When Delta Says SkyMiles Are Low Value, You Should Believe Them

Kyle Potter of Thrifty Traveler is burying the lede here, by highlighting a ‘deal’ of 70,000 SkyMiles roundtrip in Delta economy between the U.S. and Japan: Delta is advertising a ‘deal’ between the U.S. and Japan for 121,000 miles roundtrip in coach. And Delta says you can find this special price if you book March 28 – April 5, 2023.

The ‘regular price’ of roundtrip domestic coach awards used to be 25,000 miles. Delta now considers it a ‘discount’ to pay 26,000 points roundtrip for Minneapolis – Los Angeles, a price they say is available January 25 – 31, 2023. When Delta literally promotes how low value their miles are, you should believe them.

Airlines rarely advertise their best fares, exhibit 4,392:

Delta lists Minneapolis to Tokyo for 121K SkyMiles roundtrip on its list of “SkyMiles deals.”

We just sent @thriftytraveler Premium+ members an alert to book that route for 70K SkyMiles – and less from other cities. pic.twitter.com/7RDLdPkS8m

— Kyle Potter (@kpottermn) November 22, 2022

Delta’s President has literally said he doesn’t want members to use miles to fly for free and even envisions future low value redemptions like a haircut instead. Delta has literally taken a haircut to the value of your miles. They keep raising the price of award tickets and don’t seem to be able to stop themselves.

The airline believes they’re better than competitors, and people will fly them even without providing reasonable redemption opportunities. Every other airline suffers from lower co-brand card spend when they devalue their points, but Delta does not seem to. They’ve had a strong airline operation in the past, and a stranglehold over their top markets.

They even make awards on their flights available to their partners who charge fewer miles than Delta offers those same seats to their customers for – by orders of magnitude.

There are only two rational reasons to put spending on a Delta credit card.

  • You’re being bribed with enough miles as part of an acquisition bonus, that it’s still worthwhile, and you need to spend to earn that bonus.
  • You’re flying Delta anyway (probably hub captive) and you’ll accept much lower redemption value for your miles in exchange for credit towards elite status.
  • For two decades I’ve pointed out that even if you wanted SkyMiles you’re better off getting an American Express card that earns Membership Rewards, since you can earn points faster, and then transferring those points to Delta (plus having the option value of transferring them elsewhere). You’re much better off, of course, transferring those miles to most programs other than Delta.

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