The Ultimate Guide to the Delta SkyMiles Program

A photo to accompany a story about the Delta SkyMiles program Courtesy of Alberto Riva / Delta

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Delta Air Lines’ loyalty program, Delta SkyMiles, lets you earn miles you can use to offset the cost of future travel. 

Flying on Delta Air Lines is far from the only way to rack up SkyMiles: other methods include using Delta’s shopping portal, eating at (or ordering from) restaurants within the airline’s dining program, and even taking advantage of partnerships with other companies such as Lyft.

The quickest way to earn a lot of Delta miles, however, is by scoring a bonus with one of  the airline’s co-branded credit cards. For a limited time, you can take advantage of elevated bonus offers on some of the Delta-branded credit cards issued by American Express. Those elevated welcome offers can net you as many as 100,000 miles upon qualifying. Current offers last until April 28, so keep that in mind if you’re interested in applying for one of the cards.

Here’s a closer look at how you can maximize the SkyMiles program to help lower the price tag of future travel.

Delta SkyMiles Overview

You’ll earn SkyMiles each time you fly on a paid fare aboard a plane operated by Delta or one of its partner airlines. 

Beyond travel, you’ll earn SkyMiles when you spend money on a co-branded Delta credit card from American Express or use the Delta SkyMiles Shopping portal. You can also earn on restaurant spending through Delta’s SkyMiles Dining program or when you spend with one of Delta’s partners, which include hotels, car rental companies, and rideshare services.  

Finally, you can earn Delta SkyMiles by transferring American Express Membership Rewards points into your SkyMiles account.

We’ll take a closer look at each of these strategies below. 

SkyMiles Program Partners

Delta is part of SkyTeam, one of three global airline alliances. You can earn and spend SkyMiles by booking flights on any one of its 19 members worldwide. Members include major carriers serving the U.S. such as Aeromexico, Air France, China Southern, Korean Air and the Dutch airline KLM. 

You can also earn and spend SkyMiles on Delta’s non-alliance partners, which  include Hawaiian Airlines, Virgin Atlantic and the Canadian carrier WestJet. 

Racking up and spending miles this way can help you maximize redemption value or travel using miles to a destination Delta doesn’t serve.

How to Earn SkyMiles

However you earn them, Delta SkyMiles do not expire, ever — so you can use one or more of these earning strategies at any given time to bolster your account balance.

Flying with Delta Air Lines

Every time you fly Delta Air Lines, you’ll earn Delta SkyMiles. Create a free SkyMiles account to begin earning miles when you book. Enter your SkyMiles number in the reservation when you purchase the ticket for the miles to be added to your account automatically. 

On flights operated or marketed by Delta, you’ll earn 5 miles for every $1 you spend as a general SkyMiles member. That amount goes up with each of the four tiers of Delta elite status for frequent flyers, up to 11 miles per $1 for Diamond Medallion members.

Delta SkyMiles Shopping Portal

Delta, like most other major airlines, has an online shopping portal. The airline  partners with top retailers such as Macy’s, Overstock and PetSmart, and when you click through the portal instead of going directly to a retailer’s site, you’ll earn SkyMiles on your purchase.

Earning rates can fluctuate quite a bit, so we recommend setting an email alert on the portal for any retailers you may have an eye on. This is a great strategy for earning a lot of SkyMiles on major purchases, as opposed to the normal rate of one mile per $1 spent.

Delta SkyMiles Dining Program

Similarly to Delta’s shopping portal, the airline also has a dining program, which lets you earn miles for paying restaurant bills with a linked card.

You’ll need to create a free account using your SkyMiles number, and link a credit (or even debit) card. We recommend linking a credit card that earns a bonus at restaurants, such as the American Express® Gold Card which earns 4x American Express Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on dining, so you can earn credit card rewards as well as Delta SkyMiles.

After registering, earn SkyMiles any time you go out to eat, order takeout, or have food delivered directly with any of the eligible restaurants and pay with your linked card; you do not need to take any further action. 

You can find the full list of participating restaurants on the SkyMiles Dining site. 

Lyft Rides

Delta and rideshare company Lyft offer SkyMiles members 2 miles per dollar on rides to and from the airport, and 1 mile per dollar on all other rides. It’s free to sign up, and an easy way to earn Delta miles automatically. You’ll also get a $20 credit if you’re a new Lyft user.

Pro Tip

Link your Lyft account to your Delta account so you can easily earn miles every time you ride.

Other Partnerships: Hotels, Car Rentals, Airbnb

SkyMiles members earn at least 500 miles per qualifying rental from car rental partners including Hertz, Dollar, Thrifty, Alamo, Enterprise and National. In addition, Hertz offers all SkyMiles members a discount. 

Delta’s hotel partners, including Hilton and IHG brands, offer SkyMiles members a minimum of 1 mile per dollar spent on completed qualifying stays. 

