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INSIDER SECRET: Delta Gold elite status comes with free standby flight changes, so you can hop on an earlier flight if there’s room.
Many moons ago, I had Delta Medallion® status as a New York-based traveler. They have the most on-time flights, and flew everywhere I needed to go, so I wanted to board early, enjoy surprise upgrades, and earn more miles on flights.
If you live near an airport Delta serves, you might wonder if it’s worth your time to earn Delta status because the more you fly, the more benefits you’ll get. If Delta is your go-to airline, the perks can certainly make your travels more comfortable.
But as with most things travel-related, it depends entirely on your personal situation and travel goals and if you have lots of travel coming up in the next year or two.
You can also get a boost towards elite status from cards like the Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express and Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express, which include Medallion® Qualification Miles as part of their welcome bonuses after meeting minimum spending requirements.
Plus, there are 4 elite status tiers – and each one is different.
Delta Status Explained: How to Earn It & What You Get
If you have a year or two of heavy travel coming up, and Delta has a presence at your airport, you might try to earn Delta Medallion® status – especially if Delta has the best prices and routes for your typical trips.
Because when you do, you’ll enjoy benefits like free checked bags, upgrades when available, and access to the Sky Club lounges, depending which of the 4 elite status tiers you achieve:
- Silver – Earn 25,000 MQMs or 30 MQSs AND $3,000 MQDs or MQD waiver
- Gold – Earn 50,000 MQMs or 60 MQSs AND $6,000 MQDs or MQD waiver
- Platinum – Earn 75,000 MQMs or 100 MQSs AND $9,000 MQDs or MQD waiver
- Diamond – Earn 125,000 MQMs or 140 MQSs AND $15,000 MQDs or MQD waiver
All those acronyms! Here’s our guide on decoding what they mean. And here’s a summary:
- MQMs (Medallion® Qualification Miles) – Earned based on the distance flown and fare class
- MQSs (Medallion® Qualification Segments) – Earned based on the number of flights you take
- MQDs (Medallion® Qualification Dollars) – Based on how much you spend on Delta flights and certain partner airlines
When you start earning status, you’ll reach a new tier every 25,000 MQMs you earn, until you reach Platinum, and then you’ll need 50,000 MQMs to hit top-tier Diamond elite status.
Most folks qualify for elite status based on MQMs, which is roughly based on the number of miles flown, plus bonuses for flying in a premium class.
If you connect every time you fly Delta, you might qualify based solely on MQSs, which is a simple tally of how many times you experience wheels up / wheels down.
Finally, Delta makes it impossible to earn status without spending cash. For each tier, you’ll need to spend $3,000 on flights (not including taxes or ancillary fees) to move up the ladder. That is until you reach Platinum status, then you’ll need to spend another $6,000 to reach the Diamond tier.
If you usually buy cheap flights, you might have trouble spending that much. Luckily, you can spend $25,000 per calendar year on an AMEX Delta card to waive the requirement.
Again, until you want to earn Diamond status, then you need to spend an eye-popping $250,000 in a calendar year (yes, that’s a quarter of a million dollars!).
Let’s look at what you get with each level.
1. Delta Medallion® Silver Elite Status
This is the lowest of Delta’s elite status tiers. As a Silver elite member, you get:
- 7 Delta miles per $1 spent on Delta flights
- First Class upgrades – 1 day before departure
- Delta One upgrades – Day of departure
- Delta Comfort+ upgrades – 1 day before departure
- Companion upgrades when available
- Preferred seats
- First checked bag free for yourself and up to 8 companions on the same reservation
- Priority check-in and boarding
- Partner airline benefits, like preferred seats and priority boarding
As a Delta Silver elite, you probably won’t score many of those coveted First Class upgrades, especially if you live in a Delta hub city flooded with elite members. That said, if you travel off-peak, or have a smaller regional airport, your chances improve.
And don’t give up. I’ve gotten upgrades I was sure would never clear while waiting at the gate as a Delta Silver elite member.
Even if you don’t get upgrades, you can still enjoy perks like priority boarding and free checked bags and hey, everyone has to start somewhere. This is your first stop along your elite status journey.
2. Delta Medallion® Gold Elite Status
After doing your time with Silver, you can move up to the Gold level. With it, you’ll get all the same perks as a Silver member, with a few notable enhancements like:
- 8 Delta miles per $1 spent on Delta flights
- First Class upgrades – 3 days before departure
- Delta Comfort+ upgrades – 3 days before departure
- Partner airline benefits, like preferred seats, priority boarding, priority baggage handling, and lounge access
- Waived same-day confirmed and standby flight changes
- Expedited baggage service
You’ll earn more points per $1 spent on Delta flights and your First Class and Comfort+ upgrades will happen 3 days before your flight departs.
Plus, if you conclude your business before your scheduled time, you can head to the airport and fly standby on an earlier flight for free.
These are all excellent benefits and you’ll start to feel even more “elite.”
3. Delta Medallion® Platinum Elite Status
When you keep going, you’ll eventually attain Platinum elite status, which comes with all the benefits of Silver and Gold, plus:
- 9 Delta miles per $1 spent on Delta flights
- First Class upgrades – 5 days before departure
- Delta Comfort+ upgrades – after ticketing
- Waived award redeposit and reissue fees
- 1 Choice Benefit of a Sky Club membership, 4 regional upgrade certificates, 20,000 bonus miles, gift card, or ability to gift Silver elite status
Most notably at this level, you can select a Choice Benefit, including unlimited access to the Sky Club lounges every time you fly, or upgrades regionally.
Your First Class upgrades will clear a full business week before you fly and no worries if you need to cancel an award ticket, because there are no fees any more.
4. Delta Medallion® Diamond Elite Status
You’ve done it – Delta’s highest tier. You’ve flown with Delta a LOT, and they’re happy to reward you for all that flying. You’ll get everything mentioned before, and these extras:
- 11 Delta miles per $1 spent on Delta flights
- First Class upgrades – 5 days before departure with highest Priority boarding
- 3 Choice Benefits of a Sky Club membership, 4 global OR 8 regional OR 2 global and 4 regional upgrade certificates, 25,000 bonus miles, gift card, or ability to gift Gold elite status
- Free CLEAR membership
By this time, you’ve spent seemingly countless hours on Delta planes, and spent a lot of money on flights (or on a Delta credit card). You’ll now get 11 Delta miles per $1 spent on Delta flights, the highest priority boarding every time you fly, and 3 Choice Benefits. Delta will even throw in a free CLEAR membership to help you get through participating airports a little faster.
There’s a chasm between Platinum and Diamond, so getting to this level has been a long time coming. You probably fly more than once a month, and usually for long distances. Make sure to use every perk you can!
Is Delta Status Worth It?
That’s the 25,000-mile-increment question!
Delta elite status is most worth earning if it happens as a natural effect of all your Delta flying. That would mean Delta’s flights, prices, routes, and times align with your personal travel patterns, and really that’s the ideal case.
And while earning status is a personal decision, I’d say it’s worthwhile if:
- Your travel is reimbursed or covered by your employer
- Delta’s routes and service matches your needs
- You find the perks useful and money-saving
- You value upgrades
- Delta provides the bulk of your travel service, or best prices from your airport
That said, if you reach one status tier, don’t go out of your way to fly Delta unless the next level’s perks are valuable to you. Also, when you earn Delta elite status, it’s good for the remainder of that year and all of the following year. So if you have a period of heavy travel, you can set yourself up with elite status for nearly 2 years.
But if you know you won’t travel much the following year, I wouldn’t spend time earning status you can’t or won’t use (unless it’s unavoidable). That could include life changes like moving to a new city, starting a college or training program, or anything else that would cause you to switch airlines or pause flying.
Finally, if you just want basic perks like a free checked bag or priority boarding, you can get those with a Delta credit card without any flying required.
The more you fly Delta, the more travel perks you’ll earn as part of earning Delta status and while upgrades, bonus miles, and the rest of the perks are neat, they’re only worthwhile if Delta is the best airline for your travel needs. So if Delta’s routes and times are easy from where you live, you might focus on the airline to benefit from quicker boarding, free checked bags, and waived fees.
Keep in mind, you can earn Delta elite status from number of miles or segments flown, plus a minimum spending requirement on flights (or a waiver with an AMEX Delta credit card). To start, you’ll achieve a new tier every 25,000 miles you fly – then have to overcome a 50,000-mile gap between Delta’s Platinum and Diamond thresholds.
At the lower levels, you won’t see as many upgrades, but as you progress they’ll become more frequent and arrive faster before you fly. But if it’s convenient for you to fly Delta, you can keep elite status for all of the year in which you earn it and all of the following year – so your benefits can last for nearly 2 years!
If you have Delta Medallion® status, are you happy you earned it? What’s your favorite benefit?
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