Delta Adds A Spend Requirement To Their Status Challenge

Many airlines offer some sort of a status match or challenge program, as a way of making it easier for frequent flyers to switch their business. It’s logical enough, though we’ve certainly seen many airlines add hoops you have to jump through. They want to make sure people aren’t just status matching for short term benefits, but rather because they really want to switch their business long term.

Delta SkyMiles has offered a status challenge program for years. You can only do a challenge for Silver, Gold, or Platinum status, based on the status you have with one of their competitors.

Historically the Delta SkyMiles status challenge program has just required you to earn a certain number of MQMs (Medallion Qualifying Miles) or MQSs (Medallion Qualifying Segments) over the course of 90 days, though they’ve just added something to that.

As of January 1, 2018, US based SkyMiles members will also need to spend a certain amount to complete a Delta status challenge. Since Delta has a spend requirement for earning status, it’s not surprising to see them add this to a status challenge as well. The requirements for a Delta SkyMiles status challenge are now as follows (all activity is required over the course of 90 days):

  • Silver: 6,250 MQMs or 8 MQSs AND 750 MQDs or MQD waiver
  • Gold: 12,500 MQMs or 15 MQSs AND 1,500 MQDs or MQD waiver
  • Platinum: 18,7500 MQMs or 25 MQSs AND 2,250 MQDs or MQD waiver

The spend requirement is a quarter of what it would be for the entire year, which makes sense since this is over a 90 day period. You need to spend an average of 12 cents per earned MQM.

In terms of the MQD waiver, you can achieve this by making $25,000 or more in eligible purchases with your eligible Delta SkyMiles credit card between the beginning of the calendar year and the end of your status challenge period. In other words, the MQD waiver requirement is the same that it would otherwise be for a full year of status.

It’s not surprising to see Delta add this. For example, American AAdvantage’s status challenge also has a spend requirement as of last year. I completed a Delta Platinum status challenge late last year, so am now working on requalifying for Delta status this year.

Delta is also making one other minor change to their status challenge program. Specifically, Medallion members who receive complimentary status through their Million Miler benefits are now able to enroll in a status challenge. That makes perfect sense. In other words, if you’re a lifetime SkyMiles Silver member from being a million miler, it’s silly that they won’t let you complete a Platinum status challenge when you have top tier with another airline, for example.

Delta’s A319 economy cabin

(Tip of the hat to The Points Guy)


  1. Also, there’s a lifetime limit of doing a challenge 2 times. I learned this last year from them in my approval email.

  2. I find this all fascinating. My employer spends at least $50k on airfares for me in the course of every year, and in many years more than double that. Most in long-haul business class. I imagine I’d be exactly the sort of person that Delta would love to have being loyal to them.

    But I read things like the post you’ve just made, and I lose interest well before getting even close to applying. “Medallion Qualifying Miles”? “MQD waiver”?? WTF? They want me to learn a whole language even before I can understand what this programme is or how it might benefit me??

    A company that wants me to jump through these ridiculous-sounding hoops is not one that seems to me to be properly customer-focussed – so the more I read, the less likely I am to want to even book a single flight on them, let alone join up to some wildly over-complicated loyalty scheme.

    I realise I am a freakish outlier among most of your readers. Just sayin’.

  3. @The nice Paul

    I totally agree! Keep things simple and easy to understand otherwise most people will get turned off before they even start!

  4. I can confirm that even for 2018 Status Match Challenge, Delta has added a MQD requirement – which was not present in 2017.

  5. For purely selfish reasons, I say good. Way too many medallions on every Delta flight….at every airport. Unless I’m flying on a Saturday or early Sunday, complementary upgrades have become very few and very far away.

  6. @The nice Paul–to be fair, someone who is investigating a mileage challenge should have already evaluated DL offerings and elite system so that they are familiar with these acronyms. Would be crazy to sign up for a challenge when you have no idea what the program offers and how you would maintain your status.

  7. @ Guarav

    I think you miss the point. Should FF programmes be designed to keep (or to attract from rival airlines) those passengers who spend lots of money on tickets; or just people who love gaming points to get loads of free or cheap stuff?

    The extraordinary complexity feels like a major barrier to “normal” passengers. And constant devaluations of award charts; people churning credit cards and unrelated credit card spending to maximise points … this feels like a house of cards to me. I wonder how much longer it’ll go on for?

  8. People down talking Delta Air Lines having such requirements seem to forget that they are the 2nd largest airline in the world. It’s not like they are short on Medallions. In-order to make the ranks more desirable and the Platinum and Diamond top-tiers more exclusive, it’s best to iron out the many different of flyers who spend money with Delta.

    Being a US-based airline, most of the population lives on the East Coast and there are a lot of desired customers that fly short distances up and down the coast, so miles alone doesn’t work out too well for that segment. Whereas those based near Delta’s West Coast hubs will easily qualify on miles if their business takes them east beyond either ocean often.

    Think about the type of airline they are, and the clientele they cater to before thinking they are just too complicated for your tastes

  9. It’s hard to answer what FF programs *should* do. In the beginning sure, they were a nice way to reward people who flew but since their growth into significant revenue centers for all of the US big three, it’s hard to tell whether these are airlines who happen to award miles or independent hugely profitable mileage banks that also happen to fly airplanes. Given that all three now have similar requirements (and really need to given that they have huge program bases that need to be stratified somehow), I don’t think we’ll be seeing them going away anytime soon.

  10. @ Guarav

    I agree that the financial tail can often end up wagging the dog. In financial terms, Heathrow is actually a retail landlord and car park operator, with a couple of runways on the side.

    It’s why they distort their decisions – BA has wanted a First Wing at LHR for *decades*, but the airport refused to permit a route where premium passengers did not have to walk past loads of shops (or “retail opportunities”).

    Until First Wing, you had to clear security, walk past shops to the escalators, then walk back to pretty much the same place you started (past lots more shops) – and then go back up escalators, to the same level you started, literally the other side of a stud wall from security.

    The airport was actively *destroying* BA’s value in order to maximise their own.

    I’m interested in the profitability issue. Was Aeroplan profitable before AC announced a split? How about now? Maybe.

    Perhaps you’re right, and FF programmes now have nothing to do with, er, Frequent Flyers, and everything to do with credit card churn.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *