Hah: My Dad Can Earn Delta Million Miler Status By Applying For A Credit Card

Filed Under: American Express, Credit Cards
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My dad is in an interesting position where applying for one credit card could earn him lifetime (million miler) status with an airline.

Lifetime status policies of US airlines

The major US airlines all offer some sort of a lifetime status program, to reward those who have been loyal to the airline for a long time. However, there’s a significant difference in terms of how generous these programs are. Of the “big three” US carriers, United has by far the most generous lifetime status program, followed by Delta, followed by American.

American AAdvantage lifetime status

American AAdvantage offers the following lifetime status benefits:

  • Lifetime AAdvantage Gold status plus 35,000 miles after earning one million lifetime miles
  • Lifetime AAdvantage Platinum status plus four systemwide upgrades after earning two million lifetime miles
  • Four additional systemwide upgrades after every additional million lifetime miles

What counts towards this? Only base miles flown on American and partner airlines. In other words, it takes a lot of flying to earn million miler status, and the benefits are limited.

The major problem is that until 2011, American had one of the most generous million miler programs. All miles earned counted towards it, including all redeemable miles. As a result, American has tons of 10 million milers, largely people who rarely fly American but just earned those through credit card spend. It’s a shame that they’ve adjusted the requirements but haven’t added anything for those who are actually loyal to the program.

Delta SkyMiles lifetime status

Delta SkyMiles offers the following lifetime status benefits:

  • Lifetime SkyMiles Silver status plus a gift after earning one million lifetime miles
  • Lifetime SkyMiles Gold status plus a gift after earning two million lifetime miles
  • Lifetime SkyMiles Gold status plus a gift after earning three million lifetime miles
  • Lifetime SkyMiles Platinum status plus a gift after earning four million lifetime miles

What counts towards this? All Medallion Qualifying Miles. Delta’s co-branded credit cards offer MQMs, so in theory you could earn lifetime status exclusively through credit card spend.

United MileagePlus lifetime status

United MileagePlus offers the following lifetime status benefits:

  • Lifetime MileagePlus Premier Gold status after earning one million lifetime miles
  • Lifetime MileagePlus Premier Platinum status after earning two million lifetime miles
  • Lifetime MileagePlus Premier 1K status after earning three million lifetime miles
  • Lifetime MileagePlus Global Services status after earning four million lifetime miles

On top of that, if you’re a million miler you can nominate a companion to receive the same status that you maintain. So if you’re a million miler and also a Premier 1K, a companion could receive Premier 1K status as well.

This is incredibly generous — one million miler gets you mid-tier status rather than entry-level status, a companion get status, and you can even earn invitation only status through lifetime loyalty.

What counts towards this? All base miles earned for travel on United. So it’s one of the tougher lifetime statuses to earn, but it’s also so much more valuable than the rest.

My dad’s funny million miler situation

My dad has been planning on applying for one (or more) of the Delta Amex welcome bonuses that are currently available, given the increased offers they have. I was looking at his SkyMiles account to see how many miles he currently has, and my jaw dropped when I saw one of his account statistics.

My dad has 991,682 lifetime miles with Delta, meaning he’s less than 10,000 miles from earning lifetime status with them.

I don’t know how this is possible, since my dad hasn’t been a loyal Delta flyer as long as I’ve been alive. So I guess he flew them a lot for work many many many decades ago.

Now I’m not really sure how much value he’d get out of lifetime Silver Medallion status on Delta, though there’s no reason not to earn lifetime status if you can. It’s not just the Silver status, but you also get to choose a gift, with choices including Tumi luggage and Tiffany & Co. jewelry. That’s certainly a nice add-on to a credit card bonus. 😉

Delta Amex Cards

So if my dad applied for either of those cards and completed the minimum spend, he’d be a Delta million miler, which is pretty cool.

I know that Delta actually recognized people who earn million miler status on flights, though I’m not sure that would apply to someone who is a non-elite. If they do it for anyone earning million miler status, I’d be amused to book him on a flight and have him be surprised to learn that he passed that threshold, since he’d have no clue. Does anyone know if Delta does million miler recognition for anyone who passes the threshold on a flight, or only certain elites?

What do you guys think — should we have him apply for The Delta SkyMilesÂŽ Platinum American Express Card to earn million miler, or have him earn it as a surprise on one of his next Delta trips?

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  1. How long has SkyMiles existed (80s?)? I remember when there were no programs and I don’t think I am THAT old. Some of my original accounts got killed by inactivity. Can I ever get that credit back for MM status?

  2. I have a friend that was recognized on a flight from Vegas to ATL for reaching his Million Miler status. I was on the same flight. He was Silver Medallion at the time, but I’m not sure that played a part. Flight Attendant brought him a cake.

  3. Can anyone else remember when our PanAm accounts got grandfathered into Delta. Back when the airline would send you a nice thick embossed card that looked and felt like an actual credit card.

  4. @lucky how close are you to lifetime status on American, Hyatt etc. I know you talked about your challenges with SPG platinum for life(10 year requirement) recently but I would love a post about how close you are to lifetime status in all the major hotel and airline programs and which ones you are actively pursuing.

  5. Earn the last piece by flying – nothing beats the novelty of hitting 1MM jetting off somewhere.

    He can go ahead and apply for the AMEX and take advantage of the $100 by booking his million miler trip on DL. Three birds with one stone 😉

    Those cheap PE fares to China is not a bad way to do it.

  6. @Dmodemd The earliest FFPs were created in the 80s, it became a widespread thing in the 90s iirc. I don’t know about a dead account; you could ask but it’s entirely possible they don’t even save those records.

  7. Why is it that I only have 25K miles on my million mile qualifier, when I have had both the Amex Gold Bus and Regular signup bonuses for over 120K?? Sorry, I am confused… please don’t berate me for my ignorance.

  8. I’m a Delta 1-million miler, achieved a few years ago. I selected my gift (a decanter) — nice, although I can’t really say I’ve used it. Also, I’m at least Silver immediately each year. The only other recognition is that my luggage tags and loyalty card indicates my 1-M status, and, once in a while, a gate agent will mention it and thank me. Occasionally a flight attendant will thank me (typically at the beginning or end of a flight mostly if flying in Delta One).

  9. While doing it by card would be novel, I still think flying is the way to do it. Ideally, on either a major long-haul or the shortest flight possible (but still on Delta metal, not a regional).

  10. We were just discussing million miler recognition over on the Delta Diamond Facebook group. Our sense is that there’s no predicting whether a million miler will get recognition. We think it all boils down to how busy a particular station and/or crew is when a customer passes the threshold.

  11. I’m confused. If he’s within 10K MQMs, wouldn’t he have already passed the threshhold by the CC sign-up? Or do you have a really long trip in mind for him? My understanding of the above is that they announce someone who passes threshhold mid-flight, not all million-milers.

  12. I reached MM status on a flight in coach from Tokyo to Lax (on delta metal) I had reached out before the flight to let them know.
    But nothing happened , no recognition whatsoever.
    No big deal. Maybe there is more recognition on domestic flights.

  13. You don’t think that he flew some other airlines that consolidated into Delta over the years, and added to his lifetime total – maybe Northwest?

  14. So basically he has enough to fly for 1 round trip trans pacific in business class using skypesos. Awesome.

  15. When I was on my flight from FRA to ORD that would put me over the 1 million mile mark, I had already applied a certificate to get into Business Class. As we were about to board, the gate agent called my name. She then gave me a seat in First on the 747, row 1. I immediately thanked her for the upgrade and told her not only was my birthday that week but this flight would make me a Million Miler with United. She winked and said “I know”. That one gesture from a UA agent will never be forgotten.

  16. United’s Million Miler status is a really useful benefit. My wife and I can both travel together or independently as Gold elites with free economy plus seating, potential for domestic upgrades and so on. We also earn more miles for paid tickets. When I was on my Million Miler flight I was congratulated by a gate agent and had a photo opportunity with the pilots in the cockpit.

  17. I earned Million Miler 30 years ago and got a Hartman Folder and a Flying Colonel Card was given to me to use for the Crown Room. I thought there was a name for the card for Women, but I didn’t get that one. It was years later when I noticed I was a Lifetime Silver Medallion. It doesn’t get you much nowadays. 😉

  18. Lucky, funny when you say “…..I don’t know how this is possible, since my dad hasn’t been a loyal Delta flyer as long as I’ve been alive. So I guess he flew them a lot for work many many many decades ago.”
    We are surprised you don’t know.
    Did he ever fly Pan Am, Western Airlines or Northwest before those carriers were bought by DL?
    We chuckle because of you, of all people.

  19. As I’ve commented before, I recently reached million miler status on AA, which was totally the byproduct of AA’s history of mergers and acquisitions.

    It turns out that AA million miler is easy to get, given that my mileage total includes flights on AA, US, HP, TW, QF, IB, MX, CP, JL, and MA. I can’t be totally sure, but I think there might be some UA and LH miles in there too.

  20. Delta is definitely a what have you done for me lately organization. I’ve been over 1M but less than 2M for five years since I retired. Lifetime Silver turned into annual Silver. 50k to golf even though I’m already silver. Bottom of the food chain. No benefit over a first year silver. If you want to see a great lifetime recognition program I think it’s Marriott lifetime platinum. It’s awesome in my opinion.

  21. Northwest lifetime miles got combined when they merged with Delta, so perhaps he flew NWA back in the day.

  22. Million miler since the 90s here. But I moved to the northwest and switched to AS then AA in California and I think I’m at 1.4M miles. Long way from 2M. When I first because a million miler it was useful. Now, lifetime silver gets you the same thing as having a DL credit card. I really feel the love for clocking a crapload of seat miles in the 80s and 90s.

