Disclosure: I do not receive a commission from these cards.
The American Express Delta cards are currently offering a higher bonus of 50,000 award miles which is quite a bit better than the standard 30,000 mile offer. This offer runs through September 8th, so you still have time! I have been getting quite a few e-mails about whether these cards are worth it and what they can do with the miles. Here is a nice benefit of the Delta American Express cards that can place an actual value amount on those miles.
A Nice Benefit of the Delta American Express Cards
There is no mistaking that Delta Skymiles are some of the most frustrating award currency around. The award calendar is just terrible to use and requires a fair amount of patience, availability can be scarce, and reservation agents can be difficult to work with as they will not see existing availability either.
Of course, there are many techniques that can be used, like building the fare segment by segment and using partner airlines instead, but for many travelers, those things are too much of a bother to do. Many travelers want to take their miles and use the calendar to book their trip. The inability of Delta to deliver on that expectation consistently is probably what leads to the current conundrum – these Delta offers are really good, but what does one do with them that fits within their travel desires?
Pay with Miles
Fortunately, there is a nice benefit that comes with these cards. It is not the best use of Delta Skymiles as it fixes the redemption value at only 1 cent per mile, but that valuation still works out to make these offers worth $500 at the minimum. This benefit is called Pay with Miles and is only offered to Delta Amex cardholders.
How It Works
How it works is it lets you drop the price of a ticket in $50 increments (after the first $100) by applying miles towards the purchase at a value of 1 cent per mile. So, a $100 ticket would take 10,000 miles. If a ticket cost $450, you could use 45,000 miles to wipe out the total cost or a mixture of miles and cash, such as 30,000 miles to deduct the ticket cost by $300 and pay the additional $150 out of pocket.
The Pay with Miles feature only works on Delta flights and they will be marked as Pay with Miles eligible. There is no blackout as it acts as a revenue option (not an award ticket) and can be used against any fare class. It can also be used for First/Business class tickets and that has the added benefit of allowing you to earn miles from the flight (more on that below).
Important Points to Know
If you do decide to use the Pay with Miles feature, know that you will not receive any mileage credit for this trip – whether elite miles or award miles. That is true whether you only use 10,000 miles for a ticket or pay for the whole thing with miles. The exception is if you use the Pay with Miles to buy First/Business class seats. Those tickets will earn full mileage.
You can also choose to upgrade with miles by using Pay with Miles to pay the difference between the economy cost and the First/Business class cost. Should you do that, you will receive full mileage credit as well.
Pay with Miles itineraries are eligible for upgrades for Diamond, Platinum, and Gold medallion members but their upgrade priority will be at the bottom of the list within their status.
If you cancel a Pay with Miles ticket, the miles do not get refunded to your account but are rather issued to you as a ecertificate (minus the change fee). Should you have to cancel, it will be disappointing to lose a decent chunk because of the change fee but you will be able to earn miles on the itinerary you use the ecertificate for (unlike the miles they originally were).
If a ticket costs less than $100, you will not want to use Pay with Miles as you will be charged 25,000 miles to pay for that ticket. The same is true for any ticket up to $250 and not at a 50 or 100 increment. It is also not a good deal to use miles to cover the complete cost of a ticket that is not exactly a hundred or fifty amount as the Pay with Miles price rounds up.
Situations To Use Pay with Miles
Is Pay with Miles the best use for Skymiles? Of course not! But, it is a great value if you are wondering if you should get one of the cards and you are not sure how you can use them. Sure, you could use 50,000 miles from the card + another 10,000 miles from spending for a ticket to Europe and that is a great deal! But, if that is not what your current travel will allow for or if you only have one goal – for instance, to get to Boston for the marathon – then it is not the best use for you.
The good thing about Pay with Miles is that it really shows its true value in the following situations:
- Ticket prices are high and award availability is scarce
- You need a one-way ticket (Delta currently prices one-way award tickets at the cost of a roundtrip award – that will change in 2015)
- The ticket cost is cheap and you do not care about earning miles – like I have used in the past when my family needed to fly down to NYC and it was $110 per person. Rather than pay over $500 for that short flight, we used 50,000 miles. Given that we had to go and were not in a position to pay the $500 for those tickets, that worked out best for us.
Again, while Pay with Miles is not the best value proposition for Delta Skymiles, it is nice to have yet another way to redeem our miles. Not only that, but it gives us a minimum value for our miles – 1 cent per mile. That means that the current Delta American Express card offers strong bonuses of $500 worth of award miles. Given that benefit of these cards, I would definitely apply for the cards to have that value for some trip in the future. Even if you do not have any plan for them now, it can be the perfect emergency fund or weekend trip account when the time arrives, thanks to Pay with Miles.