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One of the most rewarding perks of earning United’s top-tier Premier 1K (or Global Services) status is the ability to purchase an economy seat and confirm an upgrade in business class right when you book. The airline issues two types of upgrades — Regional Premier Upgrades (RPUs), which can be used on flights within North America and select international routes, and Global Premier Upgrades (GPUs), which can be applied to any United or Lufthansa-operated flight around the world.

Unfortunately, these upgrades are capacity-controlled, and even if there’s a business or first-class seat for sale, you won’t always be able to grab it with an upgrade. It’s fairly simple to identify flights with upgrade seats available, however, so with a bit of patience you can usually find something that will work.

United’s 4-across BusinessFirst on select 777s may not be great, but it sure beats flying coach.

One major downside to these upgrade certificates is that they expire on January 31 the year after they were issued. So if you qualified for 2015 status based on flights you took in 2014, your upgrades expire at the end of the month. There is one saving grace here, however — United is currently allowing elites who re-qualified for 1K or GS status to extend the expiration of two Global Premier Upgrades, assigning a new expiration date of April 30, 2016. That gives you three more months to use your upgrades, or give them away to a fellow TPG reader in need.

To extend your upgrades, call the MileagePlus Service Center at 800-421-4655. There’s a chance you may be able to recover your upgrades even after they expire, but I’d suggest contacting MileagePlus before January 31 just to be sure. After your GPUs are extended, they’ll automatically be pulled first (ahead of upgrades expiring in 2017) when you apply them to a reservation.

Did you call United to extend your Global Premier Upgrades?

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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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