How Delta surprised me with Million Miler status this year

May 15, 2020

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Reader Questions are answered twice a week by TPG Senior Points & Miles Contributor Ethan Steinberg.

Earning million miler status with an airline takes decades of work, even for the most ardent road warriors, but the payoff can be quite nice as million milers are treated to a lifetime of elite status and sometimes additional gifts. TPG reader Robert wants to know how he earned Delta Million Miler status this year without taking a single flight …

I had 992,000 lifetime miles with Delta as of Dec. 31, 2019. Believe me, I was monitoring this status closely, and had trips scheduled in 2020 that would have gotten me to 1,000,000 miles. I have not flown since that date, for obvious reasons. Delta recently informed me that I have attained Million Miler status, and I got the red bag tags yesterday. My question is how could this have occurred without flying? Does credit card spend count toward miles for this status?


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First of all, congratulations to Robert! As a Delta Million Miler he’ll enjoy Silver Medallion elite status for the rest of his life, and he’ll also be able to select a gift from one of Delta’s retail partners.

So how did Robert cross this impressive threshold without flying in 2020? Each airline uses a slightly different metric to count towards lifetime status, with different earning rates for partner flights. Delta uses perhaps the simplest approach: instead of counting butt-in-seat flight miles, Delta requires you to earn 1 million Medallion® Qualifying Miles (MQMs) to earn lifetime status. You can earn these from flying with Delta or partner airlines, or from select credit cards. In fact, TPG Editor Nick Ewen wrote an entire guide to earning enough MQMs to qualify for Delta elite status without actually flying!

Delta offers the most diverse credit card portfolio of any of the major U.S. carriers, with an entry-level, mid-tier and premium credit card, as well as business versions of each. The mid-tier Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card and Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card are both currently offer 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles as part of their welcome bonus, plus the ability to earn more through ongoing spending. You’ll earn 10,000 MQMs after spending $25,000 in a calendar year, and another 10,000 MQMs after spending $50,000.

Meanwhile, the premium Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card and Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card are offering 10,000 MQMs as part of their respective welcome bonuses, plus the ability to earn more by spending on the card. You can earn an additional 15,000 MQMs for every $30,000 you spend in a calendar year, up to 60,000 MQMs (for $120,000 spending).

While Robert didn’t mention specifically holding a Delta credit card, this is the most likely way he would’ve earned bonus MQMs without realizing it, to put him over the threshold for Million Miler status.

Related: Credit cards that can help you earn airline elite status

Bottom line

Delta is the only airline to count towards Million Miler status based on lifetime MQMs instead of lifetime flight miles. This means that Robert was able to earn the last MQMs to bump him over the one million mark even without flying. Congrats again Robert!

Thanks for the question, Robert, and if you’re a TPG reader who’d like us to answer a question of your own, tweet us @thepointsguy, message us on Facebook or email us at

Featured photo by Alberto Riva/The Points Guy.

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