What's the Difference Between Delta SkyMiles and MQMs?
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What’s the Difference Between Delta SkyMiles and MQMs?

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If you’re a Delta flyer, you know Delta SkyMiles. But then there’s another thing you earn on almost every Delta flight: Medallion Qualifying Miles, or MQMs. What’s the difference?

It’s a common question, and it’s easy to get confused by these somewhat similar terms. Airlines make it difficult to understand on purpose. And as Delta launches a new promo to earn status in 2021, there’s even more overlap.

Here’s what it boils down to: You earn Delta SkyMiles by flying, and use them to redeem free flights. But MQMs are an essential building block of earning Delta Medallion Status – you don’t use them to book flights.

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 like Air France, KLM, and more. Flying with Delta, you’ll earn SkyMiles based upon the cash price of your flight. But the easiest way to earn SkyMiles doesn’t involve hopping on a plane at all.

They can also be earned by spending on one of the Delta co-branded American Express credit cards, whether you buy flights or even some restaurants and supermarkets.

But if you’re earning SkyMiles by flying, it depends on what kind of flyer you are. Everyday SkyMiles members earn 5x SkyMiles per dollar spent on Delta flights, while that rate increases as you climb the ladder of Delta Medallion status.

 

Delta Skymiles vs MQMs e1618497982788

 

Those earning rates get even higher if you use a Delta co-branded American Express card to buy your flight, as every card earns at least 2x SkyMiles per dollar. This tacks on top of the miles you normally earn, so a SkyMiles member who buys a flight with their Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card would earn 7x SkyMiles per dollar.

Read more: The Best Ways to Earn Delta SkyMiles in 2021

 

Earn SkyMiles with the Co-Branded American Express Credit Cards

There are four different versions of the Delta SkyMiles American Express cards. Each 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.

 

delta amex gold card

 

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

 

delta amex platinum card

 

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

 

delta amex reserve

 

Click Here to learn more about the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card.

 

delta amex blue card

 

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

 

When it comes time to use your SkyMiles, you can use them to book flights, of course. Delta no longer publishes an award chart, a cheat sheet for what it costs to fly between point A and point B. That means the award rates to use your SkyMiles is constantly changing. But perhaps one of the best ways to use Delta SkyMiles is for the many flash sales that have been popping up over the last few years, like 12,000 SkyMiles to Colombia or 11,000 SkyMiles down to Costa Rica and back.

You can also redeem SkyMiles for flight upgrades, seat assignment fees, and even champagne in the Delta Sky Club – some for more value than others. This has added a lot of confusion to the program and is the reason many have sworn off SkyMiles. Trust us, there is still plenty of value to be had with SkyMiles – you just need to know where to look. Make sure to read up on the Top 9 Ways to Redeem SkyMiles.

Or watch our YouTube video with tips to start using Delta SkyMiles like a pro.

 

 

Delta Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs)

Delta MQMs have zero value for booking flights. Instead, they’re all about building Delta status.

Unlike SkyMiles, you earn MQMs based on the actual distance flown. You generally earn 1 MQM for every mile you fly with Delta, but first-class flyers earn up to 2 MQMs per actual mile flown. The top Delta co-branded credit cards will even give you MQM bonuses after spending a certain amount in a calendar year.

You can earn Delta Medallion status through MQMs or MQSs (Medallion Qualifying Segments). It’s almost always easier to earn Medallion status through miles flown vs. segments, though that will depend on your travel patterns.

In many cases, the secret to earning a bunch of MQMs is simple: Fly longer flights. The longer the flight, the more MQMs you’ll earn. That means international flights are your best bet for earning MQMs. You can even earn MQMs flying with Delta’s partner airlines like Air France, Korean Air, KLM, and many others. In some cases, flying partner carriers can help you fast-track your Delta status.

But no matter how you go about it, it can require a lot of flying to earn the MQMs necessary for Delta status. Here’s a look at what it takes.

 

difference between skymiles and mqms

 

Every traveler loves the idea of earning status and getting free upgrades. But with both flying and spending requirements, that loyalty can be expensive. Unless you’re flying on your employer’s dime, chasing status makes little sense for the average traveler. And in our experience, you won’t start seeing frequent Delta upgrades until you reach Platinum or Medallion status.

Read more: Is Delta Status Really Worth It? All About Delta Medallion Status

Any MQMs that exceed your current status are automatically 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, as none of the other major U.S. airlines offer this.

 

delta skymiles vs mqms

 

Delta Amex cardholders have another novel way to earn MQMs: It’s called Delta Pay with Miles. Normally, award tickets booked using SkyMiles won’t earn you redeemable SkyMiles or MQMs. But using Pay with Miles, you can use your SkyMiles toward the cost of a cheap ticket. And you still earn MQMs. 

Every SkyMile gets you 1 cent toward the ticket, so you can use Pay with Miles to book a $50 flight for 5,000 SkyMiles. You have to apply SkyMiles in increments of 5,000, and you need a minimum of 5,000 SkyMiles in your account.

But in 2021, there’s an even easier way to pile up MQMs…

 

Delta Medallion Status Accelerator

Earlier this year, Delta rolled out a new promotion with a fast-track offer to elite status. It allows SkyMiles members to earn at least 50% more Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs), Medallion Qualification Segments (MQSs), and Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQDs) on all Delta flights through the end of the year!

You’ll even earn towards status on award tickets booked with SkyMiles, plus Delta Pay with Miles tickets, Miles + Cash bookings, and even flights booked through a Delta Vacations package.

  • All basic economy and main cabin tickets departing from April 1 through Dec. 31, 2021, will earn 50% more MQMs, MQSs, and MQDs.
  • Flying in a premium cabin? Premium cabin fares in Delta One, Delta Premium Select, Delta Comfort Plus, and even domestic first-class will earn an additional 25% bonus, for a total of a 75% boost. You will even earn the extra 25% boost on tickets upgraded to a premium cabin after the original purchase.
  • Most importantly, award tickets booked with SkyMiles count toward this promotion – regardless of when they were actually booked! That’s something we have never seen from a U.S. airline. You’ll also be eligible for the multipliers on Miles + Cash tickets, Pay with Miles tickets, and flights booked as a part of a Delta Vacations package.
  • Flights booked with Delta partner airlines like Air France, KLM, and others will not be eligible for this promotion. Only flights marketed and operated by Delta Air Lines will qualify.
  • Award tickets booked with SkyMiles still will not earn additional redeemable SkyMiles.

 

Read more: Delta Launches Promo to Earn Medallion Status Faster, Extends Companion Tickets!

 

Earning 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. For example, if you were flying from Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) to Atlanta (ATL), you would earn one qualifying segment.

However, if your journey started in Fargo, North Dakota (FAR) and you flew FAR-MSP-ATL, that itinerary would earn two qualifying segments.

And as mentioned above, through the end of 2021, all basic economy and main cabin tickets through Dec. 31, 2021, will earn 50% more MQSs, too.

 

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 either your Delta SkyMiles Platinum American Express Card or Your Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card (except when working towards Diamond Medallion status).

Both cards 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.

Not looking to spend a fortune on your Delta credit card? One easier way to accelerate your path to Medallion status is by flying with Delta’s partner airlines.

 

So What Do MQMs Get Me?

MQMs, MQSs, and MQDs are all about one thing: Earning Delta status. Here’s a look at what each tier of status gets you.

 

Silver Medallion

  • Access to preferred seats at the time of booking
  • Access to Delta Comfort Plus seats 24 hours prior to flight, based on availability
  • Complimentary upgrades to all other fares based on availability one day in advance of departure
  • Waived baggage fees
  • SkyMiles mileage bonus (2 additional miles per dollar)

 

Gold Medallion

  • Access to preferred seats at the time of booking
  • Access to Delta Comfort Plus seats 72 hours prior to flight – based on availability
  • 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 Medallion

    • Four regional upgrade certificates each year
    • Access to one Delta Choice benefits each year
    • Complimentary upgrades to all other fares based on availability five days in advance
    • Access to Delta Comfort Plus seats at the time of purchase
    • Sky Priority Boarding and baggage handling, Priority Security Line Access
    • 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 Medallion

  • Four global upgrade certificates or eight regional upgrade certificates
  • Access to three Delta Choice benefits each year
  • 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 Delta Comfort Plus 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 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.

 

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

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: 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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