Rookie Wednesday: How to pick the right Delta “special promo”

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 RenesPoints Rookie

Welcome to a weekly feature on the Renés Points blog. Each week this series covers in a “rookie” way either a Delta or travel related theme and attempts to break down to a basic level each topic. You can read up on all the previous posts HERE. Now on to this week’s feature.


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One of the questions asked, when I was fishing for rookie ideas from readers, was about when to go for a Delta promotion. What a great question.

To me, the real question is not if to go for a promo but what promo to pick. I mean if you are working on earning points, and going to buy anything at all, you should be picking a promo. What do I mean by this?

skymiles shopping page

The “normal” Delta flyer, AKA not us and those who read the blog, would automatically say something like:

“Hey I will always start at Skymiles Shopping to get a bunch more Skymiles and I will pay with my Delta Skymiles card to get an extra point per dollar on top of the special promo. This is the BEST choice right?”

Well maybe – but take a look at this. Let’s say you are buying things where the warranty does not matter because buying with a gift card does not give you the “extra” 1 year warranty most cards give you when you make a purchase with their card. With that in mind, before you do the above at Skymiles Shopping, if you buy a Delta AMEX gift card and then use that to pay you already locked in the 1x Skymiles for using that card to buy the gift card and 2 or 3% cash. Or, maybe even more points if you are starting at the Arrival portal to buy the AMEX gift card. Then, you can still earn the special promo for buying whatever you want at their site.

You see my point that just adding one more step can mean many more points. So always look at any promo to see if you can do it a bit better with a little more effort.

The next or really first step is to see if whatever deal really is the best – FOR YOU! You will see many painstakingly show you the math of how to get the absolute best results but they may not be the results you want. For example, you may be collecting Skymiles for some award you have in mind. In this case, earning extra Arrival points or some other shopping portal cash may not be what you want i.e. your goal for more Skymiles. Again, you may choose to earn less to meet your personal goal even though the “yield” may be worth less than it could be – as long as you are aware of this do what you want.

I will give you an example of where I give up some rewards points for a personal goal. I try to spend $120,000 each year on my two Delta AMEX Reserve cards to earn the 60,000 MQMs I get from all that spend. Many times I am giving up higher returns with other cards to meet my spend. Worth it? It is to me for all those MQMs as well as meeting my Delta MQD waiver i.e. after spending $25,000 on one or a combination of the two cards (spending on both count). Now yes I get bonus Skymiles as well so that helps but I am still accepting at times a lower yield to meet my goal of MQMs.

Back to promos. The same principle works with different promos. This time let’s look the other direction. It may be that the Skymiles promo may seem sweet but checking EVRewards or other sites like the Arrival+ shopping portal could earn you cash or points to use like cash to buy Delta tickets. Then, you will earn Skymiles from flying and get to go on a trip (well at least this year – not so much under Skymiles2015 when flying is the worst way to earn Skymiles).

All of this can work with any promo like cars, hotels etc. You personally have to weigh if cash, some other points or Skymiles is your goal and what you need for some trip you are working for. With either of these, just like already mentioned, the “value” of earning more hotel or car program points may be “worth” more than the value of a Skymile but if you need Skymiles more than either of the other program points going all-in for Skymiles bonus may be the best choice for you to reach your goal.

Lastly, we have the promos to avoid. What are those? There are some promotions that are just bad and you might as well just buy Skymiles rather than chase the promo (btw NEVER buy Skymiles it is a very bad choice). The type of promo I am talking about is one where say you get a tiny promo bonus but then are locked in to paying for something for months or years at prices much higher than retail. This sounds so simple but many fall for the trap of the promo to get you in. Just compare the price of whatever product it is and  if you would buy it anyway at that price  then, sure, yes get the promo for the Skymiles as the points are just gravy on top of what is already something you will buy. Clear? – René

Editorial Note: 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 any card issuer.

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