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TPG reader Bryson sent me a message on Facebook to ask about earning elite status with United:
“If I buy United Premier status this year, does the cost count toward the PQD requirements for elite qualification next year?”
Earlier this year, United Airlines ran a promotion allowing targeted MileagePlus members to purchase elite status outright for 2016, as well as Premier Qualifying Miles (PQMs) for 2017. The prices tended to be pretty high, but some readers reported offers that seemed worthwhile depending on how much you value United Premier status. The deal would be a bit sweeter if the cost of buying status could help you get a jump on meeting revenue requirements for next year, but unfortunately, that’s not the case.
Since United made the switch to a revenue-based frequent flyer program, the airline has only offered a few ways to earn Premier Qualifying Dollars (PQDs). Most flights operated by United and United Express count toward your total, as do flights operated by Star Alliance or other partners so long as your ticket is issued by United. Otherwise, you can earn PQDs by paying for Economy Plus seats (either on individual flights or via subscription). No other non-ticket purchases are eligible.
United made elite qualification a little easier this year by increasing earning rates for PQMs. On the other hand, PQD requirements remain high after the threshold was raised last year, so frequent flyers will need to keep up spending on airfare even if miles are more abundant.
You can still get out of revenue requirements entirely with co-branded credit cards like the United MileagePlus Explorer or the United MileagePlus Club Card (which recently saw targeted offers to waive the annual fee for the first year). You’ll need to spend at least $25,000 annually on eligible purchases to earn the PQD waiver — I’d prefer to put that spending on a card that earns more valuable points, but it’s good to have the option.
As a reminder, high-level Marriott elites can cut out PQD requirements by taking advantage of the RewardsPlus partnership, which offers complimentary United Premier Silver status to Marriott Platinum and Platinum Premier members. The same goes for anyone contemplating a switch from elite status with another airline, since the United status challenge allows you to qualify on mileage or segments without a revenue component.
For more tips on elite status qualification, check out these posts:
- How to Get Airline Elite Status Quickly in 2016
- Last Minute Elite Status Strategy for United MileagePlus Premier
- Should I Buy Elite-Qualifying Miles to Earn Status?
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