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The ultimate guide to earning elite status with United cards

Sept. 30, 2022
6 min read
United First on an Airbus A320
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United MileagePlus members with cobranded Chase United credit cards can earn Premier qualifying points (PQP) toward United elite status by hitting certain card spending requirements.

The PQP maximum varies significantly depending on which MileagePlus credit cards you have. You'll see many cards here, some of which are no longer open to new applicants.

Remember, you need to earn a certain number of PQPs annually to qualify for United's coveted Premier elite status. Generally, the only way to earn PQPs is through flying or, perhaps more accurately, spending lots of money on United and Star Alliance flights.

So, is earning PQPs on a credit card through everyday spending better than breaking the bank on flights?

It might be, but accruing PQPs on MileagePlus credit cards still requires a lot of spending.

Let's look at how MileagePlus credit cards earn PQPs.

Cards that don't earn PQPs

Most — but not all — United credit cards earn PQP. MANUEL ROMANO/NURPHOTO/GETTY IMAGES

There are a few no-annual-fee cards that don't earn PQPs through credit card spending.

The information for the United MileagePlus Card and United TravelBank Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Cards that earn up to 1,000 PQPs

The following cards earn 500 PQPs for every $12,000 in card spending, up to 1,000 PQPs in a calendar year.

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The information for the United Club Business, MileagePlus Awards, MileagePlus Card with annual fee and MileagePlus Business Card have been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Cards that earn up to 3,000 PQPs

These cards earn 500 PQPs for every $12,000 in card spending, up to 3,000 PQPs in a calendar year.

The information for the United MileagePlus Select Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Cards that earn up to 4,000 PQPs

Only one card earns 500 PQPs for every $12,000 in card spending, up to 4,000 PQPs in a calendar year, and it's a fairly new benefit.

Cards that earn up to 10,000 PQPs

With 500 PQPs for every $12,000 in card spending, up to 10,000 PQPs in a calendar year, these two cards are the golden geese for earning PQPs through credit card spending. Unfortunately, these cards have been closed to new members for years.

  • The United℠ Presidential Plus℠ Card.
  • United℠ Presidential Plus℠ Business Card.

The information for the United Presidential Plus and United Presidential Plus Business cards has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

How many PQPs can come from credit card spending?

If you have multiple MileagePlus credit cards, you can earn up to 5,000 PQPs on eligible card spending in a calendar year per MileagePlus account. In fairness, since eligible cards earn 500 PQPs for every $12,000 spent, it would take $120,000 of annual credit card spending to earn 5,000 PQPs.

The only cards exempt from this cap is the United Presidential Plus Card and the United Presidential Plus Business Card.

A few notes about Premier 1K

You can use 20 PlusPoints to upgrade from economy to first class within the U.S. KYLE OLSEN/THE POINTS GUY

Until this year, MileagePlus members couldn't use PQPs earned through credit card spending to earn Premier 1K status.

Thankfully, the PQPs you earn through credit card spending now count toward Premier 1K status. However, unless you're earning PQPs with the United Presidential Plus Card or United Presidential Plus Business Card, you'll need to earn the 36-segment Premier qualifying flight to qualify for Premier 1K status this year.

What are Flex PQPs?

Flex PQPs cannot be applied toward Premier 1K status. KYLE OLSEN/THE POINTS GUY

Certain MileagePlus members with legacy MileagePlus or Continental One Pass credit cards previously earned Flex PQP. For reference, these cards now earn standard PQP.

If you have Flex PQPs leftover, you can apply them to the PQP status requirements for Premier Silver, Premier Gold and Premium Platinum, but not Premier 1K. You can choose which elite status year you apply your Flex PQPs to, giving you flexibility if you have already met your elite status goals.

Flex PQPs issued prior to 2012 do not expire. More recently issued Flex PQPs expire after 39 months.

Bottom line

As you can see, earning PQPs through MileagePlus credit cards requires a lot of annual spending. The various United credit cards have significant variations in the maximum number of PQPs you can earn.

On the other hand, American Airlines has simplified the process of earning Loyalty Points through cobranded credit card spending.

All AAdvantage cobranded credit cards earn 1 Loyalty Point — except for the no-fee AAdvantage® Aviator® Mastercard®, which earns 0.5 Loyalty Points — for each $1 spent, with no maximums. That means you could theoretically spend $200,000 on an American Airlines cobranded credit card annually and earn Executive Platinum status without boarding an American flight once.

Hopefully, United will simplify earning PQPs through MileagePlus credit cards for 2023.

Just remember that to qualify for any level of Premier status, you must take a minimum of four flights on United or United Express in a calendar year.

Featured image by KYLE OLSEN/THE POINTS GUY
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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TPG featured card

Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

1 - 10X points
10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Intro offer

80,000 bonus points
Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

Annual Fee

$550

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more
Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

    80,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $550
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more