Delta SkyMiles Complete Guide [2024 Edition]

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This post has been updated to reflect many changes to the SkyMiles program that are in effect as of January 2024.

Delta Air Lines Greg in Delta One

Delta SkyMiles Overview

While Delta is often lauded for their flight performance and customer service, their loyalty program has long been the butt of jokes in the frequent flier community. Delta often charges far more miles for saver-level award flights than its direct competitors like AA or United. Delta’s elite program used to trail the pack as well.

Over time, Delta has steadily increased elite perks, especially for top tier elites. Today, I believe that Delta actually has one of the better elite programs among the major full-service airlines.

The story regarding redeemable SkyMiles isn’t as rosy. In 2015, Delta eliminated award charts. Since then, they’ve systematically stamped out most sweet-spot awards that previously made it possible to get fantastic value from your miles. That’s the bad news. The good news is that, today, you’ll usually get at least 1 cent per mile value compared to cash prices. The net result is that it’s much harder today to get far outsized value from your miles, but it’s also easier to avoid getting terrible value.

Delta SkyMiles Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Free changes and cancellations for all awards originating in North America
  • No fuel surcharges are included on awards originating in North America
  • Miles don’t expire until you do (miles do not expire as long as you are alive)
  • Elite program offers good perks, especially for top-tier elites
  • Upgrade certificates available to high level elites can be used on award flights
  • Miles can almost always be used instead of cash for any Delta-operated flight, regardless of how full it is.
  • Delta cardholders get a 15% discount on award flights. This makes miles a bit more valuable.
  • Award flights earn Medallion Qualifying Dollars (MQDs) towards elite status.

Cons

  • No award charts: this makes it hard to plan for future award travel.
  • Very high award prices: International business class award prices, especially, are usually far, far higher than with competing programs.
  • Fuel surcharges are imposed on certain awards originating outside of North America. For example, an award from Europe to the U.S. will cost much more in fees than an award from the U.S. to Europe. This is true for both one-way and round-trip awards.
  • Delta’s Global Upgrade Certificates (available as a Choice Benefit for Diamond elites) are no longer nearly as useful as they once were.

Delta Credit Cards

American Express issues seven different Delta credit cards in the United States. Click into any of the following credit card displays for more info about each card:

Blue Card

If you no longer want to pay the annual fee on your consumer Delta Gold, Delta Platinum, or Delta Reserve card, downgrading to the fee-free Delta Blue card can be a good way to preserve your account. If you later find that you need a feature of one of the other cards, you should be able to upgrade as needed.

Card Offer and Details
10K miles ⓘ Affiliate
10K miles after $1000 spend in the first 6 months. Terms apply. (Rates & Fees)
(Offer Expires 7/17/2024)
No Annual Fee
Note an unusual restriction: Welcome bonus not available if you've had another Delta consumer card in the past 90 days.
FM Mini Review: This card offers an OK welcome offer for a no annual fee card, but many/most other cards offer better return for spend.
Earning rate: 2X restaurants worldwide ✦ 2X Delta ✦ 1X on all other eligible purchases
Base: 1X (1.3%)
Dine: 2X (2.6%)
Brand: 2X (2.6%)
Card Info: Amex Credit Card issued by Amex. This card has no foreign currency conversion fees.
Noteworthy perks: 20% statement credit on in-flight purchases of food, beverages, and headsets Terms and limitations apply. (Rates & Fees)

