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Delta makes it harder to earn Medallion status in 2024, adds new Choice Benefit options

Oct. 06, 2022
11 min read
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Delta Air Lines has taken perhaps the most generous approach to elite status during the pandemic.

The Atlanta-based carrier was the first to extend Medallion status back in 2020 when the world shut down. The airline's elite ranks continued to soar into 2021 and 2022, with additional extensions for all members who earned status way back in 2019, as well as in 2020 and 2021.

The airline also made it easier to qualify for status, with status accelerators and rollover Medallion Qualification Miles. The airline also permanently added the ability to earn Medallion qualifying miles, dollars and segments from award tickets.

But as travel demand rebounds, Delta is gearing up for the new year with some big changes to how you earn Medallion status and the benefits of achieving top-tier status.

"Our view has been that to build customer loyalty, there are really three 'P's. There are the people, and our people deliver incredible service. There's the product, and then there's the program, which is a lot of what we're discussing today. So when you look at those three elements that is really how we're thinking about loyalty," Delta's senior vice president of SkyMiles, Dwight James, told TPG in an interview about the changes.

Here's the latest.

A 33% increase in MQD thresholds

Delta will increase MQD requirements for most elite status levels. ANDREW KUNESH/THE POINTS GUY

The biggest change — and one that's sure to rankle many longtime flyers — is an increase in the number of Medallion Qualification Dollars required to earn status.

Delta is raising the MQD thresholds by 33% for all tiers excluding Silver Medallion, as shown in the table below.

TierCurrent thresholds for 2023 statusNew thresholds for 2024 statusNet increase
Silver$3,000.No change.N/A.
Gold$6,000.$8,000.$2,000.
Platinum$9,000.$12,000.$3,000.
Diamond$15,000.$20,000.$5,000.

The increased thresholds apply to those looking to earn or requalify for status in 2023 for the 2024 membership year.

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Delta is marketing these MQD increases as the first "Medallion qualification change affecting multiple tiers since 2015."

To defend the increase, James told TPG that the changes are "really a culmination of a lot of research with our customers." Pressed further, he added that "this is really about investing to improve the customer experience. Ensuring that the customers that are investing the most are also the customers that we're investing the most in as well."

As Delta famously said back in 2014 when it last raised the status thresholds, "when everyone's an elite flyer, no one is." The airline has seemingly determined that the elite ranks have been bloated with too many top-tier members, making it harder for its biggest spenders to enjoy the benefits of top-tier status.

With a $5,000 MQD gap between Silver and Gold status, I'd expect that many lower-level elites will end up with Silver status, thinning the ranks for Gold and above. This change will likely be best for those who will achieve Gold or Diamond status in 2024, as those tiers will likely be the two that are thinned out the most.

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

While the MQD requirement is increasing, it's worth noting that there are several ways to close the gap without spending more money on flights.

For one, Delta's cobranded credit card MQD waiver remains in effect and is not changing as part of the news. To reach Platinum, Gold or Silver Medallion status, the waiver can be achieved by spending $25,000 or more during the calendar year with eligible Delta cobranded cards.

To waive the Diamond MQD requirement, you'd need to spend $250,000 or more on eligible cards.

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Additionally, SkyMiles award tickets now count toward earning status. MQDs are earned at a rate of 1 per 100 SkyMiles redeemed. This means that an award ticket that costs 10,000 SkyMiles would earn 100 MQDs.

Note that only Delta-issued and -operated award tickets are eligible to earn elite status metrics. For example, this means a Virgin Atlantic award ticket would not be eligible to earn elite status.

It's also worth noting that Delta isn't changing how you earn MQDs from flights with partners like Air France and Virgin Atlantic. This will continue to be a great way to boost your MQD balance if you can find a reasonable fare.

Finally, one of the revamped Choice Benefits includes an MQD boost on your account — more on that below.

Related: Here's how to earn more Medallion Qualification Dollars by booking Delta partner tickets

No changes to MQM, MQS requirements

Delta is not changing the MQD or MQS requirements. ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

These new MQD thresholds are only half of the status equation. You'll also need to hit either an MQM or Medallion Qualification Segments milestone to unlock elite status.

The MQM and MQS thresholds are not changing as part of Delta's increased MQD requirements. For reference, you'll find the existing MQM and MQS requirements in the chart below.

TierMedallion Qualification MilesMedallion Qualification Segments
Silver25,000.30.
Gold50,000.60.
Platinum75,000.90.
Diamond125,000.120.

Just like before the pandemic, Delta will continue rolling over MQMs that you earn in a previous qualifying year that go above and beyond the threshold for which you qualify for status. So, say you earned 65,000 MQMs (and $6,000 MQDs in 2023), you'll begin 2024 with 15,000 MQMs in your account as you begin the year.

Asked about whether Delta considered scrapping MQM and MQD metrics, James said that "there were internal discussions" about the possibility of moving to a model like American AAdvantage or United MileagePlus, both of which no longer care about flight distance in the elite status equation.

"Ultimately, we decided on changing MQDs because we didn't want to do a wholesale change to the program," James said.

Related: Your complete guide to the Delta SkyMiles program

Delta overhauls Choice Benefits package

When you qualify for Platinum or Diamond status with Delta, you receive a pick (or three) from a package of Choice Benefits. Platinum Medallions get one choice from the package, while Diamond Medallions get the Platinum pick and three additional ones when achieving Diamond.

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

While these benefits have historically included things like upgrade certificates, Sky Club memberships and bonus miles, Delta is adding a few more choices and upgrading some existing ones to sweeten the deal.

Beginning Feb. 1, 2023, Delta will roll out six new benefits to the selections without removing any of the existing choices. These choices will be available to those qualifying or requalifying for Delta elite status in 2023 for the 2024 status year and will not affect members earning elite status for the 2023 status year.

The new benefits include:

  • A statement credit for a cobranded Delta American Express card.

The value of the credit will be $500 for Diamond and $200 for Platinum.

You must hold either the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card, Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card, Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card or Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card to be eligible for this pick.

Additional terms and conditions will be made available when this choice launches.

  • Expanded status gift program.

Previously, Diamonds could use a pick to gift a friend or family member Gold status, and Platinums could gift Silver status. Going forward, each pick will allow a Diamond or Platinum Medallion to gift two friends or family members a year of complimentary status.

  • A Delta Vacations discount, valued at $500 for Diamond and $400 for Platinum.

Of course, Diamonds who are cobranded credit card holders would likely prefer receiving a statement credit than a Delta Vacations discount.

  • An MQD head start.

As a Diamond, you'll be able to pick a $1,000 MQD boost for the next qualifying year. Platinums can select a $500 MQD boost for the following qualifying year.

This should make it easier for those who are just on the cusp to requalify for elite status. Of course, choosing this gift will come at the expense of picking something else, like an upgrade or Sky Club membership.

  • A $250 Delta travel voucher.

This represents a $50 increase from the existing $200 travel voucher that's currently available as a Choice Benefit.

  • A $250 sustainable aviation fuel contribution to help toward decarbonizing.

While it's great to see Delta rolling out new benefits, many of them likely won't be popular with Diamond Medallions. For instance, choosing a Delta Vacations discount or a travel voucher represent worse values than just picking a statement credit (if you're a cobranded card member).

That said, the MQD head start will certainly be appreciated by those who can use it to help close the gap when requalifying. Plus, the expanded status gift program will be nice for those who want to gift elite perks to others.

Related: The ultimate guide to Delta Choice Benefits

Redeem upgrade certificates online

This one is big.

In March 2021, Delta rolled out the ability to see if there's confirmable upgrade space using a global or regional upgrade certificate online while searching for a flight. Previously, members needed to call in and wait for an agent to manually go flight by flight to find availability.

While this new feature is a big improvement, applying upgrade certificates still requires a phone call.

Thankfully, that's changing early next year when Delta rolls out the ability to apply upgrade certificates on Delta.com. You will be able to confirm an upgrade online during the booking process, and this functionality will be rolled out to the My Trips page shortly thereafter.

This should definitely help alleviate some of the wait to speak to a phone representative for other flight issues, and will solve a major pain point for top-tier Medallion members.

Related: All the tips and tricks you need to use Delta Upgrade Certificates

Use your miles for bags (or don't)

Last month, Delta revealed that it would soon let you redeem miles for bag fees on many more flights.

That functionality is now live at most domestic airports, Delta said Thursday. The standard charge for the first checked bag is $30 — or 3,000 SkyMiles with this new option.

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

Delta first trialed this offering back in late 2019 for flights departing from Columbus, Ohio, and Greensboro, North Carolina; however, it put the program on pause for much of the pandemic. Now, the airline is ready to expand the offering nationwide.

Compared to the cash cost of $30, it's likely not worth redeeming your miles well below TPG's valuation of 1.41 cents per mile.

And of course, it's worth noting that all Medallion members enjoy waived checked bag fees, even though Delta is announcing this new functionality as part of a press release focused on changes to elite status.

Related: Delta baggage fees and how to avoid paying them

Bottom line

There are no two ways about it. Earning Medallion elite status in 2024 and beyond is going to be considerably harder for those aiming to hit Gold and above.

This move will almost certainly help Delta redistribute flyers across the four elite tiers, and it'll (hopefully) make it easier for top-tier members to enjoy status benefits like complimentary upgrades more frequently.

It shouldn't bring much of a change for those who put a ton of spending on their cobranded credit card, but for everyone else, Delta is joining the likes of American and United in making it harder to achieve status.

Once you do cross the thresholds, you'll be rewarded with a few additional picks from the Choice Benefits package. But overall, many flyers will likely be disappointed with Delta's latest move.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Delta doesn't think the changes are so negative. "It's not just about an increase in MQDs," James said.

"I think if we look at it that way, I think it could be a one-sided view. I think we have to look at it holistically and look at all the other investments that a lot of the customers will receive from this," he added.

Featured image by ZACH GRIFF/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.

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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.
4 / 5
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10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
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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.

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  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
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  • 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