The Loyalty Program Guide to Delta Air Lines

By Amanda Wowk

August 06, 2019

Travel enough and you start to notice the difference between the haves and the have-nots. That is, those travelers who have elite status (and the perks that come along with it) and those that don’t. If you’re in the latter part of that passenger profile, you might be asking yourself questions like: What are the perks of signing up for a frequent flyer program? How can I receive complimentary upgrades? Is there a secret password for accessing an airline’s lounge? Is it really worth it to pursue the top-tier status?

With these questions in mind, our team set out to better understand not only what it means to have elite status with a US-based airline, but what we could be missing having say, Gold status versus Platinum. In this multi-part series, we answer these questions—and more—about domestic carriers’ loyalty programs.

Delta Air Lines


How to earn miles with Delta

Travelers part of Delta’s frequent flyer program are known as SkyMiles Members. As a member of this loyalty program, travelers earn miles based on ticket price and (if applicable) their elite status. On Delta-marketed flights, SkyMiles members earn five miles for each $1 spent on their ticket. Members can also earn miles on select partner-marketed flights. And best of all, SkyMiles never expire. 

On Delta-marketed flights, SkyMiles members earn five miles for each $1 spent on their ticket.

Delta SkyMiles can be used for award travel, seat upgrades, and other redemptions. For example, you can fly round-trip in economy from BOS to MIA for as little as 14,000 miles; JFK to SFO for just 19,000 miles; and from DTW to LAX for 26,000 miles. Want to make the most of your miles? Delta maintains a list of current SkyMiles Deals to help you plan a getaway within your mileage budget.  

How to achieve elite status with Delta

Once you become a SkyMiles member, you immediately start accruing towards an elite status. Delta’s elite status program has four tiers: Silver Medallion, Gold Medallion, Platinum Medallion, and, at the top, Diamond Medallion. Medallion status is earned through a combination of flying and spending with Delta or one of the airline’s partners. Members have from January 1 to December 31 every year to qualify for Medallion status. 

To achieve elite status, SkyMiles members must fulfill one of each of the following: for mileage—Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs) or Medallion Qualifying Segments (MQSs); for spending—Medallion Qualifying Dollars (MQDs) or branded credit card spend.

Here’s what it takes to achieve each tier:  

TierSilverGoldPlatinumDiamond
Mileage requirements25,000 MQMs or 30 MQSs50,000 MQMs or 60 MQSs75,000 MQMs or 100 MQSs125,000 MQMs or 140 MQSs
Spend requirements$3,000 MQDs or MQD waiver*$6,000 MQDs or MQD waiver*$9,000 MQDs or MQD waiver*$15,000 MQDs or MQD waiver*


Let’s take a closer look at Medallion Qualifying Miles, or MQMs. MQMs are earned based on distance flown and fare class. The higher the fare class you book, the more MQMs you’ll be eligible for. For example, full fare First and Business Class tickets are eligible for a 100% MQM bonus. Discounted First, Delta Premium Select, Business, and Premium Main Cabin tickets are eligible for a 50% MQM bonus. You can also earn bonus MQMs when you purchase an upgrade; likewise, upgrade bonuses are awarded based on the class of service flown.

MQMs are earned based on distance flown and fare class. The higher the fare class you book, the more MQMs you’ll be eligible for.

Medallion Qualifying Segments, or MQSs, are earned based on the number of flights you take. Easy peasy.

Medallion Qualifying Dollars, or MQDs, are calculated based on the amount of money you spend on Delta-marketed flights, as well as select partner-marketed flights. The MQD waiver* mentioned above pertains to those travelers making eligible purchases with a Delta SkyMiles credit card. For the Platinum, Gold, and Silver Medallion levels, the MQDs requirement will be waived if you make $25,000 or more in eligible purchases during the calendar year. The MQD requirement to reach Diamond Medallion Status will be waived if you make $250,000 or more in eligible purchases during the calendar year.

MQSs are earned based on the number of flights you take. MQDs are calculated based on the amount of money you spend on Delta-marketed flights, as well as select partner-marketed flights.

Speaking of the calendar year, Medallion status is earned each year for the subsequent calendar year. For example, you’d be working towards 2020 Medallion status right now. Once you achieve any of the above thresholds in 2019—be it in January, December, or any month in-between—your 2020 elite status begins. Your 2020 status is then valid until January 31, 2021. 

Here for the benefits

You’ve flown the mileage and spent the qualifying dollars, now it’s time to cash in on the perks. Each Medallion tier yields its own benefits. Perks like earning more miles from your flights and lounge access depend on your elite status. Here’s a sampling of the perks you’re eligible for at each tier:

Silver Medallion

  • 7 Medallion miles earned per dollar (as opposed to 5 as a SkyMiles member)
  • Unlimited complimentary upgrades for yourself and a companion, to Delta Comfort+ and First Class
  • Waived baggage fees
  • Priority check-in and boarding

Gold Medallion

  • 8 Medallion miles earned per dollar 
  • Unlimited complimentary upgrades for yourself and a companion, to Delta Comfort+ and First Class
  • Waived baggage fees
  • Priority check-in and boarding
  • SkyTeam Lounge access (international flights)

Platinum Medallion

  • 9 Medallion miles earned per dollar 
  • Unlimited complimentary upgrades for yourself and a companion, to Delta Comfort+ and First Class
  • Waived baggage fees
  • Priority check-in and boarding
  • Choice of one of the following: 
    • Upgrade certificates 
    • 20,000 bonus miles
    • Gift of Silver Medallion status
    • Gift card
  • SkyTeam Lounge access (international flights)

Diamond Medallion 

  • 11 Medallion miles earned per dollar 
  • Unlimited complimentary upgrades for yourself and a companion, to Delta Comfort+ and First Class
  • Waived baggage fees
  • Priority check-in and boarding
  • Choice of three of the following: 
    • Delta Sky Club Membership
    • Upgrade certificates 
    • 25,000 bonus miles
    • Gift of Gold Medallion status
    • Gift card
  • SkyTeam Lounge access (international flights)
  • Complimentary CLEAR membership

For a full list of benefits, visit the Delta Medallion benefits page. 


Partner airlines

Delta is part of the SkyTeam alliance and partners with 20 airlines to offer a variety of benefits to Medallion members, such as priority boarding, priority check-in, and access to partner lounges around the world. Benefits vary based on status level. To view the perks that apply to you, visit Delta’s Sky Team Partners page. As mentioned above, travelers can earn SkyMiles on select partner-marketed flights.

Partner airlines include: 

Aeroflot
Garuda Indonesia
Aerolíneas
Argentinas
Kenya Airways
AeroMexicoKLM Royal Dutch Airlines
Air EuropaKorean Air
Air FranceMiddle East Airlines
AlitaliaSaudia
China AirlinesTAROM
China EasternVietnam Airlines
China Southern
Xiamen Airlines
Czech AirlinesVirgin Atlantic/Virgin Australia

Hubs and lounges

While based in Atlanta (ATL), Delta has several other hubs across the US, including: 

Looking to put your lounge access to use? You can (currently) find Delta Sky Club lounges in each of the hubs named above, plus an additional 25 airports around the US. Likewise, there are more than 750 Sky Team lounges worldwide that Gold Medallion members and up have access to.

Pro tip: Use the TripIt app’s interactive airport maps to locate lounges in the airport(s) you’re traveling through. You’ll have everything you need to navigate your way with estimated walk times and step-by-step directions.