How Much Are Delta SkyMiles Worth?

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Reader Jack asked me the following question by email:

I’m trying to decide whether to apply for the Delta Amex Gold Card, and am curious what you value Delta miles at nowadays? During your last valuation of SkyMiles you said they were worth 1.3 cents each. Has that changed?

It’s an interesting question, since SkyMiles are sort of a polarizing points currency. We love to rag on them and even have nicknames for them, but as of now they do still have some unique value propositions.

My valuation of SkyMiles is short term

As I’ve explained before, long term I think that Delta SkyMiles will go completely revenue based, it’s just a matter of time before they can make that happen. At the least, that’s what SkyMiles’ management would like.

I think it will be quite a while before that happens, though, so personally think we have at least a couple of years before that happens. In the meantime I think we’ll continue to see moves towards a revenue based program, though we’ll still have more time for partner premium cabin redemptions remaining roughly the same.

So when it comes to valuing SkyMiles, I’m valuing them based on redeeming them in the next year or so. But that’s the case for just about any mileage currency I value, given how quickly things can change.

At worst, SkyMiles should be worth 1.0 cent each

Again, I’m not convinced SkyMiles will go fully revenue based anytime soon, but even if it did eventually happen, SkyMiles would be worth at least 1.0 cent each, in my opinion. At least for the roughly revenue based equivalent redemption opportunities we’re seeing now, that’s the redemption value. If the value gets any lower than that, then Delta will potentially really be ticking off their co-brand and transfer partners

Presently I value SkyMiles at 1.3 cents each

As it stands, I conservatively value SkyMiles at 1.3 cents each. The program has a lot of problems and fine print, but:

Virgin-Atlantic-Clubhouse-201

That’s why I conservatively value SkyMiles at 1.3 cents each. And if you’re able to make lots of short term premium cabin international redemptions, they should possibly be worth even more to you.

At a valuation of 1.3 cents per mile, the 80,000 mile one-way business class award from Los Angeles to Sydney would cost you ~$1,000, which is a heck of a value.

SkyMiles-1

Business class between the US and Europe on Virgin Atlantic would cost you ~$800.

SkyMiles-2

Those are, of course, just two examples.

How much are Delta AmEx sign-up offers worth?

Using my valuation of 1.3 cents per mile, what are the promotional sign-up bonuses on the Delta AmEx cards worth? (Update: These particular offers are currently expired, you can find the best current offers here).

Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express

  • 50,000 SkyMiles after making $2,000 in purchases within three months
  • $50 statement credit after making Delta purchase within three months
  • $95 annual fee, waived the first year

To me that’s $650 worth of miles with the first year’s annual fee waived, plus a $50 statement credit after a Delta purchase within three months.

That makes the sign-up bonus worth $650-700 to me, depending on whether or not you receive the statement credit.

Gold Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card from American Express

  • 50,000 SkyMiles after making $2,000 in purchases within three months
  • $50 statement credit after making Delta purchase within three months
  • $95 annual fee, waived the first year

To me that’s $650 worth of miles with the first year’s annual fee waived, plus a $50 statement credit after a Delta purchase within three months.

That makes the sign-up bonus worth $650-700 to me, depending on whether or not you receive the statement credit.

Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express

  • 60,000 SkyMiles after making $2,000 in purchases within three months
  • 10,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles
  • $100 statement credit after making Delta purchase within three months
  • $195 annual fee

To me that’s $780 worth of miles with the first year’s annual fee of $195, plus a $100 statement credit after a Delta purchase within three months. That makes the sign-up bonus worth $585-685 to me, depending on whether or not you receive the statement credit. Furthermore, if you value Medallion Qualifying Miles towards SkyMiles status, the bonus is worth considerably more than that.

Those are some really compelling sign-up bonuses. Per my valuation, there are only three personal cards which potentially have a higher value sign-up bonus, as follows:

Other than those three and the Delta AmEx products, there aren’t any other sign-up bonuses presently publicly available which are worth $650+ to me.

Bottom line

While the SkyMiles program is often (correctly) ragged on, even with a modest valuation the present increased sign-up bonuses on the co-branded Delta American Express cards are extremely compelling. If you haven’t yet hopped on one of them, I’d suggest doing so by June 30, 2015, when the increased bonus is scheduled to end.

What do you value Delta SkyMiles at?

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Comments

  1. Sitting here today in Auckland, NZ after flying VA in biz using DL miles. They are not the easiest to use, but that is what makes it rewarding when you are able to piece together an epic itinerary. Being based in TLH, I don’t have many other choices than DL so I have chosen to embrace the challenge and have been quite successful over the years thanks to all of you in this community. Thanks!

