As One Mile at a Time shared this morning, Delta Air Lines shocked the travel loyalty world by announcing a 10-fold increase in the amount you need to spend each year on its credit cards to earn a waiver for elite status. Instead of spending $25,000 in a year, you’ll need to spend $250,000.
Yes, we’re talking six figures in credit card spend.
All three large U.S. carriers have introduced revenue requirements to earn elite status. Delta, United, and American require different amounts in ticket purchases in addition to the historical requirement that you fly a certain distance during the year. These are variably called MQD (Medallion Qualifying Dollars), PQD (Premier Qualifying Dollars), and EQD (Elite Qualifying Dollars).
Through 2017 you can still earn an exemption from this ticket revenue requirement if you want to earn Delta Medallion status. Spending $25,000 on certain premium credit cards issued by American Express — such as the Reserve, Platinum, or Gold Delta SkyMiles cards — means you only need to worry about tracking elite qualifying miles (Medallion Qualifying Miles, or MQM). And even the MQMs can be accumulated through Delta credit cards, if necessary.
That was probably one loophole too many for Delta. Earning both MQDs and MQMs through credit card spend made it possible to get status without ever setting foot on a plane, which in turn leads to some still-valuable benefits such as lounge access and fee waivers on award travel redemptions.
I was always surprised that they extended their MQD waiver to their top-tier Diamond status since no other airline does this. More often the waiver is good for just low- and mid-tier status. And, in fact, Delta will be leaving the $25,000 threshold unchanged for people who want a waiver for Silver, Gold, or Platinum status.
These details have been published on Delta’s SkyMiles News & Updates page. Check under “Medallion Program Updates” to see more, including a list of cards eligible for earning the MQD waiver.
Starting January 1, 2018, the Medallion Qualification Dollar (MQD) Waiver for Diamond Medallion Status is increasing. The MQD Waiver for Diamond Medallion Status is currently earned by spending $25,000 in eligible purchases in a calendar year on a SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express. It is being adjusted to $250,000 in a calendar year.
This qualification change will allow us to deliver on expectations for Diamond Medallion Status so Members can maximize elite benefits like Complimentary Upgrades and Delta Sky Club® access. This update will not change how Members earn 2018 Diamond Medallion Status.
We understand this is a significant increase, but keep in mind that the MQD Waiver to qualify for all of the best-in-class benefits of Platinum, Gold and Silver Medallion Status will still remain at $25,000.
It’s a disappointing day for people who loved taking advantage of this opportunity, but I can’t say I’m surprised. Most things that are too good to be true will end eventually. At least the waiver still exists, even if it is stratospheric.