How to manufacture United elite status

Most airlines offer extra benefits to their most valuable customers. If you fly enough with an airline, you can become “elite”.  Of course, not all elites are equal.  Most airlines have multiple elite tiers to differentiate their valuable customers from their really valuable customers.  And, of course, airlines offer the best perks to their highest tier elites.

United is no different.  They offer elite tiers ranging from Premier Silver status (25,000 miles per year flown) to Premier 1K status (100,000 miles flown).  As with all airlines, perks improve as you move up the elite ladder.

CRJ700 Economy Plus--Full Size

United elites get free access to Economy Plus seating with extra legroom.

Unlike Delta, you can’t earn United’s top tier elite status through credit card spend alone (see “How to manufacture Delta elite status”).  If you happen to be a MileagePlus Presidential Plus Credit Card holder (no longer available to new applicants), you can spend your way to Premier Platinum status, but not to top tier Premier 1K status.  With this card, you’ll earn 1,000 PQMs for every $5,000 in spend.  So, using this card to achieve Premier Platinum status would require a mere $375,000 of spend.

What if you don’t have that old Presidential Plus card?  Even without it, you can earn Silver status through spend.  And, you can fast track to high tier status through a combination of credit card spend and flying.  I’ll show you how.

United Elite Requirements

The following chart shows United’s elite status requirements:

UnitedEliteRequirements

Definitions:

  • PQMs: Premier Qualifying Miles can be roughly thought of as the actual miles flown on United and Star Alliance partner flights.  It’s important to understand that these are different from redeemable miles which can be used to book award flights.  PQMs are only used for earning elite status.
  • PQSs: Premier Qualifying Segments are a count of the number of United and Star Alliance segments flown.  Unless you fly a very large number of short flights, your are unlikely to earn elite status through PQSs.
  • PQDs: Premier Qualifying Dollars are the sum total of your spend on United and Copa marketed flights.

Explanation:

In general, to reach each elite tier, United MileagePlus members must earn the stated number of PQMs or PQSs and spend the targeted amount of PQDs.  In other words, its not enough to just fly far or often, you also need to spend a lot of money with United.

There’s an easy exception to the PQD requirement: spend $25,000 or more with United branded credit cards and the PQD requirement goes away for all tiers except top tier Premier 1K.

Elite Benefits

United’s complete chart of elite benefits can be found here.  Here’s an excerpt showing some of the benefits:

UnitedEliteBenefits1

And, this chart shows reduced award related fees for elites (click the chart to view details):

UnitedEliteBenefits2

Manufacture United Premier Silver status

The key to manufacturing Premier Silver status is to manufacture Marriott Platinum status.  The reason for this is that United and Marriott have a partnership called RewardsPlus (found here).  With RewardsPlus, Marriott Platinum members can sign up to get complimentary United MileagePlus Premier Silver status.

To manufacture Marriott Platinum status, the trick is as follows:

  1. Get the Ritz Carlton credit card.
  2. Spend $75,000 within one account year to earn Platinum status.
  3. Signup for RewardsPlus to get United Premier Silver status.
  4. Maintain Marriott Platinum status (and, therefore, United Premier Silver status) in future years with as little as $8,000 per year spend.

Please see “How to manufacture Marriott elite status” for full details.

Fast track to Premier Gold or Premier Platinum

One way to fast track to United elite status is to start with status on a competing airline and then enroll in a status match challenge.  United’s status match challenge requirements can be found here.

At the time of this writing, United will match from either Delta or US Airways elite status as follows:

United_status_challenge1

If you meet the criteria, your United account will be upgraded to the corresponding elite level for 90 days.  During those 90 days, if you fly enough on United (or Copa), you can keep status.  The flight requirements increase with higher levels of elite status sought:

United_status_challenge2

The trick is to meet the flight requirements close to but after July 1st so that your elite status will continue for the rest of that calendar year and all of the next year.

What if you don’t already have Delta or US Airways elite status?  As I detailed recently, it is possible to earn high level Delta elite status entirely through spend.  Please see this post for full details: How to manufacture Delta elite status.

Note that the United status match is close to a one time deal.  They only allow these status matches once every 5 years.

For details about the status match program, please click here.

Conclusion

I’ve presented here the ideas and tools needed to fast track to United elite status. Whether or not you should do so depends heavily upon your situation.  Do you fly enough with United to make it worth it?  In my case, I hardly ever fly United, but I’ve found it easy to maintain Marriott Platinum status through their elite buy back program (details here) so I’ve also kept United Silver status.  What about you?  Do you see any benefit in reaching for United elite status?

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

More articles by Greg The Frequent Miler »

Pingbacks

  1. […] Several years ago I earned Marriott Platinum status through the Taste of Platinum Challenge.  Since then, I’ve maintained Platinum status through Marriott’s status buy back program.  Each year, I exchange 40,000 Marriott points for the privilege of keeping my Platinum status.  In return, in addition to Marriott’s elite benefits, I get United Silver status (thanks to the United / Marriott partnership called RewardsPlus).  See also: How to manufacture United elite status. […]

  2. […] Complementary elite upgrades on United award tickets.  This perk is specifically for United elite members.  Normally, United flights booked as awards are not available for complementary elite upgrades.  However, if you have one of several United Mileage Plus credit cards, then you are eligible for complementary elite upgrades on award tickets. Details can be found here.  Note: if you’re a big spender, you can spend your way to United Silver status.  See: How to manufacture United elite status. […]

Comments

  1. @FM
    since you mention spend, why not get the United PerksPlus program spend 50k on UA in 1 yr = 1k
    You can include 5 members, so all you need are 5 trustworthy people flying UA and spending 10k each for 1k themselves and you get free 1k as well.

