Short on Delta MQMs? Buy first class for the price of coach using Pay with Miles

by on Tue September 17, 2013 • 2 Comments
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Are you running short on Delta Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs) this year and looking for ways to hit Silver, Gold, Platinum, or Diamond Medallion status for 2014?

There is a new option this year that will help you get there.  

If you hold any of the Delta SkyMiles® Credit Cards the ‘Pay With Miles‘ feature lets you use your regular SkyMiles® to take dollars off the cost of Delta airfare.

And as of this year Delta lets you earn Medallion Qualifying Miles (and regular miles) when Pay With Miles is used to buy all or part of a First or Business Class ticketEconomy Class tickets don’t have this benefit.

The fine print shows 'Pay with Miles' tickets in First / Business Class earn miles and MQMs. Economy class tickets don't earn miles.

The fine print shows ‘Pay with Miles’ tickets in First / Business Class earn miles and MQMs. Economy class tickets don’t earn miles.

That means you also earn the bonus MQMs that apply to paid First and Business Class tickets, letting you earn more MQMs for trips you are already planning.

For most fares every 10,000 points gives you $100 off the price of a ticket, and you can apply as many or as few miles as you want in 10,000 point increments, so you can buy a First Class ticket for the cash price of a Coach ticket or less, plus some of your SkyMiles®.

Here’s an example where it can work well…

If you’re flying from Los Angeles to Atlanta during the week of October 1st, we found coach airfares of about $600 roundtrip. But the discount First Class airfare is about $1100.

$500 is more than most of us want to pay out of pocket to get into First Class and earn the 50% bonus MQMs it offers.

Pay with miles option

Use Pay with Miles to get the First Class ticket for less

But using Pay With Miles you can use 50,000 miles to bring the cost of the First Class ticket down to $600, the same as the Coach fare. And you’ll earn an extra 1,921 MQMs.

Taking $500 off the cost of the First Class ticket with 50,000 miles
Taking $500 off the cost of the First Class ticket with 50,000 miles

So for 25,000 miles each way you’re getting a confirmed upgrade when you book AND earning almost 2,000 extra MQMs. Usually a first class upgrade costs 15,000 miles each way, but is only valid on higher fares and has very limited availability.

If you value your miles more and are willing to spend more cash you could pay an extra $200, making it an $800 airfare and use only 30,000 miles to make up the $300 difference to the First Class fare.

So for an extra $100 over the coach fare each way and 15,000 miles you get the upgrade and all the First Class MQMs. In this case you’re also flying on a 777 with lie-flat seats!

Another example is the time when the First Class fare isn’t very far off from the lowest Coach fare, like this flight on the Delta Shuttle. It’s $122 more for a First Class seat. But for 10,000 miles you can get First Class for the about the price of Coach and earn the extra 500 MQMs.

A Delta Shuttle flight with First Class $100 more than Coach

A Delta Shuttle flight with First Class $100 more than Coach

Screen Shot 2013-09-17 at 11.53.17 AM

Earning 50% more MQMs than the Coach fare

Earning 50% more MQMs than the Coach fare

Remember, you can use Pay with Miles to pay for the entire ticket if you want, but the best deal is to mix a small number of miles with a modest increase in cash to get the seat and the extra MQMs you need to get closer to Silver, Gold, Platinum, or Diamond Medallion status and the better priority privileges each offers.

You’ll need to have a Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express to use this feature, and make sure you’re logged into your SkyMiles® account when you search for flights to see the ‘Pay with Miles eligible’ stamp on search results.

More resources

> Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express benefits guide

> Delta SkyMiles® Cheat Sheet: Partner gateways for better rewards

> How to use Delta SkyMiles® to get to Italy in Business Class

 

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