Pondering my own great Delta mileage run (5 years Diamond)


Last week I wrote about my wife’s “last, great Delta mileage run.”  She is fairly close to achieving Delta’s 2 Million Miler status and that will mean lifetime Platinum Medallion status.  And, critically, this year (2023) is the last time that credit card spend can move her closer to Million Miler status, and so we’re going all-out with massive credit card spend (primarily through Manufactured Spending techniques where we’ll get most of our money back) in order to get her within easy striking distance of 2 Million Miler.  To me, that decision was easy.  With one last mighty push, she’ll get top-tier Diamond status for 7 years plus near-top-tier Platinum status for life (or until Delta changes that program).  My own situation is not so clear.  I’m too far from 2 Million Miler status to make a meaningful dent in the gap this year.  Instead, my decision is solely about whether to earn Diamond status for several years with one last credit card based mileage run of my own…


When Delta first announced draconian changes to their elite program for 2024 and beyond (which they later walked back), I was ready to give up chasing Delta elite status for good.  To be clear, I would still fly Delta.  I think they’re the best domestic carrier, and since I live near a Delta hub (Detroit), they offer the best route network for me, by far.  But, I figured that I was better off simply paying more to sit in the front of the plane when that’s important to me rather than wasting time, effort, and cash towards earning elite status.

Delta’s revisions to their 2024 plans changed things a bit.  My plan not to chase Delta elite status in the future remains, but I now have an opportunity to keep elite status earned this year for several years into the future.  Delta’s revised revision offers the option to extend the elite status earned this year for 2024 by one year for each 100,000 MQMs (Medallion Qualifying Miles) rolled over at the end of this year.

I currently have Platinum status for 2024 and about 440,000 MQMs.  If I don’t do anything more with Delta this year, I’ll roll over ~365,000 MQMs (440K minus 75K for achieving Platinum status).  With that haul, I could convert 300,000 of those MQMs into 3 extra years of Platinum Medallion status.  After those years are up, my 1 Million Miler status will “soft land” me to Gold Medallion status for life.

Background Summary:

  • I have already secured Platinum Medallion status for 2024.
  • I have enough MQMs rolling over to extend Platinum status for 3 additional years
  • I have 1 Million Miler status, but I’m too far from 2 Million Miler to get significantly closer

Why is 2 Million Miler out of reach?

I currently have 1,586,930 lifetime MQMs and need 2 million to get to the next level of Million Miler status.  This year, all MQMs earned will get me closer.  Starting next year, though, only butt-in-seat miles flown will count towards Million Miler status.

Delta’s new program offers Gold Medallion status to 1 Million Milers and Platinum Medallion status to 2 Million Milers.  In my opinion, Platinum is a big leap over Gold status, but can I get there?

With a tremendous amount of spend, it’s currently possible to earn 160,000 MQMs in a year (that changes completely next year when Delta will stop counting MQMs at all).  I’ve already earned 35K MQMs that way, so I really only have 125K more that can easily be earned.  Yes, it’s possible to get friends in on the action with spend on their Delta Reserve cards where they would then gift the bonus MQMs to me, but that doesn’t seem practical at the moment.  So, with a lot of spend, I could get 125K MQMs closer to 2 Million Miler status and that would still leave me 288,000 miles short.  And starting next year, there won’t be any way to spend my way to lifetime status with credit cards.  So, let’s imagine that I fly 25,000 miles per year on Delta and its partners.  In that case, it will still take me 12 more years to get to 2 Million Miler status.  And, what if that estimate is high?  At 15K miles flown per year it would take me 19 years to get there.  Those are very long timeframes with or without a big push this year, and so I don’t see any reason to put time and effort now into this particular effort.

2 Million Miler Summary: Regardless of what I do this year, I’ll still be many, many years away from 2 Million Miler status so it’s not worth pursuing right now.

Should I push for another year of Platinum status?

As things stand right now, I have earned Platinum status for 2024 and I’ll have ~365,000 MQMs rolling over.  Since each 100K MQMs of rollover can mean another year of extended status, the question is whether I should try to earn 35,000 more MQMs before the end of the year since that would be enough for another year of extended status.

I have an upcoming trip where I expect to earn around 5000 MQMs, so I’ll be 30,000 MQMs short of another year of Platinum status.  I could get there with $60,000 spend on a Delta Reserve card.  Until next year when all of this changes, Delta Reserve cards offer 15K MQM boosts with each $30K of calendar year spend, up to $120K spend.  With my worst case cost of easy manufactured spend at 3%, we see that $60K spend could cost me up to $1,800.  And, in fact, since I’ll be using up better techniques to get my wife to 2 Million Miler status through spend, I think that 3% is the right cost for me to use for this analysis.

Since I’ve already secured Gold Medallion status for life, the question now is whether Platinum status is worth $1,800 for a single extra year?  In my post, What is Delta elite status worth? I conservatively estimated the incremental value of Platinum over Gold status at $500.  Easy answer: No, I shouldn’t spend $1,800 to earn another year of Platinum status which I value at about $500.

