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TPG reader David sent me a tweet to ask about upgrading on Delta:
“Do Delta Reserve cardholders get a higher upgrade priority over other Medallion members?”
Upgrades are one of my favorite benefits of airline elite status. I don’t really fit in most economy seats, so having more space is pretty important to me, especially on longer flights. But no matter what size you are, getting bumped up to a higher class of service can make a huge difference in comfort. Your upgrade priority generally depends on your status and fare, but there are other ways to move yourself up the ranks.
When it comes to Delta upgrade priority, elite status is the first tiebreaker: Diamond Medallions clear for upgrades ahead of Platinum Medallions, who clear ahead of Gold Medallions, and so on. The next tiebreaker is your fare class, so full-fare economy flyers get priority over those flying in discounted economy, as well as eligible Medallion members flying on awards or Pay with Miles tickets.
Within each of those groups is where the Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express comes into play. Cardholders get higher upgrade priority over other members with the same Medallion elite status level and fare class. For example, a Gold Medallion Delta Reserve cardholder flying in V class has priority over other Gold Medallions who are also booked in V, but not over Gold Medallions booked in B class (regardless of whether they’re cardholders). Similarly, a Platinum Medallion cardholder booked in M class has priority over other Platinum members in M, but not over Diamond Medallions also booked in M.
It’s hard to say what that higher upgrade priority is worth. If you primarily fly on routes that don’t get a ton of traffic, then it’s unlikely to matter. However, if you fly on more competitive routes (like Atlanta to San Francisco), that marginal boost could make the difference.
While the higher upgrade priority is a nice perk, I wouldn’t get the card just on that basis. That said, the Delta Reserve can help improve your upgrade priority more directly. You get 10,000 MQMs and SkyMiles after your first purchase; you can also earn 15,000 MQMs and SkyMiles after making $30,000 in purchases in a calendar year and an additional 15,000 MQMs and SkyMiles after making $60,000 in purchases. All told, that’s enough MQMs to earn Gold status outright, or almost enough to boost you from Gold to Diamond Medallion.
Raising your elite status level will make a much greater difference in your upgrade priority than simply being a cardholder. Furthermore, that level of spending would be enough to waive your MQD requirements for the year, so the card is a good option for earning elite status without flying. Of course, you also get SkyClub access and other benefits, so the card is easily worthwhile for serious Delta flyers.
Check out these posts for more info on upgrades, elite status and the Delta Reserve Card:
- Should I Upgrade from the Gold Delta Amex to the Delta Reserve Card?
- 17 Tips for Earning, Burning and Flying with Delta
- Register for Delta’s 2016 Elite Status Challenge Online
- Using 12,500 Delta SkyMiles to Upgrade a Transcontinental Flight
Even after the introduction of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is still a fantastic choice if you want to avoid the Reserve’s $450 annual fee, earn 2x on all travel & dining and earn a 50,000 point sign up bonus.
- Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- Named Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, July 2016
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
- No foreign transaction fees
- 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
- No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards