Delta SkyMiles: Everything you need to know

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The first time I earned status with Delta Air Lines was in 2013. I had recently started a job as a traveling project manager, and I couldn’t wait until I got upgraded from basic economy—where my six-foot-three-inch frame literally didn’t fit—to first class, where I assumed they nibbled on shrimp cocktail, popped champagne and played with Goldendoodle puppies until landing. 

But I soon discovered a hysterical irony. Virtually everyone else in my 8,000-person company must have earned elite Delta status around the same time as me, and since we all flew out of the same tiny airport on Monday mornings, I was probably No. 7,991 on the upgrade list every time. 

Thankfully, Silver Medallion status had tons more to offer than the occasional lucky upgrade to Goldendoodle class—and it still does more than a decade later. You’ll get priority check-in, free Preferred Seats and a shocking perk potentially worth up to $630 round trip. That’s not to mention the handy SkyMiles you’ll earn along the way, which you can redeem for flights, hotels and more to subsidize your next trip. 

Still, there are a few key caveats to the program that you’ll want to keep in mind before you book your next flight. So let’s examine the pros, the cons and the fine print as we discuss everything you need to know about Delta SkyMiles in 2024. 

What is Delta SkyMiles?

Delta SkyMiles is Delta Air Lines’ official loyalty rewards program. 

Here’s how it works in a nutshell: Once you create a free SkyMiles account and start spending money with Delta, you’ll begin to earn two types of points. Those are as follows:

  • Delta SkyMiles, redeemable for flights, upgrades, hotels and more. 
  • Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQDs), which count towards your next status level with Delta. The higher the status, the more perks and goodies you’ll unlock (e.g. free checked bags at Silver Medallion, priority first class upgrades at Diamond Medallion).

Delta SkyMiles competes with rival airline loyalty programs, such as United MileagePlus and Southwest Rapid Rewards. We’ll see how it stacks up to its competitors—and which one deserves your loyalty—in a later section. 

For now, let’s cover the main pros and cons of the program before diving into the details.

Delta SkyMiles: Pros and cons in 2024


  • The very first status tier—Silver Medallion—unlocks free upgrades, priority-check-in, and a free first checked bag for you and up to eight travel companions. 
  • You can earn SkyMiles with up to 25 different airline partners. 
  • Delta SkyMiles American Express cards offer an extra way to elevate your earnings rate, and one of them charges no annual fee. 
  • Delta consistently ranks high for customer service.


  • To reach Silver Medallion status you’ll need to spend $5,000 in base fare alone (meaning a likely cost of $5,500 or even more in total fares once you factor in taxes and fees), which is no small number. 
  • Basic economy tickets don’t generate SkyMiles or count toward Medallion status. 
  • You can only earn elevated status through spending. Flying enough segments isn’t an option like it is with United MileagePlus and Southwest Rapid Rewards. 
  • None of the Delta-branded credit cards award instant status.

Delta “SkyMiles” explained

As mentioned earlier, there are two types of currencies you’ll earn through Delta’s loyalty program—SkyMiles and Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQDs). 

Let’s talk about SkyMiles first.

SkyMiles are essentially the “rewards points” of the program. You can earn these miles by booking Delta flights, using your Delta Amex card if you have one, and in a few other ways, and you can redeem your miles for future Delta flights, hotel stays, vacations, and more. 

Delta SkyMiles never expire as long as your SkyMiles account remains open, so even if you’re the least-frequent flyer ever, it’s still worth opening an account and saving up SkyMiles for a trip in the distant future.

How to earn Delta SkyMiles

Delta gives you four official ways to generate SkyMiles: 

  • Fly with Delta – Book a flight directly with Delta or one of its partner airlines and you’ll generate rewards at the following rates.
    • 5X per dollar as a Base Member.
    • 7X per dollar at Silver Medallion.
    • 8X per dollar at Gold Medallion.
    • 9X per dollar at Platinum Medallion.
    • 11X per dollar at Diamond Medallion.
  • Fly with airline partners – Flights with one of Delta’s 20+ trusted airline partners also generate SkyMiles, though the rate will vary by partner (see a complete list of Delta’s partners further down in this guide). 
  • Use a Delta American Express card – At the time of this writing, Amex is the only issuer that offers Delta-branded credit cards, but you still have four personal cards to choose from—ranging from the no-annual-fee Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card to the perk-rich, lounge-entering machine that is the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card. For more options, see our full guide on the best Delta rewards cards. There are also three Delta business cards.
  • Spend with retail partners – You can also earn SkyMiles by making purchases at Starbucks, riding with Lyft, and booking rental cars with Avis, Enterprise and Hertz. 

There’s also a fifth, “secret” way to earn a few extra SkyMiles: Delta’s Bag-on-Time Guarantee. If your bag doesn’t arrive at baggage claim within 20 minutes of landing on a domestic flight, you can fill out this form and Delta should deposit 2,500 SkyMiles into your account. 

But by and large, you’ll probably be earning the bulk of your SkyMiles by booking Delta flights with whichever Delta Amex card you decide is best for your wallet. It’s worth noting that these cards come with solid welcome bonuses as well, ranging from 10,000 SkyMiles to 60,000 SkyMiles at the time of writing (after meeting the respective spending requirements).

To view rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card, see this page.

To view rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card, see this page.

Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card

See Rates and Fees

Intro Bonus

Earn 60,000 Bonus Miles after you spend $5,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership

Annual fee $650
Regular APR 20.99%–29.99% variable

But regardless of whether you earn SkyMiles through credit card use, Lyft rides or $8 frappés, you might have a small fortune in miles stashed sooner than you think. 

Once you do, how should you spend it?

How to use Delta SkyMiles

Delta offers a litany of ways to redeem SkyMiles that go well beyond just booking your next flight. In total, you can exchange your SkyMiles for any of the following: 

  • Award flights Redeem SkyMiles for an award ticket and you’ll often be able to achieve a redemption rate of around 1 to 1.2 cents apiece. You can also combine Miles + Cash to cover your fare. 
  • Seat upgrades – Why wedge yourself into basic economy when you can trade SkyMiles for more legroom? 
  • Checked bags – You can also redeem SkyMiles to cover your $35 checked bag fee, although holders of the Delta SkyMiles Gold, Platinum and Reserve cards get their first checked bag for free. 
  • Delta Stays – Thanks to a partnership with Expedia, you can now book hotel stays through using SkyMiles. 
  • Delta Vacations – In a similar vein, you can also book all-in-one vacation packages through Delta, such as a sun-kissed retreat to Puerto Rico. 
  • Buy, gift, transfer or donate – If you’re feeling generous, you can always give the gift of SkyMiles to a friend or family member or donate them to various charities through SkyWish. 
  • SkyMiles Experiences – Finally, you can use SkyMiles to bid on things like trackside seats to a NASCAR event, a private dining experience with a celebrity chef and more.
Screenshot of the site where Delta SkyMiles members can use their miles to bid on experiences.

While that’s definitely a solid menu of redemption options, just be mindful that cash back isn’t one of them. If you’re looking for a credit card that can help you maximize travel rewards—while also giving you the option to cash your points out in a pinch—the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card may be a better card for your needs than a Delta Amex.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Intro bonus

60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening

Annual fee $95
Regular APR 21.49%–28.49% variable


Another thing to be wary of is that SkyMiles can’t be transferred to another loyalty rewards program. In other words, you can’t convert 1,000 SkyMiles to 1,000 World of Hyatt points to squeak a little extra value out of them when what you really need is a hotel stay rather than an award flight.

To be fair to Delta, that’s pretty typical for an airline or hotel loyalty rewards program. But we wanted to point it out nonetheless before you try converting your Delta SkyMiles to Marriott Bonvoy points to cover a night at the Ritz.

Also, if you get deep into optimizing your travel rewards strategy, know that American Express Membership Rewards are pretty much the only flexible credit card points that transfer to Delta SkyMiles. But there’s something of a workaround if your credit card lets you transfer points to an airline that partners with Delta—for example, both Chase Ultimate Rewards and Capital One Miles transfer to Virgin Atlantic, where you may be able to book partner space on a Delta flight.

How much are Delta miles worth? 

As indicated above, Delta SkyMiles are generally worth around 1 to 1.2 cents apiece when redeemed for Delta flights, Delta purchases (e.g. upgrades/bag fees) or flights with partner airlines, as long as you exercise some savviness about the redemptions you select.

As for hotels, vacation packages and NASCAR tickets, well, redemption values vary. As a rule of thumb, if you’re not getting at least 1.1 cents out of your SkyMiles with one of these options, you should probably just pay cash and save your SkyMiles for your next flight or upgrade. 

Now that we’ve covered how SkyMiles work, let’s talk about status.

Delta Medallion status explained

Medallion status is what Delta calls its elite status tier system.

To earn higher (shinier?) Medallion status, you’ll need to collect enough Medallion-Qualifying Dollars, or MQDs. These are totally separate from SkyMiles, although you’ll often be earning both at the same time. 

MQDs are a bit harder to earn than regular SkyMiles, but many would say it’s worth the effort to rack them up since having Medallion status can massively augment your flight experience. 

Here’s how achieving Delta Medallion status works and what it offers you.

How to earn Delta Medallion status

You’ll earn higher Delta status by accumulating a certain number of MQDs in a calendar year. Once you reach a new status threshold (e.g. Silver Medallion status at $5,000 MQDs), you’ll be upgraded to that status within a few days and will maintain it until the end of the next year. 

As an example, if you reached Silver Medallion on Sept. 9, 2024, you’d have it for the rest of 2024 and all of 2025 combined (technically until Jan. 31, 2026). 

Delta gives you four main ways to earn MQDs: 

  • Booking flights – Earn $1 MQD for every dollar spent on the base fare price with Delta or one of its partner airlines, not including basic economy tickets (womp womp). 
  • MQD Headstart – Holders of select Delta Amex cards (Delta SkyMiles Platinum, Platinum Business, Reserve and Reserve Business) will get an “MQD Headstart” of $2,500 MQDs per card, so you only have $2,500 more to go to reach Silver Medallion. 
  • MQD Boost – Holders of the Delta SkyMiles Platinum or Platinum Business cards also get $1 MQD for every $20 spent in eligible purchases. Holders of the SkyMiles Reserve or Reserve Business cards get $1 MQD for every $10 spent. 
  • Delta Vacations – Finally, you’ll earn $1 MQD for every dollar spent on vacation packages when using Delta Vacations to book.

Most of the time you’ll probably just be earning your MQDs by booking main cabin fights or above with Delta or one of its partners. That means you’d have to spend $5,000 (not including taxes or fees) to reach the first status tier, Silver. 

That’s quite a lot of Delta spending to do in a year, especially if you’re a fan of basic economy fares or you aren’t particularly loyal to Delta. (And, if that’s the case, you might find a different choice on our list of best airline cards a better fit than a Delta-branded card.) 

But if you think you can manage it, is earning Delta status really worth it? Let’s dive in.

Delta Medallion status tiers explained

Delta has four Medallion tiers in total: Silver, Gold, Platinum and Diamond. 

Even at the Silver Medallion level, the list of benefits is crazy long. We’ll summarize the highlights below, but for a peek at the whole chart, click here. 

  • Silver Medallion – $5,000 MQDs
    • 7X SkyMiles on Delta purchases.
    • First checked bag free for you and up to eight companions each way.
    • Complimentary Preferred Seats.
    • Unlimited first class and Delta Comfort+ upgrades within 24 hours of departure.
    • Unlimited U.S. 50 Delta One upgrades on the day of departure.
    • Priority check-in.
    • Priority boarding.
    • Five Star Status with Hertz Gold Plus Rewards plus 5X on Hertz rentals booked through Delta.
  • Gold Medallion – $10,000 MQDs
    • 8X SkyMiles on Delta purchases.
    • Sky Priority suite of services (e.g. priority security line access, expedited baggage service).
    • Unlimited first class and Delta Comfort+ upgrades within 72 hours of departure.
  • Platinum Medallion – $15,000 MQDs
    • 9X SkyMiles on Delta purchases.
    • 1 Choice Benefit selection (from a list of options including a $400 Amex statement credit on eligible cards, four Regional Upgrade Certificates, and more).
    • Unlimited first class upgrades within 120 hours of departure.
    • Unlimited Delta Comfort+ upgrades shortly after ticketing.
    • Unlimited U.S. 50 Delta One upgrades on the day of departure.
  • Diamond Medallion – $28,000 MQDs
    • 11X SkyMiles on Delta purchases.
    • 1 additional Choice Benefit selection (from a list with more options than Platinum status, including four Global Upgrade Certificates, eight Regional Upgrade Certificates, a $700 Amex statement credit on eligible cards, and more).
    • Complimentary CLEAR Plus membership.
    • Highest priority boarding of Medallion members.
    • VIP phone line.
    • SkyTeam Elite Plus status including lounge access around the world.

If you were hoping Diamond Medallion status would unlock the most legendary Delta perk of all time—a plane-to-plane transfer in a Porsche supercar—you should know that it’s not an officially listed perk. 

