Earning Delta status solely through credit card spend

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The only airline that I can think of that will let you earn top tier status through credit card spend alone is Delta. Admittedly not everyone can generate hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in credit card spend, though I also know there are lots of people out there that spend millions of dollars a year on credit cards because they own businesses with lots of expenses they can put on credit cards. If you do, what’s a couple hundred thousand dollars in credit card spend for top tier status?

Delta has four credit cards that earn MQMs (Medallion Qualifying Miles) for reaching certain spending thresholds. They’re as follows:

To break them down, here they are along with the associated bonuses:

Delta Reserve Personal Card

MQM bonuses: 30,000 bonus MQMs after spending $60,000 in a calendar year
Redeemable miles bonuses: 30,000 bonus miles after spending $60,000 in a calendar year
Annual fee: $450

Delta Reserve for Business Credit Card

MQM bonuses: 30,000 bonus MQMs after spending $60,000 in a calendar year
Redeemable miles bonuses: 30,000 bonus miles after spending $60,000 in a calendar year
Annual fee: $450

The Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Card from American Express

MQM bonuses: 20,000 bonus MQMs after spending $50,000 in a calendar year
Redeemable miles bonuses: 20,000 bonus miles after spending $50,000 in a calendar year
Annual fee: $195

Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card from American Express

MQM bonuses: 20,000 bonus MQMs after spending $50,000 in a calendar year
Redeemable miles bonuses: 20,000 bonus miles after spending $50,000 in a calendar year
Annual fee: $195

So if you had each of these cards you’d be looking at earning 100,000 MQMs and 100,000 bonus redeemable miles for a total spend of $220,000. Yes, there’s a hefty $1,200 in annual fees, but it does come with some other benefits, and when you factor in that it gets you that many MQMs, I think it can be a great deal if you’re someone that generates a lot of credit card spend.

I’m sure the other major complaint is “sounds great, except you’re earning SkyMiles, which are otherwise worthless.” While I don’t disagree SkyMiles are less valuable than other mileage currencies, on $220,000 of spend you’re earning 320,000 miles (one mile per dollar, plus bonus redeemable miles for reaching the above thresholds). That’s about 1.45 miles per dollar spent. If this is spend that wouldn’t otherwise belong in a category that accrues bonus miles, I’d say that’s actually a decent return in and of itself, more or less on par with earning one Ultimate Rewards or Membership Rewards point per dollar.

If you want to get all the way to Diamond status (which requires 125,000 MQMs) on credit cards, you can get a second Delta Reserve Card in someone else’s name and then have the MQMs deposited in your account.

Anyway, while I realize this isn’t useful to the vast majority of us, there are some big credit card spenders out there, and if I had a million dollars or so to spend on a credit card per year (which I don’t, but I know others do), I’d probably go for Diamond status.

But this isn’t an all or nothing game. If you’re more of an “average” credit card spender and usually only fly 25,000-50,000 miles per year, you can easily use one of the above cards to supplement your status and maybe reach the next level through credit card spend.

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  1. This is basically what I do. FLY 45K, spend $60k on reserve (which earns 90k rdm) earn PM status and avg of 90% u/g domestically.

    Works great for me.

  2. You USED TO be able to earn top tier status via spend with Continental’s Presidential Plus Mastercard.

    The points from that card will no longer get you higher than Platinum in MileagePlus — and cannot be combined with butt-in-seat miles to get to 1K, either. They’re just excluded from the counter for status beyond Plat.

  3. No longer useful as DL miles become worth less each year. The AF award blocking takes a bad situation and makes it worse. Only useful if you fly a lot domestically on DL and only for increasing status and the annual fee costs add up. I would rather spend 25k x3 on US cards + 40k on AA card to get 40k EQMs on AA for next year

  4. Thanks for the post. I only see 10,000 mqm on the plat card (personal or business) when I click thru. Am I missing something?

  5. @ Madelyn — The 10,000 MQMs is just the sign-up bonus and not the bonus for everyday spend.

  6. You also get Delta Platinum with no spend requirement with the Amex Centurion card but the initiation and yearly fees are pretty steep.

  7. @ffi,

    Please elaborate – how do you get 40,000 AA EQMs through your method? Are you assuming the US EQMs will become AA EQMs? If so, that is a bold assumption…

  8. For someone who actually spends upwards of $1 mil on CC purchases, would actually find value in the Delta Private Jets card. Gives Diamond status for those who put 100K towards the private jet flying.

  9. Long time fan, first time post. I have a question regarding the Delta Reserve sign-up bonus (10K MQMs). I currently have a Delta Platinum Amex Personal CC (opened in 2005) and want to also have a Delta Reserve Personal CC to maximize those MQMs. Amex is telling me that I don’t qualify for the 10K bonus because I currently have an open Delta Platinum Personal. The T&Cs don’t specifically mention anything about having two open concurrent cards, but does state that “upgrading” would not qualify. I have not cancelled, or opened any other Delta card. – Would love your opinion. Keep the good posts coming!

  10. @ Jason — To clarify did you apply and were shot down after the fact, or you’re calling and asking them proactively if you’re eligible for the bonus?

  11. I applied for the Reserve personal, activated it, waited about 4 weeks and no 10k welcome bonus posted. I emailed Amex who said I don’t qualify because I have an active Delta Platinum personal (opened in 2005). Is this accurate?

  12. I’ve been told by Delta that if I get the Delta reserve card that I will only get the 30,000 Bonus MQM’s the first year when I spend $60K and can’t earn them again each year when I spend $60K on the card again. Can someone verify if I can earn the 30K MQM’s again each year if I spend $60K on the Delta Reserve Business card?

    Thank you,

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