Beginning in 2023, Delta is changing the way its most frequent flyers earn elite status. When the changes take effect, Delta SkyMiles members who are hoping to earn one of the three highest levels of elite status will have to spend more with the airline in order to qualify. In other words, be prepared to pay more in order to get more in return.
As a refresher before we dive into the changes, earning Delta SkyMiles Medallion status involves several different metrics. You can earn status by reaching certain thresholds of Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) and Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQDs), the latter of which are earned based on your annual spend on Delta flights. Alternatively, you can swap out the MQM requirements by completing a certain number of Medallion Qualification Segments (MQSs). Ultimately, you must fly and spend with Delta and its partner airlines in order to earn status.
While Delta isn’t changing the number of MQMs or MQSs required in order to qualify for status, it is increasing the number of MQDs you must earn in order to qualify for Gold, Platinum or Diamond status. As of Jan. 1, 2023, the increased MQD requirements break down as follows:
Current MQD threshold for 2023 status
MQD qualification threshold for 2024 status
“These limited SkyMiles Program changes are a necessary step toward both preserving and improving the customer experience for our most loyal and engaged members,” Delta SVP of customer engagement and loyalty and CEO of Delta Vacations Dwight James said in a statement.
The changes announced on Oct. 6 mark the first time the airline has adjusted the thresholds on multiple Medallion tiers since 2015. During the Covid-19 pandemic, Delta was the first airline to extend the annual expiration of elite status for its Medallion members, and then it extended elite status yet again. In other words, there are a lot of Medallion members who haven’t flown with the airline significantly since 2019 — before the pandemic — and still have a high level of elite status.
The MQD requirement change is one that James says will create a better experience for the airline’s most loyal customers without sacrificing the simplicity of the SkyMiles program.
“We didn’t want to make wholesale changes — we wanted to keep things simple,” James tells CNN Underscored. “We wanted to reassess this to make sure the changes we make would not only make sense, but they also would demonstrate we are going to invest in our best customers. This is really about driving improved customer experience and elevating premium with our program.”
Ultimately, for the average Delta flyer, seeing the MQD requirement increase will not be welcome news — especially considering the amount is increasing by $5,000 annually for the highest Diamond Medallion status. That being said, there’s one key way to bypass these increased requirements so you can continue to earn Medallion status.
How you can bypass the increased MQD threshold
While Delta is changing the number of MQDs you have to earn in order to qualify for its highest levels of status, that MQD requirement is waived entirely if you meet the spending requirement on select Delta-branded credit cards or if you live internationally.
So, how can you qualify for the waiver from the US? If you hold a Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card, Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card, Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card or Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card and spend a certain amount of money on the card within a calendar year, your MQD requirement is waived — you’ll just have to fly to earn status.
Silver, Gold and Platinum Medallion members can get the MQD requirement waived by completing $25,000 worth of spending on the Delta Platinum Amex, Delta Reserve Amex, Delta Platinum Business Amex or Delta Reserve Business Amex in a calendar year. Meanwhile, the waiver for Diamond status requires a whopping $250,000 worth of credit card spending in a calendar year.
If you spend enough on your eligible Delta credit card to have the MQD requirement waived, you’ll still need to meet either the MQM or MQS threshold in order to get the status for the following year. As a reminder, here are those requirements:
- Delta Silver Medallion status: 25,000 MQMs or 30 MQSs
- Delta Gold Medallion status: 50,000 MQMs or 60 MQSs
- Delta Platinum Medallion status: 75,000 MQMs or 100 MQSs
- Delta Diamond Medallion status: 125,000 MQMs or 140 MQSs
The MQD waiver remains a solid option for anyone who spends a lot on their Delta credit card and wants to achieve elite status without having to spend a lot on flights. It’s a great time to consider the Delta SkyMiles Platinum, Delta SkyMiles Reserve and their business versions, as all of the cards are offering limited welcome bonus offers with bonus SkyMiles.
- Delta SkyMiles Platinum Amex: Earn 80,000 bonus miles after you spend $4,000 in the first six months. And, earn up to 20,000 bonus MQMs each year — you’ll earn 10,000 MQMs after you spend $25,000 on purchases in a calendar year up to two times per year.
- Delta SkyMiles Reserve Amex: Earn 95,000 bonus miles after you spend $6,000 in the first six months. And, earn up to 60,000 bonus MQMs each year — you’ll earn 15,000 MQMs after you spend $30,000 on purchases in a calendar year up to four times per year.
- Delta SkyMiles Platinum Business Amex: Earn 85,000 bonus miles after spending $4,000 in the first three months. And, earn up to 20,000 bonus MQMs each year — you’ll earn 10,000 MQMs after you spend $25,000 on purchases in a calendar year up to two times per year.
- Delta SkyMiles Reserve Business Amex: Earn 100,000 miles after spending $6,000 in the first three months. And, earn up to 60,000 bonus MQMs each year — you’ll earn 15,000 MQMs after you spend $30,000 on purchases in a calendar year up to four times per year.
Other changes to the Delta SkyMiles program
It’s not just the amount of money you’ll have to spend with Delta Air Lines that’s changing. On Oct. 6, the airline also announced that it’s expanding the options its Platinum and Diamond Medallion members have to choose from as part of Choice Benefits. Members who qualify for Platinum or Diamond status for 2024 will be able to choose from the following new benefits:
- If you hold the Delta SkyMiles Reserve Amex, Delta SkyMiles Platinum Amex, Delta SkyMiles Platinum Business Amex or the Delta SkyMiles Reserve Business Amex, you can choose a one-time statement credit on your card: $500 for Diamond or $200 for Platinum.
- Diamonds will be able to gift Gold Medallion status to two family or friends and Platinums will be able to gift Silver Medallion status to two family or friends.
- Delta Vacations Experience (flight and hotel): $500 for Diamond; $400 for Platinum.
- An MQD “head start” for the next Medallion year: $1,000 MQD boost for Diamonds; $500 MQD boost for Platinums.
- Increasing the Delta Travel Credit Voucher to $250.
- $250 sustainable aviation fuel contribution.
“More Choice Benefits is a great thing for our Diamonds and our Platinums because they’re the ones who are our most loyal customers,” James tells CNN Underscored. “This is about investing in our customers who are investing in us.”
Additionally, Delta is making it easier for its highest elites to use their Global Upgrade Certificates and Regional Upgrade Certificates. Beginning in 2023, Medallion members will be able to use their upgrade certificates online — a welcome change from the current process, which requires that you call and request that a certificate be applied to your reservation.
Overall, some Delta flyers will be put off by the increased spending requirements in order to earn elite status with Delta. However, there is still a waiver option wherein if you spend enough, the changes announced on Thursday won’t affect your Medallion elite status when they take effect in 2023.
Check out CNN Underscored’s guide to the best travel credit cards of 2022.