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Delta’s New Loyalty Points Requirements Make It Near Impossible to Gain Status

by Eben Diskin Sep 18, 2023

Airline loyalty programs are intended to reward travelers for flying with that airline, and over time, grant the most loyal customers with special privileges like seat upgrades and free flights. Each airline’s loyalty program is different, with several underlying complexities, but they basically work like this: every time you fly, you earn miles. Miles can be redeemed for perks. Delta’s SkyMiles program, first launched in 1981, was no different. While the program got more complicated as it evolved over the years, the premise remained the same: miles = points, and points = perks.

Now, Delta is making the biggest change to its SkyMiles program in 42 years. Travelers still earn miles that can be redeemed for flights, but Medallion Status – the pinnacle of the loyalty program, and the status many frequent travelers are ultimately working toward – is now based entirely on money spent, rather than miles flown.

To earn elite status with Delta, you now must accumulate enough Medallion Qualification Dollars (MDQs). 1 MDQ is earned for every $1 spent on a ticket, and an MDQs is earned per $10 spent on a co-branded Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card, or for every $20 spent on a Delta SkyMiles Platinum American Express Card. This marks a significant shift away from miles traveled, and toward money spent on your credit cards. If you’re not an AmeX cardholder, for example, you have little to no chance of gaining status. If you fly on a long haul flight, for example, your MDQs will depend on how expensive your fare is, rather than how far you flew – so you won’t necessarily rack up the miles (and the dollars) quite as quickly.

The bottom tier, Silver, requires 6,000 MDQs, while top tier diamond status will require 35,000 MDQs. That’s a lot of spending on your Delta credit card – and for most people, since the point-to-dollar ratio is 1:1, spending that much on a Delta card doesn’t make much sense.

The changes go into effect on January 1, 2024. So if you have Delta status right now, enjoy it while it lasts.

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