Last-minute strategies for earning Delta Medallion elite status
With just over two months left in 2022, time is running out to qualify or requalify for Delta elite status.
If you haven’t done so already, check your elite qualification metrics, tally up your travel for the rest of the year and see where that puts you in terms of elite status for next year. If you're short of your goal, here are some ideas for earning the Medallion qualifying miles (MQM), segments (MQS) and dollars (MQM) you need before the end of the year.
Today’s post will focus on Delta Medallion status, but check out our guide to last-minute elite status qualification on United too.
Last-minute earning strategies
Time is short, but if you think you’re not quite going to make the earning threshold of your elite status tier, there are still some good options out there to put you over the top.
Just remember to factor in those rollover MQMs, though. It might be worth eschewing the next tier of elite status for 2023 to get a head start on your status qualification for 2024.
For instance, if you have earned 40,000 MQMs this year and have hit the MQD threshold, you’ll have Silver Medallion status for 2023 assured. You could either stretch to earn 10,000 additional MQMs to reach Gold Medallion if the spending is within your budget or roll over the 15,000 MQMs above the Silver qualification threshold to put you well ahead in earning for next year.
Consider your choices before settling on a strategy that fits your future needs. However, also remember that MQD requirements are going up next year for Gold, Platinum and Diamond Medallion status. At the Diamond level, the spending requirement will go from $15,000 MQD to $20,000 MQD for the 2024 status year.
Buy Medallion qualification miles
The simplest but most expensive way to rack up a few thousand extra MQMs quickly is simply to buy them from the airline.
This should only be a last resort if you know you won’t fly enough before the end of the year and the extra MQMs will put lucrative benefits like global upgrades within reach.
Just note that Delta hasn't offered the Elevate Your Status promotion since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and hasn't announced if it's making a comeback this year. Don't rely on this strategy if you know you'll be a few MQM short of your desired status level.
Spend on Delta cobranded credit card
Some Delta cobranded credit cards offer the ability for cardholders to earn MQMs — but you'll have to spend a lot.
Both the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card and the Delta SkyMiles Reserve® American Express Card — and their business equivalents — can earn MQM when meeting specific spend thresholds. You can also use these cards to earn an MQD waiver.
The Delta Platinum card earns 10,000 MQMs after spending $25,000 in a calendar year, and an additional 10,000 MQMs after spending $50,000 in a calendar year. This gives you a potential total of 20,000 additional MQMs with this card alone.
Further, the Delta Reserve card earns 15,000 MQMs after spending $30,000 in a calendar year, up to four times per year. This means you can earn up to 60,000 MQM by spending $120,000 on this card alone. If you're a high-spender, you can stack the MQM bonuses from both cards to earn even more MQM.
Further, you can spend $25,000 on either the Delta Platinum or Delta Reserve cards to earn an MQD waiver for Silver, Gold and Platinum status. Or, you can spend $250,000 for a Diamond MQD waiver. This completely waives the MQD requirement, meaning you only need to meet the MQS or MQM requirement to earn status.
These are high spending thresholds, but you might also be spending more on your cobranded credit card than you realize. Check your overall spending levels from 2022 so far and see if you’re within striking distance of one of those thresholds. You might consider temporarily paying bills and other expenses with your cobranded card if you're close to one of these thresholds.
Just beware that the spending and bonus MQMs must post to your account this year to count for elite status qualification for the 2023 status year, so know your statement closing dates and be sure your spending is on a statement that will be issued before the end of the year.
Here's a look at the current offers for the Delta Platinum and Reserve cards, and their business equivalents:
- Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card: Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first six months of account opening.
- Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card: Earn 60,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in your first three months of card membership.
- Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card: Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $5,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first six months of account opening.
- Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card: Earn 60,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $4,000 in purchases on your new card in your first three months of card membership.
Delta SkyMiles is one of the most generous programs when it comes to status challenges.
While the end of the year is not the best time to complete one of these, since your status will just be good through the following status year, it might still be worth considering if you have a lot of year-end travel coming up.
Per Delta’s public status challenge page, here are the matching tiers and earning requirements you must complete within 90 days. Note that the list of airlines below isn't exhaustive; many international airlines are also eligible to match to Delta.
- 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 MVP Gold 100K, 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 publicly available challenges to Diamond Medallion status. Regardless, this can be a great shortcut to Medallion status at the other levels if you have a lot of upcoming travel that you can channel 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.
Like other airlines, Delta has a loyalty program specifically for businesses that operate 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 flight credit and Sky Club access. It takes 120,000 SkyBonus points to redeem for a Silver Medallion membership that is good for 12 months from the date of issue. However, this same number of points could get your company a $400 flight credit, so pick wisely if you're a business owner.
Fly private, earn Diamond Medallion status
Delta has a partnership with Wheels Up, a private jet subscription service. Folks who fund a WheelsUp account with $50,000 or more receive automatic Delta elite status. Here's a look at the spend thresholds:
- $50,000: Gold Medallion.
- $100,000: Platinum Medallion.
- $150,000: Diamond Medallion.
- $200,000: Diamond and a Gold Medallion account.
- $300,000+: Two Diamond Medallion accounts.
Of course, this is not the cheapest option for earning Delta elite status. However, if you or your business use the service anyway, it might be a good option to bypass all the other requirements and go straight to the top.
Book an award ticket
One of the best changes to the Delta SkyMiles program is that award tickets booked in Main Cabin or higher now earn MQM, MQS and MQD. This was originally introduced as a temporary benefit in 2021 but later became a permanent benefit of the program. This can make earning status much cheaper.
On the MQM and MQS side, you'll earn the same as you do on a paid ticket. One mile or segment flown equals one MQM or MQS, respectively. On the flip side, 1,000 SkyMiles redeemed equal $10 MQD toward elite status. So, an award ticket that costs 40,000 SkyMiles earns $400 MQD toward elite status once you complete the flight.
Here's an example. This flight from New York to Zurich costs 56,000 SkyMiles in Main Cabin, earning $560 MQM. The flight is 3,931 miles in length, so you'd also earn 3,931 MQM. Plus, you'd earn 1 MQS since it's a nonstop flight.
If you have a stash of SkyMiles sitting in your account, consider redeeming them to close the gap to your desired elite status tier. This could save you money and make elite status as simple as booking a single award flight to your destination of choice.
However, there is one major exception to keep in mind. Only Delta-ticketed and operated award tickets earn elite status metrics. This means that using Air France-KLM Flying Blue miles to book an award ticket won't earn elite status, even if you add your SkyMiles number to the itinerary. Likewise, booking a Virgin Atlantic ticket with SkyMiles won't earn elite status.
Partner MQM and MQD earning
Since 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 if you're flying on Delta metal.
But on the bright side, you can still leverage partner fares to earn MQD quickly. This is because these flights earn MQD based on a percentage of the distance of the flight, not how much you spend.
If you go that route, just be sure you’re aware of the earning rates for the specific carrier and fare class you purchase. Here are a few examples of partner fares that you can use to quickly rack up MQM and MQD to reach the next level of Delta elite status.
One quick note: Because Delta has rolled over MQM from 2020 to 2021 and later from 2021 to 2022 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we're going to focus on partner MQD mileage runs for this edition. Regardless, we'll point out the MQM earnings as we run through examples.
$2,500 MQD short: One good partner for shorter mileage runs is Aeromexico. Business class tickets earn 40% MQD based on mileage flown, and you can fly the airline to various destinations in Central America, South America, Europe and beyond with a connection in Mexico City International Airport (MEX).
Here's a good example we found that's available at the time of writing.
This business class itinerary costs $1,071 and takes you from Chicago to Medellin, Colombia via Guadalajara and Mexico City on the outbound, returning via a single stop in Mexico City. The total mileage of the itinerary clocks in at 7,369 miles, giving you:
- MQD (40% in C, D or I fare classes): $2,948.
- MQM (150% in C, D or I fare classes): 11,053.
- Redeemable miles (200% in C, D or I fare classes): 14,738 SkyMiles.
In other words: this itinerary gives you three times the MQD of booking a similarly priced itinerary directly with Delta and can be an excellent way to close the gap for Delta elite status.
$5,000 MQD short: You'll want to look for longer flights if you're closing a $5,000+ MQD gap. One great way to do this is with Virgin Atlantic premium economy tickets that connect in London and end in a further-flung destination.
This example itinerary takes you from New York to Johannesburg via London's Heathrow Airport (LHR), which clocks in at 18,143 miles round trip. All Virgin Atlantic premium economy fares earn 30% MQD and 150% MQM based on miles flown, so you'd earn:
- MQD (30% in W, S, K or H fare classes): $5,443.
- MQM (150% in W, S, K or H fare classes): 27,214.
- Redeemable miles (150% in W, S, K or H fare classes): 27,214 SkyMiles.
This itinerary is an excellent way to close the gap for elite status, as it gives you almost three times the MQD over the purchase price of the ticket. Plus, you'd earn $384 worth of redeemable SkyMiles, per TPG's valuation.
Even though the year is coming to a close, there’s still time to level up to the next tier of Delta Medallion elite status.
The most important thing is to know where you stand now, and how short you’ll be after accounting for the rest of your planned travel for this year. Once you figure out how many extra MQMs or MQDs you need, you can use these strategies to ensure you earn your desired elite tier for 2023.
Additional reporting by Eric Rosen and Ethan Steinberg.