Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with the latest information.
One of the advantages of earning miles through the Delta Air Lines SkyMiles program is that they never expire, allowing you to use them at your convenience without any pressure to do so before a specific expiration date. However, Delta is notorious for unexpected devaluations, causing concern among many travelers with SkyMiles.
So, especially if you have a modest mileage balance of 5,000 SkyMiles or less, you may want to get your SkyMiles balance as close to zero as possible. Fortunately, a few avenues are available for redeeming even the tiniest amount of SkyMiles.
In this guide, we’ll show you how to get value when redeeming 5,000 or fewer Delta SkyMiles. While these redemptions may not offer the same excitement as securing a long-distance Delta One ticket, they can still provide excellent value and let you maximize even the smallest mileage balance.
Book a cheap award ticket
One of the most irritating aspects of the SkyMiles program is the absence of published award charts since 2015. The lack of transparency means that the price you are quoted is the final price, which can lead to excessive award prices.
However, there is a silver lining to this situation. The absence of award charts has also resulted in incredibly affordable award tickets for Delta flyers. During a promotional period in 2021, the airline released one-way flights for as little as 2,500 SkyMiles. Currently, it is common to find tickets priced as low as 4,500 SkyMiles on some domestic routes.
For instance, there’s widespread award space from New York to Boston for 4,500 SkyMiles even during peak holiday travel periods. Moreover, you can choose between departing from John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) or LaGuardia Airport (LGA). It’s important to note that the lowest-priced tickets typically fall under the Delta basic economy category, which has more restrictions than Main Cabin awards.
Likewise, you can fly from San Francisco to Los Angeles for a similar price in Delta basic economy.
Plenty of other routes are out there, so run a few test searches and see what you can find.
Buy premium drinks at Delta Sky Clubs
In Delta Sky Clubs, you’ll find a selection of complimentary house beer, wine and liquor. However, there is also a premium menu available. And you can use your SkyMiles to purchase premium drinks at participating lounges. Just ask the bartender for the menu.
According to Delta’s menu (PDF link), you can redeem 9,200 SkyMiles for a Brut Bollinger Special Cuvee bottle, normally costing $138. This provides a value of 1.5 cents per point, a great deal compared to our valuation of 1.2 cents per mile.
You can expect the same 1.5 cents per point value for almost anything on the bar’s menu. For instance, a premium craft beer is priced at $4.50 or 300 SkyMiles, while a spiced pineapple colada cocktail is available for $7.50 or 500 SkyMiles.
So, if you’re craving a drink next time you’re in the Sky Club, treat yourself and use SkyMiles to upgrade to a premium beverage.
Redeem for magazine subscriptions
Another way to use a smaller number of SkyMiles is by redeeming them for magazine subscriptions.
Delta offers a limited range of periodicals; you can acquire a yearlong subscription to many of them with a relatively modest amount of miles. For instance, you can obtain a five-issue subscription to Bon Appetit for 200 SkyMiles plus $2. Comparatively, purchasing the same number of issues through Magazines.com would cost you $19.99, resulting in a value of approximately 9 cents per mile.
It’s important to keep in mind that you will generally be automatically billed the regular annual price to continue your subscription. Therefore, it’s wise to prepare for this possibility or set a reminder on your calendar to cancel before the renewal date.
Donate your SkyMiles to charity
Delta Air Lines partners with a wide range of different charities. You can donate your SkyMiles to any one of them, letting you make a real difference with your miles. Just note that there’s a 1,000-mile minimum to donate. Some participating charities include the American Red Cross, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and Make-A-Wish.
Earn more miles
If none of these options capture your interest, perhaps you should consider pursuing a different approach: earning more SkyMiles.
Even if your upcoming travel arrangements don’t involve Delta, have you considered the possibility of needing a last-minute award ticket? Alternatively, what if you have to travel to a destination where Delta is the only airline offering nonstop flights from your local airport? In such situations, you could face a hefty price for a plane ticket. However, having a reserve of SkyMiles can assist you in offsetting the cost.
You might be pleasantly surprised by how rapidly you can replenish your SkyMiles balance. Here are some ideas.
Open a Delta cobranded credit card
Delta offers several cobranded credit cards through American Express, which offer lucrative welcome bonuses and ongoing perks when you fly Delta. Here’s a look at the current welcome bonuses on some popular Delta credit cards:
- Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card: Earn 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases on your new card in your first six months of card membership.
- Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card: Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases on your new card in your first six months of card membership.
- Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card: Earn 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases on your new card in your first six months of card membership.
- Delta SkyMiles® Gold Business American Express Card: Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases on your new card in your first three months of card membership.
- Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card: Earn 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases on your new card in your first three months of card membership.
- Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card: Earn 70,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases on your new card in your first three months of card membership.
You can also transfer American Express Membership Rewards points to Delta SkyMiles, but we only recommend doing this when you’re ready to book a high-value Delta award ticket.
Shop online through SkyMiles Shopping
You should always try to utilize an online shopping portal whenever you buy items online. Sites like Rakuten allow you to earn cash back on these purchases, but you could earn bonus SkyMiles by clicking through Delta’s shopping portal before shopping online with hundreds of retailers.
For example, you can earn 3 SkyMiles per dollar spent at Adidas. As such, you could earn 300 SkyMiles on a $100 pair of shoes.
Dine out with SkyMiles Dining
Another easy way to earn Delta miles is by leveraging the SkyMiles Dining program. All you need to do is sign up and link your preferred card(s) to the dining rewards program. Whenever you swipe an enrolled card to pay at a participating restaurant or bar, you’ll automatically earn extra miles on top of the regular earnings you’d enjoy on your card.
We recommend enrolling and using one of the best credit cards for dining to maximize the rewards you earn.
When you only have a small balance of hard-earned airline miles, finding suitable ways to utilize them can be challenging.
The suggestions in this post represent a few options for making the most of a small balance of Delta SkyMiles. Our favorite redemption option for small balances is inexpensive domestic Delta flights, as this option is likely to provide the best value. But it’s important to remember that Delta SkyMiles never expire, so there’s no need to rush into redeeming them.