This is part three in our continuing series focused on the Delta SkyMiles Program. Previous articles are:
So here we are. We’re signed up for the Delta SkyMiles program and we’ve reviewed how it works. Now it’s time to set a goal, layout a strategy and start working on achieving Medallion Status with Delta. Here’s the basic program requirements and benefits so you can have them handy as you read through this article. The entire list is quite long and can be viewed here on the Delta website.
Setting Our Delta Medallion Goal
I’m starting right out and eliminating Silver Medallion as a goal. Yes, it gets you a few benefits that rank you above a simple SkyMiles member. But the benefits are pretty spartan: Unlimited Complimentary First Class Upgrades that you can use 24 hours prior to departure and 2 additional miles per dollar spent on Delta fares less taxes and non-airline fees. Let’s set our sights a bit higher and go for Gold and above. The first year of qualification is always the hardest as you have no existing status to leverage to earn more miles.
Your Medallion goal is most dependent on these factors:
- How much you plan to fly by December 31st of the year your plan starts. (Helps determine actual miles flown)
- What class of fare you will purchase most often. (Helps determine what bonuses you will achieve via class of service)
- What credit cards you have or will have to purchases your tickets. (Helps determine what MQMs you may earn as bonuses)
- What city is your home airport located in? (Helps determine how many segments you will fly)
- Do you have status with another airline? (Helps determine if you can do a status match or challenge)
Unless your travel schedule in year one is going to be vast and extensive, most people will be best served by setting Gold or Platinum Medallion as their first year’s goal. We’re also assuming that you are starting with no rollover MQMs in your account. So the task at hand is how to accumulate 50,000 to 75,000 MQMs (Medallion Qualification Miles) or 60 to 100 MQSs (Medallion Qualification Segments) plus $6,000 to $9,000 MQDs (Medallion Qualification Dollars) if you’re based in the United States.
Setting an Initial Course for Medallion
If you live in a secondary market like Chattanooga or Birmingham, it won’t be that hard to qualify based on segments alone. That’s 15 roundtrips or 25 roundtrips through Atlanta in a year or a little more than 1 or 2 trips per month. The hard part will be accumulating enough MQDs to get the job done. You’d need to average $400 per trip to qualify for Gold and $360 per trip to qualify for Platinum. Remember these are MQDs so it’s always less than the published fare less taxes and non-airline fees. Here’s an example:
The fare prices out at $765.20, but the basis used to calculate the amount of MQDs you will earn is $669.77. You will also earn 3416 MQMs on this trip. That works out to 15 trips just like this to qualify for Gold Medallion and 22 trips for Platinum. Your total spend would be more than $10,000 so you’d qualify easily for Gold or Platinum in terms of MQSs. You’d also earn a minimum of 50,250 SkyMiles for the 15 trips and 73,700 for the 22 trips. You’d actually earn more since you’d qualify for Silver Medallion halfway through the 15 trips which increases your earnings by 2 SkyMiles for every dollar you spent and then increases it by 3 SkyMiles for every dollar you spent once you reach Gold Medallion. A bit confused? Me too, and I’m the one writing the article.
Either of these options will get you there, but it’s not an optimized strategy. Let’s see if we can do a little better.
Get a Jump Start on MQMs with Delta AMEX Cards
One of the best ways to get a jump start on making Medallion is to find a credit card that helps you earn MQMs. Without MQMs, the only way to make Medallion is via segments, and that means lots of BIS (Butts In Seats) miles. American Express offers several Delta co-branded cards that have MQM bonuses built into their benefits.
I own the Delta Reserve Card. I’m a “lifetime” Gold Medallion as I cleared 2 million MQMs a long time ago, but I don’t think I’ll ever make 4 million MQMs to qualify for “lifetime” Platinum status and that’s perfectly fine. Delta has changed the “lifetime” language in recent years. It now says, “Complimentary Annual” Gold Medallion status. That’s the kind of change only a Delta lawyer or revenue enhancement manager could love. Anyway, I got the Reserve Card because the $450 fee is a wash with the free access to Delta SkyClubs that comes with it, and my flying habits have changed so I am no longer guaranteed to make Diamond Medallion every year.
The Platinum and Reserve Cards will earn you a quick 5,000 or 10,000 MQMs after you spend $1,000 in a calendar year. That’s a sure thing for anyone that qualifies for the card. With an additional 10,000 – 30,000 MQMs available depending on your spending habits, the choice should be easy to make. If your average monthly card spend is between $4,200 and $5,000, you’ll make all of the annual MQM bonuses. That translates to 25,000 MQMs for the Platinum AMEX card and 40,000 MQMs for the Reserve card. Right there, you qualify for Silver Medallion or will be just 10,000 MQMs short of Gold Medallion, all without flying one single mile!
Going For Gold… or Platinum
Let’s move forward on strategy and tactics with the assumption you’ve gone with the Delta Reserve Card and your spending will qualify you for all of the MQM bonuses. You only need 10,000 MQMs for Gold Medallion and 35,000 MQM for Platinum. You’ve also met the MQD waiver requirements by spending $25,000 with your card within the calendar year. Let’s take a look at other ways to optimize our MQM earning strategy.
The SkyMiles program offers MQM bonuses on certain fares. Depending on your circumstances (company travel expense policies, budget, etc.), you may be able to buy a higher class of service for very little difference in cost. When the Delta SkyMiles program went revenue-based a couple of years ago, they also told their investors that they were going to significantly increase the number of First and Business/Delta One seats that are paid for, as opposed to given away to Medallions. Their near term goal is to hit 70% FCM (First Class Monetization) within the next 18 months.
Sticking with the Chattanooga – Denver route we were using earlier, there is a $130 fare difference between Main Cabin and First Class on all four legs of the trip. Not only do you get more direct in-flight benefits, you also get a 50% bonus on the number of MQMs you’ll earn for the flight. The Main Cabin, K Class fare will earn you around 2600 MQMs round trip. The First Class, P Class fare will earn you around 3900 MQMs round trip. In this case, you get a lot of value for your $130 fare difference. Using these calculations you’ll make Gold or Platinum Medallion with ease:
- Gold Medallion booking Main Cabin – 4 trips
- Gold Medallion booking Discounted First Class – 2.5 trips
- Gold Medallion booking Non-Discounted First Class – less than 2 trips
- Platinum Medallion booking Main Cabin – 10 trips
- Platinum Medallion booking Discounted First Class – 6.5 trips
- Platinum Medallion booking Non-Discounted First Class – 3.5 trips
Using Status Match to Make Medallion
The last item to consider is any current status you have on another airline. All of the airlines would love to have another airlines’ frequent flyers move their spend away from the competition. Delta is no different and has a well-documented program to accommodate anyone ready to make the switch. The details of Delta’s status match program vary based on which airline you have elite status with, but the qualifications are consistent.
First, confirm your comparable status with the SkyMiles program:
Delta SkyMiles Medallion Status
American AAdvantage Status
Alaska Mileage Plan Status
MVP Gold 75K
United Mileage Plus Status
Premier Platinum / Platinum 1K
If you have status with another airline not listed above, you may still be eligible for this challenge. Please submit your information below to confirm eligibility.
Delta SkyMiles Medallion Status
Flight Requirements on Delta or Delta Connection (excludes MQMs / MQSs earned on partners)
6,250 MQMs or 8 MQSs
12,500 MQMs or 15 MQSs
18,750 MQMs or 25 MQSs
After reading this article you should be well equipped to earn Medallion status on Delta. Make sure you review the 5 critical criteria listed above and be completely honest about your spending habits, flight frequency and other factors before you start. Equipped with all of this information you should be a newly-minted Delta SkyMiles Medallion within a year.
Delta and Amex also offer a few other credit cards that offer bonus miles upon sign-up and first use that may appeal to you: