Finessing Your SkyMiles


Back in the day when Delta offered it’s Big Promo, (by mistake if you are to take them at their word), I went from zero to several hundred thousand SkyMiles in a few weeks without ever setting foot on an airplane. What seemed like a big windfall, was less so as Delta offered very few international flights to my destination at it’s “low” level. At the “mid” level, the SkyMile was worth about 1.7 cents each for their business class, and a mere penny in economy. Given these valuations for me, I am taking a look at Delta’s latest “transfer miles” promotion.

How Does It Work?

Delta had an earlier promotion that expired, but they have since revived it. Between now and May 31st, you can transfer Delta SkyMiles between one account and another for a fee. Here is the link. The fee is $30 plus one cent per mile. Therefore, transferring 30,000 SkyMiles will cost $330, and will result in the recipient getting 60,000 miles.

Is It Worth It?

At first glance, not for most people. You are essentially making a net gain of 30,000 miles for $330, a cost of 1.1 cents per mile. For coach flights, I would say this is hardly worth it. You may, if you are lucky find a little bit of value above 1.1 cents on a coach or an international business class ticket, if you can snag the illusive “low” category award. These awards are often on red-eyes or other undersold flights. For those who use SkyMiles exclusively for fussiness class awards, there may be some value here. If you can get 2 cents a mile or more in value out of it, you can essentially swap miles with another participant. Use your Delta Amex, and you can get a few more miles out of the transfer fee itself.

I have also found another case where you can save some real money. Let’s say that you have a friend or relative who has some orphaned miles that they don’t want or can’t use. If they are willing to part with them, then you can do very well. If you value their “orphan” miles at zero, in the case of the hypothetical 30,000 SkyMile transfer, you would get 60,000 miles for $330. That is a cost per mile of just over one half a cent per mile. In real terms, that 60,000 miles could be applied to any ticket using the “pay with miles” option at 1 cent per mile. So you would save $600 on the ticket, for a net savings of $270, just for being a savvy traveler. You could also make life simpler and just apply those orphan miles directly to a ticket. This trick works best when you are combining miles to create an even bigger credit for a single ticket.

Holding The Delta Reserve Card In Reserve

Mr. Credit Card was right on the money with his recent review of the Delta Reserve Card. He concludes by saying that “I highly recommend this card to the true Delta frequent flier.” There is one exception that I can think of. I know people who are currently Platinum Medallion members who are holding out on getting the Reserve card. The way they see it, they can only get the 10,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles bonus once, and they are only planning on getting the card if their travel causes them to fall just short in a particular year. It is eminently rational behavior if your travel patterns vary from year to year. There is no point in wasting the bonus MQMs if you are assured to make Platinum. As they tell it, once you make Platinum Medallion, it is really hard to go back.

For these people, they will look at their statement some time in November and check to see if their travel plans have them reaching their desired level. If they are falling short, they may make an extra trip before the end of the year, possibly even a mileage run. If they are very short of their goal, they will always be able to just apply for the Reserve Card, and be assured of reaching that covetted pateau in Deltadom.

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