Last minute Delta status grab

A friend emailed me the other day with a Delta status quandary. She’s only about 7,500 MQMs (Medallion Qualifying Miles) short of earning Platinum elite status. That means that she has earned about 67,500 MQMs this year through a combination of flying, MQM roll-over from last year, and Delta credit card MQM spend bonuses. For the latter, she reports that she has already earned 10K MQMs for spending $25,000 on her Delta Platinum card. So, what’s her best option for earning Platinum status?

Delta, in their supreme benevolence, will let her buy the needed MQMs for “only” $1,895.

That’s a terrible deal. Another option would be for her to book one or more mileage runs. These are flights that she would book and fly for only one purpose: to earn the needed MQMs for Platinum status. If she doesn’t mind countless hours flying around (most likely in coach), that could be a good option.  But good mileage run deals that fit with a busy schedule and that can be complete before the end of the year can be extremely tough to find.

I suggested the following alternatives:

1. Stay Gold and Rollover

My top recommendation was for her to stay Gold and rollover over 17,000 MQMs to next year. Unless she was sure that she’d be traveling a lot next year, I argued that this was her best option. 17,0000 MQMs would make it pretty easy for her to get Gold status again next year.

2. Complete $50K Delta Platinum card spend

The Delta Platinum card offers 10,000 MQMs each year with $25,000 spend, and another 10,000 MQMs with $50,000 spend. My friend had already earned the first 10,000 MQMs, so this proposal was to spend quickly in order to hit $50K of spend by December 31st.

There are many ways to spend money quickly and get most of it back (see: Manufactured Spending Complete Guide). I proposed that she lend money to the IRS. A site called Pay1040.com makes it possible to pay federal taxes with a credit card for a 1.89% fee. Let’s say she was $25,000 short of the $50,000 spend on her Delta Platinum card for earning another 10K MQMs. In that case, she could pay $24,550 in Q4 estimated federal taxes. With the fee, that would add up to just over $25K spend. When she files year-end taxes, the IRS will send back any amount that she overpaid. Her cost (besides tying up a lot of money for a while): 1.89% of $24,550 = $464 (a lot less than Delta wants to charge her). Plus she’ll earn 35,000 redeemable SkyMiles as well. If she is closer to $50K spend already, then her cost could be a lot less.

3. Upgrade to the Delta Reserve

Another option I suggested was to call Amex and ask if there is an upgrade offer for her Delta Platinum card. It’s possible that they’ll offer 10K MQMs for upgrading from the Platinum card to the Delta Reserve card. One downside to doing this is that she wouldn’t be able to qualify for the Delta Reserve signup offer in the future.

4. Sign up new for the Delta Reserve

Another option I presented was to sign up for the Delta Reserve card.   The personal Delta Reserve card currently offers 10K MQMs and 40K miles after $3K spend. The problem with this option is that even if she met the spend requirements in 2017, I’m not sure the MQMs would post in time to count for this year.  A better option would be to go with the current Delta Reserve Business Credit Card offer: 10,000 MQMs and 10,000 redeemable miles after first purchase.  If she signed up for this one soon, she’d have a very good chance of earning the MQMs this year.

Her choice: Rollover

She chose the easiest option.  By doing nothing at all, she’ll roll over 17,000+ MQMs into next year.  If she again spends $25,000 on her Delta Platinum card in 2018, she’ll get 10,000 MQMs from that spend (and a MQD waiver), and she’ll need less than 23,000 flying miles to re-earn Gold status.  And, I happen to know that she will be flying to Sydney next year for work.  That trip alone should net her close to 19,000 MQMs.  Yeah, she’s almost Re-Golden already.

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.

More articles by Greg The Frequent Miler »

Comments

  1. Another good post Greg. I am in a situation where I am just $550 of United spend short of Gold (I have the necessary PGM’s). Anything other than a mileage run to get that?

  2. I am in a similar situation with segments. Need 8 segments to hit PM again this year. Segment run at this time of year is too tough to do so just going to roll over and grind away next year. Wish I could transfer my 10 Southwest segments to Delta.

  3. We fly to Europe 5 times a year. We don’t have status on any airline. I could never do $250,000 in credit card purchases. The most I could probably do is 40K in credit card purchases in a year. Is there any program that I could get elite status on with that kind of lifestyle? Or am I out of luck?

    • Anton,
      Wouldn’t you get Delta status (or some other airline) if you book 5 USA-Europe flights that credit one airline, and at least with Delta, also spend $25,000 on one of their branded AMEX cards? I’m confident you would.

    • It depends greatly on what route you fly, but yes you should be able to earn elite status easily by crediting all of the flights to one airline. For example, nonstop Chicago to Amsterdam is about 8,000 miles round trip. Five such flights would get you 40,000 elite qualifying miles. That’s more than enough for the lowest level status with any airline and 10,000 miles away from mid-tier status. Both American and Delta let you earn elite qualifying miles with credit card spend. With either, $40K spend would be enough to get you those extra 10,000 miles (with Delta you’d only need $25K spend).

  4. One of the important decision points for Delta Platinum vs Gold is whether you need the ability to return miles for mileage awards back to your account without penalty up to 72 hrs before the award flight. I also like immediate Econ+ when booking as a Platinum (Gold must wait for their window). Those are my key Platinum benefits, and worth trying to get Platinum. (You should get more upgrades to First Class with Platinum over Gold, but Platinum upgrades for me are less often now, so it’s not as important a factor in going for Platinum.)

  5. I need 4 segments to earn Gold 🙁 with no business trips planned the rest of this year – thinking about completing a “Segment Run”, not sure if its worth the troubles during this busy time of year?

  6. Good article and I am in the same boat, 4500 shot for PM. I know PM comes with a lot more benefits but buying is to expensive and the other options to risky. Probably just roll them over and hopefully will hit it next year. I am one stay short of diamond with hh and will probably do a 90$ stay.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *