Earn Elite and Lifetime Credits With United Basic Economy Fares

Dec 10, 2018

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.

As the rare product that airlines actually don’t want you to purchase, United’s historically done just about everything it could to make basic economy as unappealing as possible. Finally, there’s a bit of good news on that front.

United’s basic economy fares exclude seat assignments, carry-on bags, Economy Plus or first class upgrades — and, inexplicably, they didn’t even count toward Premier Qualifying Dollar (PQD) requirements for elite status. Like, you’re still spending money with the airline, but United, in an attempt to further discourage elite-status hopefuls from buying these tickets, decided that it’s going to ignore any amount spent on those deep-discounted fares, even when they still end up costing you many hundreds of dollars for certain flights.

United elites still can't select free Economy Plus seats.
United elites still can’t select free Economy Plus seats.

Fortunately, much of that is about to change. For all travel beginning Dec. 11, United will allow basic economy fares to count toward elite status, finally matching basic economy on American and Delta. MileagePlus members will earn:

  • Full Premier Qualifying Dollars
  • 50% Premier Qualifying Miles
  • 0.5 Premier Qualifying Segments
  • Lifetime miles (based on mileage flown)
  • Segments toward the four-segment minimum for elite status

Even after this change, all customers (including elite members) will not be eligible for:

  • Complimentary seat selection (including Economy Plus)
  • Paid, mileage or certificate upgrades
  • Complimentary (elite) upgrades
  • Ticket changes or refunds
  • Online check-in (unless you’re paying for a checked bag)

United elites and Star Alliance Gold members do get priority boarding, a free full-sized carry-on bag and one free checked bag — as a result of these changes, if you’re okay forgoing free seat assignments, flight changes and upgrades, buying a basic economy fare won’t sting quite as much as it has in the past.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points


CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 3X points on dining and 2x points on travel, 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®.
  • Enjoy benefits such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining and 2x on all other travel purchases, plus more.
  • 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
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
Regular APR
16.24% - 23.24% 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.