Welcome to a weekly feature on the Renés Points blog. Each week this series covers in a “rookie” way either a Delta or travel related theme and attempts to break down to a basic level each topic. You can read up on all the previous posts HERE. Now on to this week’s feature.
Next week I will be taking on a very ambitious mileage run racking up over 12,000 MQMs over two days. The connections are very tight, the legs are many but the price was amazing. Thanks to schedule changes I have made it even more complex and crazy (I may regret this but we will see). Delta has been near PERFECT for me with flight times this year so it will be fun to try this one but I foresee issues. No matter what, it will be a “fun run” as they always are. I have also in the past covered just how to build a Delta mileage run and if you have not reviewed the post, I encourage you to take a look.
But on to today’s topic, not about how to build one but just what is the logic behind a mileage run? Why would anyone ever want to do this? Can this really be an economic way to earn miles or to gain other benefits worth the time and stress?
First the logic of the mileage run. If you find yourself let’s say at the Gold Medallion level with Delta Airlines you have already noticed the airline appreciates you with all the benefits the status brings. However the next level of platinum medallion gives such a massive spike in benefits including things like choice benefits that if you find yourself just a few miles short it can be well worth the cost and the time to achieve the next level by taking a mileage run.
But now let’s look at the cost. We figure the cost of a mileage run by estimating the cost or cents per mile or CPM as its called. You find the CPM by dividing the total cost of the ticket by the number of MQM for medallion qualifying miles earned for the trip. (example $200/5000MQM=4CPM)
This gives you the formula for generating the elite miles you will need to reach whatever level you are going for. There are other benefits like additional Sky miles earned as well as potential other perks like bump vouchers so be sure if you happen to be able to volunteer if one of your flights are oversold. This is also a wise thing to do because most times you can request the mileage credit you would have gotten and get home much faster and not really have to take the mileage run at all.
Now down to the main reason we are all willing to do this. The larger benefits of attaining a higher medallion status. If you look at the cost of a first class ticket vs. the cost of a a coach class ticket and you are upgraded for free due to a higher status maybe 3, 4 or 10 times a year this can be well worth the cost of giving up today flying transcon to pick up 5000 extra elite miles. The same logic goes for say the cost of the Delta AMEX Platinum card with its non-waived $150 fee. The cost vs. benefit is worth the fee many times over.
More than upgrades are also on the table. For example, waived fees as well as better & faster phone support and the list really goes on and on. There are so many perks that sometimes do not have a real dollar value attached but in practice have a tremendous value to a frequent flyer. You have to decide if these perks are worth the price to you; to me many of these are priceless!
This is the time of the year and procrastinators who find they are going to fall short start looking at different ways to rack up a few more miles. In past years Delta has offered a simple solution of buying MQM’s to push you over the top and I fully expect they will soon offer them this year as well. This offer has been great for Delta; to sell something that really has no value for real money. However the cost of attaining these elite miles for you and I are very expensive compared to the alternative of either acquiring an American Express Delta credit card or taking a low priced mileage run.
I received a lot of feedback from readers that this year was the first time they have ever taken a mileage run. Most have said it wasn’t as bad as they thought and they actually had fun. I suggest if you find yourself just a little short of whatever medallion level you’re trying to reach you consider a mileage run before the year is over. – René
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My home airport is CVG. What I have found is that the positioning flight has always pushed the cost out of range for what I am willing to pay. I can typically only mileage run on the weekend which is another hiderance. So far I have not been able to find a worthy MR within friving distance of Cincinnati. Do you have any advice for positioning?
@Johnny – yes, get the Barclay’s Arrival card and spend their points to pay for positioning flights!
Rene, using Barclay’s Arrival card’s points is still an added cost. Maybe not out of pocket, but using those might mean you have to pay out of pocket at a later date.
@Cory – sure but keep in mind you are getting Skymiles back from the run you can use later 🙂
Still a MR skeptic 🙂
@Cory – not a problem. Anyone who get’s on a plane just to fly is a bit special!
On the point about the Delta Amex Plat fee, if you satisfy the MQD spend on the card, and then cancel it to avoid paying the renewal fee, does the MQD exemption still count for the next year?
@DBest – great question and I do not have an answer but I will find out from Delta! My guess is once spend done, you are done but who knows!
I fly every week for work, but my flights are pretty short. TYS>ATL>LGA or TYS>ATL>CAK for all but 2 weeks since July 1st… Being that the flights are short, MQM’s and segments are pretty much neck and neck.
Although I want to do a MR for fun, it is hard to justify it the the wife since I’m out of town so much already. My goal is to start a MR from LGA or JFK at the end of a workweek and have the client pay for the first leg as re positioning from TYS is steep. I have yet to make the timing work, but still have my fingers crossed.
Another thing to remember is that you can buy NON-MQM miles directly from Delta for 3.5 CPM. (In groups of 2000 unless I’m mistaken.) If you’re mainly doing it for the award miles, it’s easier to purchase them.
@john s – yes and it is a VERY VERY VERY VERY VERY bad buy. Never ever please buy Delta points that way unless you need to top off for an award. WAY to much money.
Why isn’t it less expensive and less of a hassle to earn miles by paying your taxes (property or income) with a Delta AMEX card? The cost is less than 2.5 CPM and you don’t have to travel. For those approaching a Mileage Boost, the CPM becomes even less when you add the bonus miles and the MQMs. Am I missing something?
@Bob F – that works until some level. You can only get So fare with CC before you need a MR. I will rollover 100,000 MQMs 😉
Hopped across the border to DTW last year to do a mileage run. Tried explaining it to the border guards and ended up getting my car searched. Same thing on the way back into Canada. All this in spite of having a Nexus card.
Sometimes being honest can backfire a little!