Here’s How Much Delta SkyMiles Are Actually Worth — and How to Get More

A photo to accompany a story about the value of Delta SkyMiles Alberto Riva/Next Advisor
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Airline miles can save a significant amount of money on travel. They are also, for all intents and purposes, a currency: something that can be exchanged for goods and services, just like actual dollars. But unlike dollars, they don’t have a value everybody understands and shares. 

So we crunched the numbers to come up with a monetary value for one of the most widely held airline currencies, Delta Air Lines’ SkyMiles®. Miles can be redeemed for free flights, so their value corresponds to the cash price of a given flight divided by the miles the airline charges for the same flight.    

But it’s not as clear-cut as that. Because airlines get to decide how many miles you need for a given flight or upgrade, and can change that figure at will, their value isn’t fixed. Delta also uses “dynamic pricing,” meaning that there isn’t a chart specifying how many miles you need for flights over a certain distance. Prices can vary all the time depending on demand. 

To arrive at our valuation of 1.2 cents per mile, explained below, we have considered the risk of devaluation — essentially a rise in the price of miles needed for a flight — and, on the upside, Delta’s frequent mileage deals. Those make flying with miles cheap to destinations that are on sale.        

You can spend your SkyMiles to fly for free on Delta’s many partner airlines as well, or to buy upgrades to a higher class onboard. And while there’s still a long way to go until travel is back until its pre-pandemic levels, passenger numbers are going up as more people are fully vaccinated. The CDC is still recommending against all non-essential travel, but that doesn’t mean now is not a good time to start mapping out future trips.

There is no exact science here, and the value of your miles is also highly subjective, depending on how much travel is worth to you personally. But as long as you are saving money on your trips, that’s a win in our book.

As for earning Delta SkyMiles, flying Delta or its partners is just one of the possible ways. You can rack up miles while shopping online and eating out or ordering from restaurants, via Delta’s shopping portal or dining program, while another popular way to earn them is via spending on Delta co-branded credit cards.

Pro Tip

A Delta co-branded credit card can help you earn a large amount of Delta SkyMiles in a short time. 

How Much Are My Delta SkyMiles Worth?

Like all airline and hotel currencies, Delta SkyMiles are a relatively poor store of value, since their issuer frequently devalues them by making a given redemption more expensive. Delta  also does not publish an award chart with fixed prices in miles. Flying when demand is high will cost you more.

Unlike credit card points (such as American Express Membership Rewards or Chase Ultimate Rewards), airline miles are typically only usable for flying on that airline or its partners, whereas credit card points can be used on many different airlines as well as for offsetting purchases via a statement credit. Because of this flexibility and higher usability, credit card points are much more valuable.

That said, using your Delta SkyMiles can help you create experiences many wouldn’t be able to have otherwise, especially when flying in first or business class. That can cost many thousands of dollars, but by using your miles, you can fly in style for free. 

With all that in mind, we did the math — and valued Delta Air Lines SkyMiles at 1.2 cents per mile. We arrived at that number by looking at the cash prices of flights and upgrades on popular routes at popular times, in cash and miles, then comparing the two. We also accounted for the possibility that the airline might make traveling with miles more expensive, reducing their value.   

New York to Los Angeles for a Weeklong Trip in July

The New York to Los Angeles route is one of the most popular the airline flies. Delta competes on it against several other airlines. 

We checked a random week in July, when summer peak travel might have returned, and here’s what you can expect to pay in cash for a round trip:

Here’s what you can expect to pay for the same dates on the same route using Delta SkyMiles:

We then calculated the value of a mile at these fares, by dividing the cash price by the miles price:

  • Basic: 1.4 cents
  • Main: 1.3 cents
  • Comfort+:  1.3 cents
  • Delta One: 1.1 cents

The average value of a mile across all classes on this route is 1.275 cents. (Basic and Main are Delta’s names for coach class, with basic having more restrictions but the same seats; Comfort+ is coach with a bit more legroom; and Delta One is the equivalent of business class, with premium service and seats that turn into beds.)   

Cincinnati to Minneapolis for a Week in June

We then considered the costs of a weeklong trip from Cincinnati to Minneapolis, two airports with a large Delta presence. Here’s what we found for cash prices:

And here’s what you can expect to pay on the same route and dates using miles:

Here’s the value of a mile at these fares:

  • Basic: 1.4 cents
  • Main Cabin: 1.4 cents
  • Comfort+: 1.3 cents
  • First: 0.8 cents

In this case, the average value of a mile is 1.225 cents, less than the previous route. This may be due to the fact that Delta has more control over prices here, since it has a larger share of traffic between Cincinnati and Minneapolis than between New York and Los Angeles, where there is a lot more competition. 

