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Can we help give Delta other choices for the Delta / Amex Diamond MQD waiver changes?

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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.

I have to admit I have a sinking feeling that Delta will end up changing the Delta / Amex Diamond MQD waiver as posted about this week. I have not given up all hope but I feel our chances (with few writing in and complaining) are dim. But since the news has not yet been published maybe, just maybe, there is time for tweaking if the inevitable must happen – that is, a change from what is currently in place.

Today I thought I would, with help from you dear reader, try to give Delta some things to think about and some ideas we may be willing to accept as a change we can live with that does not result in so many of us closing CO-branded Delta Amex cards. Let’s dive in.

Copy the AA model. I freely admit I admire AA for their revenue based elite spend program. It results in loyalty to their Citibank partner and allows, with rather massive spend, for the elite to knock out 50% of the needed revenue spending. I would publicly state if a Diamond can not spend at least $7500 in MQD + earn the Amex 50% off MQD waiver they should not be a Diamond. This to me would be a fair change if they have to make a change.

Make only the Delta Amex Reserve card open to MQD spend. Here is another option I really like. The Delta Reserve card, frankly speaking, is a lack luster card in the world of mega high end high annual fee cards. There are so many choices in the ~$450 range that offer a ton more perks than the CO-Branded Delta Amex Reserve card. But if this card were required for any chance at MQD exempt spending then all of a sudden the value proposition for this card (personal or business) becomes HUGE! Then the Gold becomes the default card for non elites and the Platinum card for lower or mid-tier elites with mid-MQD spending not needing MQD exempt spend levels for Platinum or Diamond.

An alternative to this idea is allow a max number MQD spend qualification per card. This too would drive folks to have, hold and USE more than just one Delta Amex CO-Branded card. If Delta allowed say a max of 5k MQD exempt per card for some spend (maybe $15,000) then it would drive folks to hold and use additional cards. I know this idea would make Amex very happy anyway.

One simple and maybe temporary fix would be to simply increase the spend required to be MQD exempt. Right now it sits at $25,000. How about an increase to a larger number to $35,000. This too would be a fair change and Delta could establish that in the future even greater Amex spend would be needed as the program goes on. I think most would agree this is an option that is rational.

Change to a tiered MQD exempt system much like the tiered MQD system now in place with Delta. This option a reader Sally who suggested this one (or the idea anyway). For example make the MQD spend levels this way:

  • $9,000 Amex Spend for Silver MQD exemption.
  • $18,000 Amex Spend for Gold MQD exemption.
  • $27,000 Amex Spend for Platinum MQD exemption.
  • $45,000 Amex Spend for Diamond MQD exemption.

I really like this idea as well as it really does align the MQD exempt spending with the normal Delta MQD levels. It also allows for seamless changes if the MQD levels rise in the future allowing flexibility and consistency in the program.

There are all the ones I can come up with that would be a fair and equitable change to the current MQD exempt spending requirements. I think any of these would give those at Delta, who have nothing better to do than mess up the current solid and functional program, to be able to say “look what we have done – look how inventive we are”. These ideas would fly with us medallions as well.

What other suggestions can you come up with that all of us could live with i.e. Delta, Amex and us Medallion flyers? – René


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. Jeff Royster Reply

    Delta is simply trying to make sure its highest $$$ value customers get priority over those who “get there” via credit card spend. If anything all the solutions above would help those highest value customers only versus those refuse to play the manufactured spend game. I personally am a Diamond who will be negatively impacted here – but I get it. Someone who spends $15k plus on Delta SHOULD get priority over me that waits to pounce on $400ish Europe fares for the MQMs (I’m at 90000 MQM this year on 3100 MQDs). If you want an alternative solution anything that rewards/encourages EVEN MORE manufactured spend isn’t it sadly.

  2. I agree with all your suggestions except the AA model, especially the comment of not being deserving of DM if you don’t or can’t spend 7500 MQDs.
    7500$ may not be much for you or company paid trips for business, but those of us who pay for our own business travel and do not get reimbursed, the 7500 is still too high. 45k spend for the waiver is much more fair, and tiered. And the requirement to charge all in the reserve is good. There are too many DMs who need the waiver in some shape or form.
    I do deserve my DM, I’ve worked hard for it.

  3. If people can’t get a Diamond waiver via AMEX spend, do you really think that many people will close cards and leave delta for another airline? Don’t you think people will want to have Plat? Are Plat benefits not worth it?

    Disclosure: I am silver and don’t really have a dog in this fight.

  4. Ideas 2, 4 and 5 (from top to bottom) are the more appealing, IMO.

    All interesting ideas. The only one I’m a little nervous about is capping a card’s MQD earnings. If it’s 5k/card, that makes it rather difficult to hold any more Amex credit cards. (i.e. $25,000 spend waiver at $5k/card x five Delta cards = can’t get any other Amex *credit cards*. (I understand the $5k is just an example) I imagine some of Amex’s other partners (SPG — at least for now, Hilton, Mercedes Benz, etc) wouldn’t be too thrilled with that proposition, depending on how low that MQD cap would go.

    Something else to consider with earning MQD spend: paying with points *through Amex travel* earns you full MQM, MQD, and RDM. For example, if you cash in 100,000 points for a $1,000 ticket — as opposed to transferring them to an airline partner — you’re earning $1000 MQDs and whatever applicable MQMs. And if you have the Amex Biz Platinum, you get at least 35% back (depending on when you signed up). Those 100,000 points can probably get you a better redemption on an award ticket — but if MQDs become the new “Sky(Miles) is falling!” and really keep you up at night, that’s another option to possibly consider.

  5. TJK from DTW Reply

    I’ve seen a lot of Diamonds sitting in C+ on high-volume routes (like DTW-ATL) lately. I really question how valuable hitting Diamond is the last year or two, which is why I only gunned for Platinum this year, especially when it sounds like a lot of folks are having problems finding space to use their GUCs/RUCs. If these changes to the program result in fewer Diamonds, then I think that’s probably a good thing for the folks who legitimately fly and spend that much with Delta. But, that’s just my POV.

  6. @Evan-if you read through the FlyerTalk comments of which there are close to 300 at this time, you will find that YES, about 80% or higher of current Amex Delta Reserve card holders would dump at least 1 of their cards and that would get rid of a minimum of $60,000 spend on that and one or both of the Amex Platinum Delta cards with spend of $50,000 each. The cards only value is for Delta related benefits. The major one being Diamond status. I have been both PM and DM and I can tell you there is a big difference. Mainly on the choice benefits and the Diamond Desk favors etc. I will be the first to close one of my Reserve cards and put that spend on my Chase Sapphire Reserve card as will many others. Reaching Diamond is a stretch and a conscious choice many people make. A lot bigger stretch between the top two tiers of UA and AA. So regardless of how we make Diamond, there are actual real thought processes behind our choice to reach for Diamond and I don’t know that Delta really takes that into account. Amex probably does though and would lose a lot of card customers, annual fees, merchant fees etc etc.
    @Rene, thanks for the credit up top there. You have given some great alternatives. And there are so many variations on the theme that could potentially earn both Delta and Amex more customers, more revenue and profit, instead of just doing away with one of the benefits. I really think there are some numbers behind the scenes that we are and cannot consider because we don’t work for those companies. Before I retired and held some high ranking jobs, our management teams were thrown announcements of this or that and we threw our 2 cents in. Then we were told of the real behind the scenes reasons for the decisions none of us were aware of, yet we were in on many decisions as well. We are mere mortals and have no clue about why they are doing or will be doing in the future. I am sure all of us who have worked for major companies who made big announcements about a new product or way of doing business that fell flat on it’s face. Therefore I am not giving up on the idea that whatever may be coming down the pike might just do the same.
    As far as ideas are concerned, AMEX could give 5x Delta Miles for paid first class on the Reserve card only to keep us from dumping it. Like they do with their Platinum consumer card. Delta could force Diamonds to hold the Reserve card and or reduce the bumps they give. They could introduce a Diamond Plus or Diamond Lite tier for those that actually make the MQD with actual dollars vs. the waiver and for those that use the waiver, reduce the choice benefits or put them lower on the upgrade list or only give them 1 X miles for using the Reserve card instead of 2. There are so many ways to enhance or degrade the program and tiers. And I hope they are reading all of these because there are some good examples out there.

  7. I like all those suggestions. While $7,500 is still a lot with the American suggestion at least it’s attainable. The thing also with American is they only have to have 100K EQM’s a year and they get more SWU’s than a Delta diamond does.

    If Delta doesn’t consider any of those suggestions then I’d love to see them raise the requirement for PM to 100K MQM like the competition does or create a level between diamond and PM at 100K MQM. For people who put in 125K BIS miles it is unfair to be competing for upgrades against PM’s who get the MQD waiver and have a lot of miles through Am Ex spend who don’t do much BIS flying.

  8. Yes, Evan, I do think people will dump some Amex cards over this change. I know my husband will and he has never been higher than a platinum. We don’t manufacture spend, he has to buy his business trip tickets through the company travel agency and he flies 100% domestic tickets. And, the cost of those airline tickets have to fall within certain parameters or he can’t book it. Thus, the $495 is steep when all he really “gets” from the card is the mqms that come with spending $30000 on the card. It’s worth it to him because those 10000 mqms just put him over the top for platinum. I can understand why diamonds want to be diamonds just based on the effort we go to to insure platinum. I don’t know how much the loss of my $495 fee and $30000 merchant fees will affect Amex but I’m sure it will add to quite a loss for Amex if there a lots of folks like me.

