Signing up for credit cards through partner links earns us a commission. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. Here’s our full Advertising Policy.
Figuring out how to earn and use miles & points can be tricky enough…without all of the jargon from the airlines! That’s where we step in to help.
Million Mile Secrets Reader Mike asks:
I’m confused about the difference between Delta miles and MQMs (Medallion® Qualification Miles). I understand that MQMs help you earn elite status. But can Delta miles and MQMs be combined for award flights?
Hi Mike, and thanks for the question!
I’ll explain the difference between these 2 types of miles. And why both are important!
Delta’s Frequent Flyer Program
Delta miles and Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) are both very valuable, but there’s a key difference! MQMs have no actual value and are only used to track elite status with Delta.
Delta miles and MQMs can NOT be combined. You can NOT use MQMs for award tickets or to Pay With Miles. And MQMs reset each year, unlike Delta miles, which have no expiration date.
MQMs are only important when it comes to earning elite status. Delta’s elite status program, Medallion®, has 4 tiers: Silver, Gold, Platinum, and Diamond. Each tier offers a different set of perks, like priority check-in and boarding, lounge access, seat upgrades, and more!
Redeemable Delta Miles
When you fly Delta or earn miles from a Delta card welcome bonus and spending, you’ll earn Delta miles (or “redeemable miles”). These are the miles you can use to book award tickets or Pay With Miles (if you have certain credit cards).
On flights that are operated, marketed, or ticketed by Delta, you’ll earn Delta miles based on how much you paid for your flight. You’ll also earn bonus miles if you have elite status. There are a few exceptions, like if you’re on a vacation package or unpublished fare through a travel agent.
You can also earn redeemable Delta miles by crediting flights on partner airlines (like SkyTeam alliance flights) to Delta. In this case, you’ll earn Delta miles based on the rules of the airline that operates your flight.
Earning Delta Elite Status
There are few different ways to earn elite status, including earning MQSs, MQDs, or an MQD waiver. But what exactly does all of that mean?
MQMs (Medallion® Qualification Miles)
MQMs are earned based on the distance flown and fare class. For example, if you earn 25,000 MQMs (and meet the MQD requirements!) within a calendar year, you’ll earn Silver elite status.
If you routinely travel for business or have long flights, you’ll be able to quickly rack up MQMs. One great thing about this program is that you can also earn MQMs on Delta’s partner airlines.
That said, each partner has their own terms and conditions. So you may want to call beforehand just to double check.
MQSs (Medallion® Qualification Segments)
MQSs are earned based on the number of flights you take. Each segment is a flight from point A to point B. If you take a lot of short-distance flights, this might be an easier way for you to earn the next tier of elite status compared to earning the required number of MQMs.
For example, you need 30 MQSs (plus meet the MQD requirement) in a calendar year to earn Silver elite status. Whereas the MQM requirement is 25,000 miles.
MQDs (Medallion® Qualification Dollars)
You’ll earn MQDs based on how much you spend on Delta flights and certain partner airlines. For example, Diamond elite status has an MQD requirement of $15,000 within a calendar year. That’s in addition to meeting the MQM or MQS requirement.
If you have one of the Delta cards from American Express, you may also be able to obtain an MQD waiver for Silver, Gold, and Platinum status levels, by making $25,000 in purchases for the calendar year. If you earn the waiver, you won’t have to worry about reaching a certain amount in spending on Delta and certain partners.
For Diamond elite status, the spending requirement goes up to $250,000 in purchases to qualify for the MQD waiver.
Note: If you’re not a US resident, the MQD requirement to earn elite status is also waived.
Delta miles are the only Delta miles currency that can be used to book award tickets or Pay With Miles. You can NOT combine MQMs (Medallion® Qualification Miles) with Delta miles for flights.
MQMs have no actual value, but are used only for the purposes of tracking your elite status in Delta’s frequent flyer program. And each elite status tier has different requirements regarding earning MQMs, MQSs, MQDs, or an MQD waiver.
Thanks again for the question, Mike!