Falling Short of Delta Status? Here’s How to Close the Gap

Jul 12, 2019

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We’re at the halfway point in the year, which serves as an apt time to evaluate how closely you’re tracking to re-qualify for airline elite status in 2020. If you haven’t done so already, check your mileage balances, strategize your travel for the rest of the year, and see where that puts you in terms of elite status for the year ahead. If you are going to finish short of your goals, here are some ideas for earning the qualifying miles, segments and dollars you need before the end of the year.

Today’s post will focus on Delta Medallion status, including everything you need to know about Delta’s Medallion elite program — qualification requirements, tier benefits and ideas for getting back on track to earn the status you want for another year.

Useful Guides

Before we dive in, take a look at these helpful guides for information you should have on hand as we enter the second half of the year:

Now that you have all that information on hand, it’s time to put a plan together.

Delta Medallion Qualification and Benefits

We’ll begin with some basics on Delta Medallion elite status. You can find information on the Medallion program and its membership tiers here. Below, we’ll look at the qualification requirements and benefits of each tier.

Flyers earn award, or redeemable, miles based on the price of airfare on Delta flights. Partner flights earn Medallion-qualifying miles (MQMs) and Medallion-qualifying dollars (MQDs) based on distance flown and fare class purchased.

The other thing to keep in mind is that Delta is unique in that it offers rollover miles for any MQMs flyers earn above and beyond the tier they qualify for in the current year, so that will play a part of your strategy. More on that below, though.

Silver Medallion

Delta’s first level of elite status requires you to fly 25,000 MQMS or 30 Medallion-qualifying segments (MQSs) and earn $3,000 MQDs during the calendar year. You can get that spending requirement waived by making $25,000 or more in purchases on a Delta SkyMiles credit card from American Express, or if you live outside the US.

The benefits include:

  • Earn 7 SkyMiles per dollar spent on airfare (a 40% bonus)
  • One free checked bag for member and up to eight companions on the same reservation.
  • Complimentary first class upgrades from most discounted fares as well as award, Miles + Cash and Pay With Miles tickets starting 24 hours prior to departure for member and a companion
  • Complimentary Comfort+ seats up to 24 hours prior to departure
  • Complimentary preferred seats
  • Priority check-in and boarding
  • Priority telephone customer service

Gold Medallion

The next tier of Delta Medallion status requires flying 50,000 MQMs or 60 MQSs and earning $6,000 MQDs in a calendar year. The same credit card spending waivers apply.

SkyPriority kicks in at this level.

Additional benefits at this tier include:

  • Earn 8 SkyMiles per dollar spent on airfare (60% bonus)
  • Complimentary first class upgrades from most discounted fares as well as award, Miles + Cash and Pay With Miles tickets starting 72 hours before departure for member and a companion.
  • Complimentary Comfort+ seats available at 72 hours before departure
  • Waived same-day confirmed fees
  • Waived same-day standby fees
  • Waived direct ticketing charges
  • SkyPriority check-in, boarding and security line access
  • Two checked bags free for member and up to eight companions
  • Expedited baggage service
  • SkyTeam Elite Plus status, which offers priority baggage handling with partners and SkyTeam lounge access on international itineraries

Platinum Medallion

To qualify for this tier, you need to fly 75,000 MQMs or 100 MQSs, and earn $9,000 MQDs, with the same credit card spending waiver.

The additional benefits you enjoy upon reaching this tier include:

  • Earn 9 SkyMiles per dollar spent on airfare (80% bonus)
  • Complimentary first class upgrades from most discounted fares as well as award, Miles + Cash and Pay With Miles tickets starting 120 hours before departure for member and a companion
  • Complimentary Comfort+ seats available shortly after ticketing
  • Waived award redeposit/reissue fees
  • Up to three checked bags free for member and up to eight companions
  • Choice Benefits including a choice of one from the following: four regional upgrade certificates, one Global Entry application voucher, 20,000 bonus miles, gifting Silver Medallion status, or a $200 gift card for Delta or Tiffany & Co.
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Upgrades will clear earlier the higher your tier. Photo courtesy of Delta Air Lines.

Diamond Medallion

For Delta’s top tier of elite status, you need to fly 125,000 MQMs or 140 MQSs, and earn $15,000 MQDs in the calendar year. There is a credit card spending waiver, however, it is an insanely high mark to hit at $250,000.

At this level, the additional benefits you receive include:

  • Earn 11 SkyMiles per dollar spent (120% bonus)
  • The highest priority for upgrades
  • Priority boarding with first class or Delta One cabins
  • Complimentary CLEAR membership
  • Upgraded Choice Benefits. Choose three from the following: four global regional upgrade certificates, eight regional upgrade certificates, or two global and four regional upgrade certificates; two Global Entry application vouchers; Delta Sky Club individual membership or an Executive Membership Upgrade (2 vouchers); 25,000 bonus miles; gifting Gold Medallion status or a $200 gift card from Delta or Tiffany & Co.

