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Should I keep Delta status: Is chasing Platinum Medallion status worth it?

If you’ve been chasing status with Delta Air Lines the last few years, you might be wondering whether you should continue to chase Delta status in light of the changes coming in 2024 to the SkyMiles program.

Tonight, my project is to figure out whether it makes sense to for me to continue chasing Delta status. Hopefully my journey can help you make the decision if chasing Delta status is the right move for you. As I write this, I’m not sure where this will end, so let’s begin…

Where I’m at now: Platinum Medallion

At the end of 2023, I will end the year with just shy of 200,000 MQMs, $2,398 MQDs and Platinum Medallion status through early 2025. I have about 983,000 lifetime miles with Delta, within striking distance of 1,000,000 lifetime miles which, starting in 2024, gets me lifetime Gold Medallion status.

I currently have both the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card and the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card. Each card offers a companion ticket upon renewal and the ability to earn two 10,000 MQM boosts per year by spending on the card.

In years past, and through the end of the year, those MQMs have counted both toward current-year status and Million Miler (lifetime) status. Some years, I’ve maximized this. Some years, I haven’t. Starting in 2024, you can no longer earn MQMs toward lifetime status with the cards.

My baseline is Gold Medallion for life

Since I have 983,000 lifetime miles, I’m pretty confident that I’ll make 1 million miles before my current Platinum Medallion status expires in February 2025. As long as I earn at least 17,000 miles through flying in 2024, I’ll make this milestone. That seems very likely with my current travel patterns.

Is the marginal upgrade to Platinum worth it?

Assuming I’ll have Gold Medallion status for life, is it worth it to try to earn Platinum each year? Ultimately, that’s a question of the benefits I receive and the costs I’ll incur to get there.

First, let’s look at the marginal benefits of Delta Platinum status over Gold.

Delta Medallion benefits by tier

Here are the benefits that I value and consider substantive that each tier of Delta status offers.

Redeemable miles earned per dollar on Delta flights7 miles per dollar8 miles per dollar9 miles per dollar11 miles per dollar
Complimentary upgrades
(When upgrades clear)
24 hours prior to departure72 hours prior to departure120 hours prior to departure120 hours prior to departure
Delta Comfort+
(When you can select seats)
24 hours prior to departure72 hours prior to departureShortly after ticketingShortly after ticketing
Sky PriorityYesYesYes
SkyTeam Alliance StatusEliteElite PlusElite PlusElite Plus
Waived same-day confirmed feesYesYesYes
Choice benefits1 choice benefit
No global upgrades
3 choice benefits
Can choose global upgrades

The benefits I value most highly on Delta.

Upgrades to first class

This benefit used to have a lot of value. If I can have a solid chance of moving up to a first class seat for free with frequent flyer status, I’m happy to sink some money into chasing status. There’s real value there. Unfortunately, in the 15 or so years I’ve been flying on Northwest and then Delta, I’ve seen elite upgrades basically vanish. Airlines used to try to maximize profit from business travelers by keeping first class prices high. Most first class seats went unsold, but the customers that did buy them paid a hefty premium

It was truly a win-win. Instead of selling 16 seats for $500 each, airlines would sell 8 seats to business travelers with a high willingness to pay at $2,000 each. And the rest were given out as a perk to their most loyal customers. The airline made more money and they were able to give out a perk to their most loyal customers that cost them nothing. Indeed, Northwest Airlines used to compensate high-level elites with miles if their upgrades didn’t clear.

Nowadays, Delta and the other airlines seek to sell every seat in first class, rather than maximize profit. Ultimately, the airlines probably make less money this way, but from the view of a frequent flyer, it just means that what once was a promised perk I could count on really doesn’t mean that much anymore.

Delta Comfort+ seating

United Airlines was the first airline to offer extra room on a few rows in coach and market it as Economy+. Over the last 10 years, airlines have upped the marketing. The seats and are now marketed as an “upgrade.” But at the end of the day, it’s just a coach seat with extra legroom. Yes, that is valuable, but it’s also something I can buy. If I drop down to Gold, I can’t select these seats shortly after booking, but if I’m saving money by not chasing status, I can pay for this perk.

SkyTeam Alliance Status

Visiting the KLM Lounge 52 in Amsterdam is one of the joys of holding SkyTeam Elite Plus status. Fortunately, a few years ago SkyTeam Elite Plus status became a perk of Gold Medallion status.

Waived same-day confirmed fees

This is a perk that I would hate to lose. And when I started to write this article, I honestly thought that I would have to give this up if I dropped down to Gold Medallion status. I’m pleased to know that I won’t have to give this up.

So, ultimately, I’m not giving up much to drop down to Gold status with Delta. Now let’s look at the cost….

Requirements to earn Delta status in 2024

In 2024 and beyond, Delta uses a single metric to determine your Medallion status: Medallion qualifying dollars. You can earn Medallion Qualifying Dollars by spending money on Delta Air Lines flights, by putting spending on its co-branded credit cards, or by booking your hotels through Delta’s travel portal (and foregoing any elite benefits of earnings in hotel programs). If I wanted to keep Platinum Medallion status, I would need to earn $15,000 Medallion Qualifying Dollars per year in 2024 and beyond.

Updated 2024 MQD Thresholds for 2025 Delta SkyMiles Status
Updated 2024 MQD Thresholds for 2025 Status

What would it take to move from Gold Medallion to Platinum Medallion?

With my current credit cards and the MQDs I’d earn if my travel patterns were the same next year, here’s what I would need to earn to keep Platinum Medallion status.

MDQs earnedCost
MQD Headstart Benefit from Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card 2,500$250
(Could argue that this is $0 because of the value of the included companion certificate.)
MQD Headstart Benefit from Delta SkyMiles® Business Platinum American Express Card 2,500(Could argue that this is $0 because of the value of the included companion certificate.)
Naturally-earned MQDs, based on my 2023 travel patterns.2,500$0 – Yes, I pay for the tickets, but this is money I would spend on Delta anyway.
MQDs needed from spending on a credit card7,500???
Calculating how many more MQDs I would need to earn Platinum status with Delta.

It looks like I would need to earn 7,500 MQDs each year to keep my Platinum Medallion status. Earning that through hotels would almost certainly be a bad deal. I have hotel status with almost every hotel chain and I can often get deals on independent hotels through third-party portals, sometimes amounting to as much as 30% off. Booking higher prices through Delta’s portal for less service and fewer points would never make sense. So, I’d have to shift some spending to Delta credit cards.

The cost of spending on Delta credit cards

If I’m going to keep Platinum Medallion status, I will need to spend a substantial amount of money on Delta credit cards each year. If I pick up a variant of the Delta Reserve card, that number will be $75,000, since I’ll earn 1 Medallion Qualifying Dollar for every $10 I spend on the card. If I stick with my Delta Platinum cards, I’ll need to spend $150,000, since those cards only give me 1 MQD per $20 spent on the card.

But putting that amount of spending on my cards isn’t free. When I have credit cards that give me 2% cash back or more everywhere or better, every $1,000 I put on my Delta card costs me $20 in cash rewards. Sure, I earn some SkyMiles out of the deal, but there’s definitely a cost to moving that spending to a Delta credit card. Let’s figure out that cost.

For the purposes of value calculations, I’m going to assume that each Delta SkyMile will get me about 1.3 cents worth of travel on Delta. In my experience, that’s what I’ve been getting with my travel patterns. Here’s what I come up with:

Delta SkyMiles Platinum CardDelta SkyMiles Reserve Card
Amount of spending needed$150,000$75,000
Value of SkyMiles earned$1,950$975
Opportunity cost – What I would earn with a 2% cash back card$3,000$1,500
Cost to earn status$1050$525 + $550 annual fee
The cost for me to earn SkyMiles Platinum status by spending on each card

Bottom line: Delta Platinum Medallion status isn’t worth it for me.

Ultimately, I’d need to give up $1,000 or more in value each year in order to keep Delta Platinum Medallion status. With almost no chance of scoring upgrades on my flights and limited other benefits, I think I’ll choose to cancel my Delta credit cards and keep the $1,000 in my pocket. Maybe with that $1,000, I can fly in first class a few times on another carrier or guarantee myself an extra legroom seat every time I fly.