As a frequent business traveler, I cherish the elite status I have with my preferred airline, Delta. First class upgrades, express security lanes, boarding first, free baggage, lounge access and a whole list of other perks are what help make getting on a plane every week a lot easier. So naturally, this is the time of year that I check to make sure I am on target to earn Platinum or Diamond Elite with Delta (Silver and Gold Status are good, but there is a big jump in perks when you hit Platinum and especially Diamond).
The majority of my flying is to Midwest cities, so it takes a lot of segments to hit Platinum or Gold. Last year I had four trips to Europe and a couple of transcontinental flights, on top of my weekly short segment flights throughout the Midwest so I was able to hit Diamond without a problem. This year was more short segment Midwest travel and two trips to Europe, so as I am looking at my planned flights for the rest of the year, I see I will come up about 7,000-8,000 miles short of Platinum… This is a big problem!
I thought about the various ways I can make Platinum and initially came up empty. As much as the people on FlyerTalk like mileage runs, that just isn’t for me. I have a family at home and the last thing I want to do is take off on a mileage run after already being gone during the week. There is both the time lost and money spent buying the ticket for a mileage run…. just doesn’t make sense. I then remembered that the Delta Reserve American Express Credit Card offers 10,000 MQM’s (miles that count toward elite status) with your first purchase. I had always ignored this card because I thought the annual fee is too expensive. I typically only use credit cards with zero annual fee or if the first year fee is waived, but after an analysis of my situation, paying the annual fee for this card made perfect sense. Here is my logic:
I am currently a Diamond member and have the following perks that will go away:
- Unlimited First Class Upgrades – Confirmed 5 days prior to the flight (when available, which they normally are for Diamond Elites)
- Waived Fees for changes to Award Flights (I use this a lot)
- Free Delta SkyClub Membership (this costs $300 – $450 depending on your Delta Elite Status – only Diamond Elites get it free)
- Annual bonus of 25,000 miles
- Delta Travel Gift Card (I think this was a $200 Delta Certificate last year)
All of these benefits appeared will go away.
Signing up for the Delta Reserve American Express Card will cost me $450, but here is what I will get for $450.
- Platinum Elite Status (since the 10,000 MQM’s will bump me from Gold to Platinum)
- Unlimited First Class Upgrades – confirmed 5 days prior to the flight (Gold members get unlimited upgrades 3 days prior to the flight but by then the Diamond and Platinum Elites have taken most of them, so you are often out of luck)
- 20,000 Bonus Miles for being a Platinum Elite (Silver and Gold Elites do not get an annual mile bonus)
- 10,000 Miles for after my first purchases with the card (All of which count as MQM’s)
- Free SkyClub membership for myself and two guests (this is the equivalent of an annual Skyclub membership)
So I am basically paying $450 for 30,000 Bonus Delta Skymiles, Platinum Status, Free Skyclub membership and a whole bunch of first class upgrades. That is worth every penny and such much more valuable than a mileage run!
TIMELINE UPDATE 11/28/2011 – The approval and Delta MQM process was very fast. I applied for the card on 11/16, was approved by AMEX on 11/18, and received the card on 11/23. I then made my first purchase on 11/25 and received the 10,000 MQM’s in my Delta Skymiles account when I checked the morning of 11/28. At first I was nervous if everything would process in time, but I never thought it would be this fast – Great job American Express! I can now rest comfortably that I will have my Delta Platinum status for 2012.