Frequent flyers wear their airline status like a badge of honor. Delta Medallion Status is no different. But what does it really mean for the average traveler?
We’ll dive into the ins and outs of Delta’s four tiers of status, as well as what it takes to get there. But our general rule of thumb is that it’s rarely worth it for average travelers to go far out of their way to clinch status on any airline. And that includes even loyal Delta flyers.
If you can naturally get to Silver or above, great! But as the end of the year comes and temptation looms, keep in mind: Mileage runs or crazy spending strategies to get status likely aren’t worth the effort unless if you’re already a status-holder.
Thrifty Tip: Worried about your Delta status for 2021 and beyond? No worries, Delta has granted massive extensions due to COVID-19 and made it even easier to earn status for next year.
How to Earn Delta Medallion Status
There’s no doubt about it: Even the lowest levels of Delta status require a fair amount of travel.
Average travelers are unlikely to even scratch the surface of hitting Silver Medallion status, the airline’s lowest tier. If you travel a fair amount for work – or fly international long-haul with Delta or a partner – that could do the trick.
There are two critical pieces to get status with Delta: flying and spending. You have to rack up a certain amount of miles on Delta flights (called Medallion Qualification Miles or MQMs, which are different than SkyMiles) or a sheer number of flight segments, plus a spending requirement.
Here’s a brief rundown on what it takes to earn each of the four Medallion tiers:
- Silver Medallion Status: 25,000 MQMs OR 30 flights (called Medallion Qualifying Segments) AND $3,000 in spending on Delta or partner flights
- Gold Medallion Status: 50,000 MQMs OR 60 Medallion Qualifying Segments AND $6,000 in spending on Delta or partner flights
- Platinum Medallion Status: 75,000 MQMs OR 100 Medallion Qualifying Segments AND $9,000 in spending on Delta or partner flights
- Diamond Medallion Status: 125,000 MQMs OR 140 Medallion Qualifying Segments AND $15,000 in spending on Delta or partner flights
Once you unlock your status, you’ll have it for the rest of that year and the following calendar year. But when it’s time to requalify, you start back at zero (unless you rollover MQMs from the prior year).
Worried about earning status for 2021, 2022, and beyond? Way back in April, Delta became the first airline to extend frequent flyer status, giving all statusholders with status in 2020 an automatic extension so their current status won't extend until at least January 2022. Another bonus? Any MQMs you earn this year will automatically rollover to earn status for 2022!
But no matter how slice it, it takes a lot of flights to earn status.
Are you flying close to 25,000 miles or more per year with Delta? That’s more than five round-trip, cross-country flights from Los Angeles (LAX) to New York City-JFK (JFK), or two round trips on Delta’s Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) to Seoul-Incheon (ICN) flight. All that flying just for Silver status.
Or do you take a lot of Delta flights with connections that can pad your Medallion Qualifying Segment totals?
If you answer to both questions was no, it's probably not worth a big effort for you. The perks require a lot of work to unlock. And until you really climb the ladder of status, those perks don't really pay off.
Luckily, there are a few ways you can fast-track your way to Delta status.
Workarounds to Earn Delta Medallion Status Even Faster
We wouldn't call it easy – and it's certainly not free. But there are a couple of strategies you can employ to earn both the MQMs and MQDs you need to achieve Delta status.
One way involves spending on some of Delta's top co-branded American Express credit cards.
Both the Delta SkyMiles Platinum American Express Card and the Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card allow you to earn MQMs each year by meeting certain spending requirements. With the Delta SkyMiles Platinum Card, you will earn 10,000 MQMs after you spend $25,000 on purchases within a calendar year. You can earn another 10,000 MQMs (20,000 total) by spending a total of $50,000 in a calendar year.
With the top-tier Delta SkyMiles Reserve Card, you earn 15,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs) by spending $30,000 throughout the year. That’s almost enough to automatically get Delta Silver Medallion Status without taking a single flight. And you can keep earning additional MQMs for spending $60,000, $90,000 and $120,000 in a calendar year as well. For big spenders, it's possible to earn 60,000 MQMs each year without taking a single Delta flight.
From the free Blue Card to the spendy Reserve, read up on which Delta credit card is right for you!
There's also a way to earn more Medallion Qualifying Dollars through Delta's credit cards.
Put $25,000 on any American Express Delta SkyMiles credit card in a year, and Delta will waive the MQD requirements for your status. That works for all but Delta’s highest Diamond Medallion Status, which requires an absurd $250,000 in card spend to get the waiver.
And there's one more way to accelerate your MQD earning – and it involves flying with airlines other than Delta.
Flying Delta, you earn MQDs based on how much you paid for your fare. But with Delta's partner airlines like Air France, KLM, Korean Air, Aeromexico, and countless others, it's based on the distance of your flight.
That means you can potentially earn far more MQDs flying with these partner carriers rather than Delta itself.
Read our guide to flying Delta partner airlines to earn Medallion Status faster!
Slim Chance of Upgrades Until You Climb the Status Ladder
Of all the reasons why flyers lust after airline status, one stands above them all.
Be honest: The allure of a complimentary upgrade is why you’re chasing airline status. After all, who wouldn’t like to fly up in first class while paying for coach?
But that’s not always the reality. Until you acquire higher levels of Delta status, upgrades are a mixed bag at best. After all your work to attain Silver or Gold Status, you’re still at or near the bottom of the queue for upgrades. Read our guide on how to boost your chances of scoring an upgrade with Delta.
And before we dive into upgrades, beware that this perk won’t get you into business class on a long-haul international flight. Upgrade requests are limited to domestic flights as well as some short international hops from the U.S. to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.
Silver Medallion Status is the first rung. In our experience, any upgrades are spotty at best. First class upgrades are nonexistent on all but the least competitive, poorly timed flights. You will occasionally get bumped up to Comfort Plus, but even that’s not a sure thing. And it will be a last-minute surprise: Silver Medallion upgrades don’t clear until 24 hours before departure. Basically, you should never truly count on upgrades with Delta Silver status – especially if you live in a busy Delta hub.
Gold Medallion Status is, of course, better when it comes to upgrades – but not by much. You’ll get more upgrades to Comfort Plus than with Silver status, and they clear 72 hours in advance. But getting into First Class is still hard to come by with even Gold status, though you may get a few upgrades.
Platinum Medallion Status is where the upgrade game starts to look better, but it’s still no slam dunk. In our experience, you can count on getting bumped up to first class between 30% and 40% of the time. But plan your travel wisely and you can do better. You can nearly double the odds of snagging a first-class upgrade by flying Delta’s regional carriers rather than mainline routes. It also helps to avoid high-traffic days like Mondays and Fridays. Flying on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays will get you more upgrades. You will always be moved into Comfort Plus at the time of booking as well.
Platinum status also gives you the option to choose some sure-fire upgrades. You can pick between five of Delta’s “Choice Benefits” once you attain Platinum status, and one option is four regional upgrade certificates. Better yet, you can confirm these upgrades at the time you book. Platinum also allows you to cancel award tickets, which we will cover shortly.
Diamond Medallion Status gets you at the top of the pecking order for securing free upgrades. And like Platinum status, those upgrades will begin clearing as far as five days in advance.
But you can get even more upgrades locked down. Diamond Medallion members can choose four “Choice Benefits,” including the most expansive set of upgrade certificates. If you fly within the U.S., opt for the eight regional upgrades. International flyers might like the ability to bump into Delta One business class with four global upgrades. Or split the difference and opt for a mix of two global upgrades and four regional certificates.
It’s worth noting that all status-holders, from Silver to Diamond, can also bring a companion with them in a successful upgrade. And though upgrades don’t work on Basic Economy fares, you can get upgraded on an award ticket after using your SkyMiles to book.
