Toward Delta Elite Status: Short on qualifying dollars (MQDs). What to do…

An acquaintance, let’s call him Fred, recently described this dilemma to me.  Based on his Delta flying to-date and planned flying to the end of this year, he had calculated that he would earn approximately 35,000 MQMs (Medallion Qualifying Miles), but he’d be short $89 in MQDs (Medallion Qualifying Dollars) of the amount needed for Delta Silver status.  In other words, he will have more than enough flown miles to earn Delta Silver status, but not enough spend with Delta to make it happen.

For review, here are Delta’s elite status requirements:

As you can see above under “Silver”, Fred needs to earn 25,000+ MQMs and $3,000 in MQDs to reach Silver status.  There are other options for each: he could earn 30 MQSs (flown segments), and he could get a MQD waiver from $25K calendar year Delta credit card spend.  But he doesn’t need an alternative to MQMs (he expects to earn 35,000 MQMs this year) and he’s nowhere near spending the required $25K on a Delta credit card to get a MQD waiver.

Question: Should he bother?

Silver status is the lowest Delta elite tier.  Free upgrades to first class are rare, while some of the other key perks are granted simply by having a Delta credit card.  So, Fred rightly asked me whether he should bother trying to earn Silver status.  Is it worth it?

Yes.  In the post, “How much is Delta Silver status worth?” I conservatively estimated the value at $260.  But, I added “Some will get much more than $260 value from Delta Silver status and others will get much less.”

The more you fly with Delta, the more value you can get from elite status.  If Fred regularly flies 35,000 miles per year with Delta, then that’s more than enough flying to get $260 or more value.

Equally important is the fact that MQMs rollover from year to year only if you achieve elite status.  If Fred earns Silver status, the extra 10K MQMs he earned this year over the 25K MQMs needed for Silver status will roll-over into next year.  In other words, he’ll start the 2018 year with 10K MQMs.

Question: How to earn the extra $89 MQDs?

Fred wondered if he should book a cheap flight to somewhere, just to earn the final $89 in MQDs.  Fortunately for Fred, the solution is much easier than that.  He still has upcoming flights planned.  All he needs to do is to upgrade a segment or two to Comfort+ or to First Class.

Delta’s FAQ states the following:

Delta Comfort+® and Preferred Seats purchases and effective July 21, 2015 paid Premium class upgrades made through a Delta channel are included in MQDs.

Question: How to maintain Silver status (or more) in the future?

Fred didn’t specifically ask this question, but I’m going to answer it anyway.

If Fred doesn’t already have the Platinum Delta Skymiles card, or the Platinum Delta Skymiles Business card, he should get one.  Yes, the card costs $195 per year, but that’s offset in the first year by the welcome bonus, and in future years by the companion certificate earned upon renewal.

After getting this card, Fred should make sure to spend $25,000 each year on the card.  $25K calendar year spend results in the following perks:

  • MQD Waiver: Fred can earn Delta elite status, all the way up to Platinum elite status without worrying about MQDs (Medallion Qualifying Dollars).
  • Bonus Miles & MQMs: With $25K calendar year spend (and again at $50K), the Platinum Delta card automatically awards 10,000 bonus Skymiles plus 10,000 bonus MQMs.  This will make it much easier for Fred to re-qualify for elite status each year or to perhaps even earn higher level status.

Amex often offers a welcome bonus of 70,000 miles plus 10K MQMs for these cards, after meeting spend requirements.  Ideally Fred would sign up while such an offer is in play.

Here are the Delta Platinum Card offers available at the time you read this (this will be dynamically updated if viewed online):

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.

$195 Annual Fee

Info about this card was collected independently by Frequent Miler. The Issuer did not provide the details, nor is it responsible for their accuracy.

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 9/18/18)

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 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

Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card from American Express
70K miles + 10K MQMs
70K miles + 10K MQMs after $3K spend in first 3 months plus.Terms and limitations apply.
(Offer Expires 11/7/18)

$195 Annual Fee

Info about this card was collected independently by Frequent Miler. The Issuer did not provide the details, nor is it responsible for their accuracy.

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

If Fred gets one of these cards while 10K MQMs are part of the welcome offer (and meets the spend requirement), he will start next year with 20K MQMs (10K roll-over + 10K credit card welcome bonus).  Then, if Fred completes $25K spend on the card next year, he’ll earn the MQD waiver and another 10K MQMs from the card’s spend bonus.  In other words, Fred will earn more than enough to re-qualify for Silver status without even stepping onto a plane.  If he also earns 20K MQMs through actual flying, he’ll earn Gold status.

How to spend $25K

If Fred’s normal spend patterns aren’t enough to reach $25K in spend per year, Fred could look at our guide to increasing credit card spend.  The simplest option, from that guide, is to pay rent via the Plastiq bill pay service. Yes, there’s a 2.5% fee, but it would be worth it if the alternative is to miss out on the Delta Platinum card’s $25K spend bonuses.  For example, let’s say Fred needs $5K of extra spend to get to $25K.  Via Plastiq, that $5K spend will cost him $125.  That’s a very small price to pay for 10,000 bonus miles + 10,000 MQMs + the MQD waiver.

Unfortunately, if Fred pays mortgage instead of rent, the Plastiq solution won’t work.  Amex limits Plastiq bill payments to the following categories within the US: Government, Utilities, Education, Residential Rent and Club Fees and Memberships.

Another easy option is to pay Federal estimated taxes. Full details can be found here: Complete guide to paying taxes via credit card, debit card, or gift card.

Wrap Up

Fred’s solution this year is easy: he needs to spend about $90 upgrading a segment or two of his planned flights to Comfort+ or First Class.  It’s well worth that expense to get a year of Silver status, plus 10K MQMs rolled over into next year.

Ongoing, I recommend that Fred pickup a Delta Platinum card so that each year he can earn both an MQD waiver and 10K MQMs (not to mention 10K bonus redeemable miles) with $25K spend.

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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I understand this post is well intentioned, and your previous work has been valuable to those engaged in the hobby, and links aren’t featured prominently, and you indicate you’ll update the post to make evident the best available offer….but this reads almost exactly like templated content from MMS. I imagine it’s unintentional, but it’s a bit jarring.

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