What is Delta Air Lines elite status worth in 2021?

Feb 11, 2021

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A new year is a great time to reconsider your airline loyalty. However, deciding which program makes the most sense for you can be difficult, given the variations between the programs when it comes to complimentary upgrades, bonus points or miles and other valuable perks. And is it even worth pursuing elite status at all?

Today, we’ll dive into one of the major legacy programs and consider just how valuable its elite status benefits are mathematical. We’ll evaluate the major perks provided at each tier of the Delta SkyMiles program and try to peg a specific value to each.

The goal? Help you decide if it’s worth going after Delta Medallion status in 2021.

Let’s get started.

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In This Post

How I developed these valuations

Before we get to the details of the SkyMiles program’s elite status tiers, a couple of disclaimers.

First, it’s important to note that these mathematical analyses represent just one way of calculating the value you’d get out of a given elite status level.

Everyone has his or her own way of valuing the various benefits of loyalty programs; some may always pay for first and business class and thus have no need for complimentary upgrades, while others may travel exclusively in the U.S. and don’t care about free lounge access on international itineraries. As a result, feel free to adjust the numbers I use to make them more relevant to your own personal valuation.

Second, these numbers are all based on the benefits you’d enjoy after achieving the given status level and continuing to qualify each year thereafter. If you’re starting from scratch, these values are a bit skewed since the first 25,000 miles you fly will provide no benefits.

I’ve provided some analysis for those of you in that position toward the end of the post, including an Excel spreadsheet to help with your estimates.

How much is Delta elite status worth in 2021? (Photo by Nick Ellis/The Points Guy.)

This brings me to the third and final critical part of this analysis: the underlying assumptions I’m making.

To really hit a value for benefits, I have to assume a certain amount of flying and a corresponding amount of spending. For the sake of the airline portion of the series, I’m making the following assumptions:

  • You earn 20% more Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) than the minimum required for the given status level.
  • You spend an average of 12.5 cents per MQM.

As always, be sure to adjust these numbers based on your given travel patterns. Those who travel exclusively in the U.S. may spend less than 12.5 cents per mile, while those who travel in paid first or business class internationally likely spend significantly more. You also may qualify on segments rather than miles, and you may have heavier travel in certain parts of the year.

As a baseline, here’s how much value is assigned to each common benefit:

  • Complimentary first class upgrades: I value this at 0.83 cents per mile flown for all airlines.
  • Complimentary Comfort+ upgrades: I value this at 0.33 cents per mile flown.
  • Preferred seats: I value this at 0.08 cents per mile flown on all TPG elite status guide due to limited benefit.
  • Mileage bonus: I’m using TPG’s most recent valuations for any bonus miles earned, which pegged Delta miles at 1.1 cents apiece.
  • Waived baggage fee: Again, this one varies by use, but I value it at 0.41 cents per mile flown.
  • Priority check-in and boarding: This is pegged at 0.16 cents per mile flown due to limited use.
  • Priority phone line: This is also valued at 0.16 cents per mile flown.
  • Partner perks: This varies widely based on your status level. At the Platinum and Diamond levels, we’ve pegged the value at 0.28 cents per mile.
  • Hertz benefits: Gold elites are eligible for Hertz Five Star status and Platinum and Diamond members are eligible for top-tier President’s Club status. I’ve pegged Five Star at $10 due to limited perks and President’s Circle at $20. Delta elites also earn bonus Hertz miles on rentals — these are in-line with our SkyMiles valuation of 1.1 cents apiece.
  • Waived same-day confirmed and standby fees: These cost $75 apiece when you don’t have Gold or higher elite status. I assume Gold members take advantage of this perk twice, Platinum members three times and Diamond members six times. You can adjust this based on your forseen usage.
  • Choice Benefits: This varies greatly depending on the benefits you choose — especially at the Diamond level. I’ve broken down my valuation for Choice Benefits in the Platinum and Diamond sections.

One last thing: to make the math more straightforward, I’m rounding all of the individual benefit valuations to the nearest $5.

Related: How to redeem Delta SkyMiles for maximum value

Things to consider before chasing Delta elite status

Delta economy cabin interior
(Photo by Chris Dong/The Points Guy)

There are a couple of things to keep in mind as you decide to chase Delta elite status in 2021. Here’s a look at some further considerations — these are especially important given 2021 is far from a normal travel year.

