Thoughts on making Platinum Medallion and Rollover MQM

Reports have been trickling in of Rollover MQM posting and sure enough when I logged into my Delta Skymiles account today, I saw that my 2014 Medallion tracker was updated with 1,142 Rollover MQM:

As planned, I made Platinum Medallion on December 29, on a First Class Alaska Airlines flight from Kauai, HI to Portland, OR. Thanks to Delta's generous earning rules and the fact that Alaska Airlines has just one First Class fare bucket, I earned 5,262 MQM on that flight, putting me just over the threshold for Platinum Medallion status.

I've explained before that I consider Platinum Medallion the best Medallion status because it's only at that level that you get free award redeposits and changes, which allows you to lock in an award at the "Standard" or "Peak" levels, then keep an eye on award availability to later change the award to the "Saver" level and receive the difference in miles back – at no additional cost.

So was it worth paying $372 roundtrip to upgrade from Alaska's Economy to First Class? If I'd flown in Economy, and earned just 7,799 2013 Medallion Qualification Miles, I would have ended the year 6,657 MQM short of Platinum Medallion Status (and rolled over 18,343 MQM).

On the other hand, as a Gold Medallion, I would have to pay $150 per change to redeposit or reissue Skymiles award tickets.

Just to stress how valuable I find this benefit, just a few hours ago I already took advantage of it and reissued a domestic ticket from 32,500 Skymiles to 25,000 Skymiles, with the difference of 7,500 Skymiles redeposited in my account.

Now, I would never pay $150 to recover 7,500 Skymiles. The point of being a Platinum Medallion is that I don't have to. One reissued ticket per year isn't going to pay for a $372 flight change. But the recovered miles do have some value, and I have no doubt that I'm going to save enough Skymiles this year using this technique to more than justify the additional cost of my First Class tickets over the holidays.

Errata on Rollover MQM & MQD

The Points Guy made a comment today that I want to "correct" as early in the year as possible since it's worth thinking about as the Medallion qualification year proceeds. He wrote:

Just as background on rollover miles in case you are a Delta flyer yourself – as I mentioned, you can rollover miles above and beyond your current elite status threshold qualification. Whether you roll over 500 miles or 200,000, there’s no limit.

That means if you are a Silver or Gold Medallion the maximum you can rollover is 24,999 miles, since anything more would bump you to the next level; Platinum Medallions may rollover up to 49,999 MQMs; Diamond Medallions have no limit to how many MQMs they can rollover. Something important to point out is if you do not qualify for Silver Medallion status, you wouldn’t be able to rollover any MQMs, so you must achieve elite status at some level in order to rollover miles. [emphasis mine –FQF]

The bolded statement is true of the previous and current Medallion program years. However, now that Medallion Qualification Dollars are in effect, all Medallions can roll over unlimited MQM. The Delta website makes this clear in the FAQ on Medallion Qualification Dollars:

If you achieve one Medallion qualification criteria and not the other, your status will be determined based on the lower of the two qualification thresholds that you achieved. For example, if you earned 76,000 MQMs (enough to qualify for Platinum Medallion status), but had $6,000 MQDs (enough to qualify for Gold Medallion status, but not Platinum Medallion status), then you will earn Gold Medallion status. Rollover MQMs will be calculated as anything in excess of the MQM threshold for the status earned based on the new criteria. In the above example, you would roll over 26,000 MQMs and would then need at least $2,500 MQDs (or the MQD Waiver) to earn Silver Medallion status the following year. [emphasis mine –FQF]

Obviously this is a distinction without a difference if you plan to receive an MQD Waiver through spending $25,000 or more on a co-branded American Express card. However, if you don't have an American Express card, it's easy to imagine rolling over tens of thousands of MQM:

  • Take a flyer who previously qualified for Platinum Medallion status by flying 75,000 MQM strictly on mileage runs at 3.5 cents per mile flown;
  • Assuming all 3.5 cents per mile count towards Medallion Qualification Dollars (they won't, because of taxes and fees), that Platinum Medallion would earn just $2,625 MQD in 2014 and only qualify for Silver Medallion status in 2015;
  • They'd roll over 50,000 MQM but still need to earn $2,500 MQD in 2015 in order to earn Medallion status in 2016 – or risk losing all 50,000 rolled-over MQM.