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Are Discounted Delta Miles a Deal?

Are Discounted Delta Miles a Deal?

Unfortunately for any airline that sells its own miles directly to consumers—and most do, because it’s a hugely profitable side business—US Airways has set the value bar prohibitively high with its recurring 100 percent bonuses.

Taking advantage of the US Airways offer effectively cuts the cost of purchased miles in half, making them a good buy, even a great buy if they’re redeemed for pricey business-class international flights.

By contrast, other airlines’ bonuses for purchased miles, which generally hover in the 25 percent range, improve the value proposition only modestly.

This offer from Delta is a significant improvement over the average miles-for-sale promotion but still falls well short of US Airways’.

Offer Details

Through March 31, Delta SkyMiles members will receive a 50% bonus when purchasing miles for their own accounts or as gifts for other members.

The normal price of Delta miles is 2.8 cents each, plus 7.5 percent excise tax, with a 60,000-mile annual maximum per account. Including the bonus, the per-mile price is reduced to 1.9 cents, plus tax.

Worth noting, if you’re thinking of establishing a new SkyMiles account just to take advantage of this offer: "Buy and Gift Miles may only be received into SkyMiles accounts that have been established for at least 10 days and have earned at least one mile since enrolling in the SkyMiles program."

Deal or No Deal

For perspective, purchasing the 25,000 miles required for a round-trip domestic coach ticket (hypothetically, since sales are only in 2,000-mile increments) at 1.9 cents each amounts to $475, plus $35.63 in excise tax, for a total of $510.63. With the average cost of a domestic coach ticket—and one that’s unencumbered by an award ticket’s capacity controls—currently at around $350, it’s hard to justify paying that much for miles.

Put another way, since US Airways’ latest 100 percent bonus for purchased miles is also in effect through March 31, is there any reason to pay a premium to purchase Delta miles over US Airways miles, given that both may be redeemed for flights on multiple airline partners, to most corners of the world?

On the other hand, if you’re already committed to the SkyMiles program, and just need a few thousand extra miles to top off your account, paying 1.9 cents certainly beats paying 2.8 cents a mile.

Reader Reality Check

Delta is selling. Are you buying?

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  • kevin

    delta skymiles are like a bad watered-down mexican drink. they are bonus’ing the miles and increasing the levels for the seats. delta miles are only worth .01. i’ve stopped moving my reward miles amex to delta.

  • Mark

    Delta miles have become worthless between value and the inability to redeem them. Switching airlines despite being a gold level member.

  • Sue

    I agree. I purchased a vacation package and used the “pay with Miles” Amex offer. I got $400 off the price by using 40,000 miles. Do the math.
    They are giving me a penny per mile but expecting me to buy miles for more than twice the amount they are worth! Some “deal!”

  • theSuperStar

    Wait for the 100% bonus.

  • nick

    I booked an award pgks for for my family of 4 and was going to have to purchase the mileage diference. As described above it was essentially almost $100 savings to purchase the coach ticket than the miles. CRAZY!

  • larry

    Don’t most folks who travel a lot now call SkyMiles Sky Pesos?

  • Ken

    I agree with Kevin with his decision to stop moving his amex reward miles to Delta. In addition Delta has serious public relations/customer service issues beginning with flight attendants and curbside check-in attendants openly critical of Delta in favor of their previous employer NWA who if it was not for Delta buying NWA they would be looking for jobs. As a Platinum member the cabin service has become so progressively poor that I am seriously considering switching my allegiance to Southwest since I can now fly them out of MSP