How much are you traveling during the coronavirus pandemic?

It’s impossible to talk about travel without discussing the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The pandemic has changed travel as we know it, and many of us are traveling less. Airlines have responded to the pandemic by extending elite status and making it easier to earn status in 2021.

While Delta was the first U.S. airline to extend status in response to the pandemic, it hasn’t reduced 2021 elite status requirements. Instead, it rolled over all Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQM) earned in 2020 to 2021. This includes MQMs earned with a credit card.

This means you’ll have to fly (or spend) the same amount in 2021 as you would any other year to earn elite status with Delta. As discussed, the actual value you’ll get from Delta status will still depend on how much you fly in 2021.

As the author, I can’t be sure of how much you travel. Make sure to go through your travel plans and see if it makes sense for you to chase elite status during the pandemic. Likewise, look toward the future and think about how much you’ll travel in future years.

Remember, you edit the provided Excel sheet and make changes to my assumed valuations for a more accurate look at the value of elite status.

Note that I’m not reworking the valuations for 2021 to reflect the coronavirus impact on travel. With the vaccine rollout making strides around the world, we’re getting closer a normal travel landscape. Likewise, the status you earn this year will be valid through 2022 when travel hopefully returns to normal.

Related: When will international travel return? A country-by-country guide to coronavirus recovery

Does Delta have a large presence at your home airport?

Delta 737-900ER
(Photo by Alberto Riva/The Points Guy)

Delta has hubs all around the U.S., with some of the biggest being Atlanta (ATL), Detroit (DTW), Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP), New York-JFK and Seattle (SEA). The airline also maintains smaller hubs at Boston (BOS), Los Angeles (LAX), New York-LaGuardia (LGA), and Salt Lake City (SLC).

If you live near one of these hubs, Delta status could be a great option. Chances are you already fly Delta regularly, given the airline’s large presence in your airport. This is especially true in places like Detroit and Salt Lake City, where Delta is the only carrier with a hub.

That said, you may also find Delta status useful if you don’t live near one of these hubs. Delta operates a handful of focus cities around the U.S., with Cincinnati (CVG) and Raleigh/Durham (RDU) being the most notable. You’ll find transatlantic flights from these airports and extensive domestic service.

Alternatively, you may travel to Delta’s hubs often or — in the case of small airports — find that Delta has the best one-stop connections from your home city. Whatever the case may be, look at your flight habits and see if it makes sense for you to move the bulk of your flying to Delta and its SkyTeam partners.

For example, if you live near Chicago-O’Hare (ORD), you may want to skip Delta elite status. The airline has very limited service from this airport when compared to American and United. On the other hand, it may make sense for someone based in Des Moines (DSM) to pick Delta as all airlines have limited service to the city.

Related: Delta Air Lines ‘committed’ to new Boston hub; Austin, Raleigh focus cities

You can fast-track to Delta elite status with credit cards

Delta is one of the easiest statuses to earn with a credit card.

First off, you can earn a Medallion Qualifying Dollar (MQD) requirement waiver after spending $25,000 on any Delta cobranded credit card in a single calendar year. This waives the requirement for Silver, Gold and Platinum status. You’ll need to spend a huge $250,000 on your Delta Amex to waive the MQM requirement for Diamond status.

Those with a Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card, Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card or their business equivalents can earn MQM with their everyday spending. Reserve cardholders earn 15,000 MQM for every $30,000 spent on the card (up to 4x per year), while Platinum cardholders receive 10,000 MQM for every $25,000 spent on the card (up to 2x per year).

This was raised to 18,750 MQM and 12,500 MQM for the Reserve and Platinum cards, respectively, in 2021. This is a 25% bonus over the normal bonuses and makes it easier than ever to earn Delta status either solely with a credit card or as a supplement to your flight-earning.

Keep this in mind as you choose to earn Delta elite status. If you have lots of credit card spend, you may be able to earn a higher tier of elite status with Delta than you would another airline. This is even more important to consider if you’re traveling less during the coronavirus pandemic.

That said, you should also keep in mind the opportunity cost of using your Delta credit card for purchases where you may earn more points using another credit card. For example, the Delta Reserve and Platinum cards don’t earn bonus points on dining, while the American Express® Gold Card earns 4x points per dollar at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x) and restaurants worldwide.

Putting lots of spend on your Delta cards could mean losing out on points with other cards. Look through your spending habits and see if it makes sense to earn status with your Delta card. If you’re better off with points on another card, proceed with caution.

Related: Boost your progress toward Medallion status with select Delta credit cards.

Delta SkyMiles has been continually devalued over the years

When chasing Delta elite status, you’re going to earn a lot of Delta SkyMiles in the process.

You’ll earn these from credit card spend and when you fly with Delta and its partners. That said, you’ll want to make sure that you can actually use these miles for the redemptions you make the most. If international travel is your goal, Delta can be tough. The airline has devalued its SkyMiles currency twice in the past year, focusing on international partner awards.

The most recent devaluation means Delta partner awards to Asia and Europe now start a huge 120,000 SkyMiles one-way in business class.

This is far higher than almost any other program and not a particularly good way to redeem your miles. Even worse, economy tickets cost almost as much as business class tickets do with other airlines.

ORD to CDG SkyMiles Partner Award
(Image courtesy of Delta)

Delta-operated tickets aren’t any better. The airline dynamically prices its own award tickets and is known for super high award pricing on long-haul business class. These days, it’s nearly impossible to find a good deal on these awards.

For example, here’s a look at one-way pricing from Detroit (DTW) to London-Heathrow (LHR) in business class later this year.

DTW to LHR Delta Pricing Calendar
(Image courtesy of Delta)

So, what are SkyMiles good for? Domestic awards are generally your best bet. The airline recently ran a number of award sales, with tickets starting at just 2,000 SkyMiles one-way. It’s relatively easy to find a good deal on most domestic routes even when booking far in advance.

For example, this New York-LaGuardia (LGA) to Chicago-O’Hare (ORD) ticket is just 4,500 SkyMiles even when booking over six months in advance. Standard Main Cabin economy starts at just 6,000 SkyMiles. This is far better pricing than what you’d find with other carriers.

LGA ORD SkyMiles Itinerary
(Image courtesy of Delta)

Of course, we could see this change post-pandemic. But for the time being, your best bet for redeeming Delta SkyMiles is on domestic flights. Make sure to think through the types of redemptions you’d like to make and if you think SkyMiles are worthy.

So…all that being said, where do the four elite levels of the SkyMiles program land? Here’s my analysis:

Delta Silver Medallion ($745)

Silver Medallion travelers can enjoy Comfort+ seats, but only within 24 hours of departure. (Photo by Wallace Cotton/The Points Guy.)

The lowest tier in Delta’s program is Silver Medallion status, which normally requires 25,000 MQMs or 30 Medallion Qualification Segments plus $3,000 Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQDs).

For this analysis, I’ll base my numbers on earning 30,000 MQMs at a cost of 12.5 cents per mile (so a total spend of $3,750).

Unlimited complimentary first-class upgrades ($250)

The first and (arguably) most valuable benefit of Silver Medallion is the ability to upgrade to first class on domestic flights plus flights from the U.S. to Canada, the Caribbean and Central America. This was even extended to award tickets in October 2016.

Unfortunately, these won’t start clearing until 24 hours before departure (or the day of departure for U.S. flights with Delta One). You’ll fall below all other Delta elites (including their companions), so don’t expect these upgrades to clear with any regularity, especially if you frequently travel during popular times for business travelers. I’ll assume a relatively conservative valuation of $250.

Again, we value complimentary first-class upgrades at roughly 0.83 cents per mile flown for all airlines.

Unlimited complimentary Comfort+ upgrades ($100)

A few ago, Delta updated the process for domestic and international Comfort+ access. All Medallion members must now request an upgrade to these seats, though you can now specify which seat types they’d accept.

To make this even worse, Silver Medallion members are only eligible to clear into Comfort+ 24 hours before departure, at which point most of the seats will likely be taken by higher-tier elites. The true value of this perk depends on how frequently you score a Comfort+ seat and how much they cost, but I’ll value this perk at $100.

Preferred seats ($25)

While you cross your fingers and hope for your upgrade to first class and Comfort+ to clear, you can at least select preferred seats for free as a Silver Medallion member. Delta describes these as “choice Main Cabin seats” but are typically just window and aisle seats just behind the Comfort+ cabin, though they may include exit rows on certain aircraft. As a result, I’ll value this perk at just $25.

