How to earn Delta Medallion elite status without flying in 2021
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Earning airline elite status can unlock an array of perks on your future trips. From complimentary upgrades to free checked bags to bonus points or miles, there’s a ton of value to becoming an elite traveler with your preferred airline. However, that’s easier said than done, as most carriers impose some strict qualification thresholds, and those higher-tier levels of status can be especially hard to reach.
Fortunately, there are ways to help earn elite status without taking to the skies — which can be particularly appealing in light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. And of all the major airline loyalty programs, Delta SkyMiles is probably the easiest to accomplish this with. Note that we’re not talking about last-minute strategies you can employ at the end of the year when you’re just shy of a given Medallion tier. Instead, there are simple ways to help your qualification prospects throughout the year.
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Today, we’ll go through exactly how you can earn Delta Medallion status without flying.
How to earn Delta Medallion status
As detailed in our guide to Delta elite status, there are some specific requirements to become a Medallion member in the SkyMiles program, involving a set amount of flying — either Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) or Medallion® Qualification Segments (MQSs) — plus a certain amount of spending — namely, Medallion® Qualification Dollars (MQDs).
Here are the details:
- Silver Medallion: 25,000 MQMs or 30 MQSs plus 3,000 MQDs
- Gold Medallion: 50,000 MQMs or 60 MQSs plus 6,000 MQDs
- Platinum Medallion: 75,000 MQMs or 100 MQSs plus 9,000 MQDs
- Diamond Medallion: 125,000 MQMs or 140 MQSs plus 15,000 MQDs
To put this in perspective, you’d need to book 25 round-trip economy-class flights from New York-JFK to San Francisco (SFO) at an average price of at least $600 apiece to reach Diamond status. That’s a lot of flying and spending — which is exactly why many Delta flyers use additional strategies to boost their status levels.
These thresholds are based on a normal year, but 2020 (and the first part of 2021) has been far from normal. Delta was the first major airline to extend elite status last April, and as part of that announcement, the carrier said that all MQMs earned in 2020 would roll over into 2021. However, you’d still need to hit the above MQD thresholds — though as we’re about to see, there are ways to get around it.
Earn Medallion status with personal credit cards
The first way to do this is by applying for certain Delta American Express cards. Two, in particular, can help you close the gap to your preferred status based on spending, and both are offering MQMs as part of their respective welcome bonuses. In addition, both of them will waive the MQD requirements for Silver, Gold and Platinum Medallion when you spend $25,000 in a calendar year — though you must spend $250,000 to enjoy the MQD waiver for Diamond Medallion.
And in 2021, these cards are even more lucrative.
Help for elite status: The Delta Platinum Amex normally awards cardholders with 10,000 MQMs after spending $25,000 on the card in a calendar year plus an additional 10,000 MQMs after spending $50,000 on the card in a calendar year. However, these awards are 25% more lucrative in 2021. Instead of 10,000 MQMs at these two thresholds, you’ll earn 12,500 MQMs — so a total of 25,000 MQMs.
Current welcome offer: 40,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new card in your first three months. Plus, earn a $100 statement credit after making a Delta purchase with your new card within your first three months.
Additional perks: 3x miles on eligible Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels; 2x miles at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets; annual companion certificate upon each renewal of the card; Global Entry/TSA PreCheck fee credit; $250 annual fee (see rates and fees)
Analysis: If you can spend $50,000 on the card in a calendar year, you’ll take home a total of 20,000 MQMs, putting you 80% of the way to Silver Medallion status without ever setting foot on a Delta plane. However, this will be 25,000 MQMs in 2021 — getting you Silver status outright. Since doing so will also waive the MQD requirements for Silver, Gold and Platinum, this is a great way to snag a higher tier of status — and the additional benefits it confers — without worrying about spending a ton more on your tickets.
Bear in mind that new applicants for the card who can earn the full welcome bonus and spend $50k in 2021 will earn another 5,000 MQMs. If you’re eyeing Delta Medallion status this year, now might be a great time to apply.
For more details, check out our full review of the Delta Platinum Amex.
APPLY NOW: Delta SkyMiles Platinum Amex
Help for elite status: The Delta Reserve Amex typically awards 15,000 MQMs for every $30,000 you spend in a calendar year, up to four times (so a total of 60,000 MQMs for spending $120,000). However, in 2021, you’ll earn 25% more at each tier — so 18,750 MQMs for every $30,000 you spend (up to a total of 75,000 MQMs for spending $120,000).
Current welcome offer: 40,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.
Additional perks: 3 miles per $1 on eligible purchases made directly with Delta; Delta Sky Club access on same-day Delta/partner flights; two one-time guest passes for the Sky Club; complimentary upgrades (for non-Medallion members); access to American Express Centurion lounges when flying Delta on a ticket purchased with the card; annual companion certificate, valid for any domestic class of service; Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit; $550 annual fee (see rates and fees)
Analysis: In a normal year, Delta Reserve cardholders can earn Gold Medallion status through spending alone (60,000 MQMs). However, 2021 offers an even more lucrative offer, thanks to the 25% bonus to the existing Status Boost levels. By spending $120,000 on the card this year, you’ll take home 75,000 MQMs — putting you at Platinum Status without a single Delta flight. This unlocks a Choice Benefit and even puts you close to Diamond Medallion status (though remember that, in addition to MQMs, you must earn 15,000 MQDs or spend $250,000 on your Delta card to reach this coveted tier).
This gets even better with the current offer on the card. New applicants will earn a further 10,000 MQMs after reaching the minimum spending requirements for the welcome bonus.
I’ve held all four Delta status levels in the past, and there’s a massive jump from Gold to Platinum in terms of perks and treatment, so this is well worth the spending.
For more details, check out our full review of the Delta Reserve Amex.
APPLY NOW: Delta SkyMiles Reserve Amex
Earn extra MQMs with small-business cards
If you’re a small-business owner or are otherwise eligible for a business credit card, you can also earn Delta elite status via credit card spending, as the two business versions of Delta’s higher-end credit cards also award bonus MQMs and offer the same MQD-waiver perk (spend $25k for Silver, Gold or Platinum and $250k for Diamond). This allows you to turn your company’s expenses into Medallion status.
And just like the personal cards, the small-business ones are offering the same 25% bonus on MQMs for spending in 2021.
Here’s a rundown of those perks:
Help for elite status: The Delta Platinum Business Amex normally awards cardholders with 10,000 MQMs after spending $25,000 on the card in a calendar year plus an additional 10,000 MQMs after spending $50,000 on the card in a calendar year. However, in 2021, each of those thresholds jumps to 12,500 MQMs.
Current welcome offer: 45,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in the first 3 months. Plus, earn a $100 statement credit after your first Delta purchase on your new card in the first 3 months of account opening.
Additional perks: 3x miles on eligible Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels; 1.5x miles on single, eligible purchases over $5,000; annual companion certificate upon renewal of the card; Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit; $250 annual fee (see rates and fees)
Analysis: Small-business owners may have several larger expenses, so in addition to earning bonus miles on large purchases, holders of the Delta Platinum Business Amex can also earn up to 20,000 MQMs each year based on their spending, but in 2021, that’s boosted to 25,000 MQMs. Like the personal version, this will snag you Silver Medallion status in 2021 without any flights.
For more details, check out our full review of the Delta Platinum Business Amex.
APPLY NOW: Delta Platinum Business Amex
Help for elite status: The Delta Reserve Business Amex typically awards 15,000 MQMs for every $30,000 you spend in a calendar year, up to four times (so a total of 60,000 MQMs for spending $120,000). However, this is 18,750 MQMs for every $30,000 in 2021 — so you can earn up to 75,000 MQMs by spending $120,000 this year.
Current welcome offer: 45,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.
Additional perks: 3x miles on eligible Delta purchases; 1.5x miles on all purchases after spending $150,000 in a calendar year; Delta Sky Club access on same-day Delta/partner flights; two, one-time guest passes for the Sky Club; complimentary upgrades (for non-Medallion members); access to American Express Centurion lounges when flying Delta on a ticket purchased with the card; annual companion certificate, valid for any domestic class of service; Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit; $550 annual fee (see rates and fees)
Analysis: The Delta Reserve business card offers the same status boosts as the personal one. You can normally earn up to 60,000 MQMs when your total calendar-year spending reaches $120,000. However, this is 75,000 MQMs in 2021, and new applicants can pick up an extra 10,000 MQMs via the card’s current offer. This spending puts you at Platinum Medallion status without a single flight on Delta this year.
For more details, check out our full review of the Delta Reserve Business Amex.
APPLY NOW: Delta Reserve Business Amex
Combining cards for Medallion status
Any of the above cards would work individually for boosting your Medallion possibilities, but if you’re a big spender, leveraging them together could push you even higher up the Delta elite status ladder. Here are a few examples of how this could work in 2021, all of which assume you max out your MQM earnings this year:
If you’re not eligible for a small-business credit card, but you still want to maximize your perks when flying Delta, consider grabbing both of these cards and spending your way to Medallion status. Here’s how that would work in 2021:
- New cardholders on both: Spend $50k on the Delta Platinum Amex and $120k on the Delta Reserve Amex (including at least $5k in the first three months to earn the full welcome bonus on both cards). You’d take home a total of 115,000 MQMs in the first year thanks to the current offer and then 80,000 MQMs in subsequent years.
- Existing cardholders on both: Spend $50k on the Delta Platinum Amex and $120k on the Delta Reserve Amex, taking home a total of 100,000 MQMs in 2021 and 80,000 MQMs in subsequent years.
In either of these scenarios, you’re essentially spending your way to Platinum Medallion status every year. You’ll also enjoy a pair of companion certificates along with Sky Club access when you fly Delta or one of its partners.
If, on the other hand, you want to focus your small-business spending on earning Medallion status, consider grabbing the two business cards. The same general premise in the previous example holds here too. If you don’t currently have the Reserve, you could spend your way to 100,000 MQMs in 2020 and then 80,000 MQMs in future years. Existing Reserve cardholders would be limited to 80,000 MQMs, still enough for Platinum status.
Let’s say that you were a mega-spender and wanted to have both versions of the Reserve card. If you maxed out your Status Boosts on both in 2021, you would take home a total of 150,000 MQMs:
- 75,000 MQMs after spending $120,000 on one card
- 75,000 MQMs after spending $120,000 on the other card
Then, by spending another $5,000 on each card before the end of the calendar year, you’d earn the MQD waiver for Diamond Medallion and enjoy top-tier Delta status through Jan. 31, 2023.
In subsequent years, simply spend $125,000 on each (to ensure you reach the Diamond MQD waiver and earn 60,000 MQMs on each). That would put you just 5,000 MQMs away from Diamond Medallion status. However, thanks to Delta’s policy of rolling over extra MQMs, the additional 25,000 MQMs above will actually be enough for five more years of Diamond status when you spend $125,000 or more on each card.
Oh, and you’ll still enjoy a pair of yearly companion tickets and Sky Club access whenever you fly Delta.
4. All four cards
Finally, let’s take this to the logical extreme. If you have all four cards in your wallet and are a major spender, you could spend your way to Diamond Medallion status every year. This would take $340,000 in annual spending but would result in 200,000 MQMs in 2021 and 160,000 MQMs in subsequent years.
Additional ways to earn status without flying
Utilizing Delta’s higher-end credit cards is a great strategy to push yourself closer to Medallion status, but it’s not the only way. Here are some other options to help shortcut your way to Delta elite status:
- Utilize a status challenge: Delta has a publicly-available status challenge program, so if you currently hold status with a qualifying airline and haven’t done a status match or challenge with Delta in the previous three years, you can submit a request to enjoy a three-month trial of Medallion status. You then must complete a set amount of flying and spending during that three-month period to extend the status.
- Upgrade your flight with miles: Delta added the ability to upgrade your flight using miles at the end of 2018, and TPG confirmed that you earn bonus MQMs with this redemption option. Technically this is still flying, but by using miles to bump yourself to first class, you could accelerate your progress toward Medallion status.
- Strategize with rollover MQMs: If you go beyond a given threshold for Medallion Status in a calendar year, that extra effort won’t go to waste. Delta rolls over all MQMs you earned above your elite status tier, so this can be a nice way to get a head start on next year’s qualification efforts. In the above example for both Reserve cards, this can result in six years of Diamond Medallion status with yearly spending.
- Pay attention to end-of-year options: Over the last few years, Delta has offered the ability to purchase MQMs toward the end of the year, though in the interest of full disclosure, it’s generally a terrible deal. In almost all cases, you’d be able to find a mileage run for a much lower price — though if you absolutely don’t have the time and are sitting on large cash reserves, it could make sense to do it.
Check out this guide for additional last-minute suggestions on qualifying for Delta Medallion status.
The Delta SkyMiles program is unique among major U.S. airlines in that you can spend your way to multiple tiers of elite status. While most travelers will likely blend the above credit cards with some actual flying, it’s nice to know that you can use multiple Delta American Express cards to boost your Medallion qualification prospects.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Platinum Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Reserve Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Platinum Business Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Reserve Business Card, please click here.
Featured photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images.
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NEW! With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.
- Earn 40,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Plus, earn a $100 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months.
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