United makes it easier for select cardholders to earn elite status

Mar 19, 2021

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Some United Airlines credit card holders will now have an easier path toward earning elite status this year.

Granted, “easier” is relative here — maxing out the airline’s latest promotion is going to require a lot of credit card spend.

At the end of last year, United Airlines detailed its reduced requirements for frequent flyers to earn elite status in 2021. Travelers can earn entry-level Silver status after eight flights and 3,000 Premier Qualifying Points (PQPs), for example, while flyers can reach top-tier Premier 1K after 36 flights and 13,500 PQPs — effectively $3,000 and $13,500 spent on eligible flights, before taxes and fees.

While leisure travel is clearly beginning to pick back up, as COVID-19 vaccines become more widely available, business travel is lagging far behind. As a result, those spending requirements are likely out of reach of many travelers, leaving United — and status-hungry flyers — to close the gap.

Want more airline-specific news? Sign up for TPG’s free new biweekly Aviation newsletter!

To kick things off, the airline is offering premium credit cardholders an opportunity to earn more PQPs than they could before the pandemic. Travelers with the United Club Infinite Card (and the previous United Club Card) can earn up to 3,000 PQPs (up from 1,000 PQPs) based on their spending in 2021.

The airline awards 500 PQPs for every $12,000 of net credit card spend. But while you can now earn up to 3,000 PQPs via this method, you’ll need to spend a whopping $72,000 on your consumer United Club card to reach that target.

Elite status comes along with a ton of perks, from free checked bags to confirmed lie-flat upgrades. (Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy)

Fortunately, I think this is just the beginning. Given that business travel is not expected to recover for quite some time, United’s elite ranks will likely thin considerably after this year — unless the airline decides to step in.

I’d expect more promotions to launch later in the year. Perhaps the airline will incentivize flyers to purchase tickets in business or first-class cabins by offering double PQPs — similar to the carrier’s Q1 promotion — or maybe United will launch route-specific promotions, targeting transatlantic travel.

The airline could even choose to add in some fun challenges — say, offering up bonuses to customers who try the airline’s newest flights, or to those who book travel with family members and friends.

Featured photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points


CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases within your first year of account opening.
  • Earn 2X points on dining including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel. Plus, earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.
Regular APR
15.99%-22.99% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit

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.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.