UPDATE: Renés Points is now reporting that this was a false alarm.
It’s very unusual to earn elite status with a credit card. Several hotel cards grant status outright, but only Hilton and SPG actually let you earn that status by spending a certain amount each year. Airline credit cards sometimes let you earn a small number of elite qualifying miles, but still not enough to earn status without flying.
Unless you’re Delta. The airline has several different credit cards that each let you earn a few Medallion Qualifying Miles. By applying for and using all of them, it was possible to get status much more quickly while minimizing the amount of actual flying required. That could make it easier to reach higher tiers and even waive some fees on award redemptions, which don’t normally earn miles themselves.
Not anymore. According to Renés Points [update: link removed], new language in the card agreement from American Express puts limits on how many Medallion Qualifying Miles a person can earn each year. This example is for the Delta Reserve card from Amex.
You may receive a Miles Boost award based on your eligible purchases for the calendar year. A calendar year is from January 1 to December 31 regardless of when you open your Card Account. This means in your first year as a Card Member you may have fewer months to accumulate eligible purchases towards a Miles Boost award.
You can now only get two Miles Boost awards for each Card account. In addition, if you have more than one Reserve Card Account linked to the same SkyMiles account, you are eligible for only two Miles Boost awards each year.
Normally, a “Miles Boost Award” includes 15,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles after spending $15,000, and a second one is available after spending $60,000. So a total of 30,000 MQMs can be earned with a single card after spending $60,000. Other cards also earned MQMs, adding to the pot. But the language seems to suggest that even with multiple cards, a customer would only be allowed two such awards per calendar year.
This essentially prevents people from earning anything better than Silver Medallion unless they also do some flying. It also means that customers with multiple cards must pay attention and ensure they earn their Miles Boost Awards with the most valuable cards. Others could earn just 10,000 MQMs, for example, which would mean leaving a larger opportunity on the table.
Frankly I’m not surprised. This was a very generous opportunity for those people who could take advantage of it, and it probably mean some dilution of the elite ranks. Several airlines have been adding revenue requirements to their elite qualification criteria as another way of making it more difficult to earn status. Now, Delta and Amex are clamping down on this card benefit to ensure that elite status becomes even more exclusive.