Mileage bonus ($85)

Silver Medallion members earn 7 miles per dollar spent, 2 more than regular members. With $3,750 MQDs, that equates to 7,500 extra miles, worth $82.50 based on TPG’s most recent valuations. We’ll round this up to $85 for this article.

Waived baggage fee ($125)

As a Silver Medallion flyer, you’ll enjoy a free checked bag over the standard allowance on most Delta-operated flights, saving $60 per round-trip domestic flight and up to $200 on flights to Europe. This free checked bag within the U.S. can weigh up to 70 pounds, and the benefit extends to eight travel companions in the same reservation.

In addition, if you carry a Delta American Express card (like the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card), you can actually get a second free bag of up to 70 pounds when traveling within or between the U.S. and Canada on a Delta flight. This perk can quickly add up if you regularly check a ton of gear, but I’ll value it at $125.

Priority check-in and boarding ($50)

Silver Medallions are eligible for priority check-in and can be among the first Main Cabin passengers to board. Still, the latter of these is the same offered to Delta American Express cardholders, so neither perk is very valuable.

Priority phone line ($50)

A priority phone line can be a lifesaver during large-scale weather events (or power outages or system issues), but it’s definitely not the most valuable perk.

Partner perks ($50)

Silver Medallion travelers are designated as SkyTeam Elite members when traveling on a SkyTeam airline, which includes priority check-in, boarding and standby plus preferred seating “subject to availability.” You’ll also enjoy additional perks on so-called “preferred partners” like AeroMexico, LATAM and Virgin Atlantic (check out this link for full details). These can come in handy if you frequently travel on one or more of these partner airlines but probably isn’t worth much to the average traveler.

Hertz benefits ($10)

Silver Medallion members can earn additional bonus miles when renting with Hertz (800 more than a regular member, to be exact). While you may have other car rental companies you use, I’ll assume that you utilize this perk once per year.

Delta Gold Medallion ($2,120)

As a Gold Medallion, you’ll be able to access the Sky Club (or other partner lounges) when traveling internationally, thanks to your SkyTeam Elite Plus status. (Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy.)

The second tier in Delta’s program is Gold Medallion status, which normally requires 50,000 MQMs or 60 segments plus $6,000 MQDs.

For this analysis, I’ll base my numbers on earning 60,000 MQMs at a cost of 12.5 cents per mile (so a total spend of $7,500).

Unlimited complimentary first-class upgrades ($650)

Gold Medallion flyers are also eligible for complimentary first-class upgrades on domestic flights and short-haul international flights, and these will start clearing 3 days before departure. Given that you’re flying more and prioritized above Silver Medallions, I’ll bump the value to $650.

Unlimited complimentary Comfort+ upgrades ($250)

You’re also eligible for upgrades to Comfort+ as a Gold Medallion traveler, and these will start clearing 3 days before your flight. I’ll more than double the value from Silver Medallion due to the additional flying and higher likelihood of your upgrades clearing.

Preferred Seats ($50)

Same benefit, more frequent utilization.

Mileage bonus ($250)

As a Gold Medallion traveler, you’ll earn 8 miles per dollar spent, 3 more than non-status flyers. With $7,500 MQDs, that equates to 22,500 extra miles, worth $247.50 based on TPG’s most recent valuations. I’ll round this to $250.

Waived baggage fee ($250)

Gold Medallion members enjoy a slightly higher baggage allowance than Silver travelers, as they’re allowed to bring two bags weighing up to 70 pounds on flights within the US and Canada.

Waived same-day confirmed and standby fees ($150)

While Silver Medallions and non-status flyers need to pay $75 to standby for or switch to an earlier flight on the day of departure, these fees are waived for Gold Medallions. I’ll assume a utilization of twice per year for this benefit.

Priority check-in, security, boarding and baggage delivery ($250)

You’ll enjoy additional perks at the airport as a Gold Medallion, including priority security and baggage delivery.

Priority phone line ($100)

Same benefit, more frequent utilization, though Gold agents will likely be more knowledgeable than Silver ones.

