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Elite Status Series: Delta Silver Medallion

by on December 3, 2013 · 60 comments

in Delta, Elite Status

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TPG contributor Nick Ewen takes us through the basics of Delta Silver Medallion status – how you can qualify for it and maximize the benefits once you earn it.

Being a Delta Silver Medallion has some valuable benefits.

Being a Delta Silver Medallion has some valuable benefits.

As 2013 draws to a close, that can only mean one thing…the end of the elite status-qualifying year is almost upon us! Though I have held status with Delta for almost 7 years now, I still remember being that freshly minted Silver Medallion and wondering why I was being paged to the podium for my first ever complimentary upgrade. Since then, I have become much more knowledgeable about the program, and this post is the first in a series on the different levels of Delta’s Medallion program. If you are a new  Silver Medallion, welcome! Here’s everything you need to know about the next 15 months, including a breakdown of qualification levels and key benefits

Qualification

For starters, Silver Medallion is Delta’s lowest tier of elite status, and it is earned after flying 25,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (or MQM’s, for short) or racking up 30 Medallion Qualification Segments.

This used to be very simple, as virtually all flights with Delta and many of their partners earned full mileage credit, regardless of the channel through which they were booked. However, as of September 1, Delta decreased the mileage earned on certain unpublished fares and also hacked away at partner earning rates. As always, double-check this chart to see if your partner flight will count towards status. Some airlines (including Korean, a full member of SkyTeam) no longer count at all!

Medallion Qualifying Dollars

In addition to these changes, there will be a new component for the 2014 qualification year: Medallion Qualification Dollars (or MQD’s). TPG discussed this new requirement when it was first announced back in January, but the basic crux is that all Medallion members will need to spend a certain amount of money on Delta in addition to hitting the mile/segment levels above (or alternately spend at least $25,000 on a Delta-branded American Express card in the calendar year).

To earn Silver status during the 2014 year, you would need to have at least $2,500 MQD’s plus 25,000 MQM’s or 30 Medallion Qualification Segments.

Check out this post for more information on What Spending Counts Towards Medallion Qualifying Dollars.

While this new requirement certainly ruffled some feathers in the frequent flyer community (and likely prompted similar changes by United), it was announced with plenty of notice, and Delta has even added MQD trackers to their website. These are displayed during the ticket purchase process, and a running total is now displayed in your account (after logging in, click on “My Delta” and then “My SkyMiles” to see your current spend level). This is especially helpful, since only the base fare of a ticket plus certain surcharges will count, and only flights purchased through a Delta channel are eligible. Remember though that this year, you are only required to fly the segments or miles to earn status through February 28, 2015. The MQD requirement only goes into effect for the 2014 qualification period, during which you will earn status through February 29, 2016.

Benefits

Once you’ve earned Silver Medallion Status (and the change is reflected in your profile online), you can begin taking advantage of numerous benefits on Delta (and certain partner airlines). A full listing is available here, but here are some additional details to help you begin navigating the sea of elite status:

If you are lucky, your Silver Medallion Status could help you get a complimentary upgrade.

If you are lucky, your Silver Medallion Status could help you get a complimentary upgrade.

1. Complimentary Upgrades: Silver Medallion members are eligible for space-available complimentary upgrades on paid coach tickets in all fare classes for flights within the U.S. (excluding Hawaii), Bermuda, Canada, Central America, and Northern South America. This also extends to one companion on the same flight.

If space is available, full Y fares will clear at time of booking, while all other classes will clear 1 day in advance (usually between 5 and 6pm two days before the actual flight date) if available. However, keep in mind that upgrade inventory is different than open seats on the seat map, and unfortunately, Delta recently removed the ability to search this inventory on ExpertFlyer. If your upgrade doesn’t clear in advance, you will automatically be added to the gate list when you check in, though you will be towards the bottom of the list.

Unfortunately, unless you are on a full Y fare (and thus ahead of all other medallions not on Y tickets), the chances of these upgrades are relatively slim, though the likelihood depends on a number of factors, including the day of the week and route you are flying. Saturdays and Wednesdays tend to have lighter loads (and fewer elite members), and the holidays are also slightly easier, since many road warriors are at home. Still, it’s a complete crapshoot; I would say that a 25% upgrade success would be the absolute BEST you could hope for, but be prepared for that number to be significantly less.

