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You can now earn top-tier Delta status for life — but it'll cost you

July 23, 2021
6 min read
Delta Porsche transfer
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Many of the major airlines offer special perks upon flying one million miles. Most notably, you have the opportunity to earn a lifetime of elite status.

Up until now, Delta SkyMiles has only offered road warriors the ability to earn up to upper-level Platinum Medallion status. However, overnight, the airline quietly updated its program, now allowing frequent fliers to earn top-tier Diamond Medallion status for life. It also made some other changes, such as giving million milers higher upgrade priority.

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Earn lifetime Diamond Medallion status

The biggest benefit of achieving million miler status is locking in elite status for life. It gives you peace of mind during your road warrior days that you'll be rewarded for your loyalty well beyond the years you are traveling most and won't need to deal with increasing qualification requirements.

Previously, Delta allowed you to secure entry-level Silver Medallion status for life upon hitting one million miles, mid-level Gold Medallion status upon two million miles and upper-level Platinum Medallion status upon four million miles. But now, you can also lock in lifetime Diamond Medallion status after earning six million miles. That equates to flying around the world 241 times or to the moon and back 12-and-a-half times!

(Screenshot courtesy of delta.com)

Diamond Medallion status is the highest published status level in the SkyMiles program. It normally requires 125,000 MQMs or 140 Medallion-qualifying segments plus $15,000 MQDs each year.

Related: Is it worth pursuing lifetime elite status?

Perks of Diamond Medallion status include the highest complimentary upgrade priority, complimentary CLEAR memberships, Porsche tarmac transfers and more. Plus, as a million miler, you'll get some additional gifts upon qualifying, such as gift cards. TPG values this status at $8,420 each year.

By comparison, United's MileagePlus lifetime status program is a bit more generous in that it allows you to earn top-tier United Premier 1K status after earning three million lifetime miles and invite-only Global Services status after "just" four million miles. Further, United allows million milers to designate an annual companion to share their current Premier status. Meanwhile, American Airlines only offers entry-level AAdvantage Gold status after earning one million lifetime miles and mid-level Platinum status after earning two million miles.

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Related: Your guide to invitation-only airline and hotel elite status

Million milers now have higher upgrade priority

While adding the ability to earn lifetime Diamond Medallion status is great, in reality, very few people will benefit from this change. Luckily, that's not the only improvement Delta made.

Delta has updated its complimentary upgrade hierarchy, giving those with million miler status higher priority over other elites.

Here’s how Delta will now determine your spot on the upgrade list:

  1. Medallion status
  2. Fare Class Groupings: higher-priced fares are ranked above lower-priced fares per the following order — B, M, H, Q, K, L, U, T, X, V, then SkyMiles award tickets, then Pay with Miles.
  3. Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Cardholders
  4. Delta Corporate Travelers (ticket must include your employer’s Corporate Ticket Designator)
  5. Cardmembers who earned the Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQD) Waiver in the current calendar year
  6. Million Miler status
  7. Date and time of upgrade request

Related: The ultimate guide to getting upgraded on Delta

(Photo by Benji Stawski / The Points Guy)

Fast-tracking million miler status

Generally, million miler status is based on butt-in-seat miles, exclusively on paid flights. It takes decades of work. However, Delta takes a rather unique approach to calculating million miler status compared to the other airlines.

Rather than have a separate counter for million miler status based on lifetime flight miles, Delta simply counts your total Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) earned over the lifetime of the program. This makes earning million miler status a bit easier since you can boost your MQM earnings by traveling in a premium cabin or even by using Delta’s cobranded credit cards. The cards often award extra MQMs as part of a welcome bonus, but you can also earn bonus MQMs through spending:

  • Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card: Earn 10,000 MQMs after spending $25,000 on the card in a calendar year plus an additional 10,000 MQMs after spending $50,000 on the card in a calendar year. However, these awards are 25% more lucrative in 2021. Instead of 10,000 MQMs at these two thresholds, you’ll earn 12,500 MQMs — so a total of 25,000 MQMs.
  • Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card: Earn 10,000 MQMs after spending $25,000 on the card in a calendar year plus an additional 10,000 MQMs after spending $50,000 card in a calendar year. However, in 2021, each of those thresholds jumps to 12,500 MQMs.
  • Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card: Earn 15,000 MQMs for every $30,000 you spend in a calendar year, up to four times (so a total of 60,000 MQMs for spending $120,000). However, in 2021, you’ll earn 25% more at each tier — so 18,750 MQMs for every $30,000 you spend (up to a total of 75,000 MQMs for spending $120,000).
  • Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card: Earn 15,000 MQMs for every $30,000 you spend in a calendar year, up to four times (so a total of 60,000 MQMs for spending $120,000). However, this is 18,750 MQMs for every $30,000 in 2021 — so you can earn up to 75,000 MQMs by spending $120,000 this year.

Related: How to earn Delta Medallion elite status without flying

Even better, you can stack the MQM benefits by carrying multiple cobranded cards. For instance, if you carry the Delta Platinum Amex and Delta Reserve Amex, you can spend $50k on the Delta Platinum Amex and $120k on the Delta Reserve Amex to take home a total of 100,000 MQMs in 2021 and 80,000 MQMs in subsequent years.

Bottom line

Earning million miler status with an airline takes decades of work so not many people will benefit from these changes. That said, if you are an ultimate road warrior and Delta's your airline of choice, the ability to lock in Diamond status for life is certainly a welcome addition.

Although this shouldn't have any practical implications for now, there's one disclaimer you should be aware of if you're chasing lifetime elite status. Delta technically doesn’t offer “lifetime” elite status; instead, it provides “complimentary annual Medallion status.” While the chances of this happening are slim, it means that Delta could scrap its Million Miler program and end your status at any time.

Featured image by (Photo by Darren Murph/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 featured card

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

2 - 10X points
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

75,000 bonus miles
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

Annual Fee

$395

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
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.

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
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
    Excellent

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