Skip to content

The ultimate guide to Delta Choice Benefits

Jan. 13, 2021
12 min read
delta Hartmann
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information.

From waived change fees to complimentary upgrades to a VIP customer service line, we've shared our thoughts on maximizing the many perks of elite status with Delta Air Lines. In our tier-by-tier evaluation of Delta's Medallion status program, it's clear that the top two levels — Platinum and Diamond — are in a class of their own.

For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Among other things, these two tiers allow members to choose their perks. The Choice Benefits program is a notable one, and this guide lays out your options while explaining which selections are apt to deliver the most value.

Timing

Atlanta's B Concourse, full of Delta jets ready to depart. (Photo by Darren Murph/The Points Guy)

Of course, the 2021 status year looks different, thanks to the global coronavirus pandemic that has wreaked havoc on the travel industry.

In April of last year, Delta became the first airline to automatically extend Medallion status to all members who had earned it -- at any level -- in 2019 for the 2020 status year. If you began 2020 as a Platinum or Diamond member, Delta's also giving you another set of Choice Benefits, which you can begin to select on Feb. 1, 2021.

And if you earned Platinum or Diamond status for 2020 but haven't yet made your Choice Benefits selections, you'll have until Jan. 31, 2021, to do so, and your new set of Choice Benefits must be selected by Jan. 31, 2022. And with travel likely in a holding pattern for several more months, we certainly recommend holding off on making your 2021 selections until the last possible minute.

(Screenshot courtesy of Delta Air Lines.)

It's important to note that if you forget to make your selections by the expiration date, you'll lose them forever. To easily prevent this travesty, simply create a recurring reminder to "Select Choice Benefits" on January 31 of each year in whatever calendar tool you use.

If you choose to give someone Silver or Gold status, you'll want to make that selection as soon as possible. That's because the gift status goes into effect right away and expires on Jan. 31 of the following year, regardless of when you make the selection. In other words, if a Diamond Medallion member gifted Gold status for their 2020 flying year on Jan. 30, 2021, that guest would only enjoy Gold status for a single day (as it would expire Jan. 31, 2021).

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Doubling up

(Photo by Darren Murph / The Points Guy)

If you achieve Diamond Medallion, you'll pass Platinum Medallion along the way. An interesting wrinkle to Choice Benefits is that Diamond Medallions effectively get two layers of selections. Not only do they earn an added three selections for hitting Diamond, but they retain the ability to make a single selection for their time as a Platinum.

Platinum Medallion choices

Delta One Suites aboard an Airbus A350. (Photo by Zach Honig / The Points Guy)

Delta allows its Platinum Medallion members to choose one benefit for each flying year, with five total options.

  1. Four Regional Upgrade Certificates: These are far and away our favorite Platinum Choice Benefit. The four one-way Regional Upgrade Certificates can be used on all paid published Main Cabin and Delta Comfort+ fares, except E (Basic Economy), on the same routes as Medallion Complimentary Upgrades, including all flights with First Class and the domestic Delta One experience. An important note about RUCs is that they expire a year after they are issued, so do not select this until either you're ready to use one or it's the very last day you're able to choose. In other words, we would suggest waiting until Jan. 31, 2022 for 2021 Platinum members to select this benefit unless they plan to travel before then. Our favorite use of RUCs is to Hawaii, or on transcontinental flights with Delta One lie-flat seats. Given that paid upgrades on these routes can cost anywhere between $500 and $1,000+ per flight, the total value of four RUCs is (conservatively) in the thousands of dollars.
  2. One $100 Global Entry Application Voucher: Do not, under any circumstance, select this. Instead, pick up one of the many credit cards that include their own Global Entry fee reimbursement.
  3. 20,000 Bonus Miles: Avoid. TPG values SkyMiles at 1.41 cents, meaning that 20,000 of them would generally net you around $282 of value. Even if you score a Delta SkyMiles award sale, the most value you can squeeze out of this is around $500.
  4. Travel Voucher or Retail Gift Card: Hard pass. This option grants you a $200 travel voucher or $200 retail gift card to Tiffany & Co., both of which are borderline offensive given the poor value.
  5. Silver Medallion Status for Recipient You Choose: This option sounds appealing, but it's not. If you have a travel partner that's planning to travel frequently with you, they'll achieve Silver on their own before long. Plus, you can realize many of the perks associated with Silver Medallion status by holding the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card or Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card

Diamond Medallion choices

(Photo by Darren Murph / The Points Guy)

Delta allows its Diamond Medallion members to choose three benefits for each flying year (in addition to one Platinum choice), with six total options.

