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A closer look at Delta's changes to frequent flier miles

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: A closer look at Delta's changes to frequent flier miles
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Valarie D'Elia takes a closer look at how the recent changes to Delta's frequent flier mile program add up for travelers.

Delta recently announced that next year, it's changing its Skymiles frequent flyer program, awarding miles based on ticket price and not distance flown.

"Southwest, JetBlue, Virgin America all have similar programs, but that's why their program are not nearly as popular as the major carriers," says Brian Kelly of thepointsguy.com. "So this is the first time a major carrier has made the shift, and I'm not so sure even business travelers are going to be to happy about it."

As a Gold Medallion member of Delta's program, I, for one, am not jumping for joy.

For instance, comparing an average $1,100 flight from JFK to London this year with next year, when the changes take effect, I stand to lose almost 5,000 miles. Paying double that, $2,200 for the same flight, my mileage accrual next year would jump by nearly 4,000. In essence, under the new rules, I'm being rewarded for spending more.

And this isn't even the half of it.

"The thing with Delta is, they haven't really showed their full hand," Kelly says. "They could fundamentally change the way you redeem the miles, which would be the sky falling."

So what's a frequent flyer to do? For starters, diversify.

"Chase has their Ultimate Rewards, American Express has their membership rewards, and in those programs, you have your points in a pool and you've got a lot of different options, so you're not at the mercy of one airline who makes a negative change," Kelly says.

It also pays to realize that more than just miles contribute to free flights. I earn most of mine from everyday credit card purchases.

"There's many different leverage points here," Kelly says. "It's not just about flying on an airplane."

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