Earning Delta Status With Credit Card Spending

Filed Under: American Express, Delta
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Update: These offers for the Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card from American Express, the Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express, the Delta Reserve for Business Credit Card and the Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express have expired. Learn more about the current offers here.

Through July 2, 2019, we’re seeing some best-ever bonuses on the Delta American Express cards. We’re seeing these increased offers on both the business and personal versions of the Gold, Platinum, and Reserve cards.

One of the things that makes Delta credit cards unique is how they can be used to earn status. Delta lets you spend your way towards status, and in theory you could even earn top tier status with Delta exclusively through credit card spending.

There’s no US airline I’d rather fly consistently than Delta, and I’ve often considered trying to spend my way towards status with Delta. So in this post I wanted to look at how that works, and if it’s worth it.

Requirements to earn Delta SkyMiles Medallion status

Delta has four elite tiers, with the following requirements:

  • Silver status requires 25,000 MQMs OR 30 MQSs AND 3,000 MQDs
  • Gold status requires 50,000 MQMs OR 60 MQSs AND 6,000 MQDs
  • Platinum status requires 75,000 MQMs OR 100 MQSs AND 9,000 MQDs
  • Diamond status requires 125,000 MQMs OR 140 MQSs AND 15,000 MQDs

Note that you can get a waiver on the Medallion Qualifying Dollar requirement with credit cards:

  • You can get the MQD requirement waived for Silver, Gold, and Platinum status, if you spend at least $25,000 on Delta co-branded credit cards during the calendar year
  • You can get the MQD requirement waived for Diamond status if you spend at least $250,000 on Delta co-branded credit cards during the calendar year

Earning Delta MQMs with welcome bonuses

At the moment Delta has increased welcome bonuses on six co-branded credit cards, and four of them are offering 5,000 MQMs as part of the welcome bonuses:

Delta Platinum Amex MQMs for welcome bonus

Delta Reserve Amex MQMs for welcome bonuses

Delta A350 business class

Earning Delta MQMs with credit card spending

Not only can you earn 5,000 MQMs per welcome bonus on four of Delta’s co-branded credit cards, but there are also opportunities to earn MQMs through your everyday spending. So let’s look at how that differs across the Platinum and Reserve cards:

Delta Platinum Amex MQMs for spending

The Platinum Delta Personal Card and Platinum Delta Business Card offer the following for ongoing spending:

  • Earn 10,000 bonus MQMs plus 10,000 bonus redeemable miles after spending $25,000
  • Earn an additional 10,000 bonus MQMs plus 10,000 additional bonus miles after spending $50,000

So in the end if you spent $50,000 on either of these cards you’d earn 20,000 bonus MQMs and 20,000 bonus redeemable miles.

Delta Reserve Amex MQMs for spending

The Delta Reserve Personal Card and Delta Reserve Business Card offer the following for ongoing spending:

  • Earn 15,000 bonus MQMs plus 15,000 bonus redeemable miles after spending $30,000
  • Earn an additional 15,000 bonus MQMs plus 15,000 additional bonus miles after spending $60,000

So in the end if you spent $60,000 on either of these cards you’d earn 30,000 bonus MQMs and 30,000 bonus redeemable miles.

Delta A320 first class

Crunching the numbers

Forgetting the welcome bonuses (since those are “once in a lifetime”), on an annual basis you can earn:

  • 20,000 bonus MQMs for spending $50,000 on the Delta Platinum Card
  • 30,000 bonus MQMs for spending $60,000 on the Delta Reserve Card

So if you had both the Platinum and Reserve Card, and spent $110,000 between them, you’d earn 50,000 MQMs. Meanwhile if you had all four cards — the personal and business versions of the Platinum and Reserve Card — and spent $220,000 between them, you’d earn 100,000 MQMs.

I should also mention that you’d obviously be on the hook for quite a bit in annual fees. If you had all four cards you’d be paying $1,280 in annual fees, which is significant.

I know plenty of people who spend a lot on credit cards through reimbursable business expenses, etc., so something like this could make a lot of sense.

Using credit cards to earn Silver, Gold, or Platinum status

I’d say earning Silver, Gold, or Platinum status with Delta is extremely attainable with the help of credit cards. For one, you can knock out the MQD requirement (which is a major roadblock for people) by spending $25,000.

Even taking a basic strategy, if you spent $60,000 on a Delta Reserve Card you’d be earning 30,000 MQMs:

  • That’s more than enough for Silver status
  • That puts you 20,000 MQMs from Gold status
  • That puts you 45,000 MQMs from Platinum status

Using credit cards to earn Diamond status

Earning Diamond status through credit cards is more complicated.

The first thing to keep in mind is that Diamond status requires either 15,000 MQDs (meaning you have to spend $15,000 on Delta ticket purchases in a year, before taxes and fees), or you need to spend $250,000 on credit cards to get that waived.

So in many ways if you want to earn Diamond status with the help of credit cards, you should go “all-in.”

If you spent $250,000 and split that across four Delta credit cards correctly, you’d be looking at earning 100,000 MQMs and 100,000 bonus redeemable miles, in addition to the miles you’d ordinarily earn.

Then you’d be only 25,000 MQMs from earning Diamond status, which should be attainable (and if you’re not going to otherwise earn 25,000 MQMs then I’d question whether the status is even worth going for).

You can share your MQMs with others

It’s worth noting that if you earn Delta MQMs through credit card spending, you can actually share those with others. That’s to say that you can choose for what account you want to redeem those MQMs. So you can have your spouse, parent, sibling, friend, etc., open up a card, and then they could give you MQMs.

Delta 737Delta 737

Delta offers rollover MQMs

It’s also worth noting that Delta offers rollover MQMs. So if you over qualify for a status level over the course of a year, whatever miles you earn above a particular status level roll over to the following miles.

So if you end the year with 45,000 MQMs you’d earn Silver status, but that only requires 25,000 MQMs. So 20,000 MQMs would roll over to the next year.

That can play into this strategy as well.

Calculating the opportunity cost on spending

The best return for elite status on spending is offered by the Delta Reserve Card, as you can spend $60,000 and earn 30,000 bonus miles and 30,000 MQMs.

So spending $60,000 would earn you a total of 90,000 redeemable miles and 30,000 MQMs. I value SkyMiles at ~1.2 cents each, so to me that’s ~$720 of “concrete” value in miles.

The alternative for that spending may be the Chase Freedom Unlimited®, which can offer 1.5x Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent. On $60,000 of spending I would value that at $1,020. So in terms of the value of points you’re giving up about $300 on that spending, but you are getting 30,000 MQMs. So everyone can crunch the numbers for themselves.

Bottom line

Delta is unique in making it fairly attainable to earn status exclusively through credit card spending, or through a combination of credit card spending and flying.

At a minimum, having a co-branded credit card with MQM earning potential can greatly help you earn Silver, Gold, or Platinum Medallion status.

However, for the really hardcore credit card spender, having enough Delta co-branded credit cards could earn you Diamond status. You’d want to spend at least $250,000 so you could get the MQD waiver, but that would make the status quite attainable beyond that.

Like I said, this most definitely isn’t for everyone, but it is something that makes Delta unique. American and United both have really lackluster options for earning status through credit cards, by comparison.

So this is yet another reason to consider picking up the Platinum Delta Personal Card, Platinum Delta Business CardDelta Reserve Personal Card, and/or Delta Reserve Business Card.

For everything you need to know about Delta credit cards, see this post.

To Delta loyalists, to what extent do you use Delta Amex cards to earn Medallion status?

The following links will direct you to the rates and fees for mentioned American Express Cards. These include: Delta Reserve for Business Credit Card (Rates & Fees), Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card from American Express (Rates & Fees), Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express (Rates & Fees), and Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express (Rates & Fees).

Regarding Comments: The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.
  1. Ben, I was platinum or diamond with delta for a 10 year stretch and certainly used the AMEX reserve to help in achieving the needed MQMs. Between both levels platinum is an easy sweet spot. Rollover was also very cool feature.

    But in the end the Skymiles program was so unrewarding. 5-6 years ago I could use an upgrade cert without to much effort. That really changed about 2017. You know you can’t verify inventories online right!? You gotta pic up the phone and ask. Such BS. Also Delta continually cranks down the program with unannounced devaluations. The individuals that manage Skymiles really cater to the uninformed customer (IMHO).

    A couple of years ago I realized I could use Delta when I needed to, and just pay for an F ticket. Also what lounge access do you really get that you standard AMEX isn’t already getting you.

    Another thing, good luck on using your BOGO ticket with the AMEX cards. Nothing like your Alaska certs. Last year I really enjoyed cancelling my AMEX Delta Reserve. At $450 such an expense. The Alaska program works for about 80% of my travel out of the west coast – so hence I have status with them.

    One caveat I will say is that if you’re in a Delta hub and traveling domestically a lot I could see some reason to belong to the program. Otherwise much better options.

    Not trying to be super negative, but I really did find Delta devalued the program enough that it became a waste of time and effort.

  2. Your opportunity cost info looks low to me

    Anybody spending $60k per year on credit cards is able to have an Unlimited and also a Sapphire Reserve.
    Some (much?) of their spend will be on “travel” as defined by Chase (3x)
    And Unlimited points can be transferred to the Reserve

    I’d calculate it as
    $30k travel x 3 = 90,000 points
    $30k misc x 1.5 =45,000 points

    135,000 points *1.5 (in portal) = $2025

    Obviously this math changes based on you percentage of “travel” vs non bonus spend, and if you redeem in the portal vs transferring to Chase partners

    But I think my valuation is closer to the floor, and can’t imagine anyone getting only $1020 in value on $60k in spend with Chase.

  3. A few things to consider

    1) Most people who want Gold, Platinum or Diamond status on Delta are business travelers. Many of these cannot put this travel on their personal cards. So someone like me who may have 40,000 miles of Delta travel annually, but who cannot put any of this travel on personal cards, may want to look for a way to get this extra 10,000 MQM

    2) Even with that the opportunity cost of spend is significant. I find myself wondering if it is worth it to reach 25,000 spend on my Delta Platinum. However I find that authorized users help. It isn’t worth it if you are churning sign up bonuses, but most normal customers may find it useful

    3) As Delta expands Pay with Skymiles for upgrades, it may make more sense to put spending on Amex Gold and such and transfer miles over for these kinds of opportunities

    At the end of the day I will spend 25K on my Plat this year, which will help me hit Gold, which I value for international lounge access and higher upgrade priority (Gold is decent out of NYC). I fortunately have enough spending to go around

  4. Hi Ben.

    You can product change the card half way into the year after already putting the spend on one version, then spend on the other version (platinum, then reserve). In this way you split the annual fee in half of each and get both spend bonuses.
    Also, mileage run on cheap Aeromexico J or China Eastern J to get the MQD. You can spend $4000-5000 in those tickets and pretty much get the $15000 MQDs for diamond as earning is distance based, NOT ticket price based.

    Hope it helps!

  5. Looking for flights recently, I came across a Delta One reservation that was either 320,000 Skymiles, or 45,000 Virgin Atlantic miles — for the exact same seat. Seriously, my family and I have more than a million Skymiles, and I doubt that we will ever see any real value from them. I have developed the same contempt for Skymiles that Skymiles shows for all of us.

  6. Ben,

    I thought that only the bonus MQMs earned on the Reserve card could be gifted to someone else, not ones earned on the Platinum?

  7. @Jimmy Gottfredson
    Another thing, good luck on using your BOGO ticket with the AMEX cards.

    Can you elaborate on this? I have delta platinum cards and have found those super easy to use BOGO (although I haven’t tried this year yet.) Is that what you’re referring to, or the first class on the Reserve card? I keep toying with switching to Reserve but I’m never sure how hard it is to find those with the certificate

  8. Thanks for the article. I was looking for this information earlier in June. Being in a Delta hub (MSP) – and with the sign up bonuses – I have decided to go for Platinum status with Delta for next year. I have had Silver status through the Platinum card for a while now. I have children who live in DC and plan to visit frequently. With Platinum status – I can “gift” one of the boys with Silver status so he can get on flights earlier and have free bags. I fly roughly once a month – domestic and international – mostly on Delta. We enjoy Delta and usually have positive experiences with them. The BOGO is sometimes frustrating as you can see that there are plenty of seats available for a flight – but they won’t let you use it. We have gotten upgraded seats many times just with Silver status – so hoping for even better luck with Platinum status. PS – I think your math is off on the value of the Delta miles – if you value them at 1.2 per mile – 90,000 miles is $1,080. I value Delta miles around one cent each.

  9. Delta Diamond Status doesn’t offer much in terms of benefit after Delta started selling the unsold ‘first’-class seats with miles. Now that anyone can easily upgrade their seats to first class using miles usually there aren’t any first class seats left for Diamond or other medallion members to be upgraded to even using regional or global upgrade certificates.

    I’ve been Delta Diamond Medallion member for almost 10 years but last year when they started allowing everyone to upgrade their seats using miles I hardly get upgraded. So unless they add other benefits I think Diamond medallion status is not worth it. Regional upgrade certificate and Global upgrade certificates are worth nothing if you can’t get upgraded most of the time.

    I am not loyal to any specific airline starting from this year. If I had to spend $250,000 a year on credit card to meet the MQD for Diamond I’d put it on other cards.

  10. I have the delta platinum card. I’d like just a basic explanation of how much i need to spend to get any status and if it’s worth it. These intricate plans of having more than 1 card is too complicated for me.

  11. @Tm The most MQM you can earn from a single Delta platinum card is 20,000 per year, on $50k spend. (Unless they offer you an additional 10k for $25k more spend, which they have done before.) $25k spend also earns you an MQD waiver.

    You will need 5000 MQM of your own from flying, then you will have Silver. I doubt you would find it worth it. You will earn 1.4 Delta miles per $ on that $50k spend, but you could probably do better. (For example, I put it on AmEx Blue Business Plus which can earn 2x Delta per $.) You get more free bags (but the card already gives you one), and upgrades (pretty much just to Comfort +, rarely to First), or can book exit rows on economy tickets.

  12. @qofmiwok Thank you for that. The amex business blue is the card that earns 2 pts on all? Maybe you are speaking of a different card? Because you say it gives free bags and upgrades? Is this a Delta card? Thanks!

  13. @Tm The whole reply except what is in the () is about the Delta Platinum card you have. The AmEx Blue Business Plus I mentioned in the () doesn’t have benefits, but it earns 2x AmEx MR points per dollar for the first $50k per year, which can then be transferred to Delta or other airlines. That was just to show that getting 1.4x Delta miles per $ of spend on the Delta Platinum card isn’t that great.

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