United’s Letting Certain Members Buy Elite Status for 2016

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Airlines are simultaneously making it easier and much more difficult to get elite status, but if you want to go from zero to gold, you’re going to have to pay. If you missed out on earning United status for 2016, you’re in luck — the airline is now running a promo that lets you purchase status outright that you’ll have through the end of 2016. But be warned: It’s very expensive.

The promo appears to be targeted, but United’s casting a wide net here — as long as you don’t already hold 1K status and you have some qualifying activity in 2015, you should be able to purchase status.

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The rates seem to fluctuate a bit depending on which level you’re offered, but if you didn’t earn status at all last year, you should be able to purchase Silver (and only Silver) for $3,149. Or, for $700 more, you can get Silver and 5,000 PQMs that count toward earning status for 2017. Ouch! Don’t forget that Marriott Platinums and above can receive United Silver status for free, so I’d go that route if you can. Or, if you want to earn Silver by flying, you’ll need to earn 25,000 PQMs or 30 segments, plus $3,000 PQDs — you’ll be spending roughly the same, but you’ll have earned many miles in the process. (Note that you can get around this PQD requirement by spending $25,000 on a co-brand Chase card, such as the MileagePlus Explorer Card.)

United elite perks include free access to Economy Plus seats.
United elite perks include free access to Economy Plus seats.

One TPG reader who qualified for Platinum status last year has the option of buying up to 1K for $3,559 (it’s unclear whether or not upgrades are included with the 1K offer). He also saw the offer to buy 5,000 PQMs for an additional $700, or a total of 10,000 PQMs for $1,400 — not exactly a great deal. Regardless of which offer you see, you must make your purchase by February 28, 2016.

Thanks to TPG reader Raj T., who shared this news tip by emailing tpgtips@thepointsguy.com. We’ll be sending out a $200 Visa gift card as a token of our appreciation.

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