Should You Buy Delta Miles or Airline Gift Card to Trigger the Credit?

I got an email from a reader and wanted to share it with you:

I recently applied for a targeted offer on Delta Amex card that is giving me 60,000 miles but it’s costing me $200.00 (annual fee).  But I get a $100 statement credit if I spend $100 on a Delta purchase within first 3 months.  So I’m going to buy $100 of miles and get something for my money.  So it’s really 60,000 + $100 worth of miles for $100.  
 
Anyway, the story being that I called Delta to ask what a “qualifying Delta purchase” is and they told me “hotel and flights only”.  I asked, “Not gift cards or miles?”  They said no.  I read the fine print.  It didn’t make sense.  But the fine print was kind of vague.  So I wrote Delta and asked for a written explanation with a copy of the fine print.  They wrote me back saying that you could buy miles and a whole bunch of other things.
It seemed odd to me when they said that airline gift cards don’t qualify. Usually, as long as you buy them directly from airline website, it will be considered an eligible  purchase. In fact, it’s much more likely to trigger the credit than buying miles. The latter is often processed by Points.com, a middle man of sorts. It does depend on airline, of course, but buying gift cards is usually much safer. In fact, unless you need the miles to top off an account, it really makes  more sense to go that route. You can buy revenue flights and more importantly, you can sell a gift card if you are pressed for cash. Here are some options from Giftcardgranny:
delta gift card
Often, you can do it electronically, which is a nice plus. Sure, you would take a loss, but getting 82% back if you choose Amazon gift card isn’t actually all that bad. And it sure beats buying expensive miles for which you have no immediate use. Airline gift cards usually don’t have an expiration date, so you can also hang on to them till a good opportunity presents itself.
A funny story. I recently sold my American Airlines gift card (at a  loss) because it was sitting around my house for over two years. Well… A week later a friend called and asked me for help in booking airfare. The cheapest option was, you guessed it, American. Irony, it’s the story of my life.
 I asked my reader to follow up with Delta and this was her response:
“Just so you know.  I emailed for further clarification and I was told that the gift cert works as a qualified purchase, but not the miles.  So I bought a gift card.  And I have their email to back it.  We’ll see!  Thanks!” 
This is what I suspected, so I’m glad she got it clarified.  I’ve mentioned before that if you want to succeed in The Hobby, you have to learn the art of HUCA (hang up call again). Many times the reps will tell information that has nothing to do with reality. If something smells fishy, follow up, several times if needed. It’s much better than being stuck with miles for which you have no use.

Yay or nay to Delta credit card?

Yay…for some. Speaking of Delta credit card, there is currently a targeted offer of 60K miles+$50, first year annual fee waived. Check this non-affiliate link to see if you can get it to come up. I believe Danny the Deal Guru blog was the first one to report on this offer but if not, I apologize to anyone I’ve unwittingly shafted.
Don’t listen to those who say that Delta miles are useless. Sure, it’s not my favorite currency, but you CAN find value if you have flexibility. In this case, you can potentially get 4 one-way tickets to  Alaska+$50 credit, and have 10K miles leftover. Some routes on Delta cost only 5K miles, but they don’t tell you which ones (tip: the shorter the route, the better your chances are). It’s like a game, a frustrating game any time you are dealing with Delta. But you can win if you are persistent.
Anyway, I did a search last month  to see just how bad Delta award availability is from Florida to Anchorage, and was pleasantly surprised. It doesn’t mean, of course, that it will be wide open for the route you need. I’m just saying don’t discount this program and always check all of your options.
Also, remember, Delta partners with Alaska Air, which has extensive route coverage in Western part of US. If you are Delta hub-captive, you should at least look into this bonus. But whatever you do, don’t collect the miles via everyday spending. That’s what Membership Rewards program is for, specifically Amex Everyday Preferred. Yes, some use Delta co-branded card for manufactured spending in order to gain top-tier status, but I doubt too many middle-class families would think that the juice is worth the squeeze. Am I right?
P.S. Speaking of Amex cards, many are reporting getting some juicy targeted offers via CardMatch tool (my affiliate link), like 50K offer on Amex Premier Rewards Gold with only $1,000 minimum spending requirement in 3 months. Your credit is not pulled if you click on that link, it simply presents you with options. I got a rock, but you may have a better success.
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8 thoughts on “Should You Buy Delta Miles or Airline Gift Card to Trigger the Credit?

  1. The cool kids told me not to like delta. I have touched them since my first few months in the hobby. They have a special place in my heart as they were my first award flight.

    But is picking up a delta card as bad as people think? Or are their affiliate payouts just not large like the greatest-card-ever-have-to-apply-now-or-you’ll
    -die-alone-CSP?

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  2. Typing on my mobile and the ambiguity of pronouns makes me look like I’ve been touching the cool kids, when I meant to say I haven’t touched delta. I hope this is clear now.

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    • @Cheapblackdad LOL I knew what you meant! Plus, it would cost a good bit of money to touch the cool kids, as in require a ticket to a frequent flyer event. And then maybe, just maybe, you would get your chance. Of course, it would cure you of any disease you had at the moment. But you are too cheap to pay for seminars, I presume. 🙂 I’m joking, of course, not trying to be mean. If FTU comes to a city near you, consider it. I was curious, so I went. It was interesting, and I don’t regret it. If I dropped $500-$1,000 on the trip, I would feel like an idiot.
      On Delta card, it really depends on your plans. If Delta has a good coverage from your airport and you have flexibility, why not? That 60K bonus is terrific for some. Of course, CSP is better overall because the points are flexible. But not everyone can get it, unfortunately. Oh, and of course CSP will be promoted more. It pays commission, Delta card doesn’t at the moment. But when it does, it will be the best thing since sliced bread, just watch!

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  3. As an almost 2 million miler with Delta, I have a love/hate relationship with them. Of the big 3, I think they are the best domestic airline. I would much rather fly Delta than UA or AA. The crews are better and they have statistically more reliable on-time performance. And they have taken good care of me when situations have gone bad (admittedly most of the time that I was accruing butt-in-seat miles, it was in biz class with Diamond or Platinum Medallion status. Now, I’m only Silver.) I hate what they’ve done with their SkyMiles program so I have effectively cashed out a 700K+ horde over the past 2 years. However, I do think their miles are worth collecting in the opportunistic sense i.e. if you’re not currently working towards some other goal and a great DL signup bonus comes up, why not? Unlike other programs, SkyMiles don’t expire. They have run some decent award ticket sales in the past year and hopefully that trend continues. I went to Paris during Thanksgiving week precisely because of a sale that they had in August. Four economy tickets on a nonstop flight for 42K SkyMiles each (vs. the normal 60K+) allowed me to empty my SkyMiles account augmented with a small chunk of points transferred from Amex MR. I was actually quite impressed with the economy “product” on those flights, it was much better than I had remembered (meal tip: order the steak or shrimp salad). Given the option, I would choose to accrue Membership Rewards because they can be instantly transferred 1:1 to SkyMiles at the time you need them. But if you have a stash from a signup bonus and your cost/effort to get those miles was “not much”, there is no harm holding onto them for the right opportunity. Most of the bloggers hate DL because they are destroying (innovating?) the traditional mileage program as we know it, making it harder to game the system. They don’t tell you that award availability has actually improved vs. 5 years ago. Maybe it is not always at the price you want, but you can find good value if you are patient and flexible with your travel plans/destinations. People have even reported seeing Avios-range pricing (i.e. 7500 or 10000 miles one-way) appear on certain routes.

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    • @Erik I totally agree with you. Delta slaughtered their program. I mean, no charts? That’s ridiculous and makes it hard to plan in advance. That being said, this bonus a low-hanging fruit. You meet the spend, collect your miles and wait for the right opportunity. Besides, 1 Sky mile=1 cent on Delta travel when you are a card holder. At the very least, it’s $600 in free flights plus $50. What’s not to like?
      Well, I won’t be getting it because I don’t see any use for these miles in the next 3 years. I’m not a huge fan of hoarding. But it is a terrific offer for some, no question. Some short non-stop routes cost only 5K miles, which is dirt cheap. This is a niche product, but that can be said about any traditional mile. If you don’t live near Delta-served airport and have to fly 7 during Thanksgiving on a short notice, it’s probably not for you.
      I think that’s amazing that you were able to get such a bargain for flights to Paris. Just goes to show that Sky mile is far from worthless.

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