Delta Frequent Flier? There Might Be A Better Place To Credit Your Flights

The move by American, Delta and United to a revenue-based earning model has caused many frequent travelers to reconsider how they earn and redeem miles.  Most folks think they’ll just earn fewer miles now (and maybe spend more to redeem).  I certainly think that’s the hope of Delta, and maybe one or two other airlines.

Resourceful or frustrated travelers might want to look elsewhere.  But, they might not know where to start.  I read a post by a friend of mine (Eloy) who’s a blogger from South America.  Most of his posts are in Portuguese, but that’s easily solved with Google Chrome’s translate feature.

This post is in English and is relevant for a good chunk of travelers.  Eloy’s point is that folks who don’t spend a ton of money on Delta, earning higher levels of status are more likely to earn more miles through the Brazilian program Gol Smiles:

Let’s say you travel 100.000 miles with Delta each year. By crediting these flights to Smiles, you are going to get at least 32.500 miles if all your travel is done on Basic Economy Cabin and you’ll get the Elite Gold Level of the program.

But let’s say you travel in mixed fares and does 50K in E and 50K in Q. That will get you the Diamond elite level, and a total of approximately 125.000 miles due to the Diamond elite bonus (100%). It gets even better if you travel on cheap business class tickets with Delta, which will give you 225% of the distance flown if you’re a Diamond member.


Now, I’m neither an expert on Delta SkyMiles or Gol Smiles.  But, I know a bit here and there.  Using Eloy’s example of 100,000 miles flown, let’s say that you spent $5,000 miles on those flights.  That would earn you 7 miles per dollar spent, or 35,000 Delta SkyMiles.  That would earn you Silver status in Delta’s program.

Using the example in Eloy’s post about a transcon business class ticket, it does appear you’d come out ahead crediting to Smiles.  Doing so would mean going without Silver status in the SkyMiles program.

If you boosted your spending to $6,000 that would earn you Gold status in the SkyMiles program.  That bumps you to 8 miles per dollar spent, or 48,000 miles.

The Final Two Pennies

The decision to credit to a partner airline is an individual one.  Each scenario is going to be unique.  But, there’s absolutely math behind it.  If you can figure out what you’re likely to redeem miles for, it should be fairly simple to figure out which program is a better fit for you.  You’ll obviously have to figure out how much you value things like the occasional upgrade on Delta as well.  While rare, they do have some value.

The other takeaway here is to follow Eloy’s blog.  It only takes a few seconds to translate a post using Google Chrome.  The “Master of Miles” blog is a worthwhile addition to your reading!

The post Delta Frequent Flier?  There Might Be A Better Place To Credit Your Flights was published on Pizza in Motion


  1. I found your comparison for status a bit confusing because you talk about miles, when really what keeps you from Gold or higher is spend. Putting 25k on a Delta card exempts this so 5k spend on Delta could put you even higher than Gold.

    Earning is only half the story. How is GOL on redemptions in comparision? 125000 miles can go very fast if like American there’s no “cheap seats”.

    1. ronin, I don’t have personal experience with GOL redemptions. However, notional information I’ve received from others seems that partner awards are reasonably available. Adding credit card spending to the mix adds more complexity to the situation. That’s where I say that each person should consider all the factors that affect them personally.

  2. When flying AA I credit my miles to Alaska Airlines, not to AA. Don’t want to be at a DisAAdvantage.

  3. My calculations are that you get less miles crediting AA to Alaska than to AA, because they only let Alaska credit a fraction of them.

    1. Greg, it’s definitely not as lucrative as it used to be. The comparison depends on what status level you are with AA, since revenue-based earning is more generous for higher elites.

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