This interesting question about elite status – which is on a lot of people’s minds this time of year – comes from TPG reader Sarah:
“As the end of the year approaches I know most people are striving to make it to the next elite tier. I have the opposite issue. I miscalculated my flights through the end of the year and it looks like I’m going to make Delta Diamond this year by 225 points. I was trying not to make Diamond this year, because the additional perks aren’t that significant, and I would rather be in a good position next year when I will be traveling less. Do you have any suggestions?“
Take a look at the video I made explaining the best strategy for rolling over miles and why you might want to do so, then read on below for the details:
It might seem counterintuitive to most people – after all, the whole point of elite status is often to get to the highest tier possible so you can take advantage of valuable perks like mileage bonuses, systemwide upgrades and more – but the ability to rollover Delta Medallion Qualifying Miles from one year to the next so you get a head start on requalifying for elite status is one of the SkyMiles program’s most valuable perks, and is reason to reconsider your elite status strategy.
Although I was Diamond on Delta for several years, rather than sprint toward Diamond status again as 2011 drew to a close, I decided to remain Platinum and rollover around 40,000 miles (almost requalifying for Gold outright) rather than aim higher.
That’s because in my opinion, the differences between Diamond and Platinum status on Delta are minimal- at least for me.
With Platinum status, which you achieve at 75,000 miles or 100 segments, you get 100% mileage bonus on flights, free same day confirmed and standby options, enhanced upgrade priority, waived phone booking fees, SkyPriority, priority security, award ticket upgrade capability, Skyteam Elite Plus which gets you access to lounges when flying Skyteam internationally in coach. As well as free unlimited changes to award tickets and a Choice Benefit like gifting Silver status to a friend or getting a $200 Delta Voucher, as well as free international Economy Comfort for you and up to 7 companions.
The only differences between Platinum and Diamond, which you earn with 125,000 miles or 140 segments, is that you get two enhanced Choice Benefits (like gifting Gold instead of Silver status) and a 125% mileage bonus. One other benefit Diamonds enjoy (in addition to more flexible customer service) is more flexible routing on same day confirmed changes. For instance, if you’re flying from LA to New York JFK, you usually can only same day confirm on that same exact route, but as a Diamond, you could route through Cincinnati (or wherever) to LaGuardia instead without incurring any extra fees.
Otherwise, the key benefits that I love, like free award miles redeposit, and good upgrade percentages are pretty much the same. That’s because I fly mostly from Miami to New York and on other short- and mid-haul domestic routes. For transcontinental, I tend to fly American Airlines, where upgrades are much easier to come by, so I don’t have to bank on my Diamond Delta status to get a better seat on those packed flights.
To get to your main question: how to avoid hitting Diamond by accident, it’s a pretty simple solution. Bank your miles on one of your flights to a partner airline like Alaska. While you won’t get your current Platinum status perks like upgrades and a mileage bonus, at least you’ll still be earning miles on the flight. One thing you can actually do in the hopes of getting upgraded is to keep your Delta number on the itinerary and then change it to your Alaska membership number when you get to the airport so you might get upgraded before you check-in. Just be sure to keep your boarding pass with your Alaska number on it in case you’re credited accidentally because you might have to send it in to dispute the credit. Then next year, you can start out with nearly enough MQM’s to requalify at the Gold level.