18 Ways to Earn Tons of Delta SkyMiles [2020 Guide]

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The Delta SkyMiles program is one of the largest airline loyalty programs in the world. A free Delta SkyMiles account allows you to earn Delta miles on Delta and partner flights, shopping, dining, and more then redeem your SkyMiles for award flights on Delta and its 20+ partners.

Ready to get started earning Delta SkyMiles? Here's a complete guide to earning Delta miles -- even without flying!

Enroll in Delta SkyMiles

To start earning Delta miles, you'll need a free Delta SkyMiles account. Sign up for Delta SkyMiles here with basic personal information and get a unique SkyMiles number that you'll use to earn SkyMiles.

Why Delta Miles Are Worth Earning

Wondering if Delta SkyMiles is the right loyalty program for you? Delta is definitely one of the best U.S. carriers with a top-rated in-flight experience. While the Delta SkyMiles program isn't the best for premium cabin awards or international flights thanks to limited award seats and some confusing aspects of the program, it's great for earning free domestic flights on Delta.

Delta's extensive list of SkyTeam alliance and non-alliance partners also make Delta miles worth earning. Delta miles can be used to book award flights on KLM, Aeroflot, Virgin Atlantic, and Virgin Australia. The SkyTeam alliance has more partners in Eastern Asia and Europe than the Oneworld alliance which may be a consideration if you're deciding between Delta SkyMiles and a program like American Airlines AAdvantage.

One of the perks of the SkyMiles program is the Pay With Miles perk available with most Delta credit cards. With Pay With Miles, you can use your miles at a flat rate of 1 cent each to book Delta and Delta Connection flights without blackout dates and the tickets will be paid, not award flights, which means they'll still earn Delta miles.

Finally, Delta miles never expire -- a rare benefit in an airline loyalty program. You can let your Delta miles build over time without worry and save them for a flash sale or promotion to get the best possible value.

How Do Delta Miles Compare to Other Airline Miles?

Delta SkyMiles are worth about 1.2 cents each depending on the fare class and cost of the flight. Because Delta doesn't have an award chart and bases the cost of award flights on the cash price of flights, they try to make miles worth 1 cent each but you can get a worse or much better value with strategic use.

By comparison, American Airlines AAdvantage miles are worth around 1.4 cents each, Alaska miles are worth 1.8 cents each, Avios miles are worth 1.5 cents each and Miles & More miles are worth 1.4 cents each.

The Delta SkyMiles program isn't without drawbacks to consider, though. One of the biggest problems with SkyMiles is it has no published award chart. You won't know how many miles you need to save for an award flight and, because awards are based on the cash price of flights, a simple domestic flight can range from 4,500 to 25,000 miles for the same route depending on the day. You probably won't even bother trying for a last-minute award ticket as the cost can be astronomical.

There are some counterintuitive aspects of SkyMiles too, such as the ability to reduce your award ticket price by adding segments.

How to Earn Delta SkyMiles

The Delta SkyMiles program has two types of miles you can earn: regular miles and Medallion Qualification Miles or MQMs. Regular miles are earned by making purchases, shopping with partners, or using a Delta credit card and they can be redeemed for award flights. MQMs are earned based on distance traveled and they're used to help you achieve elite status.

Ready to start earning Delta miles for free flights on Delta and its SkyTeam alliance partners? Here are the many ways to earn SkyMiles.

Fly with Delta

When you fly on Delta-marketed or -operated flights, you'll earn at least 5x miles per $1 spent on your ticket. Delta is a dollar-based program like American Airlines AAdvantage, not a mileage-based program, so miles are earned based on the ticket price before taxes and fees, not the segments or distance traveled.

How many miles you earn depends on your status in the SkyMiles program:

  • SkyMiles member: 5x miles
  • Silver Medallion member: 7x miles
  • Gold Medallion members: 8x miles
  • Platinum Medallion members: 9x miles
  • Diamond Medallion members: 11x miles

You can tell your flight is Delta marketed if your flight number will have "DL." Flights ticketed by Delta begin with "006."

Fly with Delta Partners

You can also earn Delta SkyMiles when you fly on partner flights, although the way you earn miles with partners is different. How you earn Delta miles will depend on the partner and how you book your ticket.

When you book on Delta.com, the flight is operated by a partner airline but marketed by Delta so you'll earn miles just as you would on a Delta-operated flight.

When you book a partner flight through their website, you'll earn miles based on the distance flown, not the price of the ticket. Still, the number of miles earned will also vary on the partner plus your booking class and elite status.

To calculate how many Delta SkyMiles you'll earn with a partner start by checking the distance with the Great Circle Mapper. Next, check the partner earning rules on Delta. With most partners, you'll earn 100% of the miles flown plus bonus miles for SkyMiles elite status.

Use a Delta Credit Card

With an American Express Delta co-branded credit card, you can earn Delta SkyMiles on every purchase and extra miles on Delta and partner flights. American Express issues seven Delta cards: 3 business credit cards and 4 personal cards. Each card comes with different perks but all earn the same amount of SkyMiles -- 2x miles on Delta purchases and 1x miles on everything else -- with one notable exception. Interestingly, only the no-annual-fee Delta card has a bonus category for restaurants.

If you don't fly Delta frequently, a no-annual-fee credit card may be a good fit, especially since it has the best earning rate of all of the Delta cards, but there's also a premium credit card that includes worthwhile travel perks for frequent flyers.

American Express Delta Personal Credit Cards

There are four personal Delta credit cards from American Express that cover a full spectrum of travel perks depending on how often you travel.

  • Blue Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express
    • No annual fee
    • 10,000 bonus miles after spending $500 within the first 90 days
    • 2x SkyMiles at restaurants and Delta purchases
    • 1x SkyMiles on all other purchases
  • Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express
    • $95 annual fee (waived the first year)
    • 30,000 bonus miles after spending $1,000 during the first 90 days
    • $50 statement credit after making a Delta purchase within 90 days
    • 2x SkyMiles on Delta purchases
    • 1x SkyMiles on all other spending
    • First checked bag free on Delta flights
  • Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express
    • $250 annual fee (effective 1/30/2020)
    • 35,000 bonus miles + 5,000 MQMs after spending $1,000 during the first 90 days
    • $100 statement credit after making a Delta purchase within 90 days
    • 2x SkyMiles on Delta purchases
    • 1x SkyMiles on all other spending
    • First checked bag free on Delta flights
    • Annual domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion ticket
  • Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express
    • $550 annual fee (effective 1/30/2020)
    • 40,000 bonus miles + 10,000 MQMs after spending $3,000 during the first 90 days
    • 2x SkyMiles on Delta purchases
    • 1x SkyMiles on all other spending
    • Delta Sky Club access
    • Annual domestic First Class or Main Cabin round-trip companion ticket
    • Upgrade priority

American Express Delta Business Credit Cards

There are three Delta business cards, all with an annual fee.

  • Gold Delta SkyMiles Business Credit Card from American Express
    • $95 annual fee (waived the first year)
    • 30,000 bonus miles after spending $1,000 during the first 90 days
    • $50 statement credit after making a Delta purchase within 90 days
    • 2x SkyMiles on Delta purchases
    • 1x SkyMiles on all other purchases
    • First checked bag free on Delta flights
  • Platinum Delta SkyMiles Business Credit Card from American Express
    • $250 annual fee (as of 1/30/2020)
    • 35,000 bonus miles + 5,000 MQMs after spending $1,000 during the first 90 days
    • $100 statement credit after making a Delta purchase within 90 days
    • 2x SkyMiles on Delta purchases
    • 1x SkyMiles on all other purchases
    • Annual domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion ticket
  • Delta Reserve for Business
    • $550 annual fee (as of 1/30/2020)
    • 40,000 bonus miles + 10,000 MQMs after spending $3,000 during the first 90 days
    • 2x SkyMiles on Delta purchases
    • 1x SkyMiles on all other purchases
    • Delta Sky Club access
    • Annual domestic First Class or Main Cabin round-trip companion ticket
    • Upgrade priority
    • First checked bag free on Delta flights

Earn Delta Credit Card Welcome Bonuses

Want to know the best way to earn Delta miles quickly? Sign up for an American Express Delta credit card and qualify for a welcome bonus. While bonuses are subject to change, you can get anywhere from 10,000 to 40,000+ bonus miles plus 5,000 to 10,000 MQMs after meeting a spending threshold within your first 3 months as a cardholder.

Delta doesn't have an award chart as award flights are based roughly on the cash price of the ticket, but 40,000 points is still more than enough for a flight from the continental U.S. to Europe or up to eight domestic flights. The welcome bonuses can definitely go far!

Transfer Credit Card Points to Delta SkyMiles

If you don't have a Delta SkyMiles credit card -- or you want to maximize earnings by using a different rewards card that has bonus categories for better rewards at grocery stores and gas stations, for example -- you can transfer many types of credit card points to Delta SkyMiles.

Credit card points that can be transferred to SkyMiles include American Express Membership Rewards and points earned through Diners Club International, Banco de Chile, and JCB.

When transferring American Express Membership Rewards, you'll need to transfer in 1,000-point increments at a 1:1 ratio. This isn't necessarily the best value for Membership Rewards points, but it definitely makes sense with the right American Express card.

The American Express Platinum card pairs perfectly with a Delta SkyMiles card thanks to the Amex partnership. The Platinum card earns 5x points on airfare booked directly through an airline compared to 2x SkyMiles with a Delta credit card. You'll also get access to not only Delta Sky Club but also Centurion lounges and other lounges through the complimentary Priority Pass Select membership.

Transfer Hotel Rewards Points to SkyMiles

You'll almost always get the best value for hotel loyalty points when you use them for free hotel stays, but you can transfer points from many major loyalty programs to Delta SkyMiles. This may be a good option if you aren't going to use them for a hotel stay or you're switching loyalty programs and don't have enough points for a free stay.

Here are the transfer ratios hotel points to Delta SkyMiles:

  • IHG Rewards Club: 10,000 points to 2,000 SkyMiles
  • Hilton Honors: 10,000 points to 1,000 SkyMiles
  • Marriott Bonvoy: 9,000 points to 3,000 SkyMiles (*5,000 extra miles for every 60,000 Marriott points transferred)
  • Radisson Rewards: 2,000 points to 200 SkyMiles
  • Le Club Accorhotels: 4,000 points to 2,000 miles

Sometimes there are bonuses when you transfer points to Delta.

Earn Delta Miles with Car Partners

You can earn Delta SkyMiles when you rent a car, catch a Lyft ride, or even catch an airport shuttle.

Lyft

Earn Delta miles every time you take a ride with Lyft by linking your Lyft and SkyMiles accounts here. You'll earn 1-2x miles on all U.S. rides, excluding tips, fees, and taxes.

Hertz

Thanks to Delta's partnership with Hertz, you can earn Delta SkyMiles when you rent a car with Hertz or even transfer points from Hertz to Delta. To earn miles, you'll need to provide your Delta SkyMiles number and use Delta discount code 165385.

The amount of miles you earn with Hertz depends on your Delta SkyMiles status:

  • SkyMiles member: 500 miles per rental + 200 miles per day
  • Gold and Silver Medallion members: 1,000 miles per rental + 300 miles per day
  • Diamond and Platinum Medallion members: 1,250 miles per rental + 300 miles per day

You can also transfer Hertz Gold Plus Rewards points to Delta Skymiles. 600 Hertz points will convert to 500 Delta SkyMiles.

Other Transportation Partners

You can earn 500 Delta SkyMiles per car rental with the following car rental partners.

  • Thrifty
  • Dollar Car Rental
  • Alamo
  • Enterprise
  • National
  • Sixt Rent a Car (*1,000 miles for chauffeur service)

Other transportation partners include:

  • Europcar: 60 miles per day
  • ExecuCar: 150 miles per direction for a private luxury sedan
  • Carmel: Up to 100 bonus miles and 1-2x Delta miles
  • SuperShuttle: 50 bonus miles per direction for airport shuttle service

Shop Through the SkyMiles Shopping Portal

Shop online through the SkyMiles Shopping portal to earn up to 25x miles or more at your favorite online retailers. SkyMiles Shopping has more than 800 participating retailers, internet and phone providers, and more to help you earn Delta SkyMiles quickly.

The number of miles you can earn changes regularly, especially during the holidays when bonuses tend to be higher. Delta offers special offers occasionally to earn even better bonuses. For example, in November 2019, Delta offered a Holiday Bonus promotion to earn 500 bonus miles after spending $150 through the portal and another 500 miles after spending $300.

Dine with the SkyMiles Dining Program

With the SkyMiles Dining program, you can earn up to 5x miles when you dine at participating restaurants, bars, and lounges. To get started, create a free account linked to your SkyMiles account and link your favorite debit and credit cards. During your first month, you can earn up to 3,000 bonus SkyMiles plus an extra 500 miles as a Medallion member when you spend at least $25 at a participating location.

Earn Delta Miles on Hotel Stays & Airbnb

Prefer to earn miles instead of hotel loyalty points when you travel? Most major hotel loyalty programs allow you to earn Delta SkyMiles on your stays, although you won't get as good a value as you would with hotel points.

Here's how to earn Delta miles when you book a hotel:

  • Marriott Bonvoy: Earn 1-2x miles at Marriott hotels, depending on the brand
  • IHG Rewards Club: Earn 2x miles at most IHG brands and 1x miles at extended stay and Holiday Inn brands
  • World of Hyatt: Earn 500 miles per stay
  • Radisson Rewards: Earn 1x Delta miles at Raddison brands
  • Langham Hospitality Group: Earn 250-750 miles or 500-1500 miles per stay, depending on the brand
  • AccorHotels: Earn 2.5 to 12.5 miles per 10€ depending on the brand
  • Shangri-La Hotels: Earn 500 miles per stay
  • Worldhotels: Earn 500 SkyMiles per stay

You can also book hotels at Delta.com/hotels and earn at least 1x miles on your booking.

Prefer Airbnb to a hotel? Earn 1x Delta miles when you book a stay through DeltaAirbnb.com.

Other Ways to Earn Delta Miles

Want more ways to earn Delta miles? Here are your other options.

  • Ticketmaster. Earn 1x Delta miles when you buy tickets through Delta.com/ticketmaster and use your SkyMiles number.
  • Shop through partners like Vinesse Wine, FTD, and the Biscoff Store.
  • Pay energy bills. Choose Energy Plus or other partner gas and electricity partners to earn miles every time you pay your bill.
  • Book a vacation with Delta Vacations. Earn up to 7,500 Delta miles per person.
  • Book a cruise with SkyMiles Cruises powered by Cruise Only. Earn 1,500 to 30,000 Delta miles per booking.
  • Buy Delta miles. If you're short on miles for an award flight, you can buy Delta SkyMiles in 2,000-mile increments at 3.5 cents per mile. Sometimes Delta offers deals to reduce the cost to as low as 2 cents per mile.

Wrap Up

Delta SkyMiles sometimes gets a bad reputation for its confusing award redemptions, lack of award chart, and devaluations, but it remains a solid and rewarding program -- especially for domestic Delta flights or international flights on SkyTeam partners. Delta offers dozens of ways to earn Delta miles without even flying which makes it easy to earn award flights in no time at all.

FAQ

What is Delta SkyMiles?

Delta SkyMiles is the loyalty program for Delta Airlines that lets you earn Delta SkyMiles that can be redeemed for award flights.

How do I earn Delta miles?

There are many ways to start earning SkyMiles:

  • Fly with Delta
  • Fly with Delta partners
  • Use a Delta credit card
  • Earn a Delta credit card welcome bonus
  • Earn a Delta credit card referral bonus
  • Transfer credit card points or hotel loyalty points to SkyMiles
  • Earn Delta miles with car partners like Lyft and Hertz
  • Shop through SkyMiles Shopping
  • Dine with the SkyMiles Dining program
  • Earn miles at Airbnb and hotel stays
  • Pay energy bills
  • Book a vacation or cruise
  • Shop with partners
  • Buy SkyMiles

Who are Delta SkyMiles partners?

Delta is part of the SkyTeam alliance which includes alliance partners:

  • Aeroflot
  • Aerolineas
  • AeroMexico
  • AirEuropa
  • Air France
  • Alitalia
  • China Airlines
  • China Eastern
  • CSA Czech Airlines
  • Garuda Indonesia
  • Kenya Airways
  • KLM
  • Korean Air
  • Middle East Airlines
  • Saudia
  • TAROM
  • Vietnam Airlines
  • XiamenAir

Non-alliance Delta partners are:

  • Virgin Atlantic
  • Virginia Australia
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Westjet
  • GOL

How many Delta SkyMiles are needed for a free flight?

Delta doesn't have an award flight, but when there are flash sales or promotions, you can get a free domestic flight for as few as 5,000 Delta miles. Otherwise, you usually need 6,500 Delta SkyMiles for a free domestic one-way flight. One-way international flights usually start at 35,000 to 50,000 miles.

What are Delta SkyMiles worth?

Delta SkyMiles are worth around 1.2 cents each or a flat 1 cent each when you use the Pay With Miles perk using a Delta credit card. You can get a better value for your miles with strategic redemptions such as using Delta miles for Virgin Atlantic flights from the U.S. to London.

Do Delta SkyMiles expire?

No, Delta SkyMiles never expire.

What credit cards earn Delta miles?

There are seven Delta credit cards from American Express:

  • Blue Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express
  • Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express
  • Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express
  • Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express
  • Gold Delta SkyMiles Business Credit Card from American Express
  • Platinum Delta SkyMiles Business Credit Card from American Express
  • Delta Reserve for Business

How can I earn Delta miles fast?

If you want to earn Delta SkyMiles as fast as possible, the best options are:

  • Flying Delta or partner airlines
  • Using a Delta credit card
  • Earning a Delta credit card sign-up bonus
  • Earning a Delta credit card referral bonus
  • Use the Delta SkyMiles shopping portal

How many miles do you earn per flight on Delta?

You can earn up to 75,000 SkyMiles on a single flight. When you book a Delta flight, you'll earn 5x to 11x miles per dollar depending on your elite status plus an extra 2x miles if you use a Delta SkyMiles credit card.

Extra tips on how to maximize your rewards

Getting the most out of your credit cards is a must. Compare the current best offers with our Card Maximizer tool or take a look at our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2020. Here are the highlights:

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