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Your Delta Air Lines flight just started boarding. You hear the boarding call for Diamond Medallion members and a herd of well-heeled travelers strut up to the front of the line, metal tags clinking against their Tumi luggage.
These most elite of the elite road warriors earn well over 125,000 elite qualifying miles and most spend more than $15,000 a year flying on Delta, but is the status they earn worth it?
Let’s explore the value of status with Delta Air Lines.
Delta Silver Medallion: Estimated tier value of $856, earns 7x miles
Delta’s entry-level status, Silver Medallion, is granted to customers who earn 25,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles or 30 Medallion Qualifying Segments and either accumulate $3,000 Medallion Qualifying Dollars or earn an MQD waiver through credit card spending.
Silver Medallion members enjoy the standard suite of benefits granted to most holders of entry-level airline frequent flyer status, including:
Unlimited complimentary upgrades.
Waived checked bag fees.
SkyTeam Elite status comes with a limited set of perks across all SkyTeam flights.
In addition, Silver Medallions become eligible to roll over MQMs. Any MQMs amassed more than the amount required for an earned Medallion status level are rolled over into the following qualification year.
In some ways, Delta is more generous than other airlines, but in other ways, it is less. For example, its checked bag benefit allows a Silver Medallion member, plus up to eight traveling companions, a free checked bag, among the most generous checked baggage benefits for entry-level elites. On the other hand, Delta does not offer free same-day confirmed travel benefits to its entry-level elite members like United Airlines; Silver Medallions must pay the same $75 fee as non-elite members. On average, Delta offers its entry-level elites an experience similar to other North American legacy carriers.
» Learn more: Your guide to the Delta Air Lines SkyMiles program
Delta Gold Medallion: Estimated tier value of $2382, earns 8x miles
Once you reach 50,000 MQMs or 60 MQSs and $6,000 MQDs ($8,000 beginning in 2023), you will earn Delta Gold Medallion status.
Gold Medallions receive SkyTeam Elite Plus status, which grants you and one guest access to airport lounges when traveling internationally and an additional baggage allowance on SkyTeam carriers. In addition, when traveling on Delta domestically, Gold Medallions receive higher upgrade priority, with upgrades clearing up to 72 hours before departure and same-day confirmed fees on Delta domestic itineraries waived.
Like Silver Medallion status, the perks of Gold Medallion status are more-or-less in the middle of the pack compared to what is offered with mid-tier status at United and American Airlines. If anything, Delta Gold Medallion ranks slightly behind United Premier Gold status because the latter allows its mid-tier elites to select Economy Plus seats at booking. At the same time, Delta Gold Medallions must wait for this “upgrade” to be processed three days before departure. And it ranks slightly above American, which does not offer its AAdvantage Platinum members complimentary upgrades on award tickets.
» Learn more: Your guide to earning Delta Air Lines SkyMiles
Delta Platinum Medallion: Estimated tier value of $5,476, earns 9x miles
Fly or earn 75,000 MQMs or 100 MQSs and spend enough to earn $9,000 MQDs ($12,000 beginning in 2023) or an MQD waiver and Delta will elevate your status to Platinum Medallion.
Delta Platinum Medallion is the level at which benefits start getting interesting. Platinum Medallion members can select one Choice Benefit each year. Available benefits include:
Four regional upgrade certificates.
20,000 bonus miles.
Ability to gift Silver Medallion status to a friend
A Delta gift card.
In addition to higher upgrade priority and complimentary clearing five days before departure, Platinum Medallion members may receive a complimentary upgrade to Delta Comfort+ shortly after ticketing if upgrade space is available. Finally, Platinum Medallion members receive three free checked bags when traveling within the U.S. and Canada.
Once again, the benefits of Platinum Medallion status are similar to what you would expect with high-tier status at United or American. United might offer a slight edge to its high-tier flyers because the PlusPoints earned by Premier Platinums can be used internationally. Still, those traveling domestically will get more mileage from selecting four regional upgrades as a choice benefit. Of course, all of these are outclassed by NerdWallet’s pick for the best high-level elite status, Alaska MVP Gold 75K, which offers first-class upgrades at the time of ticketing, an international upgrade certificate usable on American Airlines, guest upgrades and lounge day passes.
Delta Diamond Medallion: Estimated tier value of $10,860, earns 11x miles
A diamond is forever and you might want to remain a Diamond Medallion forever if you can swing earning 125,000 MQMs or 140 MQSs and $15,000 MQDs ($20,000 beginning in 2023) by flying Delta. An MQD waiver is available at the Diamond tier, but it requires spending $250,000 on a Delta co-branded credit card.
Diamond Medallion is the highest level of Delta Air Lines status available and therefore grants the most generous benefits. Diamond Medallions receive the highest complimentary upgrade priority, with upgrades clearing up to five days before departure and complimentary Clear membership. In addition, diamond Medallions can choose three Choice Benefits from an expanded list, which includes:
SkyClub Individual and Executive Memberships.
Ability to add a guest pass to complementary SkyClub access they earn from a credit card.
Regional or global upgrade certificates.
25,000 bonus miles.
Ability to gift Gold status.
A Delta gift card.
Delta takes the NerdWallet award for best ultra-tier elite status, likely because of the number of Choice Benefits it grants Diamond Medallion members. United’s PlusPoints might afford members more flexibility, but Delta allows Diamond Medallion members to select two perks in addition to upgrade certificates.
» Learn more: What you need to know about Delta Medallion Status
The value of Delta miles
If you fly Delta frequently enough to earn Delta elite status, there’s a good chance you will earn a pile of SkyMiles, which can be redeemed for flights on Delta and its partners. How much are these miles worth? If you redeem SkyMiles for main cabin airfares, NerdWallet values SkyMiles at 1.5 cents each.
If you are after international business class award travel, your SkyMiles can take you slightly farther. Delta SkyMiles no longer has an award chart and its redemption rates float with the retail price of airline tickets, so you are unlikely to get outsized value from your SkyMiles by booking international premium cabin flights. But you can typically get 1.5 cents of value from each of your SkyMiles when booking Delta One tickets.
Delta’s redemptions being pegged to the revenue prices of flights and prices for partner redemptions floating upward in recent years makes it challenging to identify sweet spots for Delta redemptions. However, the program still offers a few gems.
Short-haul U.S. domestic flights.
Economy class international flights.
Booking flights speculatively; Delta award flights can be canceled and miles redeposited until departure with no fee.
Earning status by booking flights using miles on Delta Air Lines.
How the value of Delta status compares to competitors
The value of Delta status is similar to the value of equivalent status at the other U.S. legacy carriers, but how valuable Delta status is to you will depend on where you live and your travel patterns.
Here’s how the value of Delta status compares to other major airlines in the United States.
Should I earn elite status with Delta this year?
Whether you should earn elite status with Delta will depend on your travel patterns, how you value upgrades and other perks and how easily you can earn the status level. Two of Delta’s co-branded credit cards, the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card and the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card offer cardmembers the opportunity to earn MQMs and an MQD waiver, which can make earning elite status easier
» Learn more: The best airline credit cards right now
One consideration unique to earning Delta Air Lines status is how rollover miles might impact your status next year. SkyMiles members earning at least Silver Medallion status will roll over any excess MQMs to the next qualification year. Therefore, if you are close to earning a higher tier of Medallion status, you might consider holding off earning additional MQMs if you can roll over a massive number of MQMs to the next qualification year.
For example, suppose you are a Platinum Medallion who has earned 120,000 MQMs. In that case, you might want to consider if you wish to earn additional MQMs and earn Diamond Medallion status or roll over 45,000 MQMs and get a jump start on your status for next year.
Will you get value out of the status?
The most significant factor determining how much value you can get from any frequent flyer program’s elite status is how many flights are available from your home airport. For example, if you live in one of Delta’s key hubs and markets, you are likely to have enough Delta flights to get almost anywhere you want to go flying the airline, meaning you’ll enjoy the most upgrades and in-flight elite benefits. Delta’s domestic key hubs and markets include:
Salt Lake City.
Can you credit your flights to Delta?
One of the most common ways to earn MQMs in an airline program is by flying with that airline and Delta is no different. Every Delta flight you credit to your SkyMiles account, excluding basic economy fares, will help you on your journey to earning both redeemable miles and medallion status.
But partner flights offer an opportunity to earn additional redeemable miles, MQMs and MQDs because many Delta partners earn miles based on distance flown. If a flight is marketed by another carrier, meaning it does not carry a Delta flight number, the miles you earn will be determined by distance flown and fare class. Sometimes this can work to your advantage, as business and first-class travel marketed by partners can earn more than MQMs or redeemable miles than a similarly-priced Delta flight.
Can you earn the Medallion Qualifying Dollars?
In addition to earning MQMs or MQSs, Delta mandates that SkyMiles members chasing status earn Medallion Qualifying Dollars. Delta requires an increasing number of MQDs for each status level, starting at $3,000 MQDs for Silver Medallion status and topping out at $15,000 MQDs for Diamond Medallion. MQDs on Delta-marketed flights are calculated on the base fare and carrier-imposed surcharges. As noted above, those numbers will only increase for some tiers beginning in 2023.
However, spending dollars on Delta flights isn’t the only way to meet your Medallion Qualifying Dollar requirements. Some co-branded credit cards offer an opportunity to earn an MQD waiver.
Can your credit card earnings help you out?
Like other airlines, Delta offers several co-branded credit cards that can help give you a boost to earn status. If you want a card that can help you earn elite status with Delta, look to the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card or the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card. Both cards offer MQM “boosts” and the ability to earn an MQD waiver. The MQM boosts allow you to earn 10,000 MQMs when you spend $25,000 in eligible purchases during a calendar year, up to two times for a total of 20,000 MQMs. Terms apply.
Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card and the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card both grant an MQD waiver for Silver, Gold and Platinum status after spending $25,000 in purchases within a calendar year. These cards grant an MQD waiver for Diamond status once you spend $250,000 on the card within a calendar year. Terms apply.
Both business and personal versions of the Delta AmEx cards offer similar MQM and MQD waiver benefits.
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 2022, 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