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United Adding New Revenue Requirements: Premier Qualifying Dollars

by on June 18, 2013 · 50 comments

in Elite Status, United

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Airlines are big copycats. This can be good for the consumer when one airline has a fare sale and others match, but it can also be bad when one airline adds a fee or reduces benefits and others match. Earlier this year, Delta announced they would be adding a revenue requirement to re-qualify for elite status known as Medallion Qualifying Dollars. At the time, there was a lot of speculation as to whether other airlines would soon be following suit – and today we have our answer: a rep from United posted on Flyertalk that the airline plan to do the same, introducing Premier Qualifying Dollars. Creative name, huh?

United is adding Premier Qualifying Dollars.

United is adding Premier Qualifying Dollars.

Here are details from their Flyertalk post:

Starting in January 2014, Premier qualification for members living in the United States will include a minimum annual spending level. We will track this new requirement with Premier qualifying dollars (PQD) – dollars spent on most United tickets, including partner flights, and Economy Plus purchases. The changes will not affect Premier qualifying miles (PQM) or Premier qualifying segments (PQS). The new criteria will look like this:

  • Premier Silver: [25,000 PQM or 30 PQS] and $2,500 PQD
  • Premier Gold: [50,000 PQM or 60 PQS] and $5,000 PQD
  • Premier Platinum: [75,000 PQM or 90 PQS] and $7,500 PQD
  • Premier 1K: [100,000 PQM or 120 PQS] and $10,000 PQD

A minimum of at least four paid flights operated by United, United Express, or Copa Airlines will be needed to qualify for any Premier status.

For 2014, the PQD requirement is waived for Premier Silver, Premier Gold, and Premier Platinum qualification for members whose address with MileagePlus is within the 50 United States or the District of Columbia and who spend at least $25,000 in Net Purchases in 2014 on a MileagePlus co-branded credit card issued by Chase Bank USA, N.A. There is no PQD waiver for Premier 1K qualification.

These changes apply to 2014 qualifying activity for status through 2015 and do not affect your 2013 qualifying activity for 2014 status.

In terms of Million Miler status, according to the FAQ section, this change will not affect any lifetime Premier status. However, if on an annual basis, you qualify for a higher status level than your lifetime status, these qualification requirements will apply; and this program change does not affect how you earn lifetime flight miles, Premier qualifying miles (PQM), or Premier qualifying segments (PQS).

More information can be found at the special site United created to explain this update.

My Thoughts

In short, I don’t like the more revenue based elite system, but I can live with it as long as redemptions don’t move to a revenue-based model (which would make premium cabin redemptions extremely expensive).

At first glance, these seem pretty similar to the Delta Medallion Qualifying Dollars requirement. The same spend threshold is required for Silver, Gold, and Platinum status. However, when it comes to their top-tier 1K status, only $10,000 PQD are needed, as opposed to Delta Diamond which requires $12,500 MQD (makes sense since 1k is at 100,000 EQMs and Diamond 125,000).

Similar to Delta, having one of United’s MileagePlus co-branded credit cards and spending $25,000 will get you out of the PQD requirement, but only for Silver, Gold, and Platinum Premier status. At this time, it appears there is no waiver for the Premier 1K qualification. There’s no mention of whether this will also be true beyond 2014.

Also, similar to Delta is that these new requirements are only for those members who reside in the United States. Those outside the states are exempt from the PQD requirement. Now might be the time to move to Canada!

When it comes to what counts toward the spending, only the base fare and carrier-imposed surcharges will count, as well as Economy Plus purchases. The flights must be flown by United, United Express, or Copa Airlines or operated by a Star Alliance or a MileagePlus partner airline and issued on a United ticket (ticket number starting with 016).

Currently, United hasn’t announced any changes to award redemptions such as switching to a revenue-based system like Southwest, Virgin America, and JetBlue currently have in place, and I don’t think that’s likely to happen anytime soon, only time will tell how this will affect award mileage accrual and the redemption value of miles.

I value United miles as some of the most valuable mileage currency out there at about 2 cents apiece thanks to the airline’s large route network, good award availability and the ability to redeem those miles on the airline’s 27 (EVA just formally joined today) Star Alliance partners.

However, by putting spending requirements in place, there is an inherent devaluation to those miles since you now have to spend a certain amount of money in order to get the benefits and privileges of elite status as well as accruing miles toward that status and to use for award travel. The airline has put those requirements in place to attract high-paying customers like business travelers – especially with the $10,000 requirement for 1K’s – but most of us don’t fly the highest fare classes and since you can meet the spending qualification for elite status (at least for 2014) with co-branded credit card spending, that undermines the exclusivity that an airline’s highest-paying customers likely expect as well. Obviously the airline calculated that keeping high-value customers and retaining possibly fewer of them was worth losing “cheap elites” who buy the lowest fares and will likely jump ship to another airline.

It takes a big commitment to an airline to double down and focus all of your flying and credit card spend on that airline – especially when United’s domestic fleet is still in desperate need of an overhaul and is still in the process of adding now-standard amenities like WiFi to its planes, not to mention its generally terrible customer service.

I personally don’t like using an airline co-brand card in general because I don’t like to put all of my miles and points in one basket. I may fly United and its partners, but I accrue tons of Chase Ultimate Rewards points, which I can then transfer to United when it comes time to redeem so I have lots of options. That’s especially true because the sign-up bonuses for Chase’s Ultimate Rewards cards are consistently higher than United’s bonuses on its cards – even this week, Chase launched a limited-time offer on the Ink cards with 60,000-point sign-up bonuses on the Ink Bold and Ink Plus, that beat out the best non-targeted offers on the United Explorer card – not to mention their lucrative category spending bonuses, which United co-branded cards only offer on United purchases.

Update: The current offer for the Ink Plus and Ink Bold is 50,000 points after $5,000 spent in 3 months

While disappointing, I can’t say I’m surprised by this move. I focus more of my flying on American and Delta and recently got a Delta Platinum Amex in my efforts for 2014 elite status requalification, but I also just got the Explorer card through a targeted 60,000 mile sign-up bonus and will be considering whether it’s worth it to rack up the spending on it to requalify for United Platinum status for next year.

What are your thoughts – will this affect your loyalty to United?

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Dieuwer

    “In short, I don’t like the more revenue based elite system, but I can live with itas long as redemptions move to a revenue based model(which would make premium cabin redemptions extremely expensive).”
    You want a revenue based redemption model??? WHAT??

  • thepointsguy

    *Don’t. Added that important word in

  • Dieuwer

    Phewww.. If United (or Delta) ever would move to a revenue based redemption model people should seriously consider canceling their Chase SP or AMEX cards.

  • Trajan81

    Year of the devaluation continues…but atleast UA miles are still better than Skypesos. Real question is now when will AA follow.

  • tivoboy

    Stupid is as Stupid does..

  • asthejoeflies

    Any idea what happens to people with lifetime status?

  • zbird

    Would you earn PQD’s on flights purchased with Citi ThankYou Points?

  • Matt C.

    I actually prefer this. The limits are low enough to be reasonable, and it may open up more availability for upgrades. The last time I had Silver and was taking a transcontinental flight, there were 60+ other people also waiting for upgrades (about 25% of the flight).

  • thepointsguy

    Yes as long as it is ticketed as a United flight

  • thepointsguy

    No mention, but I’d bet they are exempt, but you never know with United!

  • thepointsguy

    I can’t see AA making any move like this until after the merger… but once again I’ve been surprised before!

  • Cory

    Won’t impact me much at all unless/until they go revenue based on redemptions. I live in the middle of the country so it’s rare to ever be on a flight longer than 3 hours. Let me keep redeeming United Miles the same general way I can now, and I’m still happy.

  • Eric

    If I purchase tickets for my family, that should count as my ultimate spend.

