One of the blog’s readers asked a question last week — and some travelers I quizzed didn’t know the correct answer. So, I think it’s blogworthy to discuss!
Do You Have to Book Delta Trips Directly Through Delta if You Want to Earn SkyMiles and Medallion Credits?
Reader Patrick posed a question in our post titled, “Answers to Several Reader Questions About the Delta Amex MQD Waiver.”
Patrick asked if a SkyMiles member “will get MQD credit for the money spent on a Delta ticket if they buy it through American Express travel (on a regular Amex card, not a Delta Amex card)? Or do you only get MQDs when you buy directly from Delta.com?”
I responded — and then asked some friends how they’d answer.
They assumed you need to book directly through Delta — or least, should. On top of that, they said using a Delta co-branded American Express is probably the safest way to ensure you earn MQM, MQS, MQD, and SkyMiles.
Let’s nip this one in the bud.
Your SkyMiles Number is the Key
You do not need to book Delta Air Lines trips directly through Delta. I’m sure Delta would probably prefer you do. But unless you book a SkyMiles award trip, apply Delta eCredits, or redeem a Companion Certificate, you’re generally not required to book tickets through Delta.
And Delta would be thrilled if you used one of the cobranded Delta SkyMiles® American Express cards. But you don’t have to.
You’ll earn any applicable MQM, MQS, MQM, and redeemable SkyMiles for your Delta trip purchased elsewhere — as long as your SkyMiles number is added to the reservation.
Book Wherever and Pay However – Here’s Why*
If you’re most comfortable booking Delta tickets through the airline’s website or Fly Delta app, that’s fine. We don’t judge (usually 😉 ).
I’ve flown countless trips purchased from vendors other than airlines themselves. Never have I experienced a problem earning miles, points., etc.
Credit Card Travel Services (and Other OTA)
Booking airline travel through credit card travel services can be a great way to get more value for your purchases — and still earn miles.
For example, I wonder if Patrick wanted to book a Delta trip using Amex Travel and holds The Business Platinum Card® from American Express. That card awards 5X American Express® Membership Rewards® for each dollar spent on flights and prepaid hotels on AmexTravel.com. (Terms apply.) But if you use that card to purchase travel directly through an airline (i.e., Delta), you’ll earn only 1X.
Similarly, the Chase Freedom Flex℠ (no annual fee), Chase Freedom Unlimited® (no annual fee), Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, and Chase Sapphire Reserve® all earn 5X Chase Ultimate Rewards®® points per dollar spent on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards® Travel. (The Chase Sapphire Reserve® earns 5X after the annual $300 travel is exhausted.)
The Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card earns 5X miles (basically Capital One points) on flights purchased through Capital One Travel.
None of the Delta Amex cards earn more than 3X SkyMiles per dollar spent on purchases made through Delta.
So, that’s how using a different card and alternate booking site can end up being more rewarding than going through Delta and using one of the co-branded Amex cards.
Paying With Points — and Earning Credit
I’ve used The Business Platinum Card® from American Express’s Pay With Points feature on AmexTravel.com to save a ton of money on Delta airfare — and always earned full MQM, MQD, MQS, and SkyMiles. (Cardholders can earn a 35% Membership Rewards points rebate when using points to pay for some or all of an eligible flight. A maximum of 1,000,000 may be earned back per calendar year. Terms apply and enrollment is required. )
Another example: I hold the Chase Sapphire Reserve®. That card allows members to redeem points at a 50% bonus when purchasing travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® Travel. This bonus makes each point worth 1.5 cents each. So, using points to pay for Delta tickets helped me save money — and I still earned my Medallion Qualification credits and SkyMiles.
Some people use online travel agencies (OTA) such as Priceline, Expedia, etc., to book their airline travel.
You sometimes might not have any say about how or where your travel is purchased.
One of my clients uses a travel agency to buy my airline tickets whenever I fly for their events. They have my Rapid Rewards number on file and that usually ports over to Southwest reservations. But I’ve always manually added my Delta, JetBlue, Alaska, United, and American program numbers to reservations the client booked — after the flights were purchased.
Again, no problems earning elite credits or redeemable miles/points. I’ve also cleared upgrades on Delta plenty of times.
Be wary of some instances when you won’t earn credit — even when adding your SkyMiles number.
One is purchasing Basic Economy fares. No matter where or how you buy airfares, you won’t earn any MQM, MQS, MQD, or SkyMiles on a Delta Basic Economy ticket (fare class “E”).
Also, keep in mind that exemption fares (some vacation packages booked through travel agencies) earn Medallion credits in sort of a wonky way. That assumes the agency purchases Main Cabin or higher fares. Watch out for those Basic Economy tickets!
You’ll earn MQD, MQS, MQM, and SkyMiles for Delta flights purchases through third parties. And you don’t need to use a Delta American Express card to pay for your trips.
Just make sure you travel on an eligible fare and add your SkyMiles number.
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