Delta Temporarily Counts Car Rental And Hotel Bookings Towards Elite Status

At Delta, it’s no longer just paid travel on the airline and its partners that earns elite status. Spending on premium co-brand credit cards can count towards elite status as well, and award travel on Delta also counts. In the past they’ve offered qualifying miles for American Express transfers to Delta as well.

However Delta hasn’t gone as far as American Airlines (or airlines like Avianca) which count miles from most activities.

  • Selling miles to partners, like banks and shopping portals, is much higher margin than flying.

  • So a customer generating $20,000 in mileage sales is more valuable to Delta than a customer buying $20,000 worth of tickets.

Delta’s mileage program doesn’t recognize this. In fact the head of the SkyMiles program concedes their strategy is for people to fly Delta because they like Delta, not because they’re offering value through the loyalty program.

  • Some people choose an airline purely for its price and schedule, and others for the reliability and inflight product. But if you’re choosing at all based on the value of miles you’d never pick Delta.

  • Delta benefits from a very strong market position in Atlanta and the Upper Midwest. In more competitive markets, the loyalty program isn’t a good reason to pick Delta.

Indeed, even if you value Delta and fly them enough to be on the status wheel, there’s little reason to earn SkyMiles for other activities that don’t count towards status. You should always consider earning another currency for hotels, car rentals, online shopping and the like.

Meanwhile Delta hasn’t been nearly as aggressive with mileage partnerships over the past several years, outside of its main credit card partner, as competitor airlines.

That could be changing. Through March 31, 2023 hotel and car rental bookings through their portal earn qualifying dollars towards SkyMiles elite status.

  • This works as a test to see whether members boost their (profitable activity) when the elite carrot is available, and not mere debased currency.

  • After all, some customers are motivated by rebates while others are motivated by elite treatment.

  • Integrating mileage partnerships with the benefits of the program, as American AAdvantage has, creates a real reason for a subset of customers to continue to transaction in the highest margin manner.

Under this offer, bookings made at from February 27, 2023 through March 31, 2023 for travel through September 4, 2023 earn qualifying dollars at a rate of one qualifying dollar per dollar spent on base rental or room rate actually paid upon completion of the booking.

MQDs can only be credited to the SkyMiles Member whose name appears on the credit card used for the reservation. First and last name on credit card must match with name on SkyMiles account provided.

MQDs will not be awarded for cancelled, no-show, or unpaid reservations.

…Please allow up to 8 weeks after completion of eligible stay or car rental for MQDs to be deposited in SkyMiles account.

It’s fascinating to see Delta in the role of industry follower. It’s clearly savvy to see them testing whether this moves the needle with their customers. In addition to generating transaction volume, this creates the opportunity to sell qualifying dollars (and, potentially, qualifying miles) to partners for a premium on top of the current rate at which they buy SkyMiles.

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, 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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  1. They more or less simultaneously devalue miles by over 100% and compensate with other ways to earn. No thanks. My desired redemption on partner airlines went from 110K to 325K. I can’t get past this. Unless they reverse this change I will never fly them again unless there is no other viable option.

  2. Not only is it not a very useful development, the pricing offered is terrible – I checked two Hertz and two Marriott reservations using the DL directed site vs direct. It was more than double the cost and for what, a few hundred MQD’s? Wasted energy.

  3. I find these things are more valuable for your second or third choice loyalty program. This probably won’t move the needle for me as I earn MQM/MQD with Delta via flying and the credit card. I do consider these kinds of things for American.

  4. Does the selling of MQMs generate any liability for Delta in the way selling redeemable Delta SkyMiles does?

    Selling hot air can be extra profitable.

  5. 2nd negative article today so far about Delta. Almost every day goes by where you bash that airline. Yet Delta keeps accumulating many nice awards on a yearly basis. No airline is perfect. Who is paying you to do this trash?

  6. @Gar mn – 2nd article about Delta, the other was certainly not negative! And this was negative about their setup at the airport, which isn’t even their fault, but passengers should know what they’re getting into if they’re arriving at ORD T5!

  7. Delta needs to base tier status on all revenue/net profit that a given customer generates for the company irrespective of revenue channel. As a business, it needs to do this. Pure and simple. To address the concerns of “too many” people diluting tier status, Delta needs to set the bars relatively high. When the crowd gets thinned, some will undoubtedly complain. But, once the tiers are right-sized, then Delta can and should appropriately reciprocate with recognition of that loyalty. If you don’t like that concept, don’t go away mad . . . just go away.

  8. Gary, speaking of ORD, ever taxi after landing for less than 30 minutes? Then, try getting over to the international terminal from any other terminal . . . after 8pm. It is my least favorite major airport.

  9. Everyone complains about lounge overcrowding yet the author seems to think that one should gain miles/status for every purchase. Let American & United be more miles friendly than Delta. Delta still is better by a long shot.

  10. I have been trying to book a Hertz car all day on the site you listed and it won’t let me book. I go through the whole application and it says it can’t be booked.”Try your search again.” No matter how many times I try, it says the same useless thing. I’d be happy to book and earn 863 miles for the same price as the previous reservation I had without miles, but it doesn’t work. It gives a phone number to call, but it’s the regular reservation number which is jammed today because of snowstorm. NOT A GOOD START!

  11. Several hours later, I again try to make a Hertz reservation using and Delta is running an ad saying Skymiles members can earn 8x the points by booking Hertz here, and Hertz doesn’t even show up! Three other companies. Is this a joke? Meanwhile, American’s site works perfectly providing twice the Advantage points at Budget and Avis.

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