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Will I Earn Elite Credits When I Pay with Miles on Delta?

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TPG reader Daniel sent me a message on Facebook to ask about earning elite credits on Delta:

“Will I earn elite credits when I use Pay with Miles to buy a Delta ticket?”

Award flights generally don’t earn miles or elite credits, which is one reason why you may be better off paying cash for airfare when prices are low. However, the Gold Delta SkyMiles Card and other co-branded Delta Amex cards offer a benefit known as Pay with Miles that changes the rules in favor of cardholders.

When Delta introduced this feature back in 2008, Pay with Miles fares were ineligible to earn either redeemable SkyMiles or Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs). In 2013, Delta amended that policy to offer rewards on first- and business-class tickets, though economy fares were left out. However, Delta had another change of heart in December 2014 when the airline announced that it would extend those rewards to all Pay with Miles fares beginning in 2015.

As it stands now, Pay with Miles fares are eligible to accrue SkyMiles, as well as both MQMs and Medallion Qualification Segments (MQSs). You can also earn Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQDs) to help meet your revenue requirements for elite status, but that only applies to the portion of your base fare that is paid for in currency. For example, if you redeem 10,000 SkyMiles to trim $100 from a $200 base fare, you’ll earn SkyMiles and MQDs on the remaining $100 balance.

Delta
You can use Pay with Miles while earning credit toward Medallion elite status.

While Pay with Miles doesn’t offer great value, the ability to earn rewards makes it somewhat more attractive. The redemption rate works out to a value of 1 cent per mile, but you’ll get anywhere from 5%-11% of your redeemed SkyMiles back depending on your Medallion status level. That ups the return to around 1.05-1.1 cents per mile, which isn’t too far under my latest valuation.

Note that the rules are different for Delta’s Miles + Cash fares. Unlike Pay with Miles, these fares are treated as full award tickets, so they don’t earn miles or elite credits of any kind. Miles + Cash awards don’t tend to offer good value anyway, so that’s just one more reason to avoid them.

For more on how to maximize the Delta SkyMiles program, check out these posts:

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

Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express

Apply Now
  • Earn 30,000 bonus miles after you make $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within your first 3 months and a $50 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months.
  • Earn 2 Miles per dollar spent on purchases made directly with Delta. Earn 1 mile for every dollar spent on all other eligible purchases.
  • Check your first bag free on every Delta flight - that's a savings of up to $200 per round trip for a family of four.
  • Settle in sooner with Priority Boarding.
  • Enjoy a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • Terms and Conditions apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR Regular APR Annual Fee Foreign Transaction Fee Credit Rating
None 15.49%-19.49% Variable $0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95 2.70% Excellent Credit