Delta SkyMiles Rewards Program Review

You probably already know that it’s not financially wise to fly without booking your flights using a loyalty program.  This is especially true if you fly more than just a few times each year. Flying without a loyalty program means missing out on opportunities to earn free miles and enjoy perks that can make every travel experience more enjoyable. You might be having a hard time deciding which airline loyalty program to finally commit to. The competition has never been stronger when it comes to the measures airlines will take to entice new members and keep existing ones happy.

The Delta SkyMiles program is one of the top contenders out there. Does this program offer the type of perks that you can really use? Discover what you need to know if you’re thinking of committing to the Delta SkyMiles program.

What There Is to Like About the Delta SkyMiles Program

Delta offers some great perks for people who travel domestically and internationally. The SkyMiles program is a particularly good choice if you routinely go back and forth between hubs like Detroit, Atlanta, Seattle, Los Angeles and New York because of perks like frequent routes and state-of-the-art airport lounges. You can also get a lot out of the SkyMiles program if your travels frequently take you to cities around the world.

Delta has partnerships with popular airlines like Air France, KLM, Aeromexico and Virgin Atlantic that make it possible to earn and use miles. Earning miles is pretty straightforward when you’re a member of SkyMiles. You can look forward to earning between five miles and 11 miles for every dollar you spend when you fly. How many miles you actually earn on each trip will depend on your membership level and the type of seat you book.

Delta SkyMiles Tier Levels

One interesting thing about award travel in the SkyMiles program is that it is based on ticket pricing instead of the distance that you fly. You can also earn points through SkyMiles partners simply for using your credit card or booking hotels stays. The big advantage that SkyMiles points offer over points from competing loyalty programs is that they will never expire once they’re in your account. There is also the chance to earn medallion-qualifying miles on your trips. Medallion-qualifying miles are the measured miles that can actually help you boost your membership level into a higher tier. Here’s a look at the tiers you can achieve in the Delta SkyMiles program:

  • Silver
  • Gold
  • Platinum
  • Diamond

Travelers really like the fact that SkyMiles offers a generous amount of award seats at the lowest redemption levels. Points can also be used on cabin upgrades. Members in every tier enjoy waived baggage fees, priority check-in status and priority boarding. Perks like priority security screening, expedited baggage service and free access to Delta Sky Club locations kick in as you move your way up through Delta’s membership tiers. There are even crossover rewards that can help you get the white-glove treatment when you stay in select hotels or rent cars with certain rental agencies.

Delta SkyClub in Tokyo Japan

What You Might Not Like About the Delta SkyMiles Program

One of the biggest complaints that people have about the SkyMiles program is just how difficult it is to reach Platinum and Diamond status. You will really need to do a lot of traveling to accrue enough miles to enter both of those tiers. However, people who travel as part of their lifestyle actually prefer the exclusivity of these tiers because it means they get to enjoy a truly unique experience that sets them apart when they fly with Delta.

It is possible to accrue points more quickly without flying more frequently if you sign up for a credit card like the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express, the Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express or the Delta Reserve® Credit Card. All of these cards will award you with two miles for every dollar spent on Delta purchases and one mile for every dollar spent on all other purchases. One other potentially big drawback of joining the SkyMiles program is that your reward miles aren’t exactly yours to use from the start. You actually need to have a minimum balance of 5,000 miles before you can use your miles to cover the cost of a flight.

Should You Be a Delta SkyMiles Member?

The Delta SkyMiles program offers a lot of attractive perks for travelers. This is a program that will benefit people who travel frequently and make a lot of purchases using their credit cards while on the road because it rewards high spending from all angles. It is almost foolish not to sign up for the SkyMiles program if you have the type of travel schedule that will qualify you for Diamond status. This tier of membership offers a long list of perks that can make every travel experience really enjoyable. You can also look forward to exclusive privileges that will save you time and spare you from hassles when you’re jetting between destinations.

People who will only reach Silver status or Gold status still have quite a few perks to look forward to. The bottom line is that the SkyMiles program is definitely one of the best loyalty programs available today. It is a good choice unless you can find another program that is offering some specific perk that fits a unique travel need that you have.

The Best Way to Redeem Reward Points for Travel

There’s more than one way to redeem awards points for travel. Following the best strategy, however, can result in a lot more value for your miles or points. Here’s the best and worst way to use your rewards for each major travel category.

The Best Way to Redeem Award Points for Travel

Finding the right way to use your hard-earned credit card points can be an arduous task. Traveling takes many different forms: it might involve flights, hotels, rental cars, or cruise bookings. In general, flights and hotels are your best bet for earning the most bang for your buck.

Let’s walk through each of the major travel categories, highlighting popular travel chains, and showing you how to stretch your points and miles.

Flights

  • Best bet: International business and first-class flights
  • Worst case: Short-hop domestic flights in coach

Purchasing international flights with miles will generate the largest benefit. An international flight can easily run you over $1,000 just flying in coach. When you look at first-class flights, the cost can be several thousands of dollars. The cost makes them ideal for miles redemption.

One of these flights, however, is going to cost you a lot of miles. A single flight can easily run well north of 100,000 miles. Be prepared to lose a big chunk of your miles if opting for this route. The luxury provided by a first-class experience when flying for 12+ hours, however, can be worth it!

There’s still, however, an argument to be made for domestic flights as a sound redemption. While they’re not the most cost-effective use of your miles, you can stretch 100,000 miles into more than 3 or 4 domestic flights in coach. I recently booked two flights from Raleigh, NC to Miami, FL at a cost of 30,000 American Airlines miles, and return flights to the tune of 25,000 United miles. While those flights aren’t the most expensive if I were to pay in cash, I prefer using my miles for multiple different trips rather than all on one or two. This is all personal preference, and you should know that strictly from a cash value standpoint, business and first-class flights are the most optimal.

