A follow-up to Rookie Wednesday post – Always have your REAL cards when you fly Delta! Just what is encoded on your travel cards?

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rene RenesPoints blog SkyMiles and Sky Club cards

I always fly with these cards!

This past week I popped up a Rookie Wednesday post featuring the importance of always having your REAL – that is, plastic, Sky Club card with you when you travel because, per Delta.com, it says you can be denied entry into some partner lounges if you do not present it.

I also touched on the fact that it can also be smart to have your real SkyMiles card with you as well because there can also be issues at check-in at some airports and only by “swiping” your card will they give you Skyteam elite perks. But in the comments reader Stacy reminds us that Delta made the change over a year ago that Gold Medallions no longer get real credentials (other than the digital ones) and that this followed the year before when Silver Medallions were the first to be cut off receiving them.

stip reader

I had to get one of these 😉

So what is a Silver or Gold Medallion to do if they can no longer request real cards but they want to have one for check-in? Well, we know you can check in to a Sky Club with your SkyMiles card and vice versa. Does that mean the number and encoding on the strip on the back of the cards is the same? I had to know. So, being a blogger who “tests everything” I got a USB card reader.

results from swiping my skymiles card and my sky club card from delta bar code renespoints blog

What is encoded on the strip on your cards

The results were interesting. The first pass, as you can see, is my SkyMiles card. The second pass is my Sky Club card. The results are almost identical with only a slight difference. First the data you see is %BDL No idea what the %B means but then we clearly have DL for Delta. I am sure someone in the computer code world can help us with this. SkyMiles number is next (I have removed mine and put in XXXX btw).

Then my name followed by one difference between the two cards. The number “7?;7” then my SkyMiles number again followed by the expiration date of this year’s membership. With the Sky Club card is it “4?;4” again followed by the expiration date of the club membership. Also noteworthy was my old individual Sky Club card has the same coded info.

get an awardwallet OneCard

$10 to get an encoded card

OK, all this data is admirably fascinating in an uber geek way, but how can this help me as a Silver or Gold Medallion when Delta will no longer send me a card? I am happy you asked. Notice the above? Award Wallet can still track your Delta points but you have to manually do it by uploading your SkyMiles statement each month because Delta does not play nice with others. But Award Wallet does offer a neat item for a fee – that is, a card that can be encoded with a ton of your programs all on one card. I got one years back but did not use it (and have no idea where it is now). But my point is you could, while locking in a discounted year of Award Wallet service, get a card with ONLY your Delta SkyMiles number on it (tip – get 6 months free Plus service with code RenesPoints).

Would this idea work if you handed it to a rep? Would it work the same as a Platinum or Diamond SkyMiles card at check-in? It should. Then again, it seems to be just about your only option if you really want one so… 😉

Anyway, I just thought all of this was interesting and I had to know so I gave it a spin and wanted to share it with you as well. Have a great weekend everyone! – René


PS – I did scan my Delta AMEX Reserve card as well to test since it has my SkyMiles number printed on the front but it is NOT encoded on the strip on the back (that I can see).


  1. Uh oh, looks like we may see the Skymiles episode “Attack of the Clones.” Or “Bring in the Clones” assuming those cards go Fyre.

  2. As a Silver medallion, I print the front and back of my card (they don’t give out plastic anymore, as you stated), and carry that in my wallet. Is that scanable?

  3. @Rumproof – Not good enough under most partner circumstances and no encoded swipe strip on back. Better than nothing but not by much.

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