According to Benjamin Franklin, the only two things we can be sure of in this world are death and taxes. However, if Ben were alive today, he might add travel loyalty program devaluations to that list.
In October 2020, the Delta SkyMiles program made using points to book flights with partner airlines more expensive. These devaluations were pretty bad but Delta wasn’t finished and just devalued again, charging a minimum of 120,000 SkyMiles for one-way flights with partners from the US to Europe in Business Class.
I’m not going to go over how much specific partner flights using Delta SkyMiles now cost because that’s been covered by plenty of other websites. They’ve speculated about why Delta took this move and some have suggested cutting up your co-brand Delta cards and calling AMEX to complain about Delta’s actions.
Here’s why I don’t think cutting up your Delta AMEX co-brand credit cards is the best move right now for most cardholders.
The Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card is the version that most leisure travelers hold. The $99 annual fee is waived the first year for new cardholders.
I’m only guessing, but I think many people get this card for the same reasons why I have it – the perks it gives infrequent flyers when booking with Delta.
- Priority Boarding
- Free First Checked Bag
- 20% Savings On In-Flight Purchases
Delta Medallion members won’t value these benefits but they are great for the average leisure traveler. Getting to board earlier and not having to pay $30 to check a bag for up to 9 members of your travel party is worth way more than the $99 annual fee.
Delta cardholders can also use their SkyMiles to buy a ticket with the “Pay With Miles” option, getting a value of 1 cent per SkyMile. This option keeps looking better and better the more Delta devalues award redemptions.
Delta co-brand AMEX cardholders also have access to AMEX Offers, including a recent monthly dining credit for all of 2021.
These customers don’t care that a business class seat with Air France will now cost double what it cost before because that’s not how they were using miles. I’m sure way more people use SkyMiles to book domestic economy tickets than international business class seats.
This action by Delta is disappointing but not surprising. For those collecting SkyMiles for an aspirational redemption, this devaluation hurts the most. This is why I never earn Delta miles except for sign-up bonuses or referrals (or the occasional dining purchase.) If there ever is a redemption I want to make with Delta, I’ll transfer points from my American Express Membership Rewards account. Those transfers are almost instant and I’ll deal with the fee that AMEX charges when transferring points to Delta.
While I understand the frustration that people have with how Delta is running the SkyMiles program, it doesn’t mean that the Delta co-brand AMEX cards’ value has changed. The reasons that people signed up and kept the card are as useful as ever.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary
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Of the three benefits that you list, the one with measurable benefits for most people is the free checked bag. In order to make the card hit break even plus, someone would have to book four sets of flights or two round trips. Given that Delta has gone so far out of their way to show bad faith to engaged customers, that’s not nearly good enough for me. I cancelled my Delta credit card in October after Delta made the last massive devaluation. I guess I’m just old school but I don’t feel that showing contempt for your engaged customers is a valid way to retain their loyalty. I can get Amex offers from cards that don’t show loyalty without reciprocity without giving Delta anything in the bargain. I say this as a formerly fanatical Delta fan.
Partner awards were the last value for someone wanting more than 1 cent per point (except for occasional sales). After being Diamond for seven years and then Platinum I will now keep my Amex card long enough to burn up my points with the pay by points feature. Delta is a great airline but there is no value in being loyal any more.
Since it costs over 1 cent to MS Skymiles, there is no value in manufacturing Skymiles. Since my domestic trips historically have no bags in the hold, there is no value in check luggage fee waivers. Since other people are dumping Delta cards there is no value for getting a priority boarding position since there will be less card holding passengers priority boarding ahead of me. Finally, since the Delta cards are made of plastic and not metal, there is no value in holding a Delta card in the event I need to scrape gum off my shoe. And, to add insult to injury, the plastic in the Delta card has no value and my card was rejected when donated to my local trash recycler.
I am disappointed but the devaluation but it’s not the end of the world. I have the Delta platinum Amex card simply because it also gives a domestic companion ticket every year. Add that to the luggage fee waiver and it easily pays for itself. Delta has come through over and over for me in my travels. I’m not going to get all twisted because of this.
If I knew we’d use the companion ticket, I’d go for the Platinum over the Gold card. However, the need to book a round trip really limits the usefulness of it for our travels.
Once again a company shows it doesn’t really value it’s loyal customers. All in all I would much rather they improve their product then give me a few free miles. Yes they’re giving you a few hundred dollars or more of free travel or baggage credits but let’s face it 90% of business travelers are running pretty decent money and can afford this on their own. Over and over I have suggested that all of the major carriers run auctions for a few hundred flights a month for vacations, give away free drinks more often for those of us that want to imbibe, improve your seats, etc etc if I’m going to pay $1,000 or more for a seat in business class give me an extra five or 10 inches in width and pull one of the other seats out. Make my flight enjoyable and not a big hassle. I really hope somebody in marketing reads this because you’re not making life fun flying anymore like even 20 or 30 years ago. And by the way I remember when American had a motorized footrest that they took out now they have a crappy first class for transcontinental flights. I haven’t flown Delta in a long time because I mostly out of Orlando but they all suck
Amex Delta SkyMiles Gold card holders can register for the $10/month restaurant spending offer from Feb thru Dec 2021, so that’s $110 in usable credits which more than offset the $99 annual fee (on top of the other benefits associated with the card).