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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available – Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express
We’re in the second half of the year, and that means one thing: the deadline for airline elite status qualification is quickly approaching. With limited time to qualify or requalify, it’s time to check your balances and take a few simple steps if you’re coming up short.
Over the next several days, we’ll be covering the elite status programs of five major carriers: Alaska, American, Delta, Southwest and United. In addition to discussing the qualification requirements and the benefits of each tier, we’ll include some last-minute earning ideas, and even suggest a few routes for a mileage run or two if you need a few final flights to finish out your year.
Today, we’ll look at Delta’s Medallion program and what you need to know to bring that status home for another year.
Before we get going, be sure to check out some of these posts for helpful hints and reminders about what you should be doing around this time of year.
- Is Elite Status Worth Being Loyal to a Single Airline?
- Is it Easier to Earn Airline Elite Status With Miles or Segments?
- When Does Elite Status Reset and How Long Does it Last?
- Is the Mileage Run Dead?
- What is Delta Elite Status Worth in 2017?
- Earning Elite and Award Miles on American, Delta and United
Delta’s SkyMiles frequent flyer program and the associated Medallion elite program have undergone some huge (and negative) developments in recent years. Among other changes to its SkyMiles program back in 2014, Delta instituted a spending element to its qualification requirements called Medallion Qualifying Dollars, which flyers need to reach to qualify for each of the four Medallion tiers. Then it raised those requirements in 2015!
Apart from that, Delta is notorious for raising award redemptions without any notice. That said, there are tons of ways to rack up both award and elite miles on Delta, and the program has some great features like rollover miles, so it’s definitely worth qualifying for some folks. Here are the qualification requirements and benefits of each tier.
Medallion Qualification and Benefits
Although you earn SkyMiles (award miles) based on your airfare, elite status and whether or not you use a Delta credit card, when it comes to Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs), flyers still earn them based on the fare code of their ticket and the distance of a flight.
For full details on the Medallion program, check this page. Meanwhile, here’s a basic breakdown of the benefits by tier. I’ve just noted additional benefits for each tier.
Silver Medallion: Earn 25,000 MQMs or fly 30 Medallion Qualifying Segments (MQSs), and earn $3,000 Medallion Qualifying Dollars (MQDs). You can waive that spending requirement by making $25,000 in purchases on a Delta SkyMiles credit card from American Express, or if you live outside the US.
- Earn 7 SkyMiles per dollar spent on airfare (a 40% bonus)
- One free checked bag for member and up to 8 companions on the same reservation
- Unlimited complimentary first-class upgrades at booking from full fare economy tickets
- Complimentary first-class upgrades from most discounted fares starting 24 hours before departure
- Unlimited complimentary companion upgrades
- Complimentary upgrades on award tickets
- Complimentary preferred seats
- Complimentary Comfort+ seats 24 hours in advance
- Priority check-in and boarding
- The ability to earn both SkyMiles and Starpoints when staying at Starwood hotels thanks to the Crossover Rewards program
- Priority telephone customer service
Gold Medallion: Earn 50,000 MQMs or fly 60 MQSs, and earn $6,000 MQDs. The same spending waivers apply as for Silver Medallion status.
- Earn 8 SkyMiles per dollar spent on airfare (60% bonus)
- The possibility of first-class upgrades from most discounted fares up to 72 hours before departure
- Unlimited complimentary upgrades on award tickets and tickets that include Pay With Miles
- Complimentary Comfort+ seats available at 72 hours before departure
- Two free checked bags for member and up to 8 companions on the same reservation
- Waived same-day confirmed fees
- Waived same-day standby fees
- Waived direct ticketing charges
- Priority check-in, boarding and security line access
- Expedited baggage service
- SkyTeam Elite Plus status, which offers priority baggage handling with partners and SkyTeam lounge access on international itineraries
Platinum Medallion: Earn 75,000 MQMs or fly 100 MQSs, and earn $9,000 MQDs, with the same credit card spending waiver.
- Earn 9 SkyMiles per dollar spent on airfare (80% bonus)
- Complimentary first-class upgrades from most discounted fares starting 5 days prior to departure
- Complimentary Comfort+ seats available at booking
- 2-3 free checked bags for member and up to 8 companions on the same reservation depending on the destination
- Waived award redeposit/reissue fees
- Choice benefits including a choice of one from the following: four regional upgrade certificates, a Global Entry application voucher, 20,000 bonus miles, gifting Medallion Silver status or a $200 gift card for Delta or Tiffany & Co.
