You can now buy up to reach Delta Medallion elite status — but it’s a terrible deal

Nov 5, 2019

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.

Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.

As Delta has done in past years, it has activated the Elevate Your Status program as the conclusion of 2019 draws near. In order to achieve elite status that’ll run through 2020, you need to meet Delta’s thresholds for Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs), Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQDs – U.S.-based members only) and/or Medallion Qualification Segments (MQSs) before the clock strikes midnight on Dec. 31, 2019.

In other words, time isn’t on your side if you’re still short on any of those categories. There are still plenty of options for those making a last minute push for Delta Medallion elite status, but there’s a reason we don’t recommend the option that Delta just lit up: It’s a terrible deal.

Elevate Your Status enables select Medallion members to pay exorbitant rates to boost their MQM, MQS and MQD balances without ever stepping foot on an aircraft — this includes Silver, Gold and Platinum members who weren’t gifted their status, as well as general members who are within striking distance of Silver. Diamond members hoping to use this as a way to achieve the mythical 360 status will be sorely disappointed.

The biggest issue is how high the barrier to entry is. Many, including us, are seeing that the cheapest package is a staggering $999, which only nets you 1,000 MQMs, 3 MQSs and $999 MQDs. That’s just about the rawest deal we could envision for that little reward. Evidently exact pricing options vary from person to person.

For just over half that price, you could take a quick trip from Los Angeles (LAX) to Shanghai (PVG) and rack up nearly 13,000 MQMs in one go.

Or if you’re looking for a shorter trip, you could fly round-trip from Atlanta (ATL) to Seattle (SEA) for only $447 and still walk away with a nice ~4,300 or so MQMs.

Interestingly, the pricing becomes less egregious (but still offensive) as the packages rise in price. The second largest package demands $1,999, but includes 12,500 MQMs, 18 MQSs and $1,999 MQDs, which equates to paying $0.16 per MQM. That’s better from a per-point perspective compared to the baseline package mentioned above, which equates to a mind-boggling $1.00 per MQM. Delta also added a new top-line package this year, pricing out at a whopping $3,599. That might be worth it for a frequent traveler to upgrade to Diamond Medallion, but remember that if you aren’t flying enough to earn status organically you aren’t going to get as much value out of the perks.

So, what are your other options? You could consider applying for one of Delta’s cobranded Amex cards, meeting the minimum spend hastily and collecting a welcome bonus that puts you above whatever bar you’re aiming for. The latest offers for select cards are below:

  • Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express: Earn 35,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you use your new card to make $1,000 in purchases within your first three months and a $100 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new card within your first three months. Terms Apply.
  • Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express: Earn 40,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases within the first three months.

Alternatively: book a flight or two! We’ve broken down the valuations for Delta’s Medallion tiers here, and there are some pretty significant jumps that may be worth mileage running for. If you go this route, make sure you put the flight purchase on a credit card that’ll maximize your returns.

The perks one gains transitioning from Gold to Platinum, for example, are remarkable. You gain the ability to cancel SkyMiles award tickets without a fee up to 72 hours prior to your departure, which essentially makes any award ticket a refundable ticket — that’s important for those who appreciate flexibility. Moreover, the addition of Choice Benefits at Platinum and Diamond levels allows you to snag a few coveted Regional Upgrade Certificates.

Bottom line

We appreciate when airlines provide options to climb to a higher tier of status, but we’d definitely avoid this particular offer if at all possible. If you legitimately have no other options but to buy up for status via this program, make sure to put the purchase on a Delta cobranded Amex for additional points back on the purchase. If you have a credit card with a selectable airline fee credit like the The Platinum Card® from American Express or the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, you can select Delta as your airline before making the purchase and get a portion of the purchase back. Enrollment required for select benefits. 

The information for the Hilton Aspire Amex card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

For those looking to earn more MQDs before the end of the year, you may have luck flying a cheap business-class fare on a SkyTeam partner, as earned MQDs from those flights are assigned as a percentage of distance flown rather than price paid. You can also pay to upgrade any of your scheduled Delta flights between now and the end of the year, with the upcharge to move from one cabin to another boosting your MQD level.

Featured photo by Darren Murph/The Points Guy.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants in the first three months of card membership.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 50,000 Bonus Miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
  • Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants with your card within the first 3 months of membership.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
$250
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.