Gold Card

The Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card is a nice option for occasional Delta fliers. With this card, you'll get a free checked bag, priority boarding, a 15% award flight discount, up to $100 off prepaid hotels, and more. For those interested in the prepaid hotel benefit, though, the Delta Gold Business Card may be a better choice. The two versions of the Delta Gold card have the same annual fee and are nearly identical but the business version includes a $150 prepaid hotel rebate. Those who fly Delta frequently may do better with a Delta Platinum card or Delta Reserve card.
Card Offer and Details
Limited Time Offer - 65K miles ⓘ Affiliate
65K miles after $3K spend in first 6 months. Terms apply. (Rates & Fees)
(Offer Expires 7/17/2024)
$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $150
FM Mini Review: Priority boarding, and free checked bag make this a reasonably good option for Delta flyers who do not have elite status. However, those who can make use of an annual companion certificate would do better with the Delta Platinum card.
Earning rate: 2X Delta ✦ 2x restaurants worldwide ✦ 2x US supermarkets
Base: 1X (1.3%)
Dine: 2X (2.6%)
Grocery: 2X (2.6%)
Brand: 2X (2.6%)
Card Info: Amex Credit Card issued by Amex. This card has no foreign currency conversion fees.
Big spend bonus: $200 Delta flight credit after $10K in purchases in a calendar year
Noteworthy perks: 15% off when using miles to book an award flight (Delta metal only) ✦ Get up to $100 back per year as a statement credit for prepaid hotels or vacation rentals booked through Delta Stays on delta.com/stays ✦ Priority boarding and first checked bag free on Delta flights. Terms and limitations apply. (Rates & Fees)
Limited Time Offer - 75k miles ⓘ Affiliate
75k after $6k spend in first 6 months. Terms and limitations apply. (Rates & Fees)
(Offer Expires 7/17/2024)
$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $150
FM Mini Review: Priority boarding and first checked bag free make this a reasonably good option for Delta flyers who do not have elite status. However, those who can make use of an annual companion certificate would do better with the Delta Platinum card.
Earning rate: 2X Delta ✦ 2X U.S. purchases for advertising in select media and U.S. shipping purchases (capped at $50k per year starting 1/1/24)
Base: 1X (1.3%)
Brand: 2X (2.6%)
Other: 2X (2.6%)
Card Info: Amex Credit Card issued by Amex. This card has no foreign currency conversion fees.
Big spend bonus: $200 Delta flight credit after $10K in purchases in a calendar year
Noteworthy perks: 15% off when using miles to book an award flight (Delta metal only) ✦ Get up to $150 back per year as a statement credit for prepaid hotels or vacation rentals booked through Delta Stays on delta.com/stays ✦ Priority boarding, and first checked bag free on Delta flights. Terms and limitations apply. (Rates & Fees)

Platinum Card

The American Express Delta Platinum card is a nice step up from the Delta Gold card for frequent Delta fliers. In addition to offering all of the features found on the Gold card such as a free checked bag and a 15% award flight discount, the Platinum card throws in an annual companion ticket, an annual $2,500 MQD Headstart towards elite status, and miscellaneous credits. The Delta Platinum card is available as both a consumer card and a business card. And while the two versions of the Delta Platinum card are very similar, they are considered different products and so it's possible to earn welcome bonuses for each.
Card Offer and Details
Limited Time Offer - 85K miles ⓘ Affiliate
85K miles after $4K spend in 6 months. Terms apply. (Rates & Fees)
(Offer Expires 7/17/2024)
$350 Annual Fee
FM Mini Review: Good choice for frequent Delta flyers who can make use of annual companion certificate
Earning rate: 3X Delta ✦ 3X purchases made directly with hotels ✦ 2X restaurants ✦ 2X US Supermarkets
Base: 1X (1.3%)
Travel: 3X (3.9%)
Dine: 2X (2.6%)
Grocery: 2X (2.6%)
Brand: 3X (3.9%)
Card Info: Amex Credit Card issued by Amex. This card has no foreign currency conversion fees.
Big spend bonus: Earn 1 Medallion Qualifying Dollar (MQD) per $20 spent
Noteworthy perks: 15% off when using miles to book an award flight (Delta metal only) ✦ Annual $2,500 MQD Headstart ✦ Domestic, Caribbean, or Central American economy companion certificate (subject to taxes & fees) each year upon card renewal ✦ Earn up to $150 as a statement credit each year after booking prepaid hotels or vacation rentals with your Card through Delta Stays on delta.com/stays ✦ Up to $10 per month in statement credits for purchases with select rideshare service providers [enrollment required] ✦ Up to $10 per month in statement credits on eligible purchases with U.S. Resy restaurants ✦ Priority boarding ✦ First checked bag free on Delta flights ✦ Complimentary Upgrade list: get added to the complimentary upgrade list after Delta elite members and Reserve cardmembers (ticket must be purchases on or after 2/1/24 to receive this benefit) ✦ Cell phone protection ✦ Terms and Limitations Apply. (Rates & Fees)
Limited Time Offer - 95k miles ⓘ Affiliate
95k after $8k spend in first 6 months. Terms and limitations apply. (Rates & Fees)
(Offer Expires 7/17/2024)
$350 Annual Fee
FM Mini Review: Good choice for frequent Delta flyers who can make use of annual companion certificate
Earning rate: 3X Delta ✦ 3X purchases made directly with hotels ✦ 1.5X on transit, eligible U.S. shipping, and purchases of $5K or more (up to $100K per year)
Base: 1X (1.3%)
Travel: 3X (3.9%)
Brand: 3X (3.9%)
Other: 1.5X (1.95%)
Card Info: Amex Credit Card issued by Amex. This card has no foreign currency conversion fees.
Big spend bonus: Earn 1 Medallion Qualifying Dollar (MQD) per $20 spent
Noteworthy perks: 15% off when using miles to book an award flight (Delta metal only) ✦ Annual $2,500 MQD Headstart ✦ Domestic, Caribbean, or Central American economy companion certificate (subject to taxes & fees) each year upon card renewal ✦ Earn up to $200 as a statement credit each year after booking prepaid hotels or vacation rentals with your Card through Delta Stays on delta.com/stays ✦ Up to $10 per month in statement credits on eligible purchases with U.S. Resy restaurants ✦ Up to $10 per month in statement credits for purchases with select rideshare service providers [enrollment required] ✦ Priority boarding ✦ First checked bag free on Delta flights ✦ Complimentary Upgrade list: get added to the complimentary upgrade list after Delta elite members and Reserve cardmembers (ticket must be purchases on or after 2/1/24 to receive this benefit) ✦ Terms and Limitations Apply. (Rates & Fees)

Reserve Card

The Delta Reserve card is the most expensive of American Express' Delta cards in the U.S., but it is also loaded with high-end perks. Sky Club access alone makes this card worth considering for frequent Delta flyers. The card's annual companion ticket and miscellaneous rebates can also help defray the card's annual fee. Additionally, anyone interested in Delta elite status should seriously consider this card thanks to its multiple shortcuts towards elite status. And, finally, having this card acts as a tie-breaker for upgrades when others on the same flight have the same elite status and booking class as you. The Delta Reserve card is available as both a consumer card and a business card. And while the two versions of the Delta Reserve card are very similar, they are considered different products and so it's possible to earn welcome bonuses for each.
Card Offer and Details
Limited Time Offer - 95K Miles ⓘ Affiliate
95K miles after $6K spend in first 6 months. Terms apply. (Rates & Fees)
(Offer Expires 7/17/2024)
$650 Annual Fee
FM Mini Review: Excellent choice for frequent Delta flyers who can make use of SkyClub access and companion certificate. Also a good choice for big spenders seeking Delta elite status.
Earning rate: 3X Delta
Base: 1X (1.3%)
Brand: 3X (3.9%)
Card Info: Amex Credit Card issued by Amex. This card has no foreign currency conversion fees.
Big spend bonus: Earn 1 Medallion Qualifying Dollar (MQD) per $10 spent
Noteworthy perks: 15% off when using miles to book an award flight (Delta metal only) ✦ Annual $2,500 MQD Headstart ✦ Domestic, Caribbean, or Central American economy or first class companion certificate (subject to taxes & fees) after card renewal ✦ SkyClub access (starting 2/1/25, 15 visits per year (after 15 visits have been used, additional visits can be purchased for $50 each) or to earn an unlimited number of visits each year starting on 2/1/25, spend $75K or more on eligible purchases between 1/1/24 and 12/31/24, and each calendar year thereafter. ✦ 4 Delta SkyClub one-time guest passes ✦ Centurion Lounge access when flying Delta ✦ Earn up to $200 as a statement credit each year after booking prepaid hotels or vacation rentals with your Card through Delta Stays on delta.com/stays ✦ Up to $20 per month in statement credits on eligible purchases with U.S. Resy restaurants [enrollment required] ✦ Up to $10 per month in statement credits for purchases with select rideshare service providers [enrollment required] ✦ Complimentary upgrades ✦ One statement credit every 4 years for the $100 Global Entry application fee or one statement credit every 4.5 years for the $85 TSA Precheck application fee ✦ Priority boarding ✦ First checked bag free on Delta flights. ✦ Hertz President's Circle Status ✦ Terms and limitations apply. (Rates & Fees)
Limited Time Offer - 110k miles ⓘ Affiliate
110k after $12K spend in first 6 months. Terms apply. (Rates & Fees)
(Offer Expires 7/17/2024)
$650 Annual Fee
FM Mini Review: Excellent choice for frequent Delta flyers who can make use of SkyClub access and companion certificate. Also a good choice for big spenders seeking Delta elite status.
Earning rate: 3X Delta ✦ 1.5X on eligible transit, U.S. shipping & office supply store purchases
Base: 1X (1.3%)
Office: 1.5X (1.95%)
Brand: 3X (3.9%)
Other: 1.5X (1.95%)
Card Info: Amex Credit Card issued by Amex. This card has no foreign currency conversion fees.
Big spend bonus: Earn 1 Medallion Qualifying Dollar (MQD) per $10 spent
Noteworthy perks: 15% off when using miles to book an award flight (Delta metal only) ✦ Domestic, Caribbean, or Central American economy or first class companion certificate (subject to taxes & fees) after card renewal ✦ SkyClub access (starting 2/1/25, 15 visits per year (after 15 visits have been used, additional visits can be purchased for $50 each) or earn unlimited visits after spending $75K/calendar year on the card ✦ 4 Delta SkyClub one-time guest passes ✦ Centurion Lounge access when you book your Delta flight with your Reserve card ✦ Earn up to $250 as a statement credit each year after booking prepaid hotels or vacation rentals with your Card through Delta Stays on delta.com/stays ✦ Up to $20 per month in statement credits on eligible purchases with U.S. Resy restaurants ✦ Up to $10 per month in statement credits for purchases with select rideshare service providers [enrollment required] ✦ Complimentary upgrades ✦ $100 Global Entry fee credit every 4 years (or 4.5 years for TSA Precheck) ✦ Priority boarding ✦ First checked bag free on Delta flights. ✦ Hertz President's Circle Status ✦ Terms and limitations apply. (Rates & Fees)

Earn miles

There are a number of ways to earn Delta SkyMiles…

Flights

Base members earn 5 miles per dollar on Delta marketed flights. Elite members earn more, depending upon their status level, as follows:

  • Silver: 7 miles per dollar
  • Gold: 8 miles per dollar
  • Platinum: 9 miles per dollar
  • Diamond: 11 miles per dollar

Exceptions:

  • Flights booked as part of vacation packages (other than Delta Vacations), cruise packages, consolidator fares, etc. are considered “exception fares”. With these flights, you’ll earn miles based on the distance flown. Details can be found here.
  • Partner flights that are not marketed by Delta earn miles based on the distance flown. Details vary by partner. Details can be found here.

Delta credit cards

Miles can be earned from credit card welcome bonuses and from credit card spend. In general, earning miles through new-card welcome bonuses is a great idea, but earning from Delta credit card spend is not. There are many other cards on the market that offer much better rewards for everyday spend. One exception is if you use the Delta Reserve card to spend your way to elite status. More about this topic can be found in the elite status and credit card sections later in this post.

Transfer from other points programs

Amex Membership Rewards

American Express offers a number of cards that earn more Membership Rewards points per dollar than their Delta cards earn in SkyMiles. This is particularly interesting here because American Express Membership Rewards points transfer 1 to 1 to Delta. Even if your main goal is to earn Delta miles through spend, you would most likely be better off earning Amex Membership Rewards points first. Then, you’d also have the great benefit of being able to use points for other purposes besides Delta.

Unfortunately, Amex charges a small “excise tax offset fee” of $0.0006 per point (with a maximum fee of $99) when transferring to a U.S. based program like Delta. Here are some sample fees:

  • 10,000 miles: $6
  • 50,000 miles: $30
  • 100,000 miles: $60
  • 150,000 miles: $90
  • 165,000 miles (or more): $99

For more details, see: Amex Membership Rewards Points Complete Guide

Marriott Bonvoy

Marriott points can be transferred to Delta at a rate of 3 Marriott points to 1 Delta mile.

For more, see: Marriott Bonvoy Complete Guide.

Non-flight options for earning points

Airbnb

Earn 1 mile per dollar for each Airbnb stay. To enable this, book your Airbnb stay through the link found here.

Hertz

Earn SkyMiles for Hertz rentals. Elite members earn more:

  • Base members: 4 miles per dollar
  • Silver Medallion members: 5 miles per dollar
  • Gold Medallion members: 6 miles per dollar
  • Platinum Medallion members: 7 miles per dollar
  • Diamond Medallion members: 8 miles per dollar

Details about linking your Delta and Hertz accounts can be found here.

Lyft

Earn 1 mile per dollar for each Lyft ride. To enable this, link your Delta and Lyft accounts here.

Online Shopping

When shopping online, you can often earn additional miles, beyond those earned with your credit card, by starting your shopping with an online shopping portal. Skymiles Shopping is a portal that allows you to earn Delta miles.

Starbucks

Earn 1 mile per dollar spent at Starbucks. To enable this, link your Delta and Starbucks Rewards accounts here.

Other Earning Options

Delta lists other options for earning SkyMiles through partners here.

Spend miles

Booking flights with Delta miles is easy. On Delta.com, simply check the box to “Shop with miles” when searching for flights. Delta defaults to showing results for a week at a time, but you can then click “Price Calendar” to see results for 5 weeks at a time.

Award Booking Tips

Here are a few miscellaneous tips:

  • Book round-trip. Sometimes Delta charges fewer miles for round-trip awards.
  • Scroll down or sort. Delta won’t always show the best priced award at the top, especially when partner flights are involved.
  • Beware of basic economy. Free award changes and cancellations do not apply to basic economy tickets. You can still save a lot by booking basic economy, but it’s not worth it if you’re likely to want to change or cancel the flight.
  • Keep a Delta credit card. Cardholders of any Delta Gold, Delta Platinum, or Delta Reserve credit card automatically get a 15% discount on award flights (but only for bookings that are entirely flown by Delta).

15% Cardholder Discount (TakeOff 15)

Delta offers a 15% award discount to members who have a Delta Gold, Delta Platinum, or Delta Reserve card.  This discount is called “TakeOff 15.”  Discounts do not apply to itineraries that include partner flights, but otherwise they are applied across the board.

