You don't need to spend $250,000 to fast-track Delta Diamond status
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Unlike hotels, there aren’t many ways to fast-track airline elite status. For instance, no cobranded airline credit card gives you automatic airline status outright. However, there still are some shortcut opportunities.
With Delta, you can get around the Medallion Qualification Dollar (MQD) requirements and earn some Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) for Medallion status with a cobranded Delta credit card. The catch is that you need to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to earn status through the credit cards alone. Even with Delta's most premium credit card, the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card, the maximum number of MQMs you could typically earn is 60,000 (enough for mid-tier Gold status) and that's only after spending $120,000 during the calendar year. To get the MQD requirement waived for top-tier Diamond status, you need to spend at least $250,000 on your card.
Fortunately, that isn't your only option for fast-tracking Delta elite status.
Thanks to Delta's partnership with Wheels Up, you can buy your way to Medallion status through private jet flights. You can use this "shortcut" to get up to Diamond status with $100,000 in annual spending. While still a hefty amount, that's a lot cheaper than if you were going to try to earn status through a Delta card.
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How to earn Delta elite status
Before we dive into the details of Delta's partnership with Wheels Up, let's take a look at the usual requirements for earning Delta Medallion status elite.
- Silver Medallion: 25,000 MQMs or 30 Medallion Qualification Segments (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
As previously mentioned, you can earn MQMs and MQD waivers by meeting spending thresholds on cobranded Delta cards. Putting aside any MQMs that might be included as a part of the welcome bonus, the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card 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. 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). 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 and $250,000 for Diamond Medallion.
More on Delta status: How to earn Delta Medallion elite status without flying
Delta Wheels Up partnership
Wheels Up's acquisition of Delta Private Jets came with a number of new Delta-specific benefits for members. Among them: the opportunity to fast-track Delta Medallion status. To qualify, you must provide your SkyMiles number to Wheels Up.
Depending on how much you spend on flights with Wheels Up, you could earn Gold, Platinum or top-tier Diamond Medallion, as well as status to gift to others. Here's how it breaks down:
|Flight Spend threshold within the 2020 calendar year||Medallion Status|
|$150,000||Diamond Medallion plus Gold Medallion|
|$200,000||Two Diamond Medallions|
As the term suggests, Flight Spend includes any amount spent on Wheels Up flights, as well as Wheels Up membership fees (which start at $2,995 for new members). It also includes any funds you deposit into a pre-paid Wheels Up Fund Program, though Flight Spend will not be recognized until after the flight is flown.
Wheels Up members can book Shared Flights, empty-leg Hot Flights, Shuttle Flights, and The Community, an online platform of members-only forums to facilitate flight sharing. Hot Flights start as low as $320, whereas standard charters usually cost around $4,695 an hour for a King Air 350i or $7,695 per hour on a mid-size jet.
In addition to the opportunity of earning complimentary elite status, all Wheels Up members earn Delta award miles upon paying their annual dues.
|Membership types||Miles awarded|
|Connect Membership||One-Time Initiation Fee – New member ($2,995)||10,000 miles (worth $120 based on TPG valuations)|
|Annual Dues for renewal of membership ($2,495)||5,000 miles (worth $60)|
|Core Membership||One-Time Initiation Fee – New member ($17,500)||35,000 miles (worth $420)|
|Annual Dues for renewal of membership ($8,500)||15,000 miles (worth $180)|
|Business Membership||One-Time Initiation Fee – New member ($29,500)||50,000 miles (worth $600)|
|Annual Dues for renewal of membership ($14,500)||25,000 miles (worth $300)|
Other ways to fast-track Delta elite status
Cobranded credit cards and private jet flights aren't your only options for fast-tracking Delta elite status. For instance, Delta has a publicly-available status challenge program for anyone that currently holds status with a qualifying airline. Earlier this year, Delta even offered status matches up to the Diamond level. You may also be able to earn bonus MQMs by upgrading your flight using miles. Also, keep in mind Delta is rolling over all MQMs earning in 2020 to 2021.
Among the major U.S. airlines, Delta has made it easiest to spend your way to multiple tiers of elite status. TPG values Delta Diamond status at $8,830 so you probably won't want to go out of your way to spend $100,000 on Wheels Up. However, if you're a regular private jet user and Delta is your preferred airline, it might make sense to shift your business to Wheels Up to take advantage of this benefit. If private jet travel is not in your budget, keep in mind there are other ways to fast-track Delta elite status without flying.