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Should you care about Delta SkyMiles award travel?

If you stick a toe into the world of travel rewards, you’ll quickly learn that there is a lot to learn. There are scores of airline programs, half a dozen major bank programs, and bunch of hotel programs. Even if you’re writing about credit cards and loyalty programs full-time, it’s impossible to pay attention to them all. If you want to make travel rewards useful to you, you should suss out which programs are relevant and warrant your attention, and which you can ignore.

In this series of articles, we’re going to focus on helping you answer two questions for each airline program:

  • Is this airline program relevant to you? (Should you care about it?)
  • Should you collect points in this airline program directly?

As you evaluate programs and find the one that are relevant to you, you can use our spreadsheet to keep notes. That way, you can build your own reference. Let’s dig into Delta SkyMiles and see if you should pay attention to that program.

Is Delta SkyMiles relevant to you?

The first question you should answer is whether the Delta SkyMiles program is relevant to you. Does the program offer award travel at good rates to the places you want to go? If you live in a Delta hub and always fly on Delta, the answer to this is probably yes. If you live in a market with limited Delta schedule or where Delta flights are frequently more expensive than flights you would book with cash, maybe Delta isn’t relevant.

Perhaps it’s easiest to answer this question by considering the things that Delta SkyMiles is particularly good at.

If the kinds of travel that Delta SkyMiles is useful for matches up with your travel needs, it’s probably a relevant program for you.

Good uses of Delta SkyMiles

Here are the award travel redemptions where Delta SkyMiles shines.

U.S. domestic and international flights on Delta – SkyMiles have relatively predictable value and can be easily used to book travel on Delta. The value varies a bit. You tend to get better value for your SkyMiles when you don’t book to or from a Delta hub and when you book farther in advance. And when you hold a Delta credit card, you get a 15% discount on the miles prices of tickets through Delta’s TakeOff 15 discount.

Speculative bookings on SkyTeam – Through a certain lens, booking a trip with Delta SkyMiles is a better deal than booking with cash. For most airfares, Delta now lets you cancel your reservation and receive what you paid as a travel credit, good for one year after the date you originally booked your ticket. Delta charges no fees for award travel redeposits, so you can cancel any Delta SkyMiles award ticket (other than a basic economy ticket) for no penalty. The upside to canceling a SkyMiles ticket is that you get your cash co-pay refunded and your miles redeposited into your account. Since Delta SkyMiles don’t expire, you don’t have to worry about your travel credit expiring like you would, had you booked a ticket with cash.

Delta flash salesDelta’s flash sales used to be a common, even monthly, event. Nowadays, these sales are rare, but when they do happen, they can provide opportunities for incredible value. Recently, I was able to score round-trip tickets to Australia on Delta from Minneapolis for 40,000 SkyMiles. Of course, hoarding Delta SkyMiles in the hope that you’ll get some sale in the future is highly speculative.

Short-haul flights on SkyTeam carriers that don’t touch the U.S. – Delta now ties all of its awards to or from North America to the revenue prices of its flights, but partner flights that don’t touch America are priced with a hidden award chart. If you’re hopping between countries on SkyTeam carriers, Delta can sometimes be a good option, particularly in Asia.

Should you collect Delta SkyMiles?

If an airline program provides awards to places you want to go, it might make sense to collect miles in that program. But it might want to simply learn how to use the program and accumulate points elsewhere.

If you can collect enough transferable points in programs that partner with Delta SkyMiles to meet your travel needs, it’s almost always better to do that. You can often earn points faster in transferable programs through credit card welcome bonuses and ongoing spending. And transferable point programs offer much more flexibility than collecting airline miles directly.

Here are the transfer partners of Delta SkyMiles.

Transfer partners

American Express Membership Rewards – You can transfer American Express Membership Rewards to Delta at a rate of 1 Membership Rewards point to 1 SkyMile. Amex charges a fee for the transfer, equivalent to about 60 cents per 1,000 points transferred.

Should you get SkyMiles credit cards?

If you’re decided that Delta Air Lines is relevant to you and you want to collect Delta SkyMiles directly, there are a handful of ways to increase your SkyMiles balance. You can fly the airline, you can engage with the airline’s shopping and hotel partners, you can order a whole lot of Starbucks, or you can get one of Delta’s seven co-branded credit cards.

The fastest way to earn a bunch of SkyMiles to use on your next vacation is by applying for new Delta SkyMiles credit cards with welcome bonuses. Here’s our top advice about Delta SkyMiles credit cards.

Wait for elevated welcome bonuses. If you want to earn Delta SkyMiles by applying for a new credit card, it’s usually best to look at the cards when Delta and American Express run limited-time elevated welcome offers. These increased welcome offers come around frequently. If the cards don’t offer elevated welcome offers, waiting around a few months can mean earning more miles when you do apply for the cards.