We did some research to see whether Delta simply increased award prices for those without credit cards, but found instead that this is a true discount.  Award prices relative to cash prices were pretty consistent before and after this feature was introduced and so we concluded that the 15% discount is real.  See: No catch -- Delta’s 15% discount is real.

Best Uses of Miles

In my experience, award flights average around 1.3 cents per mile in value, or 1.5 cents per mile after the 15% discount for cardholders (Note: that’s the average. You’ll often find awards offering less value as well). It is possible to do significantly better, though. For details, click one of the links below:

Great Value Options

Good Value Options

Award Partners

Flights on partner airlines can be booked with Delta SkyMiles as long as the partner has saver-level award space available for the given flight. The following partners are available to book online with Delta SkyMiles:

  • Aeroflot
  • Aeromexico
  • Aerolineas Argentinas
  • Alitalia
  • Air France
  • China Eastern
  • China Airlines
  • China Southern
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • KLM Royal Dutch Airlines
  • Korean Air
  • LATAM
  • Mandarin Airlines
  • Middle East Airlines
  • Saudia Airlines
  • Shanghai Airlines
  • Tarom Airlines
  • Vietnam Airlines
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • Virgin Australia
  • WestJet
  • Xiamen Airlines

Miles + Cash Awards

a screenshot of a phone

If you don’t have enough miles for a given award flight, Delta will sometimes let you choose Miles + Cash awards. Shown above is a standard award on top, with a miles + cash award below. Basically, this feature lets you indirectly buy needed miles for about 1.8 cents each. That’s not a great price considering that the per mile value for awards averages around 1.5 cents for Delta cardholders. On the other hand, it’s much cheaper than outright buying miles from Delta.

I recommend this only when you don’t have enough miles to book your flight (but you have almost enough).

Award Change & Cancellation Fees

For awards with travel originating in North America (including the Caribbean), award changes and cancellations are free. With changes, your award will be re-priced and so you may have to pay extra miles and/or taxes, but there is no fee for the change itself. With cancellations, your miles will be redeposited to your account and your form of payment will be reimbursed for any taxes and fees.

Use miles like money to book flights

There are two ways to use Delta Skymiles at a value of 1 cent each to book flights:

Pay with Miles


Delta's "Pay with Miles" feature is limited to primary cardholders of any Delta card (Blue, Gold, Platinum, or Reserve). This feature lets you pay for cash tickets in part or in full with Delta SkyMiles at a value of 1 cent per mile. You must pay in increments of 5,000 miles. Every 5,000 miles you apply decreases the ticket cost by $50. In other words, each mile is worth exactly 1 penny with this feature.
No miles earned: Only the portion paid in cash earns redeemable SkyMiles and MQDs (Medallion Qualifying Dollars). This reduces the value of the Pay with Miles feature.
Tip: Unless the full ticket amount is an exact multiple of $50, I recommend stopping short of paying the whole fare with miles since you'll get lower value from the last 5,000 miles. For example, if you want to use this feature and your ticket costs $228, I recommend paying 20,000 miles to decrease the cash cost to $28. Otherwise you would have to pay another 5,000 miles for that last $28 (which is a poor value).

Delta Vacations

Delta Vacations lets you pay for vacation packages (air+hotel or air+car) with Delta SkyMiles. Miles are worth exactly 1 cent each when used that way.

Non-flight options for spending miles

  • Flight upgrades: This usually offers poor value
  • Premium Delta SkyClub drinks: Miles can be used to pay for top-shelf liquor at a value of 1.5 cents per mile.
  • Delta gift cards: Don’t do this. You’ll get less than 1 cent per mile value.
  • Magazines: If you want to subscribe to one of the available magazines, this can be a great deal. More here: Mags for Miles.

Delta Elite Status

Most airlines offer extra benefits to their most valuable customers. This is usually handled through elite status. If you fly enough with an airline, you can become “elite”. Of course, not all elites are equal. Most airlines have multiple elite tiers to differentiate their valuable customers from their really valuable customers. And, of course, airlines offer the best perks to their highest tier elites.

Delta does the same. They offer elite tiers ranging from Silver status to Diamond status. Silver status perks are only slightly better than those you get from holding a Delta branded credit card. Diamond perks, though, can be extremely valuable.

