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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.