Now that you know the requirements and benefits in store, it’s time to put together a plan so you achieve the status you desire.

Just a quick note on checked baggage fee waivers — the ones noted above are general and for travel in the US and Canada, but these can vary by destination. Check out the specifics here.

Mid-Year Earning Strategies

With half a year to go, now’s the time to decide whether or not it’s worth pushing for a higher tier of status, or if you’re OK settling for a lower tier. If you’re attempting to maintain Diamond status, the stakes are higher. Not only do Diamond Medallions reserve to right to select Global Upgrade Certificates, but they’re treated to a slew of unannounced perks as well.

Just remember to factor in those rollover MQMs, though. It might be worth eschewing the next tier of elite status for 2020 in order to get a head start on your status qualification for 2021. For instance, if you have earned 40,000 MQMs this year and have hit the MQD threshold, you’ll have Silver Medallion status for 2020 assured. You could either stretch to earn 10,000 additional MQMs to reach Gold Medallion if the spending is within your budget, or rollover the 15,000 MQMs above the Silver qualification threshold to put you well ahead in earning for the following year. Think about your choices before settling on a strategy that’s right for your future needs.

It’s worth noting that most of the perks associated with Silver Medallion — Delta’s lowest status tier — are attainable by holding a cobranded Delta Amex card. Those cards offer free checked bags and priority boarding. So, if Gold or higher is within reach, it’s probably worth stretching for those higher tiers rather than plotting to achieve Silver over two years.

Platinum and Diamond are by far the most alluring tiers. There’s a significant leap between Gold and Platinum in terms of expected customer service levels and upgrade chances. With half a year to go, it’s probably worth charting an aggressive close to the year if Platinum or Diamond are even remotely within reach.

Credit Card Spending

Like certain American Airlines cobranded cards, some Delta American Express cards offer the ability for cardholders to earn MQMs via welcome bonuses and (a lot of) spending.

Your Delta credit card could help you earn elite status.

Here are the details on current offers:

In addition to these welcome offers, both cards let you earn MQMs through calendar-year spending, as follows:

Credit Card MQM Spending Bonus
Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express 10,000 MQMs and 10,000 bonus miles after spending $25,000 in a calendar year, and an additional 10,000 MQMs and 10,000 bonus miles after spending $50,000 in a calendar year
Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express 15,000 MQMs and 15,000 bonus miles after spending $30,000 in a calendar year, and another 15,000 MQMs and 15,000 bonus miles after spending $60,000 in a calendar year

These are high spending thresholds, but you might also be spending more on your co-branded credit card than you realize. Check your overall spending levels from 2018 so far and see if you’re within striking distance of one of those thresholds. With half a year to go, you can strategize how much butt-in-seat flying you need to pair with MQM bonuses from a credit card. Take inventory of your MQM level now, add what you’d earn by hitting a welcome bonus, and subtract that from the status you’re trying to reach. The difference is how many MQMs you’ll need to earn through old-fashioned flying.

Status Challenge

Delta SkyMiles is one of the most generous programs when it comes to status challenges. Now is the ideal time to canvas your second half of the year and see if there’s a period of intense travel upcoming. If so, you can strategically initiate the status challenge right before you embark on a lot of flying. If you book that glut of travel on Delta, you’ll shortcut your way to a higher tier of status not only for the remainder of 2019, but for 2020 as well.

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Have some flights coming up? Consider a status challenge. Photo courtesy of Delta Air Lines.

Per Delta’s public status challenge page, here are the matching tiers and earning requirements you must complete within 90 days:

  • Silver Medallion: Challenge from American AAdvantage Gold, Alaska MVP, Southwest A-List, or United Premier Silver and earn 6,250 MQMs or 8 MQSs and $750 MQDs or an MQD waiver.
  • Gold Medallion: Challenge from American AAdvantage Platinum, Alaska MVP Gold, JetBlue Mosaic, Southwest A-List Preferred, or United Premier Gold and earn 12,500 MQMs or 15 MQSs and $1,500 MQDs or an MQD waiver.
  • Platinum Medallion: Challenge from American AAdvantage Executive Platinum or Platinum Pro, Alaska MVP Gold 75K, or United Premier Platinum or Premier 1K and earn 18,750 MQMs or 25 MQSs and $2,250 MQDs or an MQD waiver.

Unfortunately, there are no challenges to Diamond status. But this can be a great shortcut to Medallion status at the other levels if you have a lot of upcoming travel that you can put toward this challenge.

Choice Benefits Status

As mentioned above, Delta’s Choice Benefits for Platinum and Diamond members include the opportunity to confer Medallion status on other members. Platinum Medallions can choose to gift Silver Medallion status and Diamonds can gift Gold status to other flyers. So be nice to friends or family who might be able to give you a hand up into the club.

SkyBonus Program Redemptions

Like other airlines, Delta has a loyalty program specifically for businesses that operates separately from the general SkyMiles program. Delta’s is called SkyBonus and is a little complicated. The gist, though, is that companies earn between 1 and 30 points per dollar spent on participating employees’ airfare. They can then redeem those points for things like upgrades, award tickets and Sky Club access. It takes 120,000 points to redeem for a Silver Medallion membership that is good for 12 months from the date of issue.

