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Which Delta Platinum Medallion 2014 Choice Benefit Should I Choose?

by on April 1, 2014 · 16 comments

in Delta, Elite Status

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When you hit Delta Platinum and/or Diamond Medallion status, the airline offers you a choice of benefits called…Choice Benefits, unsurprisingly. Every year I requalify, I strategize about just which benefit holds the most value for me, and this year threw a couple curve balls at me, and all Medallions.

As of March 1, 2014, Delta made some key changes to its Diamond and Platinum Medallion upgrades that devalued Platinum Medallion upgrade possibilities and makes hitting Diamond status more valuable thanks to more universal Global Upgrades. In general, though, rather than helping elites get to the front of the plane, these changes will fill Economy Comfort seats and have been leaving business class seats empty, especially on those lucrative transcontinental routes.

These new upgrade policies have also shifted the calculus of Choice Benefits and which ones I’m going to opt for this year. As I’ve mentioned before in posts like Which Delta Medallion Choice Benefit Should I Choose?, every year brings new questions based on what Delta is offering its flyers. The 2014 version of the Choice Benefits list looks like this:

Delta 2014 Choice BenefitsSo whereas before both Platinums and Diamonds had access to Systemwide upgrades, now Platinums can only get Regional Upgrades and Diamonds have a choice of Globals as well. Here’s where you can use each:

Delta-Medallion-Upgrades-300x282

Under the new Choice Benefits program:

  • Diamond Medallions will have access to Regional and Global upgrade certificates
  • Platinum Medallions will be able to select Regional Upgrades

Diamond Medallion status is now more desirable, as Diamonds can choose to upgrade on transcon and international routes by using either Global upgrades or miles. These Global upgrades will be eligible on pretty much all paid fare classes for International and Domestic BusinessElite routes: Y, B, M, S, H, Q, K, L, U, T, X or V. They may be redeemed for the named Medallion member and up to one travel companion in the same reservation; the named member and the companion will each require a separate certificate. They’re also valid on on all flights coded as KLM and operated by KLM for one-way upgrade from published Economy fared in Y, B, or M class to Business Class, and on transatlantic Air France flights booked in Y, B, or M class to Premium Voyageur Class or from Premium Voyageur when booked in S or W class to Business Class.

However, complimentary upgrades for Delta’s transcontinental BusinessElite routes are now gone. (True, availability for this particular benefit has been extremely 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 – but still, the potential existed.) The only complimentary Medallion status upgrade that remains are on flights non-transcon domestic flights and to Hawaii from LAX/SEA/SFO and SLC – albeit on Delta’s old-school version of business class.

For those coveted transcontinental routes, Platinum Medallions are left back in Economy Comfort: transcontinental flyers seeking business class upgrades should take look at routes on American’s new A321 or JetBlue and their reasonably-priced new business class product, Mint.

Delta's transcon lie-flat BusinessElite seats.

Say goodbye to Delta’s transcon lie-flat BusinessElite seats if you’re just a Platinum Medallion!

As a big transcon flyer myself, that doesn’t really help me, and it was the upgrades on those domestic long-hauls that kept me with Delta for so long.So as for my personal strategy, I’m also going to continue to go for American Executive Platinum status, which gives me a much greater chance of a transcon upgrade compared to either Delta or United.

Cost-Benefit Analysis of the Other Choice Benefits

So in terms of the Choice Benefits I’m personally receiving as a Platinum Medallion, here’s how I break them down in terms of dollar value:

1. 20,000 Bonus Miles for Platinums (25,000 for Diamonds): It can be hard to use SkyMiles effectively, but if you are savvy and flexible, you can still find some decent redemptions, especially at the last minute. For instance, if you’re considering certain expensive redemptions where you know you can get a good value on your miles (e.g., expensive BusinessElite award seats to Europe), you would be getting a good return here worth hundreds of dollars. I value SkyMiles at about 1.5 cents each. Benefit value: about $300

1. Regional Upgrades: As a Platinum Medallion, I get upgraded on regional routes anyway for the most part, or they’re short enough that it doesn’t make a huge difference to me, so I don’t place a huge amount of value on these. I’d say maybe $100 each. Benefit value: $100

2. One $200 Gift Card (Tiffany) or Travel Voucher: This is a straight exchange of $200 for either fancy jewelry or future travel on Delta. If you’re planning to purchase either, this gift will put you ahead of the game. Benefit value: $200

3. Gifting Silver Medallion Status (Gold Status for Diamonds): Silver status normally requires flying 25,000 miles or 30 segments within a calendar year and confers perks like free checked bag fees for up 9 people on your reservation, discounts on Economy Comfort seats on international flights, a 25% Medallion mileage bonus, priority boarding and more. Benefits are rather limited, especially in terms of upgrades. Benefit value: $200

4. Four Delta SkyClub One-Day Passes (Six for Diamonds): SkyClub passes cost $50 apiece, 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 American Express Platinum Card  – so if you have either that card or the Delta Reserve (which also grants SkyClub access) this gift is quite possibly a waste. Benefit value: $100-200

5. Regional Upgrades: I definitely don’t think these are worth it since as a Platinum Medallion who doesn’t fly in/out of major Delta hubs like Atlanta or Detroit, I don’t find it hard to get upgraded on the short routes these are valid on. I also plan on curtailing my Delta travel and I’d value them quite low at about $50-$100 each. Benefit value: $200

6. One Global Entry Application Voucher: This is pretty clear cut at a value of $100, but I already get it thanks to my Amex Platinum Card, and there’s a bit of a hassle to using this benefit since you have to wait for a prepaid card to arrive from Delta and it can take up to 12 weeks. Not worth the time and effort. Benefit value: $100

Delta-Logo

Which Delta Platinum Medallion Choice Benefits Will I Choose? 

Based on those valuations and the fact that I already have Global Entry (as do most of my friends and family at this point), I have gifted Silver Medallion status to a lot of folks already, and I plan to cut down on my Delta flying, I’m going to go with the 20,000 miles. I plan to look for a good award to use them on before the Delta award chart gets hacked again in June and then transfer in Amex Membership Rewards points to top up for the award, like I did when we booked TPG Managing Editor Eric’s Virgin Australia award at the last minute in February.

Have you had a chance to claim a Choice Benefit from the newly revised the Medallion Upgrade Program? If so, please share your experience in the comments!

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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  • Working mom

    Both my husband and I are Platinum and opted to gift our two kids with silver status. Since we live in Atlanta, upgrades are harder to come by, but it’s well worth it when all 4 of us get upgraded. If you have a frequent travel companion I think it’s the best use of the status.

  • Darth Chocolate

    I simply get the Tiffany gift card for my wife. Covers a birthday, anniversary, Valentine’s day or whatever.

    Also, what about using mileage upgrades for the transcon flights, or is that not possible?

  • Scott

    Any suggestions for a Diamond Medallion on which Choice Benefits would be most valuable? Thanks!

  • thepointsguy

    For me it would be a toss-up between the 25,000 miles and the Global Upgrades – but again, I don’t want to fly Delta much anymore, so I might just take the miles.

  • thepointsguy

    You can do that too, but it’s not part of Choice Benefits.

  • Darth Chocolate

    But if you take the bonus miles, you can use them for the upgrades. So, it is a minor work around.

  • Darth Chocolate

    Take both. As a Diamond, you get to chose two.

  • bart verbeke

    As a Diamond I took the miles and the Global upgrades. Why? My wife and I have no kids so we are flexible on redeeming miles. Yes it is getting a bit more difficult in last year but we have always been able to go with lowest possible miles for free business tickets on international flights. The global upgrades I will use on my business travel as all is international and I always book economy. Spending my first certificate for upcoming flight ATL DBX in May.

  • markj

    I would take the miles. I think the big advantage next year is one way awards on Delta. It seems like it it is getting harder to do a round trip in Business or FIrst with any single airline or alliance. So maybe take AA/BA to London and Virgin return or Delta/Virgin to Australia and work a Star Alliance carrier with a stopover in Asia on the way home. I see a lot of flexibility to my travel plans now that I have an additional resource to book one ways.

  • Scott

    Thanks Brian – I think I am looking at the Global Upgrades due to a lot of transcon travel – I appreciate it. Love the blog – keep up the great work!

  • MikeO

    I’m confused. You valued the regional upgrade certs at $100 each but the total benefit value was $100. Don’t you get 4 certs as a Platinum choice?

  • Saleem

    As a Diamond, you get Four Global Upgrade certificates which are good for two trips only. It is better than nothing but I wish they have given at least Five Global round trip upgrades certificates.

  • JDF

    How “available” in practice are the regional upgrades? I guess I’m worried I’ll end up wasting hours and hours of my time trying to use them and that erodes their value.

  • Gadams1967

    I have used upgrades now on 4 international legs. Great as long as you are in the crazy high class fare. M class or better.

  • Holly

    Question: I am already silver medallion. Can my husband use his platinum choice benefit to upgrade me from silver to gold?

  • thepointsguy

    Nope- it’s a silver nomination- not a one level bump, unfortunately.

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