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The Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card is offering 50,000 SkyMiles and a $50 statement credit after spending $1,000 in the first three months.

Screen Shot 2014-12-18 at 11.55.21 AMBusiness owners can get the same offer on the business version of the card.

Delta Miles

I value Delta miles at around 1.2 cents each. Delta partners release just as much award space as any airlines though Delta itself lags behind.

Delta miles are better than any other miles for Australia in business class and the west coast to Europe in economy or business. Delta miles are also good to Central America, South America, Africa, and Europe from anywhere else in the United States.

At the moment, you have to book roundtrip awards with Delta miles, but starting January 1, 2015, you can book one way awards with Delta miles.

Here are my top choices to burn 160k, 140k, 125k, 92.5k, 60k, and 25k SkyMiles and the products I most want to book when one way awards are possible in less than two weeks.

The Other Big Reason to Get This Card

To earn Delta status, you need to fly a certain number of miles or segments on Delta flights AND pay a certain amount for those tickets. Next year, those dollar requirements are rising.

 

Screen Shot 2014-12-18 at 12.12.28 PM

But as the bottom of the chart notes, spending $25,000 on a Delta co-branded card in a calendar year waives the Medallion Qualifying Dollars requirement, leaving just the miles or segments flown requirement.

(As you can see on my chart comparing airline credit cards, the United card has a similar feature but it only waives the requirement up to the second-best status, while the Delta card spending waives the requirement all the way to Diamond.)

For people who fly a lot of cheap flights, the ability to spend a little over $2,000 per month on their Delta card to waive Delta’s expensive MQD requirement is welcome.

Remember

American Express recently changed its rules, so that you can only get the bonus on personal cards once in your lifetime, so if you’ve ever gotten the sign up bonus on the Gold SkyMiles card like I have, this offer is of no use.

Bottom Line

This is a solid offer, but not as valuable as 50,000 American Airlines miles or US Airways miles because of the difficulty of finding Delta award space and its inflated award chart. The listed expiration date of this offer is December 21, 2014.

Hat Tip Doctor of Credit

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I’ve covered what I think are the underpriced awards on the United (6) and American Airlines (5) award charts. But I also keep a keen eye on foreign, obscure programs for gems on their award charts.

With the proliferation of transferable points like Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points, and Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints, Americans have access to cheap awards through tons of foreign programs.

Here are five underpriced awards on other award charts and how to get the miles needed to book the awards.

1. Singapore Awards Between Hawaii and the Americas

Singapore Airlines puts Hawaii and Central America–you know, those two places that are thousands of miles apart–into one region. This leads to awards “within” the region to price out at a ridiculously cheap 17,500 miles each way and 30,000 miles in Business Class.

Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 12.38.15 PM
Roundtrip Award Prices

Similarly, Hawaii to South America is only 25,000 miles each way in economy and 40,000 miles in Business Class.

This is huge even if you don’t live in Hawaii because roundtrip Singapore Airlines awards allow for one free stopover and up to three more stopovers for $100 each.

That means you can book a roundtrip from Hawaii to South America with a stopover at your home airport in both directions for 50,000 miles + $100 + taxes. That would give you a roundtrip to South America plus two one ways to and from Hawaii on three separate trips.

Full details:

Singapore miles are a 1:1 transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points, and Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints.

2. Virgin Atlantic Awards to Southern South America

Virgin Atlantic has a number of partners including Delta. On Delta, to anywhere in South America costs only 45,000 Virgin Atlantic miles roundtrip or 90,000 roundtrip in Business Class.

Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 12.37.46 PM

Compare that to the 60k or 125k Delta miles the same flights to Southern South America would cost.

Everyone disparages Delta award availability, but I find decent economy award space to South America on the carrier.

Virgin Atlantic miles are a 1:1 transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints.

3. Promo Awards to Europe with Flying Blue Miles

Every month, Air France Flying Blue offers awards to Europe for 25% and 50% off from select cities. Here are the current offers.
Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 12.38.02 PM

There are fuel surcharges, but I think the deal is still too good to pass up in economy.

I also really like Promo Awards from Brazil to Europe because flights leaving Brazil have no fuel surcharges by law. These enable a THINK BIG trip like your home airport to Brazil to France to your home airport.

Full details on Promo Awards: Fly to Europe or Israel for 12,500 Miles

Flying Blue miles are a 1:1 transfer partner of Citi ThankYou Points, American Express Membership Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints.

