The ultimate guide to Delta Choice Benefits
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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.
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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.
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.
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).
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 allows its Platinum Medallion members to choose one benefit for each flying year, with five total options.
- 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.
- 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.
- 20,000 Bonus Miles: Avoid. TPG values SkyMiles at 1.2 cents, meaning that 20,000 of them would generally net you around $240 of value. Even if you score a Delta SkyMiles award sale, the most value you can squeeze out of this is around $500.
- 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.
- 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
Delta allows its Diamond Medallion members to choose three benefits for each flying year (in addition to one Platinum choice), with six total options.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 25,000 Bonus Miles: TPG values SkyMiles at 1.2 cents, meaning that 25,000 of them would generally net you around $300 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- The Platinum Card® from American Express ($550 annual fee (See Rates & Fees); 75,000 Membership Rewards Points after you spend $5,000 on purchases within the first six months of account opening, though be sure to check the CardMatch Tool to see if you’re targeted for a 100,000-point welcome bonus; targeted offer subject to change at anytime). Terms apply.
- The Business Platinum Card® from American Express ($595 annual fee (See Rates & Fees); Earn 125,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card within the first 3 months of Card Membership. Terms apply.
- Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card ($550 annual fee; See Rates & Fees); Welcome bonus of 80,000 bonus miles, plus 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. Terms apply.
- Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card ($550 annual fee; See Rates & Fees); 80,000-mile welcome bonus, plus 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs), and a $200 statement credit after you spend $5,000 in purchases on your new card in your first three months. Offer ends 4/28/21.Terms apply.
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
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