2. Mileage Bonus: Silver Medallion members also receive a 25% mileage bonus for every flight. Note that these bonus miles do not count as MQM’s but instead are additional redeemable miles that can go towards future award tickets. For example, a simple one-way flight between Orlando and Atlanta would earn a regular member 500 miles; that same flight would earn a Silver Medallion member 625 miles.

Economy comfort at a discounted price for Delta Silver Medallions.

Economy comfort at a discounted price for Delta Silver Medallions.

3. Preferred Seating: Silver Medallion members are also entitled to preferred Economy Class seating at the time of the reservation; these seats include rows closer to the front of the plane as well as exit rows. Silver members can also purchase Economy Comfort seats with additional legroom at a discounted price. Economy Comfort seats on long-haul and transcontinental flights include additional recline and complimentary beer, wine and spirits. For flights in the U.S./Canada/Mexico/Caribbean/Central America, the discount is 50% (or free, if available, within 24 hours of the flight). For all other international flights (including those on KLM), Economy Comfort is available at a 25% discount.

Let’s take a look at two examples of this:

  • Orlando to New York-LaGuardia: On a shorter flight like this, a regular SkyMiles member could purchase Economy Comfort for $49 each way, which means that same seat would be $24.50 for a Silver Medallion member. Silver members could also wait until the check-in window (within 24 hours of departure) and access the same seat for free.
  • Atlanta to London-Heathrow: Economy Comfort for this long-haul flight can be purchased by anyone for $79 each way; Silver members could purchase that same seat for $59.25.

4. Baggage Fee Waiver: Silver Medallion members are able to check one free bag over the standard allowance on every flight, and this benefit extends to up to 8 additional travelers on the same reservation as the Medallion member. A complete breakdown of fees by destination is available here.

You get Priority Check In as a Delta Silver Medallion.

You get Priority Check In as a Delta Silver Medallion.

5. Priority check-in and Boarding: Silver Medallion members are able to access designated check-in lines at most airports, but please note that this is not always the SkyPriority lane. I’ve found that certain locations have separate ones labeled “Silver Medallion/Alaska MVP” so be sure to look for your designated line. In addition, Silver members are automatically assigned Zone 1 boarding if they haven’t been upgraded in advance, allowing early access to the overhead bins.

6. SkyTeam Elite Status: Silver Medallion members traveling on a SkyTeam flight will automatically have their status recognized as “SkyTeam Elite,” which offers a variety of benefits including priority check-in, boarding, airport standby, and preferred seating (when available). Note that these benefits may not be available on every SkyTeam flight or at every SkyTeam airport; a complete breakdown is available here.

Link your SPG and Delta accounts to get crossover rewards.

Link your SPG and Delta accounts to be part of Crossover Rewards.

7. Crossover Rewards with SPG: Silver Medallion members also can take advantage of the new Crossover Rewards program with Starwood Preferred Guest. This allows Silver Medallions to earn one SkyMile for every dollar spent at SPG properties; it’s only SPG Gold and Platinum members that earn a Starpoint for every dollar spent on Delta. Members must link their two accounts at www.delta.com/crossoverrewards to be eligible; for more details, check out Brian’s post from earlier this year.

So there you have it. There’s no question that Silver Medallion members are by far the lowest rung on Delta’s elite status totem pole, but nevertheless, having any status can make the travel experience much more pleasant.

Any Silver Medallion members out there with personal experience to share on your treatment, upgrade percentage or general thoughts on this level? Please feel free to comment below, and stay tuned for future posts on Gold, Platinum, Diamond, and a final wrap-up post with additional considerations for earning and maintaining status with Delta.

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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  • Marlene

    I’ve been Gold all year, and this year, I will only requalify for Silver. There is a huge difference, but it is better than no status at all. Living in a hub city makes attainment on any other airline a waste of time in my book, so I’m sticking with Delta.

  • MShaw

    In my experience as SM on Delta I have been able to upgrade to Economy Comfort for free within 24 hours of departure. Is this right?

