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After careful consideration, if Delta has to change the Medallion MQD exemption this is the best choice (and really should happen anyway)!

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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.

What card do you value more?

The next few months will be hard to watch go by. Heck, until 00:01 on January 1st 2018 I will not be calm as until that time we are not officially earning points for the 2019 Medallion year. This is way too much time for Delta to implement the planned changes to not allow MQD exemption for Diamonds for the 2019 elite year. But as I talked about Sunday, Delta is paying attention to our input and I think of all the options I put forward for Delta to consider as alternatives one is not just a good alternative to what is in place right now but a smart change as well. What choice is that? I said:

“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 elite’s and the Platinum card for lower or mid-tier elite’s with mid-MQD spending not needing MQD exempt spend levels for Platinum or Diamond.”

Personally I think this is something that is just a needed change and beyond what I have above there is much more to consider. Let’s break it down.

A wimp among titans.

I cannot begin to tell you how many Diamonds and other elites challenge me as to the value of the Delta Reserve card. They can get the same individual Sky Club entrance with the non-Delta Platinum card when flying Delta so there is no exclusivity there to justify the $450 annual fee. Let’s not forget that not long ago you got 2 guests with this card but not now. Nothing was ever done to make up for this lost perk (nor was the annual fee reduced after this devaluation).

While the Medallion upgrade tiebreaker this card offers is nice, the full court press of Delta selling cheap upgrades has resulted in the available upgrades becoming less and less which makes this perk a less wiz-bang feature than it once was to so many. The only real perk is the ability to earn MQMs but if the Diamond MQD spend exemption goes away then this card becomes almost pointless to hold any longer when there are so many other choices in the market (and not just from Amex).

The premium Amex Reserve card needs to be improved.

By making the Reserve card the ONLY card that can get you MQD exempt status via spend you are instantly creating a unique branding and segmentation for this premium Delta Amex card and adding value to the card. Delta could in one swift move justify the annual fee to anyone who cares about elite status but cannot swing spending $15,000 (net) directly with Delta. Delta brags about helping card acquisition – this move would do that in huge numbers.

Take the opportunity to add even more.

While we are tweaking the card more could be done to attract more to get and hold this card. Like what? Delta has made the change to allow coach BOGO certificate booked tickets with the Reserve card to be upgrade eligible (you can also book 1st class with the Reserve card BOGO) and that is a nice improvement but not a mega change. To me with this being a premium card, it should earn bonus SkyMiles when you book tickets with it (all Delta Amex CO-Branded cards earn 2x SkyMiles FYI). The Reserve card should earn you at least 3x or 4x SkyMiles when you book tickets on with this card.

What else? How about 2 free premium drinks in the Sky Club each month as a statement credit much like the UBER credits the non-Delta Platinum card offers. Again, this would be a way to differentiate the card and a reason for a Delta flyer to not only fly Delta but to get more value when choosing to buy a Delta ticket.

The point is Delta has a unique chance to really help Amex and boost their membership in a high end card. If Delta’s goal is to reduce the number of Diamonds who qualify on Amex spend this will still accomplish that as some will not be willing to go up from a $95 Gold card or $195 Platinum card fee all the way up to the $450 Reserve card fee.

What do you think? Would you be OK with only the Reserve card allowing MQD spend exemption? Would this add value in your eyes to this premium card? Would you upgrade your current Delta Amex card to the Reserve if it meant the only way to reach MQD spend exemption was via this card? Let me (and Delta / Amex) know in the comments below. – René


PS – One reader who got a call from Delta said they are thinking of tweaking the coming change thus all but acknowledging it is on the way. If you have NOT yet put pen to paper to let Amex and Delta know you are opposed to the planned change please do so now!


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. I think what you’re suggesting is a fair compromise – especially for a small business owner like me who books delta 99.9% of the time but still won’t hit $15k in spend.

  2. Rene,
    I agree. This would add value to the Reserve card and would be a major incentive to upgrade. Also, let’s not forget the First Class companion certificate you get every year upon renewal.
    I have two Reserve cards, one personal and one business.
    If the card spend waiver disappears, I can see me canceling one or both the cards. I like being Diamond, but I’m not likely to spend $15,000 every year on Delta for myself. However, I spend a lot more than that each year when the wife,children, and grandchildren are included.
    Delta has a superior product and ATL is my home airport. I can nonstop or one stop anywhere in the world. I would never stop flying Delta completely; but if I loose my status, Southwest and Jet Blue could be decent alternatives.

