How much are Delta miles worth?

If you have a stash of Delta miles, if you’ve or thought about collecting them, you might well be wondering what Delta miles are worth. And like all airline miles, Delta miles value is variable. It comes down to:

  • How flexible you are with travel dates
  • How easy (or difficult) it is for you to collect miles
  • Your personal valuation of miles

With this in mind, Delta miles can be very valuable if you’re willing to work around their quirks – most notably the lack of a Delta award chart – and play up to their strengths, like flash sales and partner award flights.

A few awards in particular are excellent deals. You can easily earn Delta miles via Delta promotions and by earning the bonuses that come with some of the best airline credit cards on the market. Here are the increased Delta credit card offers (through April 1, 2020):

Let’s look at what you can do with Delta miles.

The value of Delta miles depends on how you redeem them. You can use Delta miles to get you across the Atlantic, like to London, for potentially huge value. (Photo by Shaun Jeffers/Shutterstock)

Delta miles value: What are they worth?

First things first, Delta doesn’t have an award chart. So that can make it hard to know how many miles you should collect, and if you’re getting a good deal for your miles.

I recommend running a test award search for a few routes and dates to get a feel of what typical pricing is like for trips you’re interested in. Delta makes it easy to start searching for award flights directly on their homepage, without even having to log-in.

I found many flights from Seattle to London for only 20,000 Delta miles each way in coach.

For example, I found flights from the West Coast to Europe for as low as 20,000 Delta miles one-way in coach, plus taxes & fees. These flights were selling for $900+, so the value here is ~2 cents per mile, which represents good value with Delta’s mileage program.

But that’s just one example. Let’s look at a few more.

Short flights within the U.S. – Usually good value

A “short flight” on Delta is basically anything that isn’t transcontinental, and can be as far as say, Seattle to Detroit. Many of these flights price at 10,000 Delta miles each way and other short flights, flight San Francisco to Los Angeles, start at 5,000 Delta miles each way.

Sometimes cash prices are cheap, but then again so is the mileage required for an award flight and even better, you usually have your pick of flight times throughout the day when you pay with miles – for no additional charge.

For example, I found flights between Seattle and Los Angeles for 6,500 Delta miles. The cash price was ~$111, but the mileage value is actually good here – close to 2 cents per point. If you typically pay for short hops, you can get surprisingly good deals with Delta miles.

Domestic business or first class – Occasionally worth it, usually poor value

I ran a few test searches for Business Class seats domestically, and had a hard time finding instances where Delta miles are worth anywhere near 2 cents each.  Typical values were closer to 1 cent per mile. That said, award pricing is variable. So if your dates are flexible, you can find a good deal.  It seems Delta monitors these awards carefully, and the inflated pricing definitely reflects that most times.

I wouldn’t recommend spending this number of Miles for any domestic award, even in first class.

Coach award flights overseas – Typically excellent value

We’ve seen international coach fares drop across the board when there’s a hot deal. That said, if you don’t want to wait for a fare sale, or have a particular destination in mind, you can find fantastic deals with Delta miles. Especially for coach awards.

For example, my dad’s wanted to visit Rome for a long time and I found a coach award flight from Dallas to Rome for only 69,000 Delta miles round-trip with only 1 short stop in both directions. The cash price is $1,600+. That’s over 2 cents per Delta mile in value, which is a good deal and it divides to ~35,000 Delta miles each way. I’d definitely treat my dad to a Rome visit for this price.

International business and first class awards, especially on airline partners – Typically excellent value

Delta is part of the SkyTeam alliance, which gives you access to award flights not only on Delta, but on 30+ airlines around the world. International airlines usually have fantastic business and first class seats – and can cost thousands. For this reason, you can unlock amazing deals with Delta miles for long-haul flights in a premium cabin.

For example, I found award flights from Los Angeles to Tokyo on China Eastern for only 85,000 Delta miles one-way in business class (plus ~$121 in taxes and fees). These exact same flights are selling for over $12,000!

Keep in mind, you can add flights from anywhere in the domestic U.S., and a free stopover (no more than 24 hours), so you can see sites near the airport to work more value into your award.

All of us on the MMS team have used our miles to fly internationally with airline partners, as it’s typically among the best uses for all types of miles.

Use pay with miles to avoid blackout dates  – Poor value but ultimate convenience

If you have an AMEX Delta Gold, Platinum, or Reserve credit card, you can use Delta Pay With Miles for Delta and Delta Connection flights. Each Delta mile is worth 1 cent, and the tickets are treated as cash tickets, so you’ll earn miles and elite status credit when you fly. You can redeem your Delta miles in increments of 5,000 miles, and partial payments are allowed.

The advantage is not having to find an award seat or think about blackout dates. Although if you’re flexible, your Delta miles can be worth much more, but this is an option for maximum convenience with minimal hassle.

Limited-time flash sales – Almost always a great deal

Every Thursday, Delta releases new flash sales between city pairs for a set amount of miles – and you can save thousands of Delta miles this way. This is an easy way to get inspiration for your next trip while getting excellent value in the process.

We maintain an updated list of Delta’s promotions here. If you see a place you’ve wanted to visit for a while, it might be reason enough to book a trip and save a lot of miles.

One huge downside to Delta SkyMiles

Be aware, the sooner your award flight is departing, the more it will cost – usually. Unlike other programs which slash prices within a month or so of departure, Delta does the opposite. In fact, these are some of the highest award prices.

If much of your travel planning tends to happen last-minute, Delta miles won’t be worth much to you or at least, you likely won’t get the best deal with them.

You get to set your own value for Delta SkyMiles

So far we’ve seen the typical value you’ll get for each Delta mile is between 1 and 2 cents. Anything over that is considered an especially good deal – while anything below that isn’t. In the end, how you value your miles is based on your personal preferences and travel goals.

For example, if the idea of finding award seats makes your skin crawl, you might like the no-nonsense Pay With Miles option and if you’re one of those people who likes searching for the best deal, you’ll love hunting and pecking until you find the perfect high-value itinerary on an international partner flight. In general, the more flexible you can be, the more your miles are worth.

Another point to consider is how easy it is for you to earn your Delta miles. If they flow in easily, you might be OK with using some of them for a fun, but not necessarily “amazing” award. Conversely, if you track every mile earned, you’ll want to plan for a big award to pack a bigger punch for all your saving.

All this to say, the best award is the one that makes you happy. If you’re happy with your reward, it’s worth it and there’s still a lot to like and value about Delta miles.

Bottom line

Delta doesn’t have an award chart so your Delta miles value will vary, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find good ways to use your miles. Some of the best ways to use Delta miles include:

  • Short coach flights within the U.S. (starting at 5,000 miles each way in coach)
  • Coach flights overseas
  • International First and Business Class tickets, especially on airline partners
  • Weekly flash sales and promotions

With these, you’ll usually realize a value of 2+ cents for each Delta mile.

Low-value options are:

  • Domestic Business or First Class flights
  • Delta Pay With Miles
  • Award flights within a month of departure

Here, you’ll usually see each mile worth 1 cent or less and last-minute travel awards are by far the worst deal with Delta miles. If your travel patterns include the higher-value options, you can do well with Delta miles, especially if they’re easy for you to earn and your dates are flexible. It’s not a bad program, but it’s certainly quirky. If you don’t mind searching or have a few well-priced awards in mind, it can even be an excellent deal.

What are Delta miles worth to you?

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