Last year I signed up for the Delta Reserve credit card and went on my first ever pure mileage run in order to get to Delta’s almost-top-tier Platinum status. Getting to Platinum status requires 75,000 MQMs (Medallion Qualifying Miles). It’s not as impressive as Diamond status (which requires 125,000 MQMs), but it’s pretty darn good.
My favorite benefit is the ability to change or cancel award tickets for free up until 72 hours prior to a trip. With this benefit, my approach to booking travel has completely changed. I used to wait until I was 100% sure of a particular trip before booking flights because I never wanted to risk the hefty change fees that would be incurred if plans changed. The problem with that approach was that often the best flights and best prices would be gone by the time I got around to booking. Now, however, if I’m simply considering a trip, I log into Delta.com, find the best award travel prices I can find, and I book it. There’s no risk! If I later find a better deal, or change my plans, I simply rebook the miles.
Here are just a few of the ways I’ve already taken advantage of this Platinum status perk:
- In planning travel to the Kiva DO in March, I accidentally booked my flight to LA instead of to San Francisco! No worries, though: when I discovered the problem, I simply logged on, canceled the original flight, and booked a new one. No fees.
- Over Christmas, my mom had a flight scheduled with a layover in Chicago. Predictions of bad weather had us worried that her flight might be cancelled so I booked her an alternate direct route on Delta using miles, just in case. Within 3 days of her flight, weather forecasts were looking better, so I cancelled the award ticket. No fees, and her original flight was fine.
- In planning our summer vacation, I found low level award business class tickets to Paris, returning from Amsterdam. Even though I wasn’t 100% sure the dates would work, and even though I might want to add additional legs to the flight, I went ahead and booked it, knowing that I can freely make changes as needed. In the past I would have deliberated for weeks about the trip, most likely until the award seats were no longer available.
Higher Value Awards
In the past I’ve tried to ensure that I get at least 2 cents per mile value when redeeming miles. For details, see: “When is an award flight a good deal?” However, with the Platinum benefit, I can’t directly compare award flights to lowest cost paid flights because award flights are fully refundable (up to 72 hours before the flight). So, now, instead of looking for 2 cents per mile value, I’m happy with 1.5 cents. And, in cases where my travel is really unsure, I’ll go even lower. The freedom and lower stress involved in booking refundable award tickets is, to me, a huge benefit that is worth paying miles for.
Keeping Elite Status
The irony in all of this, is the dilemma it causes. Now that I have a taste for Platinum benefits, I can never go back! However, the more I use the benefit, the fewer MQMs and redeemable miles I earn from flying (because you do not get miles from flying on award tickets). My solution is to spend ridiculous amounts of money on my Delta Reserve and Delta Platinum Amex cards. Between the two, I can earn 50K MQMs and 160K redeemable miles from absurd amounts of spending. The final 25K MQMs needed to maintain Platinum will come from paid flights (I will still do some of those!) and hopefully some Delta promotions. In the past Delta has often run promotions where people can earn MQMs from staying in certain hotels, transferring points from Membership Rewards, etc. I expect we’ll see more opportunities like that in the future. And, if I get to the end of the year and still don’t have enough MQMs, I’ll be back to mileage running. Yes, I value Platinum that much.
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