  3. I personally do NOT like this idea- I currently have 4 amex brand cards and I think that is quite enough!
    I prefer increasing the annual spending by 10k ish, on any delta amex co-branded card. Or how about removing gold Medallion from sky club access internationally- ok I used to be there but now I am fighting for my DIAMOND status and if anyone else is, then they have to step up and encourage lower medallions to aspire for PM or DM
    I am NOT a business related traveler , I’m just a little nobody who has flown delta for so very long with TOTAL loyalty and THAT is another aspect to look at!
    If this goes south and I don’t mean Antarctica
    I shall probable fly a la carte for the best fares so sad to say.
    Please DO NOT impose only one amex card = DM– I beseech you!

    • @Selene – Something will happen. Right now you would have zero shot at DM unless you plan to spend 15-20k on Delta tickets next year. This choice would be a solid option for both Delta and Amex. You could always upgrade or get a Reserve and then close one of your other Amex cards.

  4. I say increase the annual spend to $50K on the Am Ex Delta Reserve card to earn the DM spend waiver. For years it has been the ONE thing that has enabled Delta to distinguish its loyalty program from AA’s and United’s. It’s the VERY REASON I choose to fly Delta.

  5. I like that suggestion. I like the idea of two free drinks in the sky club each month or free drinks for Diamonds in regular Y who have the Reserve card. A lot of times I’d rather have the exit row than C+ except no free drinks. UA and American give free cocktails to their highest tier in Y so Delta should do the same for reserve card holders.

    Another benefit that could get medals to hold the reserve card is to make exit row seating only available to reserve card holders.

    • @Gary – HUmmm… on your exit row idea. Is is “just” a premium seat so there would be no real cost loss (other than for Ann Coulter maybe) for offering that to Reserve card holders. An interesting idea I have to admit.

  6. @rene I know it wouldn’t cost Delta anything to give an Exit row to a Reserve card holder over another FO+ but as someone who books a lot of last minute tickets it would be nice if the exit row was available if they have already cleared C+ seeing you only need silver status to sit there. I actually like the exit row on some aircrafts over C+ but hate they don’t provide free alcohol.

  7. TJK from DTW Reply

    Didn’t Delta used to allow people to use their HOOUs on the standard snack boxes, in addition to alcohol and earbuds? I don’t drink, so I will have to give away the HOOUs I get next year. The hard liquor costs $8 a pop as-is, so what was the big deal with us redeeming them for an $8.50 cheese plate instead?

    If they were to offer comp booze to Diamonds with the Reserve card seated in Y as proposed above, if I were Diamond I’d also want the option to pick one of the standard snack boxes instead. Or at least let me have the whole can of the ginger ale I’m drinking, LOL. Something!

    But this will probably never happen, seeing as how they already give all cardholders 20% off on-board purchases. :-/

    Honestly, I don’t see how even doubling the minimum annual spend threshold for the MQD exemption to $50k does much in the way of reducing the number of folks who mega-run and MS their way to Diamond, other than driving more of your MSing to the Reserve card, which I suppose could increase the likelihood of triggering an AmEx audit.

    • Delta used to allow the HOOU that they printed on boarding passes (another thing they enhanced away) to be used on non-perishable snacks and IIRC the ones that came in the elite package.

      Not sure about United, but American provides their EP’s who don’t get upgraded free premium snacks such as snack boxes as well and possibly sandwiches. And they only require 100K for that status not 125K miles plus LA to JFK is upgradeable.

      What irritates me most about the Delta program is that out of the big three airlines they require the most flying and give fewer benefits. American EP and United 1K’s get more SWU’s that are easier to use. JFK and SFO to JFK are upgradeable but not with Delta.

  8. My comment at the end of the survey I just got from Delta:
    “The news coming out that the Medallion Qualification Dollars Waiver from meeting the spend threshold on Delta Amex cards may be discontinued for diamond medallion qulaification is quite troublesome for me. I am expecting to qualify for diamond medallion this year for the first time after a decade of platinum status and am certain to qualify next year. I already met the spend waiver threshold this year and have for each year since MQDs were initiated. In actuality I spend over $60k a year to get both bonus MQM/skymiles incentives. I will continue this level of spending next year as well but I may not meet the $15,000 medallion qualification threshold as my company limits international business tickets to no more than $4000. I sometimes need to purchase on partner airlines where the rules punish MQD accumulation on partner issued tickets. If this decision from Delta comes to fruition, I will likely cancel my Amex reserve card and status match with another airline. Thank you for the opportunity to provide my feedback.”
    I plan to just cut and past it on every survey I seem to get from them about each segment of each flight and each visit to a Sky Club.

  9. So what you’re saying is DMs should only get the ability to MQD waiver if they have the sterling credit needed to get the Reserve?

    Sorry, this idea is a non-starter.

  10. René, the better choice is to go to another country for about 2 weeks, get a phone line number to an address there (ideally airbnb, and a house, not hotel or apartment)

    Change your address. Done. You’re now MQD exempt.

  11. I can’t disagree more. As a leisure traveler who has achieved DM using card spend, mileage runs and vacation travel having to now get the Reserve cards would upset the credit card balance I’ve created. I think the tiered MQD system you laid out in the 7/19 post would be a fairer method to use to qualify for the levels of status. With the benefits of the AMEX Platinum, Business Platinum and the Chase Reserve being superior to the Delta Reserve and with no indication the benefits will improve, having to get the Delta Reserve at $450 seems a waste of money. After predominantly flying Delta for over 40 years, it is disheartening to have to struggle each year to overcome the downgrades Delta makes to achieve FF status. I’ve been at all levels and it sure is better at DM but this MQD change will make me think harder about trading status for lower costs. Keep up the fight, I really appreciate it.

  12. I am a new Silver Medalion for 2017. I fly for business out of CVG (a Delta legacy hub) .

    I started flying regularly in mid 2016 and decided to go for Delta status. I had to learn the hard way after my first flight that an “E” ticket didn’t earn any points.

    After that lesson I spent tons of hours and time researching and planning how to earn elite status. I was finally able to earn Silver Medallion in 5 months with CC sign up bonus, MDM spend, and butt in seat miles just prior to the end of the year deadline.

    I had to hustle to get my first 25k MQD waiver and AmEx Plat MQM spend bonus to make it without any MS. (I didn’t even know what “MS” was.) I even used my AmEx at the car dealership to get some of the spend accomplished.

    I am now working on my 2018 status and anticipate making Platinum with significant roll over MQM. I am trying to do this ASAP to take advantage of the “free” status for the remaining part of this year and next.

    I signed up for the AmEx Delta Reserve to do this and all of my business spending gets funneled through both my AmEx Plat and Reserve for business.

    I only have to fly cross country 1.5x/month. I just wonder how a typical flyer is suppose to make the MQD requirement every year for Diamond when they have so many regular miles/points to burn. It seems hard to meet that waiver unless you don’t redeem any of your regular miles/points.

    I am away from my family enough when I travel. Do I really have to fly to China or Europe on a mileage run AND now MQD spend just to earn top Elite status? 50k, 60k, or 110k of real CC spending isn’t enough on my AmEx? My Delta Reserve doesn’t even get me into the Centurion Lounge in Vegas!!! C’mon man!

    Earning status takes a lot of effort, planning and LOYALTY. It is disappointing to finally learn the rules of the game and then find out it is changing on you.

    Are you listening Delta???

    BTW, I do like it when GA thanks me for my status. That hasn’t gotten old for me yet.

  13. As a Diamond who has been Diamond from the beginning of Diamond and a Platinum for life, I like the idea of the Reserve Card being the only one for Diamond spend. I fly exclusively Delta, mostly shorter domestic flights and do not spend 15k on tickets, usually about 10k.

    I have both the Reserve and Platinum and my wife has the Reserve and just got the Platinum because of the enhanced bonus. I also have the Business Platinum. We max out the spending for the MQM’s on all 3 cards which keeps me Diamond because we can gift MQM’s with the Reserve.

    We always use the First Class BOGO which usually offsets the $450 by itself and my wife enjoys the Skyclub benefit.

    If they take away the wavier we will likely cancel at least 2 of the cards and maybe 3 and spend on other non-Amex cards we currently hold.

    I also like the idea of saving exit row seats for Reserve card holders as I prefer those to C+.

  14. Santastico Reply

    @rene: I see this in a different way. There are TOO MANY DM. This is maybe a way Delta found to trim that down and really keep the DM to customers that really spend money on them. I may be different than many here since so far this year I spent over $30k with Delta tickets (my company paid for those tickets) but I am still 35k MQM shy of becoming Diamond. So in my case I spend a lot of money at Delta but still don’t get their highest status level.

    • @Santastico – I wish my business had the problem of too many loyal customers who always came to me and did whatever they had to do to stick with me including supporting the vendors I use. Such a problem. I would love to really upset half my customer base and tell them I have too many of them and to go away and find another company to support. 😉

  15. Considering the high $450 annual fee on the Reserve card, it should remain an MQD waiver all the way to DM with $25K spend. However, a $50K spend treshold will be fair to impose on the Delta Plat and Gold to achieve DM. I think that will be a good balance to increase spending on those two cards and reduce the number of DM members.
    Have a vote, René, on the MQD waiver rumor so @Delta can have a clearer picture on where we stand!

    • @vmompoint – I may run a vote poll on the ideas but the thing is Delta will choose whatever they feel makes THEM the most cash (i.e. upsets the least and yields the most). What we want I think is very low on their priority list.

  16. Santastico Reply

    @rene: I think you misunderstood my point. By having too many DM, Delta cannot provide the level of service the DM expect. Then, they might decide not to be DM anymore. Unless Delta makes it more difficult to become DM it will dilute the value of being a DM.

  17. Jonathan B. Reply

    I like this idea, but I think the other cards should be able to get an MQD waiver as well. But instead, lets say the Delta Amex Plat card gives you platinum MQD waiver for 18-20k and Gold Amex gets you Gold MQD Waiver for 12-15k. Maybe that is a bad idea, but that way those who don’t need or want the waiver for Diamond can still get it without the reserve card.

  18. Hi Rene does amex allow one to transfer from one card to another, or does one. Red to get ANOTHER card such as the reserve in addition to 5 (in my case) other amex brand cards?

    • @Nina – First off don’t do ANYTHING until we get firm word from Delta. Then, what I would do, is get a new card then cancel the old (if you want to) to make sure you get the bonus. I had to cancel a credit card with Amex before I went for a new Platinum one recently as I was over the 5 card limit (of credit cards – charge cards do not count).

  19. $450 is alot for another card…. i get more from our regular plat amex card
    now going up to $550(ouch) we carry many amex cards for business and regular cannot see upgrading for more$$$ I also have lots of problems when i use the delta amex and try to pay with a check,,they always want to E-Debit my checking account but have a block on E-debit..and they keep trying and then bounce my checks so i have to go and get money orders or pay late fees since they cannot process my checks correctly!!! a real hassle to get to the waiver….

  20. I would not like the idea of having the Reserve card as the only card for the MQD. I have been a DL Platinum for most years and also a million miler. If I had to reach the MQD on spending only I would never reach the Platinum level. The Am Platinum card works for me at the $25K spend level to achieve the MQD spend level for the year.

  21. Sad and interesting that just about everyone seems to only care about what most benefits them personally, and not ffs in general. Looks like DL has succeeded in making us compete against each other to get their largesse.

  22. This is brilliant! Great job Rene. I am seriously considering dropping Delta as my go to airline if they do what they proposed. I’ve had the Reserve since it came out, and also find myself trying to defend it over other $450 cards. This would be a GREAT change for AMEX, Delta, and all of us! Great idea friend!

  23. Considering I have had a Reserve card now for couple years, I like this idea. thats my vote delta. Else clearly I won’t be diamond any more, and will certainly get rid of the AMEX Delta Reserve card.

  24. All this speculation is just that, speculation. Nobody knows except the executives at Delta.

  25. I’ve been flying Delta for 30+ years, as they took over Western and Pan Am. For all this time, I’ve been a Silver or Gold, as it was always on my own time and dime.
    As we all have seen, the benefits have been on a decline for 20 years.

    Delta has been very profitable, but I wonder if they really know the pitfalls they face. As upgrades and other benefits depend more and more on the card you hold and not your flying miles, at some point, FO’s will figure out that they may as well fly Ryan Air, Southwest or the latest LCC across the the ocean.

    Delta may find itself losing the dedicated flyers that have made their airline so profitable, while not being able to compete with the LCC’s.

    Hubris is also a company killer.

  26. I think the easiest and clearest setup is:
    Max tier waiver for DL Amex Gold is GM
    Max waiver for Amex Plat card is PM
    Max tier for Reserve is DM
    360 remains invitation only

    That would help thin ranks somewhat, and help folks sort out what fee spend they may want relative to benefits achievable.

  27. The spend waiver all the way to DM distinguishes Delta’s Medallion program from every other carrier. It’s the glue that holds everything together for so many of us who pay for our own tickets and carry the Reserve Card. The DM spend waiver is the ONE thing that makes Delta’s Medallion program the BEST in the industry. If Am Ex cannot convince Delta to find some middle ground then countless numbers of us will play the game elsewhere with other cards and the Medallion program will be lost in the mix.

  28. And I might add I will fly well over 220K miles this year exclusively on Delta solely because of the DM spend waiver.

  29. Rene could you please let Delta management know that if the Delta Waiver is changed they will need to provide more notice for those of us who are intending on rolling over MQMs from 2017 to 2018.

    This year I have purposely flown on many trips for the sole purpose of boosting my MQMs for 2018 to qualify for diamond in 2019 via rollover miles and MQDs.

    If they make this announcement with only a few months before the qualification year, they will kill any rollover strategies that have been done by hard paying customers like me.

    Not only is this ethically wrong to give only a few months notice, they may have legal exposure in a class action.

    I for one will become a 100% free agent if the MQD waiver for Diamonds goes away. Chase and Amex points or the cheapest paid J/F classes on any airline.

    Not to mention almost all delta amex cardholders will switch to the Amex platinum or Chase Sapphires and be more inclined to use the free agent approach. They may win in the short term but Delta will feel the pain when those loyal delta premium fliers start using transferable points currencies instead of being locked into Delta Pesos.

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