2016 – How to earn your Delta MQD exempt waiver (to avoid MQD spend requirement for Elite Medallion status).

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how fast i earned my MQD exempt spend for delta with amex

Just 18 days for me to be Delta MQD exempt!

Last year it took me 18 days to become MQD exempt, that is, by spending at least $25,000 on my Delta AMEX card. This year I intend to do it in under 10 days. Now I am NOT encouraging you to do this as I am only doing this to prove a point, that is, over the next 365 days you should, with a little effort and very little cost, be able to be MQD exempt, that is, how much you spend on Delta tickets should not impact your elite status.

2016 delta flying year mqms

Delta has released the MQM + MQD (or MQD exempt) levels for this flying year 2016 but be alert there may be changes coming  for the 2018 Medallion year. That is to say the FEB 3/4 date really is a KEY date as after that we will be able to book tickets in 2017 and those will again impact 2018 (i.e. 331 days out).

Now before we go any further let me tell you there are a great many things that Delta says do NOT count toward MQD spend exemption, but we know they do. So, rather than comment below that T&C says this or that, trust us bloggers who test and try and post what does in fact work. I will be testing all of the below, either in a large or small way, and will be sure to update this post if anything fails (but I doubt it will). So let’s get started.

When it comes to so many of these choices we want to spend as little as possible to get this spending done. That is, we want to have the cost of the spend (minus) the value of the SkyMiles (at least 1 cent each) to equal zero if possible. If not possible, then as little net cost all in.

Keep in mind that with Delta AMEX card(s). <-LINK  like the AMEX Platinum personal and business cards, when you spend $25,000 you get 10,000 SkyMiles bonus and 10,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs) bonus as well. You get this again once you hit $50,000 in spend. Thus, you are getting $200 in value back once you make that number. That should count in your equation of trying to get to net zero fair value. These points go to the card holder i.e. the SkyMiles number associated with the account.

Now with the Delta AMEX Reserve personal and business cards, when you spend $30,000 you get 15,000 SkyMiles bonus and 15,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs) bonus as well. You get this again once you hit $60,000 in spend. Thus, you are getting $300 in value back once you make that number. That should count in your equation of trying to get to net zero fair value. With these cards the SkyMiles automatically go to the card holder’s SkyMiles account, but the MQMs can be sent to anyone they want (or if they wait they will auto dump into your account).

bills due

Keeping all of the above in mind we have one more qualifier. Some of what I will do is not the best choice for value. For example, I am going to pay today my cable bill for 3 months as well as my cell bill for 3 months (yes I will have a credit balance). The same goes for a few other bills that do not charge me any kind of fee to pay for them with a credit card. Again, I would be much smarter paying with a card that pays me 5x points (like my Chase INK card). However, I am willing to give up those extra points to knock out a nice chunk of “real” spending on my card. This is a key as I mix up all my spending. Never ever go all-in on one method if possible.

top cash back amex gift cards

cost you 39-50 to buy amex gift cards not such a good deal anymore

This next one is nothing like it was one year ago. First off you will have to wait until another 2.25% offer comes around from sites like TopCashBack as the last one ended yesterday at midnight. Now you could have, like me, ordered some last night as the charge will not post until a few days from now but either way it is nearly a net-zero sum purchase (you are a few bucks net with the free shipping option). Then you are stuck with a number of $200 AMEX gift cards. Now you can just spend them so again here the only reason you are doing this is to beef up your spend NOW. There is no other rational reason to use this method.

taxes pay with delta amex card

Then we have one that can be a HUGE spender for many (at a cost). You can, for 1.89%, pay your taxes. You could even overpay a bit but not that I am encouraging this. The point is I will be paying my taxes and it will net cost me under 1% since I am earning 1 SkyMile worth at least 1 cent each back for paying this way. Simple and quick is worth that cost.

simon mall gift card vdgc

This next one really is the best possible choice if you can take advantage of it. Simons Malls sells Visa Debit Gift Cards or VDGCs at just $3.95 fee per $500 card. For those of you who are math challenged we are talking less that 1% fee and since a SkyMile is worth 1 cent, well, that just works. You can buy up to 10k per visit but I would stay below that number.

