Delta Amex Pay With Miles Program Now Gives Miles for First/Business Class Tickets

Sep 18, 2013

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One of the perks of having a Delta American Express co-branded credit card such as the Delta Gold, Delta Platinum, or Delta Reserve American Express cards is that you’re eligible to use the Pay with Miles feature when purchasing tickets. Historically you wouldn’t earn Medallion® Qualifying Miles on Pay With Miles tickets, but earlier this year Delta lifted that rule for business/first class tickets. I had no idea until a friend told me recently, so I thought I’d do a refresher on the program and when it makes sense to leverage it vs. redeeming miles or paying cash.

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Pay with Miles allows you to redeem your miles at a rate of 1 cent each in value either for an outright award redemption or for cash off your ticket. Here’s how it works:

For fares less than $100, you have to redeem 25,000 miles to cover the total fare (I don’t recommend this since your per-point value is an abysmal 0.4 cents!).

For fares equal to or greater than $100 and less than $250, you can redeem 10,000 miles for $100 off the total fare (1 cent each) or increase the redemption up to 25,000 miles in increments of 5,000 miles ($50 off) to cover the total fare.

For fares equal to or greater than $250 and total fares less than $1,000, you can redeem 10,000 miles for $100 off the total fare or increase the redemption in increments of 5,000 miles ($50 off) to cover all or part of the total fare (15,000 miles for $150 off, 20,000 miles for $200 off, etc.)

For total fares equal to or greater than $1,000, redeem 10,000 miles for $100 off the total fare or increase the redemption in increments of 10,000 miles ($100 off) to cover all or part of the total fare (20,000 miles for $200 off, 30,000 miles for $300 off, etc.)

If you choose to pay for a fare with both miles and a credit card, you must use an eligible Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express.

Only tickets on Delta and Delta Connection carrier flights booked at under the DL code are eligible.

Medallion Complimentary Upgrades on Pay with Miles tickets is limited to Diamond, Platinum and Gold Medallion passengers and may not be eligible on all flights.

Let’s take an example of when this might make sense. Let’s say you wanted to fly from New York-Los Angeles and the fare was $289 round-trip or 40,000 SkyMiles for a coach award if there were no low-level award seats left. As a cardholder, you would be able to use 30,000 miles instead – saving yourself 10,000 miles.

Delta offers Pay with Miles for Amex Cardholders.
Delta offers Pay with Miles for Amex Cardholders.

Earning Miles on Pay With Miles Tickets

When using Pay with Miles for coach tickets, you have never been allowed to earn miles, but in the last year, First/Business class tickets became eligible for mileage accrual, elite-qualifying mileage accrual, and elite-qualifying segments. If you choose that option, the mileage will be credited automatically so there is no need to request mileage credit.

Here are the rules:

First/Business Class Pay with Miles Tickets:

  • Flights booked and flown on or after March 26th, 2013 – Full and Partial Pay with Miles tickets are eligible for Mileage Accrual, Medallion Qualification Miles or Medallion Qualification Segments (MQSs). Mileage and MQM’s are based on the first/business class fare purchased.

As an example of how this would work, below is a sample route from Tampa to Atlanta, where you could book a First Class ticket using miles. On these dates, First Class was going for $777.80, so by using 20,000 miles, it would take $200 off the fare. As you can see also this displays that you would earn 1,500 Medallion Qualifying Miles on this route since you earn a 150% bonus on discounted First/Business class tickets, just as you would on a ticket you had paid for all in cash.

Partial first class pay with miles tickets will earn miles as well.
Pay with Miles tickets will now earn miles

When it comes to using Pay with Miles, I would always recommend checking to see how many miles would be needed for a standard award as well, since sometimes booking the First Class award outright may be cheaper.

As a reminder, Gold, Platinum, and Diamond Medallion members are eligible for complimentary upgrades on award bookings, so depending on the route it might be better just to book a coach ticket with Pay with Miles and hope for an upgrade rather than using an extra 50,000 miles to redeem for a First Class ticket.

If you find yourself short toward the end of the year and need a few extra Medallion Qualifying Miles to maintain your Medallion status but don’t want to spend money on a ticket, then consider booking a First Class ticket using Pay with Miles, as you won’t have to shell out the cash, but you’ll still earn the miles.

Delta Credit Cards

The main condition of being able to use the Pay With Points feature is that you must have a Delta co-branded credit card, and when it comes to getting in on the best offer for the American Express Delta Gold card, I would recommend one of the following two options below.

Checking for Your Own Targeted Offers

If you might be interested in seeing if there are any other offers for you either on the Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express or the other Delta cards, the other site you should check out is You enter your SkyMiles number and last name and it will automatically populate with any credit card offers for which you are eligible. For me it displayed the Platinum SkyMiles Amex offer I decided to apply for.

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