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I've been a member of the Delta SkyMiles program for more than a decade. It's been a good way for me to earn free rewards travel, especially since I've been able to combine it with the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card.
Overall, though, you don't need a credit card to take advantage of the SkyMiles program. This loyalty program allows you to earn miles when you fly, and then you can redeem them later for upgrades, flights and other travel perks. Your best results come if you frequently fly Delta, and you can further boost your rewards with the help of a Delta-branded credit card.
Pros and Cons
- Earn rewards flying Delta and partner airlines
- Boost rewards earnings with branded credit cards
- Earn miles from Airbnb and Lyft
- Miles never expire
- It can take a long time to earn enough miles to receive award travel
- Status can be difficult to earn without the help of credit cards
- Award travel comes with limited seating
Delta SkyMiles Membership Levels
The Delta SkyMiles program focuses on different levels of status. First of all, there is general membership, which comes with bare-bones benefits. However, once you reach a certain point, you can qualify for Medallion status, which comes in:
In order to reach these levels, you have to earn an alphabet soup of qualifying miles. These include:
- Medallion Qualifying Dollars (MQDs): Based on the amount of money you spend on Delta and partner airline flights.
- Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs): Based on your fare class and the distance you fly.
- Medallion Qualifying Segments (MQSs): Based on the number of flights you take.
On top of the four Medallion levels, there's also an exclusive 360 program that's invitation-only.
Before you reach a Medallion level, you are in the General Membership program. Basically, all you can do here is earn (five miles per dollar spent on Delta) and use your points, as well as take advantage of a discounted CLEAR membership for $119. However, as you earn all those Medallion qualifying miles, dollars and segments, you can start moving up the Medallion status ladder.
1. Silver Medallion
Requirements: 25,000 MQMs (or 30 MQSs) and $3,000 MQDs
Once you reach this status, you'll earn a free checked bag, as well as priority boarding. On top of that, you'll start receiving seven miles per dollar spent on Delta and partner flights. You can even receive free cabin upgrades, depending on the situation. The CLEAR discount is bigger at this level, allowing you to get it for $109.
2. Gold Medallion
Requirements: 50,000 MQMs (or 50 MQSs) and $6,000 MQDs
Begin accessing free cabin upgrades 72 hours before your flight, on top of the free checked bag and priority boarding. Plus, this level comes with Lounge access and expedited security line access. The CLEAR discount is the same as Silver level, but you also get Five Star status at Hertz with this level. Gold Medallion members receive eight miles per dollar spent.
3. Platinum Medallion
Requirements: 75,000 MQMs (or 100 MQSs) and $9,000 MQDs
With this level, you get the previous benefits, plus a welcome gift worth up to $200. You also receive 20,000 bonus miles — or you can decide to give Silver Medallion status to a family member or friend. Spending on Delta and its partners earns nine miles per dollar and you can upgrade your seat much earlier. Plus, in the Hertz program, you receive President's Circle status.
4. Diamond Medallion
Requirements: 125,000 MQMs (or 140 MQSs) and $15,000 MQDs
The perks keep adding up here, including complimentary CLEAR membership, more valuable welcome gifts and the ability to give someone else Gold Medallion status. Plus, you earn 11 miles per dollar when you spend. As with all the levels, booking a basic economy ticket disqualifies you for the free cabin upgrade, but if you book other fares, you can get in line for a cabin upgrade up to 120 hours before your flight.
5. Delta 360
Requirements: By invitation only
Delta is a little secretive about this level, but it's all about loyalty to the company. The "overall investment with Delta" is taken into consideration, and you might get access to a separate customer service line or perks like tarmac transfers via Porsche.
Earning Delta SkyMiles
Earning miles is fairly straightforward. Spend money on Delta and fly with Delta and its partners. You can also earn points for participating with certain partners. I added my Delta SkyMiles number to my Lyft and Airbnb accounts, and now earn points when I use those services. You can also earn points with Hertz.
Applying for the Best Delta Credit Cards
Another good way to earn Delta miles is to get a branded credit card. This can accelerate your earnings, and help you reach Medallion status quicker. Miles don't expire, but you do have to watch for blackouts and award seats. Sometimes, they can be somewhat limited.
How Much Is a SkyMile Worth?
The value of miles depends on the route traveled and other factors. For example, I once booked a one-way flight that normally cost $346 for 12,000 miles, making each Mile worth about 2.9 cents. However, on another occasion, a round-trip flight for $711 cost 33,000 miles to redeem, making each Mile worth about 2.1 cents. When booking directly with Delta, you can choose to see your options in miles, rather than in dollars.
Using Delta SkyMiles
It's possible to use your SkyMiles in a variety of ways, including to redeem for award flights and seat upgrades.
I find redeeming for seat upgrades can actually be a good use of SkyMiles. Recently, I upgraded my seat (normally a $150 difference) for 2,800 miles — translating to a value of 5.4 cents per Mile.
You can also book through Delta to redeem for seats on partner airlines, including:
- Aerolineas Argentinas
- Air France
- China Eastern
- China Airlines
- China Southern
- Hawaiian Airlines
- KLM Royal Dutch Airlines
- Korean Air
- Mandarin Airlines
- Middle East Airlines
- Saudia Airlines
- Shanghai Airlines
- Tarom Airlines
- Vietnam Airlines
- Virgin Atlantic
- Virgin Australia
- Xiamen Airlines
Plus, Delta Vacations and Delta SkyMiles Cruises also allow you to book different types of inclusive packages. I've had success in the past booking cruises this way.
Realize, though, that you might be subject to limitations and blackout dates. If you want to avoid these, you can use Delta's Pay with Miles program. However, in this case, SkyMiles are worth a flat 1 cent each. You don't have to worry about blackouts and restrictions, but you also won't stumble onto better value for your miles.
Finally, you can use the Delta Marketplace to use miles to buy gift cards and other items, like magazine subscriptions.
In the end, redeeming points is fairly straightforward and easy if you go through Delta.com. I've used my miles to pay for free flights for more than 10 years, making it easy for my son and I to enjoy affordable travel.