I normally run a post like this each year in December, but the more I think about it and all the changes we are seeing this year to the elite Medallion program it would be wiser to touch on these right now so you have time to plan and make choices with time to act. Plus, I am getting tons of questions every day in e-mail and having this post to point to would be really helpful. Let’s dive in.
- Choice Benefits
Now officially, as of the 13th of October, you can upgrade your +1 who is any elite level or even just a SkyMiles member (important that they join) the big question is should you burn one of your Choice Benefits to gift either Silver or Gold Medallion status to someone you love (or like or work with, etc.). This one is really not as hard as most are making it out to be. Look at it this way, if they always travel with you then there is no need for them to hold elite status. If they travel many times a year on their own then both Silver and Gold Medallion status can have some real nice perks. Especially the latter if they are traveling internationally as they are considered “elite plus” with SkyTeam and that matters.
The next one is critically important about when to pick your Choice Benefits (CB). I will “try” to make this simple. If you were NOT either Platinum (PM) or Diamond (DM) this year, that is, 2016 and made it to PM or DM you are in NO rush to pick your CB. However, if you earned PM or DM in 2015, that is, last year you MUST choose your CB on or before 31JAN17 or it will be lost forever.
Another issue some miss is that if you have earned Diamond status you get BOTH, yes BOTH, a PM and DM Choice Benefits each year. You should carefully consider your flying patterns and pick the ones that best fit your needs.
- Medallion Qualification
This one seems to confuse so many because of the fact that the Medallion “year” ends on the last day of January each year. However, QUALIFICATION ends on the last day of December each year. This means any flight that departs (scheduled) before 23:59 on 31DEC each year counts toward the current year MQMs. If you have a connecting flight that departs on the 1st of January that counts toward the following year!
Just because this always comes up let’s touch on rollover MQMs. First off, you had better have at least $3000 in MQD spend or you will roll over NOTHING. Keep in mind if you are a million miler and have “lifetime” Silver this is status ONLY and will not exempt you from needing to still reach the $3000 in spend to rollover MQMs. Or, clearly, be MQD exempt via card spend each year. Then when will it happen? For the past many years it has happened on or around the 15 of January. I expect the same this year.
Lastly we need to touch on elite mileage runs. If you are planning on booking one you need to get focused now. I am going to work on posting as many runs as I can but once we get to 1DEC each year it gets really hard to find sweet deals. In fact, my personal goals and targets of around 4CPM in coach and 8CPM in first class go out the window in December each year. If you are needing a custom run NOW would be the time to reach out to ADAM for help before prices go crazy.
- Delta Co-Branded AMEX
Along with the above confusion is when AMEX Reserve card MQMs count. You need to think just like flights. Anything that you charge, and that POSTS to your account, on or before 31DEC each year counts as spend on that year. It does not matter when you claim your MQMs or when your AMEX statement closes your MQMs count in the year you earned them. To be crystal clear, if you wait till say 10JAN17 to claim your MQMs and keep them or gift them to someone they will count on 2016 NOT, again NOT, on 2017 because you earned them in 2016.
This could have an impact on the current increased AMEX card MQM offer as it ends in a few short weeks on November 9th. These MQMs (should) count on this year even if you are finishing the spend in Jan of 2017. However, with this limited time offer there is the remote chance if you do NOT finish the minimum spend until Jan of 2017 the MQMs may count for the following year (I do not see any specific wording in the T&C). Just do this, plan for them to count on 2016 Medallion year and if you need them NOW get your spend done ASAP. If you hope they “may” count into next year finish all your spend ASAP after 1JAN17.
- 2017 & beyond
Next up we have what happens if situations. You may be dropping in status or going up in status in 2017. Let’s first say you have access free to C+ seats but by the time you fly you will no longer have access. Will Delta dump you out of your seats or charge you more? No – but… (what does no, “but” mean?). It means if there is an equipment change or schedule change or any number of common things you will likely get bumped out and would have to pay to get back. Oh, and don’t expect any more medallion upgrades for you or your +1 after you drop down.
Now what about the other way around. Say you are booking NOW an award ticket as a Gold Medallion for next summer of 2017 and you reach Platinum before the trip. Can you change it free (up to 72 hours before flight)? Yep, all you want as it is the current (at the time) status that matters.
Then we have what is to me a simple choice, that is, should you focus on earning SkyMiles in 2017? Folks, you should not have been focused on earning SkyMiles in 2016 so that has not changed in 2017 with even MORE devaluations of an already beat up travel “currency”. So does that mean no spending on Delta AMEX cards? Clearly not if you value elite status and upgrades as those who spend $25,000 or more each year now get higher upgrade clearance priority. Plus, unless you spend a ton of MQD or Medallion Qualifying Dollars, you need to be exempt to keep your status each year. If you are like me and hold either a Delta AMEX Platinum or Reserve card you need to spend $50/60,000 each year on the card to get the bonus MQMs. But once I hit that level I stop spending as I do not value SkyMiles I value only the MQMs I can earn.
So what is next and what do I see for 2017. I am very reservedly optimistic and sad to say I expect to see that trust crushed as it has been over the past many years. Yes, this year Delta, under the new CEO, has very slowly made some positive changes to the program but they have also devalued the award charts that they still use but do not publish. Will we see a straight up 1 cent each value for SkyMiles, that is, total revenue based redemption? If Delta does this it will make SkyMiles one of the least valued currencies period as just about ANY other travel currency will be worth so much more (or a LOT more even). They would have to “peg” the value of a SkyMile for an award at least at 1.5 cents each to be at the bottom of the choices and at 2 cents each to be marginally competitive. Even at the latter a $4000 ticket to Europe in Delta one would cost you 200,000 SkyMiles and that is a price I am just not willing to spend.
Any other questions before 2017 hits that I forgot to cover? Ask away in the comments below! – René
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