The Delta elite program is very similar to the American Airlines elite program except for one major difference, Delta requires its members to spend $3,000 on Delta airfare per calendar year.  Delta belongs to the Sky Team alliance so its redeemable miles can be redeemed for reward flights on Sky Team partners.  Delta has a reputation for a good hard product and on-time performance.

Elite Status

  • Costs: similar to American Airlines, the Delta program requires 25,000 elite miles which are earned by miles flown, as opposed to dollars spent.  Unfortunately, Delta also requires members seeking elite status to spend over $3,000 on Delta airfare per calendar year.  You can also qualify by flying a certain number of segments, but I bet that only business travels will qualify for elite status through that method.

Delta elite

  • Benefits: in addition to the benefits listed below, Delta Silver Medallion members receive waived baggage fees, priority check-in, and priority boarding.  It’s important to note that the complimentary upgrades are more extensive than those offered by American Airlines.  Silver Medallion members are eligible for complimentary upgrades on most flights within the United States and from the United States to Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean.

Delta elite benefits

Earn redeemable miles

  • Buy Delta airline tickets.  Without elite status you’ll earn 5 miles per dollar spent.
  • Credit card sign up bonuses.  You can receive anywhere between 25,000 and 50,000 miles depending on the current sign-up promotion.
  • Delta online shopping portal.  The shopping portal allows you to earn additional miles when you shop online.  Simply log into the shopping portal and select the store that you want to shop.  The shopping portal will then take you to that store and will credit your miles a few weeks after the purchase is made.  In addition, the shopping portal will offer bonus mile promotions for Back to School, pre-Black Friday, and other seasonal shopping.
  • Delta dining program.  After linking your credit card to your dining profile, you’ll receive an additional 3 to 5 miles per dollar spent at a participating restaurant.  Restaurant participation is hit or miss, so definitely check out the list of participating restaurants.  I’ve had good luck in DC since one of my favorite coffee shops participates.
  • Other promotions.

Redeem miles for award flights: unfortunately Delta does not publish an award redemption chart (unlike American, Alaska, and United) which allows Delta to more closely correlate the number of redeemable miles required with the cost of the ticket.  Delta tends to have more award availability than other airlines, but the redemption levels are higher.  I ran a few searches to get a better idea of award redemption costs (Dec. 2015):

  • US – Europe (60,000 miles plus fees)
  • US – Rio de Janiero (85,000 miles plus fees)
  • US – Lima, Peru (45,000 miles plus fees)
  • US – Cairo, Egypt (80,000 miles plus fees)
  • US – Hong Kong (70,000 miles plus fees)