That said, we’ve read numerous reports online of Diamond Medallion members being whisked away in a Porsche GT3 RS when they weren’t expecting it. There’s also a tantalizing rumor that you can call a secret Delta VIP hotline to schedule a Porsche transfer in advance—but we’ll haven’t confirmed that, and will have to let you investigate the rumor from there. 

If you’re currently a vanilla SkyMiles Member, though, you’re probably more focused on the merits of Silver Medallion status for now. Provided you’ll already be flying Delta a fair amount this year, is it worth taking an extra trip or two to reach higher status?

Is it worth the effort to attain Delta SkyMiles status? 

Delta gives you a boatload of perks at Silver Medallion status—but in return, it asks you to show a lot of loyalty to get there. 

We say that because in order to reach $5,000 MQDs, you have to spend a total of $5,000 USD on base fares only with Delta and its partners. When you add taxes and fees, you’re really spending in the vicinity of $5,500 or even more to reach $5,000 MQD. 

If we do the math and average that out over the course of a year, that’s approaching $500 per month on flights, which most folks may not spend. 

That said, if you’re within shouting distance of Silver Medallion, it might be worth taking an extra end-of-the-year flight just to cross the finish line. Because if you do, you’ll earn a whole calendar year of free checked bags, upgrades, priority check-in and more for you and your travel companion.

Even if you only check a bag once a month, the free checked bag perk alone could potentially save you a notable chunk of money—the math being $35 x 12 = $420—over the course of the following year. Double that number if your companion checks a bag, too. 

So yes, earning Silver Medallion status is definitely worth it in our opinion, if you’re close. If you’re several grand in spending away from it, you can probably let it go. But if you’re just a flight or two away from reaching $5,000 MQD, go ahead and book a cheap flight to see an old friend and enjoy your elevated perks on the way home

And if Delta doesn’t service your friend’s city, keep in mind that Delta has 25 partner airlines you can earn SkyMiles with (and is a prominent member of the SkyTeam alliance). The complete list is below.

Delta SkyMiles partner airlines

Before we conclude our chat about Delta SkyMiles, here’s a complete list of the program’s 25 partner airlines. For detailed instructions on how to earn SkyMiles with these airlines—and your earning potential—check out Delta’s official SkyMiles partner page here.

  • Aerolíneas Argentinas
  • Aeromexico
  • Air Baltic
  • AirEuropa
  • Air France
  • Cape Air
  • China Airlines
  • China Eastern
  • China Southern Airlines
  • Czech Airlines
  • EL AL Matmid
  • Garuda Indonesia
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • ITA Airways
  • Kenya Airways
  • KLM
  • Korean Air
  • LATAM Airlines
  • Middle East Airlines
  • Saudia
  • Tarom
  • Vietnam Airlines
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • WestJet
  • Xiamen

How Delta SkyMiles compares to other airline programs

To wrap things up, let’s see how Delta SkyMiles compares to Southwest Rapid Rewards, and of course, Delta’s arch rival United MileagePlus. 

Right off the bat, the greatest competitive drawback to Delta SkyMiles is that it doesn’t care how many flight segments you take when it comes to calculating status. For comparison, you can reach United MileagePlus Premier Silver status by accumulating 5,000 points or 4,000 points plus 12 segments. Southwest is even more flexible, allowing you to reach A-List status through 35,000 points or 20 segments, and you don’t need a combo of both. 

So if you tend to take tons of cheap, short flights, either of those alternative programs will probably reward you with status much faster. 

Delta SkyMiles also falls a little behind United in terms of airline partners and credit cards. United has over 35 partners compared to Delta’s 25—and while both carriers have four compelling credit cards aimed at consumers to help you generate points, the welcome bonuses are more generous with the United cards as of this writing (check out our list of best United cards to see what we mean). 

That all said, Delta definitely has a trump card hidden in the fine print. Once you reach Silver Medallion status, you’ll get free checked bags for you and up to eight travel companions, which would’ve saved the massive family from Home Alone a whopping $630 round trip. Definitely something to keep in mind if you frequently travel with others, and none of you packs particularly light. 

But, all things considered, Delta SkyMiles is a rock-solid loyalty rewards program. As long as you’re aware of the main caveats going in—such as earning no miles with basic economy and facing a long, expensive trek to Silver—you’re in for some excellent perks and hefty bonuses

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