  • Nick Ewen

    Yes, if there is a seat available, you can do that, but remember that this should (according to the published rules) only apply on domestic and short-haul international flights (Canada, Mexico, Caribbean, and Central America). For long-haul international flights, even within 24 hours, Economy Comfort should only be available to Silver Medallions at a 25% discount. If you have been able to select a free EC on a long-haul flight, that’s a nice unpublished perk (or possibly a computer glitch).

  • Nick Ewen

    Very true! I am dropping from Diamond to Platinum this year, and while I don’t live in a hub city, I have always found Delta to offer the best customer service and domestic flying experience (even in coach). I’m sticking with them for now, though who knows what the future will hold?

  • theanswriz42

    Good luck getting an upgrade as a SM in Atlanta

  • Vince

    This post forgets to mention that you also receive 1 Skymile per dollar spent on SPG rates (taxes not included) which can add up to be a nice bonus if you stay at SPG properties at lot during your travel. At best though you might get 20k skymiles for the year, unless you stay at $200+ per night places.

  • Ivan Mutavdzic

    I’m a novice here, I have no statues yet, but have a plan on becoming Silver on Delta over the next year, and then hopefully moving on to Gold the following year. I have a few questions though, maybe they can be answered here or they may be ideas for future posts:

    1. Do I understand correctly that even though I book a ticket on delta.com and the flight has a Delta flight number I still won’t be earning any MQDs if the flight happens to be operated by (for example) Korean? Or is that caveat only for flights booked through 3rd part sites, or through the website of a group 4 SkyTeam airline?

    2. I got my eyes on Air France Premium Voyageur class – I have seen it on a previous AF flight and the cabin looks great for that price. But I noticed Delta doesn’t have premium options when booking on their site. So, how do you suggest I book a Premium Voyageur seat on AF and still earn MQDs? I assume booking through AF would earn me zero MQDs :(

    3. I was surprised when I read in this article that Silver members do not get any MQM bonuses – I thought it would be easier for me to reach Gold as a Silver then as a general member. Are rollover MQMs the only benefit of Silver status in earning the next tier?

    Thanks!

  • JR

    I’m about 4700 miles short of SM status with about 27 days to go in the year. I travel a good bit for work (1-4 trips a month). Is it worth it to make a mileage run in the next few weeks?

  • Nick Ewen

    Saturdays are about the only days that work pretty well for Silvers, but again, it all depends on the route. The last several flights I’ve had on Saturdays have been selling upgrades at the gate, but you’re right that ATL is probably the toughest airport out of which to score an upgrade as a SM.

  • Jon

    “I would say that a 25% upgrade success would be the absolute BEST you could hope for”
    Ouch. Makes me quite a bit more thankful to be Gold on AA…

  • UrbanPhoenixInjunCAM

    NOV 15 – Friday – Atlanta to Las Vegas… I was upgraded to FIRST CLASS as a Silver Medallion. I was assigned seat 1A.

    I first became Silver Medallion with Delta in 2011 after flying ZERO miles!!
    Thanks to this super blog!!

  • Garrett

    Do you travel overseas? When I was Silver I didn’t really count on any upgrades or special treatment domestically. My first trip on KLM as Silver was amazing, though. You really don’t have to wait in any lines, and depending on the airport that can be a true blessing. I’m PM now, and the benefits of SkyTeam Elite and SkyTeam Elite Plus are almost exactly the same.

    Blah blah blah…all that was to say, if you travel overseas I would definitely go for it.

  • Jasmine

    Don’t worry you can bid for first class on AA. Doesn’t matter status anymore.

  • Nick Ewen

    Hi Ivan,

    1. I encourage you to read through the post linked above with what does and doesn’t count towards the new MQD requirement. Generally speaking, if you purchase a flight through a Delta channel (online or on the phone with a Delta agent), it should count towards MQD’s, as long as you are booking Group 1-3 airlines. This includes flights on Delta, flights on partner airlines that have a Delta flight number (codeshare), plus other partner flights that Delta can sell (for these, you’ll generally need to call…the above linked post has a good example of how to do this for intra-European flights). Remember that you’ll also want to make sure those partner flights earn MQM’s, since Group 2 and 3 airlines offer lower earning rates on discounted fares.

