Determining What Spending Counts Toward Medallion Qualifying Dollars

by on July 10, 2013 · 17 comments

in Delta, Elite Status

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Delta announced earlier this year that they would start instituting a new revenue-based Medallion elite status program in 2014. As a recap, in addition to flying the normal about of Medallion-qualifying miles or segments for each elite tier, US-based Delta SkyMiles Medallion members will need to buck up and either spend $25,000 dollars a year on a Delta American Express credit card or spend the following amount of money on Delta fares:

Silver Gold Platinum Diamond
MQDs $2,500 $5,000


and and and and
MQMs 25,000 50,000 75,000 125,000
or or or or
MQSs 30 60 100 140

With these new requirements taking place next year, I wanted to go over what qualifies toward the spending, because it may not be as easy as you think and now is as good of a time as ever to status match if you don’t think the future MQD program will be right for your needs.

Medallion Qualification Dollars: Medallion Qualification Dollars are the sum total of the SkyMiles member’s spending on Delta-marketed flights (flight numbers that include the “DL” airline code), inclusive of the base fare and applicable surcharges, but exclusive of government-imposed taxes and fees. Certain specialty tickets, including but not limited to unpublished, consolidator, group/tour, and opaque fare products will not count toward MQD.

When it comes to booking through online travel agencies (OTA’s) such as Expedia, Orbitz, etc, if you are purchasing just the airfare – meaning it’s not a bundled vacation package with other components like hotel or car rental – then according to my contacts at Delta, these are considered “published” fares so they should count. Keep in mind though it may be possible to book an unpublished fare when using an OTA, and if that’s the case it would not count for MQD’s, so just be careful and verify the fare class of your ticket and that it has a Delta ticket number.

Ancillary purchases or fees including checked baggage fees, Economy Comfort, priority boarding, Delta Sky Club memberships, Wi-Fi passes, unaccompanied minor fees, pet travel fees, mileage booster, ticket change fees, direct ticketing charge, same day confirmed fee, and standby upgrades purchased at the gate, do not count toward earning MQDs.

Flight spend for travel on other airlines ticketed through a Delta channel (featuring a ticket number beginning with “006”) will also be included in MQD’s. Certain specialty tickets, including but not limited to unpublished, consolidator, group/tour and opaque fare products will not count toward MQDs.

Getting Codeshares and Partner Flights To Count

The vast majority of partner airlines flights are available through as a codeshare. For instance, the new partnership with Virgin Atlantic allows you to book these flights as codeshare flights.

New York-Lonodn on Virgin Atlantic as a Delta codeshare.

New York-London on Virgin Atlantic as a Delta codeshare.

However, let’s say you wanted to book an intra-European flight on Air France that is not a Delta codeshare. These are not available on so if you want the fares to count towards your MQD’s, you must call up Delta to book them. Once you call to book them, you’ll see them show up in your account. So even though this isn’t a Delta codeshare, since it is booked through a Delta booking channel it would count toward the Medallion Qualifying Dollars – which is a good thing.

I was able to book an AirFrance flight through Delta.

I was able to book an Air France flight through Delta.

However, a lot of partner flights are actually available on I was able to find this example with some intra-European flights on KLM.

KLM Amsterdam-Madrid flight booking on

A KLM Amsterdam-Madrid flight booking on

As long as you can book the flight on or through a Delta reservations agent, you dollars should count toward Medallion qualification.

When it comes to booking codeshare flights, most of them are available on so you don’t have to worry about calling up Delta to book these. A Delta codeshare would have a Delta flight number such as Delta 4928 but it is operated by another airline. However, if the flight isn’t available as a codeshare, you can try to still book it on, or calling Delta up to book it on the phone.

Earn 2 extra points per dollar when booking through Travelocity from the Ultimate Rewards shopping portal.

Earn 2 extra points per dollar when booking through Travelocity from the Ultimate Rewards shopping portal.

Taxes Versus Carrier-Imposed Fees

One big question is whether some of those huge fees on some international tickets – especially those to London and Paris – will count towards MQD’s and the answer is luckily yes according to Delta’s definitions of taxes versus carrier-imposed fees. Take, for this business class ticket from New York JFK to London Heathrow:

Delta biz ticketThat’ll set you back about $3,600, but about $1,000 of that is taxes and fees – nearly a third of the value of the ticket! However, looking at the fees breakdown:

Delta biz feesYou can see that the base fare is about $2,700 – so that’s MQD-qualifying – and the other huge charge of $878 is carrier-imposed international surcharges, so that means it will qualify for MQD’s too. Unfortunately, the other miscellaneous taxes including the UK Air Passenger Duty of $200 and UK Passenger Service charge of $59.40 will not count.

As always, be careful about the details and be sure to calculate just how much of your ticket you’ll be earning MQD’s on before deciding to purchase.

Triple Dipping With An Online Travel Agency

The reason you might want to book through an online travel agency as opposed to directly with Delta is that it might be possible to triple dip on points earning by going through the Ultimate Rewards shopping portal, earning loyalty program credits with the OTA, and still having your spend count with Delta.

Expedia, Orbitz and Travelocity are all clickable for bonuses through the Ultimate Rewards site. Ultimate Rewards cardholders can earn 2 extra points per dollar for booking with Travelocity and 1 extra point per dollar for booking with Orbitz or Expedia, which are in addition to the regular points you would normally earn with the Ultimate Rewards card you carry. So for instance, if you used your Sapphire Preferred to book a ticket, you’d earn 4 points per dollar with Travelocity and 3 points per dollar with the other two thanks to the cards 2X category spending bonus on travel.

Expedia offers their own loyalty program called Expedia Rewards where you can earn bonus points for flight purchases, which can then be redeemed for money off a future flight. Orbitz also offers Orbitz Rewards, which you’ll earn “Orbucks” that can be used towards future flights. So in the case of Orbitz and Expedia, you would be triple dipping since you would earn Ultimate Rewards points for booking through their shopping portal, Expedia or Orbitz Rewards for booking from them, and Delta SkyMiles for the actual flight.

While you don’t need to worry about this yet, since the new requirements don’t go into place until January 1, 2014, it’s something to keep on the radar so when this does go into place, you’ll know how to book partner flights that aren’t available as codeshares and still have them count toward your Medallion Qualifying Dollars.

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  • Ben

    Slightly unrelated question. I just went to Italy with an award ticket booked with Delta Skymiles (I have a Delta Platinum card). On the flight to Rome, I was on Alitalia, on the way back on Delta. To my surprise, the miles for the first leg of the trip posted on my account (with bonus for Business). Now I am wondering: is that (receiving miles for award travel) the norm? I am trying to decide whether or not to contact Delta to get credit for the trip back to the US… Thanks in advance.

  • bostonbali

    Or you can just give up on Delta and move to a different carrier – give Delta
    the same middle finger they’re giving their loyal customers.

  • Jeff

    No it’s not the norm, it was just an error and I would NOT contact Delta as they very well could take the miles you earned for the outbound trip back.

  • Ben

    That’s what I suspected, many thanks for your help, appreciated.

  • hess

    Exactly the same thing just happened to me JFK to Rome on Alitalia, miles posted on an award ticket with bonus’. The return on Delta did not post miles. I certainly am not going to complain!

  • Windycityf

    Has been any clarification as to how the spend works? Like does it require spending in the calendar year, Jan-Dec or it for then when flights are taken, Jan-Dec?
    Say your planning your 2014 travel, should you wait until January to book to ensure you MQD’s count or is actually when you fly that matters?

  • Nick Aster

    I was thinking the same thing – or here’s a really tricky one: Flights over new years eve. Does the fare for each portion get allotted to the year it’s flown? ie, I fly to mexico on Dec 30 then back on Jan 2.

  • Martha

    My husband and I are million milers with Delta and are therefore automatic silver medallion members. How will this change effect us?

  • Nick Aster

    Bad news – I just confirmed with Delta that spending on money today, even if the flight is in 2014, will earn you zero MQDs for 2014. You can only earn MQDs for the year in which you spend them.

    I suspect this will lead to a mad rush to book tickets on January 1st.

    I have asked United the same question, no reply yet, but suspect the same.

  • Leviathan

    Is this joke or what? This MQD’s attached to the MQM’s is just littered with faults and problems. You actually need to spend anywhere from 25% to 35% more due to taxes & fees that are not included in MQD’s. Rollover of MQM’s & MQD’s is the next issue. I find it amazing that a group of executives got to together and agreed that this a good business model to institute. Delta makes out like a bandit, while the consumer suffers. When a company doesn’t value it’s core consumer base they will leave. Delta will not feel the real repercussions of this colossal mistake until January/February 2015. This is when people will truly realize how their airline failed them.

  • John

    Doesnt matter because Deltas MQ calendar goes thru the end of February

  • John

    Good, let them leave then those of us that actually fly with them every week get our real status instead of those impeding on us that take a couple trips and make Diamond and bump us we Platinums for seat upgrades. We do all the flying and they take all the upgrades. Now that it also considers dollars spent, Im much more comfortable with the outcome.

  • John

    Fewer overbooked flights, more seat selection, cheaper airfares, etc, etc, etc. I fail to see how a bunch of Deltas customer base leaving for other airlines is a negative for me?

  • Monica

    I bought my ticket on the Delta website using my AmEX Delta Card. These points are reflected on my annual credit card spending but are not reflected as part of the $2,500 MQDs. Why is this?

  • Goaty McCheese

    Think for a second about the question you just asked. You may fly more than other customers, but you don’t generate more revenue than the great mass of flyers. If the airline’s primary source of revenue goes elsewhere, how long do you think your benefits will last? Delta will have to offer them cheaper fares to get them back – and as we all know, the cheap airline fares are financed by business flyers paying full-fare.

    This is a bad move by Delta.

  • lookcle

    Thanks for the tip about intra-european flights. I just called Delta to book an Air France ticket and even when they added the $25 booking fee, the total is cheaper than in other websites and counts toward MQD !

  • Mick

    This is BS. I’ve already spent well over the Silver threshold for next year, and will have flown tons of miles and segments by the end of the year, but because most of the dollar value was on international carriers booked through travel agent or other sites, my MQD is under $1000 and I could lose status. I do not see how this benefits frequent travelers. Unless they show some flexibility on this, it will be so much easier to go with another alliance that doesn’t do this MQD crap.

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