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Delta SkyMiles needs a bailout more than Greece. Can AMEX come to the rescue?

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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

us penny cut in half delta points blog less than one penny now

What a year for Delta flyers (and that really is an understatement). In years past, when speaking at frequent flyer events and defending Delta SkyMiles online, I could always point out that those who scoffed at the value of a SkyMile to be low just did not know or care to know how to extract value from their SkyMiles. That is an argument that is much harder to make right now especially with the end of stopovers on awards and no more mixed awards. That is not to say there is ZERO value from SkyMiles and I will have a post later today on how to extract maximum value if you are going to keep flying Delta.

820000 point delta round trip skymiles award ticket

But my post title really says it all as well as my opening photo and the one just above. I have, in the past, always valued my SkyMiles at 1.5-ish cents each. When you could do an international stopover on an award even higher towards 2-ish cents each. On a positive note, thanks to both coach and 1st class Delta PWM tickets (pay with miles) now earning MQMs the theoretical bottom floor value is 1 cent each, but that is ONLY for those who care about MQMs and PWM tickets. For redemption, in May, I held a contest and two readers showed the absolute maximum worst case possible Delta round trip award ticket could cost you a mind blowing 750,000 SkyMiles or 1.5 Million for two people flying. As you can see now, 820,000 SkyMiles is possible and other blogs have shown even higher awards after the latest round of SkyMiles devaluations that were announced. Understand this:

1 Million point SkyMiles award tickets will soon be found!

Yep, I have no doubt at all that in short order a reader will send me an award that costs us 1 Million SkyMiles for just one person round trip. There really are no words to describe how INSANE that is. When United basically doubled the number of points it takes to fly Lufthansa 1st class with United points I burned all my UA points down to zero . The thought of spending the better part of ½ Million points for my wife and I to fly from the US to Sweden to visit family was double what I could spend with SkyMiles at a LEVEL 1 business class award. Sure, Lufthansa 1st class (and the 1st class terminal in FRA) is an amazing experience and simply does not compare to Delta – but it is not twice as good as Delta business class. If I have to spend 2 Million SkyMiles for us to fly Delta business class vs. just spending ½ a Million on Lufthansa 1st class, then the over inflated prices look like a flat out bargain in comparison.

Now this is clearly taking it to the extreme and I realize that, but with all things Delta what was once looked at as crazy and extreme is now possible (see my point?)!

AMEX Centurion logo from American Express
AMEX Centurion logo from American Express

We saw last month AMEX offered a very good promotion with their Delta CO-branded credit cards. To me, as one who cares about elite status, the higher MQM offer with their Delta Platinum cards was the best offer on the table as I no longer actively collect SkyMiles and am working as hard as I can to burn through my current Delta award points balance.

So what can be done? SkyMiles needs a “Greek style” bailout. They need help as they are living in a Greek dream world. The value of the SkyMiles “currency” that is the absolute bottom floor value is no longer 1 cent each. Delta has proven it can not be trusted anymore when it comes to loyalty and SkyMiles. It is thus up to AMEX to save us from Delta and provide a “bailout” if you will. Here is what I hope AMEX will do with their card program over the rest of this year and into 2016. Do keep in mind this is all just MY personal hopes as I have no information on what AMEX is going to do or not do.

First what needs to stay with the cards, that is, the key bits that make the card(s) worth holding onto still for me personally.

$25,000 dollar MQD spend waiver. This is, to me, a deal breaker if it goes away or changes dramatically. Since SkyMiles are worth so much less now one of the LAST great reasons to spend money on Delta CO-branded credit cards is for the yearly MQD waiver for elite status.

Bonus MQMs. For both the Delta Reserve card and the Platinum card(s) we can earn bonus MQMs with spending. Again, just as with the first point, if the ability to earn MQMs is cut or changed then there is NO reason for me to spend a penny on these cards. In fact I have already reached $60,000 in spend on my Delta Reserve card and I will not spend one cent more on that card until 1JAN16 as there is no point since I have maxed out the MQM earnings potential for the year.

More Delta upgrades. I am always shocked how many Delta Diamonds do not have a Delta Reserve card for this perk alone. While no one outside Delta CORP can point to the exact number of upgrades that were “won” by those holding the card over those without it, I can tell you from my experience it does help me. Plus, AMEX clearly displays this as a perk, with credit card wording VERY closely scrutinized, if this were not a real perk they would not display it so prominently. Anyway, if this perk were cut I would likely downgrade my Reserve card to a Platinum that day.

