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Editor's note: Another round of big changes are coming to Delta's SkyMiles program in 2024, including how members can earn elite status. The carrier will also be cutting back Sky Club lounge access. Read more on these upcoming changes here.
It looks like the days of extended elite status and reduced elite status requirements are over. Delta announced some major changes today that will make it harder to qualify for most tiers of Delta elite status.
For the first time since 2015, Delta has upped how much spending you need to do to qualify for Medallion status. Here’s what you need to know about the changes.
Earning Delta SkyMiles Medallion status will get tougher for 2024
Beginning Jan. 1, 2023, Delta will implement new, tougher spending requirements needed to qualify for most tiers of Delta Medallion Status for 2024. The new thresholds are 33% higher for levels Gold Medallion and higher.
Here are the changes:
Current threshold to earn 2023 status
New threshold to earn 2024 status
The requirements to earn status for the year 2023 will stay the same, but it means you’ll need to spend more in order to re-earn status for 2024. In fact, holding the same level of elite status for Gold and higher tiers in 2024 will necessitate spending 33% more in 2023 than you did in past years.
» Learn more: Delta Air Lines SkyMiles program: The complete guide
How to earn Delta elite status in 2023 for 2024
Keep in mind, earning Delta elite status requires a combination of both spending and frequent flying, so the spending thresholds, otherwise known as Medallion Qualification Dollars, are just one part of the alphabet soup. You will earn MQDs by spending on Delta (or Delta partner) flights. You can also receive a MQD waiver by spending enough on certain Delta credit cards.
Then, you need to fly a bunch. You have your choice of earning Medallion Qualification Miles or Medallion Qualification Segments, so you could take a bunch of short flights or fewer longer flights to hit the miles quota. Basic Economy seats won’t qualify.
Luckily, the flying requirements haven’t changed. But given the new spending requirements, here’s exactly what you’ll need to do in 2023 to qualify for Delta elite status in 2024:
MQMs or MQSs needed in 2023
MQDs needed in 2023
25,000 MQMs or 30 MQSs.
$3,000 (or MQD waiver).
Waived baggage fees.
50,000 MQMs or 60 MQSs.
$8,000 (or MQD waiver).
All of the above, plus no fees for same-day flight changes and SkyTeam lounge access.
75,000 MQMs or 100 MQSs.
$12,000 (or MQD waiver).
All of the above, plus one Choice Benefit.
125,000 MQMs or 140 MQSs.
$20,000 (or MQD waiver).
All of the above, and three Choice Benefits, instead of one.
There’s a lot more that goes into Delta’s complex Medallion elite program. Learn more about how to earn Delta elite status here.
Other changes from Delta
Along with the new elite status requirements, Delta announced a few other changes to its SkyMiles program.
New Choice Benefits
Choice Benefits are extra goodies for Diamond and Platinum Medallion members. It’s a choose-your-own-adventure type benefit, where Platinum members get to choose one from the treasure box, while Diamond members get to choose three from an even-better treasure box.
And Delta has added new and improved benefits. Previously, one of the benefits was the ability to give Delta elite status to one friend. Now, Delta has upped the benefit, allowing you to give status to two buddies. There’s also a fresh Delta Vacations Experience, a statement credit for certain Delta credit card holders, a MQD “head start,” a bigger Delta travel credit voucher, and a charitable option, too.
Here are the new Choice benefits, which will be available beginning Feb. 1, 2023:
Platinum members choose ONE of the following:
Package of four regional upgrade certificates.
20,000 bonus miles.
$250 Delta travel voucher.
$200 statement credit for certain Delta credit card holders. Terms apply.
Gift of Silver Medallion status to two friends.
$400 Delta Vacations Experience (flight and hotel).
$500 MQD boost for the next Medallion year.
$250 sustainable aviation fuel contribution.
Diamond members choose THREE of the following:
Package of as many as eight upgrade certificates (eight regional, four global, or two global and four regional).
Individual membership to Delta Sky Clubs (unlimited access for self; guests pay a fee).
1 Delta Sky Club Guest Pass (unlimited guest access for members with lounge access through the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card). Terms apply.
Executive membership to Delta Sky Clubs (unlimited access for self and two guests). Note: This option counts as two choices.
25,000 bonus miles.
$250 Delta travel voucher.
$500 statement credit for certain Delta credit card holders. Terms apply.
Gift of Gold Medallion status to two friends.
$500 Delta Vacations Experience (flight and hotel).
$1,000 MQD boost for the next Medallion year.
$250 sustainable aviation fuel contribution.
» Learn more: The best airline credit cards right now
Ability to pay for checked baggage fees with SkyMiles
Delta is also expanding a relatively recent move to allow customers to pay for checked baggage fees with their SkyMiles. That’s useful for people who don’t want to exchange their Delta miles for low-value, non-Delta redemptions like gift cards and magazines, but who don’t have enough Delta miles to actually redeem for a free flight. Delta has increasingly been adding more redemptions, including Delta Vacations, SkyMiles Experiences and amenities within Delta Sky Clubs.
Delta’s standard checked bag fee is $30, or 3,000 miles. Given NerdWallet’s valuation of a Delta mile at 1.2 cents each, you might be able to derive more value from your miles when you redeem them for flights. But if you’re an infrequent traveler who’ll likely never earn enough miles to cover an actual flight, then this is one of the better low-cost Delta redemptions you can make. Exchanging 3,000 miles for a $300 charge effectively makes your points worth 1 cent each, which is far higher than the 0.8 cent you’ll get when you exchange miles for Delta gift cards.
NerdWallet’s take on the new Delta elite status requirements
On one hand, this could be another positive sign that travel is returning back to pre-pandemic levels. On the other hand, SkyMiles elite members will probably grumble about having to spend more to get the same level of recognition.
This likely won’t help you feel any better, but given the rising cost of flights, you likely won’t have to actually fly any more than usual just to hit the new, higher MQD requirement. The new MQD requirement means you’ll need to spend 33% more to earn the same level of elite status as you did in year’s past for the Gold tiers and higher. But here’s the thing: the combination of rising travel demand plus general inflation has caused airfares to rise pretty significantly anyway. In fact, average U.S. airfares in August 2022 were 33% higher than they were in August 2021.
For travelers who spend frequently with Delta anyway, the increase might be a welcome change, as it means less competition for coveted seat upgrades — especially since so many people earned elite status in 2020 and 2021 due to significantly-reduced elite status requirements.
“What we’re doing here is one way to preserve the overall experience for our most loyal customers,” Dwight James, S.V.P. of Customer Engagement and Loyalty and CEO of Delta Vacations says. “As travel now rebounds, these benefits for the long term truly recognize our most loyal customers.”
Photo courtesy of Delta Air Lines.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2023, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card