Can I Negotiate Elite Status Based On The Amount Spent On Airfare In A Calendar Year?

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TPG reader Adam is facing a frustrating situation:

“I travel often for work but I have a difficult time reaching higher than Silver on Delta. I fly short distances and two-segment road trips often. Currently I have traveled 42 segments and have accrued 29,000 MQMs (Silver status) and I am not sure if I will reach Gold by end of this year.

I calculated the amount of dollars spent on tickets this year. I can expense first class tickets and I have spent over $20,000 since January 1. Does the amount of money you spend help you at all reach Medallion status?

From your blog I have learned about Delta’s new Medallion Qualifying Dollars program but you will still need to have miles or segments. Do you think I can negotiate a status at the end of the year if I have not reached Gold?”

Adam is a short-haul flyer, he flies a lot and spends a lot, but this year he is barely going to clear Gold Medallion status – so what can he do? Can he convince Delta seeing that he is spending so much to give him a higher elite status? The sad thing is, unfortunately not.

Sadly, the chips are kind of stacked against those short-haul and mid-haul flyers. The airlines will let you qualify for elite status on segments but it’s not easy and it can still be very expensive. The airlines are putting in new revenue requirements next year but they don’t help you now, so you still need to fly a certain amount of distance based miles in addition to what you’re spending. I can see airlines saying, ‘Hey, look, if you spend $30,000 we don’t care how much you fly, we’ll give you a certain level of elite status.’ But that is not what they are doing, they are just adding in one more hoop to jump through, so you are pretty much out of luck.

The SkyMiles Medallion Breakdown.
The SkyMiles Medallion Breakdown.

As Adam mentioned, from January 1, 2o14, there will be a number of changes to the Medallion Qualification process, and you will earn Medallion status through a combination of miles or segments flown and your annual spending on Delta flights, which will be measured by Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQDs). Medallion status will be earned with Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) or Medallion Qualification Segments (MQSs) plus a new threshold – your annual spending on Delta flights, which will be measured by Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQDs). For all the details on the changes, click here.

Delta's new Medallion Qualification Process
Delta’s New Medallion Qualification Levels

Under Delta’s new revenue-based rules for Medallion Qualification in addition to flying enough qualifying miles or segments, to maintain elite status you either need to spend either $25,000 outright on a Delta co-branded Amex credit card or $2,500 (Silver), $5,000 (Gold), $7,500 (Platinum) or $12,500 (Diamond) on the airline.

I would say that if you are spending that much on airfare you might think about getting some of the Delta co-branded credit cards that give you elite miles with certain spend amounts, such as the Delta Platinum SkyMiles Amex, which gives you 5,000 MQM’s with your first purchase and up to 20,000 more when you spend over $50,000 in a calendar year; and the Delta Reserve, which gives you 10,000 MQM’s with first purchase and up to 30,000 more when you spend over $60,000 in a calendar year). Delta Platinum Medallion status also gives you the choice to give someone a $200 voucher, or Silver Medallion status, which is quite valuable.

The Delta collection of American Express Cards.
The Delta collection of American Express Cards.

You should definitely keep your eyes peeled for targeted offers, I got two Delta Platinum cards this year – a personal and a business with really big MQM signup bonuses to get to the next elite level. I still fly Delta a lot because I think they have the best in-flight domestic product and they know people like me will still fly them, even if they trim SkyMiles and Medallion benefits and have made some negative changes recently – like an impending shift to a revenue-based elite program, hacking Same Day Confirmed Benefits, and an inflexible 72-hour rule on award tickets.

Hopefully that helps, but feel free to tweet me @thepointsguy with any follow-up questions.

For more information on Delta Elite Status and how to get it, check out these previous posts:

Determining What Spending Counts Towards Delta’s Medallion Qualifying Dollars

Would You Choose Delta Or American Platinum Status For Business Travel?

How Do You Have Elite Status If You Are Accruing Miles On Credit Cards And Redeeming Miles, But Don’t Earn Elite Status Qualifying Miles?

My Elite Status Conundrum: American vs. Delta

How To Get Elite Miles Without Flying

Delta Qualifying Dollars Now Displayed on

Earn 250 Delta Medallion Qualifying Miles On Hilton Stays Now Through December

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