Delta Launches Paid Elite Status Buy Ups So You Don’t Have to Do a Year-End Mileage Run

American’s offer to let you buy back your elite status or buy a higher status launched a month ago. People used to mileage run. Airlines figured out they could charge more taking the money for the ticket plus even more money to save members’ time.

Although I already have enough travel booked to requalify as an Executive Platinum they’ll let me lock in next year’s status for a fee right now.

Delta’s offer is now live, too.

SkyMiles buy ups seemed like they were more expensive at least at the top end — and more expensive than American. Three years ago a common offer for an existing Platinum member was,

  • Buy 2,500 MQMs for $2,195
  • Buy 5,000 MQMs for $2,495
  • Buy 7,500 MQMs for $2,795
  • Buy 10,000 MQMs for $2,995

While someone with lower status might have seen:

  • Buy 2,500 MQMs for $995
  • Buy 5,000 MQMs for $1,295
  • Buy 7,500 MQMs for $1,595
  • Buy 10,000 MQMs for $1,795

Like American, Delta varies its pricing based on what it expects demand to be. Airlines are adept at charging customers as much as they might possibly be willing to pay for airfare, why not for qualifying miles too?

For 2018 one report of Delta SkyMiles pricing by a self-reported Platinum Medallion member is:

  • 1000 qualifying miles, 3 segments, and $999 qualifying dollars = $999
  • 2500 qualfiying miles, 6 segments, and $1299 qualifying dollars = $1299
  • 5000 qualifying miles, 9 segments, and $1399 qualifying dollars = $1399
  • 7500 qualifying miles, 12 segments, and $1599 qualifying dollars = $1599
  • 10,000 qualifying miles, 15 segments, and $1899 qualifying dollars = $1899
  • 12,500 qualifying miles, 18 segments, and $1999 qualifying dollars = $1999

In other words the money you spend to buy up towards status counts as qualifying dollars for elite spending requirements as well. Your purchase should post within 24 hours and adds to your 2018 balance and counts towards the status you’ll have for 2019. And any miles or segments above what you need for status roll over and count towards 2020 status.

Folks who received complimentary status for a higher level than they earned are not eligible, and neither are Diamond medallion members.

Prices aren’t cheap, you can probably fly for less money if you don’t also need qualifying dollars, but this doesn’t just save you the cost of those tickets it saves you time as well. Whether or not you should do this usually depends on how much you’ll use the status next year.

  • If you aren’t likely to fly as much next year you probably should not do it.
  • Since you’re not flying enough or spending enough to reach the tier on your own this year, flying the same next year suggests you may not be flying enough to justify higher levels of spend to reach for higher status.
  • If next year’s flying will be greater, higher status is a good start on the year and you’re reasonably likely to make good use of the benefits.

If you’re considering a paid buy up, what is your status level and how much is Delta asking for the miles or segments you need?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. @Gary, I don’t understand why Delta doesn’t simply sell status to anyone. For me, I fly enough each year to earn 125,000 MQM and MQD (the spend on DL) of more than $15,000. Since money and profit are all that count for DL, let’s ask, how much of the $15,000 I spend annually on DL do you think goes to net profit? Looking at 2017 figures, there was $41.2 billion net income and a resulting $3.6 billion in net profit or about 9% of gross income ends up as net profit (the money that counts). So for the $15,000 I spend annually on DL, only about $1350 ends up as net profit for them. So why doesn’t some smart executive propose selling Diamond Medallion status for — say $4,000. That’s $4,000 PURE PROFIT — much more money for them than when I actually fly and spend $15,000. They get the money and don’t have to fly me anywhere. (My figures might be off because I’m not an expert at how to read profit loss statements — but you get my drift.)

  2. @Don that’s not how it works….. Selling you diamond status for $4k, devalues it (and all statuses below) for everyone else who gets it by flying, making people less willing to fly ONLY Delta, because they’ll be less likely to get upgraded etc, and the 4k you spend is not PURE profit, because they have to give you more award miles that year, they have to serve you food in first class, the Global Upgrade Certs cost them money, etc…

  3. After two hours with Delta on Twitter this morning, I am not sure if I would fly Delta again. I found two separate calendar errors on their Website. The first time it took me over an hour on the phone to explain what the issue was before they acknowledged it (they did correct it within a few days). Today again another issue (both calendar issues). I got so much disinformation from both an agent and their Twitter customer agents, that I had to call them out for it before they actually took the time to see what the issue was. They have no quality control for their website.

  4. I got an email from Alaska last week offering EQMs for purchase to put me over for gold next year. The email wasn’t particularly tailored to my situation, because I could buy pretty much number of EQMs even though I’m only 600 miles short:

    1000 EQMs = $275 or 27,500 miles
    2000 EQMs = $520 or 52,000 miles
    3000 EQMs = $735 or 73,500 miles
    * * *
    10000 EQMs = $1400 or 140,000 miles

    I’m traveling for the holidays on AS and will easily earn 600 miles before the end of the year. But even if I weren’t, why would I pay $275 to keep gold, when I could easily do a 1000 EQMs mileage run on Horizon for under $200 round trip?

  5. I was considering a mileage run but was waiting for Delta to launch the annual buy up. I am 1025 MQM’s short of Platinum and will be traveling about the same if not more next year (mainly international). Have been a regular traveler on Delta for over 10 years, this is the first time I have come up short enough to consider the buy up. Current status is Gold.

    I was kicking around costs for a mileage run and can make the run for about 300 dollars (for 2000 MQM’s) and a full day of travel or about 400 dollars (for 1,250 MQM’s) and about 4 hours of travel. I am only short the miles for status bump.

    The quotes that I see online for the buy up are the same as you posted above. I am Gold right now (obviously) and here is what my offer is;

    1000 qualifying miles, 3 segments, and $999 qualifying dollars = $999
    2500 qualifying miles, 6 segments, and $1299 qualifying dollars = $1299
    5000 qualifying miles, 9 segments, and $1399 qualifying dollars = $1399
    7500 qualifying miles, 12 segments, and $1599 qualifying dollars = $1599
    10,000 qualifying miles, 15 segments, and $1899 qualifying dollars = $1899
    12,500 qualifying miles, 18 segments, and $1999 qualifying dollars = $1999

    A couple of things I find interesting is that if I look at the time benefit of not making the run, the cost outweighs the benefit. Assuming this is the case for most. The other interesting thing is the cost per mile discount on the larger package is 40%.

    Short story… I am heading to Atlanta in two weeks on a first class booking to get my 1,250 MQM’s… Delta has done a good job devaluing their status program over the last few years.

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