign in to your SkyMiles account on the Delta website and search for flights as you normally would, with the “Shop with Miles” box checked on the website – or use the “SHOW PRICE IN” toggle set to “Miles” on the app. You can then use your hard-earned Skymiles for any flight in the system, with no blackout dates. Tip: Try using the “My dates are flexible” option to find better deals to the places you want to travel. The amount of SkyMiles depend on the flight’s origin and destination, the type of flight, and several other factors.

Tips: Delta Amex cardholders get 15% off SkyMiles Redemptions and Earn MQD’s through spending.

TakeOff 15, is a benefit exclusively for Delta SkyMiles Gold, Gold Business, Platinum, Platinum Business, Reserve and Reserve Business American Express Card Members. Card Members now save 15% when booking Award Travel with miles on Delta flights. This doesn’t include partner airline redemptions and is not applicable to the tax or fees assessed when redeeming miles.

Additionally, card holders of the Delta Platinum or Delta Platinum Business card will earn one MQD per $20 of spending. And holders of the Delta Reserve or Business Reserve card will earn one MQD per $10 of spending.

You can also use SkyMiles to upgrade an itinerary or individual flight’s class of service. You’ll often see the option to upgrade to a higher class of service using miles in the “Trip Summary,” area before you purchase a ticket on delta.com. Also check within an existing booking for the opportunity to upgrade your seat from main cabin to comfort or first. It’ll sometimes show you the option at the top of an individual Trip Details page or within the seat selection area. If available, you’ll see the ability to upgrade via miles or money. If all else fails, contact delta via their website, the “Message Us” area of the app or the number on your SkyMiles card to see if there’s any availability not shown online.

You could use your miles to purchase Delta Sky Club membership.

In addition to flights and upgrades you can also redeem SkyMiles for:

  • Baggage fees
    • On flights originating from most domestic airports can use miles to pay for standard checked bag fees during check-in on Delta.com, the Fly Delta app and at a kiosk at the airport.
    • Excess and overweight baggage cannot be purchased with miles.
  • Delta Sky Club memberships (only Medallion level members)
    • Executive Membership (149,500 miles) – Includes 2 guests per visit or spouse & children.
    • Individual Membership (69,500 miles) – Includes access for guests at the current guest fee rate ($50 as of 2/23)
  • Items in the Delta SkyMiles Marketplace
    • Gift Cards
    • Apple products
    • Magazine subscriptions
    • Charitable donations

SkyMiles Medallion Program

Delta SkyMiles memberships offer many benefits the savvy traveler should be sure to take advantage. The biggest step you can take is earning Medallion status. Qualification requires you to spend at specific levels on your Delta flights, Delta credit cards, or Delta Vacations packages. Medallion status comes in four flavors:

Silver Medallion – 5,000 MQD’s

Silver begins your elite status journey with a 40% boost in SkyMiles earning (7 instead of 5 miles/dollar).

First Class Upgrades — on all paid, award and miles+cash tickets (except basic economy). These upgrades clear up to 24 hrs prior to the departure time, but these days don’t ever expect it except on the most obscure routes. Silver’s almost never get upgrades, but you are eligible, so it’ll happen on unfilled / emptier flights (your traveling companions are also eligible). You’ll also get access to free Comfort+ seats 24 hours prior to departure, so check online to see if any of those seats are up for grabs the day before your flight.

Preferred seats — get access to “Preferred Seats” like the exits and seats closer to the front at the time of booking for you and your traveling companions.

Priority Check-in — you’ll get access to the SkyPriority at most airports, except those with a seperate Silver Medallion line. You also get “Priority Boarding,” but it’s more like middle of the boarding process… priority.

SkyTeam Elite status — which means you’ll get some additional benefits when traveling with SkyTeam partners around the globe – check out more info here.

Gold Medallion – 10,000 MQD’s

With Gold status, you get everything you got with Silver, plus you’ll always have SkyPriority status for things like check-in, security lines, and boarding.

Your upgrade window expands to 3 days prior to departure – giving you a bit better chance of a First Class upgrade and more time to secure Comfort+ seats if you’ve purchased Main Cabin.

You’ll earn 8 miles/dollar, and enjoy SkyTeam Elite Plus benefits – which includes SkyTeam lounge access for you and a guest when traveling internationally. And you’ll get “Priority baggage service” – even though it usually seems like the baggage comes out in a random order despite yellow priority tags on some of the bags.

