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In addition to being a cheap and frequent liquidator of frequent flyer miles, US Airways will actually sell its elite status outright to anyone willing to pay. You can even buy status without having flown a single flight, though it’s intended to help people who fall short of the required mileage for various elite levels to pay their way up to the next level. For example, if you’ve never stepped foot on their planes, you can buy Chairman’s Preferred (their top status) for $3,999 (though that drops to only $2,999 as long as you have at least 1 Preferred Qualifying Mile) or Platinum for $2,999 ($2,499 if you have at least 1 Preferred Qualifying Mile). You’re basically paying for up to a certain amount of miles or segments in the following increments:

It might make sense to buy up to Preferred status while you still can.
The current buy up to Preferred levels.

However, the airline just announced some major changes to their buy up program that will go into effect March 1, 2014. You’ll only be able to buy up to 25,000 miles, and the prices are more than doubling in some cases! Here’s what the new buy up chart looks like:

The new buy up levels and amounts.
The new buy up levels and amounts.

So as you can see, buying between 1-1,999 miles will now cost $499 instead of $249, 2,000-4,999 miles will cost $699 instead of $399, 5,000-9,999 miles will cost $999 instead of $579, 10,000-14,999 miles will cost $1,499 instead of $789, and 15,000-24,999 miles will cost $2,499 instead of $989.

So as you can see, just buying up to Silver status if you have none (and at least 1 Preferred Qualifying Mile) will cost almost as much as you can currently pay to buy up to Platinum status (if you have at least 1 PQM). Whereas the value proposition on buying up is currently iffy, after March 1, it’ll be downright terrible, and I’d only suggest it as a last resort. If you have been thinking about buying up to Preferred, I’d suggest doing it immediately before the new rates go into effect at the end of the month, and your status should be good through February 28, 2015.

I can’t say this is a huge surprise to anyone since it was obvious US Airways’ program was going to change in significant ways as its merger with American Airlines progresses, but it’s still disappointing. These new numbers are more in line with American’s new boost/renew options for elites, where you can pay anything from $399-$1,799 depending on how many miles/segments you flew in 2013 and what level of elite status you want to hit for 2014. This is also discouraging to think that the notorious US Airways mileage sales of as low as 1.1 cents per point may increase to American’s mileage pricing of 2.2+ cents during sales.

American's new boost/renew options.
American’s new boost/renew options.

For those of you thinking you’ll buy up to Preferred status and it will translate to American AAdvantage status, I wouldn’t bank on it just yet. Though the two frequent flyer programs are becoming more closely aligned with reciprocal earning and redeeming, they still are a long way from truly merging, and elite status benefits from each program are not fully recognized on both airlines just yet. I suspect we’ll see that happen for the 2015 elite status year. If you were considering buying up to top-tier Chairman’s Preferred status in the hopes of getting AAdvantage Executive Platinum benefits on American including those 8 systemwide upgrades, I don’t think that will happen, so I wouldn’t spend your money. I would only buy up if you are truly interested in US Airways elite status and think you’ll be flying the airline a lot in the coming year and taking advantage of the benefits.

If you’re interested in US Airways elite status, you can also do a Preferred status trial challenge and earn it quickly that way. You don’t need to already have status with a competitor, and you cannot already have Preferred status. When you pay the fee and complete the flight requirements within 90 days, you get to keep your status through the next year.

The fee and flight requirements are:

  • Silver:  Pay $200 and fly 7,500 miles or 10 segments
  • Gold: Pay $400 and fly 15,000 miles or 20 segments
  • Platinum: Pay $600 and fly 22,500 miles or 30 segments
  • Chairmans: Fly 30,000 miles or 40 segments

You can enroll for their trial Preferred offer online, and when you pay for your challenge and complete the flight requirements, you will be awarded the status level you have completed, though remember, for now it’s just good until February 2015.

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