  • zbird

    It seems this will mostly affect travelers who earn Premier status on United by flying on partner Star Alliance airlines. If you fly United enough to hit a PQM threhold, it would be hard not to spend the PQD requirement for that threshold.

  • NN

    In other words, for those of us that can’t afford business or first and consistently fly United economy, they no longer want our loyalty!? Thanks, United! – Premier Gold Member

  • vortix

    Perhaps. Though it would seem that having United elite status while flying other Star Alliance carriers defeats the purpose of holding United elite status to begin with.

  • Flyer Fun

    Actually, this makes me happy. I only fly for vacation to Asia usually. My natural fly is about 40K a year, which costs about $3,000. Yet to maintain 100K, I was planning to fly 60K additional miles for a total estimated cost of $7,000. $10,000 is not doable for me. Hurray, fly a lot less and save lots of
    money. Moreover, now I am free to fly nice Asian airlines. I am not sure I
    will United after 2/1/14 at all. But no hard feelings.

  • zbird

    Not really, if you live in the US and fly a mix of domestic and intl. routes to get to elite status. For example, I fly to South America a lot for business on TAM. Yes, I could fly United, but often TAM has better pricing/scheduling. I would never accrue miles on TAM because I live in the US and wouldn’t want to spend my vacation in Brazil.

  • Donald

    Considering you didn’t earn Platinum legitimately in the first place this year, I highly doubt you’ll go through spending 25k on a MileagePlus card and flying 75k on UA.

  • Flyer Fun

    Donald, was that aimed at me? “Legitimately?” I flew 105K miles last year, only 20K miles were pure mileage runs. That is a lot of flying. 30K will now most likely go to EVA, Cathay, ANA, or Asiana. The 10K will go to Air Canada. My spend goes on AMEX SPG or Sapphire preferred. So the answer is no. Close to 0 spend and miles on United card or planes.

  • Alex

    It might slow down status accrual by the people who live in hub cities where the deals are <$200 for coast to coast lol.

  • Crispus Buttocks

    Whatever happened to that promotion you did with the Chase Sapphire Preferred? Catch the shill guy (??) or something, and there were Chase Visa gift cards among other goodies. Haven’t seen that in a few weeks.

  • james.lindon

    Mileage runners…..time to fly Southwest, I guess….

  • james.lindon

    Remember lifetime miles and stuff for AAdvantage customers in the 80s….gone! They can do whatever they want!

    and the economy is improving , even if Hush Bimbo does not want to admit it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/use.miles Use YOUR Miles

    Time to re-jig my collecting. There are ways though!

  • Blue

    TPG – I think this will make your website all the more popular. There seems to be little to no reason to meet the spend levels for silver, gold, or platinum. It seems to me like it would be a better use of money to just fly the cheapest fares and then read websites like yours to figure out how to get credit cards that give you bennies and miles that are more valuable than elite status.

    I think the day of the credit card churner is just beginning. Now holding the right card to get you checked bags and getting the right sign-up bonus can save you thousands.

  • Michel

    That is going to thin the herd a bit I imagine

  • Andrew

    Your statement is Incorrect and screams “Mommy, that’s not fair.” If the Airline grants you a particular status after reaching certain qualification matrix then you have earned it and it is to be considered “legitimate” by both the airline and fellows passengers. Airlines are well aware of the various methods customers use such as banking bonuses, mileage runs, booking class bonus, complaints (both legitimate and frivolous, unfortunately) etc. Airlines know there are alternative methods to achieving elite statuses on besides tradiional BIS travel. If the airline grants you a certain status you have earned and it should be considered legitimate unless it was a computer glitch or mistake in accounting, etc.
    Just my opinion from a 1K who doesn’t actually fly 100.000 miles but has maintained 1K for 5+ years now.

  • Parque_Hundido

    This is one of the few changes that actually makes being a 1K flyer better rather than worse. Giving 1K status (or any status) to flyers who purchase rock-bottom priced economy class tickets makes no business sense for the airline and only crowds the ranks of elite flyers.