Choose the right card for you. The Delta credit cards come with different levels of benefits and different price points. If you’re only an occasional Delta flyer, you probably want the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card for a free checked bag and its relatively low annual fee. If you are certain that you’ll take a trip or two with a companion, look at the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card because you’ll get a companion ticket starting in your second year of card membership when you renew your card. If you fly Delta frequently and want lounge access, look at the premium Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card. And remember that you can pick up both the business and personal variants of each card.

Current Delta Air Lines credit card welcome bonuses

Delta Air Lines and Amex offer welcome bonuses for new cardmembers who get a new Delta credit card and meet spending requirements. Here are the details on the best Delta Air Lines credit card new customer bonuses.

Delta Credit CardWelcome BonusFull Welcome Bonus
Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card card art
Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card
Annual fee: $0
bonus_milesbonus_miles_full
(See Rates and Fees)
Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card card art
Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card
Annual fee: $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $150.
bonus_milesbonus_miles_full
(See Rates and Fees)
Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card card art
Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card
Annual fee: $350
bonus_milesbonus_miles_full
(See Rates and Fees)
Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card card art
Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card
Annual fee: $650
bonus_milesbonus_miles_full
(See Rates and Fees)
Delta SkyMiles® Gold Business American Express Card card art
Delta SkyMiles® Gold Business American Express Card
Annual fee: $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $150.
bonus_milesbonus_miles_full
(See Rates and Fees)
Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card card art
Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card
Annual fee: $350
bonus_milesbonus_miles_full
(See Rates and Fees)
Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card card art
Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card
Annual fee: $650
bonus_milesbonus_miles_full
(See Rates and Fees)
The best Delta Air Lines credit card welcome bonuses.

More details about the Delta Air Lines credit card welcome bonuses

Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card welcome bonus

card_name welcome bonus:

bonus_miles_full
(See Rates and Fees)

Our take on the welcome bonus: We know of no previous elevated welcome offers on this card, so if you’re planning on getting this card, there’s no reason to wait.

The link above is our affiliate link. We always show you the best offer, and this is the best offer we know about on this card.

Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card card art

Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card at a glance:
Annual fee: $0.
Rewards: 2x on Delta purchases. 2x at restaurants. 1x on other eligible purchases.
Benefits: 20% back on Delta in-flight purchases.

Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card welcome bonus

card_name welcome bonus:

bonus_miles_full
(See Rates and Fees)

Click here to learn more and apply.

Our take on the welcome bonus: The current welcome offer is the business-as-usual offer. Since the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card has no annual fee in the first year ($150 thereafter), this is probably the best offer to pick up on the personal cards if you’re interested in SkyMiles.

The link above is our affiliate link. We always show you the best offer, and this is the best offer we know about on this card.

Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card card art

Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card at a glance:
Annual fee: $0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $150.
Rewards: 2x on Delta purchases. 2x at restaurants. 2x at U.S. supermarkets. 1x on other eligible purchases.
Benefits: First checked bag free. $200 Delta flight credit after $10k in purchases in a year. Up to $100 annually in Delta Stays credits.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card welcome bonus

card_name welcome bonus:

bonus_miles_full
(See Rates and Fees)

Click here to learn more and apply.

Our take on the welcome bonus: The current welcome bonus is the business-as-usual offer on this card.

The link above is our affiliate link. We always show you the best offer, and this is the best offer we know about on this card.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card card art

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card at a glance:
Annual fee: $350.
Rewards: 3x on Delta purchases. 3x on eligible hotel purchases. 2x at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets. 1x miles on other eligible purchases.
Benefits: First checked bag free. Annual main Cabin companion certificate upon renewal. MQD Headstart. MQD Boost.

Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card welcome bonus

card_name welcome bonus:

bonus_miles_full (See Rates and Fees)

Click here to learn more and apply.

Our take on the welcome bonus: The current welcome bonus is the business-as-usual offer on this card. The Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card’s welcome offer requires quite a bit of spending. Unless you’re interested in the Reserve card’s benefits, it might be better to get the welcome bonus on the Delta SkyMiles Gold card.

The link above is our affiliate link. We always show you the best offer, and this is the best offer we know about on this card.

Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card card art

Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card at a glance:
Annual fee: $650.
Rewards: 3x on Delta purchases. 1x miles on other eligible purchases.
Benefits: Sky Club access. Annual first class companion certificate upon renewal. MQD Headstart. MQD Boost.

Delta SkyMiles® Gold Business American Express Card welcome bonus

card_name welcome bonus:

bonus_miles_full

Click here to learn more and apply.

Our take on the welcome bonus: The current welcome offer is the business-as-usual offer. You’ll earn more SkyMiles with the welcome bonus on the Delta SkyMiles® Gold Business American Express Card than you will with the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card, so this is probably the better offer.

The link above is our affiliate link. We always show you the best offer, and this is the best offer we know about on this card.

