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And technically the relative value might be — if they’re a 2 on a scale of 1-10, and United used to be an 8 but has dropped to a 6 then Delta miles are, relative to United, more valuable than they used to be. But that really doesn’t tell us much.
Here’s why it matters: The Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express is offering 50,000 bonus miles after $1,000 in purchases within 3 months and a $50 statement credit after making a Delta purchase within that period as well. It’s a better offer than usual, carries a $0 fee the first year (then $95) and it’s available just through September 8 only.
It’s a good offer, better than usual, and Delta miles have use. To me, it’s worth picking up an easy 50,000 miles!
But make no mistake, Delta miles haven’t all of a sudden gotten ‘great’.
They definitely have good uses. I’ve got a couple of Virgin Australia business class award seats booked, which will get me to my cousin’s wedding in Sydney (and a pop up to the Great Barrier Reef included). That was a great ‘get’ considering that all of the points were earned via the Suntrust Delta debit card.
Many issues remain:
- Delta doesn’t offer first class awards. Right now American miles are best for that (Cathay Pacific, Etihad especially but also British Airways with fuel surcharges and Qantas if you gave it right).
- Good luck getting to Asia with more than one passenger. Delta generally releases one business class seat only much of the time. Their partner Korean would be great — and is great with miles from other carriers — but Delta blacks out all dates for all routes on Korean whenever Korean has blackouts for saver awards on any date and route. That’s about a third of the year, and it’s Delta doing it not Korean.
- Delta doesn’t make all award seats available on partners that those partners are offering. Just compare the Air France award seats offered to Alaska Airlines versus what Delta will book. Expect more of that with partners as Delta re-negotiates contracts. I’ve had terrible luck trying to book available China Southern award seats using Delta miles.
- Delta’s website is terrible and its agents are worse. The website either won’t find available seats, errors out in the booking process, or misprices awards. Their agents don’t know who their partners are, or the correct booking classes into which to book seats.
- What you get is a worse inflight product. In general Delta’s partners have worse business classes. Eventually Air France will get decent seats. Delta’s business class isn’t bad as far as it goes. But most partners still fly angled seats in business. It’s still business class — it’s a ton better than coach, and it gets the job done. All things equal I prefer most of the offerings from Star and oneworld airlines.
On the other hand, it’s true, there are some good things about the program (in some cases, not new).
- Delta is going to start allowing one-way awards at half the price of roundtrip next year. So that much is (finally) better.
- Delta miles are best for business class to Australia. This is one of the toughest awards if you want to fly non-stop, but Delta partners with Virgin Australia – the only airline that releases tons of space. It’s 160,000 miles roundtrip and you may not find the domestic connection out to Los Angeles, but it gets you there without flying via Asia (and Delta does permit routing via Asia).
- Delta books awards on Virgin Atlantic without fuel surcharges. Good business class product, less cash than other partners charge for it. So that’s good.
- Delta miles are in some ways best for Tahiti. This is probably the toughest award overall, given limited service, and Delta partners with both airlines flying from the mainland US to Tahiti. But since the Air France flight is non-daily, and doesn’t have much award space, and Delta is stingy with giving you what is available, it almost doesn’t count. And Delta adds fuel surcharges onto Air Tahiti Nui awards, while American charges fewer miles and no fuel surcharges.
- Delta’s transatlantic award space is much better than it used to be. If you’re avoiding peak summer months it’s actually quite good, especially to London and even Paris but generally not to destinations where they lack direct competition (say, for instance, the Nice flight). Right now there’s even good availability for next summer.
We don’t really know what next year holds for Delta miles when they implement revenue-based earning and their new 5-tier redemption chart — we know the prices, but not availability on Delta flights at each price point and also not what availability is going to look like on partners as that has seemed to shift in some cases to being only a subset of what those partners are making available.
Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express
Update: to add, since Lucky is talking about the relative value of Skymiles, I should say that I am in an odd position of having to transfer about a million Amex points out to programs. I am not making any transfers to Delta.
Editorial note: any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. Comments made in response to this post are not provided or commissioned nor have they been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any bank. It is not the responsibility of any advertiser to ensure that questions are answered, either.