The last great Delta mileage run

87

Delta’s revised SkyMiles plans for 2024 and beyond present an incredible opportunity.  With considerable cost and effort through the remainder of this year, my wife has the opportunity to earn 7 years of Delta Diamond status, and lifetime Platinum.  This is an opportunity we can’t pass up…

a close up of credit cards

Overview

My wife currently has Delta Diamond Medallion status, but she’s on track to drop down to Platinum status in 2024.  She currently has over 600,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs) sitting in her Delta account, but that’s not enough to earn Diamond status due to the current $20,000 Medallion Qualifying Dollars (MQDs) requirement.  Meanwhile, she is about 150,000 MQMs away from earning 2 Million Miler status.

Now, consider two important things we learned about Delta’s revised SkyMiles program:

  1. Increased status levels for Million Milers starting in 2024:
    • 6M+ from Diamond Medallion to Delta 360°™
    • 5M from Platinum Medallion to Delta 360°™
    • 4M from Platinum Medallion to Diamond Medallion
    • 3M from Gold Medallion to Diamond Medallion
    • 2M from Gold Medallion to Platinum Medallion
    • 1M from Silver Medallion to Gold Medallion
  2. Rollover MQMs: Members with MQM Rollover balances over 100,000 can choose to extend their 2024 Medallion Status for 1 year per every 100,000 Rollover MQMs.

The first point, above, means that if my wife gets to 2 Million Miler status, she’ll have Platinum Medallion status for life (or until Delta revises the program again).  The second point means that if my wife can get to Diamond status now for the 2024 elite year, she can turn in her rollover MQMs for many years of additional Diamond status.

MQDs vs. Diamond MQD Waiver

a comparison of different colors
This chart shows Delta’s 2023 requirements for earning 2024 elite status. In 2024, the requirements for 2025 elite status and beyond will change to be based entirely on MQDs.

There are two options for my wife to earn Diamond status this year.  One is to pay enough for flights (which must be flown this year) to get to $20,000 MQDs.  That’s a very tall order considering that she only has $2,845 MQDs at the moment.  If we were planning much earlier in the year, we might have been able to make it work through creative mileage running (currently there are tricks for earning more MQDs with partner bookings, but those tricks go away next year).  As things stand right now, though, we simply don’t have time.  We already have trips planned and work to do.  It’s not going to happen.

The other option is to put $250,000 spend on Delta Platinum and/or Delta Reserve credit cards in order to earn a Diamond MQD Waiver.  She has already put $64,000 of spend on her Delta Reserve card and so she is “only” $186,000 short.  She will also earn MQMs along the way to hopefully get her to 2 Million Miler status.

Credit card spend approach

My wife needs to spend an additional $186,000 on Delta Platinum and/or Reserve cards in order to get a Diamond MQD Waiver with $250,000 total spend.  She currently has a Delta Reserve Business card with $64K year-to-date spend, and a Delta Platinum consumer card with $0 to-date spend.

  • Goal: $250,000 Delta card spend | 2 Million Miler
  • Status: $64,000 Delta card spend | 1,847K Lifetime MQMs

Delta Reserve Business Card

If my wife spends $56,000 more on her Delta Reserve Business card, she’ll earn two 15K status boosts for a total of 30,000 additional MQMs.

Status compared to goal after completing the spend described above:

  • Goal: $250,000 Delta card spend | 2 Million Miler
  • Status: $120,000 Delta card spend | 1,877K Lifetime MQMs

Delta Platinum Consumer Card

If my wife spends $50,000 on her Delta Platinum consumer card, she’ll earn two 10K status boosts for a total of 20,000 more MQMs.

Status compared to goal after completing the cumulative spend described above:

  • Goal: $250,000 Delta card spend | 2 Million Miler
  • Status: $170,000 Delta card spend | 1,897K Lifetime MQMs

Delta Reserve Consumer Card

If my wife upgrades her Platinum card to the Reserve card, she can then earn four 15K status boosts with $120K spend for a total of 60,000 more MQMs.

