In a rare win for travel hackers, recent changes to the Delta Medallion program actually increase the value of top tier Diamond elite status, without reducing benefits for lower levels of status. The main change was that for the 2018 Medallion year they substituted an automatic Sky Club membership for a third Choice benefit, whereas before Diamond members only got two Choice benefits.
Since 2018 status is earned in 2017, these changes will begin to affect those earning elite as soon as they qualify this year. Platinum elites will continue to be allowed to select one Choice benefit.
Some may see the loss of automatic Sky Club membership as offsetting the addition of the third Choice benefit and therefore not increasing the value of the status. However, if you desire that benefit you can still select it and have two Choice benefits remaining, so there would effectively be no change. On the other hand, a Sky Club membership is often a redundant and therefore wasted benefit for many Delta flyers.
Those who hold either the Delta Reserve Credit Card or the Platinum Card® from American Express (non-Delta) card already receive Sky Club access. Therefore, anytime they are flying on Delta (though not if flying on other carriers) they already have access. The substitution for the third Choice benefit gives elites more flexibility to choose the benefits that are most valuable for them.
In this post, we will cover each Choice Benefit, analyze the value, and also give tips about the best time to select the benefit. The list of all available Choice benefits for both Platinum and Diamond elites is listed below:
|Upgrade Certificates||4 Regional||4 Global OR 8 Regional OR 2 Global AND 4 Regional|
|Global Entry Application Voucher||1 Voucher ($100)||2 Vouchers ($100 each)|
|Delta Sky Club Individual Membership||N/A||1 Individual Membership (2018 Medallion Year only)|
|Delta Sky Club Executive Membership||N/A||2017 Medallion Year: 1 Membership Upgrade
2018 Medallion Year: 1 Executive Membership (Requires 2 Choice Benefits)
|Delta Sky Club Guest Pass (Credit Card Access)||N/A||1 Delta Sky Club Guest Pass (2018 Medallion Year only)|
|Travel or Retail Gift Card||1||1|
|Give Medallion Status||Silver Medallion||Gold Medallion|
For Platinum elites, we highly recommend choosing the four regional upgrade certificates. These certificates move you to the front of the line for upgrades on domestic flights as well as a few select international destinations. Many of the Choice benefits available to Diamond members are not available to Platinum members. The remaining benefits available to Platinum elites include a gift card, travel voucher, Global Entry application voucher, 20,000 Skymiles, or the ability to gift Silver status.
The gift card and travel voucher are only worth $200, while the Global Entry application voucher is worth $100, so don’t consider those. The 20,000 Skymiles may be more valuable to you if you don’t care about upgrades and just want to maximize the number of free trips which you can take. Silver status may be more valuable if you live in a city where bottom tier elites can score upgrades with high success rates.
If you usually fly with a single companion, you can get them upgraded by being on the reservation with you. However, if you typically fly with more than one other person, such as family of 3+, then having a second person with status increases the total number of people who are eligible for an upgrade.
Those with Diamond status have many more decisions to make and more benefits from which to choose. Since there are so many, we will rank them (though there will be caveats to these rankings depending on your situation).
- Four Global Upgrade Certificates (GUCs) or Eight Regional Upgrade Certificates
Global Upgrade Certificates give you the ability to upgrade a paid economy fare on an international itinerary. This means you could buy a ticket to say Europe or Asia for around $1,000 and then get upgraded into a Delta One cabin which may sell for $4,000 to $6,000 or more.
Note that each certificate is good for one direction of travel, so upgrading a roundtrip ticket requires two certificates. If you choose the four GUCs benefit, you and a companion could each upgrade to Delta One on roundtrip itineraries. If you tend to fly domestically, the regional upgrade certificates may be more useful to you, and you can get twice as many.
Upgrade certificates expire one year after they are issued, so wait to choose these until you are ready to book a flight.
- Delta Sky Club Guest Pass (credit card upgrade)
This benefits allows you to take up to 2 guests into Sky Clubs an unlimited number of times at no cost if you already have access yourself via a credit card (Amex Platinum or Delta Reserve). Delta is a relatively stingy airline when it comes to lounge guest access, and if you are traveling with friends or family who don’t have access, it makes your individual access much less valuable. This benefit is good until the end of the elite year, so once you are sure you want it, pick it right away to maximize the amount of time. This applies to the other Sky Club choices below as well.
- Delta Sky Club Individual or Executive Membership
If you don’t have Sky Club access via a credit card, you can use one choice benefit to get an individual membership, or if you plan on bringing guests, use two Choice benefits to get an Executive membership which allows complimentary access for two guests. A Sky Club membership, as opposed to access, allows you to get into the club even when flying on other carriers.
- Gift Gold Status
This can be a great benefit if your gift recipient lives in a market where lower-level elites can get upgrades. Gold status should at least be enough to get upgraded to Comfort+, if not business/first class. Choose as soon as possible as this benefit is good until the end of the elite year, meaning you can get nearly two calendar years out of it if you qualify for 2018 status early in 2017.
- 25,000 Bonus Miles
Again, if maximizing the amount of free travel is more important to you than the luxuriousness of that travel, then extra miles are probably a good choice for you.