When it comes to Delta, not only do I hold elite status on the airline, but I also hold a co-branded American Express card. The two go hand-in-hand … spending enough on the American Express earns me Medallion Qualification Miles that lets me earn higher elite status on the airline.
And with the new Delta Medallion program beginning in 2014, I can waive the requirement for spending by spending $25,000 or more on my Delta American Express card, which just so happens to be the lowest amount required to earn MQMs. This actually surprised a lot of Delta flyers, who didn’t think that there would be a waiver just for using the card when rumors of the revenue tie-in were swirling around. I’m not an industry insider, so I have no clue just how much airlines make from the credit card arm of their loyalty programs, but this waiver makes it seem that co-branded credit cards are lucrative for airlines.
Interestingly, while I hold the card for the benefits it helps provide on the airline, it also has given me access to otherwise unattainable experiences. Last year, I got an e-mail from Delta and American Express inviting me to a Lakers game (coincidentally, I received the e-mail in-flight on Delta from Los Angeles to New York in Economy Comfort). While the event wasn’t free, I could get up to two tickets in a suite for $50 each including parking, a bargain for the Lakers (yes, even with their woeful season petering out last week, they still are a pricey ticket). I jumped on that opportunity in a heartbeat, and invited my dad as an early Christmas present (he’d also never been to a Lakers game, so this was a perfect opportunity!).
The game was great – the Lakers played the Charlotte Bobcats, who always give us trouble. We eked out a 1-point victory with some lockdown defense at the end. As a guest of American Express, I was treated to a somewhat satisfactory array of food and free drinks – at least better than a SkyClub. The amazing part, though, was getting to meet two retired Lakers legends in the suite – “Big Game” James Worthy (Hall of Fame and 1988 Finals MVP) and Kurt Rambis (a 4-time champion with the Lakers). I also got to hang out with the 2010 Larry O’Brien trophy that the Lakers beat the Celtics for.
I was somewhat curious about why I had been selected to attend this event, since it was a rather exclusive crowd. I spoke with the reps, who worked for Delta, and it turned out that my invitation had nothing to do with Medallion status – rather, I was invited because I had put so much spending on my Delta Platinum American Express. For reference, my spend on the Delta American Express in 2012 was just above $25,000, enough to get the 10,000 MQMs (and starting next year, enough to waive the spending requirement). I reached that level of spending with the help of Vanilla Reloads (mostly at Office Depot when they were sold there) as well as by asking my folks to use my card for some of their business expenses (they benefit from my miles and status as well). I’m somewhat surprised, because there are people who spend $50,000 on the Delta Platinum American Express and/or $60,000 on the Delta Reserve American Express for the MQMs – I barely met the lowest tier.
Delta is the official airline of the Lakers, so they might have easy access to suites and may just invite high-value medallions on other nights to thank them for their loyalty to the airline. American Express likes to go after premium cardmembers, and you’ll definitely find a lot of those people at Lakers games. STAPLES Center itself gives American Express Platinum cardmembers access to the Platinum Lounge, the only such American Express-branded lounge I know of outside of an airport, so there’s a partnership on that level as well. Still, it amazes me how spending a fairly normal amount of money on a credit card got me more customer appreciation than actually flying the airline.
Has anyone else been invited to a similar American Express and/or Delta event? I’ve already placed $50,000 on my Delta Business American Express Platinum this year, and am looking forward to any other goodies I might get this way.