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#ProTip: The 2019 Delta Medallion Elite Year Rewards Mileage Runners!

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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.

Did not plan that MQD credit would matter so much as it will in 2019!

What a shocker, the news that for the 2019 Medallion year we will have to spend a simply crazy large 250,000 dollars to reach top Diamond MQD spend exempt status in addition to the 125,000 MQMs or distance based miles.

One reader Fred Zulager commented on my post about the new spend news:

I seem to remember previous posts about how you would make your MS for the year in early January. I am looking forward to a similar post next January on how you spent your way to $251k in 1 or 2 weeks.

Well Fred, clearly spending 250k+ in a week or two for 99.99% of us would be irresponsible if not all but impossible (I could if I really wanted to, but will not). However, over a period of a year this will not be hard at all for those who want to get this done and are willing to take the time to learn how by reading MS focused blogs like The Frequent Miler here on Boarding Area each day. But what about those who don’t want to or are not willing to play the Amex card game?

The Delta over spenders will say things like “just spend ~$20,000 gross with Delta to net your 15k MQD – simple!“. I don’t know about you, but to me that is a lot of money. I did, before Delta went revenue based with their rewards, spend over 10k net in tickets but now shoot for under 5k (this year will be about ~3k). I have no desire to reward $DAL who does not reward those who fly the most with the airline. Plus, I use the term “over spenders” because when you compare Delta elite spend requirement numbers to other airlines we see UA requires “only” 12k to reach the top status and AA 12k as well but the latter allows you to knock half that number off with reasonably large credit card spend each year.

I also know many loyal readers who fly each week on Delta and end up just over, or just under, 10k MQD each year. Are these amazing loyal folks to Delta not Diamond worthy? I sure think they are even if Delta does not.

So is there a workaround? Yes – there is!

OH, I love this chart – you?

Delta wants you to spend as much money as possible to be an elite. Instead, I want you to spend as little as possible with Delta and the airline makes this possible via Skyteam partners.

At the very top of this post are the results from an Aeromexico flight in business class that had a zero dollar base fare (it did cost me $111 all-in fyi) and yet I earned huge MQD spend credit and SkyMiles and MQMs. Why? Well many partners earn MQDs, SkyMiles and MQD spend credit based on distance flown and the fare class bonus (if there is one). For the 6398 miles I flew on a C fare (#KEY POINT – NOT BOOKED ON DELTA.COM) I earned $1,922 MQD credit. Yes, mega MQD credit for how far we fly (…and the light bulb in your head just went on).

Hello Expedia & other OTAs

I want you to clearly grasp what this means for us going forward. The above China Eastern run found on FlyerTalk for example, round trip in business class in I and J class, would earn you at least 27,155 SkyMiles (worth at least $271.55 in value) plus 23,906 MQMs plus $5,431 in MQD spend credit. “Just” three of these trips and you are almost Platinum Medallion and ALL your MQD spend all the way up to Diamond Medallion is done for 2019! The raw ticket cost minus the value of the SkyMiles and we are talking less than $3k out of pocket. For some folks just one of these runs could top off what you already spend in MQD to still make your diamond status.

Now I am not suggesting this is THE perfect run nor should you jump on booking 3 of these right now – that is not my point of today’s post (plus I would like to find a really cheap 1st class MU “U” fare class). After all many may need to, depending on route, pick up a ten year valid Chinese visa to do some of these runs. Plus, it may be hard to find the perfect biz class runs but know my good friend Adam and his team are ready to help. Just know there will be many more partner flights next year including ones like Virgin Australia, Areomexio, China Eastern and others! Long live the mileage runners in other words.

I personally prefer domestic runs and will simply knock out the Amex exempt spend mega number between 1JAN and 31DEC next year. But for others, clearly partner flights will be a great choice to not stress out about reaching the required MQD spend levels needed. I will be posting all of 2018 the best runs I can find to help you do all of the above! – 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. More posts like this please!

    As a DM that will end the year with $13,000 MQD spend, but only had $8,200 last year, an MQD run like the China Eastern run is much more appealing to me than spending $250K on an AMEX card.

    I expect that Delta will find a way to close this loophole for the 2020 year.