Platinum Medallion – 15,000 MQD’s

There’s a big jump up with Platinum status on Delta. First, you’ll enjoy more upgrades due to the ability to select Comfort+ seats shortly after you book and your upgrade window expanding to 5 days prior to departure, with only Diamonds having priority higher than yours.

You’ll also receive one “Choice Benefit” which include coveted upgrade certificates. Choose from:

  • $300 travel voucher (this is the worst use of your choices)
  • 20,000 bonus SkyMiles (second only to the $200 voucher – you likely don’t need this if you’ve made Platinum)
  • Gift Silver status to anyone
  • 4 Regional Upgrade Certificates

The best of the four “Choice Benefit” options for Platinum Medallions are the four Regional Upgrades and the status gift. I personally, prefer the upgrades since it usually means I can book two different round trips in Main Cabin and immediately confirm into First – usually a value above $600 / round-trip (regional upgrades are good when flying . I also like the ability to gift Medallion status if a close friend or family member will be traveling a lot in the coming year, but has no status.

Diamond Medallion – 28,000 MQD’s

The highest (non-invitation only) level – here you’ll almost always be first in line for upgrades, phone calls, standby and the occasional ride in a Porsche Cayenne from the plane to your next gate during a tight connection. Your “Choice Benefits” increase to three selections and your options expand as well. Choose from:

  • SkyClub membership (Individual is one choice selection, Executive membership requires two)
  • SkyClub Guest Pass – Credit Card access (which adds the ability to always get two guests free when using your Amex Platinum, Delta Reserve or Delta Reserve Business card for access to the club).
  • Gift Gold status to anyone
  • Either 4 Global, 8 Regional, or 2 Global and 4 Regional Upgrade Certificates

Delta 360°

An invite only level for those flyers who spend a lot (over 40K / year) and accrue well over the 125,000 MQM’s needed for Diamond. And while the specific requirements for invitation are not advertised, the benefits are.

  • You’ll enjoy an exclusive contact phone number that puts you directly in touch with the most seasoned and empowered agents — great for cutting through red tape and getting your issues fixed, stress free.
  • You’ll also get SkyClub Executive membership without needing to burn two choice benefits.

Other than that, you’ll be higher on the list for a Porsche transfer if you’ve got a tight connection at one of the Delta hubs, and you’ll receive a special Delta 360° gift package. I’ve never been at this level, but from what I’ve heard and read, it’s great, but not a huge leap up from Diamond.

Million Miler Status

Million Miler status is earned through flight miles flown as of January 1, 2024 — previously it was calculated through Medallion Qualification Miles earned — making it harder to earn, but it’s also becoming more valuable. Million Milers receive annual complimentary elite status at the following levels:

  • 1MM = Annual Gold Medallion status.
  • 2MM = Annual Platinum Medallion status.
  • 3MM & 4MM = Annual Diamond Medallion status.
  • 5MM+ get an annual invitation to Delta 360°

Additionally, as of 2024, Million Miler members receive increased (3rd position) priority for upgrades after medallion status, and fare class is taken into account.

Final Thoughts

Delta is one of the best US-based carriers. It has a newer fleet with fast WiFi, ubiquitous seat-back entertainment screens, and is the most on time airline in the US. That said, they know they’re better than most US carriers — and they charge for it. It’s not unusual for Delta to be the most expensive option when comparing the same itinerary between other carriers. But if you’re looking for consistent quality and dependability, Delta is a great option — especially if you’re flying for work and not footing the bill! With its top-tier benefits and plenty of ways to earn miles, it can be easy to rack up free flights and other perks. If you have a Delta SkyMiles credit card, the rewards can pile up quickly. And if you don’t, check out the current offers from American Express – there are often sign-up bonus deals available.

Editorial Note: Information and opinions articulated in this article are solely those of the author’s, not those of a credit card company, bank, airline or hotel chain. This article has not been reviewed or approved by or otherwise endorsed by any of these companies or organizations.

Tal-ee is a co-founder and Editor in Chief of Miles Junkie. A skier, backpacker and veteran marathoner, you'll usually find him on a trail, a mountain or cranking away at the keyboard. Tal-ee holds a degree from Colgate University in English, with emphasis in creative writing.

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