So those, to me, are the current real value perks for the cards. If I were a Silver Medallion you can add the extra bag free as a major reason to hold at least a Delta Gold or Platinum card. But what would I like to see due to all the devaluations of SkyMiles as a “bailout” to get some value back to SkyMiles? Here is my wish list I would like to see:

2x SkyMiles for each dollar spent. Regardless of what you are buying I would like to earn 2x SkyMiles to motivate me to spend again on my Delta AMEX card. Since a SkyMile is potential now (and will be going forward I think) worth less that 1 cent each AMEX needs to give me at least 2 SkyMiles for each dollar I spend on the card to make up for this reduction in value.

3x SkyMiles for each dollar on tickets. This just needs to happen ASAP. AMEX already offers 3x points on their PRG card for tickets purchased on airline web sites and on top of that an AMEX Membership Rewards point is worth WAY MORE than a SkyMile.

Higher SkyMiles bonus for spend. Right now you get bonus MQMs plus bonus SkyMiles for reaching spend levels on the Platinum and Reserve Delta cards. I would like to see those bonus amounts at least double to keep up with all the SkyMiles devaluations. The MQMs are worth so much, to me, as is, but SkyMiles bonus needs to improve. Also, the GOLD card should have bonus spend levels added as a perk of the card. After all, we are talking ideas to encourage spend on the card(s).

BOGOF year one. I use my BOGOF (buy one get one free + tax) certificate each year. I either use it myself or buy tickets for family or friends. I get one each year I pay my card fee. Due to all the cuts in value from SkyMiles it would be good if AMEX considered including it year one instead of as it is now that you get it when your year two fee hits. I would love to see this upgrade happen to the Delta Platinum and Reserve cards.

These are my personal suggestions to AMEX to improve their Delta CO-branded cards. These are the perks they should please not cut and the other ideas to help breathe life back into the cards with Delta destroying SkyMiles value practically day by day and making the program one of the worst frequent flyer values.

Do I think any of these ideas will happen? Maybe. But I am also afraid they will cut perks that should not be cut. After all Delta cut the perk of allowing a guest into the Skyclubs and AMEX could do nothing about it. I live in real fear of more cuts before improvements.

What do you think of my suggestions for a SkyMiles bailout? Are these good ideas? What else would you like to see happen? – René


Gold-Platinum-Reserve Delta SkyMiles®
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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.

Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

René de Lambert is a contributing writer and the founder of RenesPoints. He is an avid Delta and SkyTeam flyer who has held Delta’s top Diamond Medallion status for many years and flown millions of miles.


  1. Don in ATL Reply

    One million SkyMiles for RT — coming up soon. Bring out the wheel barrows! And it’s 100% Delta’s fault. The ordinary person who simply earns his SkyMiles by flying will almost never be able to earn an award. Because Delta started selling points to credit card companies, car rental companies, hotels, sign up bonuses for credit cards, the system if drowning in SkyMiles THAT DELTA HAS MADE A TON OF MONEY ON BY SELLING THOSE POINTS TO A THIRD PARTY. There are way too many points out there (and Delta has made money selling every last one of them). The original earn/redemption system was not built to handle all these points (again, Delta is making money on all these points they’ve sold), but DL cannot provide the free seats to award people who got stuck with all those points. There are probably more points out there circulating than there are award seats available for years and years. This should be illegal (even with the fine print that DL can do whatever it wants with its SkyMiles program) and probably is if the government starts looking into this with some depth. I’m sure there are internal memos showing that DL knows they are selling points at one value and know that those points are worth significantly less the minute the third party buys those points to pass on to its customers. The only people who might get a fair shake in this new world are people like a friend of mine who is a veterinarian. He buys all the supplies/inventory for his practice on DL credit cards and earns SkyMiles in the process — millions of them every year. He can fly D1 any time he wants and takes his whole family along. The poor Delta customer (sucker) who only earns his/her miles by flying will almost never be able to earn a free trip. Those of us who have reserve cards with ordinary spending and occasional sigh up bonuses are better off than the average flier, but we will soon be SkyMiles paupers too. Welcome to the new world. Just remember that DL is getting rich off this scheme, because they sell all those near worthless miles — tons of them for $$$$ to the third parties. Delta is to blame. They inflated the system out of greed. They are laughing all the way to the bank.

