How I’m earning Delta Platinum status in half the time
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Last year I decided to move my airline loyalty from United to Delta. Right before the pandemic, I took a handful of Delta flights and found the experience to be consistently better than United. Plus, having hubs at New York (LGA) and New York-JFK is far more convenient than United’s Newark (EWR) hub given I live in Queens.
Most of my colleagues would’ve opted to match their status from United to Delta. Delta has an ongoing status challenge program where you get temporary status for 90 days and have to earn a set number of Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQM) or Medallion Qualifying Segments (MQD) and Medallion Qualifying Dollars (MQD) to keep status for another year.
But here’s the thing: I had a failed Delta status challenge in 2019 that prevents me from taking advantage of the program for three years. So, I set out to earn Delta Platinum status the hard way: by flying and with credit card spending.
While the coronavirus pandemic originally put a fork in my plans to earn status, the airline rolled out promotion after promotion that will help me earn Delta Platinum Medallion status by the end of the first week of July. Normally, earning a similar status tier through flying alone would take me until the end of the year, so I’ve effectively earned status in half the time.
In this article, I’ll run you through how I was able to earn status so quickly and discuss if I’m planning to shoot for Delta Diamond.
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How I’ll earn Delta Platinum status in just 7 months
As discussed, I originally made it my goal to earn Delta Platinum elite status at the beginning of last year. Being ineligible for a status challenge, I started flying with Delta and putting spend on my Delta cobranded credit card. Here’s how I leveraged these various promotions to fast-track myself to Delta Platinum.
All 2020 MQM rolled over to 2021
Last year, I wrote an article on how I planned to earn Platinum elite status by the end of 2020. That didn’t happen, largely because I was a bit too optimistic about business and international travel restarting. In turn, I finished the year with roughly 44,000 MQM and Delta Silver status.
Thankfully, however, these MQM were a blessing in disguise. Early in the pandemic, Delta announced that all MQM earned in 2020 would roll over to 2021. This means I started the year with the same 44,000 MQM in my account, putting me within close reach of Delta Gold status.
I earned this 44,000 MQM by opening a Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card and earning the welcome offer and first tier of the MQM spend bonus. I also had a limited number of domestic flights on Delta in 2020.
This 44,000 MQM was a way to start the year and made it easy to earn Delta Gold status (and — next week — Platinum).
American Express offered bonus MQM in 2020 and 2021
Another way I boosted my Delta MQM count last year was with an Amex Offer that awarded 500 bonus MQM for every $1,000 spent on Delta cobranded cards. I was able to amass a 3,000 MQM from this promotion when paying rent, car insurance and other expenses.
Amex and Delta are offering bonus MQM in 2021 too. Instead of earning 15,000 MQM for every $30,000 you spend on your Delta Reserve card, you’ll earn 18,750 MQM. While I don’t need this to earn Platinum status this year, I do plan to earn the first tier of the bonus to give myself a better shot at Diamond status.
Delta’s status accelerator makes earning status in 2021 significantly easier
Delta made waves this year when it announced a new promotion called ‘Status Accelerator’. Under this program, Delta flyers earn a 50% bonus on flights in basic economy and Main Cabin and a 75% bonus in Comfort+, Premium Select, first-class and Delta One.
This promotion applies to both paid and award tickets. I’ve used this to stock up on MQM this year for work and personal travel, which brings me to the roughly 73,000 MQM in my account right now. I’ll round this up to the 75,000 MQM required for Delta Platinum status when I fly to/from Milwaukee (MKE) next week for a work trip.
The status accelerator combined with business travel coming back will undoubtedly help many Delta elites requalify for status this year.
MY thoughts on earning Delta Diamond
If all goes to plan, I’ll have Delta Platinum status by July 7 — but what’s next? Obviously, I’ll continue to keep most of my travel on Delta to enjoy Platinum status benefits. I’ll also have enough travel and credit card spend in the near future to get to the required 125,000 MQM for Delta Diamond status.
But, there’s one major hurdle: Medallion Qualifying Dollars (MQD).
For some background, you need to earn $15,000 MQD in order to qualify for Diamond status. Unfortunately, the standard MQD waiver that’s earned with $25,000 in spend on a Delta co-branded Amex card doesn’t apply to this status tier. You must spend a whopping $250,000 on one of these cards to earn the Diamond MQD waiver — and I have no plans to spend that much money.
So, where do I go from here? That’s complicated.
I’d love to have the benefits of Delta Diamond, but I don’t foresee myself spending $15,000 on Delta flights even with the status accelerator. My only saving grace would be earning on partner-ticketed flights that earn MQD based on a percentage of miles flown.
Related: The ultimate guide to Delta partners
You can sometimes find cheap business class fares that earn a high percentage of MQD on long-haul tickets. For example, a one-way Z fare business class flight from Los Angeles (LAX) to Amsterdam (AMS) earns 40% MQD. The flight is 5,578 miles long, so you’re looking at $2,218 MQD even if the ticket is only $1,000.
So while I’m not hopeful that I’ll earn enough MQD for Diamond status, it’s possible if international travel reopens and business travel restarts. I’m going to keep my eyes open for low-cost partner fares that work with my travel plans in order to boost my MQD count.
What if I don’t qualify for Diamond?
One nice thing about Delta status is the fact that all MQM earned over your status level are rolled over to the following year. So if I earn 100,000 MQM, I’ll start 2022 off with 25,000 MQM in my account. This will help me requalify for elite status next year and make me feel a lot better about not earning Diamond based on MQD alone.
I was able to leverage ongoing Delta promotions to earn Delta Platinum Medallion status just over halfway through 2021. Generally, earning a similar status tier through flying alone would take me until the end of the year, so I’ve effectively used these promotions to earn status twice as fast.
I hope we see Delta continue to offer these types of promotions to drum up travel demand and help those traveling less during the pandemic requalify for status. Promotions like this go a long way for travelers and have made me more loyal to Delta through the pandemic.
Feature photo by Philip Pilosian / Shutterstock.com
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