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What’s the Difference between Delta SkyMiles and MQMs?

difference between delta skymiles and mqms

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If you often fly with Delta, it’s likely you have heard the terms SkyMiles and MQMs (Medallion Qualifying Miles). What is the difference? Airlines make things confusing to understand on purpose, and this is no exception.

It boils down to this: You earn and use SkyMiles by flying, and MQMs are an essential building block of status with Delta. Read on for our full breakdown of the differences between Delta SkyMiles and MQMs.

 

Delta SkyMiles

Delta SkyMiles is the airline’s frequent flyer mileage program. They are primarily earned by taking flights on Delta or their SkyTeam partner airlines, and from spending on one of the Delta co-branded American Express credit cards. The table below gives you a breakdown of the rate in which you will earn SkyMiles for any paid flights on Delta Air Lines.

Since all of the Delta co-branded American Express cards earn 2 SkyMiles per dollar spent on Delta purchases, I have added that into the total miles that can be earned for each dollar spent. As you can see, the higher you get on Delta’s elite status tier, the more SkyMiles you will earn.

Thrifty Tip #1: See our post on The 9 Best Ways to Earn Delta SkyMiles.

 

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

 

Earn SkyMiles with the co-branded American Express Credit Cards: 

There are four different versions of the Delta SkyMiles American Express cards. Each of them offers different benefits that will appeal to different travelers. Need help deciding which one is right for you? See our post outlining which Delta card is right for you.

 

 

Click Here to learn more about the Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express.

 

 

Click Here to learn more about the Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express.

 

 

Click Here to learn more about the Blue Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express.

 

 

Click Here to learn more about the Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express.

 

When it comes time to use your SkyMiles, they can be redeemed for free award tickets, flight upgrades, and even champagne in the Delta Sky Club. Delta no longer publishes an award chart, which used to act as a cheat sheet for what it costs to fly between point A and point B.

This has added a lot of confusion to the program and is the reason many have sworn it off. Trust us, there is still plenty of value to be had with SkyMiles – you just need to know where to look.

Thrifty Tip #2: See our post on the Top 8 Ways to Redeem SkyMiles.

Thrifty Tip #3: Learn How Delta SkyMiles Work and How to Make Them Work for You.

 

Delta Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs)

Delta MQM’s have zero value except for tracking your progress towards Delta’s Medallion elite status, and are based on the actual distance flown. You generally earn 1 MQM for every mile you fly with Delta, through first-class flyers earn up to 2 MQMs per mile flown. Some of the Delta co-branded credit cards will even provide an MQM bonus after spending a certain amount in a calendar year.

You can earn Delta Medallion status through MQMs or MQSs (Medallion Qualifying Segments). 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 MQMs easier.

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

The image below will give you a breakdown of how many MQMs or MQSs are required to achieve each level of Delta Medallion status. Loyalty is expensive, and in our opinion, trying to attain status on one airline makes little sense for the average traveler. From our experience, you will only see frequent upgrades when you reach Platinum or Diamond Medallion status.

Thrifty Tip #4: Read our post on if Delta Medallion Status is Worth It.

 

difference between skymiles and mqms

 

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 calendar year to help you earn status for the next year. This rollover ability is unique to Delta.

AdditionallyIf 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. In order to use this feature, you must have a minimum of 5,000 SkyMiles in your account.

 

Medallion Qualifying Segments (MQSs)

Every takeoff and landing will give a SkyMiles member one 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 with the airline.

 

Medallion Qualifying Dollars (MQDs) 

MQDs measure your yearly 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). Both the Delta Platinum American Express Card and the Delta Reserve American Express Card will offer an MQD waiver for Silver, Gold, and Platinum status after spending $25,000.

The $25k MQD waiver does not work when working towards Diamond Medallion status. 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)

 

Bottom Line

If you don’t travel enough with Delta to attain status, don’t worry about MQMs. If you are a frequent Delta traveler, make sure to utilize the Delta American Express credit cards to help boost your MQM balance to the next level while adding to your your SkyMiles balance.

And remember to keep an eye on cheap international fares, as that is the best way to get the most MQMs for the least amount of money.

 

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Lead Photo (CC BY 2.0):  Delta News Hub via Flickr

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.

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