Home Points & Miles Are You Short Delta Skymiles For An Award? American Express May Lend You The Miles

Are You Short Delta Skymiles For An Award? American Express May Lend You The Miles

by joeheg

Some people love Delta SkyMiles while others despise them for doing away with award charts and generally making changes whenever they want with no notice. I fall somewhere in the middle. While I hate that they sometimes charge an unbelievable amount of miles for some flights, I’ve also been able to find awards for reasonable prices on both Delta aircraft and with some of their partners, like Virgin Atlantic.

That means I’m in a constant cycle of earning Delta Skymiles and using them for redemptions. Fortunately, American Express partners with Delta and you can transfer Membership Rewards to Delta Skymiles, albeit for a price. American Express and Delta also offer many co-brand cards like the Gold Delta Skymiles American Express card so it’s pretty easy to add to your Skymiles balance.

But what if you’ve exhausted all other options and are still just a few hundred or thousand Skymiles short for a redemption?

Back in the olden days, American Express would offer to loan you Membership Rewards points which you could “pay back” by earning points on your card. This program is long gone for the Membership Rewards cards, but there’s a similar offer for cardholders of the Delta AMEX co-brand credit cards.

The Miles Headstart program lets you “borrow” a certain number of points that you’ll pay back by earning points on your Delta American Express card. The number of miles they’re willing to lend can depend on several factors.

Eligible Delta SkyMiles Card Members must be in good standing to access Miles Headstart. Eligibility factors include but are not limited to how long you have been a Delta SkyMiles American Express Card Member and Card activity. If you are eligible to access Miles Headstart, the maximum number of miles you can be advanced is based on several factors including Card activity. You may have only one (1) Miles Headstart Balance outstanding at any time.

If you choose to borrow points, you have six months to repay them by earning SkyMiles on your AMEX card. If you don’t earn back enough points, the remaining balance will be purchased at the cost of 2.5 cents per mile.

I decided to check out how many miles American Express would be willing to lend me. I have a Gold Delta Skymiles Business card that I do not put very much spending on. To check if you’re eligible for the offer, you need to go to the AMEX website:


I logged into my account and was shown my offer:

Screenshot 2019-10-06 22.36.12

That’s not a huge offer but if I just needed a few miles to have enough for an award, I’d take the points. Of course, putting spending on a Delta co-brand card isn’t a great return for your spending value and you’d have to earn back the number of points you borrow at the rate of 1 SkyMiles per dollar, or be on the hook to pay them back at 2.5 cents per mile, which is an even worse value to buy Delta miles.

This offer is only open to Delta Skymiles co-brand credit card holders so it makes having at least one of those cards in you your wallet slightly more valuable. I’d imagine if you regularly use your Delta Skymiles Amex card, they’d be willing to lend more miles.

Screenshot 2019-10-06 23.03.35

It’s nice to see an offer like this return as an option. I’ve read too many posts on Facebook groups from people who were less than 100 points short for an award ticket and scrambling to see how they could quickly earn miles before it disappeared.

Calling American Express to see if they would provide some points as a courtesy was an option but you were at the mercy of the agent you were talking to at the time. Making lending points into a benefit of being a cardholder, slightly increases the value of having a Delta AMEX card.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary


Christian October 7, 2019 - 4:41 pm

I really like your posts as a whole, but have to disagree with you on something here. You say that you’re sure that some people love Skymiles. As a once-fervent Delta fan, I have to disagree. Ten years ago, when Delta cared about frequent fliers? You bet. Finding long haul award seats at reasonable prices these days is next to impossible, and worse in business class. Lounge access is more difficult to access than ever. Upgrades, never plentiful without Diamond status, are much rarer than before. The award chart was removed specifically to be able to raise prices with impunity. Credit card spending becoming continually less valuable has been ongoing as well. These points, and lots more, are why Skymiles is an absolute dumpster fire. Delta runs an on time airline with pleasant people, but Skymiles is not why people fly with them.

Beachmouse March 19, 2021 - 8:56 pm

I’ve done this a few times when I was 2-3K miles short on an award ticket at a good redemption rate and it ends up being pretty painless


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