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Rookie Wednesday: What counts as Delta MQM & MQD spending (& MQD exemption spend)?

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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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.

reserve one

Do you know what has changed since last year’s January 1st post or the year before that? Nothing really other than we have more to worry about for the next 364 days. We can still get either one or two Delta AMEX Reserve cards today (that is a personal and business card) and earn 10,000 MQMs from each and get a huge 20,000 MQM start towards whatever status you want.

reserve two

Yes, to be clear, you can hold two Delta AMEX cards at once (ie one personal and one business) and earn the new card bonus for each if you have not had a Delta branded Gold or Platinum or Reserve card for 365+ days. Also, as you can see from my two cards, both earn you points.

mqm plus mqd table delta airlines delta points blog

But what has changed as of today and this year 2014? Well, we now must earn not just MQMs but also either 1) Spend $2500-$12,500 on MQDs or net money to Delta on tickets (taxes and fees don’t count) or 2) Spend $25,000 across our Delta AMEX cards personal and business to be exempt from MQDs (we still must earn the MQMs no matter what to be elite). So it is time for an update to last year’s rookie post on qualifying spend and have a go-to page I can update if things change or new ways pop up. This will be that page.

If you have company spend, MQDs should not be a real hardship. For the rest of us, me included who spent just $5000 last year in MQDs and will spend even less this year, we need exemption via spend. Plus, with $60k spend on an AMEX Reserve we are earning 30,000 more MQMs (15,000 x 2).

So what really counts towards MQMs, MQDs and exempt spending? We all know what the T&C say and I don’t need to cut-n-paste them here and readers don’t need to leave them in the comments. What counts is per AMEX so if AMEX says it counts – it counts. If not – it does not! It is just that simple. I am going to, over the next few days, buy a bunch of stuff and then update this post with results as soon as I can. I will be buying on my Reserve cards:

  • AMEX GCs (starting via TCB) = [Results – Confirmed]
  • Walmart gift card (for use at Sam’s club) = [Results – Confirmed]
  • Visa Debit GCs at grocery store & send to BB = [Results – Confirmed]
  • VR cards at local pharmacy = [Results – Confirmed]
  • No fee Kiva loans via Paypal = [Results – Confirmed]
  • Buying Delta e-Gifts = [Results – Confirmed]
  • Using Amazon Payments = [Results – Confirmed]
  • Paying Federal taxes = [Results – Confirmed]

These are the ones I want to know about and I think most readers want to know about as well (any I have missed I should try?). I should have results by mid/late February and change pending to Confirmed or NO. I expect them all to work just fine as they have in the past, but we shall see and have verified results.

my delta amex card spend 2014

Now I am focused on exempt spending not MQDs. Hopefully will correctly display the ticket price that does count for you as well as Economy Comfort upgrades and when you use “Pay with Miles” to book 1st class (don’t be shocked if numbers are wrong or missing). Also know that Delta e-Gift cards don’t count toward MQD spend, but do count when they are redeemed for the person flying, not the person who purchased them. They should count no problem toward the $25k exempt spend threshold level at the time of purchase and earn me 2x points.

Another idea is buying a bunch of forever stamps at the current $.46 prices before they go up 6.5% to $.49 on 26JAN. I may have to hold them for a bit but I think I could resell them for near break even in a few months.  I will save this one as a filler idea. Maybe I will just buy some for personal use for 2014.

I will have a tax bill coming up by April 15th, being self employed, and may just live with the 1.89% AMEX fee via PayUSAtax to get some spend done this way. I hate paying any fees but I value my Skymiles at 1-2 cents each so I am, at worst, losing .89% and at best break even with this one. I have no doubt this will count as it counted last year in earning MQM spend so should be fine this year for MQD spend exemption, but I will report if something goes wonkie here. Normally I pay my quarterly taxes from Bluebird funded with VRs. Simple and I use Bluebird to pay for things like this, as well as my mortgage, that I cannot use a credit card for or costs me too much to accomplish.

