Delta is one of the United States’ largest airlines and operates several thousand flights each day across the country. Delta SkyMiles is the airline’s frequent flyer program, which gives loyal customers a chance to earn rewards that can be redeemed for free or discounted flights, upgraded seating and more.

You’ll need a Delta Airlines co-branded card to earn Delta SkyMiles. These cards also come with generous welcome offers and Delta-specific perks you won’t find anywhere else like in-flight discounts and the chance to reach elite status quickly. But there are also a few general-purpose travel rewards cards that offer more flexibility and let you transfer your points to Delta’s loyalty program. Depending on how you redeem your rewards, Delta SkyMiles can be among the most valuable domestic airline miles available.

Keep reading to learn more about Delta SkyMiles, how to get the most value out of them and how to choose the right Delta card for you.

Delta SkyMiles’ value

Delta SkyMiles are worth 1.3 cents each according to Bankrate’s latest points and miles valuations. Southwest Rapid Rewards and JetBlue TrueBlue are the only domestic airline membership programs with higher valuations, coming in at 1.5 cents per mile and 1.4 cents per mile, respectively.

The value of your Delta SkyMiles will vary based on how you redeem them. You can use them to completely cover the cost of a flight (not including the fees and taxes), to cover part of a flight for a discount or for seat and class upgrades. However, the best value for your miles will be for discounted or free flights. These options will also give you the chance to weigh flights against one another to determine the best value possible.

Calculating the value of SkyMiles

Like most airlines, Delta uses a dynamic pricing model, so prices can fluctuate based on a number of factors including travel date, destination and fare class. To make sure you’re getting the best value, you’ll have to calculate the value of your SkyMiles at the time of booking. To do this, divide the cost of your airfare by the number of required miles.

Your SkyMiles value = Airfare cost in dollars (without fees) divided by the number of miles required

For example, if a flight from Boston to Miami costs $99 or 7,500 SkyMiles, your SkyMiles are worth 1.3 cents ($99 / 7,500 = $0.013 or 1.3 cents).

How to choose the best card for Delta Airlines

The best travel card for Delta Airlines will be an American Express travel rewards card or a co-branded Delta Airlines card. Choosing the right one for you may come down to whether you prefer the flexibility of a general travel rewards card or the airline-specific perks offered with Delta airline credit cards.

General travel rewards cards

The best rewards cards for Delta SkyMiles are offered by American Express. This is because you can earn valuable American Express Membership Rewards points, which can be transferred to over a dozen airline and hotel partners, including Delta SkyMiles at a 1:1 rate.

Transferring your points to miles is one of the best ways to use Amex points. Not only do you get greater flexibility when booking travel, you also get the chance to redeem your Amex rewards for a greater value than you might get from Delta SkyMiles. With the right high-value transfer partner, we estimate Amex points are worth 2.1 cents on average — one of the highest redemption rates available.

Here’s a look at the three best American Express travel rewards cards.

American Express Green Card

The American Express® Green Card is a solid, all-around travel rewards card that earns 3X Membership Reward points for travel, restaurant purchases made worldwide and 1X Membership Reward points for all other purchases. It also comes with additional travel perks and protections that can help to offset its $150 annual fee.

This will be a great choice if you want to earn boosted points for flights you purchase through airlines or on – whether they’re with Delta or not. Or, if you dine out regularly, you’ll want this card to earn 3 Membership Rewards points for every dollar you spend at restaurants across the globe.

If you spend $3,850 annually between both of these categories, you’ll earn 11,550 Membership Rewards points that are transferable to Delta SkyMiles. From there, you can redeem your miles for flights with a value of roughly 1.3 cents each, making your 11,550 miles worth $150.15 in value — enough to offset the card’s annual fee.

American Express Gold Card

The American Express® Gold Card is a heavy-hitter for food and dining purchases, offering 4X Membership Rewards points at restaurants, Uber Eats purchases and at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 in purchases per year, then 1X points). It also awards 3X points on flights booked directly with airlines or via American Express Travel and 1X on all other purchases.

These boosted rates are generous enough to help offset the card’s $250 annual fee with modest spending, but the card’s additional perks, including $100 hotel credit, $120 Uber Cash and $120 dining credit, sweeten the pot. Like with the American Express Green Card and the Platinum Card, every Membership Rewards point you earn is transferable to Delta SkyMiles.