4. Alaska Awards to South Africa on Cathay Pacific

Alaska Airlines charges a very reasonable 70,000 miles one way between the United States and Asia on Cathay Pacific First Class.

 

Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 12.38.40 PM

It charges the same amount to Africa from the United States in Cathay Pacific First Class.Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 1.01.45 PM

Hong Kong to Johannesburg is now served by a plane without First Class, but you can still get 16 hours in First Class from the USA to Hong Kong plus 13 hours in Business Class more to Johannesburg for only 70,000 Alaska miles. If you love flying, this is the deal for you.

Alaska miles are a 1:1 transfer partner of Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints. You can also get Alaska Airlines miles from their churnable personal and business credit cards.

5. Virgin Atlantic Awards to Europe in Economy and Premium Economy

Virgin Atlantic economy class awards to Europe require far fewer miles than competitors’ charge. From Boston, New York, Washington, and Chicago, you only need 17,500 Virgin Atlantic miles for a one way flight to the United Kingdom.

And taxes and fees on the one way from the United States to Europe are only $131!

Combine a one way from the eastern United States to Europe for 17,500 Virgin Atlantic miles plus $131 and return from a low tax country to the United States on a one way award with United or American miles for a very cheap European vacation.

I wrote more about searching Virgin Atlantic award space, the fuel surcharges you’ll see, and booking the space in Huge Deal: 13k Miles to Europe This Summer.

You can also fly one way from parts of the United States to the United Kingdom in Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy for only 27,500 miles and $231.

Premium Economy on Virgin Atlantic is more akin to United First Class on domestic flights than United Economy Plus. It’s not just a big seat; Premium Economy comes with all the amenities in this promotional video.

Virgin Atlantic miles are a 1:1 transfer partner of Citi ThankYou Points, American Express Membership Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints. Plus there is the “90k offer” on the Virgin Atlantic credit card.

Your Turn

Did I miss any of your favorite awards on the obscure foreign award charts? Tell me about it in the comments.
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Right now, you pay the same price for a roundtrip award and a one way award booked with Delta miles. Obviously, under current rules, booking a one way award is foolish.

Starting January 1, 2015, we will be able to book one way Delta awards for half the price of roundtrips. (We lose the ability to book stopovers on Delta awards the same day.)

Screen Shot 2014-11-24 at 4.31.56 AM

To me the ability to book one way awards is especially valuable with Delta miles.

  • Why?

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Delta had already released its 2015 award chart for travel beginning in the United States (exlcuding Hawaii) and Canada, and now Delta has released SkyMiles Award Charts for 2015 from all other parts of the world.

Screen Shot 2014-11-19 at 1.08.23 PM

The current award chart controls for awards BOOKED in 2014, and the 2015 chart for awards BOOKED in 2015, regardless of when the flights are flown.

In addition to new award charts, we will see two major rule changes on Delta awards for awards booked January 1, 2015 or later:

The award charts reflect only minor changes from the 2014 chart, so don’t expect to find a big devaluation.

I scoured the new charts looking for creative, cheap awards, and I found a few.

  • What are the best deals on the new 2015 SkyMiles charts?

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As widely predicted, Delta is eliminating stopovers on its awards starting January 1, 2015. Its SkyMiles program rules page says as much.

Screen Shot 2014-11-18 at 8.15.02 AM

This is a bummer, but the good news is that one way awards will be bookable with Delta miles starting January 1, 2015, and Delta has already improved its online search.

American eliminated stopovers on awards this year, and the US Airways program will cease to exist in quarter 2 of 2015, which means United will be the only American program that allows stopovers very soon. We’ll see how long that lasts.

Your last chance to book a Delta award with a stopover will be December 31, 2014. At that point, you can book an award through about November 2015.

Hat Tip: Lisa in the comments

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An actual improvement to delta.com!

Previously, you could search award space one month at a time with a calendar on delta.com, but that calendar only took into account award space on Delta flights. Because much of the Saver award space available to people with Delta miles is available on partner airlines, that meant that in practice, you really had to search delta.com one day at a time to get the full picture. See “A Major Problem with Delta.com and the Only Solution.”

The nearly useless delta.com used to display

Now, multi-day award searches can display a grid of +/- 3 days, and do take into account partners. This is a big improvement in my mind. It will certainly save me a lot of time when I am booking awards for clients of my Award Booking Service.

  • How does the new delta.com search work?
  • What airlines are searchable on delta.com?
  • Why should you still call in to book most Delta awards?

Off peak awards allow us to stretch our miles further by booking discounted awards to select regions during certain pre-determined dates. Off peak awards are offered by several airlines, and this post will put all the off peak awards I know of in one place.

While off peak awards are often less desirable dates, there are some off peak dates that are actually my favorite times to visit a country. For instance, March is a fantastic month in Argentina, and you can book an award to Buenos Aires or Bariloche every March for 10,000 fewer American Airlines miles than if you travel in July, a worse time to visit in my opinion.

Bariloche, Lake District of Patagonia, in March

American and US Airways have set off peak awards every year to select regions. Air France Flying Blue and Lufthansa Miles & More have discounted awards that are kind of like off peak awards. United and Delta occasionally have award sales that are like off peak awards, but are not as regular as American and US Airways’ off peak awards.

  • What are the off peak awards offered by American, US Airways, Delta, United, Lufthansa, and Air France?
  • What dates are they offered?
  • Do you have to fly the airline offering the deal or can you fly a partner?

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Delta has an award sale for economy awards booked by November 3, 2014 and flown between December 3, 2014 and February 18, 2015 within the United States, Caribbean, and Americas.

Screen Shot 2014-10-30 at 7.58.59 PM

The discounts are nice, especially to Southern South America (Chile, Argentina, Brazil):

Screen Shot 2014-10-30 at 8.02.21 PM

There are a ton of restrictions:

  • Blackout dates: December 19 through December 24, 2014, December 26, 2014 through January 5, 2015, January 16, 2015, January 19, 2015, February 13, 2015 and February 16, 2015
  • Blackout cities: Caracas, Venezuela; Cancun, Mexico; and Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
  • Minimum Stay: Tickets to/from Brazil, Argentina, and Chile require a 7-day minimum stay.

Notably I don’t see a restriction that you must fly Delta metal, so the same deal may be available on awards on Alaska Airlines, AeroMexico, and Aerolineas Argentinas, the three key Delta partners in these regions.

  • What are the best deals?
  • What about stopovers and free one ways?
  • Where can you search the relevant Delta partners?
  • What is the award space picture on Delta flights?
  • Why would I consider flying a Standard (ie not a Saver) award during this sale?

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Update 11/17/14: To book a stopover on an international award, you need to call Delta because the functionality has been removed from the website. I speculate that starting 1/1/15, Delta awards will not allow stopovers.

One Mile at a Time reports that Delta has stealthily eliminated stopovers on awards.

That’s not quite correct, but something very fishy is going on. Here’s how I know it is not true.

Screen Shot 2014-10-28 at 11.04.43 AM

Above is a roundtrip award from Washington DC to Los Angeles. On the outbound, there is a one week stopover in Minneapolis. The award prices at 25,000 miles + $16.80, which is the same miles as it would cost without the stopover in Minneapolis–hence a free stopover. (This is $5.60 extra in taxes than if you didn’t stop in MSP.)

Screen Shot 2014-10-28 at 11.04.53 AM

But he does a larger point that many awards are not pricing with a free stopover when they should.

  • A look at the evidence
  • Delta’s explanation
  • What’s the deal?

I get a ton of requests at my Award Booking Service for people who want to fly from the United States to Australia or New Zealand over Christmas and New Year’s with their frequent flyer miles. Usually the request is to fly in Business or First Class.

Screen Shot 2014-10-15 at 2.46.29 AM

I want to dissuade you from this goal because it is one of the toughest awards to book.

Last month I wrote “The Easiest Places to Get with Miles.” Miles are awesome and can get you almost anywhere in the world cheaper and more luxuriously than most people realize. But some awards are easier to book than others. Focusing on easier awards, especially at first, can get you some award-ticket “wins” that will hook you and lead to more successful bookings in the future.

Trying to book two people from the United States to Australia in Business Class from December 21 to January 3 is very hard to turn into one of those wins. It will mainly lead to frustration.

  • What is the award space picture to Australia this holiday season with American, US Airways, United, and Delta miles?
  • What is the most likely strategy to find award space?
  • What other times of year does Australia have better award space?

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According to Delta’s website: “Round-the-World Award Tickets will not be issued on or after January 1, 2015.” (Hat Tip Delta Points)

Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 6.55.32 PM

I called Delta at 800-323-2323 to ask about booking a RTW award, and the agent said that it was just announced today to representatives that RTW awards would no longer be bookable starting January 1, 2015. She said it was a short communique announcing their demise.

I mused aloud, “I wonder why,” to see if she had any insight into the thinking. She didn’t, replying with “I wonder too.”

Delta RTW awards are a specialty of the MileValue Award Booking Service, and a good value since they were untouched by last year’s double devaluation of the Delta chart.

I”ll give a brief rundown of the rules and prices for Delta RTW awards, so that you can book or plan one before the January 1, 2015 ticketing deadline.

  • What are the rules for a Delta RTW award?

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Starting in 2015, you will only be able to transfer 250,000 Membership Rewards to Delta miles per year and 200,000 Starwood Preferred Guest points to 250,000 Delta miles per year. See Delta FAQ.

Screen Shot 2014-10-02 at 1.15.38 AM

Delta imposed the rule on American Express and Starwood, but it’s so easy to work around that it’s no big deal.

Here’s what membershiprewards.com says about the new rule:

“Beginning January 1, 2015, the maximum number of Membership Rewards® points you will be able to transfer out of a single Membership Rewards account to one or more SkyMiles accounts will be limited to 250,000 points per calendar year. Additionally, the maximum number of Membership Rewards points you will be able to transfer into a single SkyMiles account will also be limited to 250,000 points per calendar year.

You are able to transfer Membership Rewards points to a SkyMiles account without any annual limitations through December 31, 2014.”

  • What is the exact limit on transfers?
  • What are the workarounds to basically get unlimited Delta miles from Membership Rewards and Starpoints transfers?

Sometimes you can go really far for not very miles by finding underpriced countries on your favorite award chart.

Award charts, by their nature, group several countries together for a single price. The countries at the extremes of each group are often underpriced relative to the rest of the group, leaving you the chance to get a great deal with your miles.

Here are five examples of underpriced countries on the American Airlines, United, Delta, US Airways, and British Airways award charts.

1. Peru, by American, United, and Delta

Peru is the farthest south country in Northern South America on the American Airlines, United, and Delta charts. I’ve previously called Peru the Best Destination for Lie Flat Seats because it is the only country in its region with lie flat seats offered by United, Delta, and American’s partner LAN.

Screen Shot 2014-09-25 at 11.45.37 AM
The most distant country in Northern South America is Peru

You can book a one way award from the United States to Peru for as little as 15,000 American Airlines miles each way in economy on these dates: between January 16 – June 14 and September 7 – November 14. That’s only 2,500 miles more than a one way award within the continental United States and cheaper than an award to Hawaii despite Peru being farther award from the continental United States than Hawaii.

You can fly flat beds to Peru for:

  • 30,000 American Airlines miles each way (LAN)
  • 35,000 United miles each way (United)
  • 90,000 Delta miles roundtrip (Delta) [45,000 miles each way starting 1/1/15]

That’s cheaper than flat beds to Hawaii, despite Peru being farther away from the continental United States. Those prices are also a huge discount on the prices to Chile, Brazil, and Argentina which are just a few hours more of flying.

Peru also happens to be my favorite country to visit. Here’s my Top Ten Things to Do, Eat, and See in Peru.

  • What are the other four underpriced countries?

Virgin Atlantic is a London-based airline that serves or has plans to serve 12 American airports. Virgin Atlantic releases a ton of award space in Upper Class between the United States and Europe in the last days and weeks before departure.

Detroit begins 6/1/15, Atlanta begins 10/27/14
Detroit begins 6/1/15, Atlanta begins 10/27/14

You can book Virgin Atlantic Upper Class with Delta miles. Delta currently charges 125,000 miles roundtrip to Europe in Virgin Atlantic Upper Class.

Last week, I looked at some of Virgin Atlantic’s new flights and asked whether booking Virgin Atlantic Upper Class was the best use of SkyMiles.

Starting January 1, 2015, you’ll be able to book Virgin Atlantic Upper Class for 62,500 Delta miles one way. Delta does not collect fuel surcharges on Upper Class flights.

Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 11.14.32 PM

Virgin Atlantic Upper Class is among the world’s best business classes because it features a fully flat bed, direct aisle access from every seat, an onboard bar, and fantastic lounges, especially in London.

I was daydreaming about flying Virgin Atlantic Upper Class home from Europe next summer, and I wondered: Does Virgin Atlantic release a lot of last minute award space on its routes?

I figure that if I am in Europe, and I do want to fly Virgin Atlantic Upper Class home, I’d book the ticket at the last minute to maintain maximum flexibility.

  • Does Virgin Atlantic release a lot of last minute award space on its routes?
  • How can you search and book Virgin Atlantic award space?
  • How can you save money when booking Virgin Atlantic award space?

Update on 9/23/14 to Remove Reference to American Airlines award stopovers and free one ways, which are no longer possible.

Hawaii is one of the best places in the world to visit, and judging by the number of inquiries I get about booking awards to Hawaii, it’s clear that many people agree. There are a number of cheap ways to get there that I’ll list in order.

1. Allegiant Air $358+ roundtrip- Allegiant Air is a super-low cost carrier that announced flights to Hawaii that will start in November. Flights to Honolulu from Bellingham, Eugene, Fresno, Las Vegas, Monterey, Santa Maria, and Stockton; and flights to Kahului from Bellingham begin in November. The flights are as cheap as $308 roundtrip, but a carryon will cost $50 roundtrip and a checked bag is $70 roundtrip. Additionally if you want to select your seat or board early, you have to pay extra.

But if you live in one of the cities serviced by Allegiant, don’t mind a middle seat for five hours, and can travel with only one bag, $358 roundtrip to Hawaii is the best deal in my opinion.

One key caveat is that Allegiant flights don’t earn any frequent flier miles or credit of any kind. Since normally flying from the west coast to Hawaii earns about 5,000 miles, and I value 5,000 miles at around $85 depending on the carrier, Allegiant flights must be $85 or more cheaper than the legacy carriers for this to be a good deal. Since the legacy carriers want $600+ from the west coast to Hawaii right now, Allegiant easily meets the criterion.

You can always pay for your Allegiant flights, bag fees, seat fees, and food with a Barclaycard Arrival PlusTM World Elite MasterCard®. Then you can redeem Arrival miles to remove those purchases from your statement. You could even use your Arrival miles for an airbnb stay in Hawaii or interisland flights.

2. Avios Award 25,000+ Avios and $11+ roundtrip- I love that Avios is a distance-based award chart. Flights like the west coast to Hawaii cost only 12,500 Avios each way plus taxes. For 25,000 Avios and $11, you can fly on AA planes from LAX to the four major Hawaiian airports.

Alaska Airlines has way more gateways on the mainland to the four major Hawaiian airports. For 25,000 Avios and $36, you can fly from Anchorage, Bellingham, Oakland, Portland, San Diego, San Jose, and Seattle to Hawaii. The extra $25 on Avios awards comes from the fact that awards on Alaska Airlines can’t be booked on ba.com, and calling BA incurs a $25 phone fee.

Avios is also the best option for anyone who lives close to one of the airports mentioned in this section, since a short hop flight only adds 4,500 Avios and $2.50 to the price each way. That means Tuscon to Los Angeles to Lihue roundtrip would be 34,000 Avios and $16.

Avios can be used for oneway awards at half the price of a roundtrip award, which means that if you can’t get the Avios deal both ways, it’s still a good idea to go oneway for 12,500 Avios and use another oneway deal.

See here for an Anatomy of an Award post for a step-by-step breakdown of the time I booked a oneway award from Honolulu to LAX with Avios.

3. Hawaiian Airlines Award 35,000 miles and $11- Hawaiian Airlines awards start at 35,000 miles for Hawaiian Airlines branded card holders. The normal price is 40,000 miles. While this price is no cheaper than an American Airlines off peak award to Hawaii, I think it’s a better deal because Hawaiian Airlines miles are worth less than most programs’ miles. (The reason Hawaiian miles are worth less is their lack of partners, junk long haul first class product, and lack of destinations.)

Hawaiian also has the only direct flight from Honolulu to JFK, which at 35,000 miles and $5 is a fantastic value in terms of low cost and getting a direct flight. The other flights Hawaiian operates from Honolulu to the mainland go to Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Oakland, Phoenix, Portland, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, and Seattle.

Hawaiian miles can be used for oneway awards at half the price of a roundtrip award, which means that if you can’t get the Avios deal both ways, this can be combined with a oneway Avios deal.

See here for an Anatomy of an Award post for a step-by-step breakdown of the time I booked a oneway award from LAX to Honolulu with Hawaiian miles. The post also includes information on the very useful mile pooling allowed by Hawaiian.

4. Star Alliance options from as little as 35,000 miles roundtrip in economy and 60,000 miles in First.

See this post.

 

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