[Delta Question] Difference between SkyMiles and MQMs?

difference between skymiles and mqms

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Thrifty Traveler reader Phillip messaged me to ask:

“I fly Delta and I don’t understand the difference between SkyMiles and MQMs?”

 

Great question Phillip! There is a difference between Delta SkyMiles and Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQM’s). When you start flying regularly on the same airline, it’s very important to start working towards status. MQMs are the key to obtaining Delta Medallion status.

 

Delta SkyMiles

Delta SkyMiles are earned for each dollar spent. SkyMiles can be redeemed for free award tickets as well as flight upgrades. Up until a couple years ago, Delta allowed you to earn one SkyMile for every mile flown. The rules have changed and Delta SkyMiles are now revenue based instead of distance based. You can also earn SkyMiles with the various American Express Delta credit cards.

Learn how to earn SkyMiles with Amex Credit Cards: 

Gold Delta SkyMiles: Compare the card here
Platinum Delta SkyMiles: Compare the card here
Blue Delta SkyMiles: Compare the card here

 

SkyMiles Program Status SkyMiles per dollar Miles earned with Delta Amex Total miles per dollar
General SkyMiles member 5 +2 7
Silver Medallion 7 +2 9
Gold Medallion 8 +2 10
Platinum Medallion 9 +2 11
Diamond Medallion 11 +2 13

 

Delta Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs)

Delta MQM’s have zero value except for tracking elite status, and are based on distance flown. You generally earn 1 MQM per mile flown. First class earns up to 2 MQMs per mile flown. You can also earn MQMs with the Delta Amex credit cards.

You can earn Delta Medallion status through MQMs or MQSs. In my experience, it is easier to earn Medallion status through Miles flown vs. Segments but it will depend on your travel patterns. Overall the secret to obtaining Medallion status is to fly as many international flights as possible. Flying long flights simply makes accruing the MQMs easier.

It’s important to note that flying on SkyTeam partners of Delta (Air, France, KLM, Alitalia, etc.) also earn MQMs. So make sure to bank those to Delta when flying any partner airline!

Thrifty Tip #1: Any MQMs that exceed a certain status level are rolled into the next year. For example, if you were to earn 65,000 MQMs you would have Gold Medallion status and roll 15,000 MQMs (excess over 50k) into the next year to help you again earn status for the next year.

Thrifty Tip #2: My MQM strategy is to earn MQMs from work travel, the Delta Amex cards, and as many international Delta flight deals as I can afford. Keep your eyes peeled for flight deals at less than 5 cents per mile. I try to book the international Delta flight deals with SkyMiles if I can (See Tip #3). This is the real value play.

Thrifty Tip #3: If you are a Delta Amex cardholder you can also book paid flights (Pay with Miles) with SkyMiles at 1 cent per dollar. I use this method when I find a cheap Delta Flight deal, as you can still earn MQMs. Pay with Miles is very different from a normal award ticket where you earn no MQMs.

 

difference between skymiles and mqms

 

Medallion Qualifying Segments (MQSs)

Every takeoff and landing will give a SkyMiles member 1 qualifying segment. If your flights have multiple connections you may be able to qualify for Medallion status with this method. The way I travel MQMs are simply easier to accrue vs MQSs. I am in a Delta hub so I have access to more direct flights.

 

Medallion Qualifying Dollars (MQDs) 

MQDs are the total annual spending on Delta flights. Although it’s usually not that difficult to rack up the MQD spending, you can always get around it by putting $25,000 a year on your Amex Delta credit card (except when working towards Diamond).

Thrifty Tip #4: The MQDs requirement for the qualification year will be waived if you make $25,000 or more in eligible purchases per year on an American Express Delta credit card. The $25k MQD waiver does not work when working towards Diamond Medallion. You must spend more than $250,000 for the Diamond MQD waiver.

 

So what are the Medallion Benefits? 

Silver 

  • Access to Economy Comfort seats 24 hours prior to flight
  • Y economy fare purchases are automatically upgraded to first class when ticketed
  • Complimentary upgrades to all other fares based on availability one day in advance
  • Waived baggage fees
  • SkyMiles mileage bonus (2 additional miles per dollar)

Gold 

  • Access to Economy Comfort seats 72 hours prior to flight
  • Y economy fare purchases are automatically upgraded to first class when ticketed
  • Complimentary upgrades to all other fares based on availability three days in advance
  • Sky Priority Boarding and baggage handling, Priority Security Line Access
  • Waived baggage, same-day changes, standby, and other fees
  • SkyMiles mileage bonus (3 additional miles per dollar)

Platinum 

  • Four regional upgrade certificates
  • Y economy fare purchases are automatically upgraded to first class when ticketed
  • Complimentary upgrades to all other fares based on availability five days in advance
  • Access to Economy Comfort seats at purchase
  • Sky Priority Boarding and baggage handling, Priority Security Line Access
  • Same day changes at no charge
  • Waived baggage, same-day changes, standby, and other fees
  • Ability to cancel award tickets for redeposit
  • SkyMiles mileage bonus (4 additional miles per dollar)

Diamond 

  • Four global upgrade certificates or eight regional upgrade certificates
  • Y economy fare purchases are automatically upgraded to first class when ticketed
  • Complimentary upgrades to all other fares based on availability five days in advance
  • Access to Economy Comfort seats at purchase
  • Premium Boarding and baggage handling, Priority Security Line Access
  • Same day changes at no charge
  • Ability to cancel award tickets for redeposit
  • Waived baggage, same-day changes, standby, and other fees
  • Delta Sky Club complimentary membership
  • SkyMiles mileage bonus (6 additional miles per dollar)


Thrifty Tip #5:
I recommend at least hitting Gold Medallion which will give you Priority access to TSA checkpoints in Delta hubs, and priority baggage handling, which means your bags will be the first out of the plane and into baggage claim. Gold Medallion also gives you a better chance for an upgrade than Silver Medallion and you’ll also have free access to Economy Comfort seats three days from departure.

 

Bottom Line

If you are a Delta frequent flyer you should be working towards Delta Medallion status. Make sure to utilize the Delta American Express credit cards to help boost your MQM balance to the next level, and also to bolster your SkyMiles balance. Also keep an eye on cheap international fares, as that is the best way to get the most MQMs for the least amount of money. Need more SkyMiles and MQMs? Check out our Top Credit Cards!

 

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Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews, or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

14 Responses

  1. Daniel Montoya says:

    Delta is upping the MQD waiver to $250,000

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