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Delta makes it easier to earn elite status without flying in 2021 — but is it worth it?

Dec. 10, 2020
6 min read
Delta One
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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.

Among the U.S. airlines, Delta has made it easiest to earn airline status while on the ground. That is courtesy of having — and spending — on certain Delta American Express credit cards.

With the ongoing pandemic keeping many travelers grounded, that becomes even more important for elite status seekers. Early this year, Delta announced a slew of updates including elite status extensions and Medallion® Qualifying Miles (MQMs) rolling over to 2021.

And now, there's further good news on that front. Select Delta SkyMiles-branded credit cardholders can now earn even more MQMs with the "Status Boost" benefit in 2021: a full 25% increase in MQM earn at existing Status Boost milestones. Offer ends 12/31/21.

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Let's take a closer look at this latest offer and if it's worth spending more on your Delta Amex credit card.

The new Delta Amex promotion

The Delta cards that are included as part of the elevated MQM offer are:

  • Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card
  • Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card
  • Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card
  • Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card
(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)
(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

Delta SkyMiles Platinum

In 2021, you can earn 25% more Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with an elevated Status Boost perk. Earn 12,500 MQMs for every $25,000 you spend on purchases on the Delta Platinum Card in the calendar year, up to two times. That’s an additional 2,500 MQMs on top of the 10,000 MQMs you already earn with Status Boost in the calendar year.

That means you can earn a total of 25,000 MQMs after spending $50,000.

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Delta SkyMiles Reserve

In 2021, you can earn 25% more Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) with an elevated Status Boost perk. Earn 18,750 MQMs for every $30,000 you spend in purchases on the Delta Reserve card in the calendar year, up to four times. That’s an additional 3,750 MQMs on top of the 15,000 MQMs you already earn with Status Boost.

So you can earn a total of 75,000 MQMs after spending $120,000.

This promotion activates right after a previous offer is set to expire on Dec. 31, 2020. Through the end of the year, you'll earn 500 MQMs for every $1,000 spent — up to 25,000 MQMs over the course of the promotional period. And remember, MQMs earned this year will roll over into 2021.

(Screenshot courtesy of Amex)

Related: Why this TPG staffer is chasing Delta elite status during the pandemic

Why this new offer may be appealing

If you're striving for Delta elite status, it just got slightly easier hit without having to even step foot on a plane next year.

Earning Delta Medallion status

  • Silver Medallion: 25,000 MQMs plus 3,000 Medallion Qualifying Dollars (MQDs)
  • Gold Medallion: 50,000 MQMs plus 6,000 Medallion Qualifying Dollars (MQDs)
  • Platinum Medallion: 75,000 MQMs plus 9,000 Medallion Qualifying Dollars (MQDs)
  • Diamond Medallion: 125,000 MQMs plus 15,000 Medallion Qualifying Dollars (MQDs)

These thresholds are what you need to earn in order to hit each level of Delta status. With the cards mentioned above, MQD requirements for Silver, Gold, and Platinum are waived when you spend $25,000 in a calendar year. However, you must spend a whopping $250,000 on the card to enjoy the MQD waiver for Diamond Medallion.

Related: TPG's inside look at how Delta is cleaning planes

Who should (and shouldn't) utilize this offer?

If you don't currently hold Delta elite status but have some significant spending coming up in 2021, these new offers could be a nice way to help snag Medallion status without flying.

Photo by Zach Griff / The Points Guy

This could also be a good way for low- or mid-tier elite travelers to unlock added perks, again without setting foot on a plane. Many Delta loyalists don't fly enough to reach Platinum Medallion status, but this new offer could provide that necessary boost. Jumping from Silver or Gold Medallion to Platinum includes a number of enhanced benefits — most importantly, Choice Benefits.

That said, if you're already sitting at the Platinum or Diamond tiers with Delta, these new offers may not entice you to spend more on your cards. Unless you envision a struggle to reach MQM thresholds in 2021, you may want to hold off.

Be sure to evaluate your own situation to know whether these bonus MQMs are worth pursuing.

Related: Delta further extends SkyMiles benefits, permanently removes award travel fees and more

Previously announced Delta card benefit updates

  • Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card cardmembers who earn a $100 Delta flight credit will have the expiration date for that credit extended to Dec. 31, 2021.
  • Any unused Companion Certificates (including those issued in 2019) from the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card and the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card will now expire on Dec. 31, 2021. Note that you must book and travel by the end of 2021 to use these certificates.
  • Unused Sky Club guest passes from the Delta SkyMiles Reserve card will now expire on Dec. 31, 2021.

Bottom line

This latest promotion from Delta and Amex makes it easier to hit MQM thresholds for elite status. It may be a compelling reason for cardholders to put spending back on a travel card, even when travel has been drastically reduced for the time being.

However, bear in mind that Delta hasn't announced changes to spending requirements. Once Jan. 1, 2021, arrives, you'll still need to earn the required Medallion Qualification Dollars next year, or spend enough on your cobranded card to enjoy a waiver of the applicable MQD requirement.

If Delta is your airline — and status is something you're still seeking out for next year — it could be worth diverting your spending from other credit cards. Just be sure to carefully consider just how much these MQMs will help your pursuit of Medallion status in 2021.

Featured image by (Photo by Ethan Steinberg/The Points Guy)
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.