I tweeted the other day something that is now becoming obvious – SkyMiles had died. No really, it has and I will prove it to you. Delta has been on a long salt rich diet of destruction and the hypertension has led to a massive heart attack and they are all but a corpse lying in a bed waiting to be found. Maybe a morbid description, but an honest one.
Delta has gotten away with years of shameless treatment of frequent flyers by hiding the award charts, no notice award jumps and an utterly busted booking page that often does additive prices and Delta is just fine with this.
Then AMEX changed the game (and forgot to tell Delta). – Ooooppssieee!
If you have not made it a point to get the non-Delta AMEX Platinum Business card and you fly Delta as your main airline you are making a massive mistake. Oh, and if you are saving SkyMiles you need to stop right now and they have now become only a rebate when you can get them for free from Delta. Let me explain with simple screen shots and the math will become self evident.
The key part as we walk through this narrative is that with AMEX Membership Rewards points (MR) you are, in effect, paying for airline tickets as far as the airline of your choice is concerned. This means you can earn points for the “award” ticket you are flying because the airline does not look at it like an award – it is a paid ticket (just like Chase UR points or FlexPerks points etc). Yes, it is remotely possible, you could “code” as a non-published fare and not get full points, but you are still earning points back and most likely full points.
Also a key part of all of this is the 50% points back you get from AMEX for spending your Membership Rewards points on coach tickets with your chosen airline each year and any airline in first / business class from your Business AMEX Platinum card. For our case I am clearly comparing Delta.
I could make this post 500 pages long but wanted to compare a long weekend in March just as a set of data points. I am looking at round trip pricing and direct flights to each location from Delta hubs. I think you will be shocked to see the results.
The first one is a long weekend away in San Francisco from Atlanta. Now if we pay with MR it will, after rebate, cost us NET 22,500 MR points vs if we burn SkyMiles it would cost us 32,500 plus a few bucks tax. Again, with all these, keep in mind with MR you EARN points back for flying, but not on Delta award tickets.
Next we have the same SFO trip from Minneapolis. In this case it will NET cost us 19,350 MR points vs the wacky 25,500 SkyMiles plus tax.
Then a coast to coast for those in NYC going to SFO. Would you rather spend NET 14,800 MR points or a LEVEL 1 Delta SkyMiles award for 25,000 plus tax?
What about those on the west coast. Delta now just “loves” Seattle. How about Florida for this March long weekend? Just 22,400 NET MR points out of your pocket or you could shell out 35,500 SkyMiles plus tax.
Now I know what you are saying. This is domestic and it is clear that SkyMiles, unless they are doing some kind of award sale, are no longer the best choice under so many circumstances. But the “real” value from SkyMiles is international trips like those to Europe. OK let’s do those. Look at the above Atlanta trip to Paris for this same long March weekend. If we burn MR points it is higher, that is, NET 64,000 vs the 60,000 SkyMiles but with SkyMiles you are paying $81 tax that is already built in to the MR points ticket. Oh, and again, we earn on the MR ticket!
But that is coach. What about business class? Oh just take a look at these results. Yes, you are paying a HUGE NET 196,000 MR points, but just compare that to the totally ridiculous and insane 272,000 SkyMiles AND the $149 tax on top of that “bat crazy” award price! Are we seeing a pattern here yet? Let’s do one more.
Rome is amazing. Same March long weekend in Rome from Atlanta and we are NET paying out 63,500 MR points vs the 80,000 SkyMiles plus $74 tax. What about business class you ask?
Well those numbers are shocking but not “that” shocking. You are talking NET 168,000 MR points but when you add back the possible HUGE SkyMiles bonus for paying for this ticket as say a Diamond or Platinum the price can drop down BELOW what a LEVEL 1 business class award would cost you (not that you could ever find one!). And, clearly, compare that to the ridiculous 262,500 SkyMiles award price plus $75 tax.
Folks, this is a game changer and a massive one. Delta has pushed SkyMiles closer and closer to “real” money at ~1 cent each vs what they had before that was real value vs paying cash. They thought they were being smart. Now look what has happened and will keep happening more and more.
What to take from this. Keep earning SkyMiles when you can get them for free from flying or other means. Do not earn them from spending on cards. Do not transfer them from other programs unless you carefully do the math and check other options. And for crying out loud if you have not yet got the non-Delta AMEX Platinum Business card consider doing this ASAP! – René
Editorial Note: This content is not provided by American Express. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by American Express. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post