Delta Limiting Points Transfers Into Skymiles Starting January 1

American Express has announced limits on transferring points to Delta starting January 1. The squarely blame a broad policy change at Delta for this.

Effective January 1, 2015 Delta is making a program-wide change limiting the number of points that can be transferred into a SkyMiles account from any partner loyalty program, including the Membership Rewards program. As a result, there will be 2 important changes that will limit the total number of Membership Rewards® points that you can redeem for Delta SkyMiles: (1) the total number of Membership Rewards points that can be transferred out of any Membership Rewards account into one or more Delta SkyMiles accounts will be limited to 250,000 points per calendar year, and (2) the total number of Membership Rewards points that can be transferred into any individual Delta SkyMiles account will be limited to 250,000 points per calendar year.

Delta has been pretty much inactive in the promotions space. Outside of promotions where they are matching what others offer (e.g. earning bonus miles for premium cabin London trips) and modest hotel bonuses with Hilton, Delta just hasn’t been printing miles like they used to and like other airlines do.

There’s been a dearth of transfer bonuses. During the time when they got serious about putting together their revenue-based frequent flyer program we saw an end to the 30% to even 80% bonuses (admittedly a stackable offer mistake) we used to get for transferring American Express points to Delta.

And now we learn that Delta is limiting the number of points that any of its partners can transfer to Skymiles in a year. So presumably we’ll be seeing similar restrictions coming to other programs, like Starwood Preferred Guest.

Through December 31, 2014 you’ll be able to make transfers into Delta as usual. For American Express Membership Rewards that means transferring up to 999,000 miles per day. I’m not sure why you would want to do that, but it’s possible.

Delta is the last-remaining major US airline transfer partner for American Express Membership Rewards, and they remain a transfer partner. Personally I prefer transfers to Aeroplan to book Star Alliance awards without fuel surcharges, transfers to Singapore for Singapore Airlines premium cabin awards, and transfers to British Airways for short-distance non-stop flights. I like transfers to ANA for their distance-based award chart despite fuel surcharges, as well.

While Delta miles are generally the least valuable currency of major US airlines, they do present some strong options. Amex transfers to Delta are instant. You can use Delta miles to get business class awards for the whole family to Australia at the saver level. Here are the Top 8 Best Uses of Delta Miles.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I’m just crossing my fingers that where Delta goes, others (Ultimate Reward partners, specifically) won’t follow.

  2. I’m more concerned whether this will be a new trend for other programs (i.e. SQ limiting the number of miles you transfer from UR/MR/TY/SPG or KE limiting the number of miles you transfer from UR, etc.)

  3. This is a little surprising. In that wouldnt these be considered “good miles” that the airline is getting paid for vs the “bad miles” they have to award from flying? This would seem to be a step back towards loyalty vs the frequent buyer program trend that has been so pervasive.

  4. Wow. This seems like it would put some extra pressure on AMEX and SPG as well though. Won’t this be a bit tough for Delta to enforce without their help?

  5. I will say that this is troubling only in the sense of what it could mean moving forward. I don’t think a 250,000 MR point transfer to Delta is something I’d ever do in a year. So, the cap effectively means nothing to me. I also haven’t ever transferred 250,000 UR points or any other kind of points to any one program. So, I’m good if this is as far as it goes. That is a very big if right now though

  6. This is huge for businesses. There are many companies I know that pay for business travel via points transfers. This will basically remove most flights on DL. Since SkyPesos are so devalued, 250000 is one trip per year, if that.

  7. @joey in my wildest conspiracy moments at this point i guess i would only be worried about united saying “gee, if delta is doing it, it must be smart” and capping chase transfers. Hah. I don’t think we need to worry too much about this spreading for now.

  8. ” There are many companies I know that pay for business travel via points transfers.”

    Are you saying that there are companies that instead of paying for revenue tickets for business travel, they use points??

  9. I’m guessing this is not independent of the big bonuses on Delta’s cobranded Amex card.

    Wonder what Amex pays per awarded/transferred point on cobranded vs. regualar Amex?

  10. Total bummer. I used 250K MR points for 2 Virgin Atlantic LAX-LHR-LAX tickets this year. That would be it for MR transfers without some “shenanigans” using another account….

  11. Someone tell me the difference between 1 and 2 in the Amex explanation ??? The first point covers the second.

  12. @john point 2 covers recipients and point 1 covers donors. In other words, point 2 states that regardless of where the points come from (e.g., from one or many MR accounts) no single SkyMiles account can receive more than 250k points from MR. That said, someone could always set up multiple SkyMiles accounts as a workaround for point 2.

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