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Delta’s Pay With Miles Program: Really, Really Good News

Delta and American Express just announced their Pay with Miles program, and it’s actually quite good (assuming you have a Gold or Platinum American Express SkyMiles credit card*). In short: You can pay with flights using miles, with 10,000 miles knocking $100 off the flight’s cost. This isn’t great for business class tickets, but it can come in handy for coach tickets. There are plenty of times where, say a ticket to a European city would cost $500-600, but a reward seat isn’t available (on Delta, this would be most of the time). So you would just use 50,000 miles to “buy” the ticket. Voila, free seat.

This deal seems to make the most sense for tickets to Europe where their value (about $500-$600, at least in the non-summer months) is roughly in line with their miles cost (50-60,000 miles). This would also be good for an Asia flight with no reward seats – you’d pay in the $800/80k miles range, but you get the benefit of availability, which is priceless.

* (I had originally posted this information correctly.  This is now corrected)

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  1. The text of the announcement includes this:

    “American Express and Delta today launched Pay with Miles, an exclusive new built-in benefit for American Express Gold and Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Cardmembers.”

    and this:

    “We are delighted to partner with Delta to offer this new SkyMiles program feature exclusively to our premium American Express Delta SkyMiles Cardmembers”

    I read that as the benefit is only available to holders of a Gold or Platinum Delta SkyMiles CC, not holders of “an Amex gold card or a Platinum SkyMiles credit card”, which is what you posted.

    Can you confirm or clarify?

    Thanks!

  2. Ah ha — you are correct. I read it as American Express Gold members get and Delta Platinum get it — I’ll change in the original post. Thanks much…

  3. It’s better to use 50,000 Skymiles to ‘pay’ for a $500 ticket to Europe than redeem those 50,000 Skymiles for that same ticket to Europe… because you don’t face the same availability constraints (assuming price is given/constant).

    But the real point is that you shouldn’t be redeeming 50,000 miles for a flight that costs $500 anyway!

    Are your miles really only worth 1 cent apiece? And if so, why are you using a Delta co-branded credit card instead of a cash back card?

  4. Gary – I hear what you’re saying about valuing the miles – but sometimes you just don’t want to spend $500. Sure, the 100k business class reward that gets you a $5,000 ticket is a better value. But I can suck up the coach class ticket for a 7 hour flight (thanks, Ambien!) and then I get two tickets to Europe for the same 100,000 miles.

    And if you’ve got half a million miles, then it feels like you’re getting a ticket for free and you won’t even notice the miles missing.

    I’m all about the value, but sometimes it’s hard to beat free.

  5. “(I had originally posted this information correctly. This is now corrected)”

    actually it was originally incorrect, now correct.

  6. But if you’re willing to take $500 in value for 50,000 miles, you shouldn’t be accruing those 50k miles through spend on the Delta Amex in the first place. You’ve chosen to accept what amounts to a 1% cash rebate card with the restriction that the rebate can only be spent on travel with Delta. Why not go for a richer rebate card without such a restriction?

    (Yes I know the Delta Amex often has spending bonuses and comes with some built in, but the better cashback cards do as well.)

  7. I know that the 1% option isn’t a great one, but sometimes it beats paying for the ticket. Taking the miles on Delta instead of a cashback card gives you the flexibility of using the miles for the high-value business class rewards. But there are certainly times when those aren’t available (even on partners), and there are people who have 60,000 miles for whom using those miles on a $600 ticket is better than paying the $600.

    I guess my larger point is that while on its face the $.01 per mile value isn’t great; but when added to the stable of other redemption options, it’s better than NOT having the option to use miles to pay for the ticket (even at $.01).

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