    • @Don in ATL – Keep in mind Delta folks walked into SkyMall a few years back and told them at the end of the year all the SkyMiles they held would be worth ZERO NADA ZIP and that is why they had the 25,000 SkyMiles for $500 spend promo to dump them all. Delta will do nasty things to partners when they want to.

  2. There was a time when it cost around 1 million KrisFlyer miles to fly on Singapore Suites class on the A380 —- but that’s SQ Suites class! If Delta improves their hard product to that level, then I can justify burning 1 million Skymiles…. but as it is right now, these DL redemptions are simply ridiculous!

    • @Joey – I could never spend 1M points on anything other than maybe a trip into space 😉

  3. AlohaDaveKennedy Reply

    Does Delta need a Greek bailout or do Delta passengers need to do a GREXIT?

  4. I’m confused about the reserve card comment- it helps with upgrades? Is this regardless of status?

  5. I’d like to see more flexibility on the companion certificate. Maybe give us two 1-way certificates rather than have it be a roundtrip? (This would be particularly useful to me). Maybe loosen the restrictions of lower-48 destinations?

  6. the other problem I see is that you can only get the Amex bonus once on a personal card. I’ve had my platinum card so long i got no bonus when I signed up and can’t get a bonus because I already have the card. Im also always told at the airport that I have to pay the $25 bag fee when I’m flying on a “free” ticket though the taxes were charged on the correct card. Im close to being done with Amex and their fees. I definitely will be when retired . . .

  7. I have to admit, when I saw the 820k itinerary above, I laughed so hard that I was tearing up. Just nuts. That said, Amex has to be absolutely apoplectic about this stream of devaluations. They might institute some changes to stem the loss of customers, but ultimately, they’re getting the ol’ Delta “hope you brought some lube” (as a commenter on another blog said) treatment as well. So Amex ends up with some nasty decisions, like whether to drastically increase the value through the methods you mentioned or just eat the loss on a bad relationship gone worse, and whether to pay the huge price to buy in to another major airline if that’s even possible.
    Of course, then there’s you Rene. With the Delta ship sinking so quickly, where are you headed in all this? Go generic, maybe? Possibly switch to AA? I know it hurt me to see Delta’s changes, so it’s gotta be killing you. At the end of the day, though, maybe switching to another airline (please, please, not UA) specialty wouldn’t be a bad thing. I doubt AA could do any -worse- than Delta has done. You do a great blog. Sadly the Delta aspect, which of course is primary, just wears me out.

    • @Christian – I am thinking of an AA challenge next year and blogging about it each step of the way. May be most helpful to so many. I may start grabbing some UA points again for now and then flights. Maybe! But AA is looking so good right about now.

  8. To Don’s point, which is very good–it seems to me that those same 3rd parties (esp. Amex) are the ones with the leverage, who should be saying to DL, “look, we bought these for x on the theory that they were worth x+; now YOU have made them worth -x and our customers are pissed.” Why that is not happening puzzles me, but it could just be that Amex cares as little for us as DL does. In which case, we’re doomed, and Chase/Citi/United/AA/SW here we come. Atl hub or no, I’m done being abused.

  9. Moments ago I cancelled my DL AMEX Business Reserve card. I also hold a Personal AMEX DL Reserve card but will not put 1 cent more than I need to to get my 30k MQMs this year. AMEX lost $60k in spend on my Biz card plus $450 fee. I realize this is chump change as one sole cardholder but if enough of us furious AMEX DL cardholders do the same? Who am I kidding…

  10. dotti cahill Reply

    we havae had aplat amex card for over 30(too many years) so we get 1 point for $1.00 spent no bonus points for anything!!! so i i have to get 1 million miles(points) to ger business class to anywhere it will not happoen very sad AMEX SHOULD step up and do something esp if one has had sme kind of amex card for 40 years@!!!!!!! sad

  11. Pingback: SHOCKINGLY accurate mainstream press NYT piece about Delta SkyMiles devaluations - Delta PointsDelta Points

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