Here’s a summary of advantages of Platinum status over Gold:

  • Free Upgrades to First Class Beginning 120 Hours Before Departure
  • Free Upgrades to Comfort+ Shortly After Ticketing
  • Dedicated Higher Priority Phone Line
  • Hertz President’s Circle Elite Status
  • Earn 9 miles per dollar on paid flights (1X more than Gold)
  • Waived award change/cancel fees (Delta offers free award changes and cancellations to everyone for flights from North America.  Platinum elites, though, get free award changes and cancellations for all awards regardless of the flight departure point)
  • Choice Benefits: 4 regional upgrade certs, for example

Additional Platinum Year Summary: The cost to earn another year of Platinum status rollover is too high compared to the relative value of Platinum status over Gold status (which I’ll have anyway).

Should I push for Diamond?

In my post, What is Delta elite status worth? I conservatively estimated the value of Diamond status at $1,600 above Platinum status.

Now, let’s assume that a push to Diamond status would achieve two things: 1) Diamond elite status for 2024; and 2) 400K MQMs rolled over.  If both happen, then this final push would give me Diamond status for 5 years.  That’s a value of $8,000 ($1,600 x 5) over Platinum status and even more value over Gold status.

Here’s a summary of advantages of Diamond status over Platinum:

  • Free Upgrades to First Class Beginning 120 Hours Before Departure
  • Free CLEAR Membership
  • Board first, even when seated in economy
  • Dedicated VIP Phone Line
  • Earn 11 miles per dollar on paid flights (2X more than Platinum)
  • 3 Diamond Choice Benefits: Global Upgrade certs, $500 credit card fee waiver, 35K redeemable miles, etc.

The Diamond benefits I value the most are the dedicated phone line and the Choice Benefits, the latter of which have real material value.

For me to achieve Diamond status this year, I’ll need to complete $250,000 spend on Delta credit cards to get a Diamond MQD waiver.  I’ve already spent $80K, so I would need $170K additional spend before the end of this year.  If we use that 3% cost of spend number discussed above, $170K of spend would cost me $5,100.  That’s significantly less than the estimated $8,000 value of 5 years of Diamond status.  But would I really get that many years of status?  Will I have enough MQMs rolling over?

If I achieve $170K of spend via $120K of spend on a Delta Reserve card and $50K of spend on a Delta Platinum card, I’ll also earn MQMs from that spend, as follows:

  • Delta Reserve $120K spend: Earn 60K MQMs
  • Delta Platinum $50K spend: Earn 20K MQMs

I currently have ~440K MQMs and expect to earn at least 5K more from flying.  Then, with the 80K earned through card spend, I would end with up to 525K MQMs.  125K of those MQMs would be subtracted for my 2024 Diamond Medallion status and 400K MQMs would roll over.  So, yep, I would be able to use those 400K rolled over MQMs to extend Diamond status for 4 additional years for a total of 5 years of Diamond status altogether.

Overall, the benefits do appear to outweigh the cost here.  I’m still a little on the fence about this though since I’ve committed to even more credit card spend for my wife to achieve 7 years of Diamond status plus a lifetime of Platinum status.

Diamond Push Summary: It would cost me about $5,000 to get to Diamond status and to earn enough MQMs to rollover 4 extra years of Diamond status (for a total of 5 years of Diamond).  Compared to the conservative value of Diamond status over Platinum status for 5 years ($8,000), this is a good choice.  That said, I don’t know that I have the bandwidth to do this spend and the spend I’ve committed to do for my wife.

Bottom Line

I have an opportunity to earn 5 years of Delta Medallion Diamond Elite status with big, big credit card manufactured spend.  It will cost me about $5,000 in fees to generate the spend and get the money back to pay my credit card bill.  In return, I estimate getting over $8,000 in incremental value from that Diamond status.

Despite the math working out in favor, I haven’t yet fully committed to this approach.  I’m currently extremely focused on my wife’s path toward 7 years of Diamond status plus a lifetime of Platinum status.  And, to the extent that my wife and I will be travelling together, the incremental value of me also having Diamond status is lower since Diamond benefits apply to up to 1 travel companion.

On the other hand, this is it.  2023 is probably the last time where it will be possible to earn multiple years of top tier status with a single big effort.  A similar thing happened years ago when Marriott bought SPG and announced that they would no longer offer lifetime Titanium Elite status past the current year.  It was possible back then to earn lifetime status through a combination of tricks which I don’t even remember today.  I was tempted, but I didn’t do it.  And, to some degree, I’ve regretted it since.  I could imagine this being similar, or worse.  For example, I could imagine Delta adding more valuable new perks for Diamond Elites in the coming years.  And, if so, maybe I’ll kick myself for passing on this opportunity.  On the other hand, it could go completely the other way with elite devaluations.  Only time will tell which path is better.

There are some other factors at play that I didn’t discuss in the post, above.  For example, writing and talking about this stuff is my full time career.  Going for Diamond status and trying to get full value from Diamond status can lead to valuable blog and podcast content.  Additionally, having Diamond status could qualify me for valuable status matches and challenges with other airlines.  I doubt we’ll see anything as generous as the Alaska and JetBlue status matches again, but you never know.

Overall, I’m leaning towards doing it.  What do you think?  Please comment below.

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