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Riding the bus could now give your United status a boost

Jan. 27, 2021
3 min read
Riding the bus could now give your United status a boost
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Earning airline elite status usually requires a ton of "butt-in-seat" miles, or, at the very least, a savvy credit card strategy.

But if you're a United flyer, you'll soon have another way to boost your Premier status. And that's by taking the bus.

Starting March 11, all bus service purchased in conjunction with air tickets will accrue Premier Qualifying Points (PQPs), as well as redeemable miles. The change was confirmed to TPG by a carrier spokesperson and has already been loaded to United's website.

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But, you must be thinking, what's an airline doing selling tickets on a bus?

Turns out, United partners with Easton Coach to offer connecting itineraries to offer connecting itineraries to and from Allentown, Pennsylvania (ABE), via the carrier's Newark (EWR) hub.

If you search for United flights from Allentown to any of the carrier's destinations, odds are that you'll be offered the choice of connecting in Newark on the "UA Bus Service." (United Express flies to Allentown from its Chicago and Washington/Dulles hubs on a mix of regional jets, according to Cirium schedules.)

Google Maps shows that the drive to Newark should take around 90 minutes. Many Lehigh Valley-area travelers might consider Ubering or taking a private car to United's New York City hub, but the bus alternative will give you a boost to earning status. (Easton Coach also offers some flyer-friendly amenities, like complimentary Wi-Fi, SiriusXM satellite radio, armrests and footrests.)

The bus component of the itinerary will earn PQPs and redeemable miles, but note that it won't earn any Premier Qualifying Flights (PQFs). You earn the latter for every flight segment you take with United or its partners. Earning status requires a combination of PQPs and PQFs. There's also a higher PQP-only track, too.

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More: Guide to earning United Premier status in 2021

Of course, it'll pay to compare the cost of non-stop flights from Newark versus one-stop itineraries involving the bus connection.

On a random date in February, it was cheaper to purchase a one-way biz flight from Allentown to Fort Lauderdale, via Newark ($331), compared to $336 when booking it as a non-stop from Newark. In other cases, it was significantly more expensive to originate in Allentown, so be sure to check the fares. You'd earn 301 PQPs for the aforementioned itinerary, representing the entire fare excluding taxes.

This latest move is similar to United's now-discontinued Amtrak partnership.

For years, the carrier and Amtrak had a codeshare partnership, allowing you to purchase a flight to or from Newark with a connection on the Northeast Regional train to or from your final destination.

Flyers could earn redeemable miles for eligible train segments, and Amtrak Guest Rewards members could credit United flights to Amtrak as well. Plus, the two transportation providers offered reciprocal lounge access for certain premium passengers and elite members.

However, as of Dec. 24, 2020, earning United MileagePlus miles through Amtrak and vice versa was cut. Reciprocal lounge access ends in just over a week on Feb. 4.

Featured image by Alberto Riva
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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  • Steep $550 annual fee
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  • 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
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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