If you prefer booking with Airbnb instead of a hotel, you can also earn 1 mile per dollar spent on Airbnb rentals booked through the Delta Airbnb portal.

Delta Co-Branded Credit Cards

Earning Delta SkyMiles using co-branded credit cards can be especially lucrative, if you take advantage of the welcome offers and frequently spend in bonus categories.

Through April 28, 2021, many Delta co-branded credit cards issued by American Express offer elevated bonuses, so you can score even more bonus  SkyMiles than usual after meeting the required spending threshold. 

Just remember, you should never spend money you can’t afford or wouldn’t otherwise just to earn a credit card bonus. Even the best bonus offer will quickly be offset by any high-interest you accrue by carrying a balance.

Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card

The Delta Gold card has a $99 annual fee, waived for the first year. You can earn 70,000 miles after you spend $2,000 in the first three months from account opening. Some notable perks of this card include a free first checked bag on Delta flights, and a 20% discount on in-flight purchases aboard flights operated by Delta.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

This card offers a 90,000-mile welcome bonus after you spend $3,000 in the first three months from account opening. The annual fee is $250. Perks include priority boarding and a $100 fee credit toward TSA PreCheck or Global Entry every four years. TSA PreCheck helps flyers skip long airport security lines, while Global Entry lets flyers bypass regular immigration lines into the U.S. at eligible airports; both require passing a background check.

The Delta Platinum card also offers a companion certificate on your cardmember anniversary, which allows you to bring anyone with you on an eligible main cabin round-trip domestic flight, for the price of one ticket. 

Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card

This is the most expensive, and most premium, of the Delta co-branded cards. It has a $550 annual fee, but comes with perks such as membership in Delta’s SkyClub airport lounges, plus free access to American Express’s own Centurion Lounges when flying Delta. The Delta Reserve card also offers a free domestic companion ticket every year, but it also applies for first class or Comfort+ bookings, not just main cabin.

With the elevated bonus offer, you’ll earn 80,000 miles and 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) if you spend $5,000 in the first three months from account opening. MQMs are SkyMiles that count towards reaching elite status on Delta.  

Delta SkyMiles® Gold Business American Express Card

The Delta Gold Business Amex, which carries a $99 fee waived the first year like its consumer counterpart, offers many of the same perks. Until April 28, the elevated welcome offer will earn you 70,000 Delta SkyMiles and a $50 statement credit after you spend $2,000 in the first three months from account opening.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card

Delta’s Platinum Business card comes with similar perks and $250 fee as the consumer version of the card. With the elevated welcome offer until April 28, earn 90,000 SkyMiles and a $100 statement credit after you spend $3,000 in your first three months.

Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card

With the Delta Reserve Business card, you’ll also get many of the same perks as the consumer version, for the same $550 fee. You can take advantage of the card’s elevated welcome offer until April 28: 80,000 SkyMiles, 20,000 MQMs and a $200 statement credit after you spend $5,000 in the first three months.

CardWelcome Offer (through April 28, 2021)Annual Fee
Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express CardEarn 70,000 miles after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months$99, waived the first year
Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express CardEarn 90,000 miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3months$250
Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express CardEarn 80,000 miles and 20,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months$550
Delta SkyMiles® Gold Business American Express CardEarn 70,000 bonus miles and a $50 statement credit after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months$99 but waived for the first year
Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express CardEarn 90,000 bonus miles and a $100 statement credit after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months $250
Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express CardEarn 80,000 bonus miles; 20,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs); and a $200 statement credit after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months$550

How to Redeem SkyMiles

Redeem Delta SkyMiles by logging into your account and searching for your desired flight. To search for tickets with miles rather than paid airfare, check the “Shop with Miles” box, indicated by the red arrow in the image below. This will bring up flights both on Delta and its partner airlines. 

When you book regular paid fares, the Delta site will also give you the option to pay part of that fare with miles. 

Delta doesn’t publish an award chart with standard values for miles redemptions. Rather than fixed values based on distance, the amount of miles required for any given flight can fluctuate. Because of that, you could end up using a lot of SkyMiles for certain routes or during specific times of the year, especially compared to what the flight would cost in cash, so we recommend comparing the two. 

However, Delta has frequent SkyMiles sales. During sales, redemptions for destinations in the U.S., the Caribbean, Europe and even Asia are available for a fraction of the SkyMiles Delta would usually charge. For instance, it’s not uncommon to see round-trip flights to the Caribbean for about 15,000 SkyMiles or even less. This is a great strategy to keep in mind once it’s safe to start traveling again.

Delta SkyMiles and Delta Elite Status

Like most major airlines, Delta has an elite status program, meaning the more you fly, the more perks you’ll get. These perks include complimentary upgrades (pending availability), waived baggage fees and even the ability to gift status to a friend or family member.