I also plan to do some other spending and prepay some things like my car insurance for 6 months, my home insurance for a year and see what else I can dump some spend on (I am also still thinking of buying a car on my card as mine is a 2000). I really try not to spend on items I can get 5x points from different Ultimate Reward cards but should still end up with a good jump start on my spend as my goal is to run off $30k in spend by March 1st (if it takes a little longer that really is fine) so I will have, with my rollover MQMs and flying in January and February plus the 15,000 MQMs for Reserve card spending to have re-qualified for Diamond Medallion until 01FEB2016 and have access to the new Global upgrade certs as one of my Choice Benefits for 2015. – René

Gold-Platinum-Reserve Delta SkyMiles®
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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

René de Lambert is a contributing writer and the founder of RenesPoints. He is an avid Delta and SkyTeam flyer who has held Delta’s top Diamond Medallion status for many years and flown millions of miles.


  1. Rene, when does the Delta site usually reflect rollover MQM’s?

  2. Rene….I don’t mean to beat a dead horse but I have had the Business Reserve and Platinum Card for about 2 years and I am still confused….just got the personal card which is the first personal AMEX I have owned…..will I or won’t I get the MQM 10,000 mile bonus?

  3. you may buy Amex Gift Card (to earn b/t 1.5% to 3%) and then use Amex GC to pay tax libility (to offset 1.89% fee). am I right?

    • @Andy – yes you can but the cards are limited to $3000. Not saying it is me, but if someone had to pay $25,000 in tax they may just put up with fee. As to other questions 1) yes you will be fine once you hit $25k qualifying spend (and I will show just what that is). You can get a personal card yes but fee waved no.

  4. questions:
    1. I have a Amex Delta Skymile Business Premier Card for 3+ years so far and always charge $25,000+ each year in the card (while paying $150 annual fee). So, I do not need to worry about MQDs, am I right?

    2. Can I apply for a personal delta Amex card to earn sign-on bonus that offers MQM miles, 10,000 MQM miles or more? Does Amex offer such a personal delta skymile card, hopefully waiving the first year annual fee?

  5. Rene, Two questions:
    1. I have both Reserve cards and my wife has a Reserve and a Delta Platinum. I want to upgrade her Platinum to Reserve. I know you says don’t upgrade, but we are both PM now so they cannot take it away if we upgrade and I think if we upgrade we can get a free 1st class cert this year on the anniversary rather than get a new Reserve and have to wait until next year for the free cert, correct?
    2. Can you use “pay with miles” to buy a 1st class ticket and use the Reserve cert for the free ticket? Thanks.

  6. Thank you for all you do by keeping us updated. I really appreciated your article today, Tuesday, 07Jan14 about MQS, I had over 182 segments in 2013 and over 125,000 miles and it is frustrating that segments do not roll over. I believed I obtained DM status late August or September 2013 by MQS and reached over 125, 000 miles in November 2013. I had no rollover miles in 2012 since I reached DM by having over 160 MQS but did not have 125, 000 miles, so I earned all miles and segments by actually sitting in a Delta Plane.

    I wish Delta would recognize those of us who earn status by MQS. I’m sure with your assistance they eventually will.

    Thanks again for keeping us informed. I’m a loyal Delta Flyer.

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  15. Additional ways to use my DL Amex:

    I pay the following bills with my DL Amex
    cable/ISP/Home Phone bill from comcast
    Electric Bill.. FPL goes through Western Union Speed pay for a $3.25 fee My bill is at least $300 to $400 per month depending on time of year.
    Car Insurance
    Marriott will accept my Amex to pay my time share mortgage and taxes/maintenance payments

    There are some other things that you can pay on the speedpay as well.

    Broward County offers the ability to pay your property taxes up to $100,000 on an Amex. I think that they will charge up to a 2.55% fee.

    I know that my city will also allow me to pay my water/sewer bill for a 2.6% fee and $1.49 transaction fee.

    I know that René says he likes think that the cost per mile as low as possible, but I look at it a little different. There is one cost for basic miles and another for MQM miles. Thinking about my DL Plat Amex where I get 10k MQM for every $25,000 spend. Those MQM miles can help qualify for something this year or count as roll over for next year.

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  18. Just want to make really sure: I might be a few thousand short of the MQM AmEx bonus threshold. The AmEx phone agent says buying the $3K AmEx gift card will NOT go toward eligible spending. But I’ve read many posts by people who says they DO count. As someone who may need to do this to get over the top next month, I just wanted to confirm this worked for you. Thanks!

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  20. Young Tho®ough Reply

    Never posted this but I find that 20% back on delta purchases does not count against MQD spend.

    I did however mention somewhen that AMEX Sync Offer credits do count against MQD spend.

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