A limited time opportunity to buy Delta Platinum elite status

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Delta Medallion Platinum Elite Status offers far better chances than Silver or Gold status of free domestic upgrades to first class. And, when you’re really lucky (as I was in this photo), you’ll find yourself on an internationally configured plane with lie-flat seats in first class (AKA Delta One).

Amex and Delta are offering unprecedented welcome bonuses for their ultra-premium Delta Reserve cards.  In the past it has frequently been possible to get 10,000 MQMs (Medallion Qualifying Miles) when signing up for the Delta Reserve card.  Today, though, the Delta Reserve welcome bonuses include 20,000 MQMs.  MQMs are the primary currency you need to achieve Delta Medallion elite status.  With the welcome bonus offers available at the time of this writing, getting meaningful Delta elite status is easy… if you don’t mind spending some cash.

I’ll explain the full deal below, but if you prefer to listen to me talk about the deal, check out the latest Frequent Miler on the Air episode at around the 50 minute mark.  You can find Frequent Miler on the Air, in audio format, on your favorite Podcast platform, or subscribe to our YouTube channel.  The following embedded video is already setup to play at the point where Nick and I discuss this Delta opportunity:

Background

The image above shows the requirements for reaching each level of Delta elite status.  Every level of status offers basic perks like free domestic upgrades (when available), premium seat selection, a free checked bag, etc.  Higher levels of status make upgrades more and more likely.  Also note the following details:

  • $25,000 spend on any Delta Platinum or Delta Reserve cards within a calendar year will get you a MQD waiver which means that you don’t need to earn Medallion Qualifying Dollars (spend on Delta flights) to reach elite status up to Platinum status.
  • Diamond Status requires $250,000 spend across one or more Delta cards in order to get a MQD Waiver.  Due to that very high requirement, the rest of this post focuses on earning Platinum status instead.

Platinum status has several advantages over Gold status, including:

  • Better chance of first class upgrades
  • Upgrade to Comfort Plus immediately after booking
  • Choice Benefits: Pick one benefit each year such as 4 regional upgrade certificates (to make first class upgrades much more likely) or 20,000 redeemable SkyMiles.
  • Free award changes and redeposits.  This last benefit is huge because it makes it risk-free to book awards prospectively even if you’re not sure if you’ll be able to take the trip.

40,000 MQMs from Welcome Bonuses

If you’ve never had the Delta Reserve card before, you could sign up for both the consumer version and the business version in order to pickup lots of redeemable SkyMiles and a total of 40,000 MQMs.  Here are the current welcome bonus offers:

Assuming you get approved for both cards and meet the minimum spend requirements, you’ll earn 160,000 bonus SkyMiles plus 40,000 MQMs.  Unfortunately, the $550 annual fee is not waived the first year so you will have to pay a total of $1,100 in annual fees.  After the first year, you can, of course, downgrade to a cheaper Delta card or cancel altogether.

Note that Welcome Bonus MQMs are not giftable: Unlike Status Boosts, when the welcome bonus includes Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs), those MQMs cannot be gifted to another person.  The MQMs automatically get assigned to the primary cardholder’s Delta account.

Applying for Business Credit Cards

Yes, you have a business: In order to sign up for a business credit card, you must have a business. That said, it's common for people to have businesses without realizing it. If you sell items at a yard sale, or on eBay, for example, then you have a business. Similar examples include: consulting, writing (e.g. blog authorship, planning your first novel, etc.), handyman services, owning rental property, renting on airbnb, driving for Uber or Lyft, etc. In any of these cases, your business is considered a Sole Proprietorship unless you form a corporation of some sort.

When you apply for a business credit card as a sole proprietor, you can use your own name as your business name, use your own address and phone as the business' address and phone, and your social security number as the business' Tax ID / EIN. Alternatively, you can get a proper Tax ID / EIN from the IRS for free, in about a minute, through this website.

Is it OK to use business cards for personal expenses? Anecdotally, almost everyone I know uses business cards for personal expenses. That said, the terms in most business card applications state that you should use the card only for business use. Also, some consumer credit card protections do not apply to business cards. My advice: don't use the card for personal expenses if you're not comfortable doing so.

30,000 MQMs from Status Boosts

Delta Reserve cards offer 15,000 MQM bonuses when you complete $30K, $60K, $90K, and $120K spend within a calendar year.  With one card, you can earn up to 60,000 MQMs through spend alone.  With two cards (consumer and business), you can earn up to 120,000 MQMs through spend alone.

In this scenario, let’s assume that you’ll spend $30,000 on each of your two Delta Reserve cards.  That will result in earning 30,000 MQMs.

An easy option at this time of year is to use the cards to pay federal income taxes. You can even overpay taxes now and get a refund once you file your annual tax return.  The IRS doesn’t mind getting a loan (but I can’t rule out the possibility that this would increase chances of getting audited)

At the time of this writing, the lowest fee option for paying taxes by credit card is 1.87%.  So here’s the scenario:

  • Pay $29,500 in taxes on each Delta Reserve card.
  • After the 1.87% fee, you’ll have spent $30,052 on each card.
  • With this spend, you’ll meet the welcome bonus spend requirements and the requirements to get your first 15,000 MQM Status Boost on each card (for a total of 30,000 MQMs)
  • You will also earn a MQD Waiver with this spend, so that MQDs are not required to earn elite status, up to Platinum status.

For more about paying taxes by credit card, see: Complete guide to paying taxes via credit card, debit card, or gift card

Platinum Medallion Elite Status… almost there

Platinum status requires 75,000 MQMs.  If you follow the above suggestions you’ll be, at most, 5,000 MQMs away from Platinum status.  Delta allows MQM rollovers of any MQMs earned in a year over and beyond the amount used to achieve elite status.  For example, if you earned 30,000 MQMs last year and got Silver status (which requires 25,000 MQMs), then you’ll have rolled over 5,000 MQMs.  That would be enough to get you to Platinum status with the above scenario.

Hopefully if you’ve read this far along, you’re a frequent enough Delta flyer to easily earn the 5,000 extra MQMs you need to get to Platinum status.  Either you’ll have rolled over the needed MQMs from last year or you’ll easily meet the requirement through paid flights.  If neither applies to you, you can of course spend another $30,000 on one of the Delta Reserve cards to get 15,000 more MQMs.  The extra 10,000 MQMs you earn will roll over to next year.

Platinum Medallion Elite Status for almost 2 Years

If you complete the above plan early this year, you’ll have Platinum status for all of the rest of this year, all of next year, and through January of the year after that!

All of that and more for $2,200

The above plan isn’t cheap.  Here’s what it would cost if you follow the plan I wrote about above:

  • Two Delta Reserve Annual Fees: $1,100
  • Credit card processing fees for paying nearly $60K in taxes: $1,103
  • Total fees: $2,203

In addition to earning Platinum elite status, though, you’ll also earn redeemable miles:

  • Welcome bonus miles: 160,000
  • Miles from spend: 60,000
  • Total miles earned: 220,000

Our Reasonable Redemption Values (RRVs) currently lists Delta SkyMiles at 1.3 cents.  That makes the 220,000 miles worth at least $2,860 in flights.  From that point of view, spending $2,200 in spend sounds reasonable.  Alternatively, you could estimate the miles as being worth 1 cent each since that’s the value you get when using Delta’s “Pay with Miles” feature.  In that case, you’re getting exactly $2,200 in value which is ironically almost exactly what you’d pay in fees!

Plus Delta Reserve benefits

Delta Sky Club at Washington National Airport (DCA)

Don’t forget that Delta Reserve cards come with several valuable perks such as Delta Sky Club and Amex Centurion Lounge access when flying Delta, 2 Delta Sky Club one-time guest passes per year, upgrade priority over those with the same status and fare class, and annual domestic companion tickets.

Read our in-depth analysis of the Delta Reserve cards here: Delta Reserve Complete Guide.

Consider cancelling after a year (or two)

After you’ve had the two Delta Reserve cards for a year, it doesn’t make much sense to keep them both unless you plan to manufacture Delta Diamond status (see: Manufacturing Delta elite status in 2020 and beyond).  Most of the perks, such as Sky Club access are duplicative.  For example, it doesn’t do you any good to have two reasons to have access to the Delta Sky Club.

You could cancel the card you don’t want or downgrade it to one of the cheaper Delta cards.  One downside of downgrading is that you then won’t be eligible for a welcome bonus for the card you downgrade to.  For example, if you decide you want a Delta Platinum card, you’re better off applying new for that card in order to get the welcome bonus rather than downgrading to it.

Another consideration is that the current welcome bonus offers include 20,000 bonus miles when you renew in year two.  For some, even if you decide that long-term you want to cancel the card, it may make sense to keep it one more year for those bonus miles, but only if you highly value other perks such as the first class domestic companion certificate and the Delta Sky Club guest passes.

Whether or not to keep one Delta Reserve card long term is a tougher question.  Yes, this card has great perks, but you can find even more perks, including SkyClub and Centurion Lounge access, on the identically priced Amex Platinum card (not to be confused with the Delta Platinum card).  And, unlike the Delta Reserve card, the Platinum card comes with airline fee credits and other credits to help offset the annual fee.

The biggest benefits that the Reserve card has over the Amex Platinum are the annual first class companion certificate, the ability to earn Delta elite status through spend, and the ability to get free upgrades if you don’t have Delta status.  In other words, the Delta Reserve card makes the most sense for those who are sure to use the companion certificate towards good value each year and/or who covet Delta elite benefits.  Others may do better with an Amex Platinum card or the lower priced Delta Platinum card.

One way to decide is to use our spreadsheet to compare similar cards.  See: Which Ultra Premium Cards are Keepers?

Conclusion

As shown above, there’s currently a short term opportunity to buy Platinum status for about $2,200.  In exchange, you’ll get Platinum status perks, redeemable Skymiles worth at least $2,200, and several valuable Delta Reserve card perks.  In my opinion, if you can float the high spend required to get this done AND if you’re a frequent Delta flyer who’s eager to get a taste of Platinum elite status then this deal may be for you.  If you don’t check both of those boxes, I don’t recommend this approach.

See also:

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LarryInNYC
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LarryInNYC

I think your analysis of cost, especially if you’re doing it early in the tax year, should include some accounting for the opportunity cost of not investing the money elsewhere.

If you’re overpaying your taxes in expectation of a refund, you’re loaning the money out at no interest for about a full year — and foregoing perhaps 2% interest on it. That brings your cost on that money from 1.87 to 3.87 percent. The calculation is a little more complex if you’re just pre-paying future quarter estimated tax since you’re then losing 3, 6, or 9 months of interest but the the idea is the same.

If you’re a large-scale MS-er and could be cycling that money monthly I imagine the lost income might be even higher.

Am I missing something in this analysis?

CaveDweller
Guest
CaveDweller

Larry
Large-scale MS-er’s get Shut Down u Loose it All by being GREEDY .
Cheers

LarryInNYC
Guest
LarryInNYC

CD: You mean Greg? He seems to be doing okay, right?

CaveDweller
Guest
CaveDweller

Larry
I mean u or anyone doing that or playing fast with the rules look @ the AA deal. Now as far as paying the IRS I’ve been doing that for 8 yrs to get a few needed points .Who cares if it 1.8000% or 3.88888% u folks Love to Split hairs .
Eating BK waiting for the Sun to come up in Hawaii with my well earned points.
LOL
CHEERs

ktc
Guest
ktc

Greg’s method is closely tied to the timing of being early in the yr. if you do this in Apr (1) the loan out is only 2-3 weeks instead of a full yr (2) Status will last about 20 months

CaveDweller
Guest
CaveDweller

I don’t know if u can do it 4/1 for 2019 without fines.? I did it 1/6 should get back like 3/20 just like last year .
Cheers

LarryInNYC
Guest
LarryInNYC

You can’t hold all your estimated payments until the last quarter or you will pay penalties, just like you said. But if you paid all along, and just make a large overpayment on your fourth quarter 2019 estimate, then you won’t incur penalties, and you should get the money back in a month or so. So, that particular strategy does work and your total cost is close to 2% (the 1.87% plus a little less than 0.2% on the month’s lost interest).

CaveDweller
Guest
CaveDweller

Greg
Why don’t u do a post on the Coronavirus in respect to seats . FBN just said to the end of April airlines canceled flts. They need to Fly them dead horses to make money or go BK . Hmmm I smell Deals coming up quickly long range aircraft as in EU .
CHEERs

Nina
Guest
Nina

I guess I thought that working on status in 2020 was for 2021. So if I currently have gold and meet requirements for platinum during this year, my 2020 status is upgraded?

Nick Reyes
Editor

Yes, you’ve got it right — you’re working on 2021’s status, but you get to enjoy the benefits for the rest of this year once you’ve met that requirement. For people earning the traditional way, that means they’ll probably qualify in November or December and enjoy Platinum benefits for a month or two this year and all of next year. If you leverage the credit card opportunity now, you could end up getting 8 or 9 months of status this year plus all of next year.

Essentially, status benefits are meant to encourage you to fly the airline. Once you’ve met the requirements, it’s not in the program’s interest to make you wait until next year to enjoy them. They want you to keep right on booking with them — so you get access to the benefits once you’ve met the requirement, be that in March or November or whenever it may be.

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Deals Points
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Deals Points

Have you confirmed that this plan will work with the Reserve and Reserve Business in light of the fine print under “Status Boost” that states: “Card Members are only eligible to receive one annual bonus per threshold per calendar year for each type of eligible Delta SkyMiles Card (e.g., Platinum or Reserve) that is linked to the same SkyMiles account.” That seems to indicate that you could only get one $30k boost from the Delta Reserve line of cards instead of one each on the personal and business.