Rookie Wednesday: Delta Choice Benefits – what and when to pick them

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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.

from delta-com medallion choice benefits

While I have covered Delta’s Choice Benefits before, that was under the old gifts; it is time for a new post with updates.

First some facts and thoughts about the choices. Some choices you are better to grab ASAP while others it is best to wait as long as you can or redeem just when you need them. I will touch on when later on after we look at each choice. As to the facts, it is important to know that you have 12 months to use your regional and global upgrades but that clock does not start until your redeem them. Also, when it comes to giving medallion status, you can not give the same status to someone and just extend their status. They must drop to a lower level (or nothing) before you can gift them the same status again. Lastly, if you are a Diamond, you can not pick the same choice for both your Platinum and your Diamond gift.

On to all the choices and the list is quite extensive for both Diamonds as well as Platinums:

  • Global Upgrade certificates. These on their own can be a reason to shoot for Diamond status and the savings can be huge. You can only use them on any Delta metal anywhere Delta goes and fly in 1st / business class on all fares other than E-Class. Even though you can use them domestically, internationally is where the true value of these lies. Having said that, the only other place I would consider burning them would be say on the direct Atlanta to Hawaii route since it is so very long. Your 12 month expiration starts the day you cash these in so wait until you need them.
  • Regional Upgrade certificates. These are just like Global Upgrades but only good in the USA. Will not work on JFK-SFO/SEA/LAX trancons or ATL-HNL.
  • Global Entry Application Voucher. Diamonds get for 2 and Platinums get for 1. This is $100 value but you can get this perk free with the non-Delta AMEX Platinum card and to me this is not a wise selection.
  • Delta Sky Club Executive Membership Upgrade. Do you bring your +1 or guest often into the Skyclubs? This could be a good value but keep this little bit in mind: “Executive Membership for the amount of time between Choice Benefits selection and the end of the 2015 Medallion year (January 31, 2016).” This is one of those you would want to redeem ASAP to get max value.
  • Delta Sky Club One-Day Passes. Just as it says but the expiration clock starts the day you redeem. Plus, again here, a very poor choice vs. value of the gift.
  • Bonus Miles. 20 or 25k can be a good choice if you need the points. Come Skymile2015 this could be an even more valuable gift when Skymiles become harder and harder to get.
  • Travel/Retail Gift Card $200. This could be one to consider and at least for me the travel voucher can earn you both MQMs and Skymiles when you spend it. Since I really value MQMs spending this to fly at a great discount or even free works for me and has value.
  • Tiffany & Co. Luggage Tags. If you are considering this, you need to have your head checked. Let’s move on.
  • Give Medallion status. This is a HUGE perk and gift to give to those who fly a bunch. Many Diamonds gift GOLD to their spouse / +1’s as then both of you have a chance to upgrade on an award ticket (must be GM+ to do that). Even Silver can be a sweet perk over no status at all. This is one that you do want to spend ASAP as the status ends when your medallion year does, in other words say you got Diamond on 1MAY and gift Gold. The gold gift would be the rest of this year, all of next. If you wait, the person you are gifting just gets less time as a medallion.

So there is the list. Clearly, to me, the BEST choices are Global Upgrade and Regional Upgrade certs. If you call and book and find space, redeem, and spend, you are all set. If you have some already picked, you just go to the head of the upgrade chain, but there are no guarantees then (if you don’t upgrade on them you don’t lose them btw). Also, if you do clear as a medallion upgrade you don’t have to spend them so wait to request the upgrade if going that way (maybe inside 24hrs before flight).

The next best choice for someone who flies a bit is medallion status. The perks are great and to not have to earn the status is sweet. Plus, the gifted flyer is MQD exempt during the gift time. Now having said that, they still must earn the needed MQMs to have any rollover so they are not gifted MQMs, just the status.

Then the other good choice, depending on your circumstances, are points or $200 travel voucher. The points never expire and could help you get whatever award you are looking for. The travel voucher can earn you MQMs and Skymiles and who does not love that?