300 visa debit gift card that you can set a pin vdgc

The next one is great if you have a Kroger or other locations near you that sell VDGCs at a much higher $6.95 fee each. Clearly we are talking just over 1% fee for each of these but even so for a near net zero fee with the value of the SkyMiles you are near break even. Both these and the ones above (as long as not Vanilla Visas) can be simply loaded to Bluebird (edit: this died on 1/8/16 – now consider buying money orders, but VERY cautiously).  The latter can be loaded but only $49.99 per load so too much effort to be really useful. One more choice is Staples with their $300 set fee cards. A really bad choice with a HUGE fee but a simple choice. Only consider this if simple is more important than cost to you.

kiva loans

If you are new to Kiva.org they are a micro lending site that does have a huge impact on people’s lives. For us, it can make a huge impact on our Medallion lives. Again, doing this compared to other cards like the US Bank FlexPerks cards that can net you as much as 6% back (3x) for this choice is not the wisest move but for our purpose of meeting spend this works. If you choose wisely with your loan choices you will have a 0-1% loss rate with no fee to lend. If you choose 6 months or less rate loans you get your money back at a reasonably fast rate.

delta eGift card

This one is yet another net-zero gain but ONLY if you intend to fly Delta a bunch this year. Well, technically these never expire so I guess you could take your sweet time spending them. Either way you can spend NOW a nice chunk of change and get AMEX spend credit for buying Delta e-Gift cards. I will not be doing much of this type of spending but just know it counts.

martins stores

My wife and I love our local South Bend grocery stores. They have great products and even sell gas at decent prices. I collect their fuel points and save money that way too. So, I can go load up one of their shopping cards for say $1,000 and spend it over the next few months. It is a net zero cost to me other than tying up my funds. You may have a local store like this near you as well or if you happen to shop at SAMS CLUB a bunch just go load up a Walmart shopping card as you can use them at SAMS as well. My point is, if you want to meet spend, this is a way to do it.

give money for points

Like with Kiva, this really is a poor choice for value. You are giving up such a great possible return for your kind goodness of donating to a cause you want to support. However, if your main cause is meeting MQD spend this can be a good choice for you to give some kind of moneys. Clearly a net 100% loss other that the 1% you get back but giving is not about what you get back. Well, most times that is the case anyway.

wrecked car

The last one is one I do each and every year. I pay my homeowners insurance in full for the full year on my card at no fee. If it is built into your mortgage you may want to look at breaking this out and paying it yourself (that is what I did when I had a mortgage on my home). Your car insurance is another good one that likely will let you pay with a credit card at no fee. Perhaps pay for the full year at once. Just an idea.

So there you are. This is quite a list of options for you to meet your spend on your Delta AMEX card to be 100% MQD exempt. Again, unlike me who is doing this to prove a point and blog about it you don’t have to do this in a week or two unless you want to. But do consider them all and make sure you are done WELL before the end of 2016! – René

 

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.

 

 

39 comments

  1. Hi Rene, Happy New Year. Question for you, last year was my first year earning Silver with Delta. I had 36K MQMs, so i should see 11K roll over to 2016 right? Right now I’m seeing zeros across the board on my account.

  2. i have used my delta amex to get the waiver but recently had a VERY BIG PROBLEM with american express while trying to pay my monthly bill !! Amex insists on E-Debiting my checking account –of which –i have a debit block on it!! they really cannot seem to understand that they have to present the check to ACH for processing if they want payment..BUT they have (5 times ) tried to debit the account –blocked by my bank per my instructions!!! So after all of the letter-email etc to corp office they find they cannot resolve this!!so i will not be using my AMEX DELTA CARD after being an AMEX member for 40 years they “CANNOT HELP ME”

  3. Don’t forget the Fidelity earning opportunity. If you are leaving a job and open an IRA to receive your old 401k funds, or have some investments at another broker, you can transfer into a, or open a new, Fidelity account and earn. You get to do it once a year and it can mean some big miles. I find their trading fees to be low, their service and website to be superb, so I’ve circled each July 1st as my rollover/transfer date.