If your company participates in SkyBonus, it might be worth asking your travel manager about earning status this way.

Fly Private, Earn Diamond Medallion Status

Folks with a Delta Private Jets jet card that make $100,000 or more in purchases receive automatic Diamond Medallion status. It’s obviously not the cheapest option. However, if you use the service anyway, this is a good option to bypass all the other requirements and go straight to the top.

Vacation Planning

Whether you need 500 miles or 50,000 before the end of the year, the beauty of a mid-year evaluation is that you don’t have to scramble. Plus, you’re able to plot out trips that are meaningful to you, rather than cramming in a quick flight to a destination you don’t much care about just to score the miles.

If you need a lot of MQMs, consider booking that trip to Hawaii or Asia that you’ve been putting off. With several months to plan, you can likely score cheap tickets for the September/October timeframe. Be sure to bookmark TPG‘s Deals portal, where we often surface inexpensive flights that are really long — perfect for satisfying the MQM side of the Delta status equation.

If you’re in need of MQDs, now is the perfect time to begin scouring Google Flights for inexpensive premium economy or business class fares to Asia on Delta’s SkyTeam partners. FlyerTalk’s Premium Fare Deals is a great place to bookmark. Anything north of 3 MQDs per dollar spent is a great value. In other words, it may be worth planning a couple of $3,000 round-trip jaunts on partner airlines to secure 15,000 MQDs necessary for Diamond.

TPG values Diamond status at over $8,600, and potentially more if you’re strategic in exercising your four Global Upgrade Certificates. Depending on how heavily you plan to travel in the next 12 to 18 months, coughing up a few thousand to guarantee you meet the MQD requirement for Delta’s top-tier status may be worthwhile.

Mileage Run Scenarios

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Delta jets posing in Salt Lake City (Photo by Darren Murph/The Points Guy)

Now that achieving elite status requires earning both elite-qualifying miles or segments and hitting spending thresholds, mileage runs are not necessarily the useful tool toward qualifying they once were. However, if you’re up to the spending threshold for your desired tier but still lack some miles, you have plenty of time to make up the deficit. While mileage runs may not be the best strategy now — given that you still have nearly half the year left — it could make sense if you find a terrific deal or if you’re absolutely positive that you’ll fall short of the MQM/MQS/MQD thresholds for your desired status level.

If you plan to credit flights on Delta’s airline partners to your SkyMiles account, just be sure you’re aware of the earning rates for the specific carrier and fare class you purchase. Luckily, you still earn full MQMs and MQSs on Delta’s Basic Economy fares.

You should check the Mileage Run Forum on FlyerTalk for news about cheap fares. You can also check our Deals page or follow @tpg_alerts on Twitter. And if your mileage-run strategy centers on earning segments instead, you can use Google Flights’ Multi-City search to piece a trip together.

MQDs

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Pick a plane, any plane! (Photo by Darren Murph/The Points Guy)

Although earning MQDs on Delta flights is pretty straightforward, it gets more interesting when it comes to partner flights. If you purchase your ticket with partners instead of via Delta, you tend to earn MQDs based on your fare class and the distance of travel. That means if you can find some ultra-cheap long-hauls that still book into certain fare buckets, you can rack up MQDs at a faster rate than spending. You can also really come out ahead if you find some cheap premium fares. Check the FlyerTalk Premium Fare Deals thread for ideas.

The best value on MQD runs tend to occur on flights to Mexico or Asia. Given that you have six months to plan, consider if there’s a destination in either region that you actually want to visit. If it’s Seoul or Singapore, for example, you may want to plan a surprise business class trip there for your significant other. While it may be tough to justify as a pure splurge, it becomes more sensible if you’re using it to secure the next tier of status. Remember, there’s a ton of value with each new tier, so every dollar you put towards earning will net you some amount back in the form of VIP service lines, more complimentary upgrades and Choice Benefits.

Featured photo of Delta Air Lines planes at Atlanta airport in June 2018 by Alberto Riva/TPG

Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express

This card comes with several great perks for Delta flyers like a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year, first checked bag free, priority boarding and discounted Delta Sky Club access for you and up to 2 guests.

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More Things to Know
  • Earn 75,000 Bonus Miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer Expires 10/30/2019.
  • In addition, earn a $100 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 eligible dollar spent on purchases. Miles don’t expire.
  • Check your first bag free on Delta flights – that’s a savings of up to $240.
  • Receive Main Cabin 1 Priority Boarding on your Delta flights, stow your carry-on bag and settle in sooner.
  • Enjoy 20% savings on eligible in-flight purchases in the form of a statement credit with the American Express Delta Card.
  • $195 Annual Fee ($250 if application is received on or after 1/30/2020).
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
17.49%-26.49% Variable
Annual Fee
$195 Annual Fee ($250 if application is received on or after 1/30/2020)
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.

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