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American Express continues to impress me with its limited-time offers; this time they have chosen two Delta SkyMiles mileage-earning cards – the Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express and the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express.
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The Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express (you can apply here) comes with 60,000 miles, 10,000 MQMs and a $100 statement credit when purchasing on Delta. It earns 2 miles for every dollar spent on Delta and 1 mile per dollar on everything else. It also gives you a free checked bag on a Delta flight, there’s no foreign transaction fees to pay and you get priority boarding. This card has a $195 annual fee and you need to spend $2,000 to get the full sign-up bonus.
The Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express (you can apply here) comes with 50,000 miles and a $50 statement credit when making a purchase on Delta. It also earns 2 miles for every dollar spent on Delta and 1 mile per dollar spent on everything else. You get the same benefits of a free checked bag, no foreign transaction fees and priority boarding.
The annual fee is $95 is waived in the first year and a spend of $2,000 is required to get the full sign-up bonus for this card, too.
Side note – We assume that you have not had these cards in the past, as the bonus is once per lifetime. If you have had them, then consider the Platinum Card® from American Express Exclusively for Mercedes-Benz that has a 75,000 miles sign-up bonus instead when you spend $3,000 in three months. Membership Rewards points can be transferred to Delta SkyMiles on a 1:1 basis. The annual fee for this card is not waived, but given the $200 annual airline credit and lounge access, this card is still a great deal!
Another excellent card to have in your wallet is the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card from American Express. It’s currently offering a limited-time bonus of 50,000 miles when you spend $2,000 in purchases in the first 3 months, as well as $50 statement credit with your first purchase in the first 3 months. You get priority boarding and 20% off eligible in-flight purchases in the form of a statement credit, and there’s no foreign transaction fees. The annual fee for this card is waived for the first year and then $95. Apply for this card by July 6th, 2016, while the bonus is this high.
So, back to the personal SkyMiles cards… After applying (and getting approved) for the Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express and the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express and then spending the $2,000 minimum spend per card, you should now have 114,000 Delta SkyMiles in your account.
Now let’s take a look at what you can do with that bounty!
114,000 Delta SkyMiles – What I would do with it
Before we get started… Delta usually charges fuel surcharges until it doesn’t. It’s a rather complicated system with lots of exceptions, but in general, there are NO fuel surcharges if you depart from the US (except for Aeroflot and Saudia) or if you depart from Brazil.
Any of the redemptions that I would do have no (or very low) fuel surcharges. I consider such a charge a travel ripoff and recommend to find a way to not pay it.
Redeeming SkyMiles on Delta
Delta has a decent business class product, but availability on the lowest level is so poor that it is rarely worth bothering to look for a redemption on Delta.
Availability out of the main hubs like Detroit and Chicago is especially problematic. Los Angeles and Seattle sometimes have availability on Delta, like this (new) flight to Shanghai:
Most of the redemptions below will work also from Hawaii (for 10,000 miles more) and there is where Delta comes in – like this:
Redeeming SkyMiles on Virgin Atlantic
Virgin Atlantic takes you from the US to Europe and onwards. Certain cities like San Francisco get the new 787 with an updated business class. Redemptions to/from London can be poor value because of the APD charged for your return. Delta SkyMiles does not allow redemptions to Asia via Europe, so we can’t do that, but we CAN do a redemption to Africa.
Virgin Atlantic goes to Lagos and Johannesburg.
To Lagos on Virgin Atlantic:
To Johannesburg on Virgin Atlantic:
These redemptions come up right away on delta.com but the carrier might be Air France or Delta (although unlikely) or Virgin Atlantic. So click to the results page to make sure it is Virgin Atlantic.
Redeeming SkyMiles on Air France/KLM
Air France has a huge network from its base in Paris. It has decent availability and is rolling out a new business class product with the same seats as Cathay Pacific Business Class. I really liked the food on the trips I had with them.
Air France goes to the Indian Ocean islands of Madagascar, Mauritius and Reunion – all great places for an adventure!
To Mauritius on Air France:
You can use Virgin Atlantic on the transatlantic portion – it just needs some clicking.
To Madagascar on Air France:
To Reunion in Economy on Air France:
It is just 35,000 miles for the long trip to Reunion, which is a lot of flying for this small amount of miles.
Of course Air France goes to a lot more destinations in Africa and all for the same price using Delta SkyMiles. Air France is now so intertwined with KLM that almost everything applies to them as well; KLM has gotten delivery of a number of new 787s (they did not buy the A380 that Air France has widely deployed) and this can get you a very new plane (as most of KLM’s planes are ridiculously old).
Redeeming SkyMiles on Korean Air
Korean Air is not my favorite airline, but it does have a huge network in Asia.
Korean Air will get you from one of their many US gateways to virtually anywhere in Asia incl. Southeast and Central Asia. The business class availability is excellent.
To Mongolia on Korean Air:
To Colombo, Sri Lanka on Korean Air:
Redeeming SkyMiles on Virgin Australia
Flights to Australia or Tahiti are very expensive using Delta SkyMiles, so it would not be something I would do, but if you try Los Angeles to Bali on delta.com it will very often come up with results on Virgin Australia (via Brisbane or Sydney).
To Bali On Virgin Australia:
You may miss your connection in Australia on this one-way – who knows?
If you’re thinking of getting the Platinum card, apply here for this excellent card.
If you’re thinking of getting the Gold card, apply here for this excellent card.
Redeeming SkyMiles on Saudia
Saudia isn’t my favorite airline either, but it has excellent business class availability. Since the US to Asia is not a valid redemption with their Middle Eastern hubs, redemptions to India work best. You will be charged a (modest) fuel surcharge, though.
Redeeming SkyMiles on Aeroflot
Aeroflot runs a daily A330 from Los Angeles and New York and is a good option if there is limited award availability on other airlines (theirs is excellent). Since their hub in Moscow is still in Europe, you can use it for all kinds of European adventures. Aeroflot goes to virtually all airports in Eastern Europe; it is pretty astonishing.
Another decent option is the Central Asia to Europe redemption (not as good as Saudia, though, which counts Central Asia as Europe, but still).
To Almaty from Europe on Aeroflot:
Again, there will be modest fuel surcharges when flying Aeroflot (even from the US).
Redeeming SkyMiles on Garuda Indonesia
Garuda currently has no US flights, but it does fly to Australia, for instance. The best Garuda redemptions from my point of view are the island hoppers where you traverse all of Indonesia in one-ways, with many stops. I think Air France Flying Blue is the better currency for that, however.
How can I complete the minimum spend?
Put all your regular spend on it and read our guide to manufactured spending. $4,000 in 3 months should be really easy!
What if my application was denied?
Did you know that almost all my applications get initially denied and eventually approved when calling the right reconsideration numbers?
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