New York to Paris for a Weeklong Trip in October

Delta is a massive airline with a large international route network as well, and many travelers use their miles for international trips.

Let’s take a look at what we can get in the fall, when we can reasonably expect that Americans will be allowed to visit Europe. What about autumn in Paris, a classic?

Here’s what we’re seeing for prices in cash for a week in October:

And here are prices in Delta SkyMiles on the same route and date:

  • Main: 1.1 cents 
  • Comfort+: 1.1 cents
  • Delta One business class: 1.6 cents

The average value of a mile here is 1.26 cents. Note that we are not considering taxes or fees on award redemptions using SkyMiles, but on domestic flights they are as low as $11.

Using Delta SkyMiles for Upgrades

Purchasing an upgrade using your SkyMiles is a relatively poor use of your miles. That’s because in this case Delta values them at exactly 1 cent, less  than what you would get if redeeming miles for flights.

Consider this upgrade offer from economy to business class on a one-way flight from New York to Seattle in April:

At $859 or 85,900 miles, that is a value of exactly 1 cent per mile. You would get a much better value out of your miles by redeeming them for the higher class in the first place, rather than using them to upgrade.

How to Earn Delta Air Lines SkyMiles

There are several ways to earn Delta SkyMiles. This includes flying with Delta Air Lines or its partners, using the Delta SkyMiles shopping portal or the Delta SkyMiles dining program, and even taking Lyft rides. You can also earn a good chunk of Delta miles by using co-branded credit cards, which we’ll dive into below.

Best Delta Air Lines Co-Branded Credit Cards

If you can take advantage of welcome offers and frequently spend in the eligible bonus categories, using a Delta SkyMiles co-branded credit card can net you a lot of SkyMiles.

That said, you should never spend money you can’t afford or wouldn’t have spent if you were using a debit card or cash.

Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card

Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card

Editor’s Score: (3.85/5)
  • Intro bonus:
    40,000 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 See Rates & Fees, Terms Apply.
Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Editor’s Score: (4.15/5)
American Express® Gold Card

American Express® Gold Card

Editor’s Score: (4.3/5)

Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card

The Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card has a $99 annual fee, although it is $0 introductory annual fee for the first year (See Rates & Fees). It’s offering a welcome bonus of 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 in purchases in your first three months.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

With the Delta SkyMiles Platinum American Express Card, you can earn 50,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases in your first three months. Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants with your card within the first three months of membership. Off It carries a $250 annual fee (See Rates & Fees), and comes with perks like priority boarding as well as a $100 credit towards TSA PreCheck or Global Entry every four years. This can help offset the cost of the fee, although we would still recommend this card only for frequent Delta flyers. It also offers a companion certificate on your cardmember anniversary. With this, you can bring anyone with you on a round-trip domestic flight in coach, essentially getting two tickets for the price of one.

Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card

Delta’s most premium co-branded card carries a $550 annual fee (See Rates & Fees), but has perks such as access to Delta’s SkyClub airport lounges, as well as to American Express Centurion Lounges when flying Delta. You’ll also get a free domestic companion ticket, which can be used for first class and Comfort+ bookings besides economy.

The card is offering a 50,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 0n purchases in your first three months. The Medallion Qualification Miles can help you reach elite status on Delta, which can lead to benefits including free upgrades. Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants with your card within the first three months of membership

Delta SkyMiles® Gold Business American Express Card

Like its consumer counterpart, this business card carries a $99 annual fee waived for the first year (See Rates & Fees), and offers many of the same perks. It features a bonus of 50,000 bonus miles, and a $50 statement credit after spending $2,000 in purchases in your first three months.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card

The business version of this card has similar perks and the same $250 annual fee (See Rates & Fees) as its consumer counterpart. You can earn 60,000 bonus miles, 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs), and a $100 statement credit after spending $3,000 in purchases in your first three months.

Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card

The business version of the top Delta co-branded credit card comes with perks similar to the consumer version and also carries a $550 annual fee (See Rates & Fees). You can earn 60,000 bonus miles, 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs), and a $100 statement credit after spending $4,000 in your first 3 months.

Bottom Line

Delta SkyMiles can be a valuable currency to help you save money on travel, whether domestic or abroad,  on Delta or one of its many partners. 

Having a sense of what your miles are worth can help you determine if you are getting a good value out of them, and if redeeming them for a given flight is a good return. And while the value of miles is ultimately subjective, we value them at 1.2 cents per mile.

For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card, click here.

For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Platinum American Express Card, click here

For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card, click here

For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Gold Business American Express Card, click here

For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Platinum Business American Express Card, click here

For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Reserve Business American Express Card, click here

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