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United makes it easier to spend toward higher elite status in 2020

April 17, 2020
6 min read
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Over the last few weeks, the realities of coronavirus' dramatic impact on travel have resulted in most of the major U.S. airline frequent flyer programs extending current elite status levels into mid-2021 or even 2022. At the same time, these programs have also conjured up creative ways to incentivize customers to continue earning miles with the programs, even though status has already been extended for an extra six to twelve months and most of us are firmly grounded from non-essential travel.

Today, the good news is that United has detailed a way for its United credit cardholders to spend more toward earning higher elite status levels using everyday purchases made safely from home. The less great news? The promo still requires a hefty amount of spending and is a bit complicated to understand. The PQPs (Premier Qualifying Points) are also only valid up to the Premier Platinum level.

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Related: Guide to coronavirus-related elite status extensions

For 2020, United is doubling the number of PQPs you can earn with its consumer and small business United Explorer cards, such as the United Explorer Card, and quadrupling the number of PQPs you can earn with its consumer and small business Club cards, such as the United Club Infinite Card.

This promotion will take the maximum number of PQPs you can earn with the United Explorer cards to 2,000 PQPs for this year and will take the total number you can earn with the Club cards all the way up to 4,000 PQPs -- both up from a regular 1,000 PQP yearly max on those cards. Combine that with the reduced thresholds to earn United status in 2020, and it puts some status levels within closer reach for those with significant card spending.

Related: Best credit cards for flying United

United releases bonus PQP promotion for cardholders

The earning rate on the United cards is normally 500 PQPs for every $12,000 charged to your United card, but beginning on May 1, you can earn toward both the normal earn rates and a new 2020 PQP promotion at the same time. It's a little confusing, but we'll walk you through it.

For easy math, let's assume you haven't actually put any spending on your United Club Infinite Card yet this year and started using it from May 1 - Dec. 31. In that case, for the first $12,000 charged to the card you'd earn the regular 500 PQPs via the normal rates and an additional 500 PQPs via this new promotion. The same would be true for the second $12,000 charged to the card, which would then max out the normal 1,000 PQPs you can earn each year and result in an additional 500 PQPs via this promo.

Beyond that, you could still earn up to 2,000 more PQPs via the promo, at a rate of 500 PQPs for every $12,000 charged by the end of the year, up to a total of 4,000 PQPs in 2020.

In practice, this means that starting from scratch you'd need to spend $72,000 on a United Club Card from May 1 - Dec. 31, 2020, in order to earn the full 4,000 PQPs available from this promotion.

With the United Explorer Card, it works the same way, but you'd max the promo out faster since it is capped at 1,000 bonus PQPs. With this new promotion, you’d earn 2,000 PQPs with potentially as little as $24,000 in spend, which is pretty lucrative since it is double the normal rate.

As an example, if you had already put $6,000 in spending on your Explorer card between the beginning of the year and April 30, and then spend $6,000 in May, for a total of $12,000 in spending on the card, you will have:

  • Earned your first 500 PQP for spending $12,000 on the regular card offer
  • Have $6,000 counting toward hitting 500 PQP toward the bonus offer and will trigger that extra 500 PQPs with another $6,000 charged before the end of the year.

Stack promo with lower 2020 United elite status thresholds

If this new promo is making you consider pushing for a higher status tier this year, here are the reduced United MileagePlus 2020 elite status requirements:

Elite status level2020 Premier Qualifying Flights (PQF) requirements2020 Premier Qualifying Points (PQP) requirementsIf only qualifying with PQPs instead of combo of PQF + PQP
Silver62,0002,500
Gold124,0005,000
Platinum186,0007,500
1K269,00012,000

Putting it all together, if you earned 4,000 PQPs with your United Club card in 2020, you'll hit the PQP requirement for Premier Gold status (as long as you also have 12 flight segments this year). Without those 12 flight segments, you'd need to earn another 1,000 PQPs before the end of the year to hit the PQP-only threshold of 5,000 for Premier Gold.

For those not familiar, one United PQP is basically earned with every $1 you spend with United on eligible charges such as base airfare, paid upgrades, Economy Plus seat purchases or a cash co-pay on MileagePlus Upgrade Awards. You can also earn PQPs via partner flights credited to United MileagePlus at a different earn rate.

Related: How to earn United status for less by flying partners

United's new elite status system is a bit nuanced, so I recommend reading our guide to United's 2020 elite status qualification if you aren't familiar with how it all fits together.

Bottom line

We were very excited to hear that United was joining the ranks of American, Hyatt and others that have given us reasons to put our hotel and airline co-branded credit cards in the front section of our wallets by making our current spending more valuable toward elite status. This promo can certainly ramp up how quickly you earn PQPs, especially up to the first $24,000 charged. However, maxing out the promotion to earn 4,000 PQPs still requires at least $72,000 in spending on the United Club Card, which is a big commitment for most of us.

Featured image by Photo courtesy of United Airlines
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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