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SRQ: Which Delta Medallion Choice Benefit Should I Choose?

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TPG reader Jim just became a Delta Platinum Medallion and now has to choose which Choice Benefit he wants. Here’s his question:

“I just became a Delta Platinum Medallion. I am wondering which Choice Benefit to take. The upgrade certificate seem like a joke since they require very expensive flights. I have family and friends who travel, but a Silver Medallion status gets you almost nowhere. That leaves the miles and a gift card. What should I choose?”

This is a great question and one that I’m wrangling with myself at the moment thanks to my 2013 Platinum Medallion qualification. For those of you not familiar with them, Choice Benefits are gifts that Delta offers flyers who qualify for Platinum and Diamond Medallion status. The benefits are as follows:

Delta Choice Benefits

So Jim wants to weigh the potential benefits of each gift.

Gifting Silver Medallion Status (Gift of Gold for Diamonds): Silver Medallion status normally requires you to fly 25,000 miles or 30 segments within a calendar year and confers benefits including complimentary upgrades within 1 day of flight, access to Preferred seating, discounts on Economy Comfort seats on international flights, a 25% Medallion mileage bonus, priority boarding and waived checked bag fees for up to 9 people on the same reservation as the Silver Medallion. Even so, these benefits are rather limited – that mileage bonus is good, as are the waived checked bag fees if you still check bags, but your chances of an upgrade as a Silver Medallion are slim at best, so don’t count on that. Priority boarding is also nice, but it doesn’t count as SkyPriority so you’ll still be behind all the other elites and premium class passengers. That said, these time-saving and money-saving benefits including the checked bags and seat selection could save you a lot of money if you plan to fly a lot, so I’d put this benefit in the $200-$400 range.

20,000 Bonus Miles (25,000 for Diamonds): This might be a good choice for you if you’re savvy about using your Delta SkyMiles since one of the biggest complaints people have about the program is it’s hard to use their miles. That said, if there are certain expensive redemptions you have your eye on where you know you can get a good value on your miles, such as BusinessElite award seats to Europe, which can cost thousands of dollars, you would be getting a good return here worth hundreds of dollars. I value SkyMiles at about 1.5 cents each on a good day, so I’d put this benefit in the $300 range.

One $200 Gift Card or Travel Voucher: This is pretty straightforward since the value you get is a flat $200. If you know you’re going to spend at least $200 on Delta in the coming year, this could be worth it for you and then the other $200 gift card option is for Tiffany, so if you know you’re going to purchase some jewelry, maybe this will take care of the sales tax on it for you (hey, Tiffany is expensive!). For those looking for a no-nonsense easy way to cash out on their Choice Benefits without the worry of redeeming miles or making sure they maximize elite status, this could be the best option.

Four Systemwide Upgrades (6 for Diamonds): Unlike those of American Airlines and US Airways, which can be used on any paid fare, Delta’s systemwide upgrades are only valid for use within or between the 50 United States, Canada, the Caribbean, Bermuda, and Mexico on published Economy class fares booked in Y, B, M, H, Q, or K class; or valid for use between Asia, Central America, Europe, India, Australia, North America, South America, and Africa on published Economy class fares booked in Y, B, M class. Those requisite classes can be extremely expensive – as much as or more than discounted business class seats, so I personally stay away from choosing these. However, there are some instances where this could be worth it, such as purchasing full-fare economy tickets to Hawaii for under $1,000 and using a systemwide to confirm your upgrade, or buying a premium economy ticket on Air France and using your certificate to upgrade to business class – though availability for this particular redemption has been very, very tight lately since the upgrade inventory is the same as award seat inventory and both have been fairly non-existent for about a year now.

Four Delta SkyClub One-Day Passes (6 for Diamonds): I would stay away from this one as well since I’m not a huge fan of airline lounges. SkyClub passes are $50 each, though only $25 if you have the Delta SkyMiles Gold Amex. I value lounge access much lower, and I actually get Delta SkyClub access through my Platinum Card from American Express, so if you have that card, or the Delta Reserve, which also grants SkyClub access, this gift is wasted (unless you’re planning to give it to someone else who loves airline lounges).

In the end, I’ll probably choose either the 20,000 bonus miles toward a premium award ticket or I’ll be magnanimous and gift Silver status to TPG Managing Editor Eric since our work together takes him from coast to coast with me and Delta often has very competitive fares that he could maximize with Silver benefits.

Do any of you have Choice Benefits decisions to make? If so, what are you planning to do?

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