  2. Yes the business class products on Air France and KLM have improved (or are improving belatedly) – but it hardly matters given that hardly any of those transatlantic flights are available using SkyMiles, even though they’re made available at the saver level to Flying Blue and other partner programs.

  3. There have been quite a few credit card advertisements in the past few days. I agree you need to generate income, but let’s be real, did you really need to frame it as someone asked you an inane question that somehow included these credit cards?

  4. @02nz – “even though they’re made available at the saver level to Flying Blue and other partner programs.”

    Lots of programs giver their own members more availability. That’s not unique to Flying Blue.

    @Raj – “did you really need to frame it as someone asked you an inane question that somehow included these credit cards?”

    Well, the question he was asked specifically included the DL AmEx Gold card. Unless you’re suggesting he made it up. And if that’s the case, I’d be interested in any evidence you have in support of that conclusion.

  5. @ Brian L – Correct, lots of programs give their own members more availability. The difference here is that other SkyTeam members (other than Delta) DO have access to business class awards on Air France/KLM, but only Delta chooses to reimburse its partners at a lower level, such that there’s next to no availability in business class on those two carriers, even though Korean Air’s members can book those flights. Of course Delta justifies this by saying “each partner chooses its level of participation in the SkyMiles program” but obviously it takes two to tango. And when you look at Delta’s behavior of aggressively strong-arming partners (just ask Korean and Alaska) then it’s clearly part of a pattern on Delta’s part.

  6. @02nz

    I am not certain that is entirely true because Alaska has access to the same subset of seats as Delta. So it may indeed be AF/KLM that is not releasing the seats to other airlines.

  7. @Lucky

    I have q quick question. I know this has nothing to do with this post, but the “Ask Lucky” page isn’t currently working. I am starting to mileage run, and my goal is to get Executive Platinum status with American Airlines. To achieve this, I must complete either 120 segments or 100,000 miles. So, to my question(s). Let’s say I fly RSW-CLT-LGA on US Airways on the first flight and then American Eagle on the second. Would this count as 1 or 2 segments? (They are on the same ticket). If it is just 1 segment, why? Because one of the flights was on US Airways metal, or because they consider it one-way? Thanks! Also, which of the 2 options (120 segments or 100,000 miles) do you think is the easiest/quickest/cheapest way to achieve status?

  8. With Delta it is a real challenge, but I’ve been really fortunate. I managed to get 110,000 RT to Europe in business on their metal. This year I got a one way Delta Business ATL to LAX, Virgin Australia Business LAX to SYD and coach SYD to AKL for 117,500. (I did the return for 80,000 United miles on Asiana in business).
    There is real value if you have patience and get a little lucky!

  9. Lucky,

    Can you apply for both the Gold and the Platinum and be approved for both? Had my Mom already apply for the platinum, got approved, and already received it in the mail. Can she apply for the Gold SkyMile card as well, and get the sign up bonus? (She is skeptical about the business card, anyway I could easily explain that to her?)

    Thanks!

  10. The platinum card also gives you a free companion ticket for US flight (48 states) which is an added bonus!

  11. It depends on the usage, but for SE Asia in business class they are worth at least 4c per skymile, maybe up to 6c.

    FLL-MNL for instance – Lowest “Delta-One” fare I’ve seen is around $6000 RT. 140K miles for a business class award is a bargain, even if it has to be on a partner. (In October wife and I are flying this route for $140K each outbound on Korean, in-bound on DL 747. Nice.

  12. Lucky — I’m unfamiliar with the term “SkyMiles”. I’ve heard of Delta SkyPesos. Is this what you’re talking about?

  13. Given that you can use Skymiles at 1c each as a payment on a revenue flight when you have the Delta Amex, they pretty much by definition must be worth more than 1 cent each – you can always choose 1c/each and you have the option of using them at the miles rate also, which can sometimes be substantially more. So that optionality is worth something.

  14. @ Nolan — Technically both personal products say you may be denied the bonus if you have an AmEx card, though many report earning the bonus on both cards, since they are different products.

  15. @ Jack — That would count as two segments. Probably not a single answer as to which is cheaper. Generally flying fewer segments and longer flights is easier, but not always cheaper.

  16. “I think that Delta SkyMiles will go completely revenue based…. At the least, that’s what SkyMiles’ management would like.”

    Really? I get the impression that Delta management hates having any kind of frequent flyer program and has decided to make a game of how unattractive they can make it and still have people defend it. Either that or else it’s run by a bunch of sadists who enjoy screwing people over and hear them say, “Thank you, sir, may I please have another?”

  17. Just used 60K Delta skymiles to save $820 on two tickets for a family event. Just over 1.3 cents per mile. Lucky is very accurate.

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