While your level of Delta status is the biggest factor in scoring an upgrade, there's more behind your odds. Read up on how Delta determines the upgrade order.
Platinum and Diamond Perks Stack Up
Given their priority in the upgrade list, Delta Platinum and Diamond Medallion members have it good. But some other benefits at these tiers make it clear that this is where holding this status really starts to pay off.
One of our favorite perks of Platinum and Diamond status is that Delta’s $150 fee to change or cancel award tickets is waived. That can add up fast if your plans change, and it allows you far more freedom to use up your SkyMiles. When a SkyMiles flash sale pops up, you can book now and ask questions later, canceling well beyond past the normal 24-hour cancellation window.
A handful of Choice Benefits also sweeten the deal. Platinum members have a choice to make between the upgrade certificates, a $200 gift card, 20,000 SkyMiles, gifting Silver status to a companion, or a $100 Global Entry voucher.
Diamond members have a smorgasbord of options and can pick four benefits. That includes the upgrade certificates laid out above, an annual SkyClub membership, gifting Gold status to a companion, 25,000 SkyMiles, the $200 gift card, and two $100 Global Entry vouchers.
Diamond Medallion members also get a free membership for CLEAR, our favorite way to save time at the airport. Ever seen a Porsche on the tarmac outside your Delta plane? That was likely waiting to whisk away a Diamond or Delta 360 member – the airline's exclusive, invite-only tier – in danger of missing his/her connecting flight.
Smaller Benefits Can Add Up, Too
Most of the value from status with Delta comes from upgrades and other big-time benefits. But a handful of other perks are worth pointing out.
Getting free priority seating when booking is a small but unsung upside of Delta status available even to Silver Medallion members. It allows you to pick an exit row or bulkhead seat with additional legroom for free on domestic trips.
Similarly, you can snag a Comfort Plus seat for free on longer international flights – even as a Silver Medallion. Just beware that this benefit for a few extra inches of legroom doesn’t kick in for Silver status holders until 24 hours before departure – and 72 hours before departure if you’re Gold Medallion.
From Silver to Diamond, every Medallion status member gets a designated check-in line at the airport. Gold Medallion and up also get access to a priority security line at some airports and expedited baggage handling after landing. And everyone gets priority boarding, no questions asked.
Flying abroad with a Delta SkyTeam partner airline? While carrying one of the Delta co-branded credit cards from American Express only gets you a free checked bag on Delta-operated flights, you can get free baggage on Delta partner airlines like Air France, KLM, and others with your Delta status. You’ll also get access to their lounges if you have Gold Medallion status or greater.
Is It Worth It?
It's the million-mile question.
Airline status is meant for the truly frequent travelers, who are flying several times a month or more for business. For these travelers, it's much easier to organically hit the requirements for status with Delta without putting in extra work – or a last-minute flight to hit the MQMs or MQDs necessary. And when your employer is footing that bill, it makes more sense.
But if you ask us, earning Delta status isn't worth the extra work, spending, or time for the vast majority of travelers – especially Delta Silver or Gold Medallion status. Airline status tricks too many flyers into spending more money in the chase for a title – without truly rewarding them.
The end-of-year buy-up offers from Delta to secure status are exhibit A in the museum of poor choices made in the name of status.
Sure, there are some exceptions. Perhaps you're just a short flight away from qualifying for a year's worth of Silver, Gold, or Platinum status. That could easily be worth it.
But for most of us, qualifying for Delta status would require a big effort (or expense). In those cases, you're probably better off forgetting about status altogether.
Delta status can be lucrative, but it isn’t for everyone. Even if you prefer flying Delta, the average traveler is almost always better off as a free agent – following cheap fares rather than airline loyalty.
The perks for lower levels (Silver and Gold) generally aren’t worth the additional costs you’ll pay to get there. It’s better suited for employees whose businesses foot the bill for their frequent travel.
If you can’t naturally build status, you’re probably better off seeking the best deal rather than focusing on Delta or employing wild-haired strategies to secure status.