Diamond Medallion: Earn 125,000 MQMs or fly 140 MQSs, and earn $15,000 MQDs, with a (much) higher credit card spending waiver of $250,000
- Earn 11 SkyMiles per dollar spent (120% bonus)
- The highest priority for upgrades
- Complimentary Sky Club individual membership
- 2-3 free checked bags for member and up to 8 companions on the same reservation depending on the destination
- Upgraded Choice benefits. Choose two from the following: four global or eight regional upgrade certificates or two global and four regional upgrade certificates (2017), two Global Entry application vouchers, Delta Sky Club Executive Membership Upgrade, 25,000 bonus miles, gifting Gold Medallion status or a $200 gift card from Delta or Tiffany & Co.
Last-Minute Earning Ideas
Though time is short, if you find that you’re not quite going to make the earning threshold of your elite status tier, there are still some great options out there to put you over the top. However, thanks to rollover MQMs, it’s worth considering whether you want to hit the next threshold or bank any MQMs above your current qualification threshold toward next year’s balance. Also keep in mind that MQDs do not roll over for a second year.
Same-Day Flight Changes to Maximize Routing
It’s more time-consuming, and a bit of a gamble with the heavy holiday travel season kicking into high gear, but if you’re willing to make the effort, you can try to maximize your mileage- and segment-earning by flying through connecting cities instead of directly between your origin and destination on upcoming travel reservations.
A quick example: Instead of just flying from Atlanta to Seattle and earning 2,182 MQMs, you could try re-routing through other Delta hubs like Salt Lake City and Los Angeles to earn 2,521 MQMs instead.
Before you start plotting all your hub-hopping, though, remember that Delta made significant changes to its same-day flight-change policies that make it a lot harder to pull this off. You have to find space not only in your same cabin of service, but also in your same ticket fare code. You must also put in your request on the day of your flight. So this option is a bit trickier now, but it’s still something to consider.
To review Delta’s policies on same-day flight changes, check out this page. Silver Medallion members, general SkyMiles members and non-members must pay a $75 same-day confirmed fee plus change fees that will depend on your ticket fare code. For standby tickets, there is also a $75 change fee if it comes through, but no change fees. Diamond, Platinum and Gold Medallion members get the fee on confirmed same-day changes waived but must still pay applicable change fees. The standby fee is waived.
Regardless of Medallion status, basic economy (E) fares are not eligible for same-day confirmed or same-day standby travel changes.
Buy MQMs on Delta
For the last several years, Delta has offered the option to purchase up to 10,000 MQMs and MQSs as the end of the year approaches.
The prices have increased over the years, and MQMs typically cost between 10-30 cents per mile depending on the number you purchase, your current Medallion status and the status you’d attain by purchasing them. In general, these prices are exorbitant, so in most cases, it’s best to avoid this option.
Credit Card Spending
Like American Airlines, Delta offers a few credit cards that enable cardholders to earn MQMs simply through spending… though it requires a lot of spending!
The bonus on the Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express (with a $195 annual fee) is currently 35,000 bonus miles (along with 5,000 MQMs ) after spending $1,000 in the first three months. Plus, a $100 statement credit after the first Delta purchase on the card within the first three months. Cardholders can earn an additional 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 for a possible total of 20,000 additional MQMs and 20,000 additional bonus miles.
The Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express (with a $450 annual fee) offers new cardholders a welcome bonus of 10,000 MQMs (along with 40,000 regular SkyMiles) after spending $3,000 within the first three months. Then, they can earn an additional 15,000 MQMs and 15,000 miles after spending $30,000 in a calendar year, and another 15,000 MQMs and 15,000 miles after spending $60,000 in a calendar year for a total possible 30,000 additional MQMs and 30,000 additional redeemable miles. You can also gift each of these 15,000-MQM bonuses to a friend or family member, so if you’re nowhere near status qualification but someone you know is, this could be a useful option.
While that’s a lot of money, if you already have these cards, now is a good time to check your overall spending from the past year and see if you’re near one of those thresholds. Or if you just need the little welcome bonus boosts to qualify for status, it might be worth applying for one of these cards.
Just note, and this is important, these bonus miles must post this year to count toward this year’s elite status qualification. So the clock is ticking, and you should try to hit those spend thresholds as soon as possible just to be safe.
Delta and its partners occasionally offer bonus MQMs for certain types of purchases. In the past, Delta has offered MQMs for Sky Club memberships, and last fall/winter Hilton HHonors offered 250 MQMs and double miles per stay of two nights or more (up to a maximum of 10,000 MQMs).
The airline also launched a promotion targeted at Seattle-based flyers where you could have earned Gold Medallion status just for joining SkyMiles and completing two round-trips. While that promotion has ended, keep your eye out for others that might still be ongoing or that might pop up early in the new year.
Fly Private, Earn Diamond Medallion Status
Back in 2016, Delta began offering folks who purchased a Delta Private Jets jet card instant Diamond Medallion status. It’s certainly not the cheapest option out there, but if you use the service anyway, this is a good option to bypass all the other requirements.
