United extends Premier status & certs; waives some redeposit fees


United made several positive announcements yesterday for members wondering where they stand in terms of elite status and purchased memberships. They also reduced qualification requirements for those who will try to earn status this year, committed to also reduce requirements next year, and have announced that they will waive award redeposit fees in some cases.

United Premier elite status extended; extensions for subscriptions and electronic travel certificates, too

For those who have 2020 United elite status (i.e. those who earned status based on 2019 activity), United will extend that same level of status through 2021 until the end of January 2022. That’s good news given that travel has come to a standstill without a clear re-starting point in sight for 2020.

United is also extending purchased United Club memberships and purchased subscriptions for Economy Plus, Wi-Fi, and checked bags by six months. Personally, I think this is weak. Most people got at most two months out of this before travel ground to a halt and even after we turn the corner and travel opens back up many won’t be able to get much value from these subscriptions this year. I wouldn’t think extending the benefit by a year would have been that much more expensive for United. An extension beats no extension, but six months is kind of weak in my opinion.

In better news, United says that all electronic travel certificates now have 24 months to be used. Here is their blurb on this change:

If your travel plans have been disrupted, and you have an electronic travel certificate from us for the value of your ticket, you now have two years from the date it was issued to book a new flight, as well as up to an additional 11 months to travel. This includes all currently valid and all new electronic travel certificates issued on or after April 1, 2020.

It’s clear to me that this policy applies for vouchers given in the value of a ticket. Of course, if your flight is canceled by United, you’re entitled to a cash refund. As noted in our newly-updated COVID-19 / Coronavirus cancellation policies guide, since cash is valid well beyond 24 months and valid for anything (not just travel on United), I’d still take cash over a voucher unless they are sweetening the deal with a higher voucher than the value of the ticket.

The fact that the headline of this section says that “all electronic travel certificates” are valid for 24 months leads me to believe that this should also apply to bump vouchers or other types of customer service-issued vouchers, but I’m not entirely sure. This is of interest to me because I have a $1500 voucher expiring this fall. I intended to use it for a future (early 2021) reservation during the change fee waiver period to maintain flexibility beyond the expiration date, but if I have an additional year to use it I will instead hold onto it. This isn’t of critical importance and the United site indicates that new expiration dates may not be immediately reflected in all places, so I’ll wait a while before looking for more clarification on this.

United reducing elite status requirements for those who qualify this year

If you do travel in 2020 and don’t have elite status currently, United is greatly reducing the requirements to earn elite status for 2021.  Here is the chart that shows what you’ll need to earn for 2021 elite status. Keep in mind that you must fly at least 4 segments on United or United Express still.

Those requirements are significantly less than usual. For many of us, 2020 business travel will likely be limited for quite some time, but if travel returns to normal by fall, I imagine that some folks may still have time to qualify. At the very least, I hope that some of the medical personnel who have needed to travel during this time to help people in need can reap some benefit from these reduced requirements.

Adding to the reduced path to status, United announced that they are doubling the number of PQPs one can earn from the United Explorer Credit Card and quadrupling the number of PQPs one can earn on a United Club card via a promotion from May 1st to December 31st, 2020. Those cards currently offer 500 PQPs for spending $12K in a calendar year and another 500 PQPs after an additional $12K in the same calendar year that can be applied up to Platinum status. If I understand the announcement correctly, it means that:

  • With the United Explorer card, one will be able to earn:
    • 1,000 PQPs after $12K spend between May 1 – December 31, 2020
    • 2,000 total PQPs after $24K total spend between May 1 – December 31, 2020
  • With a United Club card, one will be able to earn:
    • 2,000 PQPs after $12K spend between May 1 – December 31, 2020
    • 4,000 total PQPs after $24K spend between May 1 – December 31, 2020

It isn’t totally clear to me whether or not the entirety of the spend needs to be completed between those dates or whether you just need to complete the spend within that window (or maybe they’ll double / quadruple for those who already met the requirement?). Keep in mind that these PQPs only apply up to Platinum status (they won’t help you reach 1K).

Some redeposit fees waived

United also announced that they are waiving all award redeposit fees for travel through the end of May 2020. That just makes sense to me: nobody should be flying apart from necessity right now (and likely not through the end of May), and the uncertainty of which flights / routes will be canceled next makes it hard to plan even for those optimistic for a May return to normalcy, so it doesn’t make sense to penalize customers for doing the responsible thing here.

Furthermore, United will waive redeposit fees for award cancellations made more than 30 days in advance of departure for the remainder of 2020. This is a nice customer-friendly change. It’s hard to predict what the rest of 2020 will look like. Some people will be nervous about travel even when it resumes and others may be at a higher risk and/or have family members who are and prefer to make changes to their previously-booked 2020 travel. Now United is making that easier for those will award tickets and I think that’s a positive. You’ll still need to cancel more than 30 days in advance to get a free redeposit, but that’s better than current policy.

Bottom line

United has made a number of positive changes here that are good news for customers who currently have elite status, will eventually travel some this year and could qualify under reduced requirements, and those with award travel that they’d like to cancel. After the things that United has gotten wrong over the past few weeks, it’s nice to see them get this right.

H/T: One Mile at a Time

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