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United and Delta Elite Status Revenue Requirements Are Officially Here

by on January 2, 2014 · 18 comments

in Delta, Elite Status, United

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Now that we’re a day into 2014, it’s already time to start thinking about your elite status strategy and how to achieve your goals. While elite status qualification with hotels and airlines has for the most part remained the same, two of the major US legacy carriers – Delta and United – have both implemented new revenue requirements for their elite status programs, so in addition to planning out your flying in terms of miles and/or segments, elite flyers on both airlines will now have to factor in their spending habits as well. Here’s what you need to know.

DELTA

Delta officially announced its new Medallion elite status revenue requirements a year ago in January of 2013. US-based Medallion members will need to either spend $25,000 dollars a year on a Delta American Express credit card or spend the following amount of money in addition to accruing regular Medallion Qualifying Miles / Segments:

Delta MQD

So depending on the status level you’re going for, you will now need to spend anywhere from $2,500-$12,500 to qualify. The MQD’s you spend on your tickets will appear in your account tracker after you actually fly.

Your total spend across all Delta SkyMiles credit cards that are linked to the same SkyMiles number will be combined and count toward your annual total of eligible purchases and the $25,000 spending requirement.

If you don’t have a Delta Amex card, or you don’t put $25,000 in annual spend on it, here’s what you need to know about Medallion Qualifying Dollars.

If you achieve one Medallion qualification criteria and not the other, your status will be determined based on the lower of the two qualification thresholds that you achieved. For example, if you fly 76,000 MQMs but only spend $6,000 MQD’s, then you will earn Gold Medallion status instead of Platinum Medallion. Rollover MQMs will be calculated as anything in excess of the MQM threshold for the status earned based on the new criteria. In the above example, you would roll over 26,000 MQMs and would then need at least $2,500 MQDs (or the MQD Waiver) to earn Silver Medallion status the following year.

You can keep track of your MQD’s by logging into your account on Delta.com. If you log into your Delta account, you can now view your 2013 Medallion Qualifying Dollars on your Account Activity page and My SkyMiles page at delta.com.

You can keep track of your MQD's along with your miles and segments on Delta.com.

You can keep track of your MQD’s along with your miles and segments on Delta.com.

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.

MQDs (similar to MQMs and MQSs) are earned by the member who is flying (whose name and SkyMiles number are listed on the ticket). This means that even if your company (or spouse, parent, etc.) purchases your ticket, the member who is flying will earn the MQDs.

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 these are considered “published” fares so they 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, 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. Economy Comfort and Preferred Seating purchases ticketed through Delta do count towards 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. The vast majority of partner airlines flights are available through Delta.com as a codeshare. However, for partner flights that are not available on delta.com 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 delta.com 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.

Those huge fees on some international tickets – especially those to London and Paris – will count towards MQD’s according to Delta’s definitions of taxes versus carrier-imposed fees.

Luckily, carrier-imposed fees count towards MQD's.

Luckily, carrier-imposed fees count towards MQD’s.

As you can see on the fare breakdown for this business class ticket from New York to London, the majority of surcharges are carrier-imposed – but you’re still missing out earning MQD’s on about $275 of other taxes and fees.

UNITED

Then in June, United announced that it would be implementing its own set of revenue requirements for elite status called Premier Qualifying Dollars that work pretty much like Delta’s.

United PQD

The new spending criteria break down like this:

  • Premier Silver: [25,000 PQM or 30 PQS] and $2,500 PQD
  • Premier Gold: [50,000 PQM or 60 PQS] and $5,000 PQD
  • Premier Platinum: [75,000 PQM or 90 PQS] and $7,500 PQD
  • Premier 1K: [100,000 PQM or 120 PQS] and $10,000 PQD

A minimum of at least four paid flights operated by United, United Express, or Copa Airlines will be needed to qualify for any Premier status.
In 2014, the PQD requirement is waived for Premier Silver, Premier Gold, and Premier Platinum qualification for members whose address with MileagePlus is within the 50 United States or the District of Columbia and who spend at least $25,000 in net purchases in 2014 on a MileagePlus co-branded credit card issued by Chase. However, note that there is no PQD waiver for Premier 1K qualification.

The following spending counts toward the PQD requirement:

  • Base fare and carrier-imposed surcharges
  • Flights flown by United, United Express, or Copa Airlines
  • Flights operated by a Star Alliance or a MileagePlus partner airline and issued on a United ticket (ticket number starting with 016)
  • Economy Plus purchases

You will earn PQD for the base fare and carrier-imposed surcharges on qualifying tickets. Certain specialty tickets, including but not limited to unpublished, consolidator, group/tour, and opaque fares do not earn PQD. Government-imposed taxes, fees, and charges are not eligible for Premier qualifying dollars (PQD).

Most of United’s partner airlines flights are available through United as a codeshare, so that makes it easier to confirm that they count toward your spending threshold. If you know you’ll be taking a flight on a Star Alliance partner that should be bookable through United but cannot get the flight to show on United.com, you can always try calling up the airline directly and booking the flight that way so that your airfare counts towards your PQD spending.

In terms of non-airline fees and taxes, such charges are usually low on United tickets, so in most cases the portion of your fare that doesn’t count towards PQD spending should be just a small part of the overall price.

Economy Plus

Economy Plus purchases earn MQD’s.

The only non-ticket purchases that earn Premier qualifying dollars (PQD) in 2014 are Economy Plus purchases. Baggage fees, United Club membership fees, change and cancellation fees will not apply.

Also, like Premier-qualifying miles and segments, PQD’s will be credited to the member who travels, not the person who purchases the ticket if you buy the ticket for someone else.

