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Will I Earn Elite Qualifying Dollars for My Entire Fare?

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TPG reader Shannon sent me a message on Facebook to ask about Delta’s revenue requirements:

“I seem to be missing MQDs from my recent Delta flight to Paris, as only a portion of my fare is being counted. I’m close to qualifying for Platinum Medallion status, so I want to make sure I’m not being shorted. Do you know why I wouldn’t receive the full amount?”

Delta and United have factored spending into elite status qualification for almost two years now, but there’s still some confusion about how that spending is calculated. With frequent flyers looking to lock down status for 2016, it’s important to know what counts toward each program’s revenue requirements.

Delta awards Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQDs) according to your base fare and any carrier-imposed surcharges, but excludes other taxes and fees. Depending on where you’re flying, those can add up to a significant portion of your total cost. For example, the itinerary below shows a fare of $1,137.80 for a nonstop trip between Detroit and Paris. However, more than 10% of that is comprised of taxes and fees that are ineligible to earn MQDs.

These charges vary between countries (and even between airports) — flights from the UK tend to involve particularly high taxes. Meanwhile, extra fees often represent a large percentage of domestic fares, even if the total dollar amount is relatively small.

Roughly 10% of this Delta fare is ineligible to earn Medallion Qualification Dollars.

Delta has a similar policy for awarding redeemable SkyMiles, as only the base fare and carrier-imposed surcharges count. United also excludes taxes and fees from earning both Premier Qualifying Dollars and Premier Qualifying Miles. While American Airlines recently announced that it will add a revenue component to earning redeemable miles, the AAdvantage program doesn’t have a spending requirement for elite status.

You can avoid revenue requirements for elite status by spending on co-branded credit cards like the Gold Delta SkyMiles Card from American Express or the United MileagePlus Explorer Card. That’s especially useful since both Delta and United raised their requirements for 2015. However, putting that much spending on those cards might not pay off in the long run, since you’re missing opportunities to earn more valuable points.

If you suspect that you’re missing elite credits for another reason, it’s worth calling the airline to check. Mistakes do happen and every little bit can help you finish your quest for elite status as we reach the end of 2015.

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

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