Hotels

  • Best bet: All-inclusive resorts for certain hotels, international destinations
  • Worst case: Lower tier economy bookings

Hotel redemptions are a bit trickier. They vary so much by location and amenities that comparing options is no simple matter. Even within a specific line of hotels, for example, Marriott, nights can range from 7,500 to 45,000 points based on just the location.

Some of the best redemptions can be very dependent on the hotel chain. Wyndham properties, for example, redeem at a flat rate of 15,000 points per night at any property, anywhere. Spending 15,000 on a Days Inn or Super 8 would be silly. Wyndham also has some excellent properties in locations like Boca Raton and Miami, and even all-inclusive resorts in The Bahamas.

Finding the best redemption can be tedious, but luckily most hotel chains make things pretty easy for you. Just use the brand-specific site to book and you’ll see dozens of location-based bookings and their associated rates. It might take a bit of cross-referencing with your favorite travel booking website, but you can easily find room rates and hotel reviews to line up something to your liking.

Rental Cars

  • Best bet: A credit card with primary car insurance
  • Worst case: Redeeming credit card points for a rental

Your best bet when it comes to arranging a rental car is to simply use a credit card that provides you with insurance. Specifically, you want a card that offers primary insurance, meaning direct driver coverage on rental cars. American Express cards offer this for a fee. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and United MileagePlus® Explorer Card cards offer primary insurance for free.

Redeeming points or miles for a rental car is going to be poor value, no matter how you cut it. I’d suggest saving those points and applying them to nights or flights.

Cruises

  • Best bet: Use points to get to your port
  • Worst case: Burn points at 1x rates

When it comes to taking a cruise, your points and miles are probably best spent on flights or hotels to get to your port of call. The unfortunate reality is that redeeming miles or points for cruises just doesn’t get you great value. The best you can do would be something like booking through Chase’s travel portal at a 20% discount. This approach would barely put you at a 1.25x earning rate for your points, which is easily beaten by most flights and hotel bookings.

I would strongly recommend instead using those points to take an inexpensive flight to wherever your cruise will be departing from. Alternatively, you could book a stay the night before to make your trip easier.

Travel Partners

One final thing to keep in mind is that travel partners can make a big impact on your redemption value. Following the recent merger of SPG and Marriott, for example, you can transfer SPG points to Marriott at a 3x rate. This can result in some huge values if you’ve managed to accrue significant amounts of SPG points.Other flexible programs like Chase’s Ultimate Rewards can provide you with significant opportunities, or at the very least, the flexibility to use the airline or hotel chain that you prefer.

Other flexible programs like Chase’s Ultimate Rewards can provide you with significant opportunities, or at the very least, the flexibility to use the airline or hotel chain that you prefer.

Discover it® Miles Review – Unlimited 1.5x Miles w/ BIG Bonus

Discover it<sup>®</sup> MilesThe Discover it® Miles credit card offers a miles based rewards program that gives you double all the Miles you’ve earned at the end of your first year. It sports no annual fee and unlimited 1.5X miles on every dollar you spend. Need Wi-Fi on the plane but don’t want to pay a crazy amount in fees? Discover has got you covered. It will pay you back for your in-flight Wi-Fi fees up to $30 a year with an automatic statement credit. Now you can also redeem miles in any amount toward travel purchases on your statement or even get cash as a direct deposit to your bank account with every 100 miles.

Discover it® Miles Snapshot

  • Unlimited 1.5x rewards on every purchase, every day. For every $1 you spend, you earn 1.5x Miles.
  • Get a mile-for-mile match of all the rewards you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically.
  • Redeem your rewards in any amount for cash or a travel credit. You’ll always get $1 for every 100 Miles you’ve earned.
  • Get your FICO® Credit Score for free on monthly statements, on mobile and online.
  • 100% U.S. based customer service. Talk to a real person any time.
  • No Annual Fee.

Rewards Program

The Discover it® Miles card offers a simple and lucrative rewards program. With the card you earn unlimited 1.5X miles on every dollar spent on purchases. You can redeem miles for a statement credit toward travel purchases. Travel Purchases include airline tickets, hotel rooms, car rentals, travel agents, online travel sites and commuter transportation.

Alternatively, you can have the rewards transferred to your bank account. Every 100 miles equals $1 in value. Discover Match® is also currently offering double the miles you’ve earned at the end of the first year of your account being opened.

0% Introductory Rate

The card offers a 0% introductory rate on purchases for a period of 14 months. The intro balance transfer APR is 10.99% for 14 months

Other Perks

The Discover it® Miles card offers several additional benefits:

  • No Blackout dates, any airline, any time: Redeem Miles in any amount to credit travel purchases from your statement, or get cash at any time
  • Freeze It on/off switch for your account.: Misplaced your card? Now if you lose your card, you can Freeze ItSM to prevent new purchases, cash advances or balance transfers on your account. Freeze or unfreeze in seconds with our mobile app or website
  • Service and security built around you: Discovers 100% U.S. live service is available any time you call. Or rely on powerful, fast mobile and online service. Discover ships replacement cards overnight for free to any U.S. street address at your request—even on vacation. And Discover will never hold you responsible for unauthorized purchases on your Discover card.
  • Track your recent FICO® Credit Scores for free: Stay on top of your credit and avoid surprises. Now you can see your recent FICO® Credit Scores in one easy-to-read chart on monthly statements and online. Plus see the key factors online from your credit history that affect your score the most.

More information on the Discover it® Miles