|by Jason Steele|
Delta briefly offered a great promotion last year. They promised their SkyMiles program members a 150% bonus on top of most partner mileage earned or transfered from mid-November through the end of the year. Soon after they offered the promotion, they withdrew it, claiming (quite unbelievebly) that they actually never meant to offer it in the first place. After withdrawing the offer, they then promised their customers that they would abide by their offer for all those who registered for it before the offer was withdrawn.
Delta Makes Good
Thankfully, Delta has finally made good on the offer. I just noticed that as of February 14th (Valentines Day no less) Delta showed me and other frequent fliers the love and granted us the miles promised. What does that mean for me? My wife and I actually obtained several Delta Amexs for the bonus miles, and redeemed tens of thousands of Starwood Starpoints for SkyMiles. Three months ago, I had zero miles in my Delta account, and my wife didn’t even have one. Today, we have over 260,000 and 70,000 miles respectively. Wow, that sounds like a lot of miles.
Now For The Bad News
We had been hoping for 3 tickets to Israel next winter. As everyone knows, winter is not exactly the peak season for visiting there, and it is usually the time to find the best discounts and available frequent flier tickets. Not according to Delta. Delta now has a three tiered system. Reward tickets to the Middle east in the “low” tier are merely 80,000 miles for coach and 120,000 for Business. Fantastic! We are very flexible with our dates, and are booking way in advance, so this should work out fine. We should have almost enough for 3 business class tickets (360,000 SkyMiles), or at the very least, one business class ticket and two coach (280,000 Skymiles), right?
SkyMiles! Now Worthless!
Guess what? It turns out that the “low’ tier doesn’t exist in any real, practical sense. That is to say there are no “low” awards to Israel available to be booked in either coach or business class, on any flights next December or January. Their “mid” tier shows plenty of availability however. How much is the “mid” tier? You are looking at 190,000 for coach and 230,000 miles for business. At those prices, SkyMiles are worth less than a penny in coach, as Delta has regular fares on that route at $1,300 for coach. In fact, I am better off doing the “pay with miles” option, as SkyMiles have a fixed one cent per mile value off of a coach ticket. So Delta Miles are now worth 1 cent per mile for coach tickets, and only 1.7 cents per mile in business class. This is the worst value in the industry that I am aware of.
How Did The Big Promo Work For Me?
I got all of my SkyMiles from three sources; Amex sign up bonuses, StarPoint transfers, and a few, small miscelaneous promotions. For the Amex signup bonuses, the value proposition is clear. We paid no annual fees and received 50,000 SkyMiles. Of them, 30,000 were normal miles, and 20,000 were base miles. The 30,000 miles were multiplied by 2.5 to account for our 150% bonus. Therefore, we received 95,000 Delta SkyMiles for our credit card applications, worth about $950.
From our Starpoints, we transferred several blocks of 20,000 Starpoints for 25,000 SkyMiles. Multiplied by 2.5, that gave us 62,500 SkyMiles per 20,000 Starpoints, or 3.125 to one. Even with this promotion, this is merely a decent, but not exceptional use of my Starpoints. When used for coach, this translates directly into 3.125 cents per dollar spent on my Starwood Amex. I can occasionally get 4 cents per mile in value from a hotel redemtion, but three is not bad. When used in business class, I am getting something closer to 5 cents per mile. In short, I will be averaging an acceptable returns of 4 cents per dollar spent on my Starwood Amex, but certainly nothing as grand as one might hope if I were to find the non-existent “low” tier rewards on Delta.
Frankly, it isn’t all that bad for me. I wouldn’t really need to use my Starpoints for a week or two at a luxury hotel, as I just don’t have the time. It is just unfortunate to realize that hundreds of thousands of Delta SkyMiles really isn’t worth that much anymore. Certainly a Delta Skymiles card is hardly worth the effort, now that you know that your reward will never be worth more than one or two cents per dolllar spent.
You have been warned.