Home Points & Miles Are You Short Delta Skymiles For An Award? AMEX May Lend You The Miles

Are You Short Delta Skymiles For An Award? AMEX May Lend You The Miles

by joeheg

Some love the Delta SkyMiles loyalty program while others despise it for doing away with award charts and making changes whenever they want without notice. I fall somewhere in the middle. While I hate that they can charge an unbelievable amount of miles for some flights, I’ve also found awards for reasonable prices on Delta aircraft and with some of their partners, like Virgin Atlantic.

That means I’m in a constant cycle of earning Delta Skymiles and using them for redemptions. Fortunately, American Express partners with Delta and you can transfer Membership Rewards to Delta Skymiles, albeit for a price. American Express and Delta also offer many co-brand cards like the Gold Delta Skymiles American Express card so it’s pretty easy to add to your Skymiles balance.

But what if you’ve exhausted all other options and are still just a few hundred or thousand Skymiles short when booking an award ticket?

Back in the olden days, American Express would offer to loan you Membership Rewards points which you could “pay back” by earning points on your card. This program is long gone for the Membership Rewards cards, but there’s a similar offer for cardholders of the Delta AMEX co-brand credit cards.

The Miles Headstart program lets you “borrow” a certain number of points you’ll pay back by earning points on your Delta American Express card. The number of miles they’re willing to lend can depend on several factors.

Eligible Delta SkyMiles Card Members must be in good standing to access Miles Headstart. Eligibility factors include but are not limited to how long you have been a Delta SkyMiles American Express Card Member and Card activity. If you are eligible to access Miles Headstart, the maximum number of miles you can be advanced is based on several factors including Card activity. You may have only one (1) Miles Headstart Balance outstanding at any time.

If you choose to borrow points, you have six months to repay them by earning SkyMiles on your AMEX card. The remaining balance will be purchased at 2.5 cents per mile if you don’t earn back enough points.

I decided to check out how many miles American Express would be willing to lend me. I have a Gold Delta SkyMiles Business card that I don’t use very often. To check if you’re eligible for the offer, you can look at the AMEX website:


or you can use the AMEX mobile app under Membership>Benefits>Miles Headstart

I logged into my account and was shown my offer:

Screenshot 2019-10-06 22.36.12

That’s not a huge offer but if I just needed a few miles to have enough for an award, I’d take the points. Of course, putting spending on a Delta co-brand card isn’t the best value and you’d have to earn back the number of points you borrow or be on the hook to pay them back at 2.5 cents per mile, which is an even worse value to buy Delta miles.

This offer is only open to Delta Skymiles co-brand credit card holders so it makes having at least one of those cards in your wallet slightly more valuable. If you regularly use your Delta Skymiles Amex card, I imagine they’d be willing to lend more miles.

It’s nice to see this return as an option. I’ve read too many posts from people who were less than 1,000 points short of an award ticket and scrambling to see how they could quickly earn miles before it disappeared.

Calling American Express to see if they would provide some points as a courtesy was an option but you were at the mercy of the agent you were talking to at the time. Making lending points a benefit of being a cardholder, slightly increases the value of having a Delta AMEX card.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary


Christian October 7, 2019 - 4:41 pm

I really like your posts as a whole, but have to disagree with you on something here. You say that you’re sure that some people love Skymiles. As a once-fervent Delta fan, I have to disagree. Ten years ago, when Delta cared about frequent fliers? You bet. Finding long haul award seats at reasonable prices these days is next to impossible, and worse in business class. Lounge access is more difficult to access than ever. Upgrades, never plentiful without Diamond status, are much rarer than before. The award chart was removed specifically to be able to raise prices with impunity. Credit card spending becoming continually less valuable has been ongoing as well. These points, and lots more, are why Skymiles is an absolute dumpster fire. Delta runs an on time airline with pleasant people, but Skymiles is not why people fly with them.

Beachmouse March 19, 2021 - 8:56 pm

I’ve done this a few times when I was 2-3K miles short on an award ticket at a good redemption rate and it ends up being pretty painless

Stephen December 17, 2022 - 11:15 am

This was discontinued for a while. Glad to see its back. I had to pay 1c mile and a fee to transfer 8000 miles from my daughters account instead of using this feature.
I’ve used it before and it’s a very useful tool

Katie July 6, 2023 - 3:04 pm

I’ve tried to use this, but it’s completely broken right now (returns a “Page not found” error). I’ve spoken to AmEx about four times this week, and they claim it’s a “known issue” that’s being fixed on a “priority basis,” but so far…nothing. They did gift me 5000 miles because of the problem, though.


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