Ugh… Delta increases Diamond MQD waiver to $250,000

Will the new Delta Diamond MQD waiver requirements mean that this lady won’t get upgraded to the Delta ONE Suite?

Delta sent out an email today to Delta credit card holders, or at least those with Diamond status.  The subject line is “2019 Diamond Medallion Qualification Change“.  The key change is this:

As a Credit Card Member, we want you to be aware that starting January 1st, 2018, the Medallion Qualification Dollar (MQD) Waiver for Diamond Medallion Status is increasing. The MQD Waiver for Diamond Medallion Status is currently earned by spending $25,000 in eligible purchases in a calendar year on a SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express. It is being adjusted to $250,000 in a calendar year.

What does this mean?

In order to earn top tier Diamond status, SkyMiles members must meet the following requirements within each calendar year:  Earn 125,000 MQMs (Medallion Qualifying Miles) or 140 MQSs (Medallion Qualifying Segments), and $15,000 MQDs (Medallion Qualifying Dollars).

MQMs and MQSs are typically earned by flying (although MQMs can be earned through credit card bonuses and spend as well).  And MQDs are earned by spending money on Delta flights.  An alternative to spending $15,000 with Delta each year is to get an MQD waiver.  Until now, that has been relatively easy: spend $25,000 within a calendar year across one or more Delta branded cards, and the MQD requirement is waived.

It is that last part that is changing.  Starting January 1 2018, $25,000 spend will still give you an MQD waiver that let’s you get Silver, Gold, or Platinum status, but you’ll need $250,000 spend to get a Diamond MQD waiver.  Or you can do what Delta really wants you to do and spend $15,000 or more on Delta flights.

Why does it matter?  Bye bye mileage running…

Currently many people earn Diamond status without meeting the MQD requirement.  For example, they might earn many MQMs by flying very long distance but inexpensive flights (i.e. they mileage run).  This way they earn the 125,000 MQMs required for Diamond status.  Then they would also spend $25,000 on Delta branded cards in order to get their MQD waiver.  Starting in January this won’t work anymore.  Those who want Diamond status will have to earn 125,000 MQMs AND either spend $15,000 flying Delta or $250,000 on Delta credit cards.

My plans and analysis TBD

I’ve been using credit card spend to keep my wife at Diamond status for years and I’ve recently done the same for myself.  What will I do now?  I’ll publish an analysis tomorrow.  Stay tuned.

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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  1. I know what I am planning to do – if they stay with this plan I will be looking into going elsewhere for my travel and credit card needs. I’ve been loyal to Delta and American Express for many years where it’s been less than easy to be loyal. (When you are in the DC area you are ALWAYS taking connecting flights regardless of where you are going.) The problem is that this is an industry-wide phenomenon so they will not be alone (United and American have already derated their programs), and apparently they have enough high-rollers (very, very high-rollers) to make this a non-problem for them. In other words they don’t care for the middle-level flyer who manages to make high medallion status. They are willing to forsake the flyers like me who don’t hit the MQD requirement but manage to stay Diamond through the waiver. (You do have to wonder how American Express is going to handle this news – will they abandon Delta? I know that I will have a much lower incentive to use their cards now.)

  2. Eventually, all of Delta, American, and United will do this. So all those Delta customers freaking out and threatening to move their business should know that Delta knows better. Some United customers all supposedly flocked to American once United joined Delta with revenue based status, and all those American newbies have since realized that American was just waiting to get them before doing the same thing–and then turning out to get markedly worse as an overall airline and loyalty program while United got markedly better.

    Do keep in mind that United doesn’t have to follow, since credit card spend doesn’t allow one to get a waiver to reach 1K, anyway. So Delta actually is following United’s lead here.

    The rat race is nothing more than the new normal. People are welcome to whine and move their business to another airline, but it won’t do much when the other airlines inevitably do the same thing.

    It isn’t about Delta not caring; it’s about Delta pushing people to actually spend money on Delta and actually rewarding those who do. Elite status is now all about who gives the airline the most money…not the most miles. Whether anyone wants to admit it, that’s actually good business. Which is why American and United are certain to follow.

  3. The AmEx adjustment is a surprising customer filter that has little to do with flying and is more likely a subsidization level put in place by AmEx (on tops of the card fees). The spending level is an offer targeting small business owners that can run business expenses and the wealthy who earn enough to spend that much on credit cards. The MQD 12 cent cost-per-mile expectation is appalling. They’re going to have to make GUC’s far easier to actually use.

  4. “Platinum is the new silver” is what we say in a market with not enough choices. I’ve been close to Diamond for years, but I would probably need the MQD waiver. I need to rethink my choices or find another airline and another credit card. AMEX has been good tome. I stopped spending on my Chase Marriott Rewards Visa card, in order to take advantage of Delta’s program. Chase was very good to me, and I earned a ton of Marriott Rewards Points. Marriott has treated me like royalty, and so I continue to requalify for Platinum, nine years after earning “Lifetime Platinum” status.

    Why is it that even when you’re doing pretty well with an airline loyalty program, you’re still only a heartbeat away from being treated like a dirt bag?

  5. Screw Delta
    I am a Diamond Medallion, but with this nonsense I will move back to United!
    Delta, in my opinion, is the worst frequent flyer program around.

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