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Help Me! Should I Pursue Delta Medallion Status in 2021 or 2022?

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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.


Boy, oh boy, did Chris, in a post this past week, stir up a hornets nest of comments from readers around the globe. While I had no input on his post – I agree that once you / me / we have been vaccinated (and waited two weeks past either the double-dose ones or the single shot Johnson & Johnson) the risk of travel is GREATLY reduced as long as we follow the now-standard safety protocols.

I am DAYS away from getting my first Moderna JAB. By the month of May, I should be two shots done plus two weeks clear — i.e. I can again begin to think about travel. I am not going to go “hog wild” (oh, BBQ – num) as I still want more time to go by to let more folks get their vaccinations and more time for the bug to begin to go away. That said, I do plan one trip in May just to have broken this nasty streak of well over one year since the last time I was on a jet!

With all of the above in mind – it is time to begin thinking about 2022 when I am again likely to be able to “somewhat” enjoy travel like it was back in 2019. Yes, I know it will likely take all of 2022 to get the entire planet their vaccinations done but I have hope that it will happen quickly with so much going into the effort.

But I am frustrated about what to do. See if you agree with me and or can help me make a wise, safe,  reasonable and intelligent frequent flyer choice.

As a Delta Million Miler, I have  lifetime  errrr “annual” complimentary Silver Medallion status. But that has zero impact on my rollover MQMs. I still need to EARN status to have any kind of rollover. I have a large chunk of MQMs and I don’t want them to go away so I have options:

1) Since I have had ALL of the Delta co-branded Amex cards i.e. have harvested the new card bonus for ALL of them I can freely upgrade and downgrade my Delta Amex cards with no risk of lost points. So my one choice is to upgrade my downgraded Delta Amex card back to a Platinum or Reserve card and spend 25k to be MQD exempt and thus roll over MQMs.

2) Fly and spend enough to be Silver or Gold and rollover the rest. If I do the above I will rollover less MQMs but enter 2022 as a Platinum. But, if I wait to upgrade my card till 2022, I can just spend money this year directly with Delta (or partners) and rollover more and enter 2022 at a much lower elite level.

I don’t really like either of the above options, really. I don’t plan to fly THAT MUCH the rest of 2021 — even though I will have been vaccinated and don’t like the idea of mileage runs until COVID has begun to wane much more than right now. I am leaning towards the card upgrade and spend to at least be Platinum. But I think 2022 is going to see a tidal wave of Platinums as many will be in the same situation as me.

So, what next?

I am considering a mega Delta partner elite mileage run in January of 2022 and thus qualifying for Diamond in about one week. I would then have “free” Diamond status for 2022 having earned my 2023 Diamond status.

But… is it WAY too soon to think about this?

First off, the obvious 500 pound gorilla in the room, is what will COVID be like by January 2022 around the world? I am making the giant-leap assumption that by then the bug will be rapidly declining and we will no longer see headlines like this one. I may even by that point have had some kind of booster shot to follow up from my current shots. Will there be some kind of simple vaccine passport making travel mostly simple vs. testing testing etc?

Blogger Chris Carley winces as a COVID-19 nasal swab is inserted into his nose during a coronavirus test.
Chris didn’t much like getting his brain tickled during this COVID-19 test 🙂

Next up is what Delta may do. Business travel will be dead most of the rest of this year. It may, slowly, very slowly, begin to show some signs of life in Q4 but I really think it will never ever return to the levels of 2019. Way too much can be done over Zoom for both simplicity and massive cost savings. If Delta wants to keep those who will be still jetting around they need to consider something for 2022. I am not saying another year “push” like this time, but something has to happen. In my head the best option for Delta is to push again but not offer another round of Choice Benefits like last time i.e. just push status and MQMs.

Delta One seat in an Airbus A330 aircraft.

But maybe Delta will offer big bonus spend and fly deals in Q4 instead. Or, they may offer reduced re-qualifying deals in Q4. I really don’t want either of these as I would rather crush it in 2022 than limp into 2022 with Diamond locked up again.

Now, if Delta does push us again into 2022, there is no urgency to do anything and if I book any deals now they are going to be somewhat a wasted effort.

