If you’re a heavy Delta flyer and you’re on the fence about whether it is worth the cost and effort to achieve Diamond status, Delta has just upped the stakes. The introduction of global upgrade certificates a few years ago was enough to convince me that my wife needed Diamond status. And her continued success when using those certificates convinced me to go for Diamond as well (see also Manufacturing Delta Diamond, retrospective). The recent addition of free CLEAR membership for Diamond elites didn’t hurt the case either. Now, enhancements to their Diamond Choice Benefits will probably convince even more frequent flyers to commit to Diamond status. Here is a summary of the enhancements:
- Diamond elites will now have 3 Choice Benefits instead of 2
- Choice Benefits can be selected at different times. To me, that’s huge! Some benefits are best selected as early as possible, whereas with others it makes sense to wait until you need them.
- You may now pick the same benefit multiple times (excluding Global and Regional Upgrade Certificates and Delta Sky Club Memberships)
- You may now gift Bonus SkyMiles to others instead of accepting them into your own account (this can be a great perk for those who alternate years earning elite status with a spouse or friend).
They did take away automatic Sky Club membership for Diamond elites, but the addition of an extra Choice Benefit makes up for that (since you can select an individual Sky Club membership as one of your 3 benefits and still have two left over, as before).
Which Diamond Choice Benefits are worthwhile?
Here’s my biased list, sorted in order of preference:
- Upgrade certificates: 4 Global OR 8 Regional OR 2 Global AND 4 Regional. Love these — especially the global ones. Consider all of the cheap flights we’ve seen recently to Europe (often around $400). You could buy dirt-cheap economy tickets, but still fly in lie-flat business class by applying these certificates. Often you have to wait-list for the upgrade, but we’ve had 100% success in clearing the upgrades so far.
- Gift Gold status. To achieve Gold status, some people go to great lengths with end of year mileage runs, or they pay Delta outrageous prices for end of year MQMs (Medallion Qualifying Miles). This is a great alternative.
- Delta Sky Club Guest Pass (Credit Card Access). Many of us already get access to Delta SkyClubs when flying Delta thanks to having either Delta Reserve or non-Delta Amex Platinum cards. This new benefit will let us bring in guests while only cashing in one Choice Benefit. Note that Renés Points has found that this benefit isn’t working exactly as planned yet. Hopefully it will be working 100% by the time you need it.
- 25000 Bonus Miles. If you have a Delta credit card, then you can use miles to pay for flights at a value of 1 cent per mile, so this benefit is worth at least $250 in flights. If you book award flights, it is often possible to get 1.4 cents per mile or better value. At 1.4 cents per mile, 25,000 miles is worth $350 in award flights.
- Delta Sky Club Individual Membership. Those who qualified for Diamond status in 2016 for the 2017 elite year, should already have an individual membership, but qualifying for 2018 status and beyond will not give you club membership automatically. The only advantage of a Sky Club membership vs. access by being a credit card holder is that you get to enter Sky Clubs even when flying other carriers. Unless that’s important to you, you’re probably better off keeping either a Delta Reserve card or non-Delta Amex Platinum card.
- Delta Sky Club Executive Membership. You must first have an individual membership in order to select this option. As above, only select this option if you need access to Sky Clubs for you and guests when not flying Delta.
When to choose what?
Some benefits are best selected as soon as you earn status. With others, you should wait until you need them. Here’s a quick guide:
- Upgrade certificates: 4 Global OR 8 Regional OR 2 Global AND 4 Regional. These are good for a year after they are selected. So, wait until you’re ready to book a flight that you want to upgrade. Note though that if your upgrade is wait-listed, it is good to get on that list as soon as possible in order to have upgrade priority over others.
- Gift Gold status. Choose ASAP. If you achieve 2018 Diamond status early in 2017, then your gifted gold status will be good for nearly two years: all of the rest of 2017, all of 2018, and through January of 2019. Conversely, if you wait until December 2018 to pick this benefit, then the gifted Gold status will be good for only a month!
- Delta Sky Club Guest Pass (Credit Card Access). I would wait until you know you’ll need this benefit. After all it might turn out that you don’t need it at all and can select a different benefit instead. Once you know you’ll need the benefit, though, you should pick it ASAP since it is valid only until your elite year is complete (i.e. through January 2019 for the 2018 elite year).
- 25000 Bonus Miles. Any time. Personally I plan to wait to see if I need any of the other benefits before I select this choice. Of course if you actually need the miles to book an award, you should go ahead and do it.
- Delta Sky Club Individual Membership. I would wait until you know you’ll need this benefit. After all it might turn out that you don’t need it at all and can select a different benefit instead. Once you know you’ll need the benefit, though, you should pick it ASAP since it is valid only until your elite year is complete (i.e. through January 2019 for the 2018 elite year).
- Delta Sky Club Executive Membership. Wait until needed. Same logic as the individual membership above.
Choice benefit selections can be found here: www.delta.com/choicebenefits/
Delta’s words regarding the new Choice Benefits:
WHAT’S NEW AND IMPROVED:Starting February 1, 2017 for both 2017 and 2018 Medallion Year Choice Benefit Selections:
- Diamond Medallion Members now have the flexibility to select their Choice Benefits at different times.Starting February 1, 2017 for 2018 Medallion Year Choice Benefit Selections Only:
- Members who achieve Diamond Medallion Status for the 2018 Medallion year will now receive three Choice Benefit selections instead of two.
- Diamond Medallion Members will still receive complimentary Delta Sky Club® Membership, which must now be selected via Choice Benefits starting with the 2018 Medallion year.
- An Individual Membership can be selected by using one Choice Benefit or an Executive Membership can be selected by using two Choice Benefits.
- Diamond Medallion Members who have complimentary Delta Sky Club access via an eligible credit card will have the new option to select a Delta Sky Club Guest Pass to receive unlimited Delta Sky Club access for up to two guests per visit when traveling with the Card Member.
- Diamond and Platinum Medallion Members will now have the option to gift bonus miles to another Member’s SkyMiles account.
- Diamond Medallion Members will now have the ability to make multiple selections of the same benefit, excluding Global and Regional Upgrade Certificates and Delta Sky Club Memberships.