  1. Delta Sky Club Membership & Guest Options: Before digging in here, be sure to visit our guide to Delta Sky Club access. Diamond Medallion members may select an Individual Sky Club membership with one of their three annual Choice Benefits. They can give up two of those three Choice Benefits in exchange for a yearlong Executive Sky Club membership. Diamond Medallion members who have complimentary Delta Sky Club access via an eligible credit card (The Platinum Card® from American Express, Delta SkyMiles Reserve or Delta SkyMiles Reserve Business) have the option to select a Delta Sky Club Guest Pass to receive unlimited Delta Sky Club access for up to two guests per visit when traveling with the cardmember. That’s huge, as it enables you to reserve one of your Choice Benefits for other valuable selections such as Global and Regional Upgrade Certificates.
  2. Upgrade Certificates: If you're looking for outsized value, you've found it. Delta allows its Diamonds to choose one batch of upgrade certificates, selecting either four Global Upgrade Certificates, eight Regional Upgrade Certificates or two GUCs + four RUCs. Hitting Diamond is the only way to secure Global Upgrade Certificates, which can be worth thousands. I used all four of mine a few years ago to upgrade myself and my wife on a round-trip economy fare from Atlanta (ATL) to Johannesburg (JNB). The feeling of paying $1,388 per person for a round-trip economy ticket from the United States to South Africa, and then confirming seats in business class for free before hanging up the phone, remains one of the best I’ve ever felt in over a decade of booking seats on Delta. Of course, you'll need to call and play around with dates to find availability, but those willing to roll the dice can waitlist and hope for an upgrade either leading up to departure or at the gate.
  3. Two $100 Global Entry Application Vouchers: We'll repeat our recommendation to steer clear here, and instead pick up one of the many credit cards that include their own Global Entry fee reimbursement.
  4. 25,000 Bonus Miles: TPG values SkyMiles at 1.57 cents, meaning that 25,000 of them would generally net you around $392 of value. Assuming that you've used one choice on a batch of upgrade certificates and one on a SkyClub Guest Pass to pair with your eligible credit card, this is a solid bet for your third choice. 25,000 SkyMiles can buy you a domestic round-trip award ticket to most places, which may even net you greater value on days where cash pricing for that same flight is high.
  5. Travel Voucher or Retail Gift Card: Still a hard pass. This option grants you a $200 travel voucher or $200 retail gift card to Tiffany & Co., both of which are borderline offensive given the poor value relative to the superior options above.
  6. Gold Medallion Status for Recipient You Choose: TPG values Gold Medallion status at $2,235, which means this is a great option for a close friend who doesn't travel frequently on your itineraries. That's an important distinction, as Diamond Medallions who book other members on their same PNR (confirmation number) will rank for upgrade clearance based on the higher status, and several other perks (like checked bag fee waivers and lounge access when flying internationally) will also extend to your travel companion. As a result, if you choose this, it needs to be an exceptional friend who happens to not travel often with you. And again, be sure to select this one as soon as you can, since the status will expire Jan. 31 of the year after you earned Diamond Status.

Bottom Line

Brian Kelly, The Points Guy, settles into Delta One Suites aboard an Airbus A350-900. (Photo by Nick Ellis / The Points Guy)

Delta provides its high-tier elite members with a variety of options after qualifying (or requalifying) for status, but our advice is simple: Those who hit Platinum and/or Diamond Medallion should always look to select Global and Regional Upgrade Certificates before even considering the other options. These unique upgrade tools aren't available via any other avenue and provide exceptional value if you have a flexible schedule and can book economy flights and confirm a RUC/GUC upgrade right away.

You can even use GUCs on SkyTeam partners KLM, Air France and Virgin Atlantic, and Delta made these certificates much easier to use with Air France and KLM in 2020. The only way to apply a RUC/GUC is to call Delta — this cannot yet be done online or via the Fly Delta app. These are also not transferable, so you'll need to be traveling with a companion on your same flight to extend the perk to him/her.

It's worth reiterating that holding a credit card that grants automatic access into Delta's global network of Sky Club airline lounges frees your Diamond Choice Benefits up to make other selections. Those cards are listed below, and you can learn more in our comprehensive guide to Sky Club access.

Are you a top-tier Delta flyer? Let us know how you plan to make and use your Choice Benefits selections in the comments below!

For rates and fees of the Delta Reserve Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta Reserve Business Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Business Platinum Card, please click here.

Additional reporting by Nick Ellis

Featured image by Hartmann luggage – a gift from Delta to those who hit 1 million miles (Photo by Darren Murph / The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Top offers from our partners

How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
See all best card offers

TPG featured card

Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review
Apply for American Express® Gold Card
at American Express's secure site

Rewards

3 - 4X points
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3XEarn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.

Intro offer

60,000 bonus points
Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

Annual Fee

$250

Recommended Credit

670-850
Excellent/Good
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Apply for American Express® Gold Card
at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3XEarn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

    60,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $250
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees