Question Of The Week: Is Delta Silver Medallion Status Worth It?

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Question Of The Week: Is Delta Silver Medallion Status Worth It?

Question Of The Week: Is Delta Silver Medallion Status Worth It?

Our question this week is a blunt look at “Is Delta Silver Medallion status worth it?” We’ll cover the basics of Delta’s elite status program, what they list as the perks of Silver status, and then what you can really expect.

The Question

Our question of the week comes from Shumayl in our Facebook group:

How valuable is silver medallion status in terms of increasing my chances of being upgraded? Is being upgraded on a basic economy ticket unheard of or do flight attendants have discretion.

Thanks!!

Specific items to address from Shumayl’s question are the ‘worth it’ concept, upgrades, and whether basic economy upgrades are possible. Here we go.
Question Of The Week: Is Delta Silver Medallion Status Worth It?

Delta Silver Medallion – What Is It?

Before we can answer “is Delta Silver Medallion status worth it?” we should understand what it is. Silver is the lowest status level in Delta’s elite status program, called Medallion. Silver is the lowest level (above ‘general member’, which we won’t consider to be part of ‘elite status’). Above that, you have Gold, Platinum & Diamond (the top level).

What Does Silver Medallion Status Offer?

According to Delta, here’s what you get with Silver Medallion status:

  • Higher miles earning rate – 7 miles per dollar spent on Delta
  • Unlimited rollover MQMs – any miles earned on top of the minimum required to reach your current status level will ‘roll over’ to next year to help you get started
  • First checked bag is free – on Delta or select partner flights, includes you and up to 8 people on your same reservation
  • Priority check-in
  • Discounts on CLEAR membership
  • Priority boarding
  • 1,000 bonus miles when renting a car with Hertz
  • Reclaim my status – helps you re-earn status when you don’t fly for a while and lose your status (ex: hospitalization, had a baby, etc.)
  • Unlimited complimentary upgrades
    • Starting the day before your flight, Delta’s computers will see if there’s a seat available for you to move up to Comfort+, domestic “first class”, or Clase Premier on Aeromexico flights within certain regions
    • On the day of your flight, Delta’s computers will look for open seats to upgrade you to Delta One on flights within the US 50 states only
    • Note: Upgrades are not available on ‘basic economy’ tickets

Which Benefits Can You Get Elsewhere?

For me, when deciding “is Delta Silver Medallion status worth it?” (or any status really), I want to know what benefits are totally unique. Which benefits can I get elsewhere?

  • First checked bag is free – get this benefit by having any Delta credit card
  • Priority boardingwe covered this here
  • Discounted CLEAR membership – they run specials and deals outside of the Delta partnership

Which Benefits Have No Value?

I’ll be blunt here: Delta saying you get “priority boarding” with Silver Medallion status is deceptive. This benefit for Silver members has no value. I know I listed it in the above section, but being honest means calling this out.

Here’s everyone boarding before you as a Silver Medallion member:

  1. Active duty U.S. military
  2. Delta One & Delta Diamond Medallion
  3. Delta Premium Select & First Class passengers
  4. Families with car seats & strollers
  5. Delta Comfort+ passengers
  6. Sky Priority (Platinum Medallion, Gold Medallion & top-tier status from partners)
  7. Main Cabin 1 (Silver Medallion,  Delta Corporate Travelers, Priority Boarding Trip Extra customers, Delta SkyMiles Gold / Platinum / Reserve Card Members & mid- or lower-tier elite status on partners)

In bold, I pointed out where you will board. In your boarding group is anyone with a Delta credit card, and having that credit card requires no effort, plus less $. Your first checked bag and boarding group are accomplished with a $99 annual fee.

I’ll also say the ‘priority check in’ is nearly worthless. I prefer using the check-in kiosks whenever possible. The priority check in could help if you have to drop off bags after using the kiosk, but my own experience is that this isn’t as much of a benefit as they make it out to be.

Is Delta Silver Medallion Status Worth It?

What are we left with?

  • Rollover MQMs
  • Higher miles earning rate
  • Hertz miles benefit
  • Upgrades

The real ‘perk’ that becomes tangible here is with seat upgrades. This is the reason people want status, right?

Shumayl asked if basic economy seats are eligible for upgrades, and Delta is very clear on this answer: no. Could flight attendants theoretically upgrade you? Yes. However, upgrades are based on the computer system, and you should absolutely not plan for flight attendants to upgrade someone where a policy says your ticket doesn’t qualify. Consider that a unicorn and nothing more. Also, you can read Mark’s post about lessons learned from flying basic economy on Delta.

While you can get upgrades on all other types of fares (award redemptions, points + miles, cash), note that you cannot get upgrades of any type on a basic economy ticket.

The concept of status and the reason for flying basic economy are opposites here: spend money to qualify for upgrades vs save money by flying in basic economy. You’ve got to choose.

Will I Really Get Upgrades?

The answer to how often you’ll get upgrades is “it varies”.

Delta outlines here the order, priority, and timelines for complimentary upgrades. The short answer is that you are at the end of the line. With Silver Medallion status, you will only get upgrades after everyone else. If there are still empty seats in Comfort+ (any flights) or domestic First Class/Delta One flights, then you will get an upgrade. How often that happens really varies.

Are you flying on a packed flight during Spring Break? What about an empty flight on a Tuesday going to Iowa? Does the seat map show ‘full’ in economy but ‘totally empty’ in First Class? All of those things affect your chances.

The real answer is that you’ll want to be on a flight with multiple empty seats in Comfort+, First Class, or Delta One to have a shot at upgrades. This is especially true if someone is traveling with you (you can get upgraded along with 1 other person, must be a SkyMiles member, traveling on your same reservation). Keep checking the seat map, and if you’re flexible to move to another flight that same day or a day earlier/later, this can increase your chances.

Review: Delta One Suites A330neo - New York JFK To Amsterdam AMS

Final Thoughts

I previously wrote about why I think Delta’s elite status program is not the best option, and many people would have an easier/cheaper path earning SkyTeam status via Flying Blue. If you want a harsh take on airline elite status, Benjy wrote a post about why he thinks it’s overvalued. If Delta Medallion status is close at hand, and you will get tangible benefits from it, it could be worth it. Make sure you do the math and add up the costs to see what you’re putting in vs what you’ll really get out of it.

Truth be told, some of the “guaranteed” benefits can be accomplished by having a Delta credit card. Other “guaranteed” benefits are available elsewhere. The “maybe” benefits are where you need to assign a real dollar value according to your circumstances, then you can decide for YOUR situation, since everyone’s home airport can lead to a different valuation. Now, you can figure out if Delta Silver Medallion status is worth it for you.

Ryan S
Travel hacker in 2-player mode, intent on visiting every country in the world, and can say "hello" or "how much does this cost?" in a bunch of different languages.

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5 COMMENTS

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5 COMMENTS

  1. Delta Silver is a joke. I fly out of one of Deltas hubs, SLC and I never got an upgrade no matter where I was flying, Priority boarding is also a joke, I never felt like I had any status with Delta at all so is it really a status if there aren’t any benefits that make you feel special? I fly Delta often and don’t have an issue with the airline but I will never go out of my way again to get the silver status.

  2. Having status matched AA Gold to DL Silver in the past, no I don’t think Delta’s basic status is worth pursuing specifically. As you pointed out, the most valuable “normal” perks of silver status can be had just by holding any Delta credit card.

    Then there are upgrades, I have been upgraded to C+ and even got First class once on a short regional flight that was almost empty. Exit rows are preferred seats which are free to select as silver (but don’t get free alcohol like C+). As pointed out in the article, basic economy doesn’t get upgrades, so you will end up “buying up” to main cabin just to have a CHANCE at an upgrade. If you would have otherwise just bought basic economy and been happy with the savings it really isn’t a good deal. As a silver if you want to fly first you really need to buy the ticket, in which case you don’t need status at all when traveling paid first.

    I much prefer AA’s system, where main cabin extra seats can be selected at 24hr check in by gold members (AA equivalent to delta silver), including those flying in your party, vs Delta’s convoluted “upgrade” system in comfort plus where you have to indicate which seat you prefer (window, center, aisle) and aren’t assured if they do upgrade you your party will remain seated together. On the other hand AA has their convoluted 500-mile sticker upgrade system for first, but you aren’t getting upgraded to first unless your flight is very empty anyway with either program.

  3. I think airline status as a whole is a bit overrated. I will NOT fly nothing but first class on domestic routes just for the sake of not sitting in a 3-3 config. I mostly travel with my wife so the 2-2 works.

    Before it’s mentioned, yes, domestic first class isn’t great but for me it’s all about not sharing the already limited space, with a 3rd person. It has nothing to do with Covid as I’ve always felt this way.

    As it relates to status, you have to hope and pray that you get bumped regardless of status…so running the risk of not getting bumped means that I’m definitely sitting “back of the house” and that’s a gamble I can’t take.

    Domestic first class is fairly cheap on the likes of Alaska and the other 3 have transfer partners that would can usually find a way to score up front seats by way of transferring points.

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