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When Will Elite Credits Post for End-of-Year Travel?

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TPG reader Angela emailed to ask about qualifying for elite status at the end of the year:

“I’m planning to book an international flight that leaves before Dec 31, 2015 and returns in 2016. I’m on the verge of getting Delta Gold Medallion status for next year, but I need some more MQDs to get there. Will this trip count toward my elite qualification for this year or next?”

I can’t believe how quickly 2015 has gone, but now that we’re into October, it’s time to formulate a plan if you’re working toward airline or hotel elite status and have some ground left to cover. There’s still time to qualify, but it’s important to make sure every mile flown, dollar spent or night stayed actually reaches your account before the calendar turns.

Angela is close to earning Gold Medallion status, and while she has taken care of the mileage requirement, she still needs to meet Delta’s revenue requirement by spending at least $6,000 on flights this year. Fortunately, at least some of the MQDs she earns on her upcoming international flight will count toward this year’s total.

When it comes to Delta elite status qualification, the departure date is what matters. So long as your flight leaves on or before December 31, your Medallion Qualification Miles, Segments and Dollars will all be earned in 2015. While MQMs can take 24 hours to show up in your account, they’ll still be applied based on the time and date at your point of departure. Also, note that MQDs are prorated based on the fare class and distance flown, so they’ll be credited in proportion to how much of your itinerary has been flown.

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So long as your flight departs in 2015, the elite credits you earn will count toward this year’s total.

Since elite credits show up after each segment individually, you’ll need to pay close attention to your schedule to determine which parts of your itinerary will count for each year. For example, consider a $1,500 nonstop economy fare from Los Angeles to London that departs on December 31, 2015 and arrives on January 1, 2016, returning at some point in the new year. Since the departure is in 2015, you would earn about 6,000 MQMs (for the miles flown to London) and 750 MQDs, representing half of the paid fare, assuming you’re booked in the same fare class in both directions. You’d earn a similar amount on the way back. (Note that government-imposed taxes and fees don’t count toward MQD accrual, so in this example $1,500 is the eligible portion of the fare.)

As another example, consider a $1,500 itinerary that departs Los Angeles on December 31st, stops in New York, and then leaves for London on January 1st. In this case, only about 2,500 MQMs would apply to 2015, because the JFK-LHR segment would depart in 2016. Similarly, only about 300 MQDs would apply to 2015, representing the prorated portion of the itinerary that took place in that year. You’d still earn the rest of those elite credits, but they would apply to 2016.

In Angela’s case, it sounds like all of her outbound travel will count for 2015, but the return trip will count toward 2016. Hopefully that will be enough to earn Gold status. If not, keep in mind that Delta waives MQD requirements for anyone who spends $25,000 annually on a co-branded Amex card like the Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card or the Delta Reserve Credit Card. Some of those cards can also help you earn MQMs, in case you’re looking for help on that front.

If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook or send me an email at

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