Delta elite status requirements

a comparison of different colors To reach each elite tier, Delta SkyMiles members must earn the stated number of MQDs shown above. MQDs reset each calendar year. MQDs = "Medallion Qualifying Dollars." Medallion Qualifying Dollars are the sum total of your base-fare spend (e.g. doesn't include taxes) on Delta-marketed flights. Additional Details:
  • Award Tickets: Flights booked with Delta SkyMiles for Delta's own flights earn MQDs. Award tickets earn MQDs at a rate of 1 MQD per 100 SkyMiles redeemed (e.g. 1 cent per SkyMile).
  • Partner Flights: Paid flights booked on Delta partners earn MQDs as long as the member's Delta SkyMiles number is attached to the ticket. MQDs are calculated as a percentage of miles flown rather than the amount paid. Details, by partner, can be found here.
  • Exception Fares: Flights booked as part of vacation packages, cruise packages, consolidator fares, etc. are considered "exception fares".  With these flights, you'll earn miles based on the distance flown. Details can be found here.

Rollovers

Delta used to offer elite rollovers each year, but that ended in 2024 after one last chance at using rollover elite earnings. Those who had Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs) rolled over into 2024 will be offered to convert those MQMs as follows:

  • Convert to redeemable miles at a 2 to 1 ratio
  • Convert to Medallion Qualifying Dollars (MQDs) at a 10 to 1 ratio
  • Members with MQM Rollover balances over 100,000 can also choose to extend their 2024 Medallion Status (earned in 2023) for 1 year per every 100,000 Rollover MQMs.

Elite Benefits

Delta’s descriptions of elite benefits can be found here. Here's a summarized chart:
SILVER GOLD PLATINUM DIAMOND
Miles per dollar earned on paid flights 7 8 9 11
Free domestic upgrades to 1st Class Begins 24 hours before departure Begins 72 hours before departure Begins 120 hours before departure Begins 120 hours before departure
Free domestic upgrades to Comfort+ 24 hours before departure 72 hours before departure Shortly after ticketing Shortly after ticketing
CLEAR membership discount price $149 $149 $149 Free
Dedicated phone line Priority High Priority Higher Priority VIP Line
Free companion upgrades
Free preferred seat selection
Waived bag fees
Waived same day confirmed or standby change fees
Sky Priority boarding
Sky Priority expedited checked bags
Sky Team lounge access on international flights
Hertz elite status Five Star Five Star President's Circle President's Circle
Waived change & cancellation fees regardless of route
2024 Choice Benefits: Choose 1: Choose 3:
Upgrade certificates 4 Regional 4 Global (or 8 Regional or 2 Global & 4 Regional)
Statement Credits (for Delta Platinum and Reserve Cardholders) $200 $500
Starbucks® Rewards Stars 4,000 Stars 4,000 Stars
Delta Sky Club Executive Membership N/A Requires all 3 Choices
MQD Boost 500 MQDs 1,000 MQDs
Gift medallion status 2 Silver 2 Gold
Bonus miles 20K 25K
Delta Vacations Flight + Hotel Cert $400 $500
Sustainable Aviation Fuel Contribution $250 $250
Delta Travel Voucher $250 $250
2025 Choice Benefits Choose 1: Choose 3:
Upgrade certificates 4 Regional 4 Global (or 8 Regional or 2 Global & 4 Regional)
Statement Credits (for Delta Platinum and Reserve Cardholders) $400 $700
Starbucks® Rewards Stars 6,000 Stars 6,000 Stars
Delta Sky Club Individual Membership N/A Requires 2 Choices
Delta Sky Club Executive Membership N/A Requires 3 Choices
MQD Accelerator $1,000 MQDs $2,000 MQDs
Gift medallion status 2 Silver 2 Gold
Bonus miles 30K 35K
Delta Vacations Flight + Hotel Cert $400 $500
Sustainable Aviation Fuel Contribution $250 $250
Delta Travel Voucher $300 $350
Wheels up flight credit $1,500 $2,000
The elite benefits Greg has found to be most valuable are:
  • Unlimited complimentary upgrades (when available, upgrade from coach to first class on domestic flights). Higher status leads to better chance of upgrades.
  • Waived same-day confirmed fees and waived same-day standby fees (switch to different flight on same day as ticketed flight). Requires Gold or higher. Info about getting value from same day changes can be found here: Leveraging Delta’s Same Day Flight Changes.
  • Complementary Preferred seat selection (choose exit row seats with lots of legroom)
  • Complementary Comfort+ Seats (more leg room, free drinks, better snacks).
  • Regional upgrade certificates. While these rarely confirm before the flight, waitlisting a regional upgrade puts you to the front of the line for upgrading at the gate. This is great to use for flights where upgrades are most important to you. For example, I use these for flights of about 3 hours or longer. This is a choice benefit for Platinum and Diamond status. Upgrade certificates can be applied to both paid and award tickets.
  • Global upgrade certificates. Use these to upgrade from economy to Premium Select, or from Premium Select to business class on any flight when upgrade space is available. When you upgrade from economy to Premium Select, Delta will put you on the business class (Delta One) upgrade list 24 hours before your flight. This is a choice benefit for Diamond status only. Upgrade certificates can be applied to both paid and award tickets.
  • Free award changes and cancellations. This used to be huge, but now all awards originating in North America are free to change or cancel for all members. With Platinum and Diamond status, that benefit extends to flights originating elsewhere. Requires Platinum or higher for free changes on awards originating outside of North America.

Elite earning on flights

On Delta marketed flights, elite earnings are straightforward:

Earn 1 Medallion Qualifying Dollar (MQD) for each dollar spent towards the base fare (e.g. doesn’t include taxes).

There are exceptions where elite earnings are different from above:

  • Flights booked as part of cruise packages, vacation packages (other than Delta Vacations), consolidator fares, etc. are considered “exception fares”. With these flights, you’ll earn MQDs based a percentage of the distance flown. The specific percentage depends on the cabin class purchased. Details can be found here.
  • Partner flights that are not marketed by Delta also earn MQDs based on the fare class and distance flown. Details can be found here by partner airline.

Elite earning from credit cards

Delta offers a path to elite status that does not require flying. Via certain Delta branded American Express credit cards, it’s possible to spend your way to elite status. With a Delta Platinum card, you earn 1 MQD (Medallion Qualifying Dollar) per $20 of eligible spend. With a Delta Reserve card, you earn 1 MQD per $10 of eligible spend. Additionally, each of these cards offer an annual $2,500 MQD Headstart.

For more details, see: How to earn Delta elite status without flying.

Choice benefits

Delta's elite program offers "Choice Benefits" to those who achieve Platinum and Diamond Medallion status. When a member earns Platinum Medallion status they can select one Choice Benefit, and when a member earns Diamond Medallion status they can select three more. Frequent Miler's picks for the best Choice Benefits are in bold:
2024 Choice Benefits Platinum (Choose 1) Diamond (Choose 3)
Upgrade Certificates 4 Regional 4 Global, or 8 Regional, or 2 Global + 4 Regional
Statement Credits for Delta Platinum & Reserve cardholders $200 $500
Starbucks® Rewards Stars 4,000 Stars 4,000 Stars
Delta Sky Club Executive Membership N/A Requires 3 Choice Benefits
Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQD) Earn Boost 500 MQDs 1,000 MQDs
Gift Medallion Status 2 Silver Medallion 2 Gold Medallion
Bonus Miles 20,000 25,000
Delta Vacations® Experience (Flight + Hotel) $400 $500
Sustainable Aviation Fuel Contribution $250 $250
Delta Travel Voucher $250 $250
The choices shown above are available for those who earned Platinum or Diamond status in 2023 for the 2024 elite year. For the 2025 elite year (status earned in 2024), the following Choice Benefits are available:
2025 Choice Benefits Platinum (Choose 1) Diamond (Choose 3)
Upgrade Certificates 4 Regional 4 Global, or 8 Regional, or 2 Global + 4 Regional
Statement Credits for Delta Platinum & Reserve cardholders $400 $700
Starbucks® Rewards Stars 6,000 Stars 6,000 Stars
Delta Sky Club Individual Membership N/A Requires 2 Choice Benefits
Delta Sky Club Executive Membership N/A Requires 3 Choice Benefits
MQD Accelerator 1,000 MQDs 2,000 MQDs
Gift Medallion Status 2 Silver Medallion 2 Gold Medallion
Bonus Miles 30,000 35,000
Delta Vacations® Experience (Flight + Hotel) $400 $500
Sustainable Aviation Fuel Contribution $250 $250
Delta Travel Voucher $300 $350
Wheels Up Flight Credit $1,500 $2,000

For more details, see our Guide to Delta Choice Benefits.

Status Match Challenge

If you have elite status with another airline, you may be able to qualify for Delta’s Status Match Challenge. This will give you three months of Delta Medallion status plus the ability to earn a full year of status with fewer MQDs than normally required.

To extend your matched status past three months, you must earn the following numbers of MQDs during the three month trial period:

a brown circle with blue text

If you plan to meet the challenge requirements, the ideal time to enroll is early in the calendar year. Regardless of when you enroll, if you meet the challenge requirements, your status will be good for the rest of that calendar year, all of the next and through January of the year after that.

Full details of Delta’s Status Match Challenge can be found here.

Reclaim Status

For those who lose elite status or get lesser status due to life events that temporarily led to less travel, Delta offers a program called “Reclaim My Status”. With this program, you can request to get your status back and, if approved, you’ll get back your status for three months. Then, if you meet MQD requirements within those 3 months, you can keep status for the rest of the current calendar year, all of the next year, and through January of the year after that.

What counts as a life event for reclaiming status?

Delta offers these examples of eligible life events: “becoming a new parent, changing jobs, going back to school, experiencing a medical issue, needing to take care of a friend or family member or another life event“. They seem to accept almost any reason except they explicitly do not accept COVID-19 as a valid reason.

