I squandered 10,000 elite miles — reader mistake story

Feb 3, 2020

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Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Matthew, who met a spending requirement prematurely:

This past October, I took on a new job that requires frequent travel. Around the same time, American Express announced its revamp of the cobranded Delta cards with increased welcome bonuses. Living in New York City near two major Delta hubs (LGA and JFK) I figured it was the perfect opportunity to pick up the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card and work toward Delta Medallion status. I was offered a bonus of 75,000 SkyMiles and 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after spending $5,000 in the first three months. (This offer is no longer available, see current Amex Delta offers here).

Eager to earn the bonus and jumpstart my journey toward Medallion status, I began making a majority of my purchases on the Delta Reserve card. To my dismay, I saw the 10,000 bonus MQMs post to my Delta SkyMiles account in early December. I had reached the minimum spend requirement after about two months, and when January hit, those bonus MQMs disappeared.

Had I been more calculated and waited until the new year to complete the minimum spend requirement, I would currently have those bonus MQMs sitting in my SkyMiles account with a full year ahead of me to earn more. I spoke with both Delta and American Express, but there is nothing they can do. Unfortunately, I wasted this once-in-a-lifetime bonus (although the 75,000 redeemable miles are still appreciated). Lesson learned!

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I try to earn welcome bonuses quickly to ensure I hit the spending threshold by the deadline and to have the rewards at my disposal right away. However, meeting bonus requirements quickly isn’t always prudent, since some rewards (elite credits in particular) diminish in value when you earn them at the wrong time. Matthew’s bonus would have put him 40% of the way to meeting the MQM requirement for Silver Medallion status in 2020, but they ultimately had no effect on his status because he earned them in 2019.

Timing is also critical for those seeking to maximize the Southwest Companion Pass, where earning a welcome bonus prematurely can mean the difference between holding the pass for two full years and coming up tens of thousands of points short. If you’re applying for a card with a time-sensitive bonus or benefits that cycle with the calendar year, pay attention to how your application date impacts your plans to earn and redeem those rewards.

Unlike other airlines, Delta allows frequent flyers to roll elite miles over into the following qualification year. If Matthew had already qualified for status in 2019, the 10,000 MQMs from his welcome bonus would have been redeposited into his SkyMiles account and would have counted toward his elite qualification in 2020. However, rollover miles are only offered to those who reach at least Silver Medallion status; if you fall short of that threshold, then your balance resets to zero, and any MQMs you earned in the previous year are wasted.

Related: Credit card benefits based on the cardmember anniversary, not the calendar year

I appreciate this story, and I hope it can help other readers avoid making the same mistake. In appreciation for sharing this experience (and for allowing us to post it online), I’m sending Matthew a gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you. Please email your own travel mistake stories to info@thepointsguy.com, and put “Reader Mistake Story” in the subject line. Tell us how things went wrong, and (where applicable) how you made them right. Offer any wisdom you gained from the experience, and explain what the rest of us can do to avoid the same pitfalls.

Feel free to also submit your best travel success stories. If your story is published in either case, I’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure. Due to the volume of submissions, we can’t respond to each story individually, but we’ll be in touch if yours is selected. I look forward to hearing from you, and until then, I wish you a safe and mistake-free journey!

Featured photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.