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United is discounting Skip Waitlist, MileagePlus Upgrade Awards

June 16, 2021
3 min read
United is discounting Skip Waitlist, MileagePlus Upgrade Awards
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Demand for leisure travel continues to grow by the week — with more Americans getting vaccinated, and the world opening up to U.S. passport holders, I imagine that's a trend we'll continue to see over the next couple of months.

Like other global airlines, United wants to be in the best possible position to capitalize on that renewed travel interest. United has been quick to expand service throughout the pandemic, and now the airline is adding extra incentives to book, in the form of discounted premium-cabin upgrades.

TPG had a chance to chat with Luc Bondar, the head of MileagePlus, who outlined two especially appealing promotions that help make it more cost-effective to lock in a long-haul upgrade.

The first option applies to all MileagePlus members, giving customers an opportunity to redeem their miles to move up to Polaris business class on flights between the U.S. and Europe at a discount. While the mileage co-pay requirement remains the same, cash co-pays have been discounted by 25%, as outlined below.

(Screenshot courtesy of United)

Some upgrades will be waitlisted — you may clear into Premium Plus or business class before the day of departure, or at the gate — though many flights have availability to confirm an upgrade at booking. See our guide to upgrading your United flight for more.

If you're looking to grow your United balance quickly, the speediest option is to transfer points instantly from Ultimate Rewards, earned with cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Meanwhile, Premier 1K and Global Services members can score a discount when confirming a seat in business class using the airline's "Skip Waitlist" option.

Previously, confirmed Skip Waitlist redemptions required 140 PlusPoints to move from economy to Polaris or 70 PlusPoints to upgrade to Premium Economy — those redemptions currently require 100 and 50 PlusPoints, respectively.

(Screenshot courtesy of United)

The airline has also expanded Skip Waitlist to include many flights between the U.S. and Europe, along with flights to other destinations. See this detailed post for a closer look at how to take advantage.

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Both of these promotions are in place for travel between now and Sept. 15, 2021. It's possible that United could extend them into the fall and winter, perhaps depending on whether or not business travel demand returns.

What's clear is that there's growing demand among leisure travelers — it remains to be seen whether or not that momentum will continue to grow.

"When I look at the award booking activity that we've had over the last 30 days, and then the last 14 days and then the last seven days, these are record levels that we're seeing, Bondar said. "[This Tuesday] alone was our single largest booking day for awards [since the start of the pandemic]," he said.

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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  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
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Apply for American Express® Gold Card
at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best for the well-traveled foodie
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

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3XEarn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

    60,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $250
  • 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.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees