How to manufacture Delta elite status

Please see an updated version of this post, here: How to manufacture Delta elite status.


Most airlines offer extra benefits to their most valuable customers. This is usually handled through elite status.  If you fly enough with an airline, you can become “elite”.  Of course, not all elites are equal.  Most airlines have multiple elite tiers to differentiate their valuable customers from their really valuable customers.  And, of course, airlines offer the best perks to their highest tier elites.

Delta is no different.  They offer elite tiers ranging from Silver status (25,000 miles per year flown) to Diamond status (125,000 miles flown).  Silver status perks are only marginally better than those you get from holding a Delta branded credit card.  Diamond perks, though, are very nice.

Delta_747_BusinessElite

Delta’s top level Diamond Elites can choose global upgrade certificates as a choice benefit. These can be used to upgrade from coach to lie-flat business seats on international flights.

Where Delta differs from all other airlines is that they offer a path to top tier elite status that does not require flying.  Via certain Delta branded American Express credit cards, it’s possible to spend your way to high level elite status.

You might wonder why bother earning elite status without flying?  After all, the only way to enjoy those benefits is to fly, right?  True, but here are a few reasons:

  • For those with lots of Delta SkyMiles, elite status indirectly makes those miles more valuable. Platinum and Diamond elites can make award changes and re-deposits for free.  And, once you reach elite status, you can qualify for free domestic upgrades from coach to first class, even on award flights.
  • Spending your way to status can jump you to a higher level of status than you would have achieved otherwise.

Delta Elite Requirements

Delta published the following chart to show the requirements for achieving each tier of elite status as of 2015 (towards earning 2016 elite status):

Delta_2016_elite_requirements

Definitions:

  • MQMs: Medallion Qualifying Miles can be roughly thought of as the actual miles flown on Delta and select partner flights (although elites earn MQM bonuses and there are a few other ways to earn MQMs as I’ll explain later).  It’s important to understand that these are different from redeemable miles which can be used to book award flights.  MQMs are only used for earning elite status.
  • MQSs: Medallion Qualifying Segments are a count of the number of Delta and select partner segments flown.  Unless you fly a very large number of short flights, your are unlikely to earn elite status through MQSs.
  • MQDs: Medallion Qualifying Dollars are the sum total of your spend on Delta-marketed flights.

Explanation:

In general, to reach each elite tier, Delta SkyMiles members must earn the stated number of MQMs or MQSs and spend the targeted amount of MQDs.  In other words, its not enough to just fly far or often, you also need to spend a lot of money with Delta.

Fortunately, there’s an easy exception to the MQD requirement for Platinum status and below: spend $25,000 or more with Delta branded credit cards and the MQD requirement goes away.  Even better, several Delta branded credit cards offer MQMs for high spend, so it is possible to tackle both requirements (MQMs and MQDs) through spend without setting foot on a plane.  Unfortunately, starting in 2018, Delta has increased the spend requirement to $250,000 (across all Delta cards you have) to get a MQD waiver for Diamond status.

Rollovers

Most airlines require that you fully re-earn status every calendar year.  Delta is mostly that way too, but with one exception: if you earn more than 25,000 MQMs in a calendar year, any MQMs not used to reach status are rolled over to the next year.  For example, if you earn 70,000 MQMs, you’ll earn Gold status (at 50,000 MQMs) and 20,000 MQMs will be rolled over to the next year to give you a jump start towards re-qualifying.

Elite Benefits

Delta’s complete chart of elite benefits can be found here.  I’ve pulled out a few excerpts showing some of the best benefits:

Delta_elite_benefitsDelta_elite_benefitsDelta_elite_benefitsDelta_elite_benefits

The elite benefits I’ve personally found to be most valuable are:

  • Unlimited complimentary upgrades (when available, upgrade from coach to first class on domestic flights). Higher status leads to better chance of upgrades.
  • Waived same-day confirmed fees and waived same-day standby fees (switch to different flight on same day as ticketed flight). Requires Gold or higher.
  • Complementary Comfort+ seats (more leg room!).
  • Free award changes and cancellations.  This is huge because it lets me book awards when I see availability even if I’m not sure I’ll take that particular flight.  Requires Platinum or higher.
  • Regional upgrade certificates.  Puts you to the front of the line for regional upgrades.  This is great to use for flights where upgrades are most important to you.  For example, I use these for flights of about 4 hours or longer.  This is a choice benefit for Platinum and Diamond status.
  • Global upgrade certificates. These are fantastic.  Use these to upgrade from coach to business class on any international flight when upgrade space is available.  My wife is 4 for 4 this year in applying her certificates and getting the upgrade.  This is a choice benefit for Diamond status only.

Manufacture Delta elite status

Thanks to a few Delta branded credit cards, its possible to earn elite status entirely through spend.  The following cards make it possible to earn Delta MQMs (and MQD waivers):

Delta Reserve Business Credit Card from American Express
40K miles + 10K MQMs
40K miles + 10K MQMs after $3K spend in the first 3 months. Terms and limitations apply.

$450 Annual Fee

Recent better offer: None.

FM Mini Review: Excellent choice for frequent Delta flyers who can make use of SkyClub access and companion certificate. Also a good choice for big spenders seeking Delta elite status.


Card Type: Amex Credit Card

Earning rate: 2X Delta

Big spend bonus: Earn 15K bonus miles and MQMs (towards elite status) after $30K spend and another 15K bonus miles and MQMs after $60K spend per calendar year. Terms apply.

Noteworthy perks: Free domestic economy or first class companion certificate after first year ⚬ SkyClub access ⚬ Priority boarding ⚬ free checked bags. Terms and limitations apply. See Rates & Fees

See also: An Analysis of the Delta Reserve Credit Card

Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express

FM Mini Review: Excellent choice for frequent Delta flyers who can make use of SkyClub access and companion certificate. Also a good choice for big spenders seeking Delta elite status.


Card Type: Amex Credit Card

Earning rate: 2X Delta

Big spend bonus: Earn 15K bonus miles and MQMs (towards elite status) after $30K spend and another 15K bonus miles and MQMs after $60K spend per calendar year. Terms apply.

Noteworthy perks: Free domestic economy or first class companion certificate after first year. SkyClub access. Priority boarding and free checked bags. Terms and Restrictions Apply. See Rates & Fees

See also: An Analysis of the Delta Reserve Credit Card

Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card from American Express
70K miles + 10K MQMs
70K miles + 10K MQMs after $3K spend in first 3 months.Terms and limitations apply.

$195 Annual Fee

Recent better offer: 70K miles + 10K MQMs after $3K spend in first 3 months + $100 statement credit after Delta purchase in 1st 3 months. (Expired 4/11/18)

FM Mini Review: Good choice for frequent Delta flyers who can make use of annual companion certificate


Card Type: Amex Credit Card

Earning rate: 2X Delta

Big spend bonus: Earn 10K bonus miles and MQMs (towards elite status) after $25K spend and another 10K bonus miles and MQMs after $50K spend per calendar year. Terms and limitations apply.

Noteworthy perks: Free domestic economy companion certificate after first year. Priority boarding and free checked bags. Terms and Limitations Apply. See Rates & Fees

See also: An Analysis of the Platinum Delta SkyMiles credit card

Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express
70K miles + 10K MQMs
70K miles + 10K MQMs after $3K spend in the first 3 months. Terms apply.
(Offer Expires 9/19/18)

$195 Annual Fee

FM Mini Review: Good choice for frequent Delta flyers who can make use of annual companion certificate


Card Type: Amex Credit Card

Earning rate: 2X Delta

Big spend bonus: Earn 10K bonus miles and MQMs (towards elite status) after $25K spend and another 10K bonus miles and MQMs after $50K spend per calendar year. Terms apply.

Noteworthy perks: Free domestic economy companion certificate after first year ⚬ Priority boarding ⚬ Free checked bags See Rates & Fees

See also: An Analysis of the Platinum Delta SkyMiles credit card

Charts of MQM possibilities

The fact that there are multiple types of cards that earn MQMs, and that each person can have up to two of these cards, and that Delta Reserve MQMs are giftable leads to endless possibilities for manufacturing elite status.  The following charts should help:

Delta Platinum Card (consumer or business version)

The Platinum card is fairly straightforward.  MQMs earned with this card go to the primary cardholder’s Delta account. Period.  Not counting MQMs that are part of a welcome bonus, you can earn up to 20K MQMs per card, or 40K MQMs if you have both the business and consumer version of the card, and you spend $50K on each card within the calendar year

Delta Reserve Card

The fact that Delta Reserve MQMs are giftable adds many possibilities.  A common approach, for example, is for a married couple to each get one or more Reserve cards and gift the earned MQMs to one person or the other depending upon their elite goals.  While its possible to get more than two people involved in a game like that, the following chart assumes just one person besides you is added to the mix.  One person, with two Delta Reserve cards (consumer and business) can earn up to 60K MQMs in a year. With two people involved, it’s possible to earn up to 120,000 MQMs in one year!

Diamond Couple Unbalanced Strategy

Each person (or couple) should develop their own strategy based on their goals, expected MQMs earned through actual flying, etc.  Here, though, is a sample strategy for a couple in which one person wants to earn top tier Diamond status and the other is happy with Gold status:

  • Person 1 signs up for both the Delta Platinum and Delta Reserve card (one personal, one business).  Person 2 signs up for the Delta Reserve card and adds Person 1 as an authorized user.
  • Person 1 then uses manufactured spend techniques to max out the MQM bonuses on each of the three cards.  Person 1 would earn 20,000 MQMs with their Platinum card plus 30,000 MQMs with their Reserve card, plus any MQMs that come with the welcome bonus when signing up for those cards.  And, Person 2 would gift 30,000 MQMs to Person 1.
  • In total, Person 1 would earn 80,000 MQMs through spend and signup bonuses.  That’s more than enough for Platinum status, which is granted at 75K MQMs.  The extra MQMs would roll-over to the next year.

One reason I like this strategy is that it avoids the duplication of benefits that happens when one person gets two Reserve cards.  In the scenario presented above, both people have Reserve cards and therefore get the associated benefits (SkyClub access, improved upgrade chances, etc.).

Platinum Couple Alternating Strategy

Another option takes advantage of the fact that once you reach a level of elite status, you keep that status for the rest of that calendar year, all of the next calendar year, and through January of the year after that.  If you have the ability to manufacture spend quickly, you can give two people Platinum status by alternating who gets the MQMs.  Here’s how:

  • Follow the steps in the previous example for year 1.  Now Person 1 has Platinum status for the rest of year 1, and all of year 2, and through the end of January of year 3.
  • At the beginning of year 2, person 2 signs up for the Delta Platinum card and adds an authorized user card for Person 1.
  • Now, with all four card accounts, the couple would use manufactured spend techniques to max out the earned MQMs.  All of the giftable MQMs this time would be assigned to Person 2.
  • Just as above, person 2 should be able to achieve Platinum status during year 2.  In the meantime, person 1 only earns enough MQMs to reach Silver status and to hopefully roll over as many MQMs as possible into year 3.
  • At the beginning of year 3, the two people would use manufactured spend techniques as quickly as possible to max out the earned MQMs.  All of the giftable MQMs this time would be assigned to Person 1.  On this 3rd year, and as of Feb 1, person 1 will lose Platinum status until enough MQMs are earned again.

Conclusion

I’ve presented here the tools needed to obtain Delta elite status through spend. Whether or not you should do so depends heavily upon your situation.  Do you fly enough with Delta to make it worth it?  If not, don’t do it.  In my case I live near a Delta hub, and both my wife and I do fly Delta often.  As a result we have been manufacturing elite status well beyond the amounts described above.  And, yes, we’re enjoying the associated perks!

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 »

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BenT
Guest

Hey! I think you may have a typo with regards to the Reserve’s bonus spending when you first mention it. You say:
Delta Reserve Credit Card ($450 annual fee)

Major perks: Free coach or first class companion pass after first year; free Sky Club access; priority upgrades over those with same booking class and same elite level; free checked bags; etc.
Earn 10K MQMs first year via the usual signup bonus.
Earn up to 30,000 MQMs every year:
With $25K calendar year spend: earn 10,000 MQMs and 10,000 redeemable miles
With $50K calendar year spend: earn another 10,000 MQMs and 10,000 redeemable miles

But isn’t it 15K MQMs & Redeemable miles after each $30k in spend?

Tom
Guest
Tom

I need 12,000 MQM to attain PM 2015~currently DM. Already earned 30,000 MQM per your suggestion getting Delta Platinum Skymiles and Premier Rewards Business and Gold Delta Skymiles Business.
Company is currently using US/AA due to lower cost of flights and they book the flights. PITA!!

Any suggestions other than a mileage run? buy the MQM?
Thanks!

Niels
Guest
Niels

So, for rollover, I’ve read somewhere that the MQM’s you get from spend and/or bonus doesn’t actually rollover. Is that true?
Thanks!

Darth Chocolate
Guest
Darth Chocolate

In my opinion, people who MS for status are the lowest of the low. I am hoping Delta will put an end to this practice.

ricka
Guest
ricka

You are reading the wrong blog my friend.

Brian
Guest
Brian

Well good thing no one asked your opinion Darth. Long live MS!

Ryan
Guest
Ryan

Does this work every year, or just the first year?

trackback

[…] How to manufacture Delta elite status […]

trackback

[…] status, you can run up spend on credit cards rather than paying for flights (see, for example, “How to manufacture Delta elite status”).  You should also think about why you want elite status.  Lounge access, free checked […]

trackback

[…] Therefore, it allows me access to the Star Alliance, OneWorld, and SkyTeam. Not only that, if I am accumulating within an airline program, I’ll be able to redeem with their partners. Using Delta as the main point, it would allow me to fly on Virgin Australia and Virgin Atlantic with little fuel surcharges. Or if I were inclined to go to Tahiti, I now have the option of using Air France and Air Tahiti Nui. As Andy has researched, with Delta’s upgrades, it makes redeeming SkyMiles much easier. Frequent Miler has a great piece on buying status with manufactured spending techniques on Delta. […]

Brian
Guest
Brian

So for clarification, I have a plt card. I list my wife as an authorized user. Here are the situations:

A) I spend 15k, she spends 10k. Do I earn the bonus MQMs?
B) I spend 0, she spends 25k. Do I earn the MQMs, or does she earn the MQMs?

Thanks!

Azam
Guest
Azam

Thank you for the great post. I had a Delta Platinum Amex (opened in 2012) and then converted to a personal Delta Reserve in Nov 2012 (AmEx waived 2nd Annual fee so I kept it open for 2nd year and just canceled in Dec 2014). Can I open the Platinum AmEx and a Business Reserve and get both sign-up bonuses?

trackback

[…] Continue to qualify for high level Delta elite status for myself and my wife (see “How to manufacture Delta elite status”). […]

jediwho
Guest
jediwho

Is it possible to do this by getting business card as well? So, get 1 Reserve Personal, 1 business, and 1 platinum business and 1 Reserve business instead of asking the spouse to get a card?

crabby
Guest
crabby

Suppose you throw 2 or 3 small children into the mix (who parents need to sit with); there seems no point to even contemplating any of the above strategies… then you would need to concentrate on straight up redeemable miles. Do you have any suggestions?

Azam
Guest
Azam

Question about the “Diamond Couple Unbalanced Strategy”; how does Person 2 “Gift” the 30K MQM to Person #1 after making the $60K spend on their Reserve? Please explain. Thank you!

trackback

[…] How to manufacture Delta elite status […]

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[…] excel over the other carriers is the ability to earns MQMs through credit card spend. You can even manufacture elite status through credit card […]

jason matthews
Guest
jason matthews

Have you ever had an issue with AMX forfeiting points because the Business Card was used for personal expenses? From the terms and conditions that came with my Reserve Business Card, it looks like AMX reserves the right to forfeit points from purchases not used for business expenses.
Thanks-

Dean
Guest
Dean

My goal is to get economy comfort seating at a discount or complimentary for one international trip for the 5 of us.
Is there any sense in getting higher than silver status?
What is the discount typically offered for Silver or Gold on the economy comfort seats? Is it even worth the bother to go for it with 5 in my party?

Kelly
Guest
Kelly

Do you receive MQMs per dollar spent on the Platinum or Reserve cards or just the bonus lump sum once you’ve spent $25,000/30,000/year?

Michelle
Guest
Michelle

I’m new to this game, so please excuse if this sounds ignorant… If one person obtains Diamond with the max spend and gifting of max spend on another’s card, wouldn’t that person just be able to gift gold status to the other? And all in one year?

trackback

[…] How to manufacture Delta elite status […]

Carey
Guest
Carey

Looks like I will be about 1800 MQMs away from Gold now that we have until Jan. 31, 2015. I plan to travel about 6 times within the US in 2016 so will not likely make MQMs to make Gold on that alone.
Would it be best to remain Plt. and let the MQMs rollover and become Gold in 2017 by default, or find a way to get those last 1800 MQMs?

Han Man
Guest
Han Man

Anyone run into issues with getting awarded points for MS via gift cards? Per terms on Amex Delta Platinum card:

If in any calendar year Eligible Purchases on the Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card is $25,000 or more, the Basic Card Member will be awarded 10,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (“MQMs” as defined in the Delta SkyMiles Membership Guide and Program Rules), and if in that same calendar year Eligible Purchases on the Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card is $50,000 or more, the Basic Card Member will be awarded an additional 10,000 bonus miles and 10,000 MQMs. Eligible Purchases means purchases for goods and services minus returns and other credits. Eligible Purchases do NOT include fees, interest charges, balance transfers, cash advances, purchases of travelers’ checks, purchases or reloading of prepaid cards, or purchases of other cash equivalents.

mbh
Guest
mbh

It sure would be nice if bloggers didn’t assume everyone had a partner willing to play this game. I don’t know a single couple where both partners believe in all this. Usually, one is either totally opposed or at least thinks their partner is nuts and isn’t about to let him/her play around with the other’s credit!

Carey
Guest
Carey

lol – strike one more to the tally.

Sean
Guest
Sean

I am trying to get Silver status for just myself. I’m not sure if I understand the article correctly. With just the Platinum Amex card, if I spend $25,000 in the first year, will I get Silver status for myself? Or do I have to spend $50,000 on that card in the first year?

And after the first year, will I maintain Silver status in year 2 by spending only $25,000 on that card? Or $50,000? Or neither, as I’ll only have 20,000 MQMs in year 2 after $50,000 spend and will need to actually fly another 5000 actual miles to requalify?

Alternate to flying 5000 miles as mentioned in above paragraph, would I have 1 personal and 1 business so I’d have an extra 5000 MQMs from the other first year bonus, giving me enough for a 2nd year of 25,000 MQMs from spend? That plan, if I’m right, would then only work for maintaining for year 2. When year 3 rolls around, I’d need to spend $50,000 on one card and $25,000 on the other to get 30,000 MQMs for the 25,000 needed for Silver?

Thank you!

Ed Burnham
Guest
Ed Burnham

I need 18,000 MQM’s by the end of the year to reach Diamond status. I have a Platinum AMX and a Delta Reserve AMX. Can I get a Delta Reserve AMX for my wife and one for a business I own to get the required MQM’s for Diamond?

hwhwhw55
Guest
hwhwhw55

Out of curiosity, How many visa /master gift cards do you need to buy using the Delta AMEX credit cards and have them loaded to prepaid AMEX card? Does Target or Walmart allow you to load with that many gift cards? Or do you buy money order?

Amex RedCard can no longer be loaded with anything other than cash. Amex Serve or Bluebird may close the user’s accounts if they identify such a pattern (preload money with so many gift cards). It seems that MS does not guarantee success and is getting tougher and riskier than before. It is very likely the money may get stuck in the middle of the process.

mbh
Guest
mbh

Wow, you kind if look prophetic from today’s perspective!

trackback

[…] Therefore, it allows me access to the Star Alliance, OneWorld, and SkyTeam. Not only that, if I am accumulating within an airline program, I’ll be able to redeem with their partners. Using Delta as the main point, it would allow me to fly on Virgin Australia and Virgin Atlantic with little fuel surcharges. Or if I were inclined to go to Tahiti, I now have the option of using Air France and Air Tahiti Nui. As Andy has researched, with Delta’s upgrades, it makes redeeming SkyMiles much easier. Frequent Miler has a great piece on buying status with manufactured spending techniques on Delta. […]

trackback

[…] addition to opportunistic point hoarding, I’m continuing to manufacture Delta elite status through spend.  Despite blow after blow that Delta has inflicted on their (previously) loyal SkyMiles customers, […]

trackback

[…] it possible to secure top level elite status without purchasing a single revenue flight.  See: How to manufacture Delta elite status and Mileage Running from Home II (now with an exciting 2 player […]

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[…] airline and hotel elite status (e.g. AA, Delta, United, Marriott, […]

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[…] if you have a need for the miles and/or the benefits of the cards. For example, it is possible to manufacture Delta elite status and the Platinum card(s) is key in doing […]

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[…] For an overview of how it’s possible to manufacture Delta elite status through credit card spend, please see: How to manufacture Delta elite status. […]

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[…] The Delta Platinum card offers 10,000 bonus Miles and MQMs after $25,000 in calendar year spend; and another 10,000 bonus Miles and MQMs after $50,000 spend.  Similarly, the Delta Reserve card offers 15,000 bonus Miles and MQMs after $30,000 in calendar year spend; and another 15,000 bonus Miles and MQMs after $60,000 spend.  Additionally, the MQMs earned through spend on the Reserve card are giftable to others.  This makes it possible for high spenders can earn high level Delta elite status through spend alone.  For more, see: How to manufacture Delta elite status. […]

trackback

[…] 1986, but his post kinda sorta almost makes me want to earn Delta Diamond status.  Whether you manufacture Delta Diamond or earn it the old-fashioned way, it’s good to know the best uses of the benefits when you […]

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[…] won’t go into specifics but Frequent Miler has an incredible tactic for acquiring and keeping Delta status through product […]

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[…] suspect this won’t affect most readers as the spend involved is significant, but some people are/were generating high level elite status with Delta. If you’re in this situation you might want to consider another card that offers a spending […]

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[…] credit cards to manufacture miles and to manufacture Delta elite status (examples can be found here, here, and here).  I used to be under the impression that each person can only have one Delta […]

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[…] post “How to manufacture Delta elite status” steps through the details, but here is the minimum you need to […]

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[…] Delta status through spend on the Delta Platinum and Reserve […]

trackback

[…] high level status entirely through manufacturing spend with Delta branded credit cards (see: How to manufacture Delta elite status).  In this way I can enjoy the perks that go with high level status without any unnecessary […]