Determining What Spending Counts Toward Medallion Qualifying Dollars
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Delta announced earlier this year that they would start instituting a new revenue-based Medallion elite status program in 2014. As a recap, in addition to flying the normal about of Medallion-qualifying miles or segments for each elite tier, US-based Delta SkyMiles Medallion members will need to buck up and either spend $25,000 dollars a year on a Delta American Express credit card or spend the following amount of money on Delta fares:
With these new requirements taking place next year, I wanted to go over what qualifies toward the spending, because it may not be as easy as you think and now is as good of a time as ever to status match if you don't think the future MQD program will be right for your needs.
Medallion Qualification Dollars: Medallion Qualification Dollars are the sum total of the SkyMiles member’s spending on Delta-marketed flights (flight numbers that include the “DL” airline code), inclusive of the base fare and applicable surcharges, but exclusive of government-imposed taxes and fees. Certain specialty tickets, including but not limited to unpublished, consolidator, group/tour, and opaque fare products will not count toward MQD.
When it comes to booking through online travel agencies (OTA's) such as Expedia, Orbitz, etc, if you are purchasing just the airfare - meaning it's not a bundled vacation package with other components like hotel or car rental - then according to my contacts at Delta, these are considered "published" fares so they should count. Keep in mind though it may be possible to book an unpublished fare when using an OTA, and if that's the case it would not count for MQD's, so just be careful and verify the fare class of your ticket and that it has a Delta ticket number.
Ancillary purchases or fees including checked baggage fees, Economy Comfort, priority boarding, Delta Sky Club memberships, Wi-Fi passes, unaccompanied minor fees, pet travel fees, mileage booster, ticket change fees, direct ticketing charge, same day confirmed fee, and standby upgrades purchased at the gate, do not count toward earning MQDs.
Flight spend for travel on other airlines ticketed through a Delta channel (featuring a ticket number beginning with “006”) will also be included in MQD's. Certain specialty tickets, including but not limited to unpublished, consolidator, group/tour and opaque fare products will not count toward MQDs.
Getting Codeshares and Partner Flights To Count
The vast majority of partner airlines flights are available through Delta.com as a codeshare. For instance, the new partnership with Virgin Atlantic allows you to book these flights as codeshare flights.
However, let's say you wanted to book an intra-European flight on Air France that is not a Delta codeshare. These are not available on delta.com so if you want the fares to count towards your MQD's, you must call up Delta to book them. Once you call to book them, you'll see them show up in your delta.com account. So even though this isn't a Delta codeshare, since it is booked through a Delta booking channel it would count toward the Medallion Qualifying Dollars - which is a good thing.
However, a lot of partner flights are actually available on delta.com. I was able to find this example with some intra-European flights on KLM.
As long as you can book the flight on Delta.com or through a Delta reservations agent, you dollars should count toward Medallion qualification.
When it comes to booking codeshare flights, most of them are available on Delta.com so you don't have to worry about calling up Delta to book these. A Delta codeshare would have a Delta flight number such as Delta 4928 but it is operated by another airline. However, if the flight isn't available as a codeshare, you can try to still book it on delta.com, or calling Delta up to book it on the phone.
Taxes Versus Carrier-Imposed Fees
One big question is whether some of those huge fees on some international tickets - especially those to London and Paris - will count towards MQD's and the answer is luckily yes according to Delta's definitions of taxes versus carrier-imposed fees. Take, for this business class ticket from New York JFK to London Heathrow:
That'll set you back about $3,600, but about $1,000 of that is taxes and fees - nearly a third of the value of the ticket! However, looking at the fees breakdown:
You can see that the base fare is about $2,700 - so that's MQD-qualifying - and the other huge charge of $878 is carrier-imposed international surcharges, so that means it will qualify for MQD's too. Unfortunately, the other miscellaneous taxes including the UK Air Passenger Duty of $200 and UK Passenger Service charge of $59.40 will not count.
As always, be careful about the details and be sure to calculate just how much of your ticket you'll be earning MQD's on before deciding to purchase.
Triple Dipping With An Online Travel Agency
The reason you might want to book through an online travel agency as opposed to directly with Delta is that it might be possible to triple dip on points earning by going through the Ultimate Rewards shopping portal, earning loyalty program credits with the OTA, and still having your spend count with Delta.
Expedia, Orbitz and Travelocity are all clickable for bonuses through the Ultimate Rewards site. Ultimate Rewards cardholders can earn 2 extra points per dollar for booking with Travelocity and 1 extra point per dollar for booking with Orbitz or Expedia, which are in addition to the regular points you would normally earn with the Ultimate Rewards card you carry. So for instance, if you used your Sapphire Preferred to book a ticket, you'd earn 4 points per dollar with Travelocity and 3 points per dollar with the other two thanks to the cards 2X category spending bonus on travel.
Expedia offers their own loyalty program called Expedia Rewards where you can earn bonus points for flight purchases, which can then be redeemed for money off a future flight. Orbitz also offers Orbitz Rewards, which you'll earn "Orbucks" that can be used towards future flights. So in the case of Orbitz and Expedia, you would be triple dipping since you would earn Ultimate Rewards points for booking through their shopping portal, Expedia or Orbitz Rewards for booking from them, and Delta SkyMiles for the actual flight.