I am fortunate to be able to earn points and miles by using my credit cards for my business. I can sometimes use my spending power to achieve elite status or earn bonuses that are difficult to hit when I have time to sit down and really plan.
I decided to try to get Delta Diamond Medallion elite status by taking advantage of the Pandemic related earning opportunities. I had less than 10,000 SkyMiles in my account when I decided to go for it.
Travel was turned on it's head by the Pandemic. Work travel stopped for a lot of road warriors. The airlines tried to encourage us to travel slowly. elite status was extended They gave out bonuses similar to trick-or-treating candy. Most of us sat at home waiting for travel to be safer or for our employers to change their travel policies.
While we were out of work, airlines and hotels worked with their credit card partners to keep us spending.
One of those ideas got my attention and caused me to change my spending habits a lot. My Delta SkyMiles account hit a seven-figure balance without too much effort. How did I accomplish that?
I think it would be helpful to give a brief summary of my travel patterns before the Pandemic.
I work for a company that requires me to be on the road a couple of weeks a month. I fly to my home airport, Dulles International Airport, more than 100,000 times a year. I earn elite status by sitting in coach on a lot of un exciting flights.
The convenience of nonstop flights out of Dulles has made United my primary carrier for the last seven or eight years. I have been a United premier 1k elite for a while now. I was a top tier American Airlines Executive Platinum member for almost a decade.
Delta announced earlier this year that loyalty members would be able to earn lifetime Diamond status. There are times when the best ideas come from crazy ideas. In this case, it was a fellow travel writer who wrote about how to spend your way to Diamond status.
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I believe the article was written as a joke. Who would want to start with 6 million MQMs? You should hear me out before you decide I'm crazy.
It wasn't so far-fetched if I combined my former travel habits with some credit card bonus opportunities. Pandemic-related factors, as well as a few other factors, got my gears turning, and now I am on my way to Diamond.
In 2021, I will earn higher elite status than in the past.
During the Pandemic, Delta and American Express have different earning opportunities. When you spend $4,000 on the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card in the first three months, you'll get 60,000 bonus miles and 10,000 MQMs.
Status boost is a program where you can earn 15,000 additional MQMs for each $30,000 you spend on the card, up to four times per year. I spend a lot of my money on our corporate credit cards. Most of it is in categories that don't get a bonus. I didn't want to leave a lot of value on the table by moving some of our business spending to Delta.
With a Delta SkyMiles mile worth less than a Chase Ultimate rewards point, the Delta SkyMiles valuation is more in line with those of American Airlines AAdvantage and United Mileage Plus. I would most likely be earning less valuable miles by opting for Delta, but I would also be working my way to Delta Diamond status thanks to those MQM boosts.
There was one more chance for earning MQMs to be pointed out. The Delta Reserve Amex cards were offering an additional 25% MQM boost for every $30,000 spent on the card this year in order to encourage people to spend more on their Delta Amex cards.
If you spend $150,000 on purchases with the Delta Reserve Business Amex in a year, you will earn 1.5 miles per dollar on purchases for the rest of the year, which is a bonus. With the large number of purchases I make for business, and the high dollar amounts, hitting these figures was no problem, and I saw my earning take off to amazing levels quickly.
If I spent $120,000 on my new Delta Amex, I could earn a total of 75,000 MQMs, which would allow me to become a Delta Diamond Medallion. I would have to spend a total of $250,000 in order to get rid of the requirement for Diamond qualification. I decided to put the extra spending on the card on top of the MQM boost to get Diamond status.
Delta Medallion elite status can be earned without flying.
Delta continued to promote travel with credit card promotions. There are bonus mileage earning opportunities on both paid and award tickets.
With all of these earning opportunities and the fact that my work travel schedule began to pick up again, it was so much easier than I thought.
I started to think about locking up some sort of lifetime status as I started piling up more and more MQMs. My credit card spending and bonus miles on flights earned me 200,000 lifetime MQMs.
I would need 6 million for Diamond. Delta Silver status requires 1 million lifetime MQMs, but I don't care for it. I was hoping that many of the year's lucrative earning opportunities would be repeated in the years to come. With two years of MQM earning, I could make a lot of progress and possibly hit lifetime Gold at 2 million or even Platinum at 4 million.
That was not supposed to be. About half a million MQMs were collected by me.
Is it worthwhile to pursue lifetime elite status?
Credit cards aren't the only thing that has changed The flight schedules were reduced to almost nothing.
Most of the people that traveled were leisure travelers. There was more lift for destinations such as Florida and Mexico.
Prior to the Pandemic, United operated a nonstop flight from my home airport of IAD toLAS. I could hop on that flight for a work trip and be on the ground before lunch. That meant a lot of work.
The first nonstop left after 10 a.m. and arrived in the afternoon. I lost my productivity because of that.
It was the same for flights to Reno. Delta offered earlier departures on connecting flights that took me to my destination earlier in the day than United did. I was able to take the most of my time away from my family.
In the next two years, I have found myself on more connecting flights because they work better for my schedule, and often I choose Delta more often.
I plan to get Delta Diamond status this year.
With all of the extra earning opportunities in play, I found myself sitting on just over 1 million SkyMiles, award miles that I will put toward upgrades and future travel, not MQMs that I am accruing toward elite status.
I traveled 1 million miles in under a year.
I earned $150,000 after hitting that mark. Delta is giving me a lot of miles for being loyal. I think Delta and American Express got what they wanted when I applied for the card.
They paid out a one-time welcome offer that made me want to stay. With all the supply chain and staffing issues our business has faced, I just left those credit cards in employees' hands so they could get what they needed when they needed it, earning me tons of Skymiles.
The boost to 1.5 miles per dollar on spending after $150,000 in spending within a calendar year boosted my balance extremely quickly and put me ahead of the curve over choosing to accrue Chase Ultimate rewards points. I still think my rate of return was pretty good, even though Ultimate rewards might have been a slightly better choice because they are easier to use with direct travel redemptions and transfer to multiple airlines and hotels.
The Business Platinum Card from American Express offers 1.5 points per dollar on any individual purchase of $5,000 or greater as well as on select U.S. business categories, if elite status isn't as important to you. It's also a good way to earn a flexible currency for travel.
You have a complete guide to the Delta Skymiles program.
It was easy to earn Diamond status with the help of MQMs. Increased status requirements were put in place by Delta. As long as Delta continues to award MQMs on award flights, I can continue to progress towards Diamond status by burning up my SkyMiles balance. They will help me get closer to Diamond status. It is still not realistic given how late in the game I am starting.
I have been able to take advantage of the benefits of Delta Diamond status many times despite overspending on the Delta Business Reserve. I was able to get Delta to move me to United on one trip when my connecting flight was going to be delayed. It's huge for me to have those kinds of benefits as a road warrior.
Choice Benefits is one of the benefits I get to choose.
Sky Club access is a benefit of the Delta Business Reserve card, so I don't have to tie it up with any of my other choices. The Global upgrade certificates are something I would like to look into. I think I will get a $200 travelvoucher. I like the idea of giving one of my employees a gold status. If Delta continues to offer the ability to earn status through award flights, twenty-five thousand bonus miles isn't bad.
Which benefit should you choose?
I have been trying to get lifetime Delta Diamond status for over a year. The story doesn't have an amazing ending, but I think it's been worth it. I'm close to earning lifetime Delta Diamond status, but I'm not there yet.
I have enjoyed my time as a Delta Diamond. Over 20 flights have been taken on Delta this year. I have sat in the front of the plane on most flights. I chose regional upgrade certificates and global upgrade certificates as my choice benefits and they have come in handy during my travels.
The Delta SkyMiles cards were my primary cards this year. When I stop at the Diamond Waiver, I'll end up with over $350,000 in spending on the cards. I can use the extra Skymiles to requalify for Diamond again.
I qualified for Diamond status in the year 2023, and I have a lot of rolling MQMs. I will most likely shoot for another $250,000 on the Delta Business Reserve card. Even though it isn't very valuable, I would probably lock up lifetime Silver status as well.
Changes in airline loyalty will affect my decision. The increased elite status requirements were announced two years ago. The choice will likely be between earning United 1k or Delta Diamond. Two years is a long time to change in the loyalty world.
Business owners have to decide if they want to take cash back or earn miles. My experience shows how you can use spending for your business to achieve elite status, along with a bunch of miles that you can give to employees or use for your own adventures.