  4. I wasn’t allowed to buy AmEx gift cars at Walmart with my Delta-branded AmEx reserve card. The terminals wouldn’t allow it. I tried each AmEx gift card at a different register. No such luck. A manager suggested I try the Visa gift card. It worked. The transactions posted before midnight on 31 December, so I’m hoping they work and get me the MQM bonus.

  5. @Frank, can you elaborate a little on this? I only know about the 50k miles for 100 investment, which I think is only non-retirement. Thanks.
    @rene, as always, I’m so conflicted about best uses of credit. I try to max out my 6k grocery spend on amex everyday, try to max out 3x airfare by using amex gold for those purchases, try to use 2x cards for taxes, etc. So, a big part of my decision, as for all if us, is “how much are these miles and dollar credits worth to me?” Decisions, decisions.
    I wish I knew how much DL flying I’d be doing this year.

  6. @mbh – Yep, the only reason to chase status is if you are going to be flying Delta. Or want PM or DM to have free award changes as well.

  7. The question will be how long does it take AmEx to tell Delta that I’m due the 30,000. I went to request the bonus online this morning after confirming on AmEx’s website that (1) I exceeded $30,000 in 2015 and (2) the charges posted, but Delta.dumb says I’m not eligible. Err.

    I’m curious why I couldn’t purchase AmEx gift cards at Walmart on my card. I could in previously years.

  8. As of this afternoon, I’m at about $20k out of $25k for MQD exempt (and for 10k MQM of course). I’ll probably finish it later this week. My plan is to max out this card (Platinum) at $50k for 20k MQM and then cancel it and replace it with a new Reserve card instead.

  9. @mbh: My bad. It used to be that retirement accounts were included, but I was done with those transfers a couple of years ago and haven’t looked at the T&C since. You are correct in that it’s just for non-retirement accounts, and requires some hefty commitment. But if you have the funds/assets, it works. What I have never explored is how long you need to leave the money in place. I have added to my FIDO account over the years, but have never pulled an funds. If I knew the required holding period, I might harvest some losses, pull the cash, then re-deposit.

  10. Rene, thanks for this very useful post. Apologies in advance for this long post. I am trying to get the $25k spend in a week or so and in the process get 60k Skymiles (between the 35k bonus and the 25k Amex points rolled over) to book awards tickets for a July trip (I see availability right now and don’t want to lose it).

    If my research is correct, then the monthly limit on Bluebird loading is $5k (which theoretically I can plough back into the Amex, net zero effect on cash flow). All your other options are prepaying upcoming bills etc. which means ponying up $20k cash for that month’s statement, a constraint on your cash flow and a 3-5% loss on investing that money for the next six months. We all might care about that differently but my main question is… is my analysis correct? Are there any other zero net-cash-flow options for the MQD waivers?

  11. @AK – There are many other means but I am not really a MS blog. I would look at all the MS options on blogs like Frequent Miler here on BoardingArea.

  12. Hi Rene, this is probably a really dumb question but I signed up for the Delta platinum card last Fall and met the 25k spend requirement by Dec 31. I have a question about the above statement (and what I read from Delta when I signed up): “Keep in mind that with the Delta AMEX Platinum personal and business cards, when you spend $25,000 you get 10,000 SkyMiles bonus AND 10,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs) bonus as well.” Delta has posted the 10k MQM to my account which they have also indicated as 10k bonus sky miles but my understanding of that statement is that this would mean a total of 20k miles altogether. 10k skymiles + 10k MQM. There is an “AND” in your sentence above and in Delta’s materials about the card benefits. Otherwise if it is just 10k total miles why bother to indicate someone is getting 10k MQM and 10k bonus sky miles for $25k card spend. Am I really only getting 10k in sky miles to use towards an award that also happen to count towards status? Or is Delta going to post 10k in sky miles more to my account at some point and just has a delay in doing that? If it is the former, I think that is very misleading. I upgraded to the platinum card and am paying the higher annual fee under the belief that I would get the chance to get a total of 40k sky miles each year for meeting $50k spend (20k of which would be MQM). Please advise, thanks. And I am new to this blog as of end of last year and have really enjoyed it. Thanks so much for all your insights.

  13. @Beth – For the Delta Platinum card spend bonus it is 10k+10K. They may not post at the same time especially this time of year.

  14. Rene, thanks for the response. I feel silly about my little rant now. Strange though it has been about a month since I got the 10k MQM and still no 10k bonus miles. I will be patient.

  15. Do the Delta e-gift cards give double miles when bought with a delta amex? or are they not counted as a “delta airfare”?

  16. Delta AmEx says “Eligible Purchases do NOT include fees, interest charges, balance transfers, cash advances, purchases of travelers’ checks, purchases or reloading of prepaid cards, or purchases of other cash equivalents.” Are AmEx, Visa, MC gift cards considered prepaid cards for the purpose of getting the MQD waiver?

  17. @rene I’ve already hit my MQD waiver for my Delta Platinum Amex card but was wondering if I were to add an authorized cardholder to my account does the waiver hit their skymiles account as well?

    I’d like to add my fiance to my card if I can get her the waiver as well because she happened to travel enough to hit silver this year but hasn’t spent enough on Delta flights to fully qualify.

  18. @Adam – No sorry, AUs spend goes to the PRIMARY card holders MQD waver. They would have to get their own card and meet their own spend. However, if it is simpler for you to spend than the AU have them add you as an AU and they your spend you do as an AU will go to their totals. I know many husbands do all the spend for their wife’s card (as an AU that is).

  19. I live overseas so I am exempt from the MQD requirement. I am currently a Silver Medallion Member with 28k miles this year so I will be Silver through Jan 2018. I would like to become Gold. If I open a Fidelity account and put $50k are the 25k miles Medallion Qualifying Miles or Skymiles? Thanks

  20. Great post Rene…I pay my water/ utilities ahead as well as cable…I bought several gift cards for upcoming shower / wedding gifts. There are usually at least 6 per year. Homeowners/ property taxes/

  21. Thanks for the info, Rene.
    I think I am looking at details a little late.
    My wife and I traveled a bit more than normal this year, and I signed up for the platinum Delta card for us both.
    For me, I have hit GM for the first time.
    For her, she is only at 20K MQMs and $850 short for MQD. The sticky bit is, her sign on bonus has not hit, but will likely before the year is out.
    So, if I understand correctly, she won’t have enough MQD to hit Silver & will have no rollover since she is not SM.

    There is no logical way we would spend 22K on her card in the next two weeks, nor will she fly worth $850 before year end.

    Is there anything I do to preserve her 30K MQMs? Beg Delta?
    Or does it really not matter much since we usually travel together?

    Thanks!

  22. @Ross – She is stuck unless she can either do a 1st class mileage run for net $850MQD or maybe pre-pay taxes for 22k and file quickly after 1st of the year? Or other options. I spent a ton this past week due to Simon Mall no fee gift cards (I mean I spent your total in a day or so).

  23. Rene, I’ve searched the blogosphere (FT and google) as well as your blog and haven’t found a clear-cut answer to this question:

    If a SkyMiles member meets the $25k annual MQD waiver spend on a Delta Amex MQD-waiver credit card and closes the card, is the MQD waiver ‘lost’ or un-done?

    The question was asked almost 3 years ago on FT but not really answered.

    Delta’s $25k MQD waiver terms and conditions do not seem to address this point – http://www.delta.com/content/www/en_US/skymiles/medallion-program/medallion-qualification-dollars.html

    As it regards the $25k MQD waiver, perhaps the lack of mention on Delta.com means it is NOT required for the customer to hold a Delta Amex branded credit card at year end, or at any other time during the year? I.e. as long as you meet the spend requirement (can be across multiple Delta Amex cards, as is mentioned in the T&Cs, not just $25k+ on a single card), the MQD requirement is met, regardless whether the card is closed or not?

  24. @TPC – The answer is simple – Once you meet the spend you have met the spend. Nothing else matters. That is your answer. Clear and simple.

  25. I know this is late, but one question I have is how do you spend 25k within the first three months of the year and then pay it back avoiding interest fees. I mean if you pay your entire taxes on it, how do you then pay off the card quickly without going broke. And same if you buy a ton of gift cards, I get you can use those for everyday spending but what about paying off the card if you have all your cash in gift cards.

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