There are four elite status tiers within the Delta SkyMiles program: Silver Medallion, Gold Medallion, Platinum Medallion and Diamond Medallion. To earn status at any given tier, you’ll have to spend a certain amount of money (which Delta calls Medallion Qualifying Dollars, or MQDs) and fly a certain amount of miles (called Medallion Qualifying Miles, or MQMs).

While having elite status can be a huge travel perk — and help you save money while flying — we don’t recommend chasing after it if you aren’t sure you are financially able to do so. Plus, the benefits of elite status are most useful for frequent flyers who already dedicate a large portion of their annual budget to flights and travel. 

Here are the main requirements and perks you can expect at each Delta status level, from lowest to highest.

Delta SkyMiles Silver Medallion Status

To get Silver Medallion status, you’ll have to earn 25,000 MQMs and spend 3,000 Medallion Qualifying Dollars (MQDs) each year. Benefits include:

  • Unlimited complimentary upgrades to Comfort+ (economy class with more legroom) and first class on domestic flights, as well as on flights from the U.S. to Canada, the Caribbean and Central America. The upgrade window opens 24 hours before your flight, after higher status tiers have the chance to upgrade
  • Waived baggage fees
  • Priority boarding 
  • 7 SkyMiles per dollar spent on airfare

Delta SkyMiles Gold Medallion Status

To get Gold Medallion status, you’ll need to earn 50,000 MQMs and spend 6,000 Medallion Qualifying Dollars (MQDs) each year. You’ll receive all the perks of Silver status, plus:

  • Access to priority security lines
  • The window for complimentary upgrades opens 72 hours in advance of the flight 
  • Expedited baggage delivery 
  • Waived same-day confirmed fees, meaning you can request a change to a flight on the same day and be confirmed on it with no fee
  • Waived standby fees, meaning if you are unable to secure flights with the same-day confirmed option, Delta will allow you to stand by for another flight free of charge
  • Five Star status with Hertz rent a car
  • 8 SkyMiles per dollar spent on airfare

Delta SkyMiles Platinum Medallion Status

To get Platinum Medallion elite status with Delta, you’ll have to earn 75,000 MQMs and spend 9,000 Medallion Qualifying Dollars (MQDs) annually. You’ll receive all of the perks of Gold Medallion status, plus:

  • Waived fees when canceling and reissuing tickets booked with SkyMiles 
  • Unlimited upgrades to first class on domestic flights that will clear five days before your flight
  • Upgrade to Comfort+ seats available immediately after the ticket is issued
  • One among Choice Benefits, which include for example four upgrade certificates for flights within the U.S., 20,000 bonus SkyMiles, or the ability to gift Silver Medallion status
  • Membership in President’s Circle, the top status tier with Hertz
  • 9 SkyMiles per dollar spent on airfare

Delta SkyMiles Diamond Medallion Status

Diamond Medallion status is the highest status level from Delta. You’ll have to earn 125,000 MQMs and spend 15,000 Medallion Qualifying Dollars (MQDs) each year to qualify. You’ll get all of the aforementioned perks, plus:

  • Complimentary Clear membership, for faster airport security than even TSA Precheck (valued at $179 per year)
  • Window for upgrade to domestic first class opens at 5 days like for Platinum, but with higher priority
  • Highest priority at boarding
  • Three among Choice Benefits, such as four upgrade certificates to business class with flat beds on long-haul international flights, 25,000 bonus SkyMiles, or gifting Gold Medallion status  
  • 11 SkyMiles per dollar spent on airfare

All of the MQD spending requirements above are waived if you spend $25,000 on one or more Delta co-branded cards in a calendar year, with the exception of Diamond Medallion status, which requires $250,000 spend.  

Bottom Line

The Delta SkyMiles program offers many perks for frequent and semi-frequent Delta flyers alike — and may even be attractive for occasional travelers who live in or near cities served by Delta. 

Membership is free and miles never expire, so even people who do not fly often can rack up SkyMiles easily, and redeem them for free or discounted travel in the future. 

Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card

Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card

  • Intro bonus:
    70,000 Miles
  • Annual fee:
    $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $99
  • Regular APR:
    15.74% to 24.74% Variable
  • Recommended credit:
    670-850 (Good to Excellent)
  • Learn more externa link icon at our partner’s secure site
Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

  • Intro bonus:
    90,000 miles
  • Annual fee:
    $250
  • Regular APR:
    15.74%-24.74% Variable
  • Recommended credit:
    670-850 (Good to Excellent)
  • Learn more externa link icon at our partner’s secure site
Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card

Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card

  • Intro bonus:
    80,000 miles
  • Annual fee:
    $550
  • Regular APR:
    15.74% to 24.74% Variable
  • Recommended credit:
    670-850 (Good to Excellent)
  • Learn more externa link icon at our partner’s secure site
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