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Delta Elite Status Overview - What's Important

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Do You Understand Exactly What it Takes to Earn Medallion Elite Status and Redeemable Miles With Delta? Do You Know the Best Ways to Redeem Your Miles?

November 2015

Many changes to the SkyMiles program have occurred over the last two years and they seem to keep coming. As a result, knowing how to achieve Delta Medallion Elite status and earn redeemable SkyMiles is pretty darn complex. And with so many ways to redeem miles, it’s hard to know a good redemption from a bad redemption.

We’re here to help and have outlined four important things you need to know:

  1. The Benefits of Each Delta Medallion Elite Status Level to know what you are working towards

  2. Delta Medallion Elite Status Qualification Requirements and how to get there faster

  3. How to Earn Redeemable SkyMiles to spend on upgrades, awards, services and shopping

  4. Ways to Redeem Your Hard Earned SkyMiles for the most value


An important first step is to become familiar with the benefits you enjoy at each level of Medallion Elite status. Travel loyalty leads to more comfort and luxury whether you are traveling for business or pleasure. Frequent flyer miles turn into free trips. A few benefit highlights of Medallion Elite status include shorter lines and faster service, unlimited Complimentary Upgrades, Rollover Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs), and for the highest level Elite members - Choice Benefits, lounge access and Elite status with Starwood.

We suggest you review the SkyMiles benefits page to clearly understand all of the benefits for each Medallion Elite status level. And click here to learn which of your benefits carry over and are recognized when flying a SkyTeam or other Delta airline partner.


Medallion status qualification is based on distance flown either with Delta or with a Delta airline partner between January 1 and December 31. The Medallion Elite status benefit year - the 12 months in which you actually get to enjoy those Elite benefits earned - actually begins on February 1 and runs through January 31 the following year.

SkyMiles members earn credit toward Medallion Elite status through a combination of Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) or Medallion Qualification Segments (MQSs), plus an annual spending requirement, which is measured by Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQDs).

Let’s talk about the MQMs/MQSs and MQDs qualification requirements to achieve Medallion Elite status. Here’s a nice summary from Delta to get us started:

MQMs - Medallion Qualification Miles - How do they work?

On Delta, Delta Shuttle, or Delta Connection-Marketed Flights you earn MQMs based on the percentage of the actual distance flown outlined below:

  • 200% of the actual distance flown - First (fare class F) and Business (fare class J)

  • 150% of the actual distance flown - Discounted First (fare classes P, A, G), Business and Discounted Business (fare classes C, D, I, Z), Premium Economy (fare class W on flights operated by Air France, Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia) and Economy (fare classes Y, B)

  • 100% of the actual distance flown - Economy, Discounted and Deeply Discounted Economy (fare classes M, S, H, Q, K, L, U, T, X, V, E) and Comfort+ (fare class W)

  • No MQMs earned - Award Travel (fare classes R, O, N)

When you travel on a flight marketed by one of Delta’s many airline partners and choose to earn SkyMiles for that flight, the number of MQMs you earn will vary. Click here to determine what you earn before you buy.

Delta’s Rollover MQM benefit:

MQMs earned above a member’s Medallion threshold level at the end of the year roll over into the next benefit year. This is a great benefit! Members who receive complimentary or gifted Medallion status are ineligible for rollover MQMs unless they earn more MQMs and MQDs than the gifted status requirement. For example, if a member is gifted Silver Medallion status and also earns 30,000 MQMs and $3,000 MQDs that year, 5,000 MQMs can be rolled over into the next benefit year since the Silver Medallion requirement is 25,000 MQMs and $3,000 MQDs. Rollover MQMs post to SkyMiles accounts by the end of January each year.

Now let’s look at MQMs earned through credit card spending (the enrollment bonuses occasionally vary):

Currently Platinum Delta SkyMiles American Express card members earn 5,000 MQMs and 35,000 non-Elite qualifying bonus SkyMiles after spending $1,000 in the first three months upon initial approval for the card. Members then earn 10,000 MQMs after spending $25,000 in a calendar year and an additional 10,000 MQMs and 10,000 non-Elite qualifying bonus SkyMiles after spending a total of $50,000 in a calendar year (calculated on December 31).

Currently Delta Reserve American Express card members earn 10,000 MQMs and 10,000 non-Elite qualifying bonus SkyMiles upon initial approval for the card and their first purchase. Members then earn 15,000 MQMs and 15,000 non Elite qualifying bonus SkyMiles after spending $30,000 in a calendar year and an additional 15,000 MQMs and 10,000 non-Elite qualifying bonus SkyMiles after spending a total of $60,000 in a calendar year (calculated on December 31). And you may gift each of these 15,000 MQM bonuses to a friend or family member.

MQMs from credit card spend should post shortly after meeting the spending thresholds and will be credited toward Elite qualification in the year they post. If you meet a spending threshold near the end of the year, it is possible your MQMs will post in the following year and will then count toward that next year’s Elite qualification requirements.

Alright, now let’s talk about Medallion Qualification Segments (MQSs):

  • MQSs are simply each segment of your flight (e.g. if you have one connection on a one-way flight, you’ve completed two MQSs)

  • MQSs are not earned on Award Travel (fare classes R, O, N)

And lastly, MQDs - Medallion Qualification Dollars:

MQDs measure the amount you spend annually on Delta and certain airline partner flights. You also earn MQDs for Delta Comfort+ and Preferred Seats purchases as well as paid premium class upgrades. You accrue MQDs for the base fare of each flight or paid upgrade and carrier-imposed surcharges, but not for taxes or fees. For more information on what spending counts toward MQDs, see the FAQs.

Two ways to avoid Delta spending/MQDs requirement:

  • The MQDs requirement for the qualification year will be waived if you make $25,000 or more in eligible purchases in 2015 with a Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express (that spending is tracked everywhere you see your MQDs)

  • The MQD spending requirement is waived for those having a foreign address

Now we have two ways for you to achieve Elite qualification faster:

  • Delta’s SkyMiles Status Match Challenge - If you hold Elite status with another major airline and want to swap your loyalty over to Delta, you can request the SkyMiles Status Match Challenge; Delta will ask for proof of your current Elite status level with a competitor and if you are accepted into the challenge, you will receive an equivalent Medallion Elite status and will be required to fly a certain number MQMs or MQSs within 90 days with Delta or Delta Connection to retain the Medallion Elite status

  • Receiving gifted Medallion status from a Platinum or Diamond Medallion member as a Choice Benefit - Diamond Medallion members are able to grant one lucky SkyMiles member Gold Medallion status and Platinum Medallion members are able to grant one SkyMiles member Silver Medallion status


While you can obviously earn redeemable miles by flying with Delta or one of Delta’s airline partners, you call also earn miles with any of Delta's many partners including credit card, dining, shopping, car rental, hotel and other partners. And redeemable miles can be used for award flights, upgrades and any Delta or Delta partner goods and services that accept SkyMiles.

Delta’s revenue-based earning structure significantly rewards those who purchase premium class seats, last-minute flights and other expensive tickets with more redeemable miles. And the higher your Medallion Elite status, the more miles you earn. Unfortunately, this change hurts the leisure, main cabin flyer who diligently books early to save money, especially those without Medallion status.

You earn redeemable miles based on the price you pay for your base fare and carrier-imposed surcharges as well as your elite status level. You do not earn miles on government-imposed taxes and fees.

Here is the redeemable SkyMiles earning structure:

  • General SkyMiles Members - 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

Click here for a more detailed look at the earning chart. Redeemable miles are not earned on award travel (fare classes R, O, N).

Partner-marketed flights that are not ticketed by Delta will continue to earn miles based on a percentage of distance flown as determined by the fare class paid, but the earning percentages vary by partner airline. We suggest you click into each airline partner to review the details. It’s important to know what you will earn before you buy!


Now that you've accumulated a stack of SkyMiles thanks to following our advice above, how should you spend them? Is this free flight, that requires tens of thousands (or even hundreds of thousands) of SkyMiles a good value?

While redeemable miles can be used for award flights, upgrades and any Delta or Delta partner goods and services that accept SkyMiles, using SkyMiles for Delta and Delta partner upgrades and flights is typically the most valuable use of your hard earned miles.

We value Delta SkyMiles at 1.5 cents per mile, which is the estimated value we would be willing to pay for SkyMiles if we could buy them for cash. It is also the minimum value we feel you should expect before redeeming your SkyMiles. And the value you realize for each SkyMile can vary greatly based on how strategic you are in your approach to redeeming.

It’s rare to find a redemption opportunity with one of Delta’s non-airline partners that is more lucrative than redeeming your SkyMiles with Delta or one of Delta’s many airline partners, especially when you find a discounted award flight or use your SkyMiles for international flights and premium class flights and upgrades.

But what if you want to redeem your miles for something other than a flight purchase? How do you calculate whether it’s a good deal or not?

Simply take the total retail value of the good or service and divide it by the number of SkyMiles required. Does it yield a value over 1.5 cents per SkyMile? If so, it’s a decent use of your SkyMiles and - the higher the value the better.

Using miles for award flights is typically the most lucrative use of your miles. So here is a quick calculation to determine the value per mile for a flight:

  1. Find an award ticket

  2. Determine the full price of that ticket if you were to pay cash, including all taxes and fees

  3. Add to that amount any taxes and fees you will be required to pay on the award ticket

  4. Divide that amount by the number of miles required

  5. If the value per mile exceeds 1.5 cents per SkyMile then you’ve found a decent deal and - the higher the value the better.

And, lastly, here are four great ways to maximize your redemptions all year long:

  1. Delta has strong award availability for short-haul flights with many in the 10,000 to 12,500 miles one-way level when booked 21 days prior to departure; we suggest you use the Delta Award Calendar and select “flexible days” when searching for a flight.

  2. Delta removed the award charts from their website in early 2015. For travel on or after June 1, 2016, the number of miles needed for Delta award flights will be based on destination, demand and other dynamics and award miles needed to upgrade under the Mileage Upgrade Award program will also increase, so if you have a chance to redeem miles and fly before June 1, 2016, we suggest you do it!

  3. While Delta’s online booking system is robust, we always suggest calling a reservations agent to explore award travel availability. While it will cost $25 to book an award by phone (this fee is waived for Gold, Platinum and Diamond Medallion members), Delta’s reservation agents generally have access to more than you see online and it may save you a lot of time and frustration. And you only pay if an award is successfully booked for you.

  4. Be flexible and attempt to book as early as 11 months out and remember while airlines typically open up award seat availability in the days leading up to a flight, Delta often increases the number of miles required on flights booked within 21 days of travel.

The Wrap-Up:

We hope this Tip provides the information you need to better understand the benefits of each Delta Medallion Elite status level, Delta’s Medallion Elite status qualification requirements and how to earn and most economically redeem SkyMiles. And we hope you learned a few tricks to earn Medallion Elite status and redeemable SkyMiles faster.

And when you fly one of Delta’s airline partners and choose to earn SkyMiles for that flight, you may be subject to a discounted Elite qualification credit and redeemable miles earning schedule if the flight is marketed by the partner airline and not by Delta. If the partner operated flight is marketed by Delta and has a Delta flight number (DL) or the ticket number starts with 006, you will earn full Delta SkyMiles credit. It’s always a good idea to check to see if a flight marketed and operated by one of Delta’s partners is also available directly through Delta for the same price. If so, purchase it with Delta to maximize your earnings.

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