Using Credit Cards To Chase Delta Medallion Status


For those frequent fliers at Delta’s hubs, Atlanta, Detroit, Cincinnati, Salt Lake City, Memphis, and Minneapolis, obtaining Delta Medallion status may be your perpetual mission in life.  Those who are sent overseas on business every couple weeks need not worry to hard about reaching the new Diamond Medallion level. The rest of you will be constantly trying to maintain your status every year.

Credit Cards Can Help

You probably already know about the Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs) available through Delta’s American Express credit card partners. While the Platinum Card offers 10,000 MQMs when you spend $25,000 and $50,000, the Reserve card is the big daddy, offering 15,000 MQMs at $30,000 and $60,000 annual spend.     It is therefore possible to receive 30,000 MQMs and make Silver Medallion without ever taking to the skies, although you will have to be a big spender to do so.

A New Offer For MQMs as a sign up bonus

Now, Delta is offering a initial sign up bonus of 5,000 and 10,000 MQMs for the Platinum Personal and Business cards respectively.     While savvy credit card holders might already have a personal card, I would think that the 10,000 MQMs as a sign up bonus for the business card would be irresistible to certain people I know.   You know who you are!

There is an annual fee of $150, which is really peanuts in the Medallion game.    If you can sign up for this card and make the next level, that fee will pay for itself in upgrades and bonus miles, if not for the actual miles themselves, which are worth something around $150 alone.

What If You Are Not A Delta Fan?

Let’s say you live in or travel to a certain southern city, but don’t really want to fly Delta enough to earn or take advantage of Medallion status?    Perhaps, like me, Airtran is more your style.      In that case, hang on to your American Express OPEN cards, as they are now offering 5% cash back on all Airtran purchases. I know that 5% isn’t going to make the difference between taking a great vacation and staying home, but it should make the difference in using your Amex open versus another card, as there really are few rewards as valuable as 5% cash back.

The Best Of Both Worlds?

Ironically, the Delta American Express cards are also part of the OPEN savings programs, and therefore accrue the 5% cash back when used to purchase tickets on their aforementioned rival Airtran.

Strategies For Maintaining Medallion

Now that Delta has implemented rollover miles, maintaining your status has gotten easier, if a bit more complicated.       When the end of the year approaches, it might even be desirable not to accrue enough mileage to make the next level, in order to have more rollover miles for the next year.     Ways to avoid accruing mileage include flying with frequent flier tickets, or just postponing travel until after the new year.

In theory, one could avoid earning MQMs by using the “pay with miles” option for a small portion of their ticket, yet on my last trip with Delta, I found that I had, in fact, earned MQMs!     I was happy to earn them, however I can only imagine the puzzled reaction I would get if I called Delta to complain about earning too many miles!

Traveling Together?

Another strategy is good for people who travel together.    So long as one of them has Medallion status, the benefits generally apply to both when traveling together.     In that case, only one person should sign up for such a credit card and get the MQM bonus.    Since these sign up bonuses can generally only be earned once every few years, let the other person wait until such a time when their status is in doubt before signing up for a card that includes a one time MQM bonus.

For this former Delta Medallion, I am happy to be out of the status circus, but for those who are still willing to jump through hoops to stay in Delta’s good graces, you now have a new ring to shoot for.

Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express

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