Rookie Wednesday: What is the best choice for an elite’s “Choice Benefit”

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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.

I find myself doing this again, but think it is a good idea for a number of reasons, that is covering an elite topic on a rookie day (next week back to everyone). Many do not know about this perk or wait too long to redeem it. Choice Benefits are a very nice perk of reaching the top two elite levels with Delta Air Lines. First what it takes.

Once you have earned, either from flying on Delta Jets or via other means like bonus points from the Delta AMEX Platinum or Reserve personal and/or business cards, 75,000 MQM’s or medallion qualifying miles, you are eligible for level one of the choice benefits (note starting in 2014 you will also have to have Delta MQD’s that is medallion qualifying dollars in addition to MQM’s to qualify). The next level, Delta’s highest elite level, gives you the next level of benefits and two choices of perks. If you were Platinum medallion or lower the year before, and make it all the way to Diamond, you will get 3 choices for the year (one at Platinum and then two at Diamond – Diamond repeats also get both the PM & DM choices btw).

I will look at both Platinum and Diamond at the same time as both have a number of choices. First is SWU or system wide upgrades. Next is Skyclub passes followed by bonus Skymiles, gift cards for Tiffany’s or an ETV or electronic travel voucher on Delta Air Lines. Lastly is gifting or giving to someone medallion status. All of these have value and are a very nice perk of reaching and shooting for the top two of the four Delta medallion levels. What is the best choice? This is a bit of a subjective decision, but there are pro’s and con’s of each. Let’s take a look.

SWU’s. These can be very nice. Read directly HERE about them at Delta.com and rather than regurgitating the full T&C you really should look at the Delta page. The basics about them are this. They are reasonably simple to use and find space to use domestically and some other markets. To Europe and other places it often can cost as much to use them and many times is simpler and about the same cost as buying a business class ticket; this is a major issue Delta needs to address, but seems to have no desire to do so. You can use them with one traveling companion with you, but it will take two certs then and space must be open for you both. Lastly they are good for only “one way upgrade” single segment not the trip with many connections.

Skyclub passes are straight forward. They are good for 1 person to have 24 hours of club access. They can use the pass and go to as many Skyclubs as they want even over a two day trip up to 24 hrs of travel (just make sure they hang on to the pass when they check-in)! Retail these are worth $50 each, but there are many ways to get them for $25 or less so keep that in mind if you pick these as your choice.

Bonus Skymiles are always nice! Skymiles never expire and can be used for award travel or if you have a Gold or Platinum or Reserve Delta AMEX card you can use them for cash and points redemption, that is, get 1 cent per point toward ANY ticket in any fare class you want (but keep in mind unless booked all in first class you will not earn any points for this kind of redemption).

The Tiffany gift card is a simple gift card so on to the Delta ETV. These are much better than the “bump” type of ETV and the rules are much more flexible. You can combine these with more than one and can buy a ticket for someone else if you want to. Consider these cash on hand when buying a Delta ticket (almost anyway as there are still a few restrictions).

The last one is just amazing. You can give someone who (important) does not currently have Delta Medallion status, full status with the airline (Silver as a PM and Gold as a DM). The other very neat part is if you say earn your Platinum or Diamond status by as soon as March 1st of this year and gift Silver or Gold status to a friend, they will have the status this year (the remainder of the current year) and also next year as well! This gift you want to redeem ASAP if it is your choice. Why is this? Let’s see why.

One of the things most do not understand is when you are earning your status. I want to make this simple. Say you start on 01JAN2013 with ZERO MQM’s and no status. Then, by 01FEB2013 you have flown 125,000 MQM’s (yes you will have flown way too much way too fast, but go with me here please). You will be Diamond medallion at this point but you have earned your Diamond status for the following year, that is 2014. You will still get all the perks of being Diamond in 2013, but again you earned the status for the next year. Thus, your choice benefit is for the 2014 year. Another thing that I think makes people confused is when a medallion year ends. It ends at the end of FEB each year. So, in the above example, your Diamond status would end on 28FEB2015. Clear? There are some reasons this is very important. Let’s take a look.

There are some redemptions that are not time sensitive. Take Skymiles. You have up to 28FEB2015 to redeem this. As of 01March15 your choice benefit is gone. But, other things, like gifting status have a “shelf life”. If you gift someone status as soon as you can, they have a long time to enjoy it. If you gift them status say on 01FEB2015, they have just 1 month to enjoy it (and thus a very bad choice if you wait). Delta $200 SWU’s, ETV’s and the Skyclub passes are good for 12 months from Date of issue so with these, it could be good to wait to redeem if you have no plans to use them soon!

For Diamonds. You get one from the PM list and two from the DM list, but the two from that list cannot be the same gift (i.e. you can gift Silver status to one person, Gold to another but not Gold to two). Also, you are gifting status – NOT MQM’s. This is an important point as they have all the perks, but if they want to keep the status they must earn it like the rest of us. Now you can re-gift them status again, but must wait till they drop back down again before you can give them the same status again since you can only gift status to someone without status.

So there you are. There are a great many rewards for reaching the top levels of medallion status with Delta and Choice Benefits are just icing on the cake. These are some of the most asked questions that PM & DM tend to miss so I hope today’s post helps you and if you are thinking about pushing to reach one of these levels you will redeem the perk that fits you best – René

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26 comments

  1. here is a rookie question.

    Does the fractional delta jet card purchase count towards MQM for status. Since it can be used for commercial flights it might not be a bad way to earn or am I missing something??

    Personally I am assuming I will use the whole card for commercial and only rent a private jet if my lotto tickets hit big!!

  2. @mark – I have a post on the card but yes you can spend it all on Delta and earn mqm etc but your instant DM status does not come with mqms.

  3. I have not taken my diamond and plat benefits from last yr yet. I was on the fence with the SWUS since many of those flights cost so much more money domestically. I was going to give my business partner gold and my wife silver. Frankly I don’t think silver has much value if any and it wont do much for her. That is just my opinion.

    Robert

  4. Rene,
    One time I am going to disagree with you – I have had the SWU system wide upgrades for many years, probably 9-10 as I have been at least Platinum or Diamond that long. I have only been able to use the certificates 2 to 3 times in the 10 years. When I did get to use them it was on random flights, not what I wanted to. Trust me, I did a ton of searching and options. For instance I am going to Italy next month, I tried days, weeks, routes, partners and at least 12 calls to Delta. No luck, unless you pay more than discounted Biz class (which gets you 150% mqm

  5. Rene,
    Question about reaching the next level of status. Two weeks ago I finally hit Gold Status, when should that status expire should I not hit Gold in 2014? I assumed Feb of 2015 but according to delta.com it will expire Feb 2014, am I missing something?

  6. How do you check availability for the SWU’s? Can it be done online or do you have to call a Delta agent?

  7. (but keep in mind unless booked all in first class you will not earn any points for this kind of redemption).

    Just to clarify, you can earn miles and MQM’s in coach if you use “Pay with Miles” for a portion of the ticket on eligible fares. I often book this way to reduce the cost of the ticket and still earn MQM’s, plus I earn medallion bonus miles!

  8. I just used my SWU (as a new PM) for my trip to Hawaii. It has 3 legs outbound and 2 return. The representative told me it takes 1 SWU per direction, so 2 for a round trip rather than one per segment. I think this is different than what you stated.

  9. Hey Rene. I have one question. Do your choice benefits rollover to the next year or are you required to use them that medallion year when you earn them?

  10. @Tim – you have until the last day of the year you have earned them FOR. So, say you EARN PM this year 2013. Clear so far right. Then you have EARNED you 2014 PM status (but you get the perks this year too ie 2013). Thus, you have until the end of the 2014 medallion year to spend them (ie it ends last day FEB 2015). Clear? So no rolloever per say, but I think the explanation hits on your timeline.

  11. @MO and Rene – Let me be clear, I’m earning MQM’s and bonus miles for economy (V) coach when using partial pay with miles. Ex; MSP to STL $203.80 – $150 pay with miles (15,000 miles) = $53.80 balance. I earned 1000 MQM’s and 2000 miles :)!

  12. Rene, just want to verify end of Mqm qualification. Is it December (per Delta’s website).

    Reason I ask is I’m at 102 segments end of December and134 at end of February 2014.

    Please, need clarification. Thank you.

    Cesar

  13. @C Ocamp – Your final segment must TAKE OFF before 23:59PM on the 31DEC for it to count on THIS YEAR for next year. Every segment after 0:00 01JAN2014 counts in 2014.

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