Our family lives in Alaska, and our only realistic way of travelling to the lower 48 states is by air. Therefore, we fly quite a bit and my husband flies on business trips quite often. If we fly on Delta or their partners, this translates into FREE travel for our family. A few of our relatives come up here for a visit and never take the time to enroll in the frequent flyer programs! 16 years ago we flew from Alaska to New York on Delta and they were offering triple mileage at the time - we figured we weren't going to be flying that often and never signed up! Boy did we kick ourselves later on! If you are not familiar with Delta's Frequent Flyer Program, I will try to explain it for you.
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What It Is
SkyMiles is an incentive program that gives mileage points for patronizing Delta and their partners for flying, dining, shopping, renting cars, staying in hotels, applying for and making credit card purchases, and even for reading email online.
How It Works
Join Delta SkyMiles by going online or calling their toll free number - it is free to join, and you will get a membership number and card. You simply give your membership number when making your reservations and you will get the mileage added to your account, and you will receive statements showing all the activity on your account. When you reach certain levels you then can redeem your mileage for flight upgrades, free flights, car rental discounts, etc.
Delta's Partners and What You Can Earn
Airlines: Delta has partnered with 15 airlines, but the only one we have ever used is United. One mile per air mile flown. Sometimes extra bonus miles apply for flights to certain locations.
Hotels: There are 16 hotels who are Delta Partners. Hilton, Best Western, and Marriott are the ones we have used. I believe we received 500 bonus miles per night.
Rental Cars: Alamo, Avis, Dollar, Hertz and National car rentals are all Delta Partners. One mile per dollar spent on all of these.
Shopping Partners: Buy some flowers, take a cruise, take the wife out to dinner, and earn SkyMiles mileage. There are many other ways to earn mileage here too.
e-Rewards: A free program that pays you mileage and other rewards for reading email.
Credit Cards: There are a few credit cards that you can apply for to get mileage. My husband has the American Express Gold. The annual fee is a hefty $85, but he received 10,000 free miles for joining. He also gets 1 mile per dollar spent, and if this credit card is used for charging our airline tickets, he gets more than 1 mile per dollar (1 1/2 or 2, I'm not sure about that and couldn't find the info).
SkyWish: You can even give away your mileage to charity!
How Many Miles do I Need to Fly Free?
25,000 miles will get you one free round trip coach ticket between the US (including Alaska and Canada).
30,000 miles will get you one free round trip coach ticket to the above or the Caribbean, Hawaii or Mexico.
40,000 miles will get you one free round trip first class ticket.
How Do I Redeem My Airmiles?
When you have reached the level to qualify you for free air travel, you can go online or call a toll free number and request your redemption. This can take a bit longer for them to come in the mail. What we do is go directly to the Delta Ticketing Offices (here it's our airport) and show them our frequent flyer card and ID, and we can get our tickets right then and there. Only the person who actually qualifies can request the free tickets, but they can be given to a family member.
Are There Any Restrictions?
There are black out dates (holidays, spring break, etc) that are typically high travel seasons for the airlines, and you cannot use your free tickets during these dates. There are also limited seats, meaning that each air craft will only allow so many free seats per airplane.
You have to fly with Delta or their partners once every three years in order to keep your account current, or you will lose your mileage.
Our Experience Using SkyMiles Free Tickets
We have used Delta SkyMiles free tickets many times without any problems. Four years ago we went to Denver for Christmas, and one of our three tickets was a free ticket. We didn't make our reservations early enough, and had a hard time getting seats, but we did do it. That airplane was over booked, and they ended up giving THREE free tickets to anyone who would give up their seats (good on Delta). Boy, it was tempting, but as hard as it was getting seats in the first place, we were afraid we would never make it to Denver at all so we opted out!
In just a few weeks the three of us are going back to Denver for another Christmas family get together, and two of our tickets are freebies, and the mileage we are getting from the one ticket we did buy will give us enough mileage to have one more free ticket available to us after this trip. We made these reservations in July, by the way!! Plan early!!
Keep Your Boarding Passes and Ticket Stubs
We always keep our ticket stubs and boarding passes. If for some reason you do not get the proper mileage credited to your account, you can mail this information as proof of flying and they will give you the miles.
Toll free number: 1-800-323-2323
I hope you have as much success with this program as we have! Happy Holidays!