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Closing the gap: My plan to qualify for Delta Diamond status this year

Aug. 29, 2021
8 min read
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As discussed in previous articles, I'm a Delta Platinum Medallion member. Most of my flights this year have been on Delta or its SkyTeam partners, and various promotions like the 2020 Medallion Qualifying Mile (MQM) rollover, Status Accelerator and bonus MQM earning on Delta cobranded credit cards helped me earn Platinum by the beginning of July.

Now with just over four months left in 2021, I am planning to go for top-tier Diamond status. In theory, I am close to the status now and can reach the MQM and MQD requirements so long as I plan my future travel accordingly. I think the extra effort is worth it for Choice Benefits and higher upgrade priority — something that may be useful after Delta's most recent round of status extensions.

Here, I'll show you my current progress toward Delta Diamond and discuss how I plan to close the MQM and MQD gap. I'll also discuss why I think it's worth going out of my way to earn Diamond, even when Platinum is a great airline elite status to hold.

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Why I'm earning Delta Diamond status

Delta Diamond status makes it easier to get upgraded to Delta One. (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

I've long been a fan of Delta Air Lines — its NYC route network is great, it has a solid on-time performance and its in-flight product is good. Moving up to Delta's top-tier status would give me more benefits on my frequent flights with Delta, including the ability to select Choice Benefits.

Delta Diamond members get to select three Choice Benefits every year they requalify for benefits. When I qualify, I plan to select these benefits:

Depending on how (and how often) I use these benefits, they have the potential to be worth thousands of dollars. I plan to use the Global Upgrade Certificates on long-haul 2022 travel to Europe and Asia on routes with Delta One Suites business class. Further, the Sky Club guest access will be great for when I travel with friends and family.

Additionally, higher upgrade priority will come in handy next year. Delta extended elite status for all existing elites through 2022, and will roll over all 2021 MQM to 2022. This means there will be a ton of Delta elites, and upgrades will be more competitive than in past years. Having top priority for upgrades will be extremely useful.

Related: What is Delta Air Lines elite status worth in 2021?

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Closing the gap for Delta Diamond status

I'll leverage partner flights to quickly earn MQD. (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

As of writing this article, I am sitting on a stash of 99,576 Medallion Qualifying Miles and $4,950 Medallion Qualifying Dollars. This puts me roughly 25,500 MQM and $10,000 MQD away from earning Delta Diamond. I have plans to meet this threshold without breaking the bank on two upcoming international trips and a handful of domestic trips.

Let's take a closer look at my plans.

Upcoming Delta domestic trips

As of writing this article, I have a four trips planned with Delta. Here's a quick breakdown of each trip and how many MQM and MQD I'll earn for each trip. Note that I am factoring in the Status Accelerator promotion for each ticket.

  • LGA-ORD-LGA, economy — 2,200 MQM, $232 MQD
  • JFK-SLC-JFK, economy — 5,968 MQM, $420 MQD
  • LGA-MIA-LGA, economy — 3,274 MQM, $206 MQD
  • LGA-ORD, first class — 1,283 MQM, $367 MQD

This means that I will earn 12,725 MQM and $1,225 MQD from already booked travel. This brings me to 112,301 MQM and $6,175 MQD, meaning I still need to account for 12,699 MQM and $8,825 MQD by the end of the year. There's a chance some of this will be taken care of with work travel and other domestic trips, but I've made a plan to make up at least 90% of both requirements.

Leveraging partner trips for more MQD

So that I don't need to spend $5,000+ on Delta first class tickets (with the 75% bonus), I've devised a plan to earn MQM and MQD quickly with partner flights. SkyTeam and non-alliance partner flights earn MQM and MQD based on a percentage of miles flown, which means that you can stock up on MQD at a discount if you find inexpensive partner flights in premium cabins.

I started exploring different partner options and found a way to earn the bulk of the miles by booking a trip to Europe. It would be a non-traditional routing, however, as the flights take me through Los Angeles and Mexico. I'd start by booking this Delta round-trip ticket between New York-JFK and Los Angeles (LAX) it would earn 7,426 MQM and $360 MQD with the Status Accelerator promotion.

(Screenshot courtesy of google.com/flights)

From there, I'd continue on to Madrid (MAD) via Mexico City (MEX) with Aeromexico for $1,827.15 round-trip in business class. This fare earns 150% MQM and 40% MQD and the trip is 14,390 miles round-trip. This earns 21,585 MQM and $5,756 MQD. Together with the LAX round-trip and my existing year-end balance, I'll have a total of 133,886 MQM and $12,291 MQD.

(Screenshot courtesy of google.com/flights)

Then, I would take my usual year-end trip from New York-JFK to Prague (PRG) on this Air France premium economy ticket. It costs $994, but earns 150% MQM and 30% MQD. The itinerary is 8,332 miles round-trip, so it earns $12,498 MQM and $2,500 MQD. This brings my MQD count to $14,791.

(Screenshot courtesy of google.com/flights)

I can make up for the remaining $209 MQD by booking my flight home to Chicago for the holidays with Delta. I would earn $320 MQD by booking this round-trip ticket from New York to Chicago, and would have myself well over the qualification threshold.

(Screenshot courtesy of google.com/flights)

This means I would spend a total of $3,363 for roughly $8,936 MQD, which would give me Diamond status through 2022. I need to take the trips to Prague and Chicago anyway, and the trip to Madrid would let me visit a new city and visit friends in Los Angeles along the way. Plus, I can book some of it with flight credits and cover some expenses by redeeming Capital One points at a fixed value toward these flights.

Related: How to earn Delta Medallion elite status without flying in 2021

Bottom line

Qualifying for Delta Diamond Medallion elite status isn't easy, but you can get there quicker and less expensively when you leverage partner flights. Consider doing something similar to close the gap on your Delta elite status this year. Also remember that you can earn up to 75% bonus MQM and MQD with the Status Accelerator promotion, and that award tickets earn MQM and MQD through 2022.

Feature photo by Theodorie / Shutterstock.com

Featured image by (Photo by Theodorie / Shutterstock.com)
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.

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TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
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Best card for premium perks while traveling
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

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • 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.

    740-850
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Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023