Reader Question: “How Would You Spend 70,000 Delta SkyMiles?”

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Delta SkyMiles is one of the most polarizing airline loyalty programs on the planet. The airline has been known to make “enhancements” to their loyalty program that have been less than friendly and left “members” gnashing their teeth.

Earning miles based on the price of your ticket? Yup, Delta was the first airline to do that (and then other airlines followed).

Getting rid of award charts so general consumers are unaware of the “real price” thus making it difficult to plan a trip…yup, that was Delta’s idea too (and other airlines followed).

I recently received an email from a 1TP reader that simply read:

“I enjoy Delta more than the other airlines and I am interested in obtaining the Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express consumer card. It fits my lifestyle perfectly; free check bag, early boarding, and it has an easy sign-up bonus of 70,000 SkyMiles after spending $2,000. Although the annual fee is waived for the first year, I can easily get more value out of it than the annual fee is worth during year 2 and beyond. But I am apprehensive because the Delta award chart is whacky so my question is how would you spend 70,000 Delta SkyMiles?”

THE FACTS

Just so we’re clear about all the perks, let’s start with the basics. The current card offer includes:

  • Annual Fee: $99 (waived for the first 12 months)
  • Welcome Bonus: The Delta SkyMiles Gold Personal Amex [READ MORE] is offering up to 70,000 SkyMiles: 60,000 bonus miles after spending $2,000 within three months and an additional 10,000 bonus miles after your first anniversary of card membership.
  • First checked bag free & Main Cabin 1 Priority Boarding on Delta flights
  • 2X on Delta purchases
  • 2x on restaurants worldwide
  • 2x at U.S. supermarkets

HOW WOULD I SPEND 70,000 SKYMILES?

Redeeming miles on Delta can be challenging. Delta SkyMiles is an interesting loyalty program because (again) they were the first airline to NOT publish an award chart.

In other words, the only way that you can determine the redemption price between cities is to go online, complete a search, and the price that you see is the price you pay.

As a consumer, this can be frustrating because you never know what the price will be. Planning a trip can become very difficult when the price point for an award ticket is somewhere between 2,500 miles and infinity.

More recently, Delta has been having weekly award ticket flash sales (like THIS and THIS). During these “sales,” Delta will reduce the amount of the miles required between specific city pairs but the city pairs are unpredictable.

It’s an interesting business model because they have some amazing sales and if you’re not prepared with SkyMiles, you may catch a mild case of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out).

A few days ago, I highlighted how I found a roundtrip economy ticket to Tokyo for 30,000 miles. And it doesn’t stop there.

Atlanta (ATL) – Brussels (BRU) for 44,000 SkyMiles + $56 roundtrip:

Boston (BOS) – Brussels (BRU) for 40,000 SkyMiles + $62 roundtrip:

Los Angeles (LAX) – Paris (CDG) for 34,000 SkyMiles + $84 roundtrip:

New York (JFK) – Amsterdam (AMS) for 30,000 SkyMiles + $51 roundtrip:

New York (JFK) – Paris (CDG) for 26,000 SkyMiles + $84 roundtrip:

With the 60,000 point welcome bonus, you could travel roundtrip to Europe twice for $100 total!

Delta has even offered flights as low as 2,500 miles.

Although it will cost a few more miles, look at the wide-open availability for a round-trip ticket to Australia as early as NEXT WEEK.

It’s worth noting that I’ve also seen this route for as low as 60,000 SkyMiles and you can fly to Sydney with Delta or Virgin Australia. Both are direct from LAX and you’ll pay $102.35 in taxes.

If you’re more interested in sitting on the beach in the Caribbean, take a look at these current redemption rates…

16,000 SkyMiles roundtrip to escape the freezing winter temperatures of Boston and visit Turks and Caicos…. Yes, please!

New York is always on sale!

I would also encourage you to search your home city even if you don’t live in a big city. For example, Cleveland, Ohio (my hometown) is by no means a transportation hub and offers limited airline service to most cities but even they are listed in the flash sale. Perhaps, I should send my parents to Mexico for some relaxation?

Again, signing up for the Gold Delta SkyMiles Amex [READ MORE] could be a no-brainer if you are flexible and don’t mind the unpredictable nature of the sales.

FINAL STAMP

Most of the deals that I mentioned above, albeit in economy, are great deals. Since Delta is part of the SkyTeam alliance, you should be able to redeem your SkyMiles on those airlines too.

If you’re more interested in redeeming your SkyMiles for premium products, Delta partners with the following airlines that allow first class partner award bookings:

  • China Eastern
  • China Southern
  • Korean Air
  • Saudia
  • Xiamen Air

Personally, the biggest challenge that I have with Delta is the prices are unpredictable and the dates tend to be restrictive. For example, it may cost 5,000 miles from ATL-LAX but it may also cost 50,000 miles.

If a specific route happens to be listed during a flash sale, I have found the restrictive dates of availability frustrating and often do not align with my schedule. That doesn’t sit well for me. I have SkyMiles on-hand for the amazing sales that may happen but still find the SkyMiles program to be frustrating unless you are completely open and flexible about traveling to whatever destination Delta has on “sale.”

Were you aware that Delta did not publish an award chart? Were you aware that Delta was publishing great roundtrip rates?

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