The final one I would even consider is the upgraded Skyclub membership, but again this is a very targeted flyer who could see real benefit from this gift.

The rest are honestly just junk and you are not getting full value out of your Choice Benefit. There are cheaper and better ways to get the other things being offered.

Have any questions? Anything I missed? As always feel free to fire away with any questions you may have here on the blog below in the comments section so others can benefit as well from what you are asking about! – René
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Editorial Note: This content is not provided by American Express. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by American Express.
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63 comments

  1. Favorite part of this post: “Tiffany & Co. Luggage Tags. If you are considering this, you need to have your head checked. Let’s move on.”

    I agree 100%, but it cracked me up.

  2. @Don – GM+ can upgrade. FO can not!
    .
    Complimentary Upgrades for Award Tickets and Pay with Miles reservations are offered to Diamond, Platinum, and Gold Medallion members and will be upgraded beginning at the eligible Medallion tier window based on availability and are not eligible for Complimentary Companion Upgrades.
    .
    http://www.delta.com/content/www/en_US/skymiles/about-skymiles/medallion-program/medallion-benefits/unlimited-complimentary-medallion-upgrades.html

  3. One thing I found out about the regional certs that should be mentioned is that if you are traveling with a companion and want to upgrade them with one of these Delta forces you to use one on yourself too, even though you would already get upgraded as a DM (my upgrade rate is 94%+). This reduces their value IMO since my whole reason for choosing them was to upgrade my companion.

  4. @Dave – Yes that is a good point and a frustration. It would be nice if we could just use a RU for a +1 and risk the UG on us as DM or PM’s. Oh, it could be worth sending off a comment to Delta.com as they could make that good change!

  5. I made the mistake of making my Diamond selections for the best value to me which was the travel voucher and miles, and soon after the new Global Upgrade Certificates were announced. I would have held off on my selections had I known this was going to be one of the new Choice Benefits and once you make your selections Delta will not allow you to change, even if new Choice Benefits have been introduced.

  6. Question as a diamond for the first year I had gifted my daughter gold if I let her gift expire I can gift gold again in March maybe? Thanks Lynn. I thought I couldn’t gift her gold again.

  7. @Andrew – Did the same thing. Still really upset about that!
    @Lynn – As mentioned in post, she must drop before you can re-gift again.

  8. Rene, do you have experience with the Global Upgrades on flights that involve AF/KL? Are they pretty much the same as the old SWUs in that scenario (hard to use, KL/AF inventory issues, need expensive fares, etc.)?
    thanks.

  9. Great post. Just one question about timing, as I may hit Diamond for the first time later this year. Do the Platinum and Diamond choices all need to be selected at the same time, or can they be spread out? For example, can I choose Gold status for my spouse in March, 4 regional upgrades in June and then 4 GUCs in September? Since the upgrade certs expire 1 year after issued, it seems like you want to delay choosing them until you actually need to use them.

  10. Can you elaborate on the status gift? Can +1 gold status expire for just one day and then I use my 2016 Diamond gift and reestablish gold status the next day or is there a longer waiting period?

  11. I think the exec upgrade for sky clubs should probably be higher on the list for most people. To me that was the one enhancement of Diamond I did not like was losing that. I think a lot of people may pick it. I will likely pick it as if you are traveling with family or a colleague you can’t use the club without it. I won’t go in and leave others out.

    Also you are really overhyping they destruction of skymiles. It mostly effects mileage runners and not your typical business person and certainly not a segment flyer!

  12. @Deltasegmentflyer – That is why I said good value for some. No, Skymiles2015 will be a TOTAL DISASTER for most Delta flyers! If anything it is WORSE than I am saying! And, just wait till they make MQS flyers only valid on higher fare class tickets (then see if you don’t join the disaster bandwagon).

  13. @Skdelta – Yep you must be M class or higher that makes them almost as worthless for that as the old ones. You can find OK fares now and then but not often. Worth a look if you have an expense account that can do that however!

  14. @DDiamond – It may take a few days but not much more. The key is not being Gold anymore as you can not gift Gold to someone who is Gold. We all know Delta “IT” is one of the finest parts of the company right? 😉

  15. It’s nice to read about so many options. Maybe this year I will break into the Silver club. 1,303 MQMs and $972 to go. The first time ever I have been close. The last two years it was all spend not enough miles.

  16. @Rob – do keep in mind Silver and Gold get NONE of these. You must make Platinum and then Diamond to get all the options to choose from.

  17. So let’s say I’m flying DTW-CDG and CDG-DTW on Delta metal. I want a global upgrade. Is it two for round-trip or one? And what about say DTW-NRT-SIN, all on Delta metal. Is that three each way or one each way? Or one total?

  18. @Silly q – Not a silly Q at all. It is ONE WAY per person but again must be DL metal, as you point out, to be on cheap-O fare class. So, for just you either example, once cert each way for a total of 2 per trip.

  19. “Plus, the gifted flyer is MQD exempt during the gift time.”

    So if my wife had 50,000 MQMs in 2014, and $1,700 MQDs, I could gift her Silver status (for 2015), and she would then pop up to Gold?

    I gifted her Silver for 2014. We almost MR’d her to 50,000 MQMs this year, but I realized that she wouldn’t have the MQDs to make Gold. Was I wrong?

    In short, when exactly is “during the gift time”?

    Thank you Rene!

  20. @Deltasegmentflyer

    For a Diamond, Executive Sky Club membership costs, IIRC, $550.

    4 GU certificates gets you two coach international round tips upgraded to BE. Do you ever fly international? Would it be worth at least $300 to you to upgrade from coach to BE?

  21. @Greg – when gifted any status, you don’t have to meet MQD spend. However, if you want to EARN status you still have to do all the “stuff” ie say you have a SILVER gifted. They have to spend $2500 (or spend $25,000 on AMEX) and fly 25,001 MQMs to rollover 1 MQM. Clear?

  22. Rene,

    I’m more interested in the “Plus, the gifted flyer is MQD exempt during the gift time.”

    So,I gifted my wife Silver status for 2014. If she had earned 51,000 MQMs in 2014, but only had $2,200 MQDs, what would her status be in 2015? In 2014 after she hit 50,000 MQMs?

    Thanks

  23. @Greg – nothing. She must EARN the status for the year AFTER the gift time. She is only exempt DURING the gift time.

  24. Rene, I qualified for DM for the first time about midway through 2014. This gave me DM immediately and it lasts until Jan. 31, 2016. Does this mean I can postpone my choice awards choices until mid Jan. 2016 (if I wish) and don’t need the upgrade certificates? Can I take the PM level choice award now (say the RUC’s), but wait until Jan 2016 to take my 2 DM choice awards (the 25K points and the GUC)? Thanks.

  25. @Don – Yes. It is SMART for THAT choice ie RU & GU to WAIT as LONG AS YOU CAN as the expiration clock for those start the day you select them.

  26. hi Rene Thank you for your sagacious time 🙂 !
    to clarify re your reply,
    “Yes. It is SMART for THAT choice ie RU & GU to WAIT as LONG AS YOU CAN as the expiration clock for those start the day you select them.” SO:
    may i wait to redeem my 4 RUC ( as a PM) till DEC 31, 2015
    and apply them to 2016 flights as yet unbooked
    ( who knows what status ill have in 2016 )
    thank you RENE

  27. @Nina – You earned your 2015 status so you have until 1FEB16 to redeem your RU certs. Then you have 12 months to spend them from that date.

  28. Do you get 1 when you hit platinum and an additional 2 when you hit diamond, or is it just 1 and 1?

  29. @Alex – If you hit PM you get that choice. If you hit DM you get PM + DM gifts that is both choices. I instantly got both choices this year since I rolled over DM MQMs and earned my MQD waver in 3 weeks on my Delta AMEX Reserve card! 🙂

  30. René –

    Could you elaborate on how to Gift Gold Medallion status going forward, since Delta has reduced the timeframe for these statuses?

    So, I gifted my spouse Gold Medallion, which expires for her at the end of January 2016. But now what is the cut-off date for me to choose my Choice Benefits for next year? And of course delaying the gifting decision delays my GUC selections as well, right? I mean I cannot choose one and wait on another, correct?

    I know that once gifted again next year that her recipient status is valid through January 31, 2017.

    I just wish they would allow me to keep rolling over her status regardless of the dates as long as I am a Diamond.

  31. Just a correction to your statement above:

    You wrote: “Lastly, if you are a Diamond, you can not pick the same choice for both your Platinum and your Diamond gift.”

    However, that is not correct.

    Delta states: “Diamond Medallion members may not select the same Choice Benefit twice for their Diamond selection. They may choose the same benefit as their Platinum selection and one of their two Diamond selections.”

  32. @Laptoptrave – you are really mixing different things up a bit here. With gold status gifting you get maximum benefits by gifting it as soon as possible because it is valid from the time you gift it and then the medallion year itself. For example if you immediately have the status gifted February 1st next year the person would have it that year as well as the following year. With global and regional upgrades no matter when you select them they are valid from one year at that point.

  33. Rene,
    I was naively unaware that I was eligible for a PM Choice Benefit until today and earned my 2015 gift last year. For that I selected upgrade certs which I’m hoping to use on my remaining flights this year. I’ve also earned a benefit for my PM 2016. I’ll earn DM in a week or so. Should I expect to see another gift awaiting my selection at that time? Selecting my 2016 PM benefit now won’t consume my DM benefit, will it? I know how it sounds but, like I said, I’ve only just learned of this program. Thanks!

  34. @Nick – Please re-read the post as many of your questions are answered inside. You have until 31JAN16 to choose your 2016 benefits. If you earn DM you get those as well but since you have already earned your 2016 PM benefits you do not get a second round of them. Welcome to the blog! – Rene

  35. So I’m about to hit platinum at the end of this year. If I hit diamond early next year (March or April) what would be my best choice benefits then?

  36. @Hugh – I do not tell readers what is “their” best choices. As far as value, Global Upgrades are amazing (if you can use them) and gifting GOLD to someone (again who can use it) is sweet.

  37. Hi some great advise, I wols add , I,m a 2 million miler, so gold lifetime, plus lifetime sky club,Now this year I have 120,000 mqm, plus K received .15mqm, from delta 10th dec 2015, my daughter, is at uni, in USA, so rather than me have the 15k mqm and going to diamond,i gifted then to het, which gives her now 53k mom, so she qualified, for gold, and she has two international flights, now on gold prior to end of 2015, which as she is only age20, lets her go into sky club, at atlanta, thats not self service, and better chance of upgrades,inside USA.,plus couple of other perks,I could have had the miles myself gifted gold, but she was silver>so i thought that was the best option,also, she is million miler, so 15k goes to 2 million miller, longtime off? now in jan 2016, my rollover to platinum, will be 45k,where as i would have been diamond, but only say 10k mqm in the bag. meaning 65k to travel to Platinum, To my mind, unless I can re qualify, to platinum,I wouls sooner have the roll over miles, as although diamond is better,the perks of econ comfort for all our family at time of booking for two years is better. One other thing if you are plat ,diamond, you can book flights, for the next year, 9 months or so in front, and still get econ comfort seats,The one thing, some one could advise, Ihave delta am expess card, all have had the max mqm , this year? spend about 2k over, what i needed to, statement was 9th december, so miles came a couple of days later, anyway if i now spend for xmas on the card, or,and book flights, my statement next is Jan, 2016, will the spend count,towards 2016,? or do i have to wait till jan 2016 to spend, for the miles to be counted, thx craig

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