Lastly, with my current stash of MQMs, I can with card spend i.e. MQD exemption, plus bonus MQMs from card spend be Platinum all of 2022 and 2023. If I am not able to return to a life of somewhat normal flying that will likely be enough for me and I can knock out 25k each year on a Delta Amex in moments (like eating the small fee and paying and or over paying taxes as an example).

My gut, for now, is telling me to wait to see how the year progresses but the travel enthusiast in me is so optimistic about a return to normal-ish-ness that I want to get started booking and planning and traveling.

Gosh, this is hard.

Help! – René

Disclaimer: The blog’s owner holds stock in Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, Novavax, and Pfizer.

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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.


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.

17 Comments

  1. My thought is take the cheapest and least effort way to maintain earned status until we know when we can really get out and fly again. Now that I am vaccinated I hope that it is not too long before they waive the COVID test re-entry requirements in the U.S. My ideal is to knock out a few domestic mileage runs in 2021, carry the miles I need for Diamond into 2022 and hopefully be able to do a mega mileage run to meet the MQD requirement.

    As a Platinum now, the tidal wave of Platinums that you are predicting (and I completely agree with you) will definitely make domestic coach mileage running a lot less fun (as in much less available upgrade space).

    2020 was supposed to be the year I figured out how to hit Diamond, and I had to cancel two international mileage runs when the pandemic hit. So, for now, I am taking a wait and see approach. I already have enough spend on my Amex Skymiles reserve and enough MQMs carried over that I am Platinum until Jan 31, 2023. I’m hoping that in the next few weeks I can start to plan a domestic mileage run or two and see how things are looking.

  2. Rene, the risk of travel is indeed greatly reduced for you. But it is not reduced for others. You can still get and transmit the virus. That’s why the CDC, Dr. Fauci and others do not recommend any travel even after you’ve been vaccinated. It is irresponsible to travel yourself, or encourage others to do so, until the pandemic is over. We all need to “follow the science” and be content to forego travel for another year or two.

    • @Joe – The science shows after vaccination plus mask and distancing reduces risk to almost zero. No way I, or the rest of the world, will wait two more years to travel. As mentioned in post, my travel will be limited the rest of 2021 but my plan for 2022 is (hopefully) back to something like normal.

    • Barry Graham Reply

      The CDC is saying it’s unlikely that vaccinated people will be carriers. The only reason the opposite is considered to be possible is because someone at a well known university surmised it might be possible, with no evidence that it is. Air travel was never unsafe. Wish vaccines there is no longer any reason to stay at home.

  3. Jeff McCormack Reply

    Rene,

    I have been flying in 2020 to present for both business and pleasure (slightly less for business). The Delta “service” is non-existent (baggies with water and snack even for first class, unless long flight and then you get a box snack and wine or beer) and IMHO is not worth the effort (one gets better service and a fast food restaurant) . I am contemplating downgrading my Reserve card at renewal this year and putting spend on my cashback cards instead.

    • @Jeff – Yeah the lowered Delta service is one of the reasons I have little interest in spooling up travel this year. I hope next year EVERYTHING is more back to normal. If not, agree, if flying less cash back is the way to go.

    • Barry Graham Reply

      You are right. I flew international when it was still doable without multiple tests. The service was great. The services on domestic flights are greatly reduced. However it’s worth doing just to experience the thanks and gratitude from the flight crew for staying with them during these challenging times.

  4. Barry Graham Reply

    Thank you Rene.

    I’ve already got enough MQM for Diamond. At the moment I can’t see a way that I would make the MQD requirement this year. I hope I can because I’m not finding Zoom as effective as face to face for building business relationships.

    It seems that until most people are vaccinated and the virus has been brought under control, it would be natural that numbers are going to go up and down as restrictions are imposed and lifted. I wonder whether this way of controlling the pandemic is really saving lives if it prolongs the pandemic.

  5. I don’t know about all the other folks here on this blog; but for me, spending $25,000 on a Delta credit card is not a good ROI. I would rather charge my $25,000 on the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, which will yield me up to $1,125 travel dollars. Also, for me, I am either go Diamond or nothing. In order to reach Diamond, I have to meet the $15,000 MQD. This wash doable using partner airlines such as Korean air. However, with the borders close, mandatory quarantine, and COvid test requirements, mileage run on a partner airline is not doable at this moment. Hopefully, as the US reaches herd immunity through vaccination, maybe other countries will lift those requirements for US travelers. We will have to wait and see…

    If the International Borders remain closed for 2021, I will just rack up as many MQM as I can in 2021 but purposely miss my MQD to not even have enough for Silver. This way, Delta will not deduct my MQM for the Silver tier and rollover all my miles on 1/1/2022. Since I am a million miler, I get Silver anyway; so I don’t want my MQM to go to waste. Once the international border opens in 2022, I will use my Chase Ultimate Reward points to book International Business Class to rack up the balance for the MQM and make the $15,000 MQD in 2022. Since I will be flying Business Class for my MQD runs in 2022, I get to access all the perks anyway such as using the clubs and priority boarding. Worst case, I can always use the Priority Club at international locations. Also, correct me if I am wrong, if I met all the qualification for Diamond in the middle of a year (say… Feb 2022), I will enjoy all the Diamond benefits immediately (Not sure about the Choice Benefits tho) for the balance of 2022 and at the same time qualify for Diamond for 2023. Hey, worst case, in 2022 I will get the Delta Reserve card or buy a Skyclub membership for a few hundred dollars.

    As many of us know, business travel is very limited in 2021. Without flying international business class, the $15,000 MQD would be hard to achieve. Of course, there will still be a few people are can afford it. If Delta is listening, maybe they will relax their $15,000 MQD for 2021.

  6. Time to get back to living people. If we don’t fire back up the economy before all the trillions of stimulus dollars run out than millions are going to be laid off. I have trips to FL, TX Italy, France Egypt and Israel booked in the next 3 months. Trying to do my part and suggest everyone do the same however they can.

    • Barry Graham Reply

      Lucky you. Israel isn’t open for most of us right now. Hopefully that will change soon.

      • Update: Just did a pre-trip zoom with tour organizers and Israelis are being decimated by Covid. Not the virus but the economic destruction of CV lock down. Tourism is the life blood of so communities there. They’re saying “Never Again” to lockdowns. Which is IMO the bigger, future concern. I worry about the death rate being so much greater in a real pandemic because so many wont take it serious do to the WHO, CDC and media “crying wolf” in 2020.

        • Barry Graham Reply

          I don’t think it’s correct to use the same expression “Never Again” in relation to the economic effects as was used in relation to millions of murders, even though I agree with the sentiment regarding the economic damage done.

  7. I won’t fly much this year. It won’t be much fun with severely limited food service in airport lounges and onboard flights. I’ll be 2022 Platinum thanks to my Delta Reserve Card. Then before my Diamond expires on 2/1/2022 I’ll crush it in Jan 2022 and hit 2023 Diamond.

  8. I recently changed my plans for status (was looking at MQD partner run at end of the year.). I have held Platinum status for a while. I rolled a lot of MQMS into 2021. However, I have zero MQDs. I also do not want to be the guy who brings a new variant of the virus back to the US that kills thousands of people and extends the pandemic, so I do not plan on doing any travel until later in the year. (Dr. Faucci does not want to curtail non-essential travel because of a “political reason.” He is concerned about safety, and he is trying to navigate the country through the pandemic as quickly as possible. Until we get the numbers down, I am happy to be a true patriot and limit my non-essential travel. Don’t ask what your country can do fo you….. ) I could just hit the MQD waiver using credit cards. However, I will likely earn enough MQD in the fall to hit Silver for rollover into 2022. My Platinum status should be good until February 2022, and I should be able to spend enough in January 2022 on my credit card to have Platinum status again by February 2022. So, my goal is to hit only Silver, and keep the extra MQMs that would be taken if I reached a higher status, and which would be of very little benefit. Assuming travel is back to normal in 2022, I should then be Diamond in the Spring of 2022 and keep it until February 2024. This also has the advantage of being a flexible goal.

  9. I have $300 in MQD’s will be hard to get to any level..hate to see my D status go away…Even tho CC spend will help but not enough/

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