Partner perks ($150)

When you travel on SkyTeam member airlines as a Gold Medallion, you’ll be designated as SkyTeam Elite Plus, granting you a host of added perks like priority security, baggage handling and immigration. As noted above, a handful of partners extend this even further, so be sure to check out this link for more information. I’ll peg these perks at $150, though if you frequently utilize partner airlines, it could be much more valuable.

Hertz benefits ($20)

Gold Medallion members will enjoy the same opportunity to earn bonus miles with Hertz as Silver travelers. You’ll also be granted complimentary Five Star Status in the Hertz Gold Plus Rewards program. I’ll stick with my once-per-year assumption from above but add an additional $10 for the status.

Delta Platinum Medallion ($3,660)

Delta A220 Interior
Delta Platinum status makes it easier to be upgraded to first class. (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

The third tier in the SkyMiles program is Platinum Medallion status, which normally requires 75,000 MQMs or 100 segments plus $9,000 MQDs.

For this analysis, I’ll base my numbers on earning 90,000 MQMs at a cost of 12.5 cents per mile (so a total spend of $11,250).

Note that the value of this tier was reduced by $195 this year. This is due to SkyMiles being devalued and Delta waiving change and cancellation fees for all members. Before this change, Platinum and Diamond elites used to have exclusive access to free award cancellation.

Unlimited complimentary first-class upgrades ($1,100)

Platinum Medallion flyers enjoy the same first-class upgrade perks as Silver and Gold travelers, though you’re prioritized above both of those levels and will start clearing 5 days before departure. As a result, I’ll bump this value to $1,100.

Unlimited complimentary Comfort+ upgrades ($400)

You’ll also be eligible for complimentary upgrades to Comfort+ as a Platinum Medallion flyer, and these will start clearing shortly after ticketing (assuming upgrade inventory is available).

Preferred Seats ($100)

Since Platinums will likely clear into Comfort+ or first class, I’ll keep the same valuation I used for Golds.

Mileage bonus ($495)

Platinum Medallion members earn 9 miles per dollar spent, 4 more than non-status flyers. With $11,250 MQDs, that equates to 45,000 extra miles, worth $495 based on TPG’s most recent valuations.

Waived baggage fee ($325)

Your baggage allowance as a Platinum Medallion traveler is slightly higher than what’s offered to Gold Medallions, as you can check up to three bags weighing 70 pounds apiece on flights within the US and Canada (though I doubt many will take full advantage of this perk). Given the additional travel, I’ll bump this benefit to $325.

Waived same-day confirmed and standby fees ($225)

Platinum Medallions enjoy the same fee waivers as Gold Medallions for same-day confirmed and standby, so I’ll assume that you utilize this three times a year given the additional travel.

Priority check-in, security, boarding and baggage delivery ($375)

Same benefit, more frequent utilization.

Priority phone line ($150)

Same benefit, more frequent utilization and more knowledgeable agents.

Choice Benefits ($200)

When you qualify for Platinum Medallion, you get to select a Choice Benefit. These include four Regional Upgrade Certificates (RPUs), 20,000 bonus SkyMiles or the ability to gift Silver Medallion to a friend or family member (among others). While you can get some outsized value — especially with the RPUs — I’ll peg this selection at a conservative $200.

Partner perks ($250)

Platinum Medallion members have the same SkyTeam Elite Plus designation as Gold Medallions. They can also enjoy a couple of added perks, including access to Virgin Atlantic lounges outside the United States when traveling on Delta or Virgin Atlantic. As a result, I’ll bump this perk slightly to $250.

Hertz benefits ($40)

Platinum Medallion members enjoy 250 more SkyMiles per Hertz rental than Silver and Gold Medallions, and you’ll also receive automatic President’s Circle status in the Gold Plus Rewards program. As a result, I’ll boost the value of this perk to $40.

Delta Diamond Medallion ($8,420)

Diamond Medallion members can select Global Upgrade Certificates as a Choice Benefit, valid on any Delta-operated flight. (Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy.)

The final tier in the SkyMiles program is Diamond Medallion status, which normally requires 125,000 MQMs or 140 Medallion-qualifying segments plus $15,000 MQDs.

For this analysis, I’ll base my numbers on earning 150,000 MQMs at a cost of 12.5 cents per mile (so a total spend of $18,750). Like Platinum status, Diamond status lost value in 2021.

Unlimited complimentary first-class upgrades ($1,800)

Diamond Medallions enjoy the highest upgrade priority and will start clearing 5 days in advance (but ahead of Platinum Medallion travelers). As a result, I’ll bump this perk to $1,800.

Unlimited complimentary Comfort+ upgrades ($700)

This priority also extends to Comfort+ seats, as you’re eligible for upgrades shortly after ticketing. I’ll boost this to $700.

Preferred Seats ($100)

Since Diamonds likely clear into Comfort+ or first class, I’ll keep the same valuation I used for Platinum and Gold status.

Mileage bonus ($1,240)

Platinum Medallion members earn 11 miles per dollar spent, 6 more than non-status flyers. With $18,750 MQDs, you’ll take home 112,500 extra miles, worth $1,237.50 based on TPG’s most recent valuations. I’ll round this up to $1,240.

Waived baggage fee ($450)

Same benefit, more frequent utilization.

Waived same-day confirmed and standby fees ($450)

Same benefit, more frequent utilization.

Complimentary CLEAR membership ($100)

In 2016, Delta began offering Diamond Medallion travelers complimentary CLEAR memberships, an expedited airport-security program that continues to expand. At the time of writing, it’s available at over 30 airports and 20 additional event venues. Since this list includes all of Delta’s major hubs, I’ll value this at near the $119 discounted yearly membership rate available to all SkyMiles members.

Priority check-in, security, boarding and baggage delivery ($620)

Same benefit, more frequent utilization.

Priority phone line ($325)

By many reports, Delta Diamond line agents can frequently help top-tier elites with an array of requests, from forcing availability after a missed connection to waiving fees that should be applied. As a result, I’ll boost this significantly over the valuation I gave the similar perk for Platinum members.

Choice Benefits ($2,150)

When you surpass the qualification threshold for Diamond Medallion, you’ll receive three additional Choice Benefits (on top of the one you earned when reaching the Platinum Medallion requirements, which I valued at $200). You can check out the full details at this page, but you’ll notice that this list is longer and much more rewarding, including Sky Club membership, additional upgrades (including Global Upgrade Certificates), 25,000 bonus miles or a gift of Gold Medallion status to a friend/family member.

It’s virtually impossible to value this — due to the flexibility inherent in a selection of “choice” benefits — but I’ll assume you pick the following:

Partner perks ($425)

Same benefit, more frequent utilization.

Hertz benefits ($60)

Same benefit, more frequent utilization.

Related: Which 2021 Delta Choice Benefit should you pick for a pandemic travel year?

What if I’m starting from scratch?

If you don’t currently have status, expect quite a bit of travel in economy before the perks start to kick-in. (Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy.)

As I mentioned at the outset, these numbers are based on the benefits you’d enjoy by spending a full year with the given status.

However, if you’re starting from scratch, the calculations become a bit more complicated since you won’t start to enjoy any benefits until you hit the 25,000-mile mark and earn Silver status. To help modify the analysis for those individuals, I’ve taken the above valuations and converted them to a value per MQM, as follows:

  • Delta Silver Medallion: $745 / 30,000 MQMs = 2.48 cents per MQM
  • Delta Gold Medallion: $2,120 / 60,000 MQMs = 3.53 cents per MQM
  • Delta Platinum Medallion: $3,660 / 90,000 MQMs = 4.07 cents per MQM
  • Delta Diamond Medallion: $8,420 / 150,000 MQMs = 5.61 cents per MQM

I created an Excel spreadsheet that uses these numbers to calculate how much value you’d get from the different Delta elite status levels given a certain amount of flying. All you need to do is change the number in cell A2 to represent the number of MQMs you expect to fly in 2021, and the spreadsheet will update with the corresponding value.

For example, I pre-loaded 60,000 MQMs. At this rate, you’d get no benefits from the first 25,000 MQMs, then enjoy Silver Medallion benefits for the next 25,000 MQMs (at a rate of 2.48 cents per MQM). You’d enjoy Gold Medallion benefits for the final 10,000 MQMs (at a rate of 3.53 cents per MQM).

This means that if you’re starting from scratch and estimate that you’ll earn 60,000 MQMs in 2021, you’d be able to get $974.17 worth of perks from the Delta SkyMiles program.

Related: Consider jump-starting your travel in 2021 with an airline elite status match or challenge.

As always, feel free to adjust the numbers above for each tier (loaded into the “Base Data” tab of the spreadsheet) based on your own personal valuation.

Is it worth it?

A Delta Airlines gate is seen at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport July 30, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Only you can decide if pursuing Delta elite status in 2021 is right for you. (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images.)

Given these values, is it worth pursuing elite status (or the next tier of elite status) with Delta? Like any analysis we undertake here at TPG, there isn’t an easy answer to this, as it depends entirely on your individual situation. However, here are a few over-arching questions that can help you arrive at a decision:

How much will you travel in the future?

If you earned Delta elite status in 2020, it’s valid through January 31, 2021, and if you qualify in 2021, your status will last until January 31, 2023. As discussed, it’s critical to think about how much you’ll be traveling in the future. If you push hard to earn Diamond Medallion, for example, the valuable perks outlined above only apply when you actually travel.

What’s the incremental value of one tier over another?

Many of you may wind up within striking distance of the next tier, so be sure to consider whether the benefits are worth pushing for it. There’s no sense in going out of your way for perks that don’t matter to you.

How well does Delta’s route map match your typical travel patterns?

Remember, pursuing elite status with an airline that you can’t feasibly fly regularly is a fool’s errand. Be sure to consider Delta’s service from your home airport(s) and how easy it is to get to your desired destination.

How sensitive are you to price and convenience?

There are many trade-offs in this hobby, and one of the most common is deciding whether to use your preferred airline or hotel chain when it’s not the most convenient or cheapest. Would you book a one-stop Delta flight if Southwest had a cheaper nonstop option? If the answer is no, it may not be worth going out of your way to earn Delta elite status (or any elite status, for that matter).

Could you enjoy elite-like perks with a credit card?

The final consideration involves travel rewards credit cards. Many airline cobranded cards offer perks to cardholders that mirror what you’d enjoy as an elite member. For example, the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card includes a free checked bag, priority boarding and a 20% in-flight discount. The card has a $99 annual fee (waived for the first year) (see rates and fees).

Meanwhile, the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card provides complimentary Sky Club access when flying Delta in addition to waived checked bag fees, preferred boarding and the same in-flight discount. If you can pay a flat annual fee for one of these cards and gain access to perks that matter to you without going out of your way to earn elite status, that may be a good plan.

These questions are also not easy to answer, as many different factors come into play with each of them. Nevertheless, it’s a worthwhile exercise to evaluate your own situation as you determine if Delta elite status is for you!

Bottom line

Earning airline elite status carries an array of perks that can make your entire travel experience more comfortable. However, not all levels with all carriers are created equally, so it’s critical to analyze which elite status program best lines up with your typical travel patterns and what you value most as a traveler.

If you’re considering switching your loyalty in 2021, I hope this detailed look at the Delta SkyMiles elite status program has helped your decision!


This is The Points Guy’s permanent page about Delta Air Lines elite status, so you can bookmark it and check back regularly for the latest information. Keep in mind you may see some reader comments referring to outdated information below.


Additional reporting by Nick Ewen

For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta Reserve Card,  click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta Gold card, click here.

Feature photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy

The Platinum Card® from American Express

WELCOME OFFER: 75,000 Points Terms Apply.

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,500

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: Delta Sky Club and Centurion lounge access, up to $200 annual airline fee credit and up to $200 in Uber savings annually (only for use in the U.S.)  (Enrollment required for select benefits)

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

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More Things to Know
  • Earn 75,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $5,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 10x points on eligible purchases on your new Card at U.S. Gas Stations and U.S. Supermarkets, on up to $15,000 in combined purchases, during your first 6 months of Card Membership. That’s an additional 9 points on top of the 1 point you earn for these purchases.
  • Enjoy Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status is available to Basic Card Member and Additional Centurion Cards only.
  • Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel. Starting January 1, 2021, earn 5X points on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year.
  • 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
  • Enjoy complimentary access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
  • Receive complimentary benefits through American Express Travel with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts® program at over 1,100 properties. Learn More.
  • Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. That’s up to $50 in statement credits semi-annually. Enrollment required.
  • $550 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
See Pay Over Time APR
Annual Fee
$550
Balance Transfer Fee
N/A
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.