United makes it easier for select cardholders to earn elite status

Mar 19, 2021

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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.

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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

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