  2. Following up on my comment, if I am going to be making MQD runs on other airlines, it seems to me that I don’t need the Delta AMEX Reserve card since I will have plenty of MQMs and I don’t need the waiver. Therefore, I will still drop the Reserve card when the renewal comes up in December.

    What is the best card to hold for somebody that plans to make one or two high value MQD runs in business class?

    • @Gideon – See the charts above from You are getting a percentage of distance as MQD dollar credit.

  3. The China Eastern option looks very good. Below is a trip that I need to take once a year anyway. Assuming that I read the award charts correctly, I would earn 32,496 MQMs and $6,764 MQDs flying business class from San Francisco to Delhi for a total cost of $2,878.

    Segment Class Miles MQMs MQDs SkyMiles
    SFO-PVG I 6146 12,292 $2,458 13521
    PVG-DEL J 2652 3,978 $928 4641
    DEL-PVG J 2652 3,978 $928 4641
    PVG-DEL I 6124 12,248 $2,450 13473

    Total 17574 32,496 $6,764 36276

    Total cost $2878.46

  4. René, question about this statement: “Well Fred, clearly spending 250k+ in a week or two for 99.99% of us would be irresponsible if not all but impossible (I could if I really wanted to, but will not).”, particularly “I could if I really wanted to, but will not”. Are you not concerned with Amex having a problem with you cycling your credit limit in too short a time period? There have been reports over the years of cardholders getting shut down for this reason.

    Of course, I don’t know how many of the six applicable Amex Delta cards you carry, so you may potentially have a $40K-$50K limit on 6 of them, and hence be all set.

    Thanks for the post and your thoughts, as always.

    • @Jarrett – Your answer is in the end of your question. I right now hold 3 Delta Amex cards. I have large limits on them. Also, I could send large checks to temporary increase my limits for a month month mega spend. Again, there would be risks and that is one of many reasons I am not doing it but taking it slow over the entire year. I am in no rush and so why rush it and risk much.

  5. Okay, I’ll be flying LAS-LAX-PVG-SIN-PVG-LAX-LAS DL Domestic legs and MU on the international legs, all in economy. I booked via Amex travels. How can I get the MQDs to count from this itinerary?

    • @Gideon – See the MU link to (or screen shot in post). Find your fare class as coach runs from 6-25% of distance. Now if you are talking Delta Code-share flight (ie it says DLxxxx) you are talking Delta earnings NOT MU earnings. If MU flight number then Delta partner earnings count for those flights. Clear?

  6. @René – I also hold three with significant limits, taking me a very good portion of the way there in a month without cycling, as well as have a history of running a lot through them in short order for this very reason with no resistance, so I’m not overly concerned. But, I do have an ancillary question… One could insinuate by what you’re saying − though likely not for good reason, that making a large pre-payment, which you say as “send large checks to temporary increase my limits”, is different than maxing out and paying down to ‘recycle’ the limit. Do you have data points that tell you that pre-paying to ‘raise’ your limit is a better way to do it than post-paying to bring it back down to repeat the cycle? Or are you making an assumption, which I could agree is potentially a reasonable one? Thanks again.

    Overall, I don’t plan to do it, at least at this point, as the costs to do $250,000 appears slightly excessive when taking into account the hard costs themselves (using SMVGCs), the opportunity cost of not putting said spend on something like my Amex Blue Business Plus, assuming my banks will be okay with it, time, etc.

    Calculations I used to tell me said hard costs and opportunity costs is:

    (500*3.95)+(250*0.70) = $2,150. (I’m assuming you know what these refer to.) Though, besides the waiver, that hard cost does come with some additional value, i.e. 320,000 SkyMiles & 70,000 MQMs.

    I look at the Blue Business Plus opportunity cost as 405,000 MR (250,000 spend + 50,000 for 2X on first $50K + a wishful 105,000 additional from 35% on Amex Platinum Business MR refund.). Or, perhaps 375,000 URs (via CSR). Would rather have those than 320,000 SkyMiles, though the 70,000 MQM would be helpful.

    Am I missing something?

  7. @René − I forgot above some combination of the 450 + 195 + 195 in my above example, i.e. $840 in Amex Delta annual fees, of which I’d only add on either $390 or $645 to the $2,150, as I’d very likely keep either the 450 or one of the two 195s I have.

