Delta was the first global US airline to introduce a revenue requirement for status, award miles based on dollars spent rather than distance flown, etc. However, they’ve also once in a while made some positive changes, and have areas where they’re especially competitive.
One of those areas is when it comes to earning status through credit card spend. Delta has four co-branded credit cards that allow you to earn Medallion Qualifying Miles, and in theory it’s possible to earn Diamond status exclusively through credit card spend (though it requires a lot of spend, and having a lot of cards).
However, regardless of which premium Delta credit card you have, spending $25,000 per year on their cards will get you a waiver of the revenue requirement for each status level (Silver, Gold, Platinum, and Diamond). That’s changing as of 2018, as it relates to qualifying for status for the 2019 program year.
As of 2018, you’ll need to spend $250,000 per year on a Delta credit card to get a Medallion Qualifying Dollar waiver for Diamond status, rather than the current $25,000 requirement. The amount will remain unchanged for Silver, Gold, and Platinum members. Per the SkyMiles News & Updates page:
We are always looking for ways to improve the Medallion experience by listening to your feedback. Because we want to ensure our most well-traveled Members can take full advantage of all the benefits of Diamond Medallion Status, a change is being made to how Members qualify for 2019 Diamond Medallion Status.
Starting January 1, 2018, the Medallion Qualification Dollar (MQD) Waiver for Diamond Medallion Status is increasing. The MQD Waiver for Diamond Medallion Status is currently earned by spending $25,000 in eligible purchases in a calendar year on a SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express. It is being adjusted to $250,000 in a calendar year.
This qualification change will allow us to deliver on expectations for Diamond Medallion Status so Members can maximize elite benefits like Complimentary Upgrades and Delta Sky Club® access. This update will not change how Members earn 2018 Diamond Medallion Status.
We understand this is a significant increase, but keep in mind that the MQD Waiver to qualify for all of the best-in-class benefits of Platinum, Gold and Silver Medallion Statusopens in a new window will still remain at $25,000.
This is a very major change that will have a big impact for a lot of Diamond Medallion members. To those who spend a ton on Delta credit cards and earn status almost exclusively through credit card spend, this is arguably positive, as you’ll be part of a more exclusive group. At the same time, if you’re earning Delta Diamond status almost exclusively through credit card spend, how much value are you really getting out of the status?
But for those people who were somewhere inbetween, and who earned Diamond status through a combination of flying and credit card spend, this is terrible news. If you don’t spend $250,000 on your co-branded Delta credit cards, you’ll now have to earn 15,000 Medallion Qualifying Dollars per year with Delta (in reality that translates to a lot more airfare than that, since taxes and fees don’t count towards that). This puts you at even more of a disadvantage, since many Diamond members were only maybe flying 50,000-75,000 miles per year, and were earning the rest of the miles and the spend waiver through credit card spend. Those members are now screwed:
- A Diamond Medallion member who actually flies 125,000 miles per year with Delta has to spend an average of 12 cents per mile, before taxes and fees
- If you’re a Diamond Medallion member who flies 62,500 miles per year with Delta and earns the rest of the MQMs through credit card spend, you’ll have to spend an average of 24 cents per mile, before taxes and fees
With first class upgrades getting tougher, Delta is trying to thin out elite ranks
Typically when changes are made I think they impact a small percentage of members. However, in this case I’d be shocked if this didn’t have an impact on a sizable percentage of Diamond Medallion members. This is a huge move on Delta’s part, and I would be shocked if this doesn’t cause a double digit percentage decrease in the number of Diamond members.
I suspect that’s what Delta wants in this case, given that they’re selling more first class seats than ever before, and they’d rather have more non-top tier elites.
To compare this to the policies of American and United:
- $25,000 of spend on a United co-brand credit card gets you a revenue waiver for Silver, Gold, and Platinum, though there’s no revenue waiver for 1K members
- American doesn’t formally offer revenue waivers, though spending $25,000 on an Aviator account earns you 3,000 EQDs, while spending an additional $25,000 on an Aviator Silver Card earns you an additional 3,000 EQDs, for up to 6,000 EQDs through credit card spend (which is half of the revenue requirement for Executive Platinum status
This is a huge move on Delta’s part that will lead to a significant decrease in the number of Diamond Medallion members… and I suspect that’s exactly what Delta wants. It’s one thing if they had increased the spend requirement from $25,000 to $100,000, which would have been a very big jump, but a tenfold increase? YOW!
I’m shocked American Express was okay with this, or that they didn’t have more leverage, as this will no doubt lead to decreased spend on their cards. There had been rumors of Delta limiting the number of MQDs you can earn through credit card spend, but nothing like this.
To Diamond Medallion members, what do you make of this move? Does it impact whether or not you’ll go for Diamond status going forward?
(Tip of the hat to Points, Miles & Martinis)