Diehard Delta flyers spent weeks railing against the unpopular revisions to earning Medallion Status – and even after forcing the airline to backtrack, many still weren't happy. But now that the airline's new system for earning status is in effect with the New Year, it could actually be easier and cheaper for many travelers to make Medallion in 2024.
I know, it sounds crazy. Delta has substantially increased how much you need to spend each year to earn every tier of status, after all. Travelers spent months lighting up the airline on social media because of it, promising they'd cut up their credit cards and prompting other airlines to try to swoop in and win them over.
But it's true. Some of Delta's tweaks after its initial changes backfired could make it easier for some (though certainly not all) flyers to unlock status than ever before – especially for those with a *delta skymiles platinum card* or the top *delta reserve card*.
A brand-new benefit for those cardholders can quickly, maybe instantly, unlock Delta Silver or even Gold Medallion status … without even stepping foot on a plane. There are more ways to earn those pivotal Medallion Qualifying Dollars (MQDs) than ever. And flyers who racked up hundreds of thousands of miles last year will have some unique options to climb even higher on the ranks of Delta status in 2024.
Like status with any airline, earning Delta Medallion Status isn't worth it for everyone. But this just goes to show: Despite the outcry, the bad news from Delta wasn't universally bad at all. In fact, it could be a win.
Read more: Is Delta Medallion Status Worth it Anymore?
The New Basics of Earning Delta Status
Delta initially proposed a seismic overhaul of its Medallion Status program.
It didn't just pivot to measuring only the Almighty (Medallion Qualifying) Dollar: It raised the annual spending thresholds for earning status this year by as much as 100%. At the same time, it eliminated an easy way for travelers to fast track their way to status with Delta credit cards and announced drastic caps for Delta lounge access.
It didn't go over well. CEO Ed Bastian conceded that they took things too far and a fix was coming. The airline eventually walked back some of the harshest changes, opening a couple of new shortcuts for earning elite status in the process.
With 2024 officially underway, the new system is here. Annual flying requirements are gone: Now, it's all about spending with Delta. Here's what you need to spend.
Medallion Qualifying Dollars (MQDs) have long been a requirement for earning status. But the sheer amount required for earning elite status this year went up by 25% to as much as 66% with the final changes. At first glance, that's a pretty drastic increase.
But once you consider all the new ways to earn MQDs, it's not quite as bad as it seems:
- As always, you earn 1 MQD per $1 spent on Delta and Delta-partner flights (excluding taxes and fees).
- You now earn 1 MQD for every $10 spent on a *delta reserve card* or *delta reserve business*. That means spending $10,000 will earn you 1,000 MQDs.
- If you've got the *delta skymiles platinum card* or a *Delta SkyMiles Platinum Biz*, you earn 1 MQD for every $20 spent. That means spending $10,000 will earn you 500 MQDs.
- You can also earn 1 MQD for every $1 you spend on Delta Vacations® packages.
Add it all up, and there are now more ways than ever to earn MQDs. That alone makes these higher spending requirements sting a little less.
But there's one particular change that doesn't just make this new system less painful – it could be a positive.
Get Instant Medallion Status (or Close) With Credit Cards
Beyond perks like free checked bags and Sky Club access, the top Delta SkyMiles co-branded credit cards have earned a spot in the wallets of Delta loyalists for years to fast-track a path to earn (or boost) Medallion Status. In 2024, that case is even stronger.
Having a *delta skymiles platinum card* or the top-tier *delta reserve card* (or either of their small business counterparts) might be essential for earning status … and for current cardholders, it opens an easier path to get there. It's all thanks to a brand-new cardholder benefit Delta calls “MQD Headstart.”
On Feb. 1,2024, cardholders will be automatically awarded 2,500 MQDs for each Delta SkyMiles Platinum or Reserve Card they hold. This isn't a one-off apology for 2024 – a Delta spokesman previously confirmed cardholders will get these boosts each year. And if you've got multiple of these cards, you'll get a MQD Headstart for each and every one of them.
That automatically makes the new MQD requirements far more tolerable. In some cases, it could even bring the amount you need to spend for status even lower than before – if you need to spend another dime at all.
Consider a few scenarios for how you can use these headstart bonuses to work your way to Delta status even faster:
- Just have the Delta Platinum Card? After that 2,500 MQD Headstart, you're only 2,500 MQDs away from Silver Medallion status – less than the $3,000 required last year. You could earn those 2,500 extra MQDs on Delta flights, Delta Vacations Packages, or spending on your Delta Platinum Card – or a combination of all three.
- If you have both the personal Delta Platinum and Reserve Cards (or the Delta Platinum Business Card, assuming you're eligible for business credit cards), you'd get 5,000 Headstart MQDs and unlock Delta Silver Status automatically. A two-card combo with both the personal and business SkyMiles Platinum Cards costs as little as $700 a year in annual fees – a fraction of the the $5,000-plus you'd need to spend on flights with to earn that same status.
- Keeping all four Delta credit cards open (and paying $1,600 in annual fees) makes little sense at first blush … but stacking those four MQD headstart bonuses gets you 10,000 MQDs and automatic Gold Medallion Status, all without setting foot on a Delta plane.
- Will you be a few thousand MQDs short of status as the year comes to a close? You can even upgrade from a card like the *delta skymiles gold card* to a Platinum or Reserve Card, and you'll get still those MQDs. A Delta spokesman previously told us these MQD boosts from upgrades typically hit your account within eight weeks, so you won't want to leave it until the last minute.
Having just one or two of these Delta cards in your wallet now makes earning low-level status easier than ever. And anyone pursuing top-tier status will no doubt want to have the Delta Reserve Card – or several cards – in their arsenal, stacking several headstart bonuses and earning more MQDs on their everyday spending.
Related reading: Which Delta SkyMiles Credit Card is Right For You?
No More MQD Waiver … But No Flying Requirements, Either
One of the toughest pills to swallow for Delta flyers was the end of the popular MQD waiver. But there's a silver lining.
For years, Delta cardholders bypassed the annual spending requirements for status by charging $25,000 to select Delta co-branded credit cards instead – or $250,000 for top-tier Diamond status. That waiver is gone. And it isn't coming back.
That's a tough break for loyal Delta customers who had no trouble racking up tens of thousands of miles but would have otherwise struggled spending $3,000 to $12,000 a year or more on Delta flights. The MQD waiver made it easy for travelers to justify charging daycare, tuition, and other big expenses to their top Delta card each year.
But there's a tradeoff: Delta also killed off annual flying requirements by doing away with tracking Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs), too. That means there's no need to fly 25,000 miles or much more a year to earn your Delta status, as was the case just last year.
Combined with MQD Headstart bonuses coming Feb. 1, it flings the door wide-open to earn Delta status without flying at all. For Delta cardholders and heavy spenders who struggled to put on the miles in years past, that's a serious positive.
Ultra-Frequent Flyers Can Roll Over Miles
Tracking your flight distances and mileage runs may be a thing of the past with Delta. But there's an avenue for Delta's most-frequent (and high status) travelers to make the most of it in 2024.
Rollover MQMs have been a fixture of Delta's program for years, giving travelers who racked up more miles than they needed to earn status a head start on the next year's elite chase. One of the concessions Delta made for loyalists in its walk-back of last fall's changes was a novel way to use that extra mileage one last time.
Sometime next month, travelers will have a few options to roll over their excess MQMs:
- Travelers with 100,000 MQMs or more can choose to extend the status they earned in 2023s by one year for every 100,000 MQMs.
- Medallion members can also turn those rollover MQMs into Medallion Qualifying Dollars (MQDs) for a head start on next year's status on a 10:1 basis, so 180,000 extra MQMs could become 18,000 MQDs.
- You can convert them into redeemable SkyMiles at a 2:1 rate – 180,000 MQMs would get you 90,000 SkyMiles.
- You'll have some ability to mix and match, so you could use 180,000 rollover MQMs for a one-year extension of status, then turn the remaining 80,000 miles into 8,000 MQDs or 40,000 SkyMiles
It's a huge opportunity for travelers who racked up a lot of miles flying Delta last year.
Travelers like Tim Koyonen, who had built up an impressive stash of 340,000 rollover MQMs by the end of 2023, are looking at automatic years-long extensions of Medallion Status. Flyers who have fallen short of lofty Diamond status requirements in the past could instead leverage those rollovers for another huge MQD boost this year, finally locking up Delta's top status benefits all the way through 2025 and into early 2026.
Last we heard from Delta, a dedicated page to handle these rollover choices is expected to launch sometime in early February. Medallion members will have until the end of 2024 to lock in a choice.
Earn Far More MQDs With Delta Vacations
Along with all the other changes to earning Medallion status, there's a brand-new way to earn more MQDs in 2024 and beyond.
On paper, travel packages booked through Delta Vacations now earn 1 MQD for every $1 spent. In practice, it's not quite that straightforward … but the upshot is that you'll almost always earn far more MQDs toward Delta status – and not just on the flights, but even on the cost of your hotel stay, rental cars, and other expenses. Previously, you'd only earn MQDs on the flight portion.
That's a big win, helping earn hundreds or even thousands of additional MQDs on Delta Vacations that weren't on the table before. For example, a traveler who last year took this $7,600 weeklong vacation package to Hawaii for four – with a seven-night stay at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort – would have earned about 1,300 MQDs.
Now, that same package would earn close to 6,000 MQDs.
But exactly how many MQDs you earn hinges on the flights you take – and how many people are traveling with you.
Let's start with flights. Flights booked as part of a Delta Vacations package are considered “exception fares.” So instead of earning MQDs based on the cost of the flight, it's based on the total distance flown – and then a percentage of that distance based on the actual fare class of your ticket.
Roundtrip flights from Minneapolis to Honolulu clock in at 7,944 miles in total. Since these flights are booking into a “V” main cabin fare, you'd earn 5% of that: 398 MQDs, in this case.
Thrifty Tip: Unsure how far your flight is? Plug your starting and destination airport into GCMap and find out!
None of this really matters if you're traveling solo: You'll earn MQDs for your flight based on the above chart, then even more MQDs based on the costs of the rest of your trip. But most travelers booking through Delta Vacations are booking for a couple or even a family trip.
If you're booking for two, four, or more travelers, each of them will earn MQDs of their own on the flight. And that amount gets subtracted from the amount of MQDs that the person booking the trip eventually earns.
Back to our Hawaii trip for a family of four to bring this example home. The weeklong trip starts at $7,613, but you need to subtract the combined MQDs that the three other passengers are earning: 1,194 MQDs. Finally, Delta also lops off any taxes and fees charged by hotels or other companies – though those aren't explicitly broken out during the booking process.
That leaves you with a grand total of more than 5,800 MQDs on this trip, give or take a few hundred. That's more than enough to earn Delta Silver status alone, and a great bonus for a trip you were already going to book.
Like any package vacation deal, you need to do the math to figure out whether booking through Delta Vacations is a better deal than purchasing flights and hotels separately. In this case, it was a no-brainer: A Delta package saved $2,000, according to my math.
That won't always be true. But even when you're not saving a bundle, you still could get a boatload of MQDs when booking these Delta Vacations now.
Isn't it ironic, don't you think? Delta set out last year to thin the ranks of travelers with Medallion Elite status … and in the process, they opened some new, even easier avenues to earn status in 2024.
Not everyone will come out ahead so cleanly. And there's no telling when Delta will cut these options or hike the spending requirements again to make them irrelevant.
But for now, the new ways to earn MQDs – including just by holding certain credit cards – could make earning or leveling up your Medallion Status easier than ever.