Last-minute elite status strategies for Delta Medallion
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With just over a month left in 2019, time is running out to qualify or requalify for airline elite status in 2020. If you haven’t done so already, check your mileage balances, tall up your travel for the rest of the year, and see where that puts you in terms of elite status for 2020. 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, but check out our guide to last-minute elite status qualification on American too. In the meantime, this is what you need to know about Delta’s Medallion elite program, including qualification requirements, tier benefits, and ideas for earning the status you want for another year.
Before we dive in, take a look at these helpful guides for information you should have on hand as we enter the final countdown:
- What is Delta elite status worth in 2019?
- The best airline elite status programs in the U.S.
- How to earn Delta Medallion Status without flying
- Choosing the best credit card for Delta flyers
- Earn lots of Delta MQDs flying with partner airlines
- 5 things you need to know about Delta SkyMiles
- Airline elite status match and challenge options for 2019
- How to get airline elite status quickly
- 7 points and miles tasks to complete by the end of the year
Now that you have all that information on hand, it’s time to put a plan together for the end of the year.
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® Qualification Miles (MQMs) and Medallion® Qualification 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.
Delta’s first level of elite status requires you to fly 25,000 MQMS or 30 Medallion Qualification 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 U.S.
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
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.
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
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
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 year-end 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 U.S. and Canada, but these can vary by destination. Check out the specifics here.
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 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 next year. Think about your choices before settling on a strategy that’s right for your future needs.
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. You can now buy MQMs from Delta through its Elevate Your Status program, but the prices are exorbitant – up to a dollar per MQM.
This should only be a last resort if you know you won’t be flying enough before the end of the year and the extra MQMs will put lucrative benefits like global upgrades within reach.
Credit card spending
Like certain American Airlines co-branded cards, some Delta American Express cards offer the ability for cardholders to earn MQMs via welcome bonuses and (a lot of) spending.
The welcome bonuses on the Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express and the Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express are not the highest they’ve been, so this might be a better strategy for folks who already have the card, rather than those looking to apply for a new card.
Both cards let you earn MQMs through calendar-year spending. The Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card earns 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 potential total of 20,000 additional MQMs and 20,000 additional bonus miles.
With the Delta Reserve, you can earn 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 for a total possible 30,000 MQMs and 30,000 redeemable miles. You can also gift each of those 15,000-MQM bonuses to a friend or family member if you’re not close to status qualification but someone you know is.
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 2019 so far and see if you’re within striking distance of one of those thresholds. Just beware that the spending and bonus MQMs must post to your account this year in order to count for elite status qualification in 2019, 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. If you decide to pursue this strategy you might even find yourself crossing the $25,000 spending threshold on one of your Delta cards and earning an MQD waiver up to Platinum Medallion status, which can sweeten this deal a little bit.
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:
- Silver Medallion: Challenge from American AAdvantage Gold, Alaska MVP or Southwest A-List 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 Silver 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 Gold, 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 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.
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 who 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.
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 EQD spending threshold for your desired tier but still lack some miles, you have some time to make up the deficit.
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. In the meantime, here are a some ideas for how to rack up a few thousand extra miles before the end of 2019.
1,000 miles short: It might seem like a rookie mistake, but some flyers miss out on elite status by fewer than 1,000 miles. If you might get caught here, you still have time to plan a quick turnaround and avoid this fate.
Thanks to 500-mile minimums, West Coasters could do a quick jaunt between Los Angeles (LAX) and San Francisco (SFO) for just $107 and 1,000 MQMs.
5,000 miles short: The easiest way to rack up 5,000+ MQMs quickly is probably to fly coast to coast.
This round-trip between New York (JFK) and Los Angeles (LAX) would earn 4,950 MQMs for as little as $236.
If you’re not coming from a major hub, or care about where exactly you fly, you could get more creative and try to find some itineraries with one or more stops to add some more MQMs to your bottom line. For example, this round-trip from Boston (BOS) to Seattle (SEA), stopping in Los Angeles (LAX) on the outbound and Detroit (DTW) on the return would earn a total of 6,125 MQMS for $304.
10,000 miles short: You could meet this requirement with a series of short- and mid-range flights. However, it might be better to book an inexpensive long-haul itinerary instead to avoid the possibility of cancellations or missed connections due to winter weather and holiday travel.
The best options at the moment seem to be cheap flights from the U.S. to China. This round-trip from Los Angeles (LAX) to Shanghai (PVG) is a mere $496 for 12,970 MQMs.
You could book a similar itinerary in the airline’s Premium Select and earn a 50% MQM bonus for a total of $987 and 19,455 MQMs.
Finally, don’t forget that flying premium cabins on Delta’s partner airlines can net you bonus MQMs and MQSs, like this ticket from New York (JFK) to Moscow (SVO) via Italy on Alitalia and Aeroflot. Because it’s in business class, that $1,615 ticket earns 16,278 MQMs and $4,340 MQDs.Of course $1,616 is still a pricey ticket, but you could consider paying with Chase Ultimate Rewards points or American Express Membership Rewards points to keep your out-of-pocket costs low.
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 an also really come out ahead if you find some cheap premium fares. Check the FlyerTalk Premium Fare Deals thread for ideas.
Even though 2019 is drawing 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. Then once you figure out how many extra MQMs or MQDs you need, you can begin applying these strategies to make sure you get the elite status you deserve in 2020.
Additional reporting by Ethan Steinberg.
Featured photo by Nick Ellis/The Points Guy.
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