Delta Choice Benefits: Which to choose and when

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Reminder: You must choose your Choice benefits by Monday, 1/31/22. Greg nearly forgot to make his third Choice benefit selection — don’t make that mistake. Choose now.

Delta’s Platinum and Diamond elite status levels include “Choice Benefits” in addition to many automatic perks.  Platinum elites can choose one Choice Benefit each year they qualify, and Diamond elites can choose three.  In 2021, it was easier than ever before to qualify for Delta elite status and so I expect that there are many newly minted Platinum or Diamond elites wondering which benefits to choose.  Here’s what you need to know…

Delta Premium Select

Where to Find the Choice Benefits Selection Page

The normal way to find the Choice Benefits page is to log into your Delta account on Delta.com and click around until you find it (Click SkyMiles… My SkyMiles… and look for Choice Benefits under Related Links).  Alternatively, you can click here to jump directly to the Choice Benefits page.

Which Platinum Choice Benefits are worthwhile?

Platinum and Diamond elites can choose 1 Platinum Choice Benefit each year in which they qualify (Diamond elites can then also choose 3 Diamond Choice Benefits).  Here’s the list of Platinum Choice Benefits, sorted in order of my preference:

  • 4 Regional Upgrade Certificates: When upgrade space is available, Regional Upgrade Certificates can be used at the time of booking to upgrade a one-way economy ticket to first class (or from economy to Premium Economy on flights featuring that cabin class).  Upgrades can be applied to flights booked with miles, or with companion certificates, or even those booked through Delta Vacations.  Regional upgrade certificates can be applied to all Delta operated flights within the U.S. 50 states, Canada, Mexico, Caribbean, Bermuda, and Central America. They can also be applied on Delta flights from/to northern South America (Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela), but for First Class only (i.e. not on jets featuring Delta One seating).  They can also be applied to AeroMexico flights as follows: all intra-Mexico Aeromexico flights, as well as Aeromexico flights between Mexico and the U.S., Central America, Caribbean, Colombia and Ecuador.  For more details, see: Best uses for Delta’s Regional Upgrade Certificates.  Note that upgrade certificates cannot be used with Basic Economy fares.
  • 20,000 Bonus Miles: In my experience, Delta miles are usually worth around 1.2 cents each towards domestic award flights (and often worth up to 2 cents each for international flights and/or during award sales).  At 1.2 cents per mile, 20,000 bonus miles are worth about $240 in flights.  One cool feature of the 20K miles choice benefit is that you can optionally gift the miles to someone else.
  • Gift Silver Medallion status: Delta’s Silver elite status can be worth a lot for the right person since it means getting a free checked bag, free domestic upgrades to Comfort+ and/or first class (when available), and free preferred seat selection (e.g. pick an exit row seat in order to ensure lots of leg room).

I don’t particularly recommend these:

  • $200 Tiffany & Co. Gift Card: If you value getting stuff from Tiffany & Co more than travel, then I suppose this option would make sense.
  • $200 Delta Travel Voucher: Valid only for 12 months from the date of issuance, also applicable toward a Delta Vacations package.  I don’t recommend this choice!  Take the 20,000 bonus miles instead since miles never expire.  If you have a Delta credit card, you can even use the 20,000 miles to get $200 off a purchased ticked.

Which Diamond Choice Benefits are worthwhile?

Diamond elites can choose 3 Diamond Choice Benefit each year in which they qualify.  Here’s the list of Diamond Choice Benefits, sorted in order of my preference:

  • Upgrade certificates: 4 Global, or 8 Regional, or 2 Global AND 4 Regional.  Despite Delta’s recently announced devaluation of Global Upgrade Certificates, the choice of 4 Global Upgrade Certificates remains my top choice.  If you book an economy ticket (but not Basic Economy) to anywhere in the world on Delta operated flights, a Global Upgrade Certificate will automatically move you to First Class on two-cabin flights or to Premium Economy on three-cabin flights, and in the latter case you’ll be waitlisted to upgrade to Delta One and eligible to clear 24 hours prior to departure.
  • Delta Sky Club Individual Membership. If you don’t have a Delta Reserve or non-Delta Amex Platinum card then this is a valuable option for gaining free access to SkyClubs when flying Delta.  Note that this membership does not allow you to enter unless you’re flying Delta same-day (Delta imposes the same rules on those with credit card access).
  • Gift Gold status.  To achieve Gold status, some people go to great lengths with end of year mileage runs, or they pay Delta outrageous prices for an end of year status boost.  This is a great alternative.  Gold status provides free upgrades to Comfort+ and/or First Class (ahead of Silver elites), free same day confirmed changes, Sky Team lounge access on international flights, and Hertz Five Star elite status.
  • Delta Sky Club Guest Options:
    • Delta Sky Club Guest Pass (Credit Card Access).  Many get access to Delta SkyClubs when flying Delta thanks to having either Delta Reserve or non-Delta Amex Platinum cards.  This benefit lets you bring in up to two guests for no extra fee.
    • Delta Sky Club Executive Membership.  With Executive Membership you can guest in up to 2 people per visit.  If you don’t already have an Individual Membership, Delta will charge you two Choice Benefits to get Executive Membership.
  • 25,000 Bonus Miles.  In my experience, Delta miles are usually worth around 1.2 cents each towards domestic award flights (and often worth up to 2 cents each for international flights and/or during award sales).  At 1.2 cents per mile, 25,000 bonus miles are worth about $300 in flights.  One cool feature of the 25K miles choice benefit is that you can optionally gift the miles to someone else.

And then there’s these, which I do not recommend:

  • $200 Tiffany & Co. Gift Card: If you value getting stuff from Tiffany & Co more than travel, then I suppose that this option would make sense.
  • $200 Delta Travel Voucher: Valid only for 12 months from the date of issuance, also applicable toward a Delta Vacations package.  I don’t recommend this choice!  Take the 25,000 bonus miles instead since miles never expire and they’re worth more!  If you have a Delta credit card, you can even use the 25,000 miles to get $250 off a purchased ticked.

Pick more than one Diamond Choice Benefit

If you really like a particular Diamond Choice Benefit, you may be able to select the same benefit multiple times.  Here are the Choice Benefits where you’re allowed to pick more than one:

  • Gift Gold status.  You can gift Gold status to up to 3 people by spending all 3 Choice Benefits on this option.
  • 25,000 Bonus Miles. If you want 50,000 or 75,000 miles you can apply multiple Choice Benefits.  You can also keep 25K or 50K for yourself and gift the rest.
  • $200 Travel Voucher or retail gift card.  Please don’t.

When to choose what?

All Choice Benefits must be selected by the time your earned status expires.  That translates to the end of January, two calendar years after you earned status.  For example, if you earned status in 2021 for the 2022 calendar year, then your status is good until January 31, 2023.  You must select all of your Choice Benefits by that date or you’ll lose them.  It’s important to understand though that some of the options are useless if you wait until the last moment to pick them. Upgrade Certificates, Sky Club access options, and gifted elite status expire when your earned elite status expires (Jan 31 on the second year after status was earned).

Benefits to choose as soon as possible

The following benefits are only valid until your elite year is complete (i.e. through January 2023 for those who earned status in 2021):

  • Upgrade Certificates
  • Gift Silver or Gold status
  • Delta Sky Club Individual Membership
  • Delta Sky Club Guest Options:
    • Delta Sky Club Guest Pass (Credit Card Access)
    • Delta Sky Club Executive Membership

Benefits worth waiting for

  • $200 Travel Voucher: I don’t recommend this option, but if you pick it against my advice, then wait until you really need it.  The voucher expires after a year.

Benefits that can be chosen any time

These options have no time constraints regarding when they must be used:

  • 20,000 or 25,000 Bonus Miles
  • $200 retail gift card: I don’t recommend this option

My choices

In the past, I’ve usually picked the following Choice Benefits:

  • Platinum:
    • 4 Regional Upgrade Certificates
  • Diamond:
    • 4 Global Upgrade Certificates
    • Delta Sky Club Guest Pass (Credit Card Access)
    • Gift Gold Status

With my next pick, I’ll probably choose 25,000 miles instead of the Sky Club Guest Pass. This is because the Delta Reserve card now comes with 2 SkyClub guest passes and we’ve been traveling less often with our son (who is now an adult).  So, my plan is to wait and see if I need the guest pass and only select it if/when I do.  If I get to the end of the year without having selected it, I’ll pick the 25,000 miles choice benefit.

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Adventure NML

For those who waited until the last minute for their 2021 choice benefits (earned in 2020), I think it’s worth noting that the RUCs/GUCs issued before Feb 1 of this year will expire a year after choosing (so choosing RUCs/GUCs for your 2021 benefits at the last minute SHOULD work, although technically they issue tomorrow so…I suppose if Delta plays EXACTLY by the rules those certificates will expire immediately! I can’t see them doing this, however…I expect they will last a full year)

A.J.

I earned Platinum in 2019 for 2020, then that was carried into 2021. I just re-qualified for Platinum in 2021 for ‘22, which means (even though it’s extended anyhow) I get the choice benefits again. I’ll have enough MQMs and spend on the reserve to qualify again with rollover MQMs in ‘22 for ‘23 – if I’m understanding the new rules on extension correctly. So – for my earned in ‘21 choice benefit, how long should I wait to select the Regional Upgrade Certificates?

Gene

I still recommend waiting to select the upgrade certificates until you need to use them, as your specific upgrade need may change whether you choose 4 GPUs, 8 RPUs or 2 GPUs + 4 RPUs.

[…] Delta choice benefit: You have until January 31, 2021 to select your choice benefit if you achieved Delta status during 2019 for the 2020 calendar year, so you have another month on this one at worst. Those who achieved Delta status during 2020 have until January 31, 2022 to make their selection. Delta Diamond Choice Benefits: Which to choose and when? […]

[…] is a nice improvement to AA’s elite status program.  In many ways it copies Delta’s Choice Benefits, which is a good thing.  I’m surprised though that AA doesn’t allow 3 selections for […]

Robert Bradley

Greg, I chose 4 global upgrades and 4 regional upgrades. Did you list the correct information above?

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Josh

Two pictures of Gregs staring at me on the home screen LOL

[…] Diamond status offers elite members members three Choice Benefits each year. The single most valuable choice, in my opinion, is four Global Upgrade Certificates.  […]

[…] that you won’t get Delta choice benefits until after you’ve completed the activity noted above to keep status through January 31, […]

Jerry b Udell

What choices do you recommend if you are Delta Platinum?

JB San Diego

OMG!…you’re kidding me, right?

Gene

I am surprised by your choices, especially 4 GPUs. With all the mileage options available from better airlines, why would anyone want to fly DL, UA, or AA on international flights? I use DL for domestic flights, so I pick 8 RPUs.