I have a weird relationship with frequent flier miles. The main problem is that airlines seem to have a much different definition of “frequent flier” than I do. As a result, my few flights a year — even if those flights take me around the world — don’t do much in the way of getting me the status I so crave. That said, I am at least getting to the point where I can make some use of my points. This is especially true now that my airline of choice, Delta, allows you to trade in miles for gift cards.
This revelation comes courtesy of The Points Guy, which notes that you can now redeem 7,150 SkyMiles for a $50 gift card, 14,300 for $100, and 35,700 for $250, etc. in Delta’s marketplace. At first glance, this is great news for me, as I am just on the verge of that $100 threshold. Unfortunately, the site goes on to disclose that the conversion rate for these gift cards is far lower than it would be if you were redeeming directly for flights. In fact, while they peg the average Delta SkyMile price per point at 1.2¢, this gift card “deal” shakes to about .7¢ per mile.
While that math is certainly disappointing, there may still be some value in Delta’s new offering. One of the frustrating things I’ve encountered when looking to make use of my points is that I don’t have nearly enough points to cover the long, overseas flights I normally embark on. Sure I could probably book a flight to, say, Nashville on my limited points, but there’s no way I’m getting to Europe. Moreover, while Delta does offer a Miles + Cash option, this only slightly lowers the number of miles required as a base. Thus, I’ll either need to settle for a short, domestic flight or save up a lot longer in order to cash in on my miles. Presented with this reality, I’d be lying if I said that having a $100 I could use to upgrade my seat or at least subsidize my next flight much sooner didn’t sound appealing.
There is still another downside to the gift card deal, which is that they only offer physical cards and not e-certificates. As a result, if you’re hoping to book right away, that might not work out for you. Additionally, since I obviously have yet to try this gift card route, I also can’t speak to the process of using them to book flights or other perks. Still, overall I do appreciate that Delta is adding another option so that even not-so-frequent-fliers like me can get rewarded for our loyalty.
This article was first published on Money@30.