How to submit your request:

Visit this Delta page and click “Enroll Now”

What are the requirements for extending status beyond three months?

In 2024, you must earn enough MQDs (Medallion Qualifying Dollars) for your level of reclaimed status as shown in this graphic:

MQDs to meet the above thresholds can only be earned in the following ways:

  • On Delta-marketed flights operated by Delta or by one of our partner airlines*
  • With your eligible Delta SkyMiles American Express Card
    • MQD Boost: Earn $1 MQD for each $20 of purchases on your Delta SkyMiles® Platinum or Platinum Business Card or $1 MQD for each $10 of purchases on your Delta SkyMiles Reserve or Reserve Business Card and get closer to Medallion Status for the next Medallion Year
  • Delta Vacations®**

More details can be found here: Reclaim My Status

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Tim

Does anyone know if Delta has established an “official” policy for granting Choice Benefits to Platinum and Diamond members who extended their 2024 status to 2025 and beyond using the 100K MQM conversion option? Everything I read implies that Choice Benefits are linked to medallion status (however earned). If that were the case, then I should see 2025 Choice Benefits in my SkyMiles profile now (I don’t). I contacted Delta to find out and received two different answers from Delta: “no Choice Benefits unless spending thresholds are met” and “Choice Benefits are awarded to members who have extended their status, but can’t be selected until 01 February of the new medallion year”. These conflicting answers suggests that confusion on this subject exists within Delta and may also indicate that this specific scenario was not anticipated. There must be a lot of us who fall into this category – I extended my Diamond status thru Feb 2029. Anyone have the answer and (hopefully) a written reference we can cite?

Tim

Thanks Greg. Happy to have the straight scoop. Now I know I don’t need to waste any choice benefits to meet the spending threshold!

Brian

Very complicated program. Add seems like it offers very little value to customers. Lounges are overcrowded and access is limited. And if you want to fly international, you’re flying on a piece of junk 767? No thanks. Much better value out there on other airlines. I feel bad for anyone who is hub captive. Stockholm syndrome.

Mac

@greg Pay with Miles tickets earn MQDs on the full purchase, not just the cash portion. Additionally, all upsells earn MQDs. Also might be worthwhile highlighting Reclaim My Status as a unique benefit to Medallions.

Mac

Check again 😉
Also for Choice Benefits, Wheels Up credit is $1500 and $2000, and Starbucks has increased to 6000.

Lee

Delta needs to streamline/simplify its tier status qualification system. It needs to motivate customers to spend money in all of its revenue channels. If a customer is generating $X of revenue or net income to the company, do shareholders give a (poop) that it was generated from flights or hotel bookings or rental car bookings or the shopping portal? Moreover, if employees receive profit-sharing retirement plan contributions, how might they feel about it? Management is late to the party on this concept.

Jessica A

As of Oct 31, 2022 the 5,000 Marriott Bonvoy pts to Delta SkyMiles initiative ended. It’s now just the 3:1 points basis.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jessica A
Per Clausen

I was just in contact with Delta Skymiles, and they told me that the 2 gifted Gold memberships (as a Diamondmember choice benefit), counts as 2(two) Choice benefits.
One Gold membership = One Choice benefit.
Are they wrong about that?

Per Clausen

Awesome, thanks for clarifying Greg!

Brian

I am currently Gold Medallion and can get Platinum if I spend another 25k on my Delta card by the end of the year. But is it better to wait until January? I am very confused with all of the accelerators and extensions being offered right now.

[…] if you are into flying Delta I guess: Delta Sky Miles Complete Guide. Hope they updated it […]

Scott

If you earn 135k MQMs but only spend enough on cards to MQD waive to platinum (not diamond) will 60k MQMs rollover or only 10k?

Delta

Many years I have earned status the hard way flying over 150 segments a year. At the end of the day they are the most reliable airline I can fly thus I stick with them over American.

Christian

One major negative of SkyMiles that I didn’t see mentioned is the ongoing substantial to massive devaluations. This is almost a point of pride with Delta to destroy value for customers and frankly it rankles. I’m an ex-Delta fanatic but the ongoing negative changes have made it unlikely that I’ll fly them again by choice. Still, as you point out, some people will benefit from the current system.

David T Duff

I wont fly delta airlines for the same reason I wont eat out of the toilet! I must say Greg you did make delta & AmEx look very temping! in light of recent voter suppression laws in Georgia that Delta airline takes credit for stating they were actively involved in….WHAT!!! why are they involved in politics? shitty politics? the voters all of us have put in covid-19 funds that delta has taken. delta is totally off my plans & I not to happy with united also dragging that doctor down the aisle. why cant these company’s do good things?