United Makes It Easier to Earn Premier Status in 2021

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With travel trends continuing to stall, United Airlines has announced a series of proactive changes to its MileagePlus program to make earning United Premier elite status easier in 2021. These include lowering status thresholds, giving current elite members a PQP boost, increasing PQP earning rates in early 2021, and allowing cobranded cardholders to spend their way to higher statuses.

After some recent negative changes made by United, we are pleased that all of these changes are surprisingly customer-friendly.

United P.S. 757 Takeoff

Recap: 2020 MileagePlus Program Changes

United has gone through a series of significant program updates over the last twelve months, including:

But perhaps the most important update came in early October. That's when the airline completely redesigned how loyalists earn Premier status. The changes were numerous and, frankly, somewhat confusing.

In a nutshell, the airline no longer tracks any distance-based metrics—no more ‘miles', so to speak. Now, the only two things that matter for status are (in descending order of importance):

  1. Premier Qualifying Points (PQPs) — members earn one PQP per dollar spent on eligible airfare
  2. Premier Qualifying Flights (PQFs) — members earn one PQF per eligible flight flown

Now, in response to the continued downturn in travel, United will lower the requirements of these two metrics in 2021.

Related Post: The Ultimate Guide to United MileagePlus

Reduced Thresholds for United Premier status

To earn elite status in 2021 (valid through early 2023), MileagePlus members need to meet these updated requirements:

  • Premier Silver — 3,000 PQPs + 8 PQFs, or 3,500 PQPs
  • Premier Gold — 6,000 PQPs + 16 PQFs, or 7,000 PQPs
  • Premier Platinum — 9,000 PQPs + 24 PQFs, or 10,000 PQPs
  • Premier 1K — 13,500 PQPs + 36 PQFs, or 15,000 PQPs

Earning United Premier elite status is going to be easier in 2021

Whether qualifying with a combination of PQPs and PQFs or solely via PQPs, the new requirements are between 33–43% lower in 2021.

2020 Elites Get a Boost

In addition to lowering the requirements, United will also give 2020 elites a head start. On February 1, 2021, United will provide 2020 elite members a 25% PQP boost based on their 2020 status level.

More specifically, members with these status tiers in 2020 will receive:

  • Premier Silver — 875 PQPs
  • Premier Gold — 1,750 PQPs
  • Premier Platinum — 2,500 PQPs
  • Premier 1K — 3,750 PQPs

This boost makes it even easier for current United elite members to earn status next year.

For example, a current Premier 1K member could re-secure 1K in 2021 with only 11,250 PQP (15,000 PQP minus their 3,750 PQP boost). Alternatively, they'll already have enough PQP for Premier Silver without any activity.

Earn Bonus Premier-Qualifying Points in Early 2021

With everything else, United is also launching a new promotion that offers more PQPs for your first few trips in 2021.

Earn bonus PQP toward United Premier elite status

From January 1, 2021 through March 31, 2021, United loyalists can earn up to 2X PQPs for their first three trips:

  • MileagePlus members with Premier status can earn a 100% PQP bonus (2X PQPs).
  • MileagePlus members without Premier status can earn a 50% PQP bonus (1.5X PQPs).

Spend Your Way to United Premier 1K

When United debuted its new program of PQPs and PQFs, it also added the ability for co-branded cardholders to earn them through card spend. However, those PQPs historically only applied for Premier Silver, Gold, and Platinum qualification—not 1K.

United℠ Explorer Card
United℠ Explorer Card
Annual Fee$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95
Welcome Offer Earn 60k bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus, an additional 10k bonus miles after you spend $6,000 in the first 6 months.
  • 60k bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus, an additional 10k bonus miles after you spend $6,000 in the first 6 months.
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent at restaurants, on hotel stays, and on United purchases
  • Up to $100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck™ fee credit
  • 25% back on United inflight purchases
  • Check your first bag for free (a savings of up to $140 per roundtrip) when you use your card to purchase your ticket
  • Enjoy priority boarding privileges and visit the United ClubSM with 2 one-time passes each year for your anniversary
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent at restaurants and eligible delivery services including GrubHub, Caviar, Seamless and DoorDash
  • 2X miles per $1 spent on purchases from United
  • 2X miles per $1 spent at restaurants and on hotel stays
  • 1X mile per $1 spent on all other purchases

Now, United is allowing PQPs earned with cobranded cards count towards Premier status all the way up to 1K, provided you also meet the PQF requirement.

Related Post: Earn up to 70,000 Bonus United Miles 

Plus Points (Upgrade) Extension

One of the perks of earning United Premier Platinum and 1K status is using Plus Points for seat upgrades. Due to COVID-19, many Premier members haven't been able to use their Plus Points. Thankfully, United decided to extend the validity of Plus Points.

All Plus Points set to expire on or after January 1, 2021 (including those earned in 2019 and 2020), will be extended an additional six months.

Moreover, United will make it easier for Premier 1K members to earn more Plus Points in 2021. After reaching 15,000 PQPs, 1K members will earn 20 Plus Points for every 2,000 PQPs. (The normal rate is 20 Plus Points for every 3,000 additional PQPs.)

Bottom Line

United is implementing a collection of customer-friendly updates to its MileagePlus program in 2021. All of the changes will either a) make earning Premier status easier, or b) allow Premier members to utilize their benefits for longer.

Overall, I'm impressed with United's efforts. The future of travel continues to look bleak, so it's not surprising for an airline to proactively make these changes. However, given United's recent propensity for negative program changes, it's refreshing to see some good news.

How do you feel about these updates to the MileagePlus program in 2021?

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Comments

  • Avatar

    Cool!
    Looks like I’ll make status this year after all!!

    Thanks for the great news

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    Well, without flying you cannot earn PQP’s at all. To earn PQP’s enough for status, it will take $12000 for every 500 PQP’s. This will be a ridiculous amount of spending to just reach 3500 PQP’s. In other words, without actually flying with UA, we can’t really reach our desired tiers, at least for me. Hoping travel will open up soon.

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    I’m sorry I did not understand completely. Does this mean I can earn Platnum status by spending $7,000 (equal to 7,000 PDP) on my United Club card without flying?

    • Avatar

      Sorry, there was a lot to unpack in this news and we were a bit too short on details on this aspect. United co-branded credit cards can earn Premier Qualifying Points (PQP). You’ll earn 500 PQP for every $12,000 spent. But, there are limits on how many PQP you can earn on a particular card – and the limits are absurdly complicated. Check out the “More information for co-branded MileagePlus credit cards” section on this page for more details: https://www.united.com/ual/en/us/fly/mileageplus/premier/qualify.html

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    This certainly seems to be a step in the right direction given the situation. Time for AA and Delta to step up the game.

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    If they really were serious about reinvigorating their loyalty program, they’d eliminate PQP’s altogether.

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    I’m guessing they see the writing on the wall for 2020 and trying to be proactive.
    Not sure that this is the answer, but at least it’s a start…..

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    This will make it easier for me to hang on to my premier status, though I’m still not sure it’ll be enough. All my work-related trips (which used to be the majority of my travel) have been cancelled through at least May. So I’ll basically be trying to requalify using only flights in the second half of the year.

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    As they should! Airlines need to retain their loyalists and making it easier to retain status is the best way to keep your customers!

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      How much does status really cost them anyway? Typically airline programs have such a high bar to earn status to the point only business travelers can get it (obviously not true but the sentiment stands). If you want people to be loyal, you have to allow some perks to entice me. Otherwise I’m going with the cheapest flight and/or whoever offers nonstop service.

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    I know nothing about the United Elite program. The only status I have with them is Silver because I am Marriott Titanium. I will be studying this article to see if it something that I can use in for my new travel patterns after I move. Thanks for the explanation of things that weren’t particularly clear in the United email that announced the changes.

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    Yeah, you’re so right in your closing remarks, it’s good to have some positive program changes among all the negativity surrounding us!

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    All airlines should be doing this in order to entice people to travel again once it is ok to travel again.

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    Not sure who will want to commit to United after their consumer unfriendly moves during a pandemic, such as increasing miles needed to book partners by 10%. It is hard for me to commit to an airline that is not committed to its fliers.

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    Keep the emphasis on program improvements for the customers and maybe they will start flying sooner and more frequently. We can only hope.

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    Juan Ignacio says:

    Basically the same thing AA did some months ago. Well done!!

  • Avatar

    Lowering the thresholds is a good start. Hopefully Delta and American will follow suit perhaps with some more creative proposals.