Status compared to goal after completing the cumulative spend described above:

  • Goal: $250,000 Delta card spend | 2 Million Miler
  • Status: $290,000 Delta card spend | 1,957K Lifetime MQMs

Delta Platinum Business Card

My wife could downgrade her Delta Reserve Business card to a Platinum card.  She can then earn two 10K status boosts with $50K spend for a total of 20,000 more MQMs.

Status compared to goal after completing the cumulative spend described above:

  • Goal: $250,000 Delta card spend | 2 Million Miler
  • Status: $340,000 Delta card spend | 1,977K Lifetime MQMs

Adjusting the credit card plan (Part 1)

The plan shown above leads to more credit card spend than is needed for my wife to get to Diamond status, but it still leaves her short of 2 Million Miler status.  Another approach is to design her plan to get her almost exactly to $250,000 in spend, and then for me to earn status boosts on my own Delta Reserve card in order to gift her the extra MQMs she needs for 2 Million Miler status.

Here’s a revised approach:

  • Wife’s Delta Reserve Business Card: Spend $56K, Get 30K MQMs
  • Wife’s Delta Platinum Business Card (downgraded from Reserve): Spend $50K, Get 20K MQMs
  • Wife’s Delta Platinum Consumer Card: Spend $50K, Get 20K MQMs
  • Wife’s Delta Reserve Consumer Card (upgraded from Platinum): Spend $30K, Get 15K MQMs

Status after my wife’s card spend:

  • Starting Status: $64,000 Delta card spend | 1,847K Lifetime MQMs
  • Goal: $250,000 Delta card spend | 2 Million Miler
  • Status after card spend: $250,000 Delta card spend | 1,932K Lifetime MQMs

Then, I could add $120K spend on my own Delta Reserve card in order to get me closer to the Diamond status waiver and to gift four 15K MQM boosts to gift to her.

  • Status after MQM gifts: $250,000 Wife’s Delta card spend + $120K of my card spend | 1,992K Lifetime MQMs

Adjusting the Credit Card plan (Part 2)

It occurs to me that we don’t really have to try hard to get my wife to 2 Million Miler status by the end of this year.  Thanks to the ability to extend her Diamond status with rollover MQMs, my wife will have top-tier status for years to come.  She will get closer to 2 Million Miler status during that time through regular travel.  Starting in 2024, progress towards Million Miler status will be based entirely on miles flown.  So, let’s assume she flies at least 15K miles with Delta or Delta partners each year.  If she gets at least 5 extra years of Diamond status thanks to MQM rollovers, then if you count 2024 as well, she’ll have 6 years of Diamond status in which she’ll be earning 15,000 miles each year towards 2 million miler status.  If we end this year with her being about 90,000 miles short of 2 Million Miler, I feel comfortable assuming that she’ll earn 2 Million Miler status before her Diamond status runs out.

So… let’s take my gifted MQMs off the table altogether.  She doesn’t need them.  That brings us to this plan:

  • Wife’s Delta Reserve Business Card: Spend $56K, Get 30K MQMs
  • Wife’s Delta Platinum Business Card (downgraded from Reserve): Spend $50K, Get 20K MQMs
  • Wife’s Delta Platinum Consumer Card: Spend $50K, Get 20K MQMs
  • Wife’s Delta Reserve Consumer Card (upgraded from Platinum): Spend $30K, Get 15K MQMs
  • Starting Status: $64,000 Delta card spend | 1,847K Lifetime MQMs
  • Goal: $250,000 Delta card spend | 2 Million Miler
  • Status after card spend: $250,000 Delta card spend | 1,932K Lifetime MQMs

Calculating Rollover MQMs

My wife currently has 607,608 MQMs.  With the card spend plan outlined above, she’ll earn 85,000 additional MQMs for a total of 692,608 MQMs.  Then, when she earns Diamond status, she’ll lose the 125,000 MQMs needed for Diamond status.  Her rollover total then will be 567,608 MQMs.  That’s enough for 5 years of Diamond extensions!  It’s also awfully close to 6 years of Diamond extensions.  Hmmmm.  Maybe I should gift MQMs to my wife after all.  If I gift her 30,000 MQMs from two Delta Reserve status boosts, and if she earns at least 2,392 MQMs through flights by the end of 2023 (and I think that she will do so easily), that will give her one more year of Diamond status!  Between the status she earns for 2024 and 6 years of extensions, she’ll have a total of 7 years of Diamond status!

