You may have already read the fine details elsewhere, but I promise to have some takes that are uniquely Dave. They are at the end under, well, “My Take.”
In this article
Delta Overhauls How You Earn Medallion Status
For the remainder of 2023, you are earning your status for 2024 (through Feb 2025) the same way as you have been. Good old MQMs and Delta Amex credit card waivers.
But starting in 2024, the way you earn status will change entirely, and most people will be terribly frustrated with the changes.
Let’s start by going over the changes.
All Delta Status is Now Earned by MQDs and only MQDs
The biggest change is that you will no longer qualify for status with a combination of MQMs and MQDs (where the MQDs could be waived with $25,000 in spend on a Delta Platinum or Delta Reserve Amex card). Remember that MQDs are an abbreviation for “Medallion Qualifying Dollars.”
For those non-US residents that side-stepped the MQDs altogether for years? Your time is up as well.
This is how many MQDs you’ll need for status moving forward. Note that the Medallion benefits are (as of now!) unchanged.
Earning Delta MQDs From 2024 Onwards
As of now (I say that because I think Delta will have to refine this if they want to keep their mid-tier spenders around), you will only earn MQDs from a few sources.
- Flights on Delta (1 MQD per dollar spent). Ancillary purchases or fees including but not limited to checked baggage fees, Priority Boarding, Delta Sky Club® memberships, Wi-Fi passes, in-flight food and beverage purchases, in-flight entertainment, unaccompanied minor fees, pet travel fees, or mileage purchases, ticket change fees, Direct Ticketing Charge (DTC), same-day confirmed or standby fees, Administrative Service Charge (ASC), and External Reissue Charge (ERC), do not count toward earning MQDs.
- Flights on partners (Earn MQDs based on a percentage of flight distance per this page. This is generally 5% to 60% of the flight distance flown based on the airline and class of service.)
- Lodging booked via Delta Stays (hotels and vacation rentals). 1 MQD / $ spent (plus 2 redeemable miles per dollar spent)
- Car rentals booked via Delta Car Rentals. 1 MQD / $ spent (plus 2 redeemable miles per dollar spent)
- Delta Vacations: 1 MQD / $ spent. The person who books earns the MQDs on all but the flights involved (i.e. the hotel or car).
- Delta / Amex Credit Cards: Delta Reserve and Business Reserve cardholders earn 1 MQD per $10 spent while Delta Platinum and Delta Business Platinum cardholders earn 1 MQD per $20 spent. Delta Gold and Blue cardholders earn no MQDs (only redeemable miles).
Notable Things That Do Not Earn MQDs
- Award flights. While I can’t say this with 100% certainty, I’ve combed every word of every term of every page and can find no reference to earning MQDs on award travel. This was a HUGE driver for me as I’d earn SkyMiles on my Delta Reserve and spend them, earning MQMs on the award flights.
- SkyMiles Dining
- SkyMiles eShopping
Delta was the first carrier to allow earning status miles on award flights. Virgin soon followed. This is a big blow.
Also, when American Airlines revamped AAdvantage with Loyalty Points, they included three major things that Delta seems to not be: Dining miles, Shopping miles, and their proprietary SimplyMiles program which allows for significant earn when you buy what they want to push. I have more to say on this but will leave that for my large personal thoughts section at the end.
Rollover MQMs Are Over
That awesome feature where you could earn say 124,000 miles and start the next year with 49,000 MQMs? Gone. You will start at zero each year.
If you have Rollover MQMs when this changeover occurs in 2024, you’ll be able to convert them to MQDs or miles. 20 MQMs will convert to 1 MQD.
Yes, that is right. Your 100,000 MQMs? Just 5,000 MQDs. What would have been Platinum status all on its own is now not even Silver. (This one is just plain insulting.)
Credit Card Boosts – Over as You Know Them
The only “boost” starting in 2024 is earning 1 MQD per $10 dollars spent on a Delta Reserve card or 1 MQD per $20 dollars spent on a Delta Platinum card.
No more real boosts like you currently get at $25,000 on a Delta Platinum (10,000 MQMs) or $30,000 on a Delta Reserve (15,000 MQMs).
This is a huge blow to the value of the Delta portfolio of credit cards, in my opinion, as a Delta Business Reserve cardholder. And I haven’t even mentioned the rest of the credit card changes – the ones affecting lounges.
SkyClub Lounge Access Policy Changes
- If you are on a Basic Economy fare (including equivalent Air France / KLM fares), you cannot enter the lounge no matter what card you have. This is effective January 1, 2024.
- Delta Platinum and Delta Business Platinum cardholders can no longer enter Delta SkyClubs by paying. That switch is off as of January 1, 2024.
- American Express Platinum and Business Platinum cardholders get 6 visits per year starting in 2025 unless they have spent $75,000 on their card in 2024.
- Delta Reserve and Delta Business Reserve cardholders get 10 visits per year starting in 2025 unless they have spent $75,000 on their card in 2024. If you bring someone in, you can use 2 at once. It appears you’ll also still get 2 guest passes a yer as you do now and you can pay $50 each for up to two guests. 2024 still offers unlimited lounge access per current terms.
Fine Print on Reserve Lounge Changes:
Effective September 14, 2023 through January 31, 2025: Eligible Delta Reserve and Delta Business Reserve cardholders receive complimentary access to the Delta Sky Club or to Grab and Go when traveling on a same-day Delta-marketed or Delta-operated flight. Eligible Card Members traveling on a Delta partner airline flight that is not marketed or operated by Delta may access the Club at a per-visit rate of $50 per person, per location, or Grab and Go at a per-visit rate of $25 per person, per location. Eligible Card Members may also bring either up to two guests, or their immediate family (spouse/domestic partner and children under 21) to the Club at a per-visit rate of $50 per person, per location or to Grab and Go at a per-visit rate of $25 per person, per location.
Effective February 1, 2025: Eligible Delta Reserve and Delta Business Reserve cardholders will receive 10 Visits per Eligible Card per year to the Delta Sky Club or to Grab and Go when traveling on a same-day Delta-marketed or Delta-operated flight. Visits are non-transferable and may only be used by Eligible Card Members. Eligible Card Members traveling on a Delta partner airline flight that is not marketed or operated by Delta may access the Club at a per-visit rate of $50 per person, per location, or Grab and Go at a per-visit rate of $25 per person, per location. Visits issued from February 1, 2025 through January 31, 2026 will expire on January 31, 2026, and Visits issued in subsequent years will expire on January 31 of each calendar year thereafter.
Delta Million Miler Changes
Your existing MQMs will count towards Million Miler but going forward only flown miles will count. Does this include award flight miles? We don’t know. The terms don’t say.
If you are a Million Miler, this status as a tie breaker for a Medallion Upgrades will now be #3 (it was #6) and will be ahead of Delta Reserve cardholders.
My Take (On All But The Lounge Access Policy Changes)
American Airlines did a good job when they launched Loyalty Points. They made it so you could earn through a variety of spending methods, boosting their co-branded credit card portfolio with each dollar spent earning a Loyalty Point and also offering non-flight partner earnings as able to earn Loyalty Points. I’m referring to their shopping portals, dining program, and SimplyMiles.
They also kept Loyalty Point levels that, while higher than previous status levels, made sense.
Delta? They did not nail this and this is going to absolutely drive some people away from Delta.
An American Airlines flyer can get Platinum Pro status – similar to Delta Platinum – with just 125,000 in Loyalty Points. This can be $125,000 in card spend on ANY AA co-brand card, including the no-fee MileUp card, or a combination of that, flying, shopping, dining, etc.
