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Mixed news: United gives PlusPoints a new life with another extension

June 29, 2022
4 min read
Mixed news: United gives PlusPoints a new life with another extension
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United Airlines is giving Premier members some more time to redeem an upgrade.

The Chicago-based airline announced Wednesday that elite members would receive an additional six-month extension on expiring PlusPoints (United’s upgrade currency), per an email to all affected MileagePlus members that was shared with TPG by a carrier spokesperson.

Until now, PlusPoints earned (or extended) during the pandemic have had two distinct expiration dates.

The earliest, July 31, 2022, was for those who received a complimentary elite status extension late last year.

United Platinum, 1K and Global Services members who requalified for 2022 Premier status (including those who qualified by leveraging the Fly to the Finish promotion) received an additional extension for their PlusPoints to Jan. 31, 2023.

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Now, United is giving both sets of travelers an additional six months, as you can see in the chart below.

PlusPoints expiration dateNew expiration date
July 31, 2022.Jan. 31, 2023.
Jan. 31, 2023.July 31, 2023.

The extension should already be reflected in your MileagePlus account.

I’ve lost count of the number of PlusPoints extensions that United has processed throughout the pandemic, but this one is perhaps the most surprising.

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Travel is back, and with soaring demand for flights, I would’ve expected United to keep its original plan to expire the first batch of PlusPoints next month. Even though more and more Premier members are taking to the road, United seemingly felt that it didn’t give flyers enough opportunity to redeem their PlusPoints, even if they were originally earned in 2019.

On the surface, another six-month extension is good news. Giving travelers more time to cash in an upgrade is helpful, especially for those who are struggling to confirm a business-class seat during the busy summer travel season.

The flipside to the extension, however, is that the volume of upgrade requests will continue to be higher than ever.

Many of these extended PlusPoints were earned in 2019 and 2020. Combined with new PlusPoints earned in 2021 (and those awarded to early qualifiers in 2022), there will be a ton of demand for upgrades.

As we’ve seen so far throughout the summer, supply isn’t keeping pace with demand. United (and its competitors) are regularly selling many of their premium-cabin seats, leaving few available for last-minute upgrades. There are even fewer seats available for immediate confirmation when booking.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Of course, that could change come the fall when schools are once again in session, but for now, this move will further increase the demand for upgrades.

That puts pressure on United’s complimentary Premier upgrade program, which is available on most domestic and short-haul international flights.

Since PlusPoints can be used (at a reduced rate) for shorter flights, many Premiers have tried applying PlusPoints on these routes, since PlusPoints upgrades are prioritized over the complimentary ones.

But again, with domestic first-class cabins routinely selling out with paying passengers, the cycle of unused (and now unexpired) PlusPoints continues. It’ll be interesting to see if this is the last extension that United offers.

Meanwhile, all eyes now turn to American Airlines, which is due to expire all unused systemwide upgrades (from 2019 and 2020) on July 31.

We’ve reached out to American to see if it's planning to match United’s latest extension, and we'll update the story if we hear back.

Featured image by (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)
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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Why We Chose It

Sometimes it's worth a large investment to reap the benefits of a great credit card. That's exactly the case with the Amex Platinum card. In exchange for the annual fee, you'll unlock access to the Amex Membership Rewards program that let you access airline and hotel transfer partners, along with new lifestyle and travel credits. This card is also incredibly rewarding for travel purchases, helping you rack up a ton of Membership Rewards points for your next award trip.

Pros

  • The current welcome offer on this card is quite lucrative. TPG values it at $1,600.
  • This card comes with a long list of benefits, including access to Centurion Lounges, complimentary elite status with Hilton and Marriott, at least $500 in assorted annual statement credits and so much more. (Enrollment required for select benefits.)
  • The Amex Platinum comes with access to a premium concierge service that can help you with everything from booking hard-to-get reservations to finding destination guides to help you plan out your next getaway.

Cons

  • The high annual fee is only worth it if you’re taking full advantage of the card’s benefits. Seldom travelers may not get enough value to warrant the cost.
  • Outside of the current welcome bonus, you’re only earning higher rewards on specific airfare and hotel purchases, so it’s not a great card for other spending categories.
  • The annual airline fee statement credit can be complicated to take advantage of compared to the broader travel credits offered by competing premium cards.
  • Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Apply and select your preferred metal Card design: classic Platinum Card®, Platinum x Kehinde Wiley, or Platinum x Julie Mehretu.
  • Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year and earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
  • Get $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings, which requires a minimum two-night stay, through American Express Travel when you pay with your Platinum Card®.
  • $240 Digital Entertainment Credit: Get up to $20 back each month on eligible purchases made with your Platinum Card® on one or more of the following: Audible, Disney+, The Disney Bundle, ESPN+, Hulu, Peacock, SiriusXM, and The New York Times. Enrollment required.
  • $155 Walmart+ Credit: Cover the cost of a $12.95 monthly Walmart+ membership with a statement credit after you pay for Walmart+ each month with your Platinum Card. Cost includes $12.95 plus applicable local sales tax. Plus Ups are excluded.
  • American Express has expanded The Centurion® Network to include 40+ Centurion Lounge and Studio locations worldwide. There are even more places your Platinum Card® can get you complimentary entry and exclusive perks.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one select qualifying airline.
  • $200 Uber Cash: Enjoy Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status is available to Basic Card Member only.
  • Get up to $300 back per calendar year on the Equinox+ digital fitness app, or eligible Equinox club memberships when you pay with your Platinum Card. Enrollment required. Learn more.
  • Breeze through security with CLEAR® lanes available at 100+ airports, stadiums, and entertainment venues and get up to $189 back per calendar year on your membership when you use your Card. Learn more.
  • $695 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees