The complete guide to earning Delta SkyMiles


A message from our partner: With the new Delta Vacations, SkyMiles members earn up to 10,000 bonus miles on every vacation package — plus earn more than ever before toward Medallion status. Click here to learn more.


Delta SkyMiles has been devalued time and again, but it can still be a valuable program for domestic awards and other partner redemptions.

The airline has a vast route network with significant hubs in large U.S. cities, and there are many different ways to earn Delta miles that you can redeem for SkyTeam flights. While it’s been a while since the last one, historically, the carrier runs frequent award sales to snag flights on the cheap, starting at 5,000 SkyMiles round-trip.

Delta miles are also fairly easy to accrue, and they never expire.

In this guide, we’ll show you how to add to your SkyMiles balance, including flying on Delta and its partners, spending on travel rewards credit cards, transferring miles from other programs and more.

Earn miles by flying

You can earn miles when flying with Delta and its airline partners. BOARDING1NOW/GETTY IMAGES

Earning Delta SkyMiles by flying may seem self-explanatory, but the number of miles earned depends on numerous factors. You’ll earn miles differently on Delta and partner flights — here’s everything you need to know.

Earning when flying with Delta

When flying on Delta-marketed and operated flights, you earn miles based on your ticket’s base price (which doesn’t include government-imposed taxes). Flyers without elite status earn 5 miles per dollar on airfare, not including taxes and fees.

This means a one-way Delta ticket from Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) to Tokyo’s Haneda Airport (HND) with a base fare of $1,100 (before taxes) would earn 5,500 SkyMiles, assuming the flyer has no Delta elite status.

While this revenue-based scheme is used for earning purposes, remember that Delta Medallion status is still partially earned based on distance flown, not just dollars spent. Any flight eligible for Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) will earn a minimum of 500 MQMs.

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For example, if you’re flying from Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) to Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW) in economy class, you’ll earn 500 MQMs, even though the flight only covers 488 miles.

Elite status bonuses

Additionally, those with Delta Medallion elite status will earn at a higher rate than those without it — the higher your status, the more miles you’ll earn.

Here’s how many SkyMiles Medallion members earn for every dollar spent:

  • Silver Medallion: 7 miles
  • Gold Medallion: 8 miles
  • Platinum Medallion: 9 miles
  • Diamond Medallion: 11 miles

This means a Diamond Medallion would earn 12,100 SkyMiles on the same $1,100 ticket we discussed earlier.

Related: 5 things you need to know about Delta SkyMiles

Earning when flying with airline partners

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

Things get confusing when earning miles on Delta’s partner airlines. These flights sometimes earn miles differently from those operated by Delta, depending on how the ticket is booked.

The simplest example applies to flights booked on Delta ticket stock, which generally happens when you book on Delta.com. Even though the flight is operated by another airline, it’s marketed by Delta. So you’ll earn miles the same as with a standard Delta flight.

But what happens if you book a partner flight on a partner airline’s website and add your Delta SkyMiles number? In this case, you’ll earn miles based on the distance flown. However, the exact number of SkyMiles you’ll earn varies based on the partner, fare class and elite status.

For example, here’s how many SkyMiles you’d earn on a flight that’s operated and ticketed by Aeromexico:

DELTA.COM

Looking at the chart above, you’ll see that tickets booked in higher fare classes earn more miles. You should be able to identify your fare class by calling the ticketing airline or checking the e-ticket sent to your email after purchase.

Once you’ve found your booking class, head over to Delta’s list of partner airlines, find your partner and locate your fare class. Multiply the number in the “Total Miles Earned” column by the distance of your flight(s); the easiest way to figure out this final number is to use the Great Circle Mapper.

Let’s take a look at an example. A one-way flight from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) to Mexico City International Airport (MEX) clocks in at 2,090 miles flown. An H-fare economy ticket earns 100% of that mileage, so you’d earn 2,090 SkyMiles for this ticket.

Related: How to earn Medallion Qualification Dollars inexpensively by booking Delta partner tickets

Earn with credit cards

You can earn SkyMiles quickly with a cobranded credit card. ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

One of the easiest ways to earn lots of Delta SkyMiles is through cobranded credit cards — including welcome bonuses and everyday spending. Currently, American Express issues four personal Delta cards and three business cards.

Each one has a different suite of perks and benefits. Some are geared toward the frequent Delta flyer, and others are more suited for everyday consumers who want the occasional free Delta flight.

Here’s a look at the full suite of Delta SkyMiles credit cards from American Express (terms apply):

Personal Delta cards

Business Delta cards

The Delta SkyMiles Reserve card is one of my favorite credit cards. I use it for much of my non-bonus spending as I inch closer to Delta elite status. The card offers 15,000 MQMs for every $30,000 you spend on the card, up to 60,000 MQMs per year, and a Medallion Qualification Dollar waiver after spending $25,000 on the card within a single calendar year. That said, you must spend $250,000 on the card to earn a Diamond MQD waiver.

I recommend the card to Delta frequent flyers wanting Delta Sky Club access and MQM-earning opportunities. The Delta SkyMiles Gold card is your best bet if you’re a more casual flyer. It earns SkyMiles on all purchases and has a 65,000-mile welcome bonus worth $917 at our valuation.

If you’re considering applying for one of these cards, keep Amex’s once-per-lifetime rule in mind. This rule limits you to one card welcome bonus per lifetime. If you’ve received a welcome bonus for the Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card before, you won’t be eligible to receive it again if you reapply for the card. That’s why holding out for a high welcome bonus is so important — you’ll only receive it once.

Related: Choosing the best credit card for Delta flyers

Transfer points

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

If you need SkyMiles quickly or don’t want to add another credit card to your wallet, you may be able to transfer SkyMiles from another reward program. Delta partners with American Express Membership Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy, making it easy to top off your award when needed.

Transfer Membership Rewards points to SkyMiles

Delta SkyMiles has one credit card transfer partner: American Express Membership Rewards.

You can transfer Membership Rewards points to Delta SkyMiles at a 1:1 ratio. However, you will pay a fee of $0.0006 per mile (up to a maximum of $99) to offset the federal excise tax, so the transaction will carry an additional cost.

Often, putting purchases on a card that earns Membership Rewards points will yield more SkyMiles per dollar spent than one of Delta’s cobranded American Express cards. For example, The Platinum Card® from American Express earns 5 Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on flights booked directly with any airline or American Express Travel (up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year).

Here are some popular options for earning Amex points that can then be transferred directly to your SkyMiles account.

  • The Platinum Card from American Express: Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $6,000 on purchases within the first six months of card membership. However, some readers have been targeted for an even higher welcome offer using the CardMatch tool (offer subject to change at any time). Terms apply.
  • American Express® Gold Card: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases with your new card within the first six months of account opening. However, some readers have been targeted for an up-to-75,000-point welcome offer using the CardMatch tool (offer subject to change at any time). Terms apply.
  • American Express® Green Card: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $3,000 on purchases on your new card in your first six months of card membership. Plus, earn 20% back on eligible travel and transit purchases made during your first six months of card membership, up to $200 back in the form of a statement credit. Terms apply.
  • The Business Platinum Card® from American Express: Earn 120,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the card within the first three months of card membership. Terms apply.

Related: The best ways to use Amex Membership Rewards points

Transfer Marriott Bonvoy points to SkyMiles

Marriott Bonvoy points transfer to Delta SkyMiles at a 3:1 ratio. FELIX MIZIONIKOV/SHUTTERSTOCK

You can also transfer hotel points from various programs to your Delta SkyMiles account. In my experience, the only potentially appealing transfer is from Marriott Bonvoy. These points transfer to Delta at a 3:1 ratio, but you’ll get a 5,000-mile bonus for every 60,000 Marriott points transferred.

That said, we generally recommend using Marriott points to book free hotel stays, as you’ll typically get better value.

If you’re short on Marriott points, Chase and American Express issue several Marriott cobranded credit cards.

Related: The award traveler’s guide to Marriott Bonvoy

Transfer miles between accounts

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

While you can transfer SkyMiles between accounts, we don’t recommend it. Delta charges $0.01 per mile transferred plus a $30 transaction fee. This isn’t a great deal, as you’d lose most of the value of your miles after paying the applicable fees, and you can only transfer a maximum of 30,000 miles per transaction.

If you decide to go this route, both accounts must have been open for at least 10 days and earned at least one mile. Miles earned through the Delta SkyMiles Shopping portal do not fulfill this requirement. You can receive a maximum of 300,000 SkyMiles per year and transfer out up to 150,000 SkyMiles per year.

Related: Your ultimate guide to family points pooling

Earn miles by shopping and dining

You can also earn Delta SkyMiles through several everyday Delta partners. These methods make it easier than ever to earn miles based on things you already do, like eating out and shopping online.

Earn with the SkyMiles Shopping portal

Like most airlines, Delta has its online shopping portal: SkyMiles Shopping. This site lets you earn extra SkyMiles when you shop online, in addition to rewards earned with your credit card. To use the portal, sign up for a SkyMiles shopping account, find your merchant on the site and click through the link. Each merchant offers a different number of SkyMiles per dollar spent, and these rates fluctuate — especially around the holidays.

SKYMILESHOPPING.COM

Check the portal frequently for spending and merchant bonuses. In the past, we’ve seen promotions from merchants like Nike, Under Armour, AT&T and others. If you want to make a purchase anyway, shopping through Delta’s portal can mean serious bonus miles.

Related: The beginners guide to airline shopping portals

Earn while you eat with SkyMiles Dining

Eat your way to more miles with SkyMiles Dining. VGSTOCKSTUDIO/SHUTTERSTOCK

The Delta SkyMiles Dining program is a way to earn extra miles when dining out. Sign up for an account, link a credit card and dine at a participating restaurant, cafe or bar. When you swipe your registered card at these establishments, you’ll earn extra SkyMiles. This is in addition to the miles you already earn with your credit card. Make sure to link a card that earns bonus points at restaurants to watch the rewards add up.

The number of miles you earn through SkyMiles Dining depends on your status, which is entirely separate from your Medallion status. There are three tiers: member, select member and VIP. You’ll become a select member by signing up for email alerts, and you can get VIP status after making 11 transactions within 12 months.

If you don’t give the program a valid email address and sign up for email alerts, you’re a standard member and will only earn 1 mile for every $2 spent. Select members will earn 3 miles per dollar spent, while VIP members will take home 5 miles per dollar.

Related: 11 of the most generous airline and hotel dining rewards programs

Earn SkyBonus points for your business

Enroll in SkyBonus to earn rewards for your business travel. HERO IMAGES/GETTY IMAGES

While not SkyMiles, eligible businesses can enroll in SkyBonus to earn rewards on employee travel. Through this program, businesses earn SkyBonus points whenever an employee travels. These points are earned in addition to the traveler’s personal SkyMiles earnings, so there’s no downside to enrolling. You can redeem SkyBonus points for Delta eCredits, flight certificates or elite status.

Note that this program will be changing to SkyMiles for Business in October.

Related: Airline loyalty programs for small businesses

Earn miles with travel partners

You can also earn bonus miles when you book other types of travel, like rental cars, Lyft rides and hotel stays. Here’s a quick look at all your travel earning options.

Book a ride with Lyft

LYFT

You can earn Delta miles when you link your Delta and Lyft accounts. When you take a ride through the platform, you’ll earn 1 mile per dollar spent on everyday rides and 2 miles per dollar spent on airport rides. Business travelers can rack up huge amounts of points with this promotion.

Best of all, once you’re linked, you don’t need to click through a link to earn SkyMiles on Lyft rides. They’ll be automatically credited to your account.

Just note that Lyft also partners with other programs — including Alaska Airlines MileagePlan and Bilt Rewards. Since you can only have one program set as your active loyalty rewards partner in your Lyft account, you’ll want to select the one that makes the most sense for your needs.

Related: Triple stack these offers to maximize your next Lyft ride

Earn with Delta Vacations

Delta Vacations recently made several customer-friendly changes to its program. Here’s what you can earn on travel packages with Delta Vacations:

  • 1,000 SkyMiles per person on bookings of up to $4,999
  • 5,000 SkyMiles per person on bookings of $5,000 to $9,999
  • 10,000 SkyMiles per person on bookings of $10,000+

You’ll also now earn additional miles from the flight portion of your vacation packages.

Earn SkyMiles on cruises

Through Delta Cruises, you can earn 2 miles for every dollar spent on your next sailing. However, the platform does offer limited-time bonuses during certain times of year, allowing to to take home even more miles.

To earn SkyMiles on your next cruise, book on cruises.delta.com or call 1 (800) 820-3244 with your SkyMiles number.

Related: How to book a cruise using points and miles

Earn SkyMiles on Airbnb stays

Like Delta’s partnership with Lyft, you can earn SkyMiles on eligible Airbnb stays. Just head over to Airbnb’s Delta website, enter your SkyMiles number and click through the link before you make a booking. You’ll earn 1 mile per dollar on Airbnb purchases with no limit, so more expensive trips can rack up a nice haul of SkyMiles.

Related: 15 tips that will help you score the perfect Airbnb every time

Earn miles with Instacart

Delta also has a partnership with Instacart where you can earn 1 mile per dollar spent on eligible orders. As a SkyMiles member, you can also enjoy Instacart Express for a limited time. Depending on your status with Delta, your “free” Instacart Express membership will differ in length:

  • One free month for eligible SkyMiles members
  • Three free months for eligible Diamond and Platinum Medallion members

You can visit this page to link your SkyMiles and Instacart accounts.

Earn miles when you book hotels

In addition to Airbnb, you can earn SkyMiles with Delta’s hotel booking portal. The portal awards 1 mile per dollar spent on hotels, with frequent bonus promotions. The prices on this portal should match booking directly, but it’s in your best interest to double-check.

One word of caution: You won’t earn hotel points or get to use elite status benefits when booking through this portal. Unfortunately, these are generally reserved for those booking directly with the hotel company. Research and see if earning Delta miles or hotel points is best for your hotel stay.

Read more: 9 things to consider when choosing to book via a portal vs. booking directly

You can earn SkyMiles when you also book directly with Delta’s hotel partners. The number of miles you’ll earn depends on the hotel group you book with — here’s a look at how many miles you can earn:

Hotel Earning rate
World of Hyatt Earn 500 miles per stay.
IHG One Rewards Earn up to 2 miles per dollar spent, depending on the brand.
Langham Hospitality Group Earn 500 miles per night with a maximum of 1,500 miles per stay at select hotels.
Marriott Bonvoy Earn up to 2 miles per dollar spent, depending on the property.
Shangri-La Circle Earn 500 miles per stay.
Accor Live Limitless Earn up to 12.5 miles for every 10 euros spent.

Related: Earning airline miles for a hotel stay — reader mistake story

Rent a car with one of these partners

You can earn SkyMiles with one of Delta’s partners when renting a car. ALEXFAN32SHUTTERSTOCK

You can also earn SkyMiles when you rent a car with one of Delta’s rental car partners. Similar to hotels, you won’t earn rental car points when you elect to earn SkyMiles. Here’s a look at how many SkyMiles you can earn:

Rental car company Earning rate
Alamo Earn 500 miles per qualifying rental.
Dollar Earn 4 miles per eligible dollar.
Enterprise Earn 500 miles per qualifying rental.
Europcar Earn 60 miles per qualifying rental day.
Hertz Earn 4 to 8 miles per eligible dollar.
National Earn 500 miles per qualifying rental.
Sixt Earn 500 miles per qualifying rental.
Thrifty Earn 4 miles per eligible dollar.
Turo Earn 2,000 miles after your first rental and 500 miles per qualifying rental after that.

Delta elite members are eligible for a free status match with Hertz Gold Plus Rewards. Gold Medallion members receive a match to Hertz Five Star status, while Platinum and Diamond Medallions are eligible for President’s Circle status. You can enroll in this status match on Delta’s website.

You can also read about Delta’s partnership with Turo here.

Related: How to never pay full price for a rental car

Buy miles

If you need SkyMiles in a pinch, you can buy them directly from Delta. The airline charges a whopping $0.035 per SkyMile, more than double TPG’s 1.41 cents per mile valuation. You must buy miles in increments of 2,000 miles, and you can purchase a maximum of 60,000 SkyMiles per account per year.

Delta frequently discounts SkyMiles by offering bonus miles or a bonus on the number of miles purchased. Buying SkyMiles is only worth doing if you have an immediate use for them. Otherwise, purchasing miles speculatively is usually a bad idea, as they can be devalued anytime.

Related: 8 current promotions for buying points and miles

Bottom line

There are plenty of ways to earn Delta SkyMiles, whether through flights, credit cards, transferring points or using one of Delta’s many other partners.

Even better? SkyMiles is one of the few loyalty currencies that never expire. And with the myriad earning opportunities outlined above, you’ll hopefully have no shortage of SkyMiles the next time you plan a trip.

For details on the redemption process, check out our guide on redeeming miles with the Delta SkyMiles program.

Additional reporting by Kyle Olsen.

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