  23. CLICK BAIT ALERT!!!!!!!!

    Topic very misleading.
    How I apply xxx credit card and made the sun rise from the east.
    How Amex MR points transfer made an ice melt in summer.
    How Delta manages to delay a flight same day I got my Citi card

  24. I agree with Dennis. Not worth a thing. Reached MM and reached Diamond. Other than the brag-tags, no real recognition. Not even an Upgrade.
    Oh yes, you can choose a MM gift etc. and Silver status which is not worth a thing these day.
    Not worth going for th 2 MM.

  25. Thank you, Lucky, for this post! I held onto it until my husband had time to call United. He didn’t know he’s a 1K with almost 2 million miles… Of course, he didn’t know that he could get me lifetime gold status. This year, I won’t be flying enough to keep up my Gold status and I was really sad about that. Woohoo! It’s not a problem any more! Since I have the coveted Presidential Plus card, this really does benefit me, whether I fly or not.
    I got my 3 kids to follow this column awhile back. They have all benefited from your advice. Now it’s my turn. Thank you!!!

  26. This post is ALL WRONG.

    I called Delta today, April 14, 2018, and the Million Miler total consists of ONLY actual miles flown (distance you’ve traveled in the sky on a Delta or Delta partner airline flight). You can not earn one single Million Miler mile for signing up for a Delta AMEX credit card or spending with that card. As it should be.

    Additionally, to answer your question “kapoc”: No, Delta has not changed the lifetime silver award for becoming a Million Miler. https://www.delta.com/content/www/en_US/skymiles/medallion-program/million-miler.html
    Right from their website: “As a Million Miler, we celebrate your loyalty. Enjoy complimentary annual Medallion Status, plus a special gift of your choosing each time you hit a million miles.”
    Frustrating when you have to waste your time dispelling falsities by a published author on this blog. In other words, don’t believe everything you read on a blog.

    Lastly, as someone who is about to hit 1 million miles with Delta, I agree with the other commenters that lifetime Silver is not a good tradeoff for reaching MM with Delta. Especially considering how much Delta gives credit card users versus actual frequent travelers. I’ve been Platinum for the last 3 years and the benefits for Platinum are what Silver used to be like on Delta. Nothing to write home about. So you can imagine how useless Silver is. The biggest sham on Delta these days is how much they discount the value of the flight miles you travel, if those miles did get earned with an expensive ticket (and vice versa). For frugal travelers like me looking for good fares, Delta penalizes the crap out of you. My partner took a 10K mile trip recently and was “rewarded” with 2.5K worth of miles that could be used on the purchase of a future flight.

    In addition, Delta flights are becoming more and more full and expensive compared to others. It appears to be the airline of choice for American travels. So once I hit MM status with Delta, I’m gonna try Star Alliance for the next chapter (e.g. United/American/Lufthansa/Swiss/TAP/SAS). Why not? For the next 1 million miles, I’ll get lifetime Gold and a lot better benefits than what Delta’s Silver or Gold offers at the MM designation. Plus, I’ll have access to cheaper tickets, especially on international routes.

    It’s not easy to give up on an airline you spent the last 20+ years flying with. But when their loyalty program has becoming anything but, you just have to move on. It’s a business decision. I’m looking forward to seeing what else is out there. Not having to deal with unfriendly and bitter Delta and KLM flight attendants will also be a nice change.

    Good day all!

  27. Sorry Tom,

    You are only partially correct, and the original post by Lucky is only partially correct!

    If you have the AMEX Platinum SkyMiles card, you do not get MQMs for spending, just regular miles which do not count towards Million Miler status. However, if you spend $25K in a calendar year you do get a bonus of 10K MQMs, and these DO COUNT toward your Million Miler status. I know this for a fact because I have watched my status carefully and I have seen the 10K mile jumps (I will be hitting my Million Miler next week – I have jumped 60K miles in the past 3 years with only about 20K miles flown).

    So yes, you can get Million Miler status with just the card! You get a second 10K MQM bonus when you hit $50K in spending in a calendar year, so you can get 20K MQMs which count towards Million Miler status in a year. In a 5 year period you could earn 100K MQMs, and in a mere 50 years you will be a Million Miler through just the credit card!

  28. What about miles earned (not flown) through CC spend? I have about 800000 UA miles, 300000 DL, 400000 AA, none through actual flying though. All through churning, manufactured spending, etc..

  29. Will hit 2mm and Diamond at the end of the month on a flight from ATL-LAX; not expecting any recognition. If you fly a lot and value upgrades the best credit card benefit is with Amex SkyMiles Reserve. If you purchase your flight with this card you just to the front of the upgrade queue vs similar status fliers.

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