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  • mjl

    I’m actually one of those people directly affected (and I dare say deliberately targeted by United) by this change. I hardly ever fly United metal, but credit all my miles flown on Star Alliance carriers like ANA and Lufthansa to Mileage Plus — through which I have been either Platinum or 1K in recent years. It’s not been difficult to notch up the four annual paid flights on United metal since last year, but now it seems that I’ll need to shift more of my spending to my United credit card in 2014, so that I can get to $25,000 on the card, and even then I would still not be eligible for 1K…

  • vortix

    Interesting. What benefits do you get from earning elite status on United if you typically don’t purchase flights on United? And what are you losing if you don’t get your 1K status? Just wondering why you credit your miles to United and earn elite status on United if you don’t fly United.

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  • Collins

    I can’t speak for mjl but *redemption* of United miles is usually better versus other Star Alliance partners. Like mjl I fly other Star carreirs overseas exclusively because their “hard product” and “soft product” are better. I credit to United because when it comes time to redeem miles for business or first travel abroad (sadly also with partners and NOT United) United redemption trumps the others.

  • Nick

    Good for United… for a while. Bad for Star Alliance. UA turns its back on Alliance members. Alliance Members start turning their back on UA. Star Alliance membership becomes less valuable. UA Elite Status becomes less valuable. Unless you only fly internally in the US for business.

  • studd

    its really the end of alliances and thats a good thing, I am tired of UA tired old planes…. and now I am free to spend my $$ on any carrier biz fare to get the best price.

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  • Brian

    Questions: I’m probably flying a combination United/Lufthansa from EWR to MUC, and then MUC to Sao Paolo in late January to early February. It’s good for just over 10k miles, and will cost about 1200 to 1500 dollars in economy. When should I status match to United Silver from my Virgin Atlantic silver? Will the new revenue requirements affect me?

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  • grace elby

    I don’t really see an issue for me, it takes about 23 round trip flights for me to get 90 segments, at an average of $400 per ticket (coach class, booked thru egencia-a business form of Expedia), would put me at over $9000 revenue dollars, so I don’t think the threshholds are to high. I just hope they don’t make changes to the redemption.

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  • LuvItOrHateIt

    I like this new change as well. There are way too many premier members out there which makes the premier status meaningless. The premier check-in line is just as long as the non-premier one. I think the change can help getting rid of those who do the mileage runs on cheap fairs. I know a bunch of them myself but I’m not one of them.

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  • some name

    No – This was covered by United at a few other sites.

    If I but the ticket for my Wife to travel with me on a business trip she will get credited for the spend, not the person who buys the ticket

  • Hgoodfella

    I have 920,000 miles on United. I have been loyal to them for 25 years, clearly they have no loyalty to me.

  • Kremlin

    The logical extension of that argument is: why bother having anybody fly at all for elite status? Why not just say if you want elite status, you have to pay, eg: $10,000 for 1K, $7,500 for Platinum, etc.? Elite status was conceived as a way to keep people loyal to a particular airline in the face of economic competition. If it is just about making money to give somebody privileges on the airline, say so and sell the privileges outright.

  • Phillip

    I tend to fly 90k miles a year for work Because of our contracts, the price of our tickets is equal across carriers. Now that United has added a PQD requirement, I will be moving my loyalty to another carrier, as I cannot hit the $7,500 mark let alone $10k, because of the contract pricing. So much for my elite status.

  • Kevin L Morrissey

    This is clearly an attempt to thin out the ranks of low mileage Premiere status flyers. You all are assuming that the price you pay for a ticket will be counted towards your PQD but it isn’t. Only a portion of the ticket price counts, taxes and other fees do not apply. So far this year about half of the dollars spent flying UA have counted toward PQD. There is simply no reason to continue to be loyal to this airline, They don’t want people who only fly 25k per year because you would only earn enough PQD if you fly full fare first or business

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