    2. You are right in that booking through Air France would not count as MQD’s. However, there is a way to find those flights on Delta’s website. Go to the advanced search page, and down at the bottom, rather than searching by cabin, search by fare class, and select “Premium Economy W (or higher)” from the drop-down list. For example, if you searched for round-trip economy class flights from JFK-CDG for next Memorial Day (leaving Friday 5/23, returning Sunday 6/1), the lowest fare class is T at roughly $1,577. If you go to the advanced search page and select “Premium Economy W (or higher)” from the fare class, it will pull up those same Air France flights for around $2,037. This is the same price you would get for booking directly with Air France, but you will earn both MQM’s and MQD’s booking on Delta.

    3. Yes, rollover MQM’s really are the only way Delta helps medallion members reach the next tier. It’s also important to note that MQD’s will NOT rollover. If you earn silver this year and rollover 15,000 miles, you only need 35,000 MQM’s to hit gold the following year, but you still need to spend the full $5,000 to reach gold.

  • Nick Ewen

    My personal thought is that bottom tier status is always better than no status at all, so I would go for it. The other (cheaper) thing you could do is apply for a Delta Platinum American Express card. The current offer is 10,000 bonus miles after your first purchase, and 5,000 of those count as MQM’s. The offer states that the bonus miles should post within 2-4 weeks of the first purchase, so I would recommend doing this IMMEDIATELY and (if approved instantly), calling them to inquire about overnight or 2-day shipping to make that first purchase ASAP.

  • Ivan M.

    Thanks Nick, this is super helpful!

  • Nick Ewen

    Glad to help!

  • Boris

    One thing no one has mentioned is that as a silver medallion the day of the flight you can change your seat to Economy Comfort at no charge. Comes in pretty handy.

  • Suzanne Gwinn

    Hey TPG,
    I was 5900 short of Silver on Delta and called in to them and just today they came out with an opportunity to buy MQMs. They are a total rip off, but it was better than doing a mileage run. I paid $875 for 7500 mqm’s. It just came out today December 3rd until December 31, so if anyone needs mqm’s like me, it is a decent deal.

  • Suzanne Gwinn

    I have gotten upgrades as a SM before, but never in ATL.

  • Suzanne Gwinn

    Yup, it was always Saturday p.m. when I got the upgrade as a SM. Saturday a.m., never.

  • Nick Ewen

    Yeah, there’s a long thread on FlyerTalk about this (http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/delta-skymiles/1519614-dl-officially-announces-2013-mqm-sale-definitive-thread.html). This year, Delta has implemented variable pricing depending on your status. As a Diamond Medallion member, those same 7500 MQM’s would set me back $1,595! It seems like they are offering those with lower status cheaper rates (I gifted Gold Medallion status to my wife, and she was offered the same rate as you), but they are still nowhere near as cheap as the MQM’s earned from a mileage run or from opening up a Delta Platinum/Reserve Amex.

  • Nick Ewen

    Yep, that’s mentioned above in the “Preferred Seating” section. This can be especially handy in case any last-minute upgrades clear for Diamonds or Platinums, as that will likely vacate an EC seat for a Silver Medallion with a quick trigger finger.

  • Suzanne Gwinn

    The only MQM I could figure out that was cheap enough in one shot was PHX-HNL and the flights were awful. It would have me gone for two days and I just didn’t want to do it anyway. I tried to apply for the AMEX card and got turned down as I have too many accounts with AMEX. I even appealed, but they still wouldn’t open the card. That would have been my first choice.

  • Suzanne Gwinn

    Good info,nick, thanks for the tip.

  • Suzanne Gwinn

    I have permanent gold on AA and I have a very hard time with upgrades.

  • ben

    a day that will live in infamy

  • Mike

    How did you get status without flying a single mile?

  • Nick Ewen

    Thanks for pointing that out; the initial post actually indicated that Silver members earn one Starpoint for every dollar spent on Delta, but that only applies to SPG elites. Silver Medallions do earn 1 mile per dollar spent at Starwood properties.

