Rookie Wednesday – Understanding Delta’s Medallion levels and MQM’s & MQS’s.

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RenesPoints Rookie

Welcome to a weekly feature on the Renés Points blog. Each week this series covers in a “rookie” way either a Delta or travel related theme and attempts to break down to a basic level each topic. You can read up on all the previous posts HERE. Now on to this week’s feature.

Today I will try to explain just what Medallion points and levels are all about and how to get them. Also what perks you can get.

Let’s start with the levels and the terms. Delta has 4 levels of elite they refer to as Medallion status. They are Silver (called FO by frequent flyers) Gold or GM, Platinum or PM and Diamond or DM. To reach the first level you must accumulate 25,000 MQM’s or medallion qualify miles. Gold requires 50,000, Platinum 75,000 and lastly Diamond 125,000 all in ONE CALENDAR year (not the day you start flying). Elite qualifying miles are often referred to as BIS or “your” Butt In Seat miles. There are however other ways to collect them, like the 10,000 MQM’s you can get from the Delta AMEX Reserve card. Please note many do not understand the difference between these miles and NORMAL Skymiles. Getting the DELTA AMEX GOLD card does get you 30,000 Skymiles, nice, but will not help you to earn status. You can also achieve FO, GM, PM & DM via segments or individual flights called MQS’s. You will need 30, 60, 100 & 140. That is a lot of takeoff’s and landings!

Now why would you want to earn status with Delta? It is all about perks and treatment. When you have Medallion status, depending on the level, the airline will bend or break many of the rules for you. Many other rules simply do no apply to you as a Medallion. Let’s walk through what the benefits are as you move up the Medallion ladder.

As you can see, much of the hard and fast info is in the chart above. What I am going to give you is a personal outlook on the real difference in the program levels.

SILVER – The first level of status. You get some very nice perks, but not a lot of love from Delta. The biggest perks are being able to pick exit row seats for you and those traveling with you. You can score a few upgrades, but it will be mostly on off days, off routes. You may get some upgrades 1 day before you fly, but expect upgrades to happen at the gate. Mostly count upgrades as a gift. You do get recognized as a medallion and will get some faster service and get a 25% bump on Skymiles per paid ticket. You do also get a free bag checked, Zone 1 boarding. The last two you can also get from ANY Delta AMEX card btw.

GOLD – Level two is a big jump in perks. This is the first level Delta really loves you. You get so many of the same perks that even the top level Medallions get. Here are the highlights. Everything Silver gets plus free domestic Delta Economy Comfort seats. Better upgrade results and 3 days before you fly. Much faster results when calling Delta. Free lounge access on any class ticket when flying internationally. 100% bonus on paid tickets. Many fees go away, but not all. Your bags will be priority tagged (or should be) so they should come out much faster.

PLATINUM – Level three is again a HUGE jump. Now Delta really knows who you are. You get all of the above plus free Economy Comfort seats on international Delta flights. Your upgrades will begin to clear 5 days out and a lot more of them. Most fees are gone and even change fees for award tickets (up to 72 hrs before your trip). You also get to pick a gift from Delta like a $200 travel voucher or 20,000 Skymiles or Gift someone Silver Medallion status or other goodies. Most times when you call Delta you will hold for only seconds and you will get some very good reps. This is a nice level to reach.

DIAMOND – All of the above plus upgrades over all others 5 days out. Tons more upgrades at the gate. Free Skyclub access. 125% bonus Skymiles on paid for tickets. VIP phone help (Salt Lake calling center) and more gifts including giving GOLD Medallion status to someone! This is the top Delta offers and they will care about you.

So there are the basics and the nuts and bolts of the program. Is it worth going for Medallion status at any level? It all depends on how much you fly. If you can always book seats in business class, there simply is no need, end of story (either with points or with paying for a ticket). Or, if you only fly a few times, you are just better off with a Delta GOLD AMEX or the Delta Platinum AMEX card as you can get some of the same level of service. Silver is so worth it even when just flying moderately to be able to pick exit row seats!

Gold and Platinum are the real sweet spots for frequent Delta flyers. You will notice a big difference in interacting with our airline.

So are there other ways to get Delta status? There is in fact a way to get DIAMOND status instantly. I bogged about it but it may be worth it if you spend $33,000+ dollars a year flying. There is also a status match challenge. If you have status with another airline you can get temporarily equivalent status and then as long as you meet the requirements, you will have the status for the following year.

These are the basics of the program and why you should or not go for it. Have more questions? Ask away! – René

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  1. Good Basic info. Thanks. Im PM but won’t make PM for next year (only GM). One thing I like most about PM is no charge for same day 3hr flight change. Do you know if Delta offers “Maintain” Challenges? In other words, I want to maintain PM for 2013-14 but will fall about 12K MQMs short and wondering if Delta will offer me a reasonable “challenge” to maintain PM. Don’t mention card churn for shaky at moment so can’t get another card.

  2. No matter what the perks are for the various levels, it is still the worst frequent flyer program going with it near impossible to redeem miles at the lowest level and it requires more miles for the same distance than does Star Alliance or One World airlines. The on-line program is broken and often asks for fantastic amounts of miles for a flight (recently it asked me for 720000 miles for an economy seat to Bangkok. I loved flying on Northwest and was elite on that for many years but since it became part of Delta, all has been downhill. I just used up the last of my miles and from now on, it is never delta again.

  3. @LC – since roll-over stated there are no soft landing or such. I would look at a mileage run to keep your PM (well worth it). There have been a ton of 1 day 5k MR for $200-300 as of late. So, for maybe around $500 and 2 days of your life you keep PM! 😉

  4. Just want to send along my sincerest “thanks” for all of the effort that goes into this blog. For 10 years I lived in ATL and flew to FL almost on a weekly basis, this is where my love of Delta began. I was hooked after I first gained GM status. After moving to a smaller market (SDF) I took a new job with no travel requirement and now 4 years later I’m back in the world of the frequent flyer…however with so much “time off” I still consider myself a rookie at times. I fly constantly now and since Aug 10 have regained FO status (30 MQS in 55 days) and will be GM by Dec 11th. This blog has provided such a wealth of knowledge and insight, I had to express my gratitude. I look forward to a PM or DM year in ’13 and much more entertainment and insight from Delta Points!

  5. Actually, the easiest way to get GM is to befriend a Diamond. 😉 I’ve been gold for 3 years or so because my FIL is Diamond. He gifts gold to my MIL and I. Everyone else in our family earns PM or DM on their own, leaving my MIL and I to get the Diamond gift.

  6. Wednesday is now my favorite day! Thanks for the information, Rene!
    One question – is there a time of year when there is an increased bonus for the Delta-branded credit cards? In other words, is it worth waiting?

  7. @FEV – Txs – it is more when you need points. Yes there are times when promo’s come out but lately it has more been target offers to some. Membership rewards in the past has had big bonus deals and I am still hopping for a big one in NOV this year but have NO info to confirm that just rumors!

  8. I am not sure why you keep reccomending the Gold card over the Platnium card for people who fly only a few times a year. I understadn the fee goes from 95 dollars a year to 150 dollars a year. On the other hand when you have Platnium Amex you get a Buy one get one free voucher and with Gold you get buy one get one for 99 dollars. That is a savings of 99 dollars if you use the voucher making the Platnuium cheaper then the gold. Am I viewing this wrong?

  9. Thanks for the info. I am so glad to finally know what FO stands for. GM, PM and DM all make sense to me, but not FO.

  10. @Bryan – if you see the other comment, the only reason would be if you were NEVER to pay the annual fee and never use the buy-one-get-one-free cert. If you switch between personal and biz each year and get new card bonus each year, you are doing well! – Rene

  11. @Mary – the FO, many say, dates back the the really old program called “Flying Colonel“. So, to make sure “everyone” (yeah I know just how dumb that sounds) understands you mean Silver Medallion not SkyMiles we all use FO to mean Silver.

  12. Dear DeltaPoints, You are among my favorite sites to read each day. I am a PM and have been for several years mostly through flying but partly through the 50,000 MQM I earn through our parish’s Delta Platinum Sky Miles cards that I and two of my employees use for parish related expenses. I usually travel on Delta about 40-45 segments a year mostly in “P” or “A” category or I upgrade using status at the time of purchase and sometimes wait for a upgrade at the gate. I love being a PM! I do sometimes travel overseas as well. I have had some broken bones and a bad back and hate traveling in coach because the pain that I suffer afterwards if I am in coach for more than 3 hours is not worth the price differential so if I can’t get an upgrade, I’ll pay the difference.

    My big question today is that I already have the Delta Sky Miles Platinum card that awards me two “20,000 mile” supplements (MQM) a year for every 25,000 spent but we spend way over that as a church. This is a business card.

    We also have the American Express Platinum card in my name only which I use exclusively to get into the Delta Sky Club and (other clubs) when I travel and for some other times (very rarely) like the concierge services but not enough or often enough. They charge $ 450 a year but I get no MQM’s from that. Again, the only reason I use this card is to get into the sky club. I rarely get to use it it for other clubs.

    Is there a way to get a better card that gives me more MQM on Delta? Can I have a Business Card for the Church (with several employees) that still give me MQM and a personal card that give me MQM too? I have tried to read the maze of rules about the different cards but am overwhelmed by all the details.

    Thanks for a great board and all your wonderful tips!

  13. @PA – txs for you kind words first off! Next, the key part of what you said is “We also have the American Express Platinum card in my name only which I use exclusively to get into the Delta Sky Club and (other clubs) when I travel and for some other times (very rarely) like the concierge services but not enough or often enough”. So, yes you should apply for the Reserve card. NOW PLEASE keep the 365 days AFTER cancel rule in mind to get the new card bonus points. So, if you have a Delta Personal card now, but NOT BIZ, you can get the BIZ card and get the new card 10,000 MQM bonus. If, you have the BIZ, you can NOW get the personal and get the 10,000 MQM bonus. You can then hold BOTH if you want or cancel the other and start waiting for 365 days to pass and get the other card again! Clear? – Rene (PS some have said they have got the bonus via upgrade but it is a YMMV and as of late AMEX says one thing and then does another – the new card/wait 365 does work always!)

  14. Wife is United 1K but now needs to use Delta/KLM due to new job, and has no status. Will ask to get status match to Platinum. Just got the Reserve card and between BIS miles and spend, should end up with ~100K MQM.

    She’s wondering if Diamond is worth bothering to get, and if so, what method would you suggest? Sign up for Delta Platinum card perhaps? A Biz Reserve card?

  15. Re: GM status you mentioned “Free lounge access on any class ticket when flying internationally.”

    Does this include access for guest…and if so, how many guests?

  16. @jim6 – Diamond is worth it if you fly Medallion heavy routes and want upgrades. Most Diamonds say they get 75-100% upgrades where as PM you are more in the 60-90% range. Yes the Biz Reserve card is the best call to me as you get 10,000 MQM’s fast and free Skyclub. – Rene

  17. My wife will have about 58K MQMs before December….and could have another 10K MQMs with the reserve card. That would make her about 7K shy of PM status. Just don’t see her having interest in a mileage run. Dang it!

  18. Rene, which is hypothetically a better date to apply for a Reserve card? December 31st or January 1st?

  19. @gussomer – it depends on when or if Delta makes a change to the Skymiles program. IMO TODAY is the best date before they mess with it. Jan1st may be too late. Who knows. – Rene

  20. I would disagree with the statement “If you can always book seats in business class, there simply is no need, end of story”. Most of my flights are int’l and those flights are always in biz. I only book coach when flying domestic. I’ve had DL’s top published status (PM, then DM) for the past 10 years. When things go wrong or you need some special assistance, I can assure you that someone holding a biz ticket is ahead of coach in the pecking order but at the back of the line as far as the biz customers. I have been put on flights when others in the same cabin have been denied, had people meet me at the gate with an electric cart, even benign stuff like taking my meal order first because they were short the usual allotment and wanted to make sure I got my choice. These things don’t happen often but when they do go the extra mile you are grateful. I fly about 150K MQMs/year and I met another flier who was doing 300K+. He made it sound like there is a unofficial status level above DM – he had a special phone number that he could call and they basically would do whatever he wanted (flight changes, award booking at the low levels, no problem). I would be interested if you or others have heard about this level of treatment.

  21. Thanks! I have a question for you and want your opinion… or anyones 😀

    My bf books all of our flights and has GM. Is it worth it to do a mile run (Im short 4K in miles) for Silver? I didnt think it was worth it since he always links me to his GM status when we fly together.

    Thoughts and comments are appreciated!!! 😀

  22. So if you were Plat and about 20k from Diamond would you MR to get the rest of the MQMs? From what Im reading it might not be worth the outlay to make Diamond.

  23. @MU – It depends on how much you fly. I plan to get as close to Diamond but NOT get Diamond so I can roll-over as much as I can. Diamond is HUGE if you fly a ton so yes I would add a few MR before year end.

  24. @MU – I agree, it depends. For me, I like having guaranteed lounge access. If you fly mostly international or have a Sky Club membership, then you have it. But, remember that DM is also at the top of the upgrade list and you get 25% more bonus miles. I was in your exact situation last year due to a corporate travel ban. I wasn’t willing to do a mileage run because 1) I knew that I could probably requalify within the first half of 2012 and 2) the rollover would help with that. I carried over about 38K. Was temporarily downgraded to PM for March and April but was back at DM by May…which, of course, is good until Feb 2014. Biggest thing I noticed in Mar/Apr was that the upgrades on my domestic segments were about 50/50, compared to like 90% with DM. I still had the lounge access, though, because I was flying int’l itineraries.

  25. Just one little comment on this blog entry. . . you forgot to mention that you can also earn medallion status on segments rather than miles. We segment qualifiers seem to be the red-headed step-children of the FF world, lol!

  26. @Kurt – you are 100% right. It is funny I left that out as the first time EVER I made FO was via MQS’s. Thanks for the reminder and I will update the post soon. Nothing but love (and chiropractor bills) for you hard core warriors who earn your status via segments. I just do not know how someone could make PM or DM with MQS’s. – Rene

  27. I will take that as a challenge, Rene! 🙂 I think I can make Platinum on segments next year. Based on my projected travel I’ll be around 95 segments (and around 56,000 MQMs) so one segment run could put me over. Of course that could change so as a backup I’m going to get the Reserve card and try to qualify based on miles too.

  28. Rene ….. Your comment about getting PM from segements is very funny. I currently have 110 segments and just went over the 75K mileage threehold (with the help of 10K from Delta spending ….. LOL)

    Now my question. My current flight count shows be coming up short by 4 segments to make DM by the end of the year. I am flying out of the Philly airport, how would you look for cheap segments? I figure just the Delta gifts make this worthwhile if I can spend less than $300.

  29. @Brad – If Delta were to start rolling over MQS’s I would stop short but since they don’t yes to say give GOLD to your wife or family or the other gifts are well worth the cost for 4 more segments!

  30. Great Post!!
    When qualifying for the next status level using a credit card, what is the best time of the year to do that with Delta?

  31. i am 530 mqm short of GM. can i book a flight but not board plane and still earn MQMs? also,if i get within 30 MQM of gold, do you think delta might bee generous and still bring me to gold?

  32. I already have a personal Delta Reserve Amex card. If I get for the business Delta Reserve card for my business, can I get MQM bonuses for BOTH cards?

  33. I am SM with only 5221 miles left to move to Gold. Would you recommend I pay $795 for the additional MQMs I need for GM or keep the $795 and stay at Silver? I traveled a lot last year and expect to do almost as much in 2013. I earned these miles the old fashion way (many domestica take off and landings and one long international flight to SYD).

  34. @Brent – hummm you are right in the middle. The part that makes me say buy is the part where you say “expect to do almost as much in 2013”. GM is HUGE over SM(FO). 100% skymiles bonus etc etc. I would do this. Buy a Skyclub membership you get 1500 and buy 5000 = 6500. Cost is the same and you get Skyclub for a year while you fly as a GM! 😉

  35. Hi Rene! I have a question that may have been answered before, but I am too thick to clearly understand. I currently spend in the range of $500,000.00 annually with my Delta Reserve American Express. Can you tell me what (if anything) I should be receiving in the way of MQM’s? Last year I was given complimentary PM, but I do not know what will happen this year. I have been told several different policies, but I feel that you will know the correct answer. Thanks!

  36. @KellyR – OH my are you missing out. You need to have 4 Delta Reserve cards. You, one personal and one business. Your wife/other the same. That way by spending at least $60,000 a year on EACH CARD you will be able to get 30,000 MQM’s for EACH CARD per year. So, you are talking DIAMOND medallion with just one trip say JFK-LAX round trip! Then, you can gift back GOLD as your Diamond Medallion perk to your wife/other! Clear? – Rene

  37. Wow. So $60K is the max spending that you can get MQM’s from? Okay, but how do I get the MQM’s from my wife’s/others’ Reserve cards? Thank you so much for this information! Obviously Delta isn’t going to suggest I do this. One more question: Can I give an employee a reserve card and have the MQM’s directed back to me?

  38. @Kellyr – I sent you a direct email. However, in the Essentials Tab under E18 you will learn how!
    Yes. You could get PLAT cards for them under you main accounts and their spend would count towards YOUR Reserve totals. Once you meet the $30/60,000 spend levels you can send the MQM’s to anyone you want or keep them all yourself!

  39. @Hitesh – YES, if say your wife has a Reserve card, and she meets the $30,000 spend level, she could send you 15,000 BONUS MQM’s and they count you yours. 100% correct!

  40. Rene,

    My question: I had 27 MQM’s in December and now in January I have nothing. Two questions: 1) Is there a way one can purchase their way to Gold Status and 2) how does one get carryover MQM’s? I am fuzzy on this. I fly Delta due to the convenience and due to their Internet access on their flights, but this Medallion status issue is maddening.

  41. @Steve – unless you were say gifted GOLD the year before, if you earned 27,000 MQM’s in 2012 you should be Silver till FEB2014 and rollover 2,000 MQM’s. You can MAX, at this point, buy 10,000 MQM’s that would not help you now. You must not fly 23,000 this year to be Silver again (or via credit cards like the DL Reserve card) and 48,000 for GOLD. – Rene

  42. Hello all,

    First off, thank you for the information. This is a great site, and I sincerely do thank everyone for their input.
    I have one question that I seem to keep getting mixed information about.
    At present I live in Trieste, Italy, and I fly back to Canada twice a year (once in summer, once at Christmas). I always fly through my local airport (Ronchi dei Legionari — TRS) to Detroit Metro (DTW). I always fly Delta (or their sister airlines, such as Alitalia or KLM). Usually I connect through Rome (FCO) and Amsterdam (AMS).
    By doing this trip, twice a year for 4 year (and through other smaller trips throughout Europe), I have achieved Silver Medallion status through SkyMiles.
    This is where my confusion comes in. Does this status expire at any point? Or I guess more to the point, is there a certain threshold of miles traveled that I must stay above before my membership drops back to a basic SkyMiles membership?
    In September, I will be changing jobs, and I will be based out of Asia. At that point, traveling home twice a year will not be possible, and if I’m unable to travel as often as I do, will I lose my status with Delta?
    The reason I’m asking is that at one point (when I was previously based in Asia), I hit Silver status with Air Canada’s service, only to find that all the points had expired after a certain period of time.
    I’m sorry if this is covered elsewhere on the forum, but I can’t seem to find an answer that doesn’t contradict another answer.
    Again, I thank everyone for any and all help they can provide me.



  43. Hello again!

    Thank you for your assistance. If I could impose and ask for clarification on one thing.

    You had written “you must in some way, fly or via credit cards, earn 25,000 MQM each year”

    Does that mean that if I don’t reach that 25,000 MQM threshold the silver membership is then reverted back to basic? I’m a little hazy on that point.

    Again, many thanks!


  44. Hi, I am DM until 28 Feb, then back to PM again. I fly a lot international and now finally my wife can accompany me as the kids are in college. I have a question: is it a good idea to gift my wife Silver Medallion for this year when most of the time she is flying with me (we want to plan two trips per year to Europe when I am on business). She might do a free flight to my son on the West Coast on her own.
    Thanks – Han

  45. @Han – for domestic she would need to be GM+ to get Skymiles upgrade. For INT flights, no one gets free upgrades. For paid tickets, domestic, you both can upgrade due to your status. So, they reason she SHOULD get this gift is if she flies on her own as she can then get some upgrades etc without you.

  46. I received the 10,000 mile bonus for signing up for the Reserve card. According to the Cardmember Agreement, I have 90 days to gift miles. However, the only options given for gifting is the 15,000 or 30,000 miles, based on spending threshold. If I don’t spend $30,000 before the 90 day gifting deadline for the initial 10,000 miles, will I lose the chance to gift them?

  47. @Lisa – the first 10k are yours. You can not gift them to anyone. Once you spend $30,000, BEFORE 31DEC2013, you can then gift THOSE 15,000 MQM’s to anyone you want. YOU will also get 15,000 bonus Skymiles for yourself as well (you can not gift those) – Rene

  48. Hi. I have what is probably a very easy status question–sorry in advance if you have already answered it. I am currently GM, which is valid until Feb 2014. If I reach PM status this year, will that kick in right away? Or will I not be PM until after Feb 2014? Thanks!

  49. I’m expecting to earn GM in Dec. 2013. When will it last until and will I go back to silver or nothing after that say if I only fly 20k in 2014? Thanks.

  50. @Jared – you will have it in Dec2013 and it will end FEB2015 even if you don’t fly again. If you fly and rollover 50k in 2014 you will keep it till FEB2016 (and you make MQD’s as well).

  51. Just recieved my Delta Platinum Medallion card and see the Sky Club is no longer free. What happened.

  52. Rene,
    After finding your page by mistake when investigating why my Delta statement showed I have over 30,000 Skymiles and only 10 MQM’s I think I am allowed to call myself “Rookie of the Year”.
    I ditched my Air Canada Visa card in favour of a Capital One Mastercard, the only card that Canadians can have which is connected to the Delta Programme. I didnot understand that Skymiles do not equal Medallion Miles, so was looking forward to being of Silver status at once, as I have been collecting Delta miles for a few years when I fly annually.
    So by the time I pay the $120 a year for the card, if I do decide to use my points to cover a short flight, I will really have paid for it myself.
    I gave up a card that covered my insurance needs while out of province whether I used my card to book the trip or not.
    Buyer beware and read the small print. etc. However, I would never have quessed when I followed the link to Delta from the application form online that the points allocated to my account when I opened up a credit card account could not be used toward silver status.
    This card is not as useful as I had thought and I will not be renewing, in fact I have used it for the last time.
    Am I in the minority who have misunderstood the language used?

  53. So I am 6k Miles’s away from PM. I went from never flying delta to primarily flying delta this year. I work as a tour director,so most of my flights are international. I don’t get any upgrades. Is it worth doing a miles run to get pm? Next year, My company will split my flights with united. I live in Miami. Any advice if this is worth it? Never did miles run before! Is there info on how to do it effectively?

  54. So is there a way to keep your medallion status by getting the Delta American Express card (Platinum or Reserve card)? It is said that

    “The MQD requirement for the qualification year will be waived if you make at least $25,000 in Eligible Purchases in that year with your Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express.”

    Does this mean that if I make 25,000 in Eligible purchases, I will keep all my MQD and they will be added up each year?


  55. Thanks for the great post (and all of the comments). I just finished my last trip for the year and am nearly at 25,000 miles. I received an offer to purchase MDM for approx $700 to push me over the top to gain Silver (FO) status. In looking at the benefits, I’m not sure it is worth it for me. I already have the Delta Gold card, so I get automatic Zone 1 boarding and a free checked bag (although I have not checked a bag in over 20 years) and can access the Sky Club for only $25. I travel approx 6-7 trips per year, and am part of the GlobalEntry program, so I get automatic Pre-Check status which speeds me thru security and customs. Is there anything I am missing that might make it worth the added cost?

  56. if i qualify for a status level this year… will i be that level right away?? or do i have to wait a year?

  57. I have 46 MQS and 36,731 MQM at this point and I don’t believe I will hit the mark before year’s end to reach gold. I have two more trips scheduled through work, each likely involving four flights. I was told by a Delta representative at one point that the company sometimes offers customers a chance to purchase MQM (or MQS?) late in the year to reach a status.

    Can anyone give me an idea of what sort of cost I would be looking at if I fell about 5-6 MQS or fewer than 10,000 MQM shy of gold? And would it be worth it to spend up to that mark?

    I really appreciate any help.

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