2 of Delta’s credit cards are offering bonus Medallion Qualification Miles — the key to getting elite status

Business Insider may receive a commission from The Points Guy Affiliate Network if you apply for a credit card, but our reporting and recommendations are always independent and objective.

Delta Domestic First Class

  • When you’re a frequent flyer with Delta, you can earn elite “Medallion” status, entitling you to special benefits and perks like first class upgrades and waived fees.
  • To qualify for Medallion status, you need to earn a certain number of Medallion Qualification Miles, or MQMs, and Medallion Qualification Dollars – MQDs – within a calendar year.
  • MQMs are the total distance you’ve flown within the year, and MQDs are the total amount you’ve spent on base fares within that year.
  • To get a boost on MQMs, you can open one of Delta’s two premium credit cards and meet minimum spending requirements: the Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express, or the Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express.

Delta is currently running a limited time promotion on its three main credit cards, ending July 2. In addition to a ton of bonus SkyMiles when you open a new card and meet minimum spend requirements, you can get bonus Medallion Qualification Miles, or MQMs, when you open either of Delta’s two premium credit cards.

The Platinum Delta SkyMiles AmEx card offers 75,000 Delta SkyMiles and 5,000 MQMs when you spend $3,000 in the first three months. Plus, you’ll get a $100 statement credit when you make any Delta purchase in the first three months. It’s a particularly useful card.

The Delta Reserve AmEx card also offers 75,000 Delta SkyMiles and 5,000 MQMs, though you’ll need to spend $5,000 in the first three months. The card has a high annual fee, but offers a few additional benefits.

But what are Medallion Qualification Miles, are how are they different from SkyMiles?

When you join an airline’s frequent flyer program, you earn miles virtually every time you fly. Specifically, these miles are redeemable miles – ones that you can redeem for flights, upgrades, or more. Delta calls these “SkyMiles,” which is also the name of the frequent flyer program.

Redeemable miles are typically awarded as a function of how much you paid for the base fare on your ticket – on some partner flights, they’re awarded as a function of fare class and distance flown. For example, Delta SkyMiles members without elite status earn five redeemable miles per dollar spent on a flight’s base fare.

When you fly fairly frequently, you can qualify for elite status within the program. Elite status is usually a tiered system, and each tier offers a few additional perks, like bonus mileage earning on flights, upgrades, priority boarding, a dedicated phone support line, and waived fees. Higher tiers come with better benefits, naturally.

In order to qualify for elite status with an airline, you’ll typically need to meet certain qualification requirements. Delta, typical of US airlines in 2019, requires you to both fly a certain number of miles or a certain number of flights, and spend a certain amount of money on base fares throughout the previous calendar year to get elite “Medallion” status.

Delta refers to the total number of miles you’ve flown in a year as Medallion Qualification Miles, or MQMs. You typically earn one MQM for every one mile you fly, although if you fly certain full-fare economy or business class fares, either with Delta or with a partner, you can get 1.5-2x MQMs per mile flown.

(Keep in mind that “miles flown” is calculated as the official routing distance – if you fly a few extra miles to go around a storm, or land on a different runway, you won’t earn extra MQMs.)

The total amount you’ve spent on base fares is referred to as Medallion Qualification Dollars, or MQDs.

While you’d normally need to meet both MQM and MQD requirements to hit the next status level, there are two exceptions.

The first is an exception to MQMs: If you fly a lot, but just very short distances (think a weekly round-trip between New York and Washington, DC), you may be able to qualify by earning enough Medallion Qualifying Segments, or MQSs.

Also, if you spend $25,000 or more on a Delta credit card during the qualification year, the MQD requirement will be waived.

One last thing to keep in mind: Each year that you hold Medallion status, you can roll over any MQMs above the requirements for your status level to the next year. So say that you earn 55,000 MQMs in a calendar year, and end up with Gold status, which only requires 50,000 MQMs. You’ll roll over those extra 5,000 MQMs for the next qualification year.

That’s why anyone who has or is chasing elite Medallion status with Delta should consider their MQMs when looking at the Delta credit cards. Two of the three main cards – the Platinum and Reserve – offer bonus MQMs when you open a new card. Remember that even if you’ve had one card before, you can still earn the bonus on the other.

Click here to learn more about the Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express from Business Insider’s partner: The Points Guy »

Click here to learn more about the Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express from Business Insider’s partner: The Points Guy »