The Delta SkyMiles Program
This is the second installment in a series of articles on Delta Airlines and their frequent flyer program, SkyMiles, with a focus on how to best utilize it to achieve your Travel Hacking goals. In case you missed the first part: Delta Airlines | Learning The Mileage Game
Let’s Get Signed Up
To score some points (SkyMiles, that is.), you’ve got to be on the team (SkyTeam, that is.) Signing up is a very simple process. Here’s the SkyMiles Application Form. When you fill out the form be sure to use your full legal name as it’s stated on your driver’s license and/or passport. There’s nothing like having to explain any differences to airport staff when you’re focused on getting through security and on the plane. Also, if you’re a member of Global Entry or Nexus enter your ID number in the appropriate Known Traveler field.
There’s also an opportunity to sign up for a Delta-branded American Express Gold card at the bottom of the application. The current offer listed is:
Would you like a credit card with your membership?
Apply for the Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express
- $50 Statement Credit after you use your new Card on a Delta purchase in your first 3 months*
- 50,000 Bonus miles after you make $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer Expires 7/6/2016
- First checked bag free and Priority Boarding on Delta flights
- $0 Introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95 Rates & Fees
There are currently better card offers out there right now but this is the default one from the Delta SkyMiles application page.
If you’re a member of Starwood’s SPG program you can enter your SPG member number and receive SPG points in addition to SkyMiles on qualifying flights.
Finally, if you sign up to be a SkyMiles member after you’ve taken a qualifying flight, you can still submit that flight for SkyMiles credit as long as the flight was within thirty days of your date of application.
OK, You’re All Signed Up. Now What?
In a couple of weeks or so you’ll receive an envelope with all of your membership materials. Your membership card should look something like the one pictured above. You’ll notice that the word “Medallion” is missing from the card. Achieving Medallion / Elite status is going to be our number one objective now that we’re a member. To do that we need to understand the qualifications and criteria of the SkyMiles Medallion Program. To get a free ticket on Delta, you’re going to need at least 12,500 SkyMiles for a round trip ticket and ~10,000 SkyMiles for a one way ticket. You can get those SkyMiles if you use a Delta credit card but you’ll earn them at a very low rate, whereas a Medallion member earns their points at an accelerated rate. But, I’m getting a little ahead of myself.
What Does It Take To Be A SkyMiles Medallion Member?
There are three components to SkyMiles Medallion qualification. If you’re in the US, you need to meet two of the requirements. If you’re outside the US, you need to meet only one. Here’s a rundown on each of the components.
- Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) – MQMs are based on distance traveled. It’s something close to the number of nautical miles your flight covered. Nowadays the SkyMiles program is revenue-based, meaning SkyMiles, not MQMs, are now earned based on the base price of your ticket plus any carrier-imposed surcharges, but not on any government-imposed fees and surcharges. MQMs don’t have any actual value other than for determining your level of Medallion achievement. You do get SkyMiles that you can use for Award tickets but they are different from MQMs. Yes, it’s a little confusing but hang in there and we’ll get you all knowledged up.
“MQMs are used to qualify for different Medallion / Elite status levels in the SkyMiles program. SkyMiles, themselves, are used for award travel, upgrades and other benefits.”
- Earning SkyMiles – Interesting data point about earning elite status with Delta. When you’re just a general member, you earn less points than an elite member even when you pay the same price for your tickets. It’s like the picture of the fish eating the fish eating the fish eating the fish… Silvers earn more than General Members, Golds earn more than Silvers and so on, up to Diamonds who earn the most of all. The specific earning ratios for each SkyMiles level of membership is detailed in the cart below. Remember these are SkyMiles that you can use for Award flights and upgrades, not MQMs that determine your Medallion status.
Here’s a Delta chart that illustrates how SkyMiles members earn SkyMiles and the percentage multipliers for MQMs based on class of service and a couple of examples:
- A General SkyMiles member who pays $500 for a First Class ticket that travels 1000 miles would receive – 2000 MQMs and earn 2500 SkyMiles.
- A Diamond SkyMiles member buying the same ticket would receive 2000 MQMs but earn 5500 SkyMiles.
Delta, Delta Shuttle, or Delta Connection-Marketed Flights
Eligible Published (1) Accrual Classes
Miles Earned per USD Spent (2)
Medallion Qualification Miles (3) (Percentage of Distance Flown)
Medallion Qualification Dollars (4)
General Member: 5 miles per USD
Silver Medallion: 7 miles per USD
Gold Medallion: 8 miles per USD
Platinum Medallion: 9 miles per USD
Diamond Medallion: 11 miles per USD
Discounted First: P, A, G
Business and Discounted Business: C, D, I, Z
Premium Economy: W (5)
Delta Comfort+ : W
Economy: Y, B
Economy, Discounted and Deeply Discounted Economy: M, S, H, Q, K, L, U, T, X, V, E
Award Travel: R, O, N
No miles earned
No MQMs earned
No MQDs earned
- Medallions Qualifying Segments (MQS) – This one is simple. If you fly somewhere on a non-stop flight or a direct flight with stops but only one flight number, that’s one segment. If you fly somewhere and there is a stop and you connect to a new flight, that’s two segments. SkyMiles members who live in non-hub cities can often qualify for Medallion status on segments alone.
- Medallion Qualifying Dollars – Another simple one. This is for US-based members only. It’s your base fare plus any airline-imposed fees.
In the US, you have to qualify with MQMs + MQDs or MQS + MQDs to reach Medallion status. If you’re outside the US, you only have to qualify with MQMs or MQS.
In the next installment, we’ll start to develop our strategy to earn Medallion status. You can find the first installment here.