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To achieve elite status with Delta Air Lines, you must meet both a flight qualifier and a spend qualifier. The flight qualifier requires members to earn a specified number of either Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) or Medallion Qualification Segments (MQSs). In comparison, the spend qualifier requires members to earn a certain number of Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQDs) in a calendar year.
Essentially, MQDs are a way for Delta to ensure that elite members have spent a minimum amount of money with the airline. Delta is not the only airline to have a spending requirement in addition to flying a certain number of miles or segments.
While MQMs and MQSs are important, in this post we focus on what Medallion Qualification Dollars are and how you can earn them.
What Is a Medallion Qualification Dollar?
Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQDs) are the total spend made by a Delta SkyMiles member on flights marketed by Delta Air Lines minus government taxes and fees in a calendar year. MQDs are also earned on partner flights not marketed by Delta Air Lines but credited to SkyMiles, with credit based on cabin class and actual miles flown. These flights are identified as having a Delta flight number, which begins with the two-letter code “DL.” Additionally, the MQD requirement is waived for all non-U.S.-based SkyMiles members.
What Counts as Medallion Qualification Dollars?
Per Delta, SkyMiles members earn MQDs on paid fares for Delta-marketed flights as follows:
Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQDs) on retail tickets are calculated based on the money you spend on Delta-marketed flights (flight numbers that include the “DL” airline code) in Main Cabin or above. This includes only the base fare and any carrier-imposed surcharges. Government-imposed taxes and fees are not included in MQDs.
The MQDs for paid fares will be less than the ticket price. This is because there are always taxes and fees. You'll earn more MQDs, at least as a percentage of total ticket price, for domestic flights. This is due to the fact that taxes and fees are lower than those found on many international tickets.
This MQD earning rate may apply even if you don't actually fly with Delta. For example, Delta sells many Virgin Atlantic fares, as the London-based airline is a key partner. If you book a Virgin Atlantic flight on a Delta ticket (i.e., the ticket number begins with 006), you'll earn MQDs based on how much you spent, per the description above.
Delta treats exception fares differently. These are fares where the flight cost isn't disclosed to you. In addition, these can include consolidator and vacation package fares. In these cases, Delta awards you MQDs at the rate of 20% of redeemable miles earned.
Interestingly, Delta also awards MQDs on award tickets:
Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQDs) on Award Travel tickets are calculated based on miles used on Delta-marketed flights (flight numbers that include the “DL” airline code) in Main Cabin or above. Government-imposed taxes and fees are not included in MQDs.
This is a relatively new development. But, it does allow you to get some additional value out of your award miles if you redeem a lot in one year.
What doesn't count as a Medallion Qualification Dollar?
Some charges are explicitly excluded from earning MQDs:
Fees and optional products do not earn MQDs. That includes, but is not limited to, checked baggage fees, Delta Sky Club® memberships, Wi-Fi passes, in-flight food and beverage purchases, in-flight entertainment, unaccompanied minor fees, pet travel fees, mileage purchases, ticket change fees, Direct Ticketing Charge (DTC), same-day confirmed or standby fees, Administrative Service Charge (ASC), and External Reissue Charge (ERC).
The other “gotcha” is that Basic Economy fares never earn MQDs (or MQMs or MQSs) — even those sold as exception fares.
Earning MQDs on partner flights
Delta is a part of the SkyTeam Alliance and has a number of additional partners, as well. You can earn MQDs on some partner flights that are not booked as part of a Delta ticket by still crediting them to SkyMiles. However, these are credited very differently.
Rather than earning based on the ticket price, minus taxes and fees, MQDs for partner flights credit as a percentage of miles flown based on the fare class. Each partner has its own accrual chart. Again, this only applies to partner flights not ticketed through Delta. Here is a section of the Air France accruals chart.
Not all partner flights award the same amount of MQDs. Make sure you check the Delta partners page to see whether you should credit your flight to SkyMiles.
If you choose not to book partner flights through Delta, this can be advantageous. Let's run through a real-world example.
Example MQD earnings on a partner flight
Let's suppose I'm planning to fly to London and want to do so in Virgin Atlantic premium economy. My route is San Francisco (SFO) to London Heathrow (LHR) nonstop. I can book this ticket directly with Delta. It would earn $1,101 MQDs (on a total fare of $1,479).
However, if I book it with Virgin Atlantic directly, I'll receive MQDs according to the following chart.
Booked through Virgin Atlantic, I pay the same price of $1,479. Premium economy fare codes all earn 30% of flown miles as MQDs. Since the distance between SFO and LHR is approximately 5,367 miles, I'd earn approximately 3,220 MQDs for the flight. This is substantially more than if I'd booked the flight through Delta!
This shows that partner flights can be used to great advantage for qualifying for Medallion status.
Medallion Qualification Dollar Requirements
To earn Delta Medallion status, you need to meet the following MQD requirement, plus either Miles or Segments flown:
- Silver Medallion: 3,000 MQDs plus one of the following: 30,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) or 30 Medallion Qualification Segments (MQSs)
- Gold Medallion: 8,000 MQDs plus one of the following: 50,000 MQMs or 60 MQSs
- Platinum Medallion: 12,000 MQDs plus one of the following: 75,000 MQMs or 100 MQSs
- Diamond Medallion: 20,000 MQDs plus one of the following: 125,000 MQMs or 140 MQSs
Delta increased its Medallion status requirements for 2023. Delta Diamond Medallion now requires a mind-boggling 20,000 MQDs. However, there is a way around the MQD requirement.
How Can You Avoid The Medallion Qualification Dollar Requirement
If you hold a Delta co-branded credit card from American Express, you are eligible for an MQD waiver. For Delta Silver, Gold, and Platinum Medallion, the MQD requirement is waived if you spend $25,000 on eligible purchases on your card within a calendar year. This waiver is a benefit of the following SkyMiles co-branded credit cards:
- Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card
- Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card
- Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card
- Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card
What's cool is that if you have any of the above cards, spending on the Delta Gold or Blue cards counts toward the MQD waiver as well:
- Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card
- Delta SkyMiles® Gold Business American Express Card
- Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card
Unfortunately, the MQD Waiver spending requirement for Diamond Medallion Status is $250,000. This is 10x what is required for the other status tiers.
(Effective 1/1/24, the Status Boost benefit and MQD benefit will no longer be available, and there will be a new way to earn toward Medallion Status with the Delta cards – Learn more.)
Delta Medallion Benefits
Medallion Status offers plenty of benefits to loyal Delta customers. Delta has recently overhauled its program and now offers its elites more Choice Benefits, including enhanced options for Diamond members. You even can enjoy elite status with Sixt car rental as a Gold member. If you want to enjoy the benefits of Delta Medallion status, make sure you have a good understanding of the requirements.
For example, you have to understand how to earn (or avoid) the Medallion Qualification Dollar requirement. The return on spend isn't great. However, having a Delta credit card can help immensely in the quest for Medallion status.
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