Delta elite status 2021 review — plus a generous status extension due to COVID-19

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If Delta Airlines is your go-to carrier, you might wonder if earning Delta status is worth it. The perks can certainly make your travels more comfortable — but whether to earn elite status depends on your travel goals.

As a New York-based traveler, I used to have Delta Medallion status. It flew everywhere I needed to go and had the most on-time flights. My status gave me miles, early boarding, and surprise upgrades.

If you have lots of travel coming up, there are ways to boost your elite status with cards like the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card (annual fee $250, see rates and fees)  and Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card (annual fee $550, see rates and fees)which include Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) as part of their spend bonuses after you meet minimum spending requirements.

Delta has also modified elite status requirements in 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic

Delta elite status may be worth earning but it depends on your travel plans. (Photo by Nieuwland Photography/Shutterstock)

Delta status explained: How to earn it and what you get

There are four Delta elite-status tiers. The benefits include free checked bags, upgrades when available and access to Delta Sky Club lounges, depending which of the four 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

Note that the above requirements may be easier to meet for some in 2021 due to Delta’s COVID-19 respose, more on that below.

All those acronyms! Here’s our guide to decoding what they mean:

  • MQMs (Medallion® Qualification Miles) — Miles based on the distance flown and fare class
  • MQSs (Medallion® Qualification Segments) — Segments based on the number of flights you take
  • MQDs (Medallion® Qualification Dollars) — Dollars based on how much you spend on Delta flights and certain partner airlines

You’ll reach a new tier for 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 flyers 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. But if you book connecting flights every time you fly Delta, you might qualify based solely on MQSs, which is a tally of how many times you experience wheels up/wheels down.

Delta makes it impossible to earn status without spending cash. For each tier, you’ll also need to spend another $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. If you want to earn Diamond status, then you need to spend an eye-popping $250,000 in a calendar year.

Let’s look at what you get with each level:

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 dollar spent on Delta flights
  • First-class upgrades — One day before departure
  • Delta One upgrades — Day of departure
  • Delta Comfort+ upgrades — One day before departure
  • Companion upgrades when available
  • Preferred seats
  • First checked bag free for yourself and up to eight companions on the same Delta flight 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 those first-class upgrades, especially if you live in a Delta hub city flooded with elite members, like Atlanta. If you travel off-peak or from 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.

Delta Medallion® Gold elite status

After reaching Silver elite status, you can move up to the Gold level with all the same perks as Silver elite, but with a few notable enhancements:

  • 8 Delta miles per dollar 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 fees for same-day confirmed and standby flight changes
  • Expedited baggage service

You’ll earn more points per dollar spent on Delta flights and your first class and Comfort+ upgrades will happen three 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.

Delta Medallion® Platinum elite status

Platinum elite status comes with all the benefits of Silver and Gold, plus:

  • 9 Delta miles per dollar spent on Delta flights
  • First-class upgrades — Five days before departure
  • Delta Comfort+ upgrades — after ticketing
  • Waived award redeposit and reissue fees
  • 1 Choice Benefit of a Sky Club membership, four regional upgrade certificates, 20,000 bonus miles, gift card or the ability to gift Silver elite status

At this level, you can select a Choice Benefit, including unlimited access to the Sky Club lounges every time you fly or regional upgrades.

Your first-class upgrades will clear a full business week before you fly and you don’t have to worry if you need to cancel an award ticket because there are no fees.

Delta Medallion® Diamond elite status

This is 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 dollar spent on Delta flights
  • First-class upgrades — Five days before departure with highest priority boarding
  • 3 Choice Benefits of a Sky Club membership, four global upgrade certificates or eight regional upgrade certificates or two global and four regional upgrade certificates, 25,000 bonus miles, gift card or the ability to gift Gold elite status
  • Free CLEAR membership

If you’re at Diamond status, you’ve spent many 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 dollar spent on Delta flights, the highest priority boarding every time you fly, and three Choice Benefits. Delta will even throw in a free CLEAR membership to help you get through participating airports a little faster.

Delta’s elite status response to COVID-19

In the thick of the COVID-19 lock downs, Delta has offered a handful of promos and extensions to make the rewards and certificates you’ve earned with their program worthwhile — however, most of these expired in 2020. Still, Delta has extended its customers’ status through Jan. 31, 2022. So whatever status you had with Delta in 2020, you’ll be able to enjoy in 2021 without having to jump through any hoops.

Additionally, any Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) you earned in 2020 have rolled-over into 2021, helping you qualify for 2022 status.

Expiration for global and regional upgrade certificates and $200 Travel Vouchers selected via Choice Benefits have been extended through Dec. 31, 2021.

Finally, Amex is running a promotion where Delta Amex cardholders can earn additional MQMs in 2021 through the Status Boost spending feature on the premium Delta Amex cards. Promotion ends 12/31/2021.

That’s huge!

Is Delta status worth it?

That’s the 25,000-mile-increment question.

Delta elite status is worth it if you spend many hours on Delta flights, especially if Delta flights, prices, routes and times align with your travel patterns.

Although earning status is a personal decision, it’s worthwhile if:

  • Your travel is reimbursed or covered by your employer
  • Delta’s routes and service match your needs
  • You find the perks useful and money-saving
  • You value upgrades
  • Delta provides the bulk of your travel service or the best prices from your airport

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 early in the year, you can set yourself up with elite status for nearly two years.

If you won’t travel much the following year, I wouldn’t spend time earning status. That’s probably even more true during the pandemic.

Finally, if you just want basic perks like a free checked bag or priority boarding on Delta flights, you can get those with a Delta credit card without any flying required.

Bottom line

Earning Delta status with upgrades, bonus miles and the rest of the perks is 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, take advantage of the benefits of elite status.

You can earn Delta elite status from the number of miles or segments flown, plus a minimum spending requirement on flights (or a waiver with an Amex Delta credit card). 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 tiers, you won’t see as many upgrades — but as you achieve higher elite status, upgrades will be more frequent. 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. Plus, Delta is extending the elite status of its members through Jan. 31, 2022, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

If you have Delta Medallion® status, are you happy you earned it? What’s your favorite benefit?

For the latest tips and tricks on traveling big without spending a fortune, please subscribe to the Million Mile Secrets email newsletter.

For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Platinum card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Reserve card, click here.

Joseph Hostetler is a full-time writer for Million Mile Secrets, covering miles and points tips and tricks, as well as helpful travel-related news and deals. He has also authored and edited for The Points Guy.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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