With Delta, to earn that similar status – Platinum – you need $18,000 MQDs. If you have the top tier Reserve level Amex card, you need to spend $180,000. If you have a Delta Platinum Amex level card, you need to spend $360,000.
If you have the $95 Gold level Delta Amex or the Delta Blue card, you can’t earn any MQDs at all!
- Delta’s shopping portal – doesn’t count.
- Delta’s dining program (Rewards Network) – doesn’t count.
- Any tie-ins like Starbucks or Lyft? Doesn’t count.
Sure, the hotels, car rentals, and vacations count – but I certainly don’t want to book any prepaid hotels and lose my hotel chain status benefits / points. And if we are using miles – I mean c’mon, this is MilesTalk! – you don’t earn a thing.
I think the bottom line is this. At a time that business travel has absolutely not rebounded in a meaningful way (sure, leisure / revenge travel has been on a tear, but even that is cooling), Delta is making it quite clear that you are going to have to be a BIG SPENDER to earn meaningful status.
Delta needs to rethink what earns MQDs. They need to have shopping, dining, and non-flight partner activity count. (They earn from it; it should help you qualify – same as AA.) They should continue the practice of earning qualifying points from award flights (or if they planned to – maybe put that on a page somewhere). That can still be based on miles redeemed like now – so redeeming 100,000 miles on Delta metal would earn $1,000 MQDs.
If you are not on the corporate dime, you’ll have some decisions to make. If you have a small business with significant spent, sure, you can divert $180,000 on a Delta Reserve card – at the expense of earning much more valuable points or cash elsewhere (meaning that there is a REAL opportunity cost there). If you are a normal Delta fan that has maybe put $30,000 – $60,000 on a Delta Reserve card to perhaps edge your way.
I’ve maintained Medallion status for years. I love flying Delta. I got a Delta Business Reserve card just this year because I wanted to push to Platinum and I did – and I’ll do it one more time this year on spend before the spend is just too much to bear. I can’t imagine keeping the Delta Business Reserve credit card unless they make some changes. It’s just too much opportunity cost.
I guess if you use the BOGO First Class flight certificate (which doesn’t even work on domestic Delta One flights), you can still get your money’s worth on the Reserve card, but I won’t even be able to use mine this year.
My Take (On The Lounge Access Policy Changes)
I think this is also a mistake – although with lounges so overcrowded I get the genesis of the changes.
I was just talking to my friend that travels a lot for work, but domestically. He loves his upgrades, but he pays for coach. He’s been in a Delta lounge over 20 times this year. He said that if this means that half the time he’s going to be sitting at the gate, he’s cancelling his Reserve card. I get that 100%.
Now, if you have a Platinum card and a Reserve card, you can still get 16 visits. But those two annual fees are a whopping $1,345 combined. Holy cow!
If you fly from an airport with a Centurion lounge, those visits remain uncapped. (I think?!) And you can also use the Priority Pass network, etc. But as for those SkyClub visits…. yeah.
I literally have a friend on a Delta flight right now asking me about the changes and replying with expletives. He’s Diamond now, dropping to Platinum next year. He has $9,500 MQDs YTD and a traditional Amex Platinum card (no Delta card. He’ll be lucky to hit Gold going forward – and he’s already thinking if this means the end of him and Delta.
These changes are going to upset all but a handful of Delta flyers.
I suspect some will look to move to UA or AA if their home city makes that an option. I predict much less spend on Delta Amex co-brand cards (and less cardmembers) as the spend needed to matter is just too high for most people now. I may well be proven wrong, but that’s what my gut tells me. Personally, I’m grieving as I’d been plotting how to keep achieving Platinum up until tonight.
Now, it just seems a bridge too far.
If this post helped you, please consider sharing it!
You can find credit cards that best match your spending habits and bonus categories at Your Best Credit Cards.
New to all of this? My “introduction to miles and points” book, MilesTalk: Live Your Wildest Travel Dreams Using Miles and Points is available on Amazon and at major booksellers.