Sunday Reader Email Question: What Delta Platinum Medallion Choice Benefit Should I Choose?

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TPG reader Trent writes:

“Once I got Platinum with Delta, I had the option to choose a gift. You can gift one level of Medallion status to someone, get some miles, or some upgrades, etc. I was thinking of gifting Silver Medallion to my wife who doesn’t travel as often as I do but does some. All the other choices seemed pretty lame, but so does lowly Silver Medallion. Ideas? I’m based in Athens Georgia and travel mostly out of Atlanta.”

What Trent is talking about is the relatively new Choice Benefits of the Delta Medallion (Elite status) program. Once you accrue 75,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles in a calendar year, you can select one choice from the following list:
4 Systemwide upgrades (Which can only be used on expensive Y, B, M international fare classes and exclude the cheapest L, U, T fares domestically).
20,000 Skymiles (not Medallion Qualifying Miles)
Gifting Silver Medallion Status (which is good until the February of the second year you gift it)
4 SkyClub Day Passes
$200 Gift card (Delta, Tiffany and a bunch of others)

Clearly the best choice is the one that you will personally get the most value out of, but here’s how I look at them (I’ve now chosen several gifts for reaching Platinum/Diamond the past couple of years)
Most valuable:
1) Silver medallion status. The other gifts are in the $200-$400 dollar range and I’d personally value Silver at around $800. Once upon a time, when I was a silver I got a bunch of upgrades and even got operationally upgraded on a JFK-Buenos Aires flight (when Delta used to fly that route – please bring it back!). Considering this specific reader is in Atlanta, it’s reasonable to think his wife will get decent use out of the status, even though she will benefit from his Platinum status for the core benefits like free checked bags and premium seating. However, Delta processes companion upgrades after all Medallions – so technically a Platinum and a Silver Medallion who are on the same itinerary, won’t get upgraded until every other individual Medallion gets upgraded. While upgrades will be hard for a Silver to get out of Atlanta, your odds are better if you split each reservation and let your Platinum status snag your upgrade (and give it to her, obviously ;-) ) and then let her try and get the Silver upgrade. If you split and she doesn’t have any Medallion status, you will always have to deal with a best case scenario of one person in first and one in coach. Plus, whenever she travels alone (if that’s ever the case), she will get a lot of money-saving benefits like free luggage, exit row seating and overall better customer service in the case of irregular operations.
2) 20,000 Skymiles. While some people call them Skypesos, I’m actually able to put my Skymiles to use. Some of my favorite awards are 120,000 miles to Europe and Africa or 150,000 miles for Australia on V Australia (or to Tahiti). Since I redeem my Skymiles for international premium classes, I place a value of about 2 cents per mile, so 20,000 miles = $400 or so.
3) Systemwide upgrades: Caveat – I find these useful for upgrading K fares to Hawaii, which are usually around $1,100 from the East coast or for upgrading cheap Air France Premium Economy tickets ($1,300ish offpeak) to Business Class (though that gravy train might be coming to an end).
4) $200 gift cards
5) 4 Skyclub day passes. There are so many ways to get lounge access and since its free for Diamonds and American Express Platinum or Reserve cardholders, I personally find no value to this choice and even if I didn’t have lounge access, I’d probably place a personal value of about $20 for getting to use the Skyclub.

What are your thoughts on the most valuable Choice Benefits?

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