How to earn Delta Medallion elite status without flying

Mar 6, 2020

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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, and Delta SkyMiles is probably the easiest airline loyalty program with which to accomplish this. 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.

In This Post

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.

Earn Medallion status with personal credit cards

(Photo courtesy of Delta)
One way to improve your Medallion status is via personal credit cards. (Photo courtesy of Delta.)

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 one is even offering MQMs as part of its limited-time welcome bonus. In addition, both of these 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.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Help for elite status: The Delta Platinum Amex 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.

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 3 months. Plus, earn a $100 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months.

Additional perks: 3x miles on 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. 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.

For more details, check out our full review of the Delta Platinum Amex.

APPLY NOW: Delta SkyMiles Platinum Amex

Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card

Help for elite status: The Delta Reserve Amex 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).

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: Cardholders of the Delta Reserve Amex can earn even more MQMs through spending after the card was updated in January 2020. You can earn four, separate 15,000-MQM boosts for every $30,000 you spend up to 4 times a year, and with the MQD waiver, that equates to Gold Medallion status without a single Delta flight.

This gets even better with the current offer on the card. New applicants will earn a further 20,000 MQMs after reaching the minimum spending requirements for the welcome bonus, pushing you to Platinum Medallion status without any flying in 2020. This would unlock a Choice Benefit and even puts Diamond Medallion status within reach. I’ve held all four levels of Delta status 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

Two of Delta’s small business cards can help you qualify for Medallion status. (Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy.)

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.

Here’s a rundown of those perks:

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card

Help for elite status: The Delta Platinum Business Amex 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.

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.

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 a number of 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. Like the personal version, this will put you just short of Silver Medallion status.

For more details, check out our full review of the Delta Platinum Business Amex.

APPLY NOW: Delta Platinum Business Amex

Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card

Help for elite status: The Delta Reserve Business Amex 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).

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 business version of the Delta Reserve card offers the same status boosts as the personal one. If you’re an existing cardholder, you can now earn up to 60,000 MQMs when your total, calendar-year spending reaches $120,000. However, new applicants can pick up an extra 20,000 MQMs via the card’s current offer, putting you at Platinum Medallion status without a single flight on Delta.

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

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)
Pairing these two cards could enhance your Medallion qualification prospects. (Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy.)

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, all of which assume you max out your MQM earnings:

1. Delta Platinum Amex + Delta Reserve Amex

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:

  • New cardholders on both: Spend $50k on the Delta Platinum Amex and $120k (including at least $5k in the first three months to earn the full welcome bonus) on the Delta Reserve Amex. You’d take home a total of 100,000 MQMs in the first year thanks to the current offer and then 80,000 MQMs in subsequent years.
  • Existing Reserve cardholders: Spend $50k on the Delta Platinum Amex and $120k on the Delta Reserve Amex, taking home a total of 80,000 MQMs every year.

In either of these scenarios, you’re essentially spending your way to Platinum Medallion status each and 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.

2. Delta Platinum Business Amex + Delta Reserve Business Amex

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.

3. Delta Reserve Amex + Delta Reserve Business Amex

Let’s say that you were a mega-spender and wanted to have both versions of the Reserve card. Let’s also assume that you currently have one but you add another before Apr. 1, 2020 to take advantage of the current limited-time offers. If you maxed out your Status Boosts on both, you would take home a total of 140,000 MQMs:

  • 60,000 MQMs after spending $120,000 on one card
  • 20,000 MQMs from the welcome bonus and 60,000 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, 2022.

In subsequent years, simply spend $125,000 on each (to ensure you reach the Diamond MQD waiver) and earn at least 5,000 additional MQMs to requalify. Oh, and enjoy a pair of yearly companion tickets and Sky Club access whenever you fly Delta.

Related: Choosing the best credit card for Delta flyers

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 140,000 MQMs.

Additional ways to earn status without flying

There are other ways to help you qualify for Delta elite status without flying. (Photo by Darren Murph/The Points Guy.)

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 to next year’s qualification efforts.
  4. 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.

(Photo by Alberto Riva/The Points Guy)
Delta Medallion status could be in your future without actually flying. (Photo by Alberto Riva/The Points Guy.)

Bottom line

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 the majority of 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.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

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.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • 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.
  • New! With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 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. MQMs are used to determine Medallion Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • New! Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free and Main Cabin 1 Priority Boarding on Delta flights.
  • New! Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • New! Earn 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • Receive a 20% savings in the form of a statement credit after you use your Card on eligible Delta in-flight purchases of food, beverages, and audio headsets.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
$250
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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