  2. or… find somebody good at photoshop and, BAM, you’re platinum delta or US Air- then do the UAL gold or plat challenge. incorporate a mileage run with an overseas vacation, and your golden (or platinum).

    in all seriousness, i need to attain United Plat and the above *Kinda ethically challenged idea is my best shot in a short period of time.
    * ‘kinda’ because nobody gets hurt and everyone wins. besides, given their massive star alliance deval this year, they owe me!

    now to find a photoshop pro in India…

    • Abby, That is ridiculous. This is not a matter of just “ethics” as you say. Fraud is ILLEGAL, and that’s what you’re talking about. I guess you think it’s only wrong if you’re caught.

      Then for you to imply you’re “only” taking away someone’s upgrade is also ridiculous. Why do you presume every elite got status by working for someone else? Some of us work for ourselves. Some of us own a small company. And even those who don’t earned status legitimately.

  3. @abby

    “Everyone wins”? “Kinda ethically challenged”?

    You’re talking about fraud. No one owes you. How can one possibly be entitled to free status? Sure there was a devaluation, but that happens, and you agree to that when you sign up for the program. They can change anything, at any time. And yes, someone does get hurt. The business does, and if the business hurts, that’s when they have to devalue or cut things. Then everyone hurts. If you don’t fly enough for Plat YoY, why do you need the status?

    Thank god you can only status match once every 5 years to get these clowns out of my boarding group.

  4. I did the status match from DL Silver (mostly from MS) to UA Silver, on one domestic trip with some creative routing (7k miles). I like UA silver better, while DL gives you free exit row at booking, UA gives you any EC seat, albeit only at check-in. Main differentiator though is that UA gives Silvers premier access for security, while DL starts that at gold.

  5. You can attain US Airways status for 90 days on their Preferred trial ($200 for Silver, $400 Gold, $600 Platinum). You won’t get a card but can you use online statement showing status to get UA to match? Or does UA want to see too many details in a screenshot to get away with that?

    P.S. Personally, I am skeptical above would work but wanted to throw it out there.

  6. @Jon lol at the outrage of ‘fraud’. the article is about MSing status thru the back door. what i posit involves 18,000 butt in seat miles in 90 days- that’s a fair amount of PAID travel- yes?

    if you’re like most ‘elites’, you don’t spend a dime on your airline (and hotel) status- the company you work for pays for everything. oh yes… the extreme hardship of being on the road, i’m ‘entitled’ as compensation for my ‘sacrifice’. gmafb. i live in hotels and i’m self employed- i’ve asked, but nobody will pay for my flights and hotels for me, so i have to pay myself. i see the ‘hellish’ life these ‘poor road warriors’ lead all over asia- they really look like they’re suffering (and missing their wives, too- umm, not so much). i hear them on the phone to their wives with their fake exhausted voice then see them later drunk and with a hooker on their way to their elite upgraded room.

    there are road warriors who do suffer. the low end guys driving from econolodge to super 8 with an $18 per diem. yeah, they’re not on BA and FT.

    my guess is that you’re not worried about ethics as much as competition for the ENTITLED status you get on someone else’s dime. well, those of us who have to buy tickets think you should be taxed on your miles and points- because they are additional income (FACT). be thankful the travel industry spends a bunch on lobbyists.

    as for my platinum idea: the match requirement for a UA challenge isn’t even needed on other airlines. they lose nothing- fact. being plat will help make qualifying the normal way less costly, as i will have more redeemable miles earned on the flights as an offset. UA gets business they would not have had before. only potential loser is the entitled road warrior worried that i may get the seat he feels ENTITLED to which he neither paid for nor paid taxes on.

    i’d LOVE to debate one of you guys on youtube!

  7. @abby

    I only argued your point that “with a little photoshop”. That’s the definition of fraud? In your long diatribe I did not see a valid argument that faking credentials isn’t fraud?

    It’s obvious that this is a sore spot for you. I could care less about how one achieves their status, as long as it’s NOT FRAUDULENT. Execs that don’t pay for their tickets? They’ve earned it by hard work, or right job, etc. People that status match (legally), they earned it by being Plat at a different airline. Even people (like me) that use the Chase CC waiver to attain Plat, have earned it. Manufacturing it through partners? Yep, they’ve earned it.. Not one scenario above is fraudulent except yours. That’s the only debate here.

    How about this, why we both go on Youtube and tell @united how we each got our status?

    Like I said, enjoy your status for one year! See you in 5!

  8. FM: Is it correct that spending $25k/year with united branded card is enough to earn the silver status? I have a united mileageplus card and just want to confirm this! Thanks..

  9. I got the lowest level of status (better than nothing) on United by being Marriott Platinum. Really it’s the main reason I went for it at Marriott.

  10. So while doing the challenge for Gold or Plat, how many award miles can you earn?
    Do you already get award miles according to Gold or Plat during that time?
    Base miles x corresponding multiplier?

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