United PQD’s count towards the year in which you take the flight. If you booked a PQD eligible ticket in 2013 with a departure date in 2014, you will earn PQDs towards 2014 qualification upon completing each flight segment. It’s the same way miles and segments towards elite status are earned.  So even if you already bought a ticket in 2013 for travel in 2014, you’ll get spending credit on them just as you would get mileage and segment credit in the year in which you actually fly.

TRIPLE DIPPING WITH ONLINE TRAVEL AGENCIES

Although the easiest way to ensure that your spending on Delta or United count toward their revenue requirements, one reason you might want to book through an online travel agency as opposed to directly with United or 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 an online travel agency, and still having your spend count with the airline.

Screen shot 2014-01-01 at 5.45.49 PM

For example, Expedia, Hotwire, Orbitz, Priceline and Travelocity are all clickable for bonuses through the Sapphire Preferred Ultimate Rewards site. Sapphire Preferred cardholders can earn an extra point on any of them in addition to the points you would normally earn with the Ultimate Rewards card you carry.

So if you used your Sapphire Preferred to book a ticket, you’d earn 3.21X points per dollar thanks to the card’s 2X category spending bonus on travel and the  7% annual points dividend, – which you can transfer at a 1:1 ratio to United miles – over the 2 United miles per $1 you’d earn by booking United flights with the United Explorer (and just 1.5 miles per dollar with the Club card) or the 2 Delta miles per $1 by using a Delta Amex.

In addition, 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 United or Delta miles for the actual flight.

For more information, check out these posts:

Delta Officially Confirms New Revenue-Based Medallion Program
Determining What Spending Counts Toward Medallion Qualifying Dollars

United Adding New Revenue Requirements – Premier Qualifying Dollars
Determining What Spending Counts Toward United Premier Qualifying Dollars

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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  • Michael Rasmussen

    Thank you for the clarification about United purchases in 2013 for 2014 flights counting for PQD.

  • Dieuwer

    EC seat purchases DO count as MQD with Delta.

  • http://smewth.tumblr.com danielfein

    So if I book a United ticket now through the Chase Sapphire Preferred website, will my purchase count towards my United PQD total?

  • Dieuwer
  • Ivan M.

    “MQD’s only count for purchases actually made in 2014, so even if you bought tickets in 2013 for flights in 2014, the money you spent does not count towards your 2014 qualification.”
    I emailed Delta about this and they told me the opposite – they said that MQDs post after the flight and that I would be earning MQDs for the January flight that I purchased in December 2013. I also specifically asked if I should book more flights or wait for 1/1/2014 and they said to go ahead and book my flights, that I will be getting MQDs for all 2014 flights even if they were purchased in 2013. I hope the representative knew what they were talking about. In either case, I’m keeping that email if I need to call and ask for my MQDs.

  • Darth Chocolate

    I, for one, am looking forward to the MQD requirements. It might actually reduce the number of folks at the various medallion levels, leaving a higher probability for those of us who actually spend money with Delta. I might have to wait until 2015 to see the full effect of this policy, but I am anticipating a better experience.

    I generally do long haul international business class flights with my employer paying. Tentatively, I have 5 flights scheduled (through June 2014) with a projected $30K + in MQD. With the 46K MQM rollover, I might make Diamond by April.
    I do domestic flights for personal travel, and the promise of fewer Medallions makes that hassle a little better in my book.
    Let the hate begin!

  • Mike

    How can I request 500 mile upgrades on AA flights booked via the OTCs — do I have to call?

  • jtgray

    Do United Premier Accelerator mile purchases count towards PQDs? If they don’t, it drastically reduces the value of those purchased miles…

  • thepointsguy

    Normally no- but after you purchase there’s an option to pay extra to make them count as elite miles. They are not cheap, but an option nonetheless

  • thepointsguy

    Yes or login to your aa once the flight is booked

  • jtgray

    Sorry for the misunderstanding, I’m actually referring to those. What I’m curious about is if you pay up to purchase them as elite miles, will those dollars count towards PQDs?

  • Darth Chocolate

    Just saw something when I checked in for my Delta flight tomorrow. The first leg is not upgrade eligible (small regional jet, but seat 1C), and I could print off a drink ticket with my boarding passes. Other options for mobile boarding passes and get boarding passes at the airport for printing the drink coupons. This may have been an option when I flew back in Dec but did not have an upgrade.

  • Matt

    When are rollover MQMs expected to post?

  • brian kusler

    I know it would make the rules too complicated, but i also wish the PQD also had a ‘MAXIMUM spend before being bumped to the next tier regardless of miles flown’ — so, for example, if i spent $5000 (or some other number) but only flew 20,000 miles i’d be bumped up to gold.

    So yes, count me in the category of ‘people happy about the spend requirements’. For me it’s just been a bit frustrating over the years to spend a lot of money on high-margin tickets with United and still be a Silver.

  • Jim

    I purchased a ticket in Dember and flew in January and I did receive the MQD’s after my flight.

  • Greg

    Help me TPG! I’ve been a 1k for 15 years. I’m thrifty and usually only spend between $6.5-$7k each year to re-earn the status (mileage runs included). I’m a million miler with 1.7mm lifetime, so keeping status very important. I’ll mange to fly over 100k this year (did 101,321 last year). How can I back door this new requirement to account for the last $3,000 of spend (or beat the whole $10 grand some other way)? Your help greatly appreciated!

  • UAPlat

    No they will not count as PQD. As the article stated, only Economy plus counts

  • Tammy

    son in law being stationed in japan. so the family will be there for 4 years. they are expecting 2nd child in april. would like my husband & myself to be able to go once a year. what would be the best way to get the best mileage to use? also, if i pay my house payment & other large payments with the card & pay them off before the cycle date would this count for miles?

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