Big Big Spend

The plan now requires the following spend:

  • Wife’s Delta Reserve Business Card: Spend $56K, Get 30K MQMs
  • Wife’s Delta Platinum Business Card (downgraded from Reserve): Spend $50K, Get 20K MQMs
  • Wife’s Delta Platinum Consumer Card: Spend $50K, Get 20K MQMs
  • Wife’s Delta Reserve Consumer Card (upgraded from Platinum): Spend $30K, Get 15K MQMs
  • My Delta Reserve card: Spend $60K, Get 30K MQMs to gift to my wife (note that we could have her spend this amount instead, but by doing the spend on my Delta Reserve card, I also get closer to a Diamond status waiver)

Total spend required: $246,000

Wow.

We can do this through a combination of organic spend, manufactured spending techniques, and overpaying estimated taxes.  How much would it cost to generate $246K in spend?  Let’s say that, worst case, we end up paying 3% in fees or lost interest (due to money being tied up) altogether.  In that case, the cost for my wife to get 7 years of Diamond status will be 3% of $246K = $7,380.

$7,380 sounds like a lot, but I think it’s a bargain when you consider that she’ll earn 7 years of Diamond status plus a lifetime of Platinum status.  Above and beyond the status benefits, consider that we’ll also earn 246,000 redeemable miles with all of that spend.  That’s worth a minimum of $2,460 in Delta flights.  Plus, and much more significantly, we’ll gain 7 years of valuable Diamond status.  In my post, “What is Delta elite status worth?” I conservatively estimated the value of Diamond status at $2,600.  So, 7 years of Diamond status is conservatively worth $2,600 x 7 = $18,200.  And that’s not considering the value of lifetime Platinum status!  After her 7 years of Diamond status she’ll have Platinum status from then on.  I conservatively value Platinum status at $900, so if she travels for just 10 more years after her Diamond status runs out, that’s another $9,000 in value.

Note: Manufactured Spending techniques are ways to increase credit card spend and to get your money back.  When I write about spending huge dollar amounts like this, I don’t mean that we will be out that much money.  For many years my wife and I used manufactured spend techniques to earn Delta Diamond status with $250K annual spend, so this is more of the same, but on a greatly accelerated timeframe.  I do not recommend this to others!  It took years to learn the tricks and to slowly ramp up spend to avoid Amex financial reviews, but we’re now in the position where the spend described above seems possible.

Bottom Line

My wife has a one-time opportunity to earn Diamond status for seven years by putting a huge amount of spend on Delta cards within a very short period of time.  Additionally, this will get her within striking distance of lifetime Platinum status.  She’ll never have this opportunity again and so she’s going for it.  With my help, of course.

Next I need to evaluate my own Delta status to see what I’ll do.  I’m not nearly as close to 2 Million Miler status, nor do I have as many MQMs rolling over.  Still, this is the last opportunity ever to use credit card spend to get closer to the next Million Miler level, and it’s my only opportunity to get multiple years of Diamond status with a single big push.  I still need to run the numbers, but I’m very tempted to go for it.  In fact, a careful reader may have noticed that I didn’t exactly optimize my wife’s plans.  She could earn more MQMs with around the same spend by reducing spend on Platinum cards and increasing spend on Reserve cards.  But with the plan shown above, I’m preserving the possibility of gifting Sky Miles in the other direction.  Maybe I’m the one who will need more MQMs and so I’m reserving the possibility of increasing spend on her Delta Reserve cards to gift MQMs to me.  To be continued…

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87 Comments
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ffI

Greg
If you can do 260k spend, you can do 480k !
After you get her to about 1.9M gift all the MQM to yourself

  • and don’t forget your Plat and Reserve cards

Let us see you get both to 2MM! Show us it can be done!

Mr Rodgers

Talk about #firstworldproblems, sheesh

Susan

Ok guys…maybe you can help with my situation. I am Diamond and will be Diamond for 2024 once I complete my travel in Nov/Dec.
I am 128,000 MQMs from being a Million Miler.
I’ll have about 366,000 roll over MQMs THIS year.

What magic can I make happen 😉

Pedro

Can someone explain how a traveler could have over 600k in MQM but less than 3k in MQD? What am I missing? Thanks. I thought the headline was SUPER misleading. And the article itself incredibly confusing.

Lee

Credit card spending would earn MQMs alone. Not MQDs. With all four key Delta cards, one could earn 160k MQMs per year. One’s spouse could gift the person 120k MQMs. So, it was quite possible for someone to rack up 280k MQMs per year. Then, if the person either didn’t fly or only did award travel during COVID, you would not have earned MQDs. But, you would have all these MQMs. Without MQDs, tier status would not be triggered and MQMs, rolled over. (Besides Delta extended everyone’s tier status.). Do that for three years.

Pedro

Thank you very much for that explanation. That makes sense the way you explained it.

Lee

You are welcome.

Chris

I am sure your wife is a lovely lady – but who cares about this extremely specific situation? That is a lot of words to spend to cover something that seems….well totally self centered. Historically I have found some of your articles interesting and applicable. I guess that just ended. Kind of like Delta having some great corner cutting options. Next time think about writing something for the people with 1.4 MM or 900K. Total waste of time. The readjustment that Delta made keeps 1 MMers at Gold. If you are sitting on 165K MQMs for the year, then at least you can extend your Platinum status into 2025 if you made platinum this year with the 25K spend on your Amex. Regardless – the real fun has stopped.

Lee

Have you considered that Greg’s story (or anyone else’s story) might cause a reader to say “hey, wait a second”? Sure, the scenario as a whole might be different. But, some small detail affects that reader. So, perhaps this story was a waste of time for you but it was golden for the next guy. I’m not certain this entered your mind.

Steve A

I see that you are talking about transferring MQM’s. Who can do that? Is it only someone with a Reserve card? Can my wife transfer some of her MQM’s to my account in 2023. She is just becoming a million miler and uses my Delta platinum card.

Lee

Correct. MQMs earned from the Reserve Card and only that card can be transferred to another person.

Matt

Sheesh, how much money do you have?

Lee

It’s called Manufactured Spending not actual spending. Look it up.

Matt

Wow, thanks for your kind response! What a piece of work you are, I’m glad you know Greg’s money so well to tell me that he can manufacture over $200k of spend in 2 months’ time.

Lee

Greg expressly stated that he did a mix of organic spending, MS, and paying taxes. Read the article again. I’m not trying to be rude; I’m just talking basic etiquette. And, if Greg is the seasoned veteran I believe him to be and as I know other seasoned MSers can, $100k per month is doable. Pax vobis cum.

bilo34

This will probably never happen but I’m just here waiting for the eventual or not day when you give more insight into your MS process

Anonymous flyer

If he owns a business and a credit card reader, he can charge the dollars on the credit card and wait for Amex to send the funds to the business. This is the only way I can see this “MS” working.

Lee

Not correct. If you are truly interested in learning how one can, explore Flyer Talk.

Lee

Someone wants Greg to share his MS strategies. Seems like a fair request. So, why is someone else giving a thumbs down to such a request?

dee

SOunds complicated and a lot to do.. I did 45,000 o my delta card and did not get enough to get to my 2 MM goal –I have 40,000 to go..

Lee

It is a lot to do. But, the rewards are there for those who are willing to do the work. Pun intended.

Lee

Under the current system, MQMs from credit card spending counts towards Million Miler status. Under the new system, credit card spending does not — only current year status. Big demotivator. Delta needs to rethink this.

Gene

@ Greg — You state that “currently there are tricks for earning more MQDs with partner bookings, but those tricks go away next year”. Is that true? I thought the only change here was a reduction in multipliers for partner MQDs. For example, I thought that AM/AF/KL discount business class MQD-crediting was declining from 40% of distance flown this year to 30% next year. Is there something else I am missing?

NK3

You are correct. I highlighted this point in a comment below. The percentage is going down, and you also lose the 50% bump in MQMs next year, but the deals are not totally gone. For example, in 2019 I jumped on a deal where business class on KLM from the US to Thailand was just over $2k (wanted to go there anyways). I ended up earning over $8k MQDs and 30k MQMs. With the formula next year I would earn $6k MQDs and 20k towards million miler status. Not as good, for sure, but still 3x more MQDs than dollars spent.

Kelly Green

That was the most confusing thing I ever read. And then you say don’t try this? Totally stupid read

Lee

And, quantum mechanics is confusing to a freshman. Greg is talking upper division Delta. He makes perfect sense.

Frequent Miler Superfan

I don’t fly international so i couldn’t grasp the quantum mechanics either

Lee

In time, Grasshopper.

Beth

shouldn’t you also include the opportunity cost of your manufactured spending? I mean that you are giving up at least 2% cashback if you were to use your cashback card to make the $256k spend. This is in addition to the “lost interest and fees” you calculated.

Carl

How much would it cost to generate $246K in spend? Let’s say that, worst case, we end up paying 3% in fees or lost interest (due to money being tied up) altogether. In that case, the cost for my wife to get 7 years of Diamond status will be 3% of $246K = $7,380.

The opportunity cost of cashback is not in addition to the fees. It’s either one or the other.

Last edited 5 months ago by Carl
Lee

Top tier status in any program achieved solely via MS will typically cost $4k to $6k per year. (Actual / opportunity cost combined.)

Lee

Which is why I say to take the $4k to $6k and pay for the upgrade at the time of booking.

Sco

It might be cheaper and easier for your wife to just move in with Maisie for a few months 🙂

You estimate the cost of your plan at $7,380 (at 3% which I’m assuming is conservative), but it seems like it will take a lot of effort and is complicated enough that things could go wrong (Amex putting temporary freezes on your account, the upgrades/downgrades not timing right, etc). On the other hand, the high cost and low effort option would be to just buy an overpriced business ticket somewhere for $17,155. I guess I would personally be looking at a hybrid strategy where I would first seriously consider re-booking any planned travel for the rest of the year to move it to Delta. Assuming the tickets you have are cancellable/refundable on other carriers, the marginal cost of moving them to Delta could be a cost-effective way of easily getting those MQDs. Then use the credit cards to get whatever remaining MQDs.

Like others, I’m also struggling to see how the marginal benefits of Diamond over Platinum are worth the cost for your wife if she is only flying 15k miles per year. I’m assuming that most of the value would come from using the GUCs on longhaul trips…but even then it seems like you might be better off doing the MS that you are planning on other more valuable cards and then just booking the biz class tickets you want with those miles.

Lastly, don’t forget that Delta could very easily make changes to Diamond benefits at some point in the next 7 years.

Aloha808

“Then use the credit cards to get whatever remaining MQDs.” Did you mean MQMs? And at this point I think it’s been established that this status run is more for fun than for efficiency.

Sco

Yes, sorry. I’m not a Delta flyer, so I’m trying to pick up the terminology and rules on the fly so I can follow along on the crazy adventure 🙂

TravelGeek

I am looking forward to hearing more about this “crazy” adventure on this week’s podcast 🙂

Jim Lovejoy

A change in format. What crazy thing did Greg do?’ Instead of what crazy thing did (insert airline or hotel chain here.)