Delta SkyMiles® Gold Business American Express Card card art

Delta SkyMiles® Gold Business American Express Card at a glance:
Annual fee: $0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $150.
Rewards: 2x on Delta purchases. 2x at restaurants. 2x on up to $50k of U.S. purchases for advertising in select media. 2x on up to $50k of U.S. shipping purchases. 1x on other eligible purchases.
Benefits: First checked bag free. $200 Delta flight credit after $10k in purchases in a year. Up to $150 annually in Delta Stays credits.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card welcome bonus

card_name welcome bonus:

bonus_miles_full
(See Rates and Fees)

Click here to learn more and apply.

Our take on the welcome bonus: The current welcome bonus is the business-as-usual offer on this card.

The link above is our affiliate link. We always show you the best offer, and this is the best offer we know about on this card.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card card art

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card at a glance:
Annual fee: $350.
Rewards: 3x on Delta purchases and eligible hotel purchases. 1.5x on single eligible purchases of $5k or more (terms and mile cap apply.) 1.5x on up to $100k of eligible transit. 1x on other eligible purchases.
Benefits: First checked bag free. Annual Main Cabin companion certificate upon renewal. MQD Headstart. MQD Boost

Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card welcome bonus

card_name welcome bonus:

bonus_miles_full
(See Rates and Fees)

Click here to learn more and apply.

Our take on the welcome bonus: The current welcome bonus is the business-as-usual offer on this card. For the amount of SkyMiles you get, the spending requirement is quite high. Unless you’re getting this card specifically for its suite of benefits, going for the welcome bonus on the Delta SkyMiles Gold Business card is probably a better bet.

The link above is our affiliate link. We always show you the best offer, and this is the best offer we know about on this card.

Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card card art

Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card at a glance:
Annual fee: $650.
Rewards: 3x on Delta purchases. 1.5x on U.S. shipping, U.S. office supply stores, and eligible transit. 1.5x on eligible purchases for the rest of the year after you spend $150,000 on your card. 1x on other eligible purchases.
Benefits: Sky Club access. Annual first class companion certificate upon renewal. MQD Headstart. MQD Boost.

A few notes on applying for American Express credit cards

Here are a few things that you should know about applying for American Express cards.

  • Amex will let you know if you’re ineligible for the welcome bonus when applying. If you don’t qualify for a welcome bonus for any reason, American Express will inform you during the application process and let you withdraw your application before they perform a “hard pull” on your credit report. If you withdraw your application, the withdrawn application will have no impact on your credit score.
  • No hard pull if they deny you. If Amex denies your credit card application, they usually won’t issue a hard pull on your credit report. This means that your credit score won’t decrease because of the denied application.
  • One bonus per card per “lifetime”. Most Amex card terms say that you’re ineligible for a welcome bonus if you’ve ever had the card before. Some targeted offers do not have this lifetime language. Readers and other blogs have reported that Amex may internally define “lifetime” as 7 years—if it’s been 7 years since you’ve had a card, you might be eligible to get a welcome bonus again.
  • Some cards allow one bonus per card “family”. Some American Express cards, like the personal Platinum card or the Charles Schwab Platinum card have language that prohibits you from earning a welcome bonus if you’ve ever had a card from the same card family before.
  • Maximum 5 Amex credit cards and 10 pay-over-time cards. You can have a maximum of 5 American Express credit cards at one time. In addition, you can hold up to 10 American Express pay-over-time cards (like the Platinum, Gold, and Green cards.) These limits are known to occasionally be flexible for some cardmembers, some of the time.
  • You might be able to get a better welcome offer than the public offer. American Express offers some customers targeted offers. See our post on how to get the best welcome offers from American Express and try those methods before applying for an American Express card. You might be able to get an elevated welcome bonus.
  • Check your application status online. You can check the status of your American Express card application online through the Amex website.
Rates and fees for Delta Air Lines credit cards
  • For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card, please visit this link: See Rates and Fees; terms apply
  • For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card, please visit this link: See Rates and Fees; terms apply
  • For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card, please visit this link: See Rates and Fees; terms apply
  • For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card, please visit this link: See Rates and Fees; terms apply
  • For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Gold Business American Express Card, please visit this link: See Rates and Fees
  • For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card, please visit this link: See Rates and Fees
  • For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card, please visit this link: See Rates and Fees

About the author

  • Aaron Hurd

    Aaron Hurd is a credit card, travel rewards, and loyalty program expert. Over the past 15 years, he has authored over a thousand expert contributions published by leading outlets including WSJ, TIME, Newsweek, Forbes, NerdWallet, The Points Guy, Bankrate, CNET, and many others. He has also served in consulting roles for many of these same outlets, designing content strategy, hiring teams of teams of editors and contributors, developing thought-leadership pieces, and ghost-editing for senior editors. Aaron is well-known in the miles and points community and regularly presents about travel rewards at conferences like the Chicago Seminars and Minnebar. Aaron has enjoyed the game of optimizing credit card rewards since getting his first credit card shortly after he turned 18. He started learning about credit cards and travel rewards from the (now defunct) FatWallet Finance forums and FlyerTalk. He holds more than 40 open credit cards and has first-hand experience with almost every major credit card product.

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