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
- The Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card is offering a welcome bonus of 75,000 bonus miles plus 5,000 MQMs after spending $3,000 within the first three months, plus a $100 statement credit after making a Delta purchase within the first three months; $195 annual fee (Rates & Fees)
- The Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card from American Express is offering a welcome bonus of 80,000 bonus miles plus 5,000 MQMs after spending $6,000 within the first three months, plus a $100 statement credit after making a Delta purchase within the first three months; $195 annual fee (Rates & Fees)
Delta Reserve Amex MQMs for welcome bonuses
- The Delta Reserve® Credit Card is offering a welcome bonus of 75,000 bonus miles plus 5,000 MQMs after spending $5,000 within the first three months; $450 annual fee (Rates & Fees)
- The Delta Reserve for Business Credit Card is offering a welcome bonus of 80,000 bonus miles plus 5,000 MQMs after spending $6,000 within the first three months; (Rates & Fees)
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
- 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
- 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).
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 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.
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.
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).