Delta reduced its thresholds for earning elite status for the rest of 2021. Premium cabin fares receive 75% fare class bonuses on MQM, MQD, and MQS. Meanwhile, Main Cabin and Basic Economy earn 50% bonuses. Pay with Miles tickets are included.
Heck, even traditional award tickets can earn points/miles/segments toward Delta elite status this year!
Several cards offer incentives to use their travel booking services to purchase trips and redeem points to offset some or all of your purchase prices. (Think American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards.
Those trips are considered paid, cash fares because Amex, Chase, or whoever cuts a check to the travel provider. So using Delta as an example, you’d earn MQD, MQS, MQM, and redeemable SkyMiles.
Given that some card programs make points more valuable when you redeem them through their programs, those cards can help you save money during your Delta status chase (no credit card pun intended) this year.
Let’s take a closer look using a few examples.
35% Points Rebate: American Express Business Platinum Card
The Business Platinum Card from American Express gives cardholders a 35% rebate on points redeemed for certain airline travel booked through Amex Travel:
- any flight booked on the carrier of choice for your annual airline incidental credit, or
- business or first class fares purchased on any airline
So let’s use the Detroit to Anchorage first class Delta mileage run we posted a couple of weeks ago. The trip cost $680.50. (Though because Delta is my chosen airline on Amex, it would work regardless of fare class.)
If you hold the Amex Business Platinum card, you could redeem 68,500 points (at one cent each) to pay for the entire trip.
But when that 35% rebate kicks in, you’re ultimate “out of pocket” cost is only 44,525 points.
You’re given back 23,975 points which can use cannibalize for another trip — and get another rebate.
Compare that to Delta’s Pay With Miles — which offers no such rebate nor the benefit of earning SkyMiles.
I’ve booked several trips for the upcoming months — including a Delta One itinerary — using the Pay With Points benefit. I look forward to the trips — and getting some points back while earning bonus MQM, and MQD.
Chase Sapphire Reserve: Redeem Points for 1.5 Cents Each
Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders can book flights through Chase’s travel program and redeem Ultimate Rewards points for 1.5 cents each.
Using our above Detroit to Anchorage example, let’s say we want to book the trip through Chase.
You’d need only 45,360 Ultimate Rewards points to purchase that airfare — compared to the 65,000 SkyMiles plus about $30 to purchase it using Pay With Miles (SkyMiles can be redeemed only in 5,000 point blocks for optimal Pay With Miles bookings.)
Keep in mind that the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Ink Preferred cards allow members to use points at a rate of 1.25 cents each toward travel. That’s not quite as good as the 50% kicker that comes with the Sapphire Reserve — but the Preferreds’ annual fees are also substantially lower.
Cards with flexible points are a must for frequent flyers. Their points earnings and redemptions are often better than co-branded airline credit cards. And I think they’re even more valuable during Delta’s MQD bonuses this year.
To see the rates and fees for the American Express cards featured above, please visit the following links:
- American Express Business Gold Card (See Rates and Fees)
- The Business Platinum Card from American Express (See Rates and Fees)
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