    As you mention, that isn’t a HUGE benefit, but still nice for someone like me who flies Delta almost exclusively and also has top tier status with SPG. Every mile/point helps!

  • Tony

    Ok Nick in your article you talked very little about the Delta branded Amex cards. So please clarify this, if I had a Delta branded Amex card and I spend 25K on these card, is the MQD waived? If so your article really needed to highlight that aspect, since these blog’s are to use us skate around certain requirements the airlines are throwing at us…..

  • Mark

    I had my first upgrade as an SM as well on a flight to Vegas on Nov 14 from Detroit! Hit SM in June and have flown several times since, mainly major routes with no chance of an upgrade.

  • Rich

    The MQD requirements will thin the herd somewhat, ideally. I would hope that it results in more upgrades for us all. I am a Diamond member and flew CVG-DCA on Monday morning on a Q class fare (5th highest fare class) and have the Delta Reserve card. I almost missed my upgrade; I was the last person on the upgrade list. There were 27 below me who did not get an upgrade. And this was on a CRJ900. That’s simply not acceptable. The MQD requirement will balance things a bit.

  • k9i9

    I’m short of 1,002 miles to become Silver this year. Just received the mail from Delta with the option to buy the MQM. The lowest you can buy is 2,500MQM though and for 475$! That seems like a lot, do you think is worth it?

  • Mike

    Nov 29th , I was upgraded to first at the gate .LAX-ATL Although 16 seats were available , it went down to the wire. My connection cleared two days in advance. SM in 2013 ,

  • Michelle

    I’m so confused – I’m a silver now on Delta and SPG gold. I just got an email from Delta asking if I want to buy MQMs to keep my status next year – about $900. My question, are MQM miles something I can use to buy tickets – so if I spend $900 can I use those MQMs toward a ticket purchase. I know this is bad but I have never used my miles, I plan to next year! Thanks.

  • Nick Ewen

    Yes, that is correct. It is mentioned in the post, but I didn’t go into too much detail because Brian covered MQD’s in depth in the past. Stay tuned for a final post that includes more information on the credit cards, but for next year, if you spend at least $25k on any Delta-branded American Express cards, the MQD requirement is waived.

  • Nick Ewen

    I agree, and I think it’s just the first step towards a full revenue-based program. The interesting thing about MQD’s is that they don’t actually reward those customers that purchase very expensive tickets but don’t fly a ton. These are some of Delta’s most profitable customers. I’ve seen some on FlyerTalk (of course, take these numbers with a grain of salt) with 40,000 MQM’s but something like $10k in spend. Because the MQM/MQS requirement remains in place, this individual is still only gold. It will be interesting to see what changes Delta will make after year one.

  • Nick Ewen

    That is a lot to pay, but it is the easiest option. Where are you based? You could always look at a mileage run; 1002 MQM’s could be obtained with something as simple as Atlanta-West Palm Beach (round-trip). TPG has a bunch of posts about mileage runs, and FlyerTalk also has a good thread on it.

    The other thing to consider would be to open the Delta Platinum American Express. You’ll get 10,000 miles after the first purchase, and 5,000 of those count as MQM’s. If you go that route, do it ASAP, since the bonus miles take 2-4 weeks to post, and if they post after December 31st, you’re out of luck!

  • Nick Ewen

    How many MQM’s have you earned this calendar year? If it’s less than 25,000, you will lose your Silver status on March 1, 2014, so that’s probably why you got the e-mail. If you have already requalified for Silver, then don’t worry about purchasing the MQM’s. Purchased MQM’s cannot be used for future award flights; they just pad your MQM numbers.

  • Michelle

    Thanks Nick! I only have about 18,000 now and only one flight left on Delta for the year. I don’t want to lose the SPG crossover but not sure the status is worth $900 – the only flights I ever get upgraded are under 2 hour flights, never on the long ones. If I were buying miles I could use that would be different.

  • UrbanPhoenixInjunCAM

    Delta Promotion– Transfer 50,000 Amex Membership points to Delta and 25,000 of those points became MQMs, which is enough for Silver.

  • Guest

    Was just on the phone w/ Delta/Amex rep. Turns out that if you already have the Delta Gold Amex, then an upgrade to Platinum will not change your account number. Once you are approved, you can use your Gold card and activate the MQM award without having to wait on a new card to arrive in the mail before making a purchase to get the award. Also, the rep said that MQM awards credited though the first half of January will be retroactively applied to December so long as the spend was in December. So go ahead and get the new card, but if you already have a Delta Gold, don’t sweat having to do everything ASAP.

  • Andy Garrett

    Or fly a transcon day trip, they are usually good for 4000 plus MQM’s, then you’ll get the rollover miles. Folks do it regularly. I went from PBI to SEA just for the miles to get gold status, got upgraded and it was an A-330 aircraft.

  • Nick Ewen

    Thanks for sharing! However, I would take their suggestions with a grain of salt and still try to get the process completed ASAP. I’ve never heard of MQM’s retroactively being applied for the first half of January; I’ve always read that they will apply to the year in which they post (unlike a flight taken on December 31st that may not post until January 2nd…that would still count as MQM’s in the previous year).

  • loosh

    hi there – I am almost at silver status and am only now realizing that I still need either 3 more segments (which would require me to take a segment trip – which would be really inconvenient) or I needs like 8700 MQM miles. If I get the Delta Reserve card, get the 10K MQM miles, do you think I can cancel the card after receiving the miles and status in order to avoid paying the $450 annual fee? Do you think one hand would talk to the other and I’d get my silver status revoked?

    please advise manythanks,

    loosh

  • Darth Chocolate

    Don’t forget that personal AMEX Platinum card gets you automatic SPG Gold. So that is another way to “double up” using the Crossover Rewards.

  • Darth Chocolate

    Remember that Silver gets you a 25% bonus on regular miles (for tickets).

  • Lisa Myers

    If you have the time, buy one more ticket that will get you enough miles with your other flight still to take in 13. It will probably be less that $900 and you get a trip out of it!

  • Lisa Myers

    My experience has been that whichever airline is flying the overseas leg of an international flight “owns” the booking, so be careful with getting miles for Korean Air bookings, even if booked on a Delta ticket. It can get difficult.

  • Mikhail Razin

    I had my first upgrade between Miami and NYC about a year ago and according to my experience, if you fly morning flights in both directions, the chance to be upgraded is like 80%. Always empty flights, love them

  • Nick Ewen

    Yep, it’s all about the route and timing! I’ve read of Silver Medallions even clearing JFK-LAX when they fly on Saturdays, so it’s all relative.

  • Jon

    depends on the routes I guess. The flights i’m on i’m seeing closer to 75% success.

  • Nancy

    I just came back for a trip 2 days ago…but still need 825 MQMs to qualify for Silver. Any suggestions on how I can achieve this without flying? Thanks!

  • Danny s

    I am 400 miles short of silver elite. They want to charge me 500 for 2500 miles. Is there any way to do this easier?

  • Roboman

    I’ve been on Gold status the last year, and didn’t realize that when the new year came around I’d be bumped back to Silver…What’s the deal with that?

  • bob

    so if you just always buy first class tickets, this status thing is completely irrelevant right? It seems like a waste of time.

  • Raymond O.

    If you are an average traveler, and don’t travel long distances (like two trips to Europe or Africa in a year), this program is like a race you can never win. You get close, then you get chopped or smacked down. I think I am trying too hard – Will explore other programs.

  • Aj

    Me too!

  • Aj

    Yes that’s about right.

  • Tenbee

    Wow. I almost made it to “elite” status… Then Delta tacked on the MQDs. Geez.

    When does the qualification period end? I need ~$1300 MQDs and I think I’m going to cut it close… Even though I pretty much fly transcoastal 8-10 times/yr.

    I guess SM is really only good for the 25% bonus miles… I mean I don’t fly internationally too often, so I’m not concerned about the seats. I board zone 1 and have my first bag checked free anyway (Delta Amex). The likelihood of an upgrade is slim to none. AND… Delta is changing the flipping miles program, so I probably won’t even earn enough miles to requalify *if* I were even able to initially qualify during this period.

    What gives man? I feel like Delta is urging us economy-1-flight/month-fliers to other airlines.

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