  8. TJK from DTW Reply

    For some of us, it’s our employer who is overspending on Delta tickets. 😉

    • @TJK – Oh that I love. If that can happen, you are golden. For the rest of us… well… ya know.

  9. I’m going to squeak into DM this year by a couple of forced domestic trips to visit the west coast for a couple days. Amex waiver met ages ago but MQD hovering around $6k due to some WFBF situations. Was $3.2k last year as DM.

    I’m an odd one as I book and pay for my own business travel AND I also make all spending decisions for my business. The $250k spend is a piece of cake (well mostly but will rob some spend from Chase and CitiI think as to not dilute Platinum Amex spend) so I almost want to year one spend for MQD exemption just because I want that merit badge. I could couple that with $15k spend on tickets too if I decided to I guess, need to travel more next year anyhow. The partner MR is the most appealing right now.

    My question – and I know you can answer but may choose not to online (totally cool) is how much does DL net with our $250k spend on swipe fees etc? I have a good idea and I bet it’s similar to what DL nets from $5k in ticket spend I can assume but don’t understand their profit margins that well. We all know Amex spent a boat ton of cash for DL miles each year.

  10. >> @Dave – Consider non-Delta AMEX biz Platinum card as they give you 35% points back on biz tickets any airline.

    Thanks René!

    So right out of the gate, I can use the $200 airline fee reimbursement to get 4 X $50 gift certificates, and there is no reason to select a SkyClub membership as a DM choice benefit, so I can select a $200 Delta Travel Voucher as the third choice, and also send up with much better lounge access.

    This seems like a no-brainer for me in 2018. If the MQD/Partner strategy goes well and I think I will need the MQMs in 2019, I will switch to the Delta AMEX Business Reserve card. That is the only Delta card for which I have not collected a welcome offer.

  11. I think I understand it now! My China Eastern flights are under the MU label so I’ll be credited as such for the MQDs. Thanks, René!

  12. Love the post! Even though I’m MQD-exempt for living in Japan, I still find group 1 partners to be better for status and redeemable miles. Hopefully a surge of US-based diamonds won’t increase fares and/or cause DL to close these good earning rates!

  13. Wow! Great post! It’s back to school majoring in partner elite mileage runs to reach the DM MQDs spend threshold.

  14. Just curious what booking sites are no no’s for booking MU? I found a good business class fare JFK-PVG-SIN RT for $2380 booked on Expedia, but don’t they not give full credit for MQD’s etc? On the MU site the fare is twice as expensive. I want to book correct airline code, fare class and the correct site (or Adam?). What are my best options? Trying to achieve DM with MQD’s now that the Amex waiver is off the table for me

    • @Sally – As long as the fare class is clearly shown like on Expedia you should be good to go. You should also then, once you have a PNR, pull up the reservation online to see the fare class (ie you will have the Delta SkyMiles number in the reservation).

  15. So it sounds like a lot of us will drop our Delta-AMEX cards and shift a big chuck of our international travel to Delta partners, but as DMs we will still be in line for domestic upgrades and we will still all get the upgrade certificates. That can’t be the result that Delta was hoping for.

    The biggest winners will be those that decide to keep the Delta Reserve card. A lot fewer DMs will have that card and it will be more valuable as a DM upgrade tie-breaker.

  16. Often the tie breaker is the box of peanut M + M’s and smile we give to the gate agent. After all, they’ve earned it!

  17. @rene-how did you calculate the or China Eastern calculate your eventual MQD of 5431? When the actual miles were more and the ticket price was less? Is there some sort of chart?

    • @Sally – The chart (and links to is in the post. It is a percentage of distance flown plus fare class.

  18. @Rene – How do we go about doing this? Booking a ticket on partner airline and then calling to have our Skymiles number added? I have never booked on another website other than Delta.
    PS – Thank you for the incredibly helpful and informational post!

  19. Carol Hermann Reply

    Just a quick question to travelers on China Eastern, Aeromexico and thie like. I have read elsewhere of the smell of smokers on some of these flights. Anyone have actual experiences to share?

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