Last day: Which Delta Choice Benefits should you pick?
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Today is the last day for Delta Platinum and Diamond Medallion elites to pick their Choice Benefits for the 2021 Medallion year.
Delta elites have until Jan. 31, 2022, to pick these benefits. As a refresher, these are awarded to Delta Platinum and Diamond elites after earning or requalifying for elite status. Delta also gave 2021 Choice Benefits to members who had elite status extended during the coronavirus pandemic.
Choice Benefits range from Sky Club memberships to upgrade certificates. While we usually recommend choosing the Global Upgrade Certificates, they’re being devalued on Feb. 1. Further, not everyone is traveling internationally as often as they once were, so they might be of less value to you.
So, which benefits should you choose?
I’ll discuss the different options in this article and show you what the TPG staff and our readers chose for their benefits this year. Again, travel still looks a little different in 2022, so don’t be surprised if you see some nontraditional choices.
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Picking a Delta Choice Benefit
When researching which Delta Choice Benefit to pick, we surveyed TPG readers in the TPG Lounge Facebook group and Delta Platinum and Diamond Medallions on staff. Here’s a rundown of what Choice Benefits they picked.
One quick thing before we start: You have until Jan. 31, 2022, to pick your 2021 Choice Benefits. If you requalified for status this past year, you’ll get another set of Choice Benefits, which you can begin to select on Feb. 1, 2022, through Jan. 31, 2023. Those who had their status extended but did not organically requalify will not get another set of Choice Benefits.
Many Delta elites still picked upgrade certificates
As it turns out, many TPG staffers and readers still picked upgrade certificates this year. These certificates are normally valid through the end of the Medallion year associated with that Choice Benefit selection. However, due to the pandemic, Delta is extending all certificates selected this year so that they may be booked and flown by Jan. 31, 2023.
Delta Platinum elites can select four Regional Upgrade Certificates as a Choice Benefit while Diamond elites can pick from the following:
- Four Global Upgrade Certificates.
- Eight Regional Upgrade Certificates.
- Two Global Upgrade Certificates and four Regional Upgrade Certificates.
As of Feb. 1, 2022, Global Upgrade Certificates can only be used for one-cabin upgrades. This means that those booked in Main Cabin will now upgrade to Premium Select — or premium economy when flying partners — on three-cabin international flights. Those on Delta flights will be waitlisted for Delta One 24 hours prior to departure.
Still, this devaluation isn’t stopping Diamonds from selecting this as a benefit.
TPG Points and Miles Editor Andrew Kunesh is a Diamond Medallion. He chose Global Upgrade Certificates as a Choice Benefit because he’s optimistic that long-haul international travel will continue to ramp back up this year, and hopes to use his certificates for upgrades to Delta One on international flights.
“I picked upgrade certificates because it’s still possible to get great value with one-cabin upgrades,” Andrew explained. “International Premium Select is still far cheaper than Delta One on most routes, so the value is still in the thousands on routes I’m looking at booking.”
Likewise, TPG reader Paul told us he’s picking the package with two Global Upgrade Certificates and Four Regional Upgrade Certificates as one of his Choice Benefits. His reasoning is similar to Andrew’s — he’s holding out hope that international travel will ramp up.
Other readers mentioned picking regional upgrades as Platinum members. These readers overwhelmingly hope to use the certificates on transcontinental routes from New York-JFK to Los Angeles (LAX) or San Francisco (SFO), which have full-fledged Delta One cabins.
It’s worth noting that you can only select upgrade certificates once, even if you have other Choice Benefits available to you. Think through your future travel and see if regional upgrades, global upgrades or a mix of the two mesh well with your travel plans.
Some readers opted for bonus SkyMiles instead
We also saw a handful of readers opt for bonus SkyMiles as a Choice Benefit.
Platinum members are eligible for 20,000 SkyMiles, while Diamond members receive 25,000. TPG values Delta SkyMiles at 1.46 cents apiece, so these benefits are worth $292 and $365, respectively.
Readers that chose this benefit were more pessimistic about the future value of upgrade certificates with the upcoming devaluation. Readers don’t want to be forced to pay more for a premium economy seat in order to upgrade to business class.
On the other hand, another reader said he picked miles because he can use the Pay with Miles feature included with cobranded Delta credit cards. This feature lets you use miles toward paid flights at a set value of 1 cent per mile. SkyMiles never expire, so this can be a good bet if you aren’t traveling much yet.
Others chose a $200 Delta travel voucher
One reader mentioned she opted for the $200 Delta travel voucher because of its flexibility and ease of use. The travel voucher can be used on Delta flights and on Delta Vacations packages and is valid for one year from the date of issuance.
However, this is a poor value proposition, especially if you have a Delta cobranded card.
You’re better off with the miles as they don’t expire, and you can use the Pay with Miles feature for a similar credit. Plus, Delta Diamond members get 25,000 SkyMiles, equal to $250 when using Pay with SkyMiles.
If you do go with the travel voucher option, though, be sure to use it within 12 months of issuance.
A Delta Sky Club executive membership could be worth considering
We also saw a couple of readers select a Delta Sky Club executive membership. This is only available to Delta Diamond elites as it requires two Choice Benefits to select. It’s different from a standard Sky Club membership in that it lets you bring up to two guests with you to the Sky Club whenever you visit.
This is great for those who travel with friends, family members or coworkers on Delta flights. Likewise, it’s better than the Sky Club access included with The Platinum Card® from American Express and Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card since these cards don’t allow guests. Enrollment required for select benefits.
Alternatively, Diamond members with an Amex Platinum or Delta Reserve card can add guest access to their existing Sky Club membership for one Choice Benefit. This can be another excellent choice if you’re traveling with friends or family this year. Just like the executive membership, it will let you bring two guests into the lounge.
Note that Delta Diamond members can also select a Delta Sky Club individual membership for one Choice Benefit. This can be a good option if you’re flying, but only if you don’t already have access through a credit card.
Gift status to a family member
You also have the option of gifting Delta elite status to another traveler. Platinum members can gift Silver status, while Diamond members can gift Gold status.
While we don’t think it’s worth gifting Silver status, Gold could be worthwhile if you’re a Diamond member with a friend or family member who travels frequently. Gold status includes complimentary upgrades, preferred seat selection in economy and SkyTeam Elite Plus status on partner carriers.
Just remember that you can already pass on some of your elite benefits to travelers on your same PNR (confirmation number), like upgrades, international lounge access and free checked bags. With that in mind, you should only gift status to someone who doesn’t travel with you frequently.
For reference, TPG values Delta Gold Medallion status benefits at $2,120 when earned organically. The value the recipient will get from the status varies based on their travel patterns, but it’s a very nice gift regardless.
In the end, it’s up to you to take a look at your travel plans before you select your 2021 Choice Benefits.
Despite the upcoming devaluation, upgrades will likely be the best bet for most elites. Remember, you can use these on Delta One transcontinental flights from New York to Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Otherwise, you may want to select SkyMiles or opt to gift status to a friend or family member. Just keep in mind that these may provide lower value than the upgrades.
The $200 travel voucher and soon-to-be-discontinued Tiffany & Co. gift card are almost certain to provide less value than SkyMiles. Likewise, there are easier ways to gain access to Delta Sky Clubs than redeeming two Choice Benefits, though upgrading your credit card access to include guests can make sense if you often travel with others.
But act quickly: today is the last day to pick Choice Benefits.
Additional reporting by Andrew Kunesh.
Feature photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy.
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