  9. I regularly spend $30-40K per year and usually hit Gold or Platinum. This is because of crazy corporate requirements that I can’t control. Yet, for all of this revenue (and profit) that I generate for Delta, people like you are rewarded. How is that fair to me or the rest of us out there that play by the rules?

    Delta is making changes that reward those who drive revenue and are loyal. They are making it harder for those that game the system. What’s wrong with that?

    • @John B – Thanks for your 1st comment on the blog. I will say to you what I have said 100x times. Those who spend a ton with Delta are not special. They are not the only ones, as you say, “play[ing] by the rules”. Those who comment other are “gaming” the system clearly never ever listen to or pay attention to the earnings reports for $DAL stock. AMEX brings in 50-60% of earnings for Delta. In a way, I would suggest, those who ONLY fly and pay are the ones who are “gaming the system”. I have seen many who do not even have an Delta co-branded AMEX card. Are they valuable to Delta? They are, at most 40-50% of value to Delta.

      If you need proof of what I say, just read up and btw go to any day – you know what you find? Ads for Delta AMEX co-Branded cards.

      Time for those who think only those who are BIS are the only “real” or “true” or “earned” medallions need grow up. The rest of us matter as much or more than you!

  10. Count me in as someone that will be cancelling at least three of my four Delta Am Ex cards if this happens. I have a personal and business reserve and a personal and business platinum card and put on enough spend (business expenses not manufacturing spend) to get both MQM mileage boost on both. I won’t need the MQM’s to maintain Plat (I do the boosts for plenty of rollover for when I retire in a couple years to keep Plat and also the MQM’s are helping me to assure I reach 2 MM status by the time I retire) so why keep the cards? I will probably keep one reserve for the Skyclub access and companion ticket and do $30K in spend for one mileage boost a year which will be enough to grant me 2MM status by the time I retire. Am Ex is going to lose over $200,000 a year in spend plus the annual fees on three of the cards and my wife has a reserve card for both accounts and two employees have business reserve cards I pay annual fees on. I will be cancelling my business card and that will also mean three associate member annual fees lost as well in addition to their purchases.

    Chase is probably hoping this change will occur since they’ll be a clear winner

  11. A couple comments even though I’m not sure still what changes are being anticipated: Might need to consider switch to Amex Plat for reasons stated above plus 30% points refund. International fares are more profitable than domestic so not all diamonds are created equal.

  12. Througout the posts about the rumored changes, I’ve seen several comments about “playing by the rules” (or words to that effect) as to what exactly is considered rule-abiding (earning status w/o holding a credit card) and what isn’t.

    Could someone please provide a a link to these “rules” of earning status the “right way”? If one exists, I’d like to see it.

    Speaking of and rules: their page about unlimited complimentary upgrades explicitly states how priority is determined. Guess what you’ll see a lot of?

    Status and fare class are numbers 1 & 2, respectively. Number 3 favors those who hold DL Reserve Amex cards. Number 5 gives priority to those who’ve spent their $25,000 on DL branded Amexes.

    If you don’t like the way DL rewards those who enjoy doing business with the partners the airline pushes, then perhaps you’d be better off somewhere credit cards aren’t as much of a factor — like Allegiant, Spirit, or Frontier.

  13. As a Diamond since the first year and 2MM flyer , and someone who carries the Reserve and usually has $10K in MQD, I think this is the right move by Delta , and they need to do what is best for the airline and their shareholders. They need to sell more higher value seats and reward their top spenders on Delta , not the people who manufacture spend and have Diamond status by the first 3 weeks of the year.

    I also think everyone needs to examine how much value you think Delta really gets from AMEX. I have followed their earnings and transcripts and the AMEX dollars seem small to me , and cannot see where the 50-60% number is derived from.
    @Rene – can you point this out as you mention it frequently

    • @Tripeee – I love how folks assume anyone who spends a ton on AMEX cards is MSing it. Are you saying someone who pays $25-50k for a piece of machinery for their shop in the first 3 weeks of the year is not of value to AMEX or Delta. Delta currently rewards high AMEX spend in a number of ways. Do you really think that will go away overnight? Clearly not.

      As to the exact value of the AMEX deal they do not break that out. They have talked over the current contract to be in the 4 Billion range! Some have said without FF miles the airlines would not be profitable at all this there is real value to shareholders. Also, the 50-60% comes from analysts. See:

  14. Rene, —

    I think the best idea is to «Make only the Delta Amex Reserve card open to MQD spend» — i.e. the high annual fee would be the real differentiatior and driver for those who, at least, aspire, to DM. E.g. I am a Silver this year, but will be at least Gold if not PM next year, and was a PM last year — i.e. I would keep the Reserve card for all those years, even though I would not make it to the top, for i don’t know which year I would.

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