Status-Matching or Challenging
A status match or challenge can be a great shortcut to bypass the normal requirements if you know you’re not going to make it by flying the normal amounts. Although Delta typically doesn’t offer outright matches, it does offer consistent opportunities to challenge, though these are sometimes targeted.
Here are the matching tiers and earning requirements you must complete within 90 days:
- Silver Medallion: Challenge from AAdvantage Gold, Alaska MVP or United Premier Silver and earn 6,250 MQMs or 8 MQSs
- Gold Medallion: Challenge from AAdvantage Platinum, MVP Gold or United Premier Gold and earn 12,500 MQMs or 15 MQSs
- Platinum Medallion: Challenge from 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.
There are no challenges for Diamond. If you have a lot of flying coming up and can strategize to earn on Delta, this can be a great way to get status quickly, though you might want to wait until the middle of the new year because then the status you earn should be good through the rest of the year and the following one.
As noted above, Platinum and Diamond Medallion members receive Choice Benefits. Platinum members can gift Silver status, while Diamond members can gift Gold status. So time to figure out which of your friends or family members might have status to bestow and see if he or she can give you a boos
SkyBonus Program Redemptions
Like other airlines, Delta has a loyalty program specifically for businesses. Delta’s SkyBonus business program is completely separate from the SkyMiles program for individuals. The program is a bit complex, so head to the airline’s SkyBonus University for full details. But basically, companies earn between 1-30 points per dollar spent on employee airfare.
Those points can then be redeemed for things like award tickets, but also for Silver Medallion status at a rate of 120,000 per status redemption. Just note that, unlike regular Silver Medallion status, this one is valid for only 12 months from the date of issue.
Mileage Run Scenarios
Delta might be the airline that offers the most non-flying methods to earn elite status. But your best (and cheapest) option might still be to fly. While you earn award miles based on spending, remember, you still earn MQMs based on flight distance and fare class, so you can rack up a ton of MQMs, if not tons of award miles or MQDs, even on cheap airfares. You might be tempted to take flights on Delta’s partners, which can be a great option in many cases, but just be sure to pay careful attention to earning rates and fare codes since these can get complicated and many partner flights only earn a fraction of the MQMs you’d earn on Delta flights.
Though we’re heading into the busy holiday travel season, the good news is that there are still some deals out there. If this is of interest to you, don’t forget to check the Mileage Run Forum on FlyerTalk for cheap fare news and ideas. In the meantime, here are a couple options I recently found that should give you an idea of what to look for.
1,000 miles short: It would be a pity to miss out on status by a mere 1,000 MQMs, but it does happen. However, it’s easy to avoid, especially if you already have elite status, since Delta guarantees elites at least 500 MQMs per flight (on Delta-marketed flights), even if the distance is under 500 miles.
Californians can consider Delta’s shuttle route from LAX-SFO. It’s going for as little as $90.80 round-trip in December with a same-day turnaround earning 1,000 MQMs.
5,000 miles short: The easiest way to rack up about 5,000 MQMs is probably a round-trip to/from the East and West Coast. However, think beyond the typical New York-Los Angeles nonstops, which can price out at nearly $500 late in the year. Instead, think about an offbeat route (and routing), like this same-day round-trip from Portland to Baltimore BWI via Salt Lake City.
You can snag it $308 and earn 4,990 MQMs.
10,000 miles short: Your best bet here might be taking advantage of Delta’s hubs and routes from the West Coast. The best option I found so far was a quick round-trip from the airline’s hub in Seattle to Hong Kong.
This itinerary was $658 and racks up 13,000 MQMs!
Just a quick section on flight segments in case that’s your preferred method of qualification. I find that the Mileage Run Forum on FlyerTalk is the best place to get ideas, even if the entries are a bit of a jumble.
From there, I go to Google Flights to the Multi City booking link and manually enter a few cities and dates and see how the itinerary comes together. Google Flights dynamically prices things out, so you’ll often see the airfare rise or fall slightly.
Here’s a (grueling) sample trip I put together with Orlando as a starting/end point with either two or three segments on each leg that goes from Orlando to Anchorage via Atlanta and Seattle; on to New York via Minneapolis (red-eye) and Cincinnati; continuing to Las Vegas via Detroit; then back to Orlando via Detroit (red-eye #2).
It priced out to $713 and would earn a total of 10 Medallion Qualifying Segments and 13,521 MQMs. Not the most amazing value, but certainly nothing to ignore if you don’t mind flying for a couple days straight.
The one thing I’ve noticed with Delta is that if you price it out on Google Flights, it almost always tells you to call a travel agent to book, so you might end up having to call into the airline to make your reservation.
Any other tips or strategies to share? Leave a comment below!