The Platinum Card from American Express

If you’re looking for a premium travel card loaded with top-of-the-line features, The Platinum Card® from American Express is a top contender.

Along with its nearly $1,709 value from perks alone, this card rewards cardholders with 5X Membership Rewards points for every dollar spent on directly booked airfare and all flights and hotels booked through Amex Travel (on up to $500,000 per year). It also rewards 2X points for prepaid car rentals through Amex Travel and 1X on all other purchases.

One of the major downsides to the card is its $695 annual fee. Plus, it’s not the best option if you’re looking to quickly earn bonus rewards in everyday spending categories like groceries, dining or gas. If you value flexibility but luxury perks aren’t your priority, you may prefer the Amex Green or Gold cards.

Airline branded cards

A Delta-branded airline card typically comes with lower annual fees compared to Amex travel cards and offers Delta-specific perks you won’t find with general travel rewards cards.

Although these are all American Express cards, instead of earning Membership Rewards points, they earn Delta SkyMiles. On top of the exclusive perks, this can be convenient for cardholders who value simplicity and don’t want the hassle of transferring points to miles. Here’s a look at Delta’s four co-branded airline cards for consumers.

The Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card

The Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card is a no-annual-fee introductory card. It offers 2X miles per dollar at restaurants around the world, takeout and delivery within the U.S. and for all Delta purchases. It also offers 1X miles for all other purchases.

Since it’s a starter card, it’s light on additional perks, but cardholders will enjoy a nice welcome offer and 20-percent in-flight purchase discount, applied as a statement credit, which includes purchases like food, beverages and audio headsets.

The Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card

The Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card falls in the middle of the Delta cards offered by Amex and comes with a $99 annual fee (waived the first year). Like the SkyMiles Blue card, it offers 2X miles on restaurant purchases, but also includes 2X miles at U.S. supermarkets. This can make it an ideal choice for home shoppers and foodies who want to support their travel spending with points earned from everyday purchases.

In addition to the benefits on the SkyMiles Blue card, you’ll also receive a $100 annual Delta flight credit after spending $10,000 in one year, Main Cabin 1 priority boarding and your first checked bag free on all Delta flights.

The Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

The Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card earns a decent 3X miles for Delta purchases and hotels. You’ll also earn 2X miles at restaurants, takeout and delivery in the U.S. and at U.S. supermarkets while earning 1X miles on all other purchases. For a $250 annual fee this card is in the same tier as the Amex Gold when it comes to cost, but the rewards rates fall a little short by comparison.

Along with all of the benefits available on the Gold and Blue SkyMiles cards, this card comes with additional perks that help offset its cost. These include a domestic companion ticket every year upon card renewal, an up-to $185 application fee credit for Global Entry and TSA PreCheck and the opportunity to access Delta Sky Club Lounges for $39 per person when traveling on a Delta flight.

The Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card

The Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card comes with a high $550 annual fee and doesn’t offer much in the way of rewards: You’ll only earn 3X miles on Delta purchases and 1X miles on general purchases. But that may not matter to frequent travelers looking for a list of luxury benefits that will make flying and time spent in an airport a much more cushy experience. This card includes complimentary lounge access and an annual companion certificate each year when you renew your card.

Along with all of the benefits available on other SkyMiles cards, Reserve cardholders will receive status boost and a Medallion Qualification Dollar (MQD) waiver to reach their next elite status, two perks that can make the next medallion status far more accessible.

But you’ll have to be a big spender to capitalize on these elite status perks. To earn the MQD waiver, you have to spend $25,000 or more in a calendar year. And it takes $30,000 or more of spending each year to earn the 15,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) needed for the status boost bonus, followed by $60,000, $90,000 and $120,000 of spending if you want to earn the bonus up to three more times.

Is a Delta SkyMiles card worth it?

If you like to fly with Delta Airlines and take several trips per year, a Delta-branded credit card can be a great choice. Compared to general-purpose travel cards, Delta SkyMiles cards carry a lower annual fee and offer Delta-specific perks not found with any other card. But if you’re not especially loyal to Delta and want to strategize ways to maximize your miles, a regular American Express travel rewards card might be the better choice.

Learn more: Check out Bankrate’s travel toolkit for tips and tricks on how to maximize travel with a credit card.

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