Delta SkyMiles can be a very useful mileage currency; they’ve certainly held great value for me personally (and saved my you-know-what) on more than one occasion.
One major factor to consider when discussing Delta SkyMiles is that the program is a 1:1 transfer partner of both American Express Membership Rewards (the points program of cards like the Amex Platinum and Premier Rewards Gold cards) and Starwood Preferred Guest, which gives you a 5,000-mile bonus on 20,000-point transfers, effectively making the transfer ratio 1:1.25 if you’re strategic about it.
Both programs make it easy to top up your Delta account without having to rack up miles the old-fashioned way (by flying!), and thus make the program a bit more flexible than some competitors like American or Alaska, which are only transfer partners of SPG.
A New Award Chart
Delta has announced that it will be implementing a new five-tiered award structure come 2015, though details are still sketchy. To me, that means that there will be more mid- and high-level awards available, though likely not more low-level/saver availability. There are some positives too, including the introduction of one-way awards for half the price of roundtrip.
Also, from the award chart Delta has released so far, with mileage based on departing the Continental US, Alaska and Canada, the lowest saver level awards in both economy and business class will remain almost entirely the same, and even go down in a few cases (Middle East and South Asia in economy, Northern South America in business). But as I said, we still know very little about how many of each tier of awards will be available.
So in terms of maximizing Delta SkyMiles, it’s best to book whatever travel you can as soon as possible, since it’s unclear what the coming changes will mean to future redemptions come January 1, 2015.
One of the bright spots in the Delta SkyMiles program is the fact that the airline does not charge last-minute award-booking fees. That means you can book a flight within hours of departure without having to worry about tacking on the $75 that other legacies like American, United and US Airways charge non-elite passengers. Once one-way awards become available, this will be even more useful when deciding which mileage currency to use last minute- which is usually when the most saver level availability exists.