SRQ: Which Delta Medallion Choice Benefit Should I Choose?

by on February 24, 2013 · 33 comments

in Delta, Elite Status, Sunday Reader Questions, Video Blog Post

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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?

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Taha Jamil

    My advice is to take the miles unless you have a parent, sibling, significant other or very close friend/colleague who should become silver. I gifted Silver status to my wife. We flew to Turkey last month and she has a few trips this year where it’s just her and our two daughters. The free checked bags, group 1 boarding, and 25% bonus are worth it.

  • Richard

    Yesterday the individual sitting next to me referred to the Systemwide Upgrades as “guaranteed free upgrades to first”. With a look of horror in my face I advised him nothing in life is guaranteed except death and taxes. As noted above the upgrades are worthwhile on certain trips and certain fares and so much advanced planning is in order. Oddly enough we were both upgraded to first based on status so I see little value in the upgrades regardless. Upgrades from coach to first on a trip to Europe would be very valuable, though. The 20,000 miles are of the greatest value to me as the ultimately goal is the international trips via award travel. 120,000 miles to Seoul / Tokyo via business class is quite valuable in my opinion, as an example.

  • Dan Nainan

    Awwwww, Miles is so cute! But how on earth did you come up with his name LOL!

    You actually know someone who’s insane enough to check bags? :-)

  • wrytoast

    Oh, no… no, no, no… I think everyone’s missing the point of the FO status gift– it’s not for them, it’s for YOU. I’m a PM, my wife qualified as FO on her own on miles last year. Can’t tell you the number of times we trumped higher medallions or PMs on higher fares with nonstatus companions for upgrades. (Actually, I can. On at least 4 segments, she was the last person upgraded (on an L, U, or T fare, which would have made the SWUs unusable.)

    If you’re a one-person-in-F-one-person-in-Y family, I guess this doesn’t matter– but if you want to sit together in the front of the plane, this gift easily trumps all of the others. (Enough that I’m reluctant to even mention it for fear of losing a future upgrade!)

  • Aaron

    If you give someone else silver, do they then qualify for rollover? My GF earns around 15k MQMs/yr so never gets status but I was thinking giving her silver would let her roll this years 15k into next year and thus be silver for two years as a result. Works?

  • Dan Nainan

    Hey TPG, I’m in a bit of a quandary with my choice benefits.

    I am being given the choice of two awards for my 2013 Diamond benefits, one award for my 2014 Platinum benefit, and two awards for my 2014 Diamond benefits.

    Last year I gifted my girlfriend Gold Medallion status, and of course she’s overjoyed, and she’s gotten upgraded a fair amount.

    However, when I select the 2013 Diamond benefits, which for me are 1) the systemwide upgrade certificates and 2) making her Gold Medallion, it tells me she’s already Gold, and that I can’t make her Gold since she’s already Gold. I called Delta about this, and they say I have to wait until after February 28th to make her Gold. A downside of this is that there will be a delay of two weeks (they say), so she won’t be Gold until about March 15.

    The only thing is, I have to select both Diamond Medallion choice benefits at once – it won’t let me do just one. If I wait until after February 28th to gift her Gold Medallion status, then I won’t be able to select the other choice benefit because it will be after February 28th.

    The Delta representatives of course are extremely nice as always, but they have no idea how to fix this.

    Any clues? Is there any way out of this? I would greatly appreciate your sage advice as always.

    Thank you for your wonderful and helpful posts as always, and if you ever need anyone to babysit Miles, I’m your man!!!

  • Sfobuddy

    As a Diamond I took the 25K miles and the $200 Voucher. Giving someone gold is great, but they need to travel quite a bit to make it work.

  • thepointsguy

    Nope, if you gift her Silver, she wouldn’t rollover any MQM’s unless she actually flew above the 25K threshold.

  • JM

    I have the same question. I want to regift Gold to my wife but can’t until after Feb 28. However, the Delta website says this:

    “Choice Benefits selections for 2013 status need to be made by February 28, 2014″

    I keep seeing posts that it has to be done by Feb. 28, but doesn’t this make indicate that we have until Feb. 28 of NEXT YEAR?

    TPG – Any ideas?? I can’t seem get a straight answer anywhere.

  • Lee

    I think the SWU’s are valuable for a Platinum who travels between NY and CA. The spread between the fare class for the SWU and Business Elite is very wide and, particularly to and from LAX, a Platinum has very minimal chance of an upgrade without an SWU vaulting him or her to the the top of the list.

  • CVGtraveler

    I made Diamond again this year and made the same choice as SFObuddy – 20K miles for my Platinum Choice Benefit, then 25K miles and $200 Delta voucher for the Diamond Choice Benefit. I knew I was going to use the voucher so it was an easy decision.

  • Eco Mama

    I didn’t hear a word because I was so focused on Miles. Too cute for words–and smart of you to put him in the video. My seven year old said, “He put the dog in there to get your attention.” Another offer here if you ever need a babysitter!

  • Phil

    I own a small business which requires a few international trips every year, so I always take the upgrades. Yes, the cost of the economy ticket is expensive, but I’m 6’4″ and always travel in First/Business class. Example: I have already booked a trip to Germany in November, and the normal Business class fare is $8500 — I bought the high priced economy ticket for only $3800 and am now booked in First/Business for the whole trip. That’s a $4700 savings!

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  • Benny Hsu

    I wanted to do the same for my wife. I gifted her Silver last year and wanted to do the same. I was worried about the deadline and her status expiring on the same day.

    So I used a VA service to contact Delta for me to ask what I should do. Delta told her I can’t give my wife Silver again. I can only give it to her once. If I were to move up to Diamond, then I could gift her Gold. But not Silver.

    Has anyone heard this or talked to Delta about it?

  • Benny Hsu

    My VA called Delta and the rep said I can’t gift Silver again to my wife. I can only do it once. If I were to move up to Diamond, then I could give her Gold status, but not Silver again.

    That’s not really fair I think if that’s true. Did you find any thing else?

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  • Thomas

    As long as YOU are flying at the same time – just pull the wife, kids, grandma etc with you – never a problem. I obviously get SkyPriority – and just tow the others in with me.

    I’ve done this both as a Gold and a Platinum Medallion on Delta – domestically and internationally, on both Delta and partner airlines overseas – never had any problems.

    So, gifting status is really only worth it if you’re not usually travelling with the person you’re gifting to.

  • Thomas

    You never fly internationally – for a week or two or three at time?

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  • Brad

    Well, there is this girl. I plan to get engaged. She might just play hard to get. Tiffany gift might just change my chances! So in a minute you could change my life!

  • Russell Mohr

    I’d use the SWU’s obviously- silver isn’t worth much, but 1st class can’t be beat.

  • fortisanne

    I would take the miles and hope I could bring my daughter home from college on an unexpected trip! It would be great to see her midterm!

  • Amy Van Dyke

    I inherited a beautiful string of pearls from my grandmother when she passed away a few years ago. I would use the Tiffany certificate to get myself some pearl earrings to match (to replace the fake ones I grabbed in a bind one time), so that I could proudly wear them in remembrance of her.

  • Jaez

    silver would be awesome! free checked bags and possibly an upgrade!

  • Marlene Hood Van Leuvan

    I am interested in Silver status. I am traveling to Manila In Jan 2014 to visit my family whom I have not seen for many years and it is 22 hours air time I would like to get an upgrade to business class. Sitting in coach will cripple my back and will be crippled when I get to my destination. I have herniated discs and becomes painful in cramped seating.

  • Don

    I would like the bonus miles and use them for a nice vacation somewhere tropical.

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  • R

    I just learned about this Platinum Choice reward, even though I have been platinum for several years.

    Here is my question. My wife will just qualify for silver medallion on her own miles, at the very end of the year. If I use the platinum choice to gift her silver, will she bump up to gold at the end of the year when she has enough qualifying miles? I don’t waste the gift of silver medallion status if she is already qualifying on her own in a few months, if it won’t bump her up to gold.

    She travels a decent amount without me, but low mile jaunts, so she typically doesn’t make silver on her own miles. But, she would appreciate the early boarding and economy comfort or preferred seating that silver would bestow when she travels without me.

  • thepointsguy

    No- you don’t get 25k mqms- you simply get silver status – so if you have silver it is wasted- you won’t get bumped to gold

  • claire

    Does AA have anything similar to a medallion choice benefit for Exec Plats or Plats? I’ve googled and can’t find the answer — anyone know?

  • thepointsguy
  • Donal Waide

    Silver upgrades are few and far apart. There are so many Diamond/Platinum/Golds on each flight looking for the same upgrade.

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