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American Express Membership Rewards points are not only one of the most valuable credit-card currencies, they’re also quite easy to earn. The points are especially useful if you’re a Delta Air Lines flyer.
Membership Rewards is a transfer partner of the Delta SkyMiles program as well as several airline loyalty programs whose miles can be used to book Delta-operated flights for fewer miles than what the SkyMiles program would charge. Let’s take a look at what those partnerships are and the best ways to book Delta flights using Amex Membership Rewards.
Aeroméxico Club Premier
Aeroméxico is a SkyTeam partner, and its points can be used to book Delta flights. American Express Membership Rewards transfer to Aeroméxico Club Premier at a ratio of 1 to 1.6, meaning you’ll end up with 1,600 Premier Points for every 1,000 Membership Rewards points transferred.
Aeroméxico implements dynamic pricing to its award flights, so it’s a bit difficult to tell how many points exactly an award would cost, but let’s look at an example of a Delta flight booked with Aeroméxico Premier Points.
Here’s a one-way flight from Atlanta (ATL) to Cancun, Mexico (CUN), which we’ll use in all examples below for the sake of comparing apples to apples and seeing fair results. Aeroméxico lists this flight at 41,200 Premier Points.
Because of the increased conversion rate from Membership Rewards to Aeroméxico Club Premier, you’d need 25,750 Amex points to book this award.
Air France-KLM Flying Blue
Flying Blue, the joint frequent-flyer program of Air France and KLM, is another great program to use for booking Delta flights, and it’s a partner of all major transferrable point programs, including Amex Membership Rewards.
Flying Blue also takes a dynamic approach to pricing its own awards, but partner awards are priced more or less the same, especially nonstop flights. You have to be a program member logged in to your Flying Blue account to search for award availability. As long as Delta releases the seats to partner airlines, you should be able to book it with Flying Blue miles.
As mentioned in the section above, we’re going to use the same flight example across all loyalty programs that partner with American Express to see how many miles each program requires to book it. In this case, it’ll cost you 12,500 Flying Blue miles to fly one way from Atlanta to Cancun on Delta.
Membership Rewards points transfer to Air France-KLM Flying Blue at a ratio of 1:1, so you’ll need 12,500 Amex points unless you transfer during a promo offering a transfer bonus.
Delta SkyMiles is actually a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, meaning you should be able to make a direct transfer to book any Delta flight. However, in most cases, you shouldn’t.
Delta has taken its dynamic pricing to sky-high territory, which means a mileage redemption rate can reach record heights. This example is actually a great illustration of that because the sample flight we’re using is one that Delta released to partners so we can compare mileage rates across all programs.
So, Delta wants 22,000 SkyMiles for the same flight from Atlanta to Cancun.
Although it’s not as high as Aeroméxico’s rate, it’s higher than all the other rates pulled for this article, which is why having access to a flexible rewards currency, such as Membership Rewards, is so important.
You simply can’t put all your eggs in one basket, such as the Delta SkyMiles program, and hope to exchange said eggs, or miles, for good value every time. Delta simply won’t let you do that. Not to mention, mileage rates don’t stay the same through the Delta program and can be much higher next time you’re looking for a flight.
Membership Rewards transfer to Delta SkyMiles at a 1:1 ratio, but you’ll have to pay a federal excise tax of 60 cents per 1,000 points transferred, or $6 per 10,000 points (capped at $99).
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
Virgin Atlantic recently joined the SkyTeam alliance and became a full-fledged member. But even before the official membership status, Virgin and Delta were non-alliance partners, and it’s been possible to redeem Virgin Atlantic Flying Club points for Delta flights for years.
Virgin uses a distance-based award chart for Delta awards, and here’s how many miles a one-way flight will cost you.
|Delta Flight Distance||Economy||Business|
|1 to 500 miles||7,500||17,500|
|501 to 1,000 miles||8,500||27,500|
|1,001 to 1,500 miles||11,500||40,000|
|1,501 to 2,000 miles||12,500||45,000|
|2,001 to 3,000 miles||15,000||52,500|
|3,001 to 4,000 miles||22,500||80,000|
|4,001 to 5,000 miles||27,500||105,000|
|5,001 to 6,000 miles||35,000||130,000|
Additionally, Virgin publishes a separate award chart for flights from the U.S. to Europe in general and to the U.K. specifically.
Nonstop U.S. to Europe flights go for 30,000 Flying Club points in economy class and 50,000 in Delta One per direction.
Additionally, if your itinerary consists of two segments, the redemption rate is going to include the rates for both sectors as if they were booked separately. In other words, the final cost in miles for a one-way trip made up of two flights will be the sum of the two rates for each segment based on their individual distance. This doesn’t apply to our example of a one-way flight to Mexico, but it’s good to know for future redemptions.
And now for the main event. So, how many miles do we need to book our Atlanta-Cancun flight using Flying Club points? The flight is 880 miles in distance, so according to the table above, it should cost 8,500 Virgin points.
In fact, Virgin Atlantic has given us the best redemption rate for our example flight because of its distance-based award chart for Delta flights. Keep in mind that the rates are going to fluctuate with each program based on a specific itinerary, so it’s always best to compare your options before transferring points.
Amex points transfer to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club at a 1:1 ratio.
Membership Rewards Pay with Points Rebate
When redeemed through the Amex Travel portal, Membership Rewards points are worth 1 cent for flights and 0.7 cent for hotel rooms, car rentals, cruises and vacation packages. However, there are a couple of ways to increase their value—you must hold the right American Express credit cards.
Card members who hold either the American Express® Business Gold Card or The Business Platinum Card® from American Express get a rebate on points any time they use the Pay with Points feature through Amex Travel for a flight on their preselected airline. So, you can select Delta as your qualifying airline, book a flight in any class of service through the travel portal and get a points reimbursement back to your Membership Rewards account.
You’ll receive the following rebate:
In this case, your points are worth 1.33 cents to 1.54 cents each, depending on the card you hold.
Now, this redemption method isn’t going to provide the best results every time, so you have to be extremely careful with your calculations to see whether it’s going to be worth it.
Let’s go back to our flight example. Looks like it costs $310 or 30,950 American Express points if you book it through the Amex Travel portal.
With the rebate, you’d get 7,737 to 10,832 points back, bringing your points total down to:
- 23,213 Amex points if you hold the American Express® Business Gold Card
- 20,118 Amex points if you hold The Business Platinum Card® from American Express
Keep in mind that you’d also earn Delta SkyMiles on the flight as it’s considered a revenue booking and not a true award flight, which normally wouldn’t earn miles. In this case, it’s probably not worth it to book this flight using the Pay with Points rebate, but if the cash cost is low, consider this booking option. To reiterate, always do the math first.
How to Earn American Express Membership Rewards Points
American Express issues close to a dozen cards that earn Membership Rewards points. If you hold the following cards from Amex, you earn Membership Rewards.
Which Method of Booking Delta Flights with Amex Membership Rewards Points Should You Use?
The answer is, it depends, and it’s actually the same answer for any flight you want to book. When it comes to redeeming points and miles, there’s no one-size-fits-all program. Some days, it’ll be the distance-based Virgin Atlantic program, and other days, it’ll be Flying Blue. If the flight is cheap enough, pay cash.
The point is, always compare all your options and make an informed decision based on the award searches you’ve done. Only then should you make a decision on which program to use for your Delta flight.
Your points redemptions are only going to be as strong as your knowledge of the rewards programs. Membership Rewards transfer to Delta SkyMiles as well as their partner programs, which means you’ve got multiple options for booking the same flight.
We recommend learning how airline partnerships work and what role credit card partnerships play. It’s always a good idea to keep practicing award searches and familiarizing yourself with the redemption rates of each program to make sure you’re not wasting your precious miles.
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