Although my mom passed away over a decade ago, I still get quarterly email updates from Delta Air Lines reminding me that she has over 43,000 miles that have never been used.
I’m not sure why I haven’t used them all these years. Maybe because I primarily fly Southwest to the destinations I visit most frequently. But I’ve been thinking about taking my daughters to Disney World this winter so maybe these points present an opportunity to reduce the cost of the trip.
I wanted to spend the miles wisely so I did a little research. First, I went onto delta.com to see just how far 43,000 miles could take me. Turns out, I could get a round-trip ticket from the Washington, D.C. area to Orlando for 15,000 points per person. Not bad. I have a family of four, so I could use 30,000 points for two tickets, which would leave me with 13,000 points. I clicked around the site to see if I could buy 2,000 additional points so I would have the 15,000 points required for a third ticket. I could! For just $70, I can purchase 2,000 points. That would take care of three round-trip flights, so I would only have to buy one fare at $247. To me, that sounded like a great deal for two adults and two children flying to Disney World.
But before I committed to using the points this way, I wanted to explore ALL options to make sure I’m truly making the most out of this gift.
One option was to take advantage of the partnership between Delta and the Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) program. It’s called Crossover Rewards and it allows you to link your accounts with both programs so you can use points interchangeably and earn points simultaneously. And since I’ve been a loyal SPG member for many years, the chance to maximize my earning opportunities is a pretty tempting offer. But the question is, are 43,000 extra SPG points more valuable than the Orlando flight pricing I researched?
Let’s see: A stay at the Sheraton Vistana Resort Villas, for example, would use 10,000 points per night. We’re staying for 4 nights, so that would cover our entire hotel stay. But is that a better value than the three free flights (plus $70) to Orlando? Well, paying outright for 4 nights at that hotel would total $556. The three round-trip flights would cost $741. So the flights present the greater value.
Then I began thinking of a way to get even more Delta miles on top of mom’s miles to pay for everything – all four plane tickets AND a four-night hotel stay. The Delta website is currently offering 30,000 bonus Skymiles® when you sign up for the Gold Delta Skymiles card from American Express®.
I was just about to jump on that deal when I remembered seeing a mailing on my kitchen table for the same card. I dug through my mail, found it, and was surprised to see that the mailed offer was even better than the one advertised online. If I used the special reply code on the letter, I would get a $50 statement credit plus 50,000 Skymiles after spending $2,000 in the first three months of membership. That would definitely cover everything! (And let that be a lesson to us all: Keep an eye on all those credit card offers we receive in our mailboxes. They often offer bonuses you can’t find anywhere else.)
Ok, on to my other options…
Like most airline loyalty programs, Delta offers the flexibility of redeeming miles for gift cards and merchandise, too. I thought, “Wouldn’t it be neat to use my mother’s miles to buy a few cool toys for my daughters?” It would be like getting a gift from the grandmother they never got a chance to meet. Some of the nicer toys required redemption of 7,000 miles or more. So that would get them about six toys. That could be a pretty nice surprise for the kids. But then again, so would Disney World.
Another cool redemption option is charitable giving. Finding a cure for breast cancer is a cause that was near and dear to my mother’s heart. Through the SkyMiles site, I could donate any number of miles (with a minimum of 1,000) to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation – a meaningful way to honor her memory and help others as well.
So, what did I eventually decide to do with her miles? A little bit of everything.
I used 30,000 points to purchase two of my airline tickets to Orlando, 10,000 points to pay for one of my nights at the Sheraton, and donated the remaining 3,000 points to charity.
I think I made mom proud.
P.S. Remember